Something (early) for the weekend: grim forecast for oceans and the roots of denial

Something of a miscellany today, coupled with an open thread, to keep you going during a brief pause in posting. First up: a study published this week in PLOS Biology looks at changes in ocean chemistry, temperature and primary productivity over the next century under two emissions scenarios, and finds that no corner of the ocean escapes untouched. From Science Daily:

“When you look at the world ocean, there are few places that will be free of changes; most will suffer the simultaneous effects of warming, acidification, and reductions in oxygen and productivity,” said lead author Camilo Mora, assistant professor at the Department of Geography in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. “The consequences of these co-occurring changes are massive — everything from species survival, to abundance, to range size, to body size, to species richness, to ecosystem functioning are affected by changes in ocean biogeochemistry.”

It’s been a productive few weeks for Mora: he was lead author on a recent study1 published in Nature that estimated when climate in different parts of the world would move beyond anything experienced in the last 150 years — have a play with this interactive map to find out when your part of the world will move into the unknown. See also Climate Central, Science Daily, and a huge amount of press coverage.

Nicely complementing Mora’s oceans study, Sebastian Ostberg and others from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research looked at terrestrial ecosystems and found that “80 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is at risk of profound ecosystem transformation by 2100”. As you might expect, business as usual emissions scenarios have the biggest impact, but even strong mitigation won’t prevent significant changes. From Science Daily:

…even if the warming is limited to 2 degrees, some 20 percent of land ecosystems — particularly those at high altitudes and high latitudes — are at risk of moderate or major transformation, the team reveals.

Physics Today‘s October issue includes an excellent overview of the rapid climate change taking place in the Arctic — The Arctic shifts to a new normal. (hat tip to John at the warren). For a very clear explanation of how Arctic changes can influence northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation, see Dr Ricky Rood’s latest post at his Wunderground blog.

David Archer at RealClimate extols the virtues of the new eight week Science of Climate Change course starting soon on Coursera. It sounds like something worth exploring, even if you don’t complete the full course or only play with the visualisations. I might be bold, and suggest that attendance should be compulsory for all climate cranks, sceptics and deniers.

Oh dear, I used the “d” word. Expect lots of faux outrage from those in denial of the need to act on climate change — but as Josh Rosenau of the National Centre for Science Education points out, the roots of that usage of the word go back long before any imagined link with genocide in Germany during WW2.

While NZ’s own little coterie of cranks and deniers lick their wounds over a lost court case, one of their “science advisers” has rushed into print in the NZ Herald drawing the longest of long bows on the import of some recent research on atmospheric aerosol formation. Chris de Freitas, the Auckland University geographer (not an atmospheric physicist or chemist, note) who long ago sold his soul to the Anything But Carbon (ABC) crowd, decides to suggest that the new research means that NZ’s pastoral farmers are working to cool the planet and should get more carbon credits than foresters. Considering that CdF consistently argues we don’t know enough to act on climate change, it’s immensely hypocritical of him to oversell the relevance of an interesting, but preliminary piece of research. For a somewhat more sane discussion of the study, see RealClimate.

And finally: I’m going to be taking a break from HT for a while, because I’m going into hospital tomorrow for what the surgeon describes as a relatively minor procedure on my inner ear2. I hope to be back at my keyboard sometime next week, if all goes well. Please accept my apologies in advance if comments get stuck in moderation, or other issues arise.

  1. Full text, free! []
  2. Endolymphatic sac surgery, which if all goes well should put an end to the vertigo attacks associated with Meniere’s disease in my left ear — but it does mean drilling a hole in my skull. I’ve asked for a processor and memory upgrade while he’s in there… 😉 []

223 thoughts on “Something (early) for the weekend: grim forecast for oceans and the roots of denial”

  1. Thanks Gareth – hope the op goes well.

    Yet another example of the ’90 papers reaching conclusions I don’t like just go to show how little we know, but this one paper whose conclusions I prefer is Science, comrades, Science, and Science is irrefutable’ syndrome.

