Forecasting

On of the key parts of science is prediction. Or so we’re told. So it is fun to watch various people rip Steve Goddard’s predictions of sea ice to shreds. WUWT is the one boosting Goddard’s worthless noise.

* RMG seems to be the most complete, prompted I think by:
* Tamino and
* Neven.

There’s a video, too, if you’re in the habit of watching moving pictures.

Update

An update, but worth its own header. While we’re on forecasting, I am reminded of something altogether more real: the Keenlyside fiasco. RC has a recent post pointing out how wrong K et al. were (but in a caring, consensual sort of way, because RC are obliged to be nice. I’m glad I’m not like that). Even more damaging to their credibility, K et al. are now in full stealth mode and refusing to discuss the “forecast”.

Refs

* Sea ice: and the winner is… no-one!
* Latif / Keenlyside / Cooling, revisited
* The climate bet is decided – or not – more weaselling by K et al.
* Losing time, not buying time – RC post relevant to the digression the comments ended up making

Comments

  1. #1 Robert Grumbine
    2010/11/29

    It was actually the video and Watts’ response to it that got me started. I found Tamino and Neven’s articles later. (Though it didn’t appear until today, I’d written it mostly last Wednesday; held the publication because Thursday was Thanksgiving in the states.)

    There’s another post to come — ‘how wrong can you be?’ — prompted by Goddard’s extremely late final prediction.

  2. #2 dhogaza
    2010/11/29

    Robert, in case you’re unaware of these two tiny factoids:

    1. Goddard didn’t realize the forecast competition was based on NSIDC, not IJIS and

    2. He didn’t realize it was based on the average extent for September, not the minimum extent (his 5.1 km^2 forecast was for minimum extent based on IJIS).

    Just a bit lame on his part, IMO …

  3. #3 dhogaza
    2010/11/29

    Oh, in the read first, comment later, department: RG covers my two points in his post.

    But there they are for those who might not read Grumbine’s piece :)

  4. #4 Vinny Burgoo
    2010/11/29

    Speaking of forecasting, can this account of James Hansen’s evidence to the Ratcliffe trial earlier today be accurate?

    ‘The jury heard Hansen give detailed explanations, assisted by colourful graphs, of the seriousness of human-induced climate change, including the ‘dead certainty’ of sea level rise by 12 metres this century.’

    12m? Dead certainty?

    http://ratcliffeontrial.org/2010/11/day-5-hansen-says-governments-are-lying-on-climate-change/

    [Hansen has said some odd things (http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2007/11/hansen_again.php, etc) but I doubt even he would describe 12m this century as probable, let alone a dead cert -W]

  5. #5 bluegrue
    2010/11/29

    @Vinnny
    From the article you link to.
    ” including the ‘dead certainty’ of sea level rise by 1-2 metres this century”

    Between one and two meters, not twelve. Does your PC delete hyphens automagically or do you have to do it yourself in order to fabricate damning quotes?

  6. #6 bluegrue
    2010/11/29

    I was pretty snarky. Giving you the benefit of doubt, the article may have been corrected in the 100 minutes between our comments.

    [I'm glad you added that, I'd have flamed you else. I recall seeing "12m" too, though now I can't recall if I really saw 12 or just read it as 12, having had my eye guided. But I think it really was: see this screenshot (http://www.flickr.com/photos/belette/5218809807/) which isn't the original but is what I'm pretty sure is a direct copy of the original.

    Lesson #1: *always* take a copy of anything you're going to quote cos you never know when it will be silently updated.

    On to the substance: I don't think even >1 m this century of SLR can be regarded as dead certain - indeed, I'm certain that it can't be. You could regard it as very likely - I'm sure Hansen does. But "dead certain"? No.

    And how is one to interpret 1-2 m as being dead certain (assuming for the moment he really did say that; it isn't a direct quote)? Does he really mean he is certain the rise will be between 1 and 2 m? That he conclusively rules out 2.01 m? That too seems unlikely (I mean, in his head, not necessarily in reality. In reality, >2 m SLR is very unlikely).

    -W]

  7. #7 Vinny Burgoo
    2010/11/29

    And would Hansen even use the phrase ‘dead certainty’ to mean ‘surefire thing’? It sounds a bit British.

    bluegrue, I left a comment at the ROT site about an hour before posting here. It wasn’t at all snarky (though it could have been interpreted as slightly patronising) but it hasn’t been allowed through. Instead, they have silently corrected their text.

    That’s fine. It’s their blog. Their game.

    How did such an error slip through? Monbiot once some Climate Campers – perhaps the ROT editors were in the audience – that Hansen said that a 25m rise was possible within a century. Maybe the ROT people thought they were being moderate.

    (Incidentally, I don’t take snapshots. I Zotero the HTML. Not a whole lot of use in a case like this.)

  8. #8 Vinny Burgoo
    2010/11/29

    So thanks, Stoat, for the snapshot (and the support).

