Storms of My Grandchildren

Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity

Photos of James Hansen’s grandchildren have appeared not infrequently in  his presentations in recent years.  He obviously delights in them.  But he also fears for them.  The nature of that fear is spelt out in his newly published book Storms of my Grandchildren with its foreboding subtitle The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.

Last chance?  As critical as that?  In his lucid concluding summary statement Hansen points to climate system inertia as the reason. Currently inertia is protecting us from the full effects of the changes and can seem like a friend. But, as amplifying feedbacks begin to drive the climate towards tipping points, that same inertia will make it harder to reverse direction. The ocean, ice sheets and frozen methane on continental shelves all resist rapid change, but only for so long.  And they are being subjected to human-made forcings far more rapid than any of the natural forcings of the past.

Science is at the core of the book, but Hansen has woven it into a narrative of his encounters with policy makers over the past eight years. In 2001 he was invited to explain current scientific thinking to the cabinet-level Climate Task Force. He focused on changes in climate forcings, in watts per square metre, between 1750 and 2000, using a graph which estimated the effects of a variety changes dominated by human activity. The information seems clear enough as Hansen shares it with us, but it obviously became muddied in the Task Force proceedings, especially when.contrarian Richard Lindzen was  invited to the second meeting and focused on uncertainties as well as questioning the motives of “alarmist” scientists. Hansen’s belief that the new administration was serious about wanting to understand climate change looks a little naïve in retrospect. Incidentally Hansen himself is always aware of uncertainties in his science and careful to accord them proper status.

A further invitation to a different White House group in 2003 saw him centre his presentation this time on paleoclimate and the evidence from the past  that large climate changes can occur in response to even small forcings. This topic is explored at some length, with occasional exhortations to readers to hang on if it seems to be getting too complicated.  Feedback figures prominently here, as does climate sensitivity to doubled carbon dioxide.  The non-carbon dioxide forcings such as methane and black soot attracted some interest at the meeting, but the administration by now seemed to share Richard Lindzen’s perspective and to distrust the scientific community.  He records no further invitations to White House meetings.

2003 saw the publication of a paper by Hansen which questioned the IPCC and conventional approach to sea level rise.  He explains in the book the evidence from paleoclimate studies of rapid sea level rise and discusses the part played by the huge reservoir of energy provided by the ocean and by ice sheet dynamics.  If ice sheets begin to disintegrate we can expect no new stable sea level on any foreseeable timescale. Ocean and ice sheets each have response times of at least centuries.

In 2005 Hansen endured the events described by Mark Bowen’s book Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming, reviewed here. Some of this ground is traversed again here, and then Hansen offers readers the bad news that the dangerous threshold of greenhouse gases is actually lower than the 450 ppm he had accepted for some years, and goes on to explain how this change of mind occurred.

The name of Bill McKibben enters the scene at this point, for it was in response to his request for an appropriate parts per million figure for his website that Hansen settled with colleagues to re-examine the question.  The result was the famous 2008 paper Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? and McKibben’s movement.  The two climate impacts that Hansen believes should be at the top of the list that defines what is “dangerous” are sea level rise and species extinction.  He explains how reduction of CO2 levels to 350 ppm would restore the planet’s energy balance.

Hansen is widely honoured and respected in the scientific community. He has also taken some pains to make his scientific work accessible to the general reader, as his website reveals. He is happy to accept writer Robert Pool’s description of him as a witness, meaning  “someone who believes he has information so important that he cannot keep silent.”

Criticised for his incursions into the field of policy in more recent years, Hansen is unapologetic about it when he comes to draw conclusions from the research on the appropriate target level of atmospheric carbon dioxide. “Coal emissions must be phased out as rapidly as possible or global climate disasters will be a dead certainty.” Should scientists deliver that conclusion and then leave it to the politicians to deal with it?  Not in his experience. They will fudge the issue if they can. In particular he is scathing in his rejection of cap-and-trade schemes, which he considers will continue to allow fossil fuels to be burned.  He favours instead a rising price on carbon applied at the source, with the fee returned to the population in equal shares. This insistence on the carbon tax method rather than emissions trading may well lack finesse, as his critics allege, but the suspicion of vested interests and of the influence of lobbyists which underlies it is surely justified.

He admits that the phasing out of coal emissions by 2030 is a huge challenge.  Energy efficiency measures and renewable energy development will probably not in his view be sufficient to replace coal by then, and he eloquently pleads the case for 3rd and 4th generation nuclear plants.

A scary chapter looks at what he calls the Venus syndrome.  Back in 1981 when he wrote his first comprehensive paper on the impact of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide he presumed that, as the reality of climate change became apparent, government policies would begin to be adapted in a rational way.  He didn’t count on two challenges to that presumption. The first is the remarkable success of special interests in preventing the public at large from understanding the situation. The second is politicians’ almost universal preference for greenwash and fake environmentalism. All right, he says, what will happen if we go on burning and push the planet beyond its tipping point?     After a careful discussion of consequences he concludes that if we burn all the reserves of oil, gas, and coal there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale it’s a dead certainty.  Between times lie the storms which will be upon us during the lives of his grandchildren.

Small wonder the scientist has become a climate activist and places such hope as he can muster in the mobilisation of young people to demand appropriate actions from their governments. Activists are not gloom and doom merchants, and it’s clear that he hopes the general public will yet become aware of the real threat discerned by the science and demand the action so far avoided by politicians. All honour to him for the witness he bears.

112 thoughts on “Storms of My Grandchildren”

  1. Cry me a river Bryan, cannot call that crass at all. If he is so concerned with GW maybe he should encourage his children to stop breeding so the Hansen CO2 footprint would reduce. He would be happy with that surely.

    BTW, I stand with my initial comments.

  2. Peter, it seems that the sneer is your preferred mode of communication, but perhaps you would be willing to indicate what it is about Hansen’s AGW concern that is in your view unfounded? Is it the CO2 forcing? Or the ocean warming? Or the likelihood of ice sheet collapse? Or the possibility of methane release through melting? I own to being a grandparent myself and to being troubled for their future (and that of countless others, if you will credit universal concern). If you have information that renders that concern needless, please share it.

  3. Peter’s position appears to be to shoot the messenger and ignore not only the message, but any responsibility he feels for his own descendants.
    The anger, I surmise, comes from his secret fear that what Hansen says is true.

  4. “If he is so concerned with GW maybe he should encourage his children to stop breeding so the Hansen CO2 footprint would reduce. ” – Peter Bickle.

    Yeah, that’ll fix AGW won’t it?. Duh!.

  5. The mokos of James (“The democratic process doesn’t quite seem to be working,” ) Hansen, have more to fear from gramps.

    “Last Chance to Save Humanity”?
    I though that was Copenhagen…

    …Oh these “last chances” come every 6 months?
    OK then, See you in Mexico. I’ll bring the polar bear suit. ARRRREEEEEEBAHHH!!!

  6. And we now know that , despite 20 years of claims to the contrary, the high priests of warmism don’t understand the climate either, and it’s a “travesty” that they don’t.

  7. Steve, if you could forego expostulation for a while, would you like to explain to us what it is in Hansen’s basic climate concerns that demonstrates his lack of understanding of the climate? Is he wrong about CO2 forcing? About climate inertia? The likelihood of ice sheet collapse? Or the possibility of methane release through melting?

    1. Each of the forcings you list relies on climate being dominated by positive feedback. 4 billion years of life support on this planet shows that the climate (like 99% of natural systems) are dominated by negative feedback, not positive. The lack of post-1998 warming is evidence that extra CO2 is having a diminishing effect -consistent with the straight physics of CO2 absorbtion.

      The greatest threats come, as always, from the anti-democratic proclivities of those like Hansen & ilk who believe their “cause” is so right, that we can’t let annoyances like democracy get in the way of the “solution” , can we?

  8. At this point in the cycle, having been exposed as a charlatan, Steve Wrathall usually discontinues a thread and goes quiet for a few days, before lurching into another faux critique somewhere else.

    He appears to be little more than a random noise generator…

  9. I fear Hansen and the US are too late to leave the party. Take a look at the total CO2 emmissions per country and then per capita within the top 20 countries. You may be amazed at China (at first) because they produce about 25% per capita CO2 compared to the US but they are the single largest emitters on our planet. Now take a look at India. They produce half as much as China per capita. So here is the challenge that will not be met by the developed world. How do you allow China per capita CO2 emmissions to double relative to the developed world and India’s to quadruple without shutting down your economies. We are working ourselves into an impossible situation. China has taken steps to control its population. Not so with India. Then check out Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria by population and per capita CO2 emmissions.
    In other words, you could eliminate the US entirely and the CO2 emmissions will still rise past Hansen’s tipping point as the emerging countries “emerge” over the next 50 years. So you guys need to bring your arguments up a notch.

  10. Well Steve, at least you managed a paragraph indicating the grounds for your disagreement with Hansen, even if you returned immediately to your preferred mode of exchange with your absurd accusation of anti-democratic proclivities.