    ‘Skeptics’, the Deniers call themselves… it’s an insult to the term, because selective skepticism ain’t skepticism at all!

  2. Speaking of The Stupid, there’s an interesting piece on The Conversation about the real cost of Abbott’s insane ‘blood’ commitment to repeal the Great Big New Tax.

    It would be particularly interesting if an el Nino kicks the climate into ‘bake’ mode when all this is coming to a – potential double-dissolution – head next year. Already the ludicrously early fire seasons in QLD and NSW are providing ample demonstration that kicking-the-can-eternally-down-the-road-with-the-do-nothingist-wafflers looks that much less attractive if your house is on the line…

      1. as the whole world stands around saying unto each other holy shit these people really are actually dismantling a functional carbon reduction scheme

        Exactly. And ‘repent’!? (yes, he actually said that!) He’s like a Revivalist Huckster!

        GetUp!’s on it.

        And great cartoon. Unfortunately I can’t go and see First Dog at the Festival of Ideas in Adelaide this weekend ‘cos I’m off on a field trip… but I reckon he’ll draw a crowd ‘cos lots of us love his work!

  3. The interesting aspect of the Australian situation is the amount of coal they export. Committing to reducing emissions within Australia always seemed pointless while they exported so much coal for others to burn. Unless everyone is bound by the same commitment, emissions will not be reduced but just moved overseas along with jobs. Maybe taxing the end products is a fairer way of doing it, but think of the bureaucracy that would involve. What is a functional solution? Taxing carbon in Western countries has so far done little to reduce global emissions.

    1. Well the climate is biting back here in Oz. NSW seems to be rather badly on fire and it is very early in the fire season. Fire fighters believe 100+ homes will have been lost before it is under control. Luckily no lives lost yet AFAIK.

      ps It goes without saying but I’ll say it. Good luck with the Op Gareth and all the best for a speedy recovery.

          1. One of several nom de plumes Noel. And yes izen is an interesting commentator who also gets around the traps. He even has a a go on WUWT from time to time.

            1. Do you read this piece of vintage Izen?

              “But I am not enthusiastic about re-rehashing the science of AGW. The debate at that level has become tribal and unpleasantly acrimonious as people get more invested in defending their team than dealing with the information deficit.

              The form of society that can best adapt to whatever human or natural changes occur is of more interest than throwing around the mountains of research that quibble over details.

              The probability of some excursion from the relatively stable climate under which human agriculture and industrial civilisation developed is almost certain. The big uncertainties are in the political and governance structures that emerge in response to those challenges.

              And how technological developments can alter the policy options but with power politics enabling or hindering the most effective responses.
              I’m still rooting for the turbo-encabulator with quantum hypercore!”

        1. Yes, the libertarians prefer to see their offspring dying a ‘free man’, roasted, flooded out and starved by AGW than to think the unthinkable for any good libertarian: a collective solution involving international treaties, national laws and proactive measures to prevent the same. The laws of Physics do not feature in the land of the ‘free’, they are simply another socialist ratbag greenie lunacy…..

    2. “What is a functional solution? Taxing carbon in Western countries has so far done little to reduce global emissions.”

      There is a non-ETS scheme, more on Hansen’s lines that does appear to work in British Columbia, Canada.

      “British Columbia’s five-year old carbon tax has managed to cut personal and corporate taxes, slash climate-wrecking carbon emissions and be an economic success story according a study published this week. Plus it’s popular with the public. That’s a stunning win-win-win-win.

      Thanks to the carbon tax BC residents enjoy the lowest income tax in the country (not Albertans), use the least amount of fuel per person and have arguably the healthiest economy the study found. So much for the Tories baseless claims of doom and gloom.”

  4. I know I should not be surprised at an egregious CDF article, but to suggest that livestock ammonia emissions are a good thing whilst ignoring the wealth of evidence on eutrophication and impact on human health is staggering. It is a while since I was looking at this, and CDF’s witterings are unworthy of my time tracking down the references at this late hour, but the metric that rings a bell with me was for UK urban population, average lifespan reduced by 2 years thanks to agricultural ammonia emissions.
    Why does a good university tolerate such consistently skewed pronouncements with their institution name-checked.