  9. #9 blueshift
    2010/11/29

    The same 12 meter error is here:
    http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/11/469091.html

    I think lesson #2 is always look at the source. We really don’t know how Hansen qualifed the statement. For example, wouldn’t it be reasonable to say that if we stay on the high emissions path, and climate sensitivity is 3K or above we will certainly see at least 1-2 meters?

  10. #10 Neven
    2010/11/29

    But who was first, eh? ;-)

    I’ve decided not to give too much attention to people like Watts and Goddard on my blog, for the simple fact that I’m a bit in their league when it comes to knowledge and mathy things. In fact, I think Goddard is smarter than me in that respect. But he, of course, has this huge confirmation bias problem.

    I’m fairly sure I’m smarter than Watts though. How’s that for an insult!

    Let the smarter folks like Tamino and Grumbine shred them to pieces. I can do a bit of stamp collecting. OK, off to read and relish the Grumbine piece now. Thanks for the link, WC!

  11. #11 bluegrue
    2010/11/30

    I’d have flamed you else
    And you’d have been right to do so. I should not have assumed intent.

    Vinny Burgoo, I apologize for taking that tone in my initial comment in the first place and for implying intent to distort on your part.

  12. #12 Jesús R.
    2010/11/30

    Regarding Keenlyside et al, forecasting a temporary cooling trend was clearly wrong, but I guess that checking the skill of their model is a different story. In my (lay) view, they made an IPCC-like projection and their alternative own projection with ocean conditions. The observations until now seem to fall just in the middle between both of them. RC says that observations until now fall within the IPCC uncertainty range, so I think it may be soon to check if their alternative model is useful. I suppose I’m wrong in some way, otherwise they would reply to the RC article.

    [I think you've missed the main point of the Keelyside work (and the rather better Smith et al. stuff with DePreSys): which was that it wasn't IPCC-like; it was intended to be a ground-breaking new advance. And indeed, in theory it was (well, except it wasn't as new as they claimed): they were intending to start from actual ocean conditions, and integrate forwards, thus actually "predicting" in some sense the actual future (whereas the IPCC isn't like this). If that distinction isn't clear I could explain further. Anyway the problem is that while hte idea is obvious, doing it well isn't easy, and K et al did it badly *and must have known they had done so*. It is that, coupled with the misrepresentation of their work in the press (which they encouraged rather than checked) which is the problem -W]

  13. #13 JesúsR
    2010/11/30

    Thanks for your reply, William. I agree that the way it was passed on to the press was just fodder for the denialists (thus, free publicity granted). I know that Keenlyside wasn’t mean to be IPCC-like. I was thinking of their original graph (here). I think they compared his model output (green line) with an IPCC-like forecast (black line) (I understand that IPCC-like is not intended to be a short-term forecast, but that’s the way they compared it, in order to see if their model had some skill, I guess). I’ve seen in the RC post that the 2000-2005 actual temperature line is less steep than the 1995-2000 line. Therefore, it seems that the observations have turned out to be just in the middle between their IPCC-like model (black line) and their own model (green line) [no uncertainty ranges in their graph]. But I don’t know if this is meaningful in any way…

  14. #14 Paul Kelly
    2010/11/30

    As to future temperatures, it depends in part on what the actual sensitivity to doubling CO2 ppm turns out to be. So, my question is:

    If doubling CO2 causes about a 1C rise by its radiative properties alone, does an actual sensitivity of 3C mean that other forcings and feedbacks account for 2/3 (or twice that of CO2) of the increase? Does the importance of other forcings and feedbacks increase if actual sensitivity is greater than 3C?

    [Those numbers sound about right. But I don't understand your last question. If Cl Sens instead is 4, and CO2 remains 1, then the other factors account for 3, which is bigger than 2. Do you mean, "are those forcing in themselves important"? - one of the feedbacks is, for example, decline of Arctic sea ice -W]

  15. #15 Eli Rabett
    2010/11/30

    jesus: 1995 – 2000 has 1998 which was a huge outlier. Endpoints and all that

  16. #16 Jesús R.
    2010/11/30

    Thanks, Eli. I don’t mean that there’s any evidence that the warming trend has slowed down. Besides, I don’t know whether the Keensylide et al’s comparison is correct. But from my inexpert point of view, going over their actual graph with the new data (enlarging the red line with the subsequent temperatures) just show that it’s still soon to know whether their IPCC-like projection was better than their brand new model in the short-term (their own model also showed some warming for the 2000-2010 decade). To me, it seems that we should wait for the 2005-2015 decade (though I guess that 2005-2010 have already made their forecast unlikely).

  17. #17 Paul Kelly
    2010/11/30

    W,

    I ask because I’m involved in a discussion about the “other things first” approach and wondered if there’s a scientific basis for going in that direction.

    [Not entirely sure what you mean by that, I'm afraid. You'd have to elaborate -W]

  18. #18 Hank Roberts
    2010/11/30

    > other things first

    Each forcing has an immediate effect and a time span over which any change will continue to contribute.