    It seems to me an astonishing leap of blind faith to claim that negative feedbacks are about to rescue us from the consequences of our pushing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere to such high levels. The desperation of the claim is compounded by the fiction that there has been no warming post-1998. You must surely be aware that the rising trend of global temperature continues, with 1998 merely a higher spike due to natural variation, and, as Dappledwater has pointed out, likely surpassed by 2005 anyway. Negative feedbacks on geologic timescales can hardly be invoked to rescue human civilisation from its responsibility to face up to what is happening and take the relatively clear steps necessary to avert it.

  11. Bryan,
    Sorry but I’m not sure what an anti-democratic proclivity is or where I referenced it.
    I agree that relying on negative feedback or even in “green technology” (an oxy-moron in my books) is a leap of faith that will sadly dissapoint if Hansen is proved right.
    I am aware that the temperature has been increasing and likely will continue increasing for many decades.
    Rather I’m addressing the “responsibility to face up to what is happening and take the relatively clear steps necessary to avert” global warming although I don’t share your view that the steps are clear.
    What I am saying is very clear to me. I’m saying don’t just look to the developed countries to save the world because it won’t have the impact. The countries I mentioned (almost all with emerging economies) have a combined population that accounts for nearly 65% of the planet. What did India or Indonesia pledge in Copenhagen? What are the Brazilians doing to lower their carbon footprint (they are one of the most rapidly growing economies in the world)? As these countries begin to trade more with each other and less with the US and other developed economies, what can be done to prevent them from increasing their carbon footprint? Even if we wanted to stop CO2 emmissions at 2010 levels, even if we could cap the world’s emerging economies to that of China’s levels today (that means China stops growing immediately and India and others are allowed to catch up to China) the US would have to reduce its carbon footprint by 75%.
    Hansen believes the world needs to reduce its CO2 levels, not keep them at 2010 levels. This is an impossibility unless you have some very clear ideas that I haven’t yet read in your posts.

  12. Sbalch – you must be a Steve too. My comment was in reply to Steve Wrathall – comment 14 and a previous exchange at 8 and 13. I didn’t notice that your comment had intervened while I was still writing my reply to the other Steve.

    It may well be that the burning of fossil fuels will continue unabated, compounded by the emerging economies continuing down that path. We’re all shot if that happens. I guess I rest such hope as I can muster in the sense of self-preservation which kicks in when people realise what the science is pointing to. Most Americans appear not yet to have understood what the science is saying, but realisations can dawn quickly. And if they dawn for the Americans they can do so equally rapidly for other countries. There are plenty of Chinese and Indians and Brazilians and others who already grasp the reality. I wouldn’t see them as giving us more reason to despair than America. The smaller countries already threatened by climate change have not been slow to understand and make their voices heard. When I say clear steps I don’t necessarily mean easy steps, but simply that energy sources other than fossil fuels are our way out, followed by a variety of steps to reduce the level of CO2 to a safer level, such as forestation, removal and sequestration by methods such as those advanced by Klaus Lackner or by the advocates of charcoal burial, and so on. There are several books reviewed on Hot Topic which canvass a range of possibilities, the latest Al Gore’s Our Choice . (You can check others on the Book Reviews tab.) You mention impossibility. I don’t think it’s impossible technically or financially. If you mean politically impossible, that would be a sad end but one I would want to go on resisting.

  13. Bryan – yes I am a Steve too. I think I’ll stop searching for anti-democratic proclivity definitions (it was pretty good BTW) and add a more few points. I guess I’m a skeptic at the world being able to change significantly before serious changes are upon us, not that I’m hoping for it. I’m just trying to point out how large Goliath actually is.
    The world seeks to limit the CO2 footprint to approximately 30 Gt by the year 2030 at which time 8.2 billion people are expected to inhabit the planet. This works out to an average of 3.7 t CO2/person/year.
    In the U.S. alone there are almost 200 million people with a footprint of 16 t CO2/person/year or higher.
    The US uses a lot of coal mostly for electricity generation, electricity itself producing about 6 Gt CO2, of which coal is about 1.5 Gt. Coal produces twice as much CO2 as natural gas so if the US entirely replaced coal with gas it would save 0.75 Gt in CO2 emmissions. This is a drop in the bucket. So much discussion is ongoing about reduced use of coal but the actual savings for the earth is minimal, even with its elimination as a source of electricity in the world’s largest economy.
    Meanwhile China and India are increasing their coal use an average of 8% per year. These two countries represent almost 40% of the world’s population.
    So my point is it will be virtually impossible to physically meet the 30 Gt CO2 limit by 2030 unless there is a catastrophic collapse in the world economy. Twenty years isn’t much time. The Al Gore’s of this world are not accurately stating the problem (if Hansen’s predictions are to be believed).
    The average American will have to reduce his/her CO2 footprint by 12 tonnes per year. The average Chinese will have to drop 1.3 tonnes per year. This is politically impossible especially as China is seen as the main country pulling the world out of recession.

  14. OK, sbalch, so we will move into an ice-free world with billions dying as agriculture become difficult-to-impossible in many regions. Cannibalism and nuclear war are the order of the day; next, the oceans go anoxic and emit gases that destroy the ozone layer.

    At what stage does the “politically impossible” become more desirable than the obvious alternative – another mass extinction of life on earth?

  15. Rob,
    OK I’ll bite. Nice link to an interesting blog. Geologists can say the most amazing things although they are better than most other scientists and generally have a good grasp on the earth’s time line.
    We will not move to an ice-free world any time soon. If you follow the science you know the south pole ice (on continent) is increasing due mainly to more precipitation. In the north pole we are (without a doubt) moving toward a near ice-free ocean in the summer. Why do people believe that technology will solve the carbon problem and yet it would be unable to solve the agriculture problem in a warmer climate. If we don’t move now to develop new technology we’ll all die. Why not develop new technology to meet the warmer planet? I happen to live in a cold climate and I have a rather large garden. Warmer temperatures won’t kill everyone – some might even benefit. It was a cool summer here in 2009 and my garden didn’t do very well. Cannibalism might be a great answer to over-population although I don’t see it happening any time soon. Nuclear war? Where does this come from? The countries at risk are the poorest ones very far away from that technology. This is perhaps the big problem if global warming predictions come true – the world’s poorest, already near the edge, are pushed over by a changing climate. They won’t have time to build nuclear powerplants and then extract plutonium. Anoxic oceans and holes in the ozone: I thought the ozone hole reduced global temperatures, at least that is what the experts at NASA claim.
    The politically impossible only becomes possible when people are suffering SO badly that they would rather change their behaviour than suffer further. Initially those in the rich countries won’t notice much. But the poorer countries will. Eventually when the rich countries begin to realize the reality of the situation, it will only be due to the fact that they cannot ignore it. By that time they will be worrying about themselves. Did you notice the Copenhagen meeting never really gained much ground until the US promised more money for poor countries affected by a warmer climate? Bangladesh wants 25% of the first $30 billion (I think those are the numbers). The poor countries line up quickly but when the rich countries are being stressed, where will they scale back first? Have you ever visited a really poor country? I went to Ethiopia shortly after the famine there (in the late 80s) and I have never seen so many Mercedes (the really big ones). Why import Mercedes into a country where so many people are dying of starvation? Sell the expensive cars and plant gardens. We were able to buy butter in a metal can. Have you ever seen that before? Why would a poor country want butter, let alone butter in a metal can? What would starving people put butter onto? Luckily we were loaded with cash and the butter was great on the amazing bread they make there!
    Regarding your link, I love to read what the geologists are claiming and how they are able to simplify billions of years of earth history into a few events. The K/T event is a simple explanation to a complex problem. Geologists never really did explain why so many of the dinosaur species had died off well before that fateful asteroid strike. Ground zero for the asteroid strike came into question by some Princeton geologists who claimed it happened 300,000 yrs before the K/T boundary. Never heard what became of that paper.
    About 10 years ago a friend of mine took me to meet a geologist who was studying bacteria in the deep mines of South Africa. Her belief was that these bacteria live deep in the earth and live off rocks, converting certain elements to methane. A few months ago I watched a report from Calgary (Canada – the home of the oil sands companies) whereby a group of scientists have devised a method for sequestering CO2 into older oil and gas wells. Their expected carbon credits plus the new oil extracted was promoted as a green future for fossil fuels. It was further suggested that the oil sands will use carbon sequestration to offset its own carbon footprint. But then some geologists started complaining about the bacteria. What will happen to the bacteria that live in the earth when you start pumping carbon underground? Don’t people know that the acid from the CO2 will erode the limestone units causing the whole scheme to collapse? One day you produce too much carbon, the next day you can pump it underground, but then the next day those darn bacteria mess the whole scheme up. And on and on it goes.
    Scientists (and climate ones too) argue endlessly about their observations. M Mann in his excellent 2006 paper refers to the fact that there is almost no data on the ancient climate from the southern hemisphere and he refers to this as a major caveat when using mostly northern hemisphere data to discuss “global” warming. It doesn’t stop him from reaching that conclusion, but at least he uses the term major caveat as well as “likely” and not definitely when concluding in favour of warming. There aren’t many tree ring datasets covering the oceans or the southern hemisphere in general. But that doesn’t stop these scientists from concluding that the sea levels are rising (sorry but they’re falling in most of Canada due to isostatic rebound – give us a break, we’re just getting over an ice age), hurricanes are getting worse (not in the US unless you rank them by dollar damage), drought, malaria (ever hear of the great malarial outbreak in Russia in the 1920’s), etc etc.
    So I take the position that these guys are right because it seems the prudent step (Pascal’s Paradox?).
    So now what should we do? Stop using coal? Stop driving cars? Redesign the cities? And then I look out my window and remember how long things take to do. The price of fuel doubled in Canada over a period of a few years and into 2008. It didn’t hurt me because I don’t drive to work and I’m rich (OK major exaggeration). But it didn’t bother anyone else either. Sure they bitched and complained, but they still drove. Rob, you have no idea what it will take to slow people down.
    Regarding mass extinction, I am convinced that “man” has been part of this for at least 10-15,000 yrs. Europe used to have lions. Canada used to have camels. The native people of Canada hunted the mastodon into extinction 10,000 yrs ago. The Romans are thought to have hunted lions, tigers, bears in Europe until they were gone.
    Here’s an interesting dilema. The polar bears were hunted down to numbers less than 5,000 in the 1960s before countries stepped in to limit the hunt (they’ve rebounded to about 22,000). Global warmers claim the polar bear is in danger of extinction because of the lack of summer sea ice. The ringed seal lives on summer sea ice and lives in great abundance (up to 3 million est). The ringed seal eats cod and the east-coast fisherman want to kill more seals because their high abundance is responsible for the collapse in the cod fishery (in the eyes of some fishermen). So my dilema is, if the polar bear and ringed seal are both dependent upon sea ice, why is the polar bear in decline and the ringed seal thriving when thenpolar bear has an abundant food source and the ringed seal doesn’t. Does global warming take sides?
    I think the answer is in the science.
    Did you hear the one about the 250 climate scientists discussing the role of man and global warming? It was proposed that the only way out of the dilema was to completely remove humans from the planet. When they voted only 15 scientists dissented. The head scientist went on to announce “I am happy to report that we have an answer to the global warming problem. I am also happy to report that we have a consensus”. It’s pretty lame I know.