  5. Hi all, regular intelligent contributors and trolls alike. I have not contributed for some time although I keep tabs from time to time. My specialty is earthquake damage so I`m sure you will appreciate I`ve been a tad busy.
    I have a son in Carrington, Newcastle, NSW who yesterday could see and smell the smoke in town from the Williamstown fire front. (About 40 mins north of Ncslte). He`s been in Oz 16 yrs and this is the first time he has expressed concern that this is much more, much sooner and way to often.
    As a a Mech. Eng. he appreciates the science that substantiates the IPCC position on climate change (as I do ).
    Cut to the chase, why does Oz now have a PM who,s famous (if nothing else) for stating that, quote “Climate change is a load of crap”.
    Answer may be that all there are more climate change trolls in Oz than people with a living brain. ( The trolls have fierce competition in that quarter from amoebas and earthworms), the latter being useful as well.
    One day, when its to late, they will catch up just in time to K. T. A . goodbye.

  6. I am not sure insulting the people you disagree with is helpful. There will always be some with vested interests who put them first, but many people either don’t care or are so confused by mixed messages and exaggerated claims that they don’t believe the climate change lobby any more. Talk of death spirals, an ice free Arctic by 2013, extinct polar bears, inaccurate global surface warming predictions, etc, etc, etc, has either turned the public off climate issues or convinced people it’s not going to be as bad as they say. How is that the publics fault? Yes we need to find a way to cut emissions and move to a more sustainable future, however this will only happen when the majority of the public accept change is required. This will not happen until the scare stories stop and there is more agreement across the wider scientific community.

    1. Hmm, I think you have this backwards: The IPCC has been conservative with their projections, certainly what the Arctic is concerned and many contributing scientists also believe that the IPCCs message is not strong enough.

      The picture of where its heading with sea ice is pretty clear with a mostly summer ice free arctic very likely in the second half of this decade.

      The public has been lead astray by a dedicated and strategic campaign of misinformation and misrepresentation orchestrated by the marketing experts of the fossil fuel and libertarian interest groups. It is a campaign straight from the text books of the tobacco industry wars against the health science of smoking. It is all widely publicized and the people responsible for this are well known shills of the political right in the USA and elsewhere.

      Indeed, it is not the public’s fault that some of them fall for this deliberate campaign and are confused. The fault and the responsibility lies squarely with the “Merchants of Doubt” and anybody who wants to read the whole sordid story can do so in the book with this name by Oreske. Since the damages arising directly though this deliberate misinformation campaign are too massive to quantify, the liability claims that these people will be served with in the not to distant future will likely be several orders of magnitude larger than those thrown at the tobacco bosses back in time when their culpability was determined. The cost to humanity for inaction on climate change will make the health cost of smoking look like petty cash…

  7. This Fire in Australia is a good example. Is there even a link between area destroyed by wild fires annually and global warming? We know no single extreme weather event is caused by global warming, yet every time there is an event the link is made.

    1. In your first comment you have trotted out the misrepresentations generated and repeatedly posted by the proffessional denialists. Predictions? The IPCC has demonstrably been overly conservative.

      Now about fires: yes there has been a long term prediction by a forest researcher that they will double or tripple in incidence. Perhaps others have too but I want to set out some of the dots to connect up.

      Fire starters: people, lightning, static electricity buildup
      Predisposing conditions: heat, drought, greenhouse gas increase

      I’ve seen reports that the fire season in Oz has got away somewhat earlier than usual and that 2013 is on the way to being Australia’s hottest year ever (warm ocean waters). It seems people other than scientists are connecting the dots beween climate change and extreme weather phenomna too,

    2. Murray wrote: “We know no single extreme weather event is caused by global warming, yet every time there is an event the link is made.”