    This may help: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/10/the-certainty-of-uncertainty/

    “… If reactions to a worse-than-expected climate change are delayed, they make an overshoot of any temperature target very likely, and corrective action very expensive. Thus conservative strategies would seem in order, which probably implies initial targets of much lower than 450 ppm, and still subject to further revision.

    “The bottom line is that climate sensitivity is uncertain, but we can pretty much rule out low values that would imply there is nothing to worry about. The possibility of high values will be much harder to rule out. This is something policy makers should recognize and confront.”

  19. #19 Paul Kelly
    2010/11/30

    The discussion, prompted by an op-ed in the NY Times, is about whether dealing first with forcings and feedbacks other than CO2 is a better approach to mitigation.

    Carbon soot reduction is mentioned because it has broad support even among deniers, and is not only identified as a significant feedback in itself, but also as a trigger for other feedbacks such as ice loss.

    The goal of any mitigation is to hold temp increases below the danger level, usually put at 2C. Assuming sensitivity at 3C, 2/3 of which is due to other forcings and feedbacks, would you get more mitigation from reducing them than from an equal reduction in CO2 emissions?

    So, a couple of questions, one of which I asked before, but garbled. Do the other forcings and feedbacks affect the radiative properties of CO2 as an addend or a multiplier or a combination of both? More importantly, do any of the other forcings and feedbacks have known or fairly certain values?

    [As an addendum. I don't think there is any physical way for them to multiply. The units don't match! And all are far less well known than CO2: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/faq-2-1-figure-2.html -W]

    Right now the only convincing argument for “other things first” is the unlikelihood of a CO2 suppression regime in the near term. I’m looking for support for the idea that OTF is the better mitigation strategy, regardless.

  20. #20 M
    2010/11/30

    ” I’m looking for support for the idea that OTF is the better mitigation strategy, regardless.”

    In my opinion: definitely not. Other Things First is stuff like black carbon, methane, ozone. These all have short lifetimes. They are great for reducing short-term climate change (next couple of decades). However, if you are required to choose an ordering, you should almost always go with the long lifetime gas first, and then add reductions of the short-lifetime gases second. After all, by 2100, the world won’t care (much) what black carbon emissions were from 2010-2020, but there will still be plenty of CO2 around from that time period.

    Ideally, of course, the answer is to reduce both. But I think they are answers to different problems. The NRC Report on Stabilization (2010) has some good text on this short term/long term issue (search for the word “fallacy”).

    Mind you, making infrastructure investments that lead to less emissions of short-lived gases can yield decades worth of reductions, thereby extending the effect of the policy decision longer than the lifetime of the gas… however, there, too, I think the indication is that we should prioritize CO2 reductions because methane and BC are more amenable to end-of-pipe solutions that can be slapped on in a jiffy, but coal power plants last decades and building city infrastructure around gas-devouring vehicles and power-devouring houses can last even longer…

    One of these days I’ll write the paper that really nails this stuff down. Its been on my to-do list for a while…

    -M

  21. #21 adelady
    2010/11/30

    CO2 has to be the main target because of the way we produce it. We expect cars to last more than ten years. We expect power stations to run for more than fifty years. Public transport systems, if not their individual components, last for a century or so. Buildings can last for hundreds of years.

    We can’t turn CO2 emissions off like a tap, far less CO2 atmospheric concentrations. The more we do now, the easier it will be to do more and better later.

  22. #22 Paul Kelly
    2010/11/30

    M says: “…if you are required to choose an ordering, you should almost always go with the long lifetime gas first”

    In the discussion, Michael Tobis said the opposite: “I think there is no sensible opposition to this secondary-forcings first approach. There are fundamental physical reasons for taking these on with the greatest urgency, specifically because the carbon forcing will not go away quickly.”

    Always fascinating that people of good will can look at the same set of facts and come to entirely different conclusions about their meaning.

  23. #23 adelady
    2010/12/01

    pk. My feeling on this is that we’ll often get double bang for our buck on some of the coal replacements. And there’s also the link to persistent heating releasing more methane from permafrost and the rest.

    The other view underlying this is that every single action required becomes more and more urgent with each passing month. The luxury of arguing about first or best or options or technical development was something we might have indulged in 20 or 30 years ago.

    There is no choice. We should do everything we can as soon as we can. For public policy the biggest issue is preventing further CO2 commitments 20, 30 or 60 years down the line. My preference is driven mainly by personal certainty that conversion to carbon free power generation will be far cheaper, quicker and easier than people think at the moment.

  24. #24 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/01

    It’s amusing and telling that PK thinks those statements are opposite. Blinders…

    Is the M above the M I think she/he is? Maybe!

    Anyway, I should just add that if PK had actually done some minimal homework on what’s actually going on in Congress with this stuff, he would discover that a) the Inhofe bill just called for a study (which I would characterize as posturing rather than commitment to do anything; the study, which looks to have been in the works before Inhofe filed his bill, is just now underway, which is to say it’s something for the next administration to consider), and b) another piece of legislation, co-sponsored by Inhofe with some leading Democrats, has a multi-pollutant focus that includes SO2 (reduction of which enhances warming, raising the question of whether the net impact on GW would even be good).