  16. Sbalch, you should rely more on science, less on anecdotes.

    1. GRACE tells us that Antartica is losing ice mass, not gaining it

    2. Grains need cool winters and moist summers, both of which will be in short supply over the planets grain belts as the Hadley cells expand (think Midwestern US and Southern Australia).

    3. India and Pakistan are nuclear powers; when the Himalayan glaciers are gone, Pakistan will have to control dams in the headwaters of the Indus, or starve. Those headwaters are mostly in India.

    4.Widespread cannabalism occurred in the Ukraine and in China last century, when crops failed under Stalin and Mao.

    5. I can recommend Gwynne Dyer’s “Climate Wars”and Peter Ward’s “Under a Green Sky” for details on the toxic oceans and mass extinctions in our planetary past, and likely future. The K/T impactor was a one-off; most mass extinctions have followed rapid rises in atmospheric CO2.

    6. There is excellent SH data from Antarctic ice cores.

    7. If we do not voluntarily reduce our population, it will be reduced for us, by the usual four suspects.

    …and so on.

  17. Rob,
    There, but for the GRACE of NASA go I. One minute the ice is increasing. I turn my back and the buggers launch a satellite.
    Have you checked their web-site? Why is it that NASA is only finding bad things with this technology? Melting ice and disappearing acquifers from space. Have you checked out the guys who do bathymetry?
    They are measuring gravity. Can you even concieve the assumptions they are making? As I read the data show a shrinking ice thickness only after their specific data modeling. I am NO expert in gravity modeling (being a geophysicist and all) but these guys are pulling bad news out of their ass.
    But, I defer to your link. The ice is melting, we are doomed. At least my garden will grow. I could raise my own farting cattle and just wait things out.
    But I don’t like your population reduction model. Have you ever been to Mexico City. It’s amazing what 18 million people can live on. They won’t give up easily.
    So back to my point. Why aren’t they telling us the truth – you know, give me your car, your job, your daughter.

  18. BW#20
    “… your absurd accusation of [Hansen’s] anti-democratic proclivities. ”

    >> Protest and direct action could be the only way to tackle soaring carbon emissions, a leading climate scientist has said…”The democratic process doesn’t quite seem to be working,” he said.

    ” The desperation of the claim is compounded by the fiction that there has been no warming post-1998.”

    >>The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate. (Trenberth)

    “…rescue human civilisation from its responsibility to face up to what is happening and take the relatively clear steps necessary to avert it.”

    Ah yes, these clear steps which were wholeheartedly agreed to at Copenhagen last week, with the blessing of James Hansen.

  19. “Can you even concieve the assumptions they are making?” Sbalch.

    Why use denialist imagination?. Here’s a link to the site, discussing the mission in layman terms:

    “As I read the data show a shrinking ice thickness only after their specific data modeling.” – Sbalch

    Strange how the deniers don’t have issues with the”modelling” and “adjustments” required to estimate surface temperatures from MSU satellite brightness measurements of oxygen in the Troposphere. But melting ice?, that’s where the kneejerk denial kicks in.

    How can it be that a “Geophysicist” doesn’t understand how science works?. Did you expect it would be perfect from the get go?, of course there are uncertainties in the estimates. Funny though, how the GRACE and InSAR data (independent assessments) put the total Antarctic ice loss in the region of 190 Gt per year.

  20. Thanks Dappledwater. NASA always has great writeups and images. I am grateful for the Hubble images in particular. Here is an interesting caveat on GRACE from the authors who created your graph supposedly showing a melting Antarctic.
    “GRACE mass solutions have no vertical resolution, however, and do not reveal whether a gravity variation over Antarctica is caused by a change in snow and ice on the surface, a change in atmospheric mass above Antarctica, or postglacial rebound (PGR: the viscoelastic response of the solid Earth to glacial unloading over the past several thousand years)”. That quote is from the scientists who created your graph. I don’t think you even read your own links.
    So the authors concede (as they should) that GRACE has no vertical resolution but then proceed to conclude the ice is melting. My further problem with the melting ice is the fact that most of the Antarctic never gets above freezing, so one would think melting a challenge.
    Altitude measurements of Antarctic ice show it getting higher. Who knows what is happening at its base. Does NASA take into account the increase in ice height in their melting model?
    I think the GRACE and InSAR people must be going to the same conferences. You can find evidence where you need it.
    My interest lies beyond the admission of global warming (the earth is getting warmer – I’m not really a denialist or an alarmist in that respect).
    The problem I have is the message that is being put out there regarding what is needed to curb our CO2 emmissions is grossly understated.
    T.S. Eliot cuts both ways Rob.
    I attended a conference on inverse gravity modeling at the UBC years back. One presentation used a total field gravity grid inverted for a number of “models”. One model minimised the changes in density, another concentrated the density variations into the smallest possible size, yet another assumed a series of horizontal layers. All models were inverted to fit the data to the same error level. Each model was as right as the next one. NASA scientists have to construct a model of Antarctic ice before they can study its changes. One of the biggest problems is post glacial rebound. Is the Antarctic rising or falling? NASA admits it doesn’t yet know. So why the graph showing ice melting? NASA does not know the density variations of the ice. Do they know the rock-ice interface height accurately? Is the ice moving?
    As I said previously much of Canada is rising out of the oceans as we’ve just come through an ice age.
    I’ve got to cut 12.7 tonnes per year off my carbon footprint so I’d better get cracking.
    I tried using those carbon calculators but they don’t like adding CO2 emmissions for burning wood. That’s great because I have two wood stoves. I planted 1,000 trees in 2005 so I’m good for another 5 yrs.

    1. ” I don’t think you even read your own links.” – Sbalch.

      As per my last post, I’m well aware of the uncertainties, you must have me confused with one of your fellow deniers. Yours is an appeal to ignorance, sorry but you are travelling down a well worn path.

      “My further problem with the melting ice is the fact that most of the Antarctic never gets above freezing, so one would think melting a challenge.” – SBalch

      Oh dear, you never heard of these things called eyes?. The glaciers are melting and calving and yet you say that’s impossible?. Sheesh, the denial is strong in this one.!. And a Geo physicist?. Really?.

      “Extensive dynamic thinning on the margins of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets”

      “Here we report the use of high-resolution ICESat (Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite) laser altimetry to map change along the entire grounded margins of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. To isolate the dynamic signal, we compare rates of elevation change from both fast-flowing and slow-flowing ice with those expected from surface mass-balance fluctuations. We find that dynamic thinning of glaciers now reaches all latitudes in Greenland, has intensified on key Antarctic grounding lines, has endured for decades after ice-shelf collapse, penetrates far into the interior of each ice sheet and is spreading as ice shelves thin by ocean-driven melt”

      See, the scientists who study this stuff, don’t seem surprised that the melt may be defying some physical laws. Do you know why?.

  21. Steve Wrathall #31
    If peaceful protest and non-violent direct action are classed as anti-democratic, there is a logic in your description of Hansen’s position. But far from regarding them as anti-democratic I see them as often an important part of democracy. During my life I have sometimes been active in protest movements, and have regarded my participation as a democratic responsibility. Admittedly in the Guardian interview you link to Hansen speaks loosely as if protest is a step outside the democratic process, but he does so in the context of noting that money seems to be influencing legislators more than voters are.