      We also can’t link a specific instance of lung cancer to smoking. What we can do, in both cases, is examine the fractional change in risk caused by smoking in the case of cancer, and by human emissions of GHG in the case of extreme climate events. This lets scientists get at the “fraction of attributable risk” which is due to climate change. I think there’s a discussion of this in chapter 10 of the new IPCC report. Using these techniques people have been able to discuss changing risks of events such as summer floods in the UK and heatwaves in Russia, etc

    1. Looks like a promising system. I think many people would favor a simple tax on fossil fuels instead of complex emissions trading systems. Taxing the fuel is giving the right initiative to all participants in the economy. The complexity of ETS systems allows for loop holes and all sorts of extra deals which in the end don’t cut emissions much.
      Taxing carbon fuels at the source (inside the country) or a the border should be straight forward.

  8. Your link between fire and climate change seems flimsy at best. Where is the global statistical data to back your claim? What does the IPCC say on fires? I know they are not confident of more drought so I am unsure on why there would be more fires. My argument is that media and indeed climate scientists have played up the effects of climate change to the extent that public trust has been lost. I think a more conservative approach may have been more effective at reaching agreement. Now, although extreme events are occurring around the world, sceptics can point to the lack of hurricanes to hit the US, the stable polar bear numbers, the very gradual rise in global surface temperature and the still very icy polar regions as reasons the scientists were exaggerating. I am not suggesting we don’t take action to fight climate change, however even I don’t feel the urgency there was a couple of years ago. We have time, let’s make good long term decisions about how best to move away from fossil fuels. I am not convinced some of the current suggestions are sustainable.

    The BC carbon tax model sounds good. Now how do we get the rest of the world to take it up so it actually has an effect on the climate?

    1. “I know they are not confident of more drought so I am unsure on why there would be more fires.”

      Actually the IPCC has been saying for some time that dry places would get drier and wet places wetter. Concerning drought they are confident that in some places drought would increase in intensity and duration.

      Perhaps you do not see a physical connection between temperature rise, drought, the greater incidence of hot days compared to cold days, and the probability of fires although the activities of lots of humans also is the cause of most fires. I wonder why it is that every time there is an extended drought in this country fire danger warnings tend to go to extremes and lighting fires is banned?

      So in essence you are saying we have plenty of time to make needed changes, scientists saying otherwise not withstanding. Confusion is caused by climate alarmists but apparently fossil fuels sponsored misinformation, misrepresentation and downright lying has little to do with it. You seem to think that not facing issues will accompish saner decisions than facing them despite a recent history wherin not facing issues results in nothing accomplished.

    2. Murray wrote: “My argument is that media and indeed climate scientists have played up the effects of climate change to the extent that public trust has been lost.”

      I agree that parts of the media play things up. [Parts play it down, too.] I can think of many examples. Some climate scientists* have played up the problem, too. [Again, others have played it down.] They may sincerely be convinced that the problem is worse/better than most scientists think. But as the new report shows, the bulk of the research community hasn’t really bought into either the more catastrophist line pushed by some elements over the last few years, or the essentially denialist views of some elements who putter about at the fringe of the literature.

      “I think a more conservative approach may have been more effective at reaching agreement.”

      I completely agree with you that getting a deal done is probably easier where the science sticks to robust inference and the stakes seem manageable to governments. I’ve long argued that simply cranking everything in the problem up to 11 on the scariness scale is actually really counter-productive from a negotiation/strategy/game theory point of view, too.

      [Obviously if the science really did suggest imminent global catastrophe that is something IPCC should reflect. It would make things harder, strategically, but it would be a failure of IPCC to discharge its mandate if it failed to accurately portray the problem. As it stands, I think the report does a good job of conveying the overall scale, as well as what we robustly know and don’t know.]

      *There is an issue about who counts as a “climate scientist” – I know people who used to introduce themselves as “remote sensing scientist” or “data scientist” or “computer scientist” or “geologist” half a dozen years or so ago, who now call themselves “climate scientist”, even though they don’t really have expertise in the things climate scientists might reasonably be supposed to know about (climate physics, planetary circulation, some statistics…). It’s not obviously constructive when these folks comment on areas outside their areas of expertise.