    Also, having just carefully re-read the R+V op-ed, I can’t imagine how it could be interpreted to suggest that CO2 reductions should be any less of a priority. That PK and Kloor think it can only serves to reinforce my view.

    Just to be clear, I’ll be quite happy if the COP can manage anything on the short-lived stuff, as it already seems clear that the CO2 can will be kicked down the road to the next meeting.

  25. #25 Hank Roberts
    2010/12/01

    The comment by MT that PK is so coyly excerpting is at
    http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/11/29/the-low-hanging-climate-fruit/comment-page-2/#comment-30039
    and if you look at the context you’ll understand why PK is not giving you the link to check PK’s claim about what MT means.

  26. #26 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/01

    Excuse me, Hank. MT meant exactly what he said in the quote. I quoted MT to illustrate the point about differing conclusions specifically because, other than on this issue, MT’s and M’s views about climate are probably nearly identical.

  27. #27 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/01

    MT says later in that thread: “There is no chance of a sensible policy being politically viable right now. A huge stake rides on this pervasive confusion being reversed somehow. Small positive steps in the meanwhile are better than nothing, but not much better.” This makes it clear that when he says “first,” he means he would prefer action at Cancun on other things even though action on CO2 seems to be off the table. Were it on the table, he’d prefer both. I’m confident M agrees, it being the only sane position to have.

  28. #28 Hank Roberts
    2010/12/02

    Sorry, Paul.

    People write in context. When you take any quote without citing to the original source, you use it — your context, your interpretation.

    Cite so readers can check your interpretation against the original. I looked it up. Not every reader will do that without your help.

  29. #29 Hank Roberts
    2010/12/02

    Copenhagen Diagnosis
    http://www.copenhagendiagnosis.com/download/default.html

    (NOTE: not “copenhagenconsensus” — the Lomborg/denial site)

    p.50-51
    “… While global warming can be stopped, it cannot easily be reversed due to the long lifetime of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (Solomon et al. 2009; Eby et al. 2009). Even a thousand years after reaching a zero-emission society, temperatures will remain elevated, likely cooling down by only a few tenths of a degree below their peak values. Therefore, decisions taken now have profound and practically irreversible consequences for many generations to come ….

    “… Meinshausen et al. (2009) found that if a total of 1000 Gigatons of CO2 is emitted for the period 2000-2050, the likelihood of exceeding the 2-degree warming limit is around 25%. In 2000-2009, about 350 Gigatons have already been emitted, leaving only 650 Gigatons for 2010-2050. At current emission rates this budget would be used up within 20 years.

    “An important consequence of the rapidly growing emissions rate, and the need for a limited emissions budget, is that any delay in reaching the peak in emissions drastically increases the required rapidity and depth of future emissions cuts (see Figure 22 and also England et al. 2009)….

    “… other greenhouse gases as well as aerosols also play a non-negligible role. Successful limitation of the non- CO2 climate forcing would therefore create more leeway in the allowable CO2 emissions budget. Studies have shown that attractive options for particularly rapid and cost-effective climate mitigation are the reduction of black carbon (soot) pollution and tropospheric low- level ozone (Wallack and Ramanathan 2009). In contrast to CO2, these are very short-lived gases in the atmosphere, and therefore respond rapidly to policy measures.”

  30. #30 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/02

    Hank,

    My objection is your saying I was being coy or trying to fool people by not including a link. There was no link because a) it required extra typing
    b) wasn’t sure if W would appreciate linking to a blog he may not be a fan of
    c) figured most people here knew where the discussion was taking place. You certainly did. I don’t imagine any visitors here are unaware of MT’s views, generally.

    In any event, here’s the link. The relevant comments are 2, 62, 70, 77, 79, 82, 100, 105 and 139.

    As to whether the quote used above is out of context, definitely not. From his comment 70: “I absolutely agree with the Hansen approach of taking on the secondary forcings first, and have been featuring press releases from a group supporting this approach on my blog for years.”

    And from comment 100: “I emphatically agree that we should deal with secondary forcings as quickly as is feasible. As things stand, a unit of effort on secondary forcings may have more marginal payoff than a unit of effort on CO2. By all means let’s get on with it! I am unconvinced by any arguments to the contrary.”

  31. #31 Hank Roberts
    2010/12/02

    Paul, you’re moving the goal. Look at what you wrote where it appears in context:
    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2010/11/forecasting.php#comment-2965659

  32. #32 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/02

    Hank,
    I think you are one of the people who think they disagree with me, but don’t. I do not understand your objection to the quote. Are you saying it is misused in the context of people of good will can looking at the same set of facts and coming to different conclusions?

    Are you saying that MT doesn’t really believe secondary forcings should go first and that his views are the opposite of his written word?

    Did you read where MT gave the physical science backing up OTF based, as for me also, on scholarship by Hansen and Jacobson?

  33. #33 Hank Roberts
    2010/12/02

    > I think you are one of the people who
    > think they disagree with me, but don’t.