    Your quote from Trenberth’s email in support of the notion that there has been no warming post-1998 is just plain wrong. Have a look at this page on Skeptical Science to see why. Trenberth’s statement has been lifted out of context by the denialist industry and given a meaning it never carried. There is no suggestion that global warming has stoppped. Trenberth is talking about a paper he’d recently published that discusses the planet’s energy budget – how much net energy is flowing into our climate and where it’s going. He was lamenting that our observation systems aren’t adequate to comprehensively track all the energy flow through the climate system

  22. “The problem I have is the message that is being put out there regarding what is needed to curb our CO2 emissions is grossly understated.”

    I agree, sbalch. If we were serious about this, we would be on the equivalent of a war footing by now.

    Unfortunately, our brains appear wired to react to immediate threats to the life and limb of ourselves and our family / tribe, rather than generalised threats to our entire environment and species.

  23. Hansen’s book is getting pretty good press. And you have to admire his position (whether you deny or alarm) on cap and trade offsets. Hansen says:

    1. We have to start yesterday.
    2. Get rid of coal by 2020.
    3. Nuclear is the power source of choice, for now.
    4. Wind & solar will only help – they aren’t the future.
    5. Buying and selling carbon credits is cheating.
    6. He still believes in Obama (of course you do).
    7. His ppm number is 350, more than 10% lower than today’s CO2 levels.
    8. Sequestering CO2 is a viable way to reduce levels.
    9. Oil sands & oil shales should not be expanded.
    10. We need energy.

    It’s pretty hard to disagree with any of the above. In fact, where is the evidence that Hansen is in Al Gore’s pocket? I thought Gore was a cap & trade kind of guy – you know, commission based.

    A recent report out of China sees that country’s CO2 emissions peaking by 2030 at roughly 50% of the planet’s total and starting a measurable decline no earlier than 2050. China has agreed to limit CO2 emissions to its GDP growth. By 2050 the country could be the largest economy in the world. Much of this growth will be on the back of coal. In ten years China could have a larger electricity generating capacity than the US.
    India has agreed to slow the growth of its greenhouse gas emissions but concedes that coal will stay for the next 25 years as an important source of electricity. Almost half of the country by population does not yet have electricity even though India has emerged as the fourth largest emitter of CO2. How do you tell the middle class they can’t buy a car, a TV or a larger house?
    In the US President Barak Obama has called his plan to bring health care to the poor his next most important job (after saving the economy from the financial meltdown in 2009). It won’t be cheap (estimates range from the Government’s own $800 billion to opposition claims of $1.5 trillion) but with an expanding economy this new health care plan will be funded almost entirely from new economic growth as the American and Chinese economies lead the world out of recession.
    …and into an environmental nightmare…where the hell is Hansen?

  24. sbalch:

    “I thought Gore was a cap & trade kind of guy – you know, commission based.”

    You thought wrong. As I pointed out in my review of Gore’s recent book, his preference is for a CO2 tax that is offset by equal reductions in other taxes. “I have long advocated…” are the words he uses. It is the ascendance of market fundamentalism in the Uinited States which he says has created massive opposition in Congress to any new taxation, even if it is offset by reductions in other taxes. He comments acidly on the massive lobbying resources and aggressive public advertising provided by the coal and oil companies, assisted by coal-burning utilities, which has buttressed elected officials in this stance. He remains hopeful that these attitudes may yet change, but recognises that in the meantime the cap and trade system will have to serve. However he believes that both can be in operation, as in Sweden, and sees that as the eventual choice of the US.

    You haven’t quite got Hansen right in some points either. 2030, not 2020 is the date he uses for the phasing out of coal emissions. And as I read him he does not suggest that renewables are not the future, only that they can’t be accessed quickly enough to bridge the gap left by not using fossil fuels. That is the point at which he advocates the use of nuclear power. I don’t myself treat his views on the comparative merits of renewables and nuclear with the same respect as his climate warnings. There seem to be a number of energy experts who think renewables capable of much faster development than is commonly credited. Gore is cautious about the nuclear option, largely because of its cost. Gore’s book seems to me to offer a much broader and more authoritative coverage of the potential of renewables (and efficiency) than is possible for Hansen.

  25. “Altitude measurements of Antarctic ice show it getting higher.” – Sbalch

    Can you provide a legitimate reference, or do you go out and measure this stuff yourself?.

    We know for sure that the glacier heights at the ocean margins in West Antarctica are losing many metres a year, the Pine Island Glacier having accelerated in ice mass loss and now losing 16 metres a year in height!.

  26. “My interest lies beyond the admission of global warming (the earth is getting warmer – I’m not really a denialist or an alarmist in that respect).” -Sbalch.

    Rubbish, you’re a concern troll denialist.

  27. “I think the GRACE and InSAR people must be going to the same conferences. You can find evidence where you need it.” – Sbalch.

    Or you can deny the evidence, and infer some sort of collusion or groupthink is going on, despite the fact that actual ground based data (although sparse) and observation show that the melt is accelerating in Antarctica.

    1. DW – if the ice is moving and you don’t exactly know where and at what rate and there are variations in ice density both vertically and horizontally, then how can you model ice melting?

  28. Rob – subtle but funny. You are obviously not a geologist. They have no sense of humour.
    Dappled – thanks for the excellent link. Great paper. They reference Wingham extensively who (sorry I’m not sure how to do links) in his 2006 paper in Phil Trans R Soc A p 1627 – 1635 states:
    “We find that data from climate model reanalyses are not able to characterise the contemporary snowfall fluctuation with useful accuracy and our best estimate of the overall mass trend—growth of 27+/-29 Gt yr^-1 —is based on an assessment of the expected snowfall variability. Mass gains from accumulating snow, particularly on the Antarctic Peninsula and within East Antarctica, exceed the ice dynamic mass loss from West Antarctica.”

    and later

    “We show that 72% of the Antarctic ice sheet is gaining 27+/-29 Gt yr^-1, a sink of ocean mass sufficient to lower global sea levels by 0.08 mm yr^-1.” D. J. WINGHAM, et al, “Mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet,”

    So maybe you glance through the papers and skip the references I’m not sure. But the Antarctic ice sheet is getting fatter.
    Like I said before, the earth is getting warmer. I’m not a big fan of the world’s response. And BTW global warming believers are just as bad. Imagine standing in a theatre and someone runs in yelling “the theatre is on fire”. A denier would say “no it’s not”. But wouldn’t a believer run out of the theatre? You just stand there and say “yes, I believe this guy”.
    I’m trying to point out the ridiculousness of the situation. China and India are increasing their use of coal at a rate of 8% a year and you want to debate Antartic ice thickness? Uhmmm, why?

  29. Sbalch, who are you trying to kid?

    The 2009 GRACE results are later and with lower uncertainties than the 2006 Wingham paper reporting earlier research. How can the earlier paper cast doubt on the later?

    Here is the reference to the GRACE paper again – note the line: “The ice loss [in E. Antarctica] may have begun as early as 2006. ”

    Are you employed by a PR company contracted to the fossil fuels industry?

  30. For the general edification of sbalch: could I point you to the recent SCAR report on our understanding of Antarctica and climate change there? I blogged it here earlier this month.

    For an appreciation of how our estimates of Antarctica’s ice mass balance are changing, take a look at this post from June. Not good news.

  31. “Dappledwater, Sorry, I seem to have entered the wrong club” – Sbalch.

    Clearly, does this look like a denier blog?.

    “We show that 72% of the Antarctic ice sheet is gaining 27+/-29 Gt yr^-1, a sink of ocean mass sufficient to lower global sea levels by 0.08 mm yr^-1.” D. J. WINGHAM, et al, “Mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet” – Sbalch.

    Maybe it did not occur to you estimates of ice mass balance may have progressed since then. See link in #39 on accelerated ice loss of the Pine Island Glacier (2009). The lead investigator was none other than Professor Duncan Wingham.

    ” We show that the pattern of thinning has both accelerated and spread inland to encompass tributaries flowing into the central trunk of the glacier. Within the 5,400 km2 central trunk, the average rate of volume loss quadrupled from 2.6 ± 0.3 km3 yr−1 in 1995 to 10.1 ± 0.3 km3 yr−1 in 2006. The region of lightly grounded ice at the glacier terminus is extending upstream, and the changes inland are consistent with the effects of a prolonged disturbance to the ice flow, such as the effects of ocean-driven melting.”

    And a 2007 study by Wingham:

    “As global temperatures have risen, so have rates of snowfall, ice melting, and glacier flow. Although the balance between these opposing processes has varied considerably on a regional scale, data show that Antarctica and Greenland are each losing mass overall. Our best estimate of their combined imbalance is about 125 gigatons per year of ice, enough to raise sea level by 0.35 millimeters per year.”

    And note this bit:

    “and, over the course of the 21st century, these processes could rapidly counteract the snowfall gains predicted by present coupled climate models.”

  32. “So maybe you glance through the papers and skip the references I’m not sure.” – Sbalch.

    Oh, the irony!.

    “But the Antarctic ice sheet is getting fatter.” – Sbalch.

    Whaaaaat!. KFC and Burger King down there now?. Seriously though, as previously asked, are you able to substantiate this claim with a legitimate reference?.

    “Imagine standing in a theatre and someone runs in yelling “the theatre is on fire”. A denier would say “no it’s not”. But wouldn’t a believer run out of the theatre? You just stand there and say “yes, I believe this guy” – Sbalch.