      1. Dave Frame, you say

        I’ve long argued that simply cranking everything in the problem up to 11 on the scariness scale is actually really counter-productive from a negotiation/strategy/game theory point of view, too.

        So, is the president of the World Bank being unduly alarmist when he, in the introduction to the Bank’s recent report “Turn down the Heat: Why a 4C Warmer World must be Avoided” says (emphasis mine):

        It is my hope that this report shocks us into action. Even for those of us already committed to fighting climate change, I hope it causes us to work with much more urgency.

        This report spells out what the world would be like if it warmed by 4 degrees Celsius, which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting by the end of the century, without serious policy changes.

        The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.

        And most importantly, a 4°C world is so different from the current one that it comes with high uncertainty and new risks that threaten our ability to anticipate and plan for future adaptation needs… A 4°C world can, and must, be avoided.

        Also, Dave, you state “There is an issue about who counts as a “climate scientist””

        The report was written by a team from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, including Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, William Hare, Olivia Serdeczny, Sophie Adams,
        Dim Coumou, Katja Frieler, Maria Martin, Ilona M. Otto, Mahé Perrette, Alexander Robinson, Marcia Rocha, Michiel Schaeffer, Jacob Schewe, Xiaoxi Wang, and Lila Warszawski.

        Do these people qualify as “climate scentists”, Dave?

        1. I’m inspired to present the Temporal Panic Index: –

          The further forward in time one looks the scarier the projected climate looks: 2°C by 2050, 4°C by 2100 ….. I went as extreme as I could go simply calculating hiroshima bombs per litre of petrol over the estimated lifetime of the CO2 generated.

          The Temporal Panic Index does not take into acount the immediate effect of extreme weather events – the current state of emergency in NSW has a scariness reading of 11 all on its own. The TPI is also inversely proportional to the Human Seriousness Index which usually correlates closely with the Voter Sensitivity Index.

          There are of course various medications for climatic panic including sedatives and even placebos like the NZ ETS scheme, and naturally the three wise monkeys stance.

          🙂 🙂

  9. Well the IPCC was clearly not conservative enough with all the previously mentioned projections. You have kind of made my point here, bold claims are made about climate change causing much more bush fire devastation, yet when solid evidence is asked for…….silence. People grow wise to these empty claims after a while. Are you suggesting I have been brain washed by big oil? What a condescending joke. I am well capable of making up my own mind based on evidence thank you. If you have been involved in educating the NZ public on climate change I can see why it has been such a total failure! Talking down your nose at people is a sure way to get ignored. Sadly the genuine climate campaigners have to deal with unhelpful rhetoric like that.

    1. Murray, can you list these ’empty claims’ and scientific evidence that indeed these claims are empty? I mean since you have a strong opinion on this matter you surely don’t want to look like a hypocrite and make empty claims yourself!!! So I am sure you can back your point of view up with ample evidence and citations.

      With regards to bush fires many scientists have predicted that they will get more severe and the fire season will get longer.

      Let me cite from This Report by Bushfire CRC and CISRO from 2007:

      The number of ‘extreme’ fire danger days generally increases 5-25% by 2020 for the low scenarios and 15-65% for the high scenarios (Table E1). By 2050, the increases are generally 10-50% for the low scenarios and 100-300% for the high scenarios.


      The annual cumulative Forest Fire Danger index (FFDI) displays a rapid increase in the late-90s to early-00s at many locations (Figure E2). Increases of 10-40% between 1980-2000 and 2001-2007 are evident at most sites. The strongest rises are seen in the interior portions of NSW, and they are associated with a jump in the number of very high and extreme fire danger days. The strength of this recent jump at most locations equals or exceeds the changes estimated to occur by 2050 in the different projections.