    I don’t see a contradiction between the two quotes in their context, and they seem contradictory as quoted here to me.

    Try this: http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/11/29/the-low-hanging-climate-fruit/comment-page-3/#comment-30691

    I agree with that. You agree with that?

  34. #34 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/02

    Hank,

    There are two quotes cited here in my comment 22. The first is from someone who clearly does not agree with OTF. The second quote is from someone who clearly does. The only other verbiage in the comment notes the difference between the two.

    I really don’t know of a polite way to respond to the assertion that the quotes indicate that the people quoted agree on OTF. I’m beginning to think what upsets you is that Tobis and I agree on something. If you think I’ve misrepresented MT in any way, why not go over to only in it for the gold and ask him if he thinks so, too.

    If you’d like to discuss what effect an OTF approach might have on efforts to cut CO2, I’ll be at Bart’s.

  35. #35 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/02

    p.s.
    The link in your last comment goes to a comment by MT to Isaac about the Copenhagen Diagnosis versus the IPCC. I have no opinion on that.

  36. #36 Michael Tobis
    2010/12/03

    I’m flattered though a bit confused that what I do or don’t think is something that Paul Kelly cares about. I can’t reciprocate in general, but I am happy to clarify my own position.

    The best summary of what I am saying is that if “first” is taken to refer to temporal sequence, not to emphasis, I agree with the OTF concept. I think a reasonable policy would concentrate on secondary forcings *first*, but would be cognizant at all times that CO2 is the fundamental issue.

    “Apply tourniquet first” in no way implies that “apply tourniquet” is the cure to a severe injury.

    Pretending to have an OTF policy while instead having an OTI (Other Things Instead) policy is what I mean by “better than nothing, but not much better than nothing”. Since that is about the best we can expect from the sorry-ass international process at this time, it is nothing to celebrate even if it gets through.

    “First” refers to temporal sequence, not to emphasis. The problem is primarily about anthropogenic CO2 and only secondarily about other anthropogenic forcings. But the system will respond more quickly to reductions in the other forcings and they may well be politically easier to achieve.

    I am not a great fan of Paul Kelly but he is correct that, even in the absence of political constraints, it seems to me reasonable to go after the other warming forcings as a priority. The idea that this “buys us time” makes sense to me.

    Of course, some will simply wish to squander the bought time. The CO2 remains the real problem and the OTF approach in the long run is little more than a modest palliative. But in the short run it can provide some effective therapy and I see no reason not to pursue it vigorously, as Hansen explains.

    The real question is whether I disagree with “M” above. Again this depends on what is meant by “first”. It is my opinion that a rational policy would yield very rapid cuts in secondary warming emissions, likely more rapid than cuts in CO2 emissions. Since M and I apparently agree that we are very far from a rational policy, whether M and I agree on this point (I concede that there is some indication that we don’t) is really not a matter of great practical significance.

    Thanks for the interest.

  37. #37 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/03

    For the record, I am in complete agreement with MT on this issue. Our only difference is in how to cut CO2. I like to look at it in terms of energy transformation, rather than climate mitigation.

  38. #38 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/03

    “I am not a great fan of Paul Kelly but he is correct that, even in the absence of political constraints, it seems to me reasonable to go after the other warming forcings as a priority.”

    Hmm, so maybe we do have a disagreement, Michael. You seem to be presenting the problem as something of a zero-sum game in principle. It seems to me that it’s only the political constraints that might make it so. Maybe, maybe, if we’re speaking in terms of large-scale flows of capital and technology to effectuate the reductions, there would be some need for a prioritization of some forcings over others, but even in that ideal case I think it should be a mix of the lowest-hanging fruit (based on an assessment of either size or ripeness) in all categories. In particular, I can’t think of a secondary forcing reduction that could be a higher priority than halting the construction of new coal plants (although other things can and should be done at the same time).

  39. #39 Michael Tobis
    2010/12/03

    Steve, I agree that no new coal plants should be built. The point here is somewhat different.

    The dollar spent on reducing CO2 emissions will have a larger payoff in the long run. But the dollar spent reducing methane emissions will pay off immediately. The secondary forcings reduce both short-term and long-term risk, while the CO2 reduction now, however necessary, has negligible short-term payoff. We should take all the short-term payoff we can get, because we want to put off the day when climate starts to bite on a global scale for as long as possible, so we can afford all the other transitions.

    At this point I think we are in deep trouble. But assuming we need to apply the brakes as quickly as possible means that the secondary forcings come first. Have you looked at Hansen et al on the subject, Steve?

    In a way, this is an argument that by their physical nature, the secondary forcings are lower-hanging.

  40. #40 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/04

    Indeed I have, Michael, when it was first published. My impression is that Hansen thinks those coal plants are the big priority due to the embodied commitment to future emissions, but I’ll happily double-check. But to return to my earlier point, in a time when we’re not doing either it seems less than useful, or at least getting way ahead of ourselves, to put things in a zero-sum context. IMHO it’s feasible to contemplate heading off new coal plants while taking several other less expensive steps regarding the secondary forcings, although obviously not politically at the moment.