    I’d actually get out of the theatre. Do you know of any suitable Earth like planets within travelling distance?.

    Funny too that you should use that analogy, because some studies of disasters show that one of the leading contributors to death in those situations is a failure to realize the danger and respond accordingly.

    Did you see much of the video footage of the Boxing Day Tsunami?. More than a few instances of people frozen to the spot, instead of running like crazy, as the wall of water approaches. The big UK subway fire (Kings Cross in the 80’s?). Same thing – ignoring the ticket booth operator’s warnings and walking into the area of the fire lead to a few deaths. In fact many lives could have been saved if people had reacted appropriately and not underestimated the risk involved. This pattern is repeated in many disasters – an inappropriate response to danger. Sound familiar?.

    “I’m trying to point out the ridiculousness of the situation.” – Sbalch

    Maybe. Or maybe you’re suggesting that there’s nothing we can do so don’t bother trying. If you were genuinely suggesting that we’re not doing enough, I ‘d agree, we are going to have major problems. You just don’t seem to be genuine.

    “China and India are increasing their use of coal at a rate of 8% a year” – Sbalch.

    Yup, but they’re not the only villains are they?.

    “and you want to debate Antartic ice thickness?” – Sbalch.

    Nope. Point out that you are wrong. If humanity is truly aware of the danger science indicates is coming our way, and chooses to do nothing well that’s one thing. Last thing we need is more FUD.

    Oh, and I suspect that James Hansen is right about one point on the politics side, eventually leadership on this issue is going to be taken out of the hands of the politicians, when the “warming in the pipeline” starts to make it’s mark on wealthy countries. Just a question of if it will be too late?.

  33. sbalch,

    A thing or two about this blog because you are new here,

    1) If you make a comment in the comments section that does not fit with the orthodox opinions you will be labelled a ‘denier’ and accused of working for the fossil fuel industry (post 50 & 32), even if that comment has nothing to do with the science of climate change but merely the political response. Attacking a central figure of AGW such as Hansen or Gore will provoke this response the fastest.

    2) If you take the time to make a lengthy comment that goes over an issue thoroughly, people will respond by drawing on some obscure point that is not central to your thesis, such as Antarctic ice melt (post 32 & 34), and completely ignore what you were trying to say in the first place, such as, unless the world can find a way to reduce third world emissions growth completely stopping all coal combustion in the US will be useless.

    3) If you have a contrary opinion on an expert subject you will be told your opinion is worthless because you are not an expert (post 29 & 34).

    4) Trust is always given to the paper that causes most alarm. Attempts to provide alternative research that shows the case is not clear cut will be seen as cherry picking. ie an attempt to show balance when others have cherry picked will be construed as cherry picking itself, creating a this paper versus that paper argument (post 50).

    5) Global warming science always disregards ‘old’ science and favours ‘latest’ research. The fact that reports as recent as the 2007 IPCC report is now viewed as ‘out of date’ is not viewed as casting doubt on the longevity of current research (post 50).

    6) Double think reigns supreme when it favours AGW, 5-10 years is not long enough to establish a trend when it is cooling, but when it is warming (Antartic 3 years) (post 50) or methane increase (2 years), look out! When others exibit doublethink it is impossible to debate with them.

    So can I please direct the comments back to the original premise, how can we address emissions growth in the first world if the emerging nations will continue to grow emissions?

    (Also, comments on population control and world government are very dangerous.

    “So this is how liberty dies—to thunderous applause ” Padme Amadala

    “All power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”

    “Power corrupts only the few because only the few have power. ”
    Leonid S. Sukhorukov, All About Everything (2005)

    “Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. ”
    George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

    1. Thanks C3PO. At the end of 1984 even the central character bought into the fake reality. I get caught up in the science sometimes (rightly or wrongly) but my central theme is the call of “fire” and the lack of rush to the door.

  34. C3P0, as I’ve said elsewhere, please spare us the crocodile tears of fake victimhood; science moves forward, building on earlier hard-won data and understandings.

    It was sbalch who first raised the issue of Antarctic ice, in his post #26; he was simply wrong on the evidence, but chose to try to confuse the issue, using standard denialist memes.

    IPCC 2007 was based on research up to 2003 – 2004, and explicitly did not include ice sheet dynamics. If the new research showed ice accumulating, rather than melting, I’m sure you and sbalch would insist on having it front and centre…

    As for power, it tends to follow money – guess which industry includes the SIX MOST PROFITABLE corporations in the world today?

    Finally, what is so “dangerous” about commenting on the need for population control and world government (see posts 4 & 23 above)?

    1. Rob,
      You don’t understand the business world either. Power does not follow money. Power IS money. In the US Power literally makes the money (the Federal Reserve). Your list shows that the most profitable companies are the oil companies as they should be given how much oil we use and how cheap it has become to extract and process (and that didn’t happen because of any world government). If there is a move from oil to some other commodity the main players from within those same companies will make that move. Check out 3M. They aren’t mining iron ore in Minnesota anymore. Or even better JP Morgan – the man not the bank.
      Population control isn’t as dangerous as wealth redistribution which is what you continue to avoid discussing. Unfortunately the powerful will not yield to less wealth, but they will allow us that fate.

    2. “Finally, what is so “dangerous” about commenting on the need for population control and world government (see posts 4 & 23 above)?”

      The only reason voluntary population control in the first world would be a good idea is that those who buy the propaganda such as SamV will voluntarily remove themselves from the gene pool leaving people like me to have 3-4 children!

      OK, maybe that is a little harsh and I will be ashamed of that comment later….

      The only good reason for population control that I can see is to increase economic growth. It has been shown that once birth rates fall in developing nations economic growth increases. However there is a big difference between asking people to have less than 4 children and telling people to have only 1.

      However I do not buy into the thought that the world is over populated. People have been arguing these Malthusian theories for centuries, yet the world population keeps growing. I have no doubt that in 50 odd years there will be at least 10B people in the world. And unless we make major mistakes now they can easily have a higher standard of living than today. There may be many people still living in poverty, however this will be more to do with local political weakness rather than global resource shortages, people have lived in worse conditions when the population of the world was far lower. If the entire world produced food at the rate of the US there would be no hunger, instead we have most of Europe still using 50 year old methods (travel to Switzerland or France!) and agriculture in the third world is stuck in the middle ages.

      To me population control is one of the 4 horse man that I dread, world government a second.

      It is fine to imagine a utopic world where a world Government is elected democratically and everyone holds hands and loves each other. But what will world government really look like? What happens if two states disagree on issues (does the world President tell them what to do)? What happens if one State secedes from the union? Are they forced to obey with the barrel of a tank? Are states allowed to have standing armies? Or only the world government?

      Very quickly the ability to opt out of such a union is lost, especially for a small nation such as NZ. We are giving away our sovereignty and allowing our children to be bled dry by the new bureaucracy.

      The only reason for wanting a world Government is to control nation states, indeed the reason you support a world government is because you want the control to enforce emissions reductions. However the presumption is that while nations can not arrive at the course of action you see as right, the world Government always will.

      I do not understand this assumption. At least with a national Government there is moderate local power. With a world Government we will be at the whims of China, US, Europe, Africa etc. We will be stuck with what ever they decide. This is not something I support.

      So the dangers to me is that we lose our democratic power to have a say in the governance of our land, and that we needlessly deny ourselves of the wonders of having children and families when the world can easily provide the resources we need.

  35. From George Marshall at the following sums up this couch potato movement.

    And so, looking back on Copenhagen, I have to ask: who were all those banners, posters, photo exhibits, polar bears, melting ice statues, video installations really talking to? Did they persuade the doubting heartlands that this was their issue, or did they reinforce the widespread suspicion that this is an inward looking and irrelevant faith? And why are we too absorbed by the pilgrimage to ever ask this question?

    1. “And so, looking back on Copenhagen, I have to ask: who were all those banners, posters, photo exhibits, polar bears, melting ice statues, video installations really talking to?” – Sbalch.

      Indeed, their approach is all wrong. The average person hasn’t the foggiest idea what it is all about. And you can’t tug on the heart strings of people that don’t have any.

      By the way, got a legitimate current scientific reference for your claim that the Antarctic land ice is thickening?. If it’s your backside, just say so.

  36. So, the “geophysicist” sbalch has lead us on a merry dance, through despair to Antartic ice and inverse gravity modeling, followed by a standard denialist diatribe, mocking those who both see the danger and want to do something to avert it.

    As with all those who accept AGW but deny that anything can or should be done to stop it, he represents the fifth horseman of the apocalypse – apathy.

    Come on, sbalch, lift your game – what actions do you suggest might actually improve our chances? Don’t be shy…

  37. Rob and Dapple are being very petulant in their replies to sbalch, grow up people, if sbalch is wrong on some point show him, no need to go back to the tactics you used in kindy.

    sbalch has pointed out that the numbers don’t look good as far as achieving the sorts of GHG emissions reductions that Hansen and others consider necessary, I agree with him. Simple maths show we are certain to continue increasing GHG concentrations for decades to come unless something really dramatic happens.

    “what actions do you suggest might actually improve our chances?”
    Fair question
    “Don’t be shy…”
    FFS Grow up.