      Our more recent understanding seems to agree with this:

  10. With all due respect Thomas climate scenarios are not evidence. Hard data over the last 50 or 100 years would be more convincing. You are clearly passionate about this cause which is good, I just feel there is no respect given to anyone who doesn’t buy into the scare stories 100%. I happen to think greenhouse gases do have a warming affect on the planet, but I have many friends who think quite the opposite. Some of those friends are far more scientifically minded than me so I would never suggest to them they have been sucked in by right wing propaganda akin to the tobacco lobby. Only when we show each other’s views equal respect will any sort of compromise take place. I think in time evidence of warming will become more apparent, but if the public is bombarded with exaggerated scare stories which don’t materialise, there will be no appetite for change.

    Which claim do you suggest is not exaggerated? We both know the arctic did not go ice free this year so that was false. Are polar bear numbers plummeting? Have hurricanes increased in number in recent years? Which exaggerated claim do you want evidence of?

    1. Yes Murray, you told us what you believe.

      Now can you cite evidence to support your claims?
      Can you show us where the IPCC said that the arctic would be ice free in 2013?

      Actually the IPCC statements on Arctic sea ice decline have been very conservative and the reality of the decline has outpaced the predictions. Can you cite evidence to the contrary?

      What was exaggerated about the sea ice volume graph I linked?

      On Polar Bears the WWF estimates that 2/3 will be extinct by 2050 due to habitat loss from GW. Do you have reliable evidence that this is an exaggerated claim?

      Back to bush fires, you never commented on the links I sent. Can you show us evidence that the statistics of the past bush fire seasons as published by CRC/CISRO is somehow wrong?
      I cite it here again what they reported. And I stress, these are not predictions but statistics over the time preceding their report!

      The annual cumulative Forest Fire Danger index (FFDI) displays a rapid increase in the late-90s to early-00s at many locations (Figure E2). Increases of 10-40% between 1980-2000 and 2001-2007 are evident at most sites. The strongest rises are seen in the interior portions of NSW, and they are associated with a jump in the number of very high and extreme fire danger days. The strength of this recent jump at most locations equals or exceeds the changes estimated to occur by 2050 in the different projections.

      So to say again, the paragraph above refers to the past.
      Do you have evidence that this is somehow wrong?

      The temp data over the past 100 yeas speaks for itself don’t you think?

  11. Much agreed Dave. I just sense the public mood and media have turned slightly against climate action. I am not entirely sure what will help get progress moving again. Convincing China to reduce carbon emissions will certainly help.

    To your questions Thomas. I don’t listen to WWF any more than I would an oil company. Obvious agendas are at play, polar bears are a great fundraiser I would imagine. If your fire data is over the last 15 or so years, what is the link to warming? Temperatures have been very stable during this period so an increase in fires may have other drivers. On the sea ice…

    Ever since 2007 when Al Gore received a Nobel Prize for a suspect global warming alert, there have been ongoing doomsday sayings concerning rising oceans from a disappearing ice cap. Even the BBC, a prestigious news agency, shrilly declared in 2007 that the Arctic ice cap would disappear in 2013.

    Here we are in 2013 and not only do we still have an Arctic ice cap, but it has increased in size by 60% in one year according to measurements done by satellite images according to another British news agency, The Daily Mail.

    A steady balanced approach to dealing with climate change will win the day. It’s hard to see this happening any time soon though with such extreme views on both sides.

    1. Sorry Murray, you are simply talking tosh. Last year the Arctic Sea Ice collapsed to an extreme record low. This year it is not as bad as last year but when you look at the long term graph where is this going do you think?
      And regarding Australia’s temperatures and fire season? Stable? Come on you want us to take you serious?

      Oh and your ’15 years stable temperatures… comment’ is outing you as a ‘believer in the religion of the hiatus’….

      Sorry, you are just another troll coming here to spread disinformation.

  12. Murray’s just another concern troll, here to foster doubt and inaction, but at least this one’s able to spell!

    The concern troll is also found in the climate debate among people who show up saying that they themselves believe in global warming and also believe that human emissions of greenhouse gases are to blame, but do not understand certain things. And then, by and by, the classic objections of the denialist scene emerge one after another.