    I should add that my view on prioritization is dependent on my assessment of tipping point/abrupt change risk. At this point those new coal plant emissions seem to me to be risking such a thing more than the secondary forcings, which is to say I think the risk is more at mid-century than in the next decade or so. This of course is an assessment I’m wholly unqualified to make, but OTOH probably a bit more qualified than the policy makers who (will) actually have to make it.

  41. #41 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/04

    OK, I conducted my research:

    It appears that “Target CO2″ may have been a game-changer for Hansen (noting that I haven’t read his book). He mentions the secondary forcings only to say that they should be addressed “simultaneously,” which would seem to contradict any idea of prioritizing them. In a more recent paper, he’s settled on a 20-year time frame for the U.S. to phase out *all* coal (relying mainly on an escalating carbon tax, although I suspect he would want continued regulatory action as well), with the ROW to follow soon after, which I think safe to say implies no delay whatsoever.

    I also looked over his two most recent long presentations (Club of Rome in 2009 and Blue Planet just weeks ago) and the secondary forcings are mentioned only to note that reductions in them were assumed in calculating the 350 figure.

    He also notes in “Target CO2″ that the recent trend in the secondary forcings is down (is this still true?).

    Back on the game-changer point, it seems significant that Hansen began collaborating with the deep-time paleo folks just in the last four years or so. IIRC Bill McKibben asked the Big Question after reading the first collaboration. The fact that the black carbon idea didn’t seem to gain much traction may also have played a role in Hansen’s thinking.

    Now I suppose I’ll have to read the book. :)

  42. #42 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/04

    Hansen’s page for anyone who wants to look at the referenced material themselves.

  43. #43 Hank Roberts
    2010/12/04

    Here is one good argument for urgently controlling black carbon — local source, local effect:

    http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/Meltdown_0.doc

    “One cause of the retreat is the growing amount of sooty ‘black carbon’ made by fossil-fuel and biomass burning. Xu Baiqing, an environment scientist at the ITP, measured 50 years’ worth of black-carbon levels in ice cores from five glaciers in various parts of the Himalayas, and found increased emissions since the 1990s, coinciding with rapid industrial growth in the region. Angela Marinoni, a climate scientist at the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate in Bologna, Italy, and her colleagues found high concentrations of aerosols, including black carbon, above 5,000 metres in the Nepalese Himalayas, which caused significant atmospheric warming. They calculate that deposition of black carbon could increase snow and ice melting of a typical Himalayan glacier by 12–34%, by reducing its ability to reflect light.

    As a consequence, glacial lakes are getting larger and more numerous, causing more floods….”

    Note that’s “fossil fuels and biomass” — not just those smoky dung fires. Focus on the point sources and the distribution network for the fossil fuels for maximum impact in the shortest term; get those changed over to less polluting technology then distribute it.

    Local source, global reach: http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-12-isotopes-yield-clues-asian-air.html

    “They used the lead particles’ isotopic signature as a chemical return address, which enabled them to trace some of the lead’s origins to coal and metal ore found only in Asia.
    …. as a tracer for airborne particles within the growing Asian industrial plume ….”

  44. #44 Richard
    2010/12/04

    How’s this for forecasting? I understand that 10 years after it was published this article is the most referenced in the Independent.

    It reports Dr David Viner of the UEA CRU ([stupidity redacted - W]) predicting that snow will be a thing of the past in the UK. Last week of course we had snow in every part of the country, quite literally every square foot of this land, for the second winter in a row. Not just a day of falls, a few inches that is slush by tea time. Proper week-long showers that I remember from my childhood. In the very start of December this winter.

    [Err, I think you need to read what he wrote, not something you've made up. The article quotes him as saying "a very rare and exciting event" which is, indeed, true -W]

    We had similar weather the previous winter (2008/9) too although without the satellite image of the whole island covered. So that is three winters in a row of snowfall back to the historical norms of the 1970s (when there was real concern about global cooling, however many people try to deny it; I was a child but I still remember the TV programmes) or worse.

    [Again, you need to do your research properly, instead of making things up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_cooling will help you. I assume you're talking about the science, of course, not the meeja -W]

    That is a truly, utterly awful prediction from Dr Vine. And he is getting crucified for it in the blogosphere.

    Curious then that a post on the subject of forecasting concentrates on a rather more obscure prediction, which was no further out than many others who predicted to the other side of what actually transpired.

    [K et al. predicted cooling (rather pibliclly, in Nature, and were hyped by the septics for it), and were wrong. Others predicted warming, and were right. Curious indeed that you're trying to obscure that. But what you're missing is the real point: K et al. claimed they had a good method, whereas numerous people (including me) said their prediction method was broken. And we were right -W]

  45. #45 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/05

    That’s very dull, Richard. Viner’s prediction was for 2020. Also, something unexpected has happened that’s resulted in much more frequent movement of Artic air masses to mid-latitudes; google “Arctic dipole anomaly” to learn about it. So Viner may turn out to be wrong, but not in a way that anyone will like. Re the cooling scare, denialists have been pretending there was one for years now but somehow can’t produce any evidence. At the same time, our host surveyed the literature and proved that scientists weren’t engaging in a scare.