    What is possible technically? A massive global program constructing nuclear and renewable power generation systems along with a program to electrify road transport – we need to use technology available now if that’s to happen in the time frames that are being advocated – and plant more trees on marginal land.
    What’s possible politically? I don’t know, will you be happy with a nuclear power station or lots of wind turbines in your backyard Rob?

  38. “if sbalch is wrong on some point show him” – Andrew W.

    Which has been done repeatedly. He simply refuses to learn. He has claimed for instance that the Antarctic is too cold to melt. A Geophysicist?????.

    “no need to go back to the tactics you used in kindy.” – Andrew W.

    Are you self projecting?.

    “Simple maths show we are certain to continue increasing GHG concentrations for decades to come unless something really dramatic happens.” – Andrew W.

    Indeed, collapse of this global civilization looks likely. How do you expect people to behave when they become hungry?. Politely?.

    “What’s possible politically? I don’t know, will you be happy with a nuclear power station or lots of wind turbines in your backyard Rob? – Andrew W.

    Let’s see, assume you are right and those are the only two alternatives, both are preferable to the horrors that societal collapse will bring.

  39. Dappledwater, I agree, the collapse of global civilization looks very possible to me, but we don’t need the affects of AGW for that to happen.

    “He has claimed for instance that the Antarctic is too cold to melt.”
    It’s necessary to specify time frames, even in the most pessimistic scenarios 99% of the Antarctic ice mass is still going to be there in 100 years, surely well over 95% is still going to be there in 200 years. It’s silly to act now to prevent outcomes that might happen in over 200 years, or even in over 100 years, because if civilisation survives another 50 or 100 years, and technology continues to advance, our descendants will be better equipped to deal with the problem, it’s the next 50, and then the next 100 years that we should be worrying about. Now that does include some AGW effects, but many of those sited by the catastrophists are outside that time frame.

    1. “Dappledwater, I agree, the collapse of global civilization looks very possible to me, but we don’t need the affects of AGW for that to happen.” – Andrew W.

      Nope. But it does make the outcome more likely.

      “He has claimed for instance that the Antarctic is too cold to melt.” – Andrew W.

      Ridiculous, I know, but it was his claim.

      “It’s necessary to specify time frames, even in the most pessimistic scenarios 99% of the Antarctic ice mass is still going to be there in 100 years” – Andrew W.

      Current projections are anything between less than a metre to almost 2 metres. That will be bad enough, but such calculations to not include tipping points kicking in and amplifying the warming/melt, and accurate models of dynamical ice flow changes (glacier acceleration/disintegration). The projections don’t realistically consider non linear changes to the rate of melt/warming, and rightly so, science doesn’t understand enough about them .So no the projections are probably no where near worst case scenarios.

      We do have some analogous periods in the paleo record:

      – The last interglacial saw global temperatures 1 to 2 degree celcius warmer than present. The sea level was probably up to 8 metres higher.

      “With polar temperatures ~3–5 °C warmer than today, the last interglacial stage (~125 kyr ago) serves as a partial analogue for 1–2 °C global warming scenarios. Geological records from several sites indicate that local sea levels during the last interglacial were higher than today”

      “We find a 95% probability that global sea level peaked at least 6.6 m higher than today during the last interglacial; it is likely (67% probability) to have exceeded 8.0 m but is unlikely (33% probability) to have exceeded 9.4 m”

  40. Andrew,
    Thanks for your post. It surprises me that people can be so closed minded as to dismiss everything that does not fit their narrow vision. I have been labelled a denialist because I question the science of global warming. In fact I have a problem with the so-called science as presented by both sides. I read a paper on the warming of Mars and how it proved global warming was from the sun. It was complete trash. Mann’s paper contains several eye-openers such as the lack of data in the south hemisphere and over the oceans where conclusions of “global” significance are being made. The GRACE paper on gravity modeling is another great example. I might be wrong but I just don’t believe them. They are providing an interpretation of the data observed from the GRACE satellite. It measures gravity not ice thickness or ice melting. If you read many of the supporting papers for the GRACE program the researchers go into great detail about the limits of the work including not fully understanding isostatic rebound rates for the Antarctic. I think the satellite was launched in 2002. None of this doubt is allowed beyond the papers themselves and this is not science. How many years does it take to determine the rate of post glacial rebound? A few years? Come on!
    But my point is IGNORE THE SCIENCE. Moving away from a dependence on fossil fuels is good no matter what the earth is doing. My issue is that the cost of doing so is not being addressed and the options are not being discussed.
    Measurements of Antarctic ice have shown the ice is getting thicker. These papers are easily found in the public domain. There are many cross referenced articles that discuss this. The reason is increased snow fall. The amount of snow accumulation does not agree with scientists models. But when they go to Antarctica and take ice cores to determine snow fall after having found increased ice height from satellite radar altimetry data, they find there is more snow there than they would predict. So they have a problem with their model and it’s something they are trying to understand. This is science. I like to read scientists not knowing all the answers. They believe the increased snow fall is due to warmer air temperatures in the Antarctic (aka global warming). Most of this continent never gets above the freezing point and air is dry and shouldn’t allow much snow fall. For some reason the Earth was never informed. Correct the models and move on. The real issue is not the science but how we convince 1.1 billion people that their living standard is going to have to change.

    Science 24 June 2005:
    Vol. 308. no. 5730, pp. 1898 – 1901
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1110662

    Snowfall-Driven Growth in East Antarctic Ice Sheet Mitigates Recent Sea-Level Rise
    Curt H. Davis,1* Yonghong Li,1 Joseph R. McConnell,2 Markus M. Frey,3 Edward Hanna4
    Satellite radar altimetry measurements indicate that the East Antarctic ice-sheet interior north of 81.6°S increased in mass by 45 ± 7 billion metric tons per year from 1992 to 2003. Comparisons with contemporaneous meteorological model snowfall estimates suggest that the gain in mass was associated with increased precipitation. A gain of this magnitude is enough to slow sea-level rise by 0.12 ± 0.02 millimeters per year.
    1 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Missouri–Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.
    2 Desert Research Institute, University and Community College System of Nevada, Reno, NV 89512, USA.
    3 Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.
    4 Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.

  41. And estimates of West Antarctic ice loss may have been over-estimated.

    West Antarctic ice sheet may not be losing ice as fast as once thought
    New ground measurements made by the West Antarctic GPS Network (WAGN) project, composed of researchers from The University of Texas at Austin, The Ohio State University, and The University of Memphis, suggest the rate of ice loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet has been slightly overestimated.

    “Our work suggests that while West Antarctica is still losing significant amounts of ice, the loss appears to be slightly slower than some recent estimates,” said Ian Dalziel, lead principal investigator for WAGN. “So the take home message is that Antarctica is contributing to rising sea levels. It is the rate that is unclear.”

    In 2006, another team of researchers used data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites to infer a significant loss of ice mass over West Antarctica from 2002 to 2005. The GRACE satellites do not measure changes in ice loss directly but measure changes in gravity, which can be caused both by ice loss and vertical uplift of the bedrock underlying the ice.

    Now, for the first time, researchers have directly measured the vertical motion of the bedrock at sites across West Antarctica using the Global Positioning System (GPS). The results should lead to more accurate estimates of ice mass loss.

    Antarctica was once buried under a deeper and more extensive layer of ice during a period known as the Last Glacial Maximum. Starting about 20,000 years ago, the ice began slowly thinning and retreating. As the ice mass decreases, the bedrock immediately below the ice rises, an uplift known as postglacial rebound.

    Postglacial rebound causes an increase in the gravitational attraction measured by the GRACE satellites and could explain their inferred measurements of recent, rapid ice loss in West Antarctica. The new GPS measurements show West Antarctica is rebounding more slowly than once thought. This means that the correction to the gravity signal from the rock contribution has been overestimated and the rate of ice loss is slower than previously interpreted.

    “The published results are very important because they provide precise, ground-truth GPS observations of the actual rebound of the continent due to the loss of ice mass detected by the GRACE satellite gravity measurements over West Antarctica” said Vladimir Papitashvili, acting director for the Antarctic Earth Sciences Program at the National Science Foundation, which supported the research.

    WAGN researchers do not yet know how large the overestimation was. A more definitive correction will be conducted by other researchers who specialize in interpreting GRACE data. Previous estimates of postglacial rebound were made with theoretical models. Assimilation of the direct GPS results into new models will therefore produce significant improvements in estimations of ice mass loss.

    The results will appear in “Geodetic Measurements of Vertical Crustal Velocity in West Antarctica and the Implications for Ice Mass Balance” (M. Bevis et al., 2009), published in the electronic journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems of the American Geophysical Union and the American Geochemical Society. [View the paper at: ]

    A team from The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences (Ian Dalziel, lead principal investigator), The Ohio State University’s School of Earth Sciences (Michael Bevis), and The University of Memphis’ Center for Earthquake Research and Information (Robert Smalley, Jr.) performed the WAGN project.

    The network consists of 18 GPS stations installed on bedrock outcrops across West Antarctica. Precise, millimeter level, three-dimensional locations of the stations, which are bolted into the bedrock, were determined during measurements made from 2001 to 2003 and from 2004 to 2006, the two measurements being at least three years apart. The difference in the positions during the two time periods indicates the motion of the bedrock.

    The WAGN data were supplemented with data from the first year of the Polar Earth Observing Network (POLENET) project, a project to establish a more sophisticated, continuously recording network of GPS and seismic stations, including the already established WAGN sites. POLENET will further improve our understanding of the interaction between the solid earth and ice sheets at both poles. The lead principal investigator of the U.S. Antarctic contribution to POLENET is Terry Wilson of The Ohio State University.


    The West Antarctic GPS Network and the U.S. Antarctic contribution to the Polar Earth Observing Network of the International Polar Year were both funded and logistically supported by the Office of Polar Programs of the National Science Foundation.

  42. The paper below uses the GRACE data to estimate rates for isostatic rebound over a 3.5 year period (seems kind of short to me).

    If you don’t see a problem, consider the fact that you have to know what the rate of isostatic rebound is before you look for changes in ice mass. if you then think there are changes (let’s say loss) then you are speculating on melting. A good bet, but still a theory. So one group of scientists uses GRACE to look for missing mass while another uses it to determine post-glacial rebound. Do they share their answers?

    Some scientist predicted that the GRACE satellite would be able to see changes in acquifer levels. Given that footprint I wonder if it could be used for oil exploration?

    Regional ice-mass changes and glacial-isostatic adjustment in Antarctica from GRACE

    Ingo Sasgena, , , Zdeněk Martineca, b, and Kevin Fleminga
    aDepartment of Geodesy and Remote Sensing, GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Telegrafenberg A17, D-14473, Potsdam, Germany
    bDepartment of Geophysics, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University, V Holešovičkách 2, Praha, Czech Republic

    Received 10 May 2007;
    revised 19 September 2007;
    accepted 20 September 2007.
    Editor: T. Spohn.
    Available online 4 October 2007.

    We infer regional mass changes in Antarctica using ca. 4 years of Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) level 2 data. We decompose the time series of the Stokes coefficients into their linear as well as annual and semi-annual components by a least-squares adjustment and apply a statistical reliability test to the Stokes potential-coefficients’ linear temporal trends. Mass changes in three regions of Antarctica that display prominent geoid-height change are determined by adjusting predictions of glacier melting at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and in the Amundsen Sea Sector, and of the glacial-isostatic adjustment (GIA) over the Ronne Ice Shelf. We use the GFZ RL04, CNES RL01C, JPL RL04 and CSR RL04 potential-coefficient releases, and show that, although all data sets consistently reflect the prominent mass changes, differences in the mass-change estimates are considerably larger than the uncertainties estimated by the propagation of the GRACE errors. We then use the bootstrapping method based on the four releases and six time intervals, each with 3.5 years of data, to quantify the variability of the mean mass-change estimates. We find 95% of our estimates to lie within 0.08 and 0.09 mm/a equivalent sea-level (ESL) change for the Antarctic Peninsula and within 0.18 and 0.20 mm/a ESL for the Amundsen Sea Sector. Forward modelling of the GIA over the Ronne Ice Shelf region suggests that the Antarctic continent was covered by 8.4 to 9.4 m ESL of additional ice during the Last-Glacial Maximum (ca. 22 to 15 ka BP). With regards to the mantle-viscosity values and the glacial history used, this value is considered as a minimum estimate. The mass-change estimates derived from all GRACE releases and time intervals lie within ca. 20% (Amundsen Sea Sector), 30% (Antarctic Peninsula) and 50% (Ronne Ice Shelf region) of the bootstrap-estimated mean, demonstrating the reliability of results obtained using GRACE observations.

  43. sbalch, I’m cautious about hopping on this or that study as proof that AGW is going to cause this or that, to me that’s a bit like looking at weather rather than climate, I think the temperature data is sound in showing warming over this century, and accelerated warming over the last half century. I’m 90% confident that the majority of the warming over the last 50 years is anthropogenic.

    The precise rate of Antarctic ice mass change I don’t see as pivotal to AGW, the uncertainties around this aspect of AGW are large and don’t in my opinion alter the level of confidence in whether on not AGW is occurring.

    I’m also cautious about just how damaging AGW is expected to be over the next century, I don’t see a 1 metre rise in sea level as catastrophic, I don’t see a decline in arctic sea ice as catastrophic. But I accept that we may see changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation that could be hugely damaging to agriculture, which could well be catastrophic.
    My biggest concern is that AGW is diverting our attention away from what I see as a far more urgent problem in the form of oil availability. 18 months ago the world was at maximum capacity in oil production and as a result the price of oil went close to $150/bbl, it’s the decline in consumption that’s eased the market situation, all the numbers say we’ll need over 100 million bbl/day in a couple of decades, and all the numbers say that ain’t gonna happen.
    AGW is a slow process, slow changes are easier to adapt to than fast changes. If I’m wrong about limited oil supply and how damaging a premanent shortage will be, in 100 years we’ll probably have climate control through giant orbiting mirrors.

  44. Andrew,
    While oil was hitting $150/bbl other commodities such as copper and nickel were also peaking. Nickel’s historic price used to be $3.00-$3.50 and it went to almost $30.00. It’s hovering around $8.50/lb (2.5 x the old normal). China and India are only consuming more.
    The availability (and hence the price) of commodities will place a natural upper limit to world economic growth. But don’t under estimate the ability of humans to find and use more. In the US, for example, there is an offer on the table to replace foreign oil with natural gas by T Boone Pickens. He has a proven track record in the oil & gas industry. He also feels that a pipe line from Canada into the US isn’t necessary because the US has so much untapped natural gas potential and gas has an equivalent octane value of 130 (versus 87). There is a huge surplus of nat gas in Canada too. Getting rid of foreign oil will free up alot as the US takes in 25% of the world supply. So the Americans won’t have to cut their energy use (or CO2 emissions) although the Pickens Plan does call for substantial cuts in other ways.
    High prices on commodities normally limit consumption, unless it is caused by limited supply. Here price goes up and demand stays high so everything costs more. You have less money but are required to provide more for other countries (as we are being pushed toward a worldwide redistribution of wealth).
    Giant orbiting mirrors could work both ways. On a hot earth they would reflect sunlight away. If we cool too much we can rotate the mirrors to reflect sunlight back toward the earth’s surface. We can give one control to the Russians and the other to the Indonesians.
    Retired people on fixed pensions, school teachers, government employees, sick & disabled – these people are in for a huge surprise as AGW requirements come into play. These people have nowhere to hide and their standard of living will go down substantially.

  45. “It measures gravity not ice thickness or ice melting. If you read many of the supporting papers for the GRACE program the researchers go into great detail about the limits of the work including not fully understanding isostatic rebound rates for the Antarctic” -sbalch.

    Correct. Hence papers like the following, before the satellites were even launched!.

    “A method of combining ICESat and GRACE satellite data to constrain Antarctic mass balance”

    1. Huh! I wondered how they pulled that trick off. I was curious about the same thing about the GRACE satellite, and also since I did some orbital mechanics and we must be talking about millimetres/s² of difference when you’re travelling at like 9km/s. How exactly do you figure out your position that accurately in orbit. Well, I guess they must do it somehow; you’ve got to be that precise to stand a chance of docking.

      Interesting tidbit..

  46. “How many years does it take to determine the rate of post glacial rebound?” – Sbalch.

    Seems you don’t understand what it is about Antarctica that makes ground based instrumentation problematic. Hint: It’s white and very cold.

  47. “Mann’s paper” – Sbalch.

    Mann now?.

    “concern troll – In an argument (usually a political debate), a concern troll is someone who is on one side of the discussion, but pretends to be a supporter of the other side with “concerns”. The idea behind this is that your opponents will take your arguments more seriously if they think you’re an ally. Concern trolls who use fake identities are sometimes known as sockpuppets.”

    1. hahaha you live in a strange world. How dare people try and confuse you by not making it obvious what ‘side’ they are on!

      Maybe one day you will wake up and see things are a lot clearer when you don’t judge the merit of someones comments by what ‘side’ you percieve them to be on!

      1. “hahaha you live in a strange world. How dare people try and confuse you by not making it obvious what ’side’ they are on!” -C3

        It appears you are the confused one. Sblach’s tactics are an “oldie” I’ve seen many,many times before. I’ve just pointed it out, so readers are aware.

        “Maybe one day you will wake up and see things are a lot clearer when you don’t judge the merit of someones comments by what ’side’ you percieve them to be on!” – C3.

        You spend a lot of time defending him, is it because you perceive him to be on “your side”?. None of his arguments stack up, apart from him suggesting that the response to the threat of climate change is inadequate.

    1. Andrew,
      There seems to be a reluctance to do anything. If people are waiting for answers from science – why bother? Why not say we can’t be sure but if we are the earth is in real trouble.
      America uses 25% of the world’s oil and most of that is now imported. Switch to nuclear power and drive smaller vehicles.
      Ignore the science. Take action.

  48. “Measurements of Antarctic ice have shown the ice is getting thicker. These papers are easily found in the public domain.” – Sbalch.

    Yet, you cannot even cite one (up to date) source?. Curious. Not.

      1. “If the Antarctic ice has been decreasing for 3 years and Arctic ice has been increasing for 3 years, what makes one trend significant and not the other?” – C3

        Actually the long term trend in the Arctic is decreasing land ice mass in Greenland and decreasing summer sea ice volume and extent. Or are you simply referring to the sea ice?.