  46. #46 JBL
    2010/12/05

    Wait, Steve Bloom, you think Richard is serious? I mean, I don’t follow denialist blogs very closely, but I was sure that “now infamous of course for corruption, incompetence and dishonesty” was a giveaway of a Poe. Ah, well.

  47. #47 Hank Roberts
    2010/12/05

    Does “Richard” have a name and address, or is he rebunking these claims anonymously?

  48. #48 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/05

    If it was a poe it was overly subtle. JBL, phrases similar to the one you excerpted are common currency on low-brow denialist blogs like WUWT.

  49. #49 Hank Roberts
    2010/12/06

    > Our only difference is in how to cut CO2.

    Not how _fast_ fossil fuel use is cut to _zero_?
    I suspect rate of change and amount are differences.
    The “make us all better off” notion allows slow action.

    Slow change, higher peak temperature, higher temperature for thousands of years thereafter.

    Those who understand the physics believe the temperature will be much higher with

    > I like to look at it in terms of energy transformation,
    > rather than climate mitigation.

    People feel less urgency about changes that might make their children rich than about things that will hurt them.

    It’s “the kids are smart, they’ll take care of themselves” versus “the kids will be hurting if we don’t fix this now.”

    I’d like to see that PK and MT agree on how fast fossil fuel use needs to go to zero, or see PK show that transforming the economics of the energy system has any urgency about it, especially for those currently looking at coal in the ground as better than money in the bank, an investment they expect to profit from.

    Agreement maybe. But kumbaya doesn’t translate as “hurry!”

  50. #50 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/06

    Hank. PK did mention 30-50 years for coal, although that seems to have been based more on placing it far enough into the future to avoid doing anything about it rather than any sort of analysis of impacts.

  51. #51 Hank Roberts
    2010/12/06

    Yup, I remember that.

    “Energy transformation” has no time constraints other than maximizing currently living people’s short term profits.

    As MT said above:

    “… some will simply wish to squander the bought time. The CO2 remains the real problem and the OTF approach in the long run is little more than a modest palliative…. a rational policy would yield very rapid cuts in secondary warming emissions, likely more rapid than cuts in CO2 emissions.”

    No contradiction there.

  52. #52 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/06

    Hank,

    I think both MT and I would say fossil fuels should be replaced as quickly as possible. I certainly don’t claim to have anywhere near the entire answer on how to do it and doubt he would either.

    As I said at Bart’s, while OTF – especially the soot piece – is the more politically viable approach, there is no reason to slack off on efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. Given the current situation, those efforts are best directed at something other than the political process.

    Thinking in terms of energy transformation has several benefits. It brings more people to the table. It broadens the range of action options. It provides a more accurate measurement of success.

  53. #53 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/06

    Don’t forget the part about it being guaranteed to fail, PK. I know, I know, anything that would succeed makes you feel uncomfortable. (And 30-50 years just for coal is a novel way of defining ASAP, don’t you think?)

    [No no please stop this stuff. You're both regular commentators here and I think you're both, usually, in good faith. There is no need for attacks like this, it is just unpleasant. There is quite enough of that on the intertubes -W]

    The funny thing about the black carbon first business is that Hansen advanced it, waited to see if it would get some traction, then abandoned it as his primary strategy when it had manifestly failed to work. That’s called empiricism, and perhaps you should try dipping your toe into it one of these days. (I should note that his downward adjustment of the “safe” CO2 level from 450 ppm to 350 ppm as discussed in “Target CO2″ also seems to have been a factor, and maybe even the most important one.)

    BTW, how strongly does MT have to dissaociate himself with you for you to stop wrapping yourself in his flag?

  54. #54 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/06

    OK, I’ll ask nicely: PK, please provide some analysis, your own or from others, to justify that 30-50 year window.

  55. #55 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/06

    Thank you, William. I haven’t responded to Steve Bloom’s comments for some some time now, nor will I in the future.

  56. #56 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/06

    Yep, not responding to *anyone* on that 30-50 year business is the essence of good faith. I’ll leave it at that.

  57. #57 Hank Roberts
    2010/12/06

    Steve, I wouldn’t bet we’ll do any better than 30-50 years myself, but that’s because I’m old and still growing more cynical. Yes, we have gotten it right at times — chlorofluorocarbons, smallpox, surface nuclear tests. But look at the codfish, heck, any of the big fish. 90 percent gone. Look at slavery, still big business under many names.

    If Paul’s point is that people are stupid and unlikely to do the right thing, 30-50 years seems optimistic. Well, today’s been a dark day.

    If Paul’s 30-50 years is a range for his “as quickly as possible” then — are we talking cynical-possible, cleverer-than-likely-possible, theoretically in a rational world possible, or deux-ex-machina possible?