        “Since 2006, high summer melt rates have increased Greenland ice sheet mass loss to 273 gigatons per year (0.75 millimeters per year of equivalent sea level rise).”

        C3, time lapse footage of the large glaciers in Greenland show that even the winter season is barely affecting the rate of ice discharge into the sea.

  49. C3P0, it is ice on land (Antartica & Greenland) that is the concern, not floating Arctic sea ice. Only land-based ice directly affects SLR.

    Andrew, why do you assume that our descendants will be better equipped to deal with the problem?

    Now may well be the best chance we will ever have, before famine and war kick in and the large nation-states start to fracture into smaller units (yes, I do mean the US, China, Russia and the EU).

    1. I didnt say anything about sea level, only about trends.

      (you may have mis-interpreted the use of the word ‘significant’. I meant it in the statistical sense rather than the significance of the event to future generations)

        1. Dappledwater, you obviously do not know what statistical significance is, but it is alright it seems you have a lot to learn about a great many things, so I should not be surprised.

          I am regretting using the term now anyway, what I meant is why is 3 years considered long enough to show a trend of warming but not cooling? After all one could claim that Arctic sea ice is growing since 2007, however I would agree that it is not a long enough time frame to not be considered noise.

          Why the same logic would not apply to the Antarctic is what I can not understand.

          If you read carefully I never try and say the Artic is not warming recently.

          1. “Dappledwater, you obviously do not know what statistical significance is, but it is alright it seems you have a lot to learn about a great many things, so I should not be surprised” – C3.

            This some kind of upside-down denier logic?.

            “I am regretting using the term now anyway” – c3.


            “what I meant is why is 3 years considered long enough to show a trend of warming but not cooling?. After all one could claim that Arctic sea ice is growing since 2007, however I would agree that it is not a long enough time frame to not be considered noise.Why the same logic would not apply to the Antarctic is what I can not understand.”

            You are confused, the trends are not of warming per se, but of estimates of ice mass/volume/extent. The findings are significant because they show the melting response is happening far quicker than projections. The climate model predictions of accumulated ice mass in Antarctica through increased snowfall, have proven to be very short lived.

            With the “warming in the pipeline” due to inertia in the climate system, and the accelerating rate of glacier discharge, none of that land ice is coming back any time soon.

            Oh, and a couple of additional points:

            – 2007 was the record Arctic summer sea extent minima. So there have been 2 years of gains in extent. 2008 was a record sea ice volume, despite the gains in extent i.e. the sea ice was a lot thinner. Haven’t found the 2009 volume, so don’t know if that has increased too.

            – Context is the key here, the 5 lowest Arctic summer sea ice extents have been in the last 5 years, and ice mass from the Greenland ice sheet has accelerated in the last few years. Not good news for deniers of reality.

        2. Also, is the last point on that graph a data reading, or just the end of the trend line? I agree that the mediaum term (30 year) trend in Artic is for warming, but you should not post mis-leading graphs.

          1. “Also, is the last point on that graph a data reading, or just the end of the trend line?” – c3.

            Huh?, and you claimed I had a lot to learn. Good one.

            “I agree that the mediaum term (30 year) trend in Artic is for warming, but you should not post mis-leading graphs.” -C3.

            It seems you are the only one mislead by the graph. It’s very darn clear to me.

  50. “Andrew, why do you assume that our descendants will be better equipped to deal with the problem?’

    I have the philosophy that those closest to a situation or a problem are usually in the best position to understand it and to deal with it. If we look at history, what did our ancestors do that they should have known to do differently? Should they have canceled the industrial revolution because of the pollution it caused, or the exploitation of children that happened then? Should they have not explored the globe because of the injustices we now identify? We have a responsibility to ourselves and our children, even our young grandchildren, I see it as arrogant though to suggest we know what’s best for our more distant descendants.

    1. “I see it as arrogant though to suggest we know what’s best for our more distant descendants.” – Andrew W.

      Don’t know about you, but it’s clear to me that future generations won’t enjoy the consequences of BAU.

  51. Andrew, I’m curious, how does your philosophy differ from simple irresponsibility and greed on the part of the current generation?

    If our parents and grandparents had chosen not to fight fascism – perhaps on the grounds that it would affect their comfortable lifestyles – and you were now living under Nazi rule as a result, how do you think you would feel about their choice to acquiesce rather than fight?

  52. Andrew, there is surely an absolute difference between unwittingly harming future generations and knowingly doing so. We have in the past twenty years passed from the first state to the second and even at many generations distant our descendants will have justifiable reason to accuse us if we continue heedlessly (and needlessly) to prepare a severely diminished environment for their lives. “Arrogance” to refrain from this?

  53. You’d better find another example Rob, Our parents fought the Nazi’s for their own sake and that of their children. Perhaps you should argue that modern Maori should condemn their ancestors for selling out to the British?

    1. And that’s the double Godwin on this thread.

      You’re right it’s arrogant to assume what’s best for the next generation. Which is why we don’t assume, we rely on science to guide us.

      Why not toss your abundant supply of straw-men on the compost, that’ll be much more useful.

      1. “And that’s the double Godwin on this thread.”

        Please at least learn the meaning of Godwin’s law before you start throwing the term around.

        “You’re right it’s arrogant to assume what’s best for the next generation. ”

        Sam, the point I’ve been making is that I don’t agree with assuming we know what’s right for our descendants 100 years or more in the future, NOT “the next generation”, and the published science is not certain about how damaging AGW is going to be that far out.

        “Why not toss your abundant supply of straw-men on the compost, that’ll be much more useful.”

        I think Rob used the straw-man in suggesting that the Nazi’s could be used as an example to argue against my position after I had made it clear that Nazism is too recent to be applicable.

  54. Bryan, obviously by felling much of the native forest that once covered this country our ancestors have greatly diminished our environment, we should all be angry at them?

  55. I haven’t perhaps you have, do you expect Hansen’s grandchildren will still be around 100 years from now? Please be careful not to misrepresent the point that I’m making.

  56. Andrew I have no interest in misrepresenting you. My mention of the post was not to focus on Hansen’s grandchildren, but on the danger that we may initiate a runaway greenhouse if we continue to burn fossil fuels. The storms his grandchildren will endure are prior to that. What their grandchildren may be called upon to endure doesn’t bear thinking about. You don’t appear to be bothered about them. I am. Perhaps we should leave it at that.

  57. Bryan, now you’ve moved so far from knowledge and into speculation you’ve rendered your case meaningless.
    In my opinion I’d be no more speculative if I claimed that peak oil has happened already, that net decline rates will be 4%/yr from now on, that we’ll enter a new great depression, as a result of declining energy availability for transport and agriculture, that agriculture production and distribution will collapse, that nations will react to the declining economic situation in their normal way which is to erect trade barriers, that the collapse of international trade will act as a positive feed back exacerbation the economic chaos, wars and famine will break out in many of the poorer and food import dependent nations, the declining trade and chaos will further damage agricultural production, diseases that we have been easily treated will run rampant throughout much of the world, and that all of this will lead to the global human population collapsing from 7 billion in 2012 to just 1.8 billion in 2050, making any affects of AGW on the planet of no more than academic interest to the surviving humans.

  58. Andrew, your argument is with Hansen and other scientists like him who see alarming consequences of global warming if we continue with business as usual. It’s not for me to defend them. I pay attention to them as scientists, that’s all. I don’t see them as wildly speculative.

  59. BW#35
    “non-violent direct action” is a standard euphemism for destruction of others’ private property. It fits perfectly with the warmist agenda of wealth destruction on a global scale. As the vast majority of the 7 billion want to retain, or achieve access to wealth (therefore affordable energy) it is no wonder the warm-mongers’ house of cards is collapsing.

    And thank you for admitting that “…our observation systems aren’t adequate to comprehensively track all the energy flow through the climate system”. Why waste trillions on the delusion that we can have any discernable, mitigatory effect on such a poorly understood system?

  60. Who writes your material, Steve? They need to get out more…

    Seventy years ago, there was much that was not understood about the details of Nazi plans for Europe, but their overall direction was sufficiently clear for the Allies to “waste” enormous quantities of blood and treasure in opposing them.

    Aren’t you glad they did, Steve?

  61. Steve, our understanding of cancer is far from complete; would you refuse treatment if you had cancer?

    Suppose the cancer was one that is known to respond well to a particular treatment, although the exact mechanism is still uncertain; would you still refuse to be treated?

    Of course you would, or else you would be nothing more than a hypocritical troll, right?

  62. Steve Wrathall:

    “non-violent direct action” is a standard euphemism for destruction of others’ private property.

    Like standing outside the headquarters of a West Virginian company holding a placard which read “Yes, Coal’s Killing West Virginian Communities” (and it’s posssible that even you Steve would have reservations over Appalachian mountain-top removal).

    Four young activists were arrested for trespass two months later (without trespass warning) and held in police custody without bail overnight pending court apppearance.

    Trespass is a very common kind of non-violent direct action. I have been guilty of it myself (without consequence) and congratulated a member of my family on his arrest for the offence. Your precious private property is hardly destroyed by such action.

Leave a Reply