  58. #58 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/06

    What he thinks is preferable or at least acceptable, AFAICT.

  59. #59 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/07

    Hank

    That you would would even suggest that my point is that people are stupid and unlikely to do the right thing flies in the face of everything I have ever said here or anywhere else. My point is the exact opposite, and you know it. I don’t understand the source of your hostility.

  60. #60 Hank Roberts
    2010/12/07

    PK, I was hoping you had some doubts about burning fossil fuel while it’s cheap and easily available over the next say 30-50 years. The extra warming caused by another round of fossil fuel use gets built into the future for centuries to come. That is a classic externalized cost avoided for those profiting in short term.

    Some people sincerely do believe that other people are good at heart, make smart rational economic choices, and will do the right thing naturally.

    Some people intend to extract maximum short term profit for the next 30-50 years or so, because the costs go to the future.

    Is there an overlap between those two groups?

    Take “black carbon” as an example. Its effects on the atmosphere aren’t simple like the effects of greenhouse gases. Links to the recent research on that:
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/09/black-carbon-soot-climate-warming-effect-canceled-by-cloud-production.php

  61. #63 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/07

    When I first read the NY Times op-ed, I reacted to it as an example of effective persuasive communication. It gave understandable background science both physical and social, then proposed a practical policy alternative. Well, it has blossomed to the number one topic.

    There are threads at Bart’s and Kloor’s among many others. The answer to the one science question I had cleared up some confusion about definitions, that carbon soot is a forcing greenhouse emission. I learned of the horribly named Other Things First position.

    Before reading the op-ed I’d put soot not in the context of OTF, but as an example of a significant, effective, doable mitigation action whose primary benefit is something other than climate.

    The RC post is about methane. It indicates methane is not all that great a OTF strategy. Others may want to pick apart the methodology of the poster or the assumptions made. Some may dispute that methane is dis-positive to OTF as a whole.

    I asked at RC (the first and likely the last time ever) if a similar analysis concerning carbon soot can be done. I noted carbon soot is a more important forcing.

  62. #64 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/07

    PK, he used methane as a specific example, but also addressed BC (and added detail in the comments), so you got your answer. Now, would you like some crow with that?

    Also, it would seem you don’t know who Raypierre is. “Pick apart” indeed.

  63. #65 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/07

    Let me rephrase the question so that everybody understands it is asked for information, not to support any point of view or as a gotchya. Methane has a known radiative value and measurements from around the globe of it’s current presence in the atmosphere are available. Can the same be said of carbon soot? I’m really just looking for a yes or no.

    [No. This comment thread has been going on so long you've forgotten you asked that in the beginning and I pointed you to the IPCC graph -w]

  64. #66 Steve Bloom
    2010/12/07

    Read the Treehugger article Hank linked and see the linked paper. It’s the state of the science. The answer to your question is ambiguous, but the question is not useful. Raypierre summed things up neatly:

    “You could argue that any action of any type that shows international collaboration on anything related to climate will hasten the day that carbon emissions are brought under control. But none of that “buys time.” Every day that goes past without reducing the rate of CO2 emissions lost is a day irretrievably lost. But beyond that, I’m not sure why you think that there is less low-hanging fruit on CO2 than there is on methane. There is a lot of low-hanging fruit in power plant energy efficiency, and in end-user energy efficiency. And as I said at the end of the post, for soot there is a lot of room for co-benefits on reducing both soot and CO2. Much the same could be said for mercury and CO2.” (emphases added)

  65. #67 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/07

    Steve, if you tone down the hostility, I’ll engage for a while. When I said I completely agreed with MT on this, I meant it. Importantly, he said OTF is a matter of timing, not emphasis.

    Since discovering the community of scientists and activists advocating OTF, I have found none who suggest efforts to reduce CO2 emissions should be de-emphasized at all. Many do see the political process as, at least in the near term, unresponsive to those efforts.

    I think I’ve been clear that I advocate immediate, focused action to reduce CO2 emissions through a bottom up approach.

    Since the political process is unavailable for now, it seems intelligent to put a portion of the time and effort people now spend discussing the nuances of the science, or how to persuasively frame it, or in waiting for the political winds to change towards looking for ways to reduce CO2 that do not depend on the political process. I don’t know why anyone would resist this out of the box exercise. I am sure they would come up with many ideas different from mine and probably better, too.

  66. #68 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/08

    W,

    Thanks. Graph reading is not one of my better skills, nor apparently is memory. Having now a decent understanding of soot, I’ll happily leave the OTF arguments to others.

  67. #69 dhogaza
    2010/12/08

    Since the political process is unavailable for now…

    Not exactly …

    Though I know you’d *like* it to be.

  68. #70 Paul Kelly
    2010/12/08

    dhogaza,

    If by like you mean that, even if there were a political option, I would still see mitigation via a social process as faster, surer and more effective, yes. Yes indeed. Further, I encourage you to spend a portion of your day thinking about mitigation in those terms, too.

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