    It is difficult to ascertain the motives of others on the Internet because they have to be inferred indirectly. Thus, it can be difficult to separate a real skeptic who wants to deal with a few issues from the “concern troll”. A true skeptic will be satisfied with answers, a “concern troll” never…

    There are several varieties of internet “concern trolls”… If, however, all they do is ask questions without ever producing any results… one is probably watching a “concern troll” at work, one whose only concen is ensuring that no conclusion is ever reached.

  13. The BBC article that Murray refered to but gave no link to is here The BBC was reporting a prediction by an American group who were predicting on a trend based on figures up to and including 2004, therefore not including the lows of 2005 and 2007. As usual the BBC called up other scientists who did not really support this projection though they did acknowledge the point that the IPCC projection was far too conservative. Various other possibilities were suggested – 2020, 2030 and 2040 were mentioned. A key thought at the time was

    “The implication is that this is not a cycle, not just a fluctuation. The loss this year will precondition the ice for the same thing to happen again next year, only worse.
    “There will be even more opening up, even more absorption and even more melting.
    “In the end, it will just melt away quite suddenly. It might not be as early as 2013 but it will be soon, much earlier than 2040.”

    Of course the next year the wind blew a different way but as 2012 revealed the trend continues down.

    It interests me that the various people who keep on about this never give the reference, misrepresent the article (“The BBC …shrilly declared”), and appear to be working from some list of buttons to hit without knowing what they are talking about, nor about subsequent developments in understanding of arctic conditions – the BBC too has done a great deal of reporting on Arctic sea ice since – and about polar bears. The 2013 prediction did not acquire traction but predicting each year’s September minimum has become an annual guessing game as we all witness.

    1. Yes its typical of these denier trolls. They make bold statements without any factual backup.
      When pressed to provide evidence for their empty claims, they usually run away or they dish up a new round of empty claims to distract from the earlier rounds.
      I guess after FlatEarth got banned for his sock pupped games and his blatant lies they send a new troll around to kick tires for a bit. Also this troll shall pass.

      1. Appropos of those people who got it wrong (2013) they went to a great deal of trouble to get that minimum date but that reminds me of Stephen Schneider’s words on “getting it wrong”. Asimov wanted Schneider to calculate the effect of his “nuclear winter” proposal. Schneider came up with a potential ice age and for a little while was called the iceman. However, the calculation worried him and when better information came to light he addressed the question again and concluded that Asimov’s nuclear winter resulting from a nuclear war did not stack up. He said something to this effect :’I got it wrong for the right reasons and this put me into a position where I could later get it right for the same reasons.’ I’m paraphasing probably but hope I’ve got the thought right. Asimov got quite huffy about that but is “nuclear winter” continued to stick in the public mind.

  14. What the hell is a concern troll? I just get tired of every type of weather event or ecological issue being blamed on climate change. Most people realise we need to reduce carbon in the long term, but all this hyperventilating is unhelpful. My view is the climate change issue has been oversold which has left the public disillusioned and disinterested. Climate change does not generate the media or political profile it once did, so given the threat has only increased with increasing emissions, I would say people are over it.

    Stop the exaggerated claims, build support, make change.

    1. What the hell is a concern troll?


      Stop the exaggerated claims

      I just get tired of every type of weather event or ecological issue being blamed on climate change.

      Spot the disconnection

      1. I briefly thought of relating to Murray my personal experience of the behaviour on this site, but it is obviously not necessary. He is already under attack from most quarters.
        Thomas , you haven’t trotted out the conspiracy theory yet – you know the one – where it is no coincidence that the biofarmer and someone called Murray have both posted on the SAME DAY !
        The floor is yours . . . 🙂

        And I’m really looking forward to the concerted campaign to ban all forms of motor racing i.e. recreational pollution. Yep , F1 , stock cars, V8 supercars , Nascar, jet sprints , water skiing, go Karts, sky-diving, etc. etc. etc. – all must go, along with tourist air travel, in fact all tourism that is not totally benign vis a vis the environment.

        In fact I think it will be a useful barometer of public opinion. When the public is 100% behind the banning of all motor sport , then I think it can safely be said that we have progress towards a sustainable society.

    2. Murray wrote: “Stop the exaggerated claims, build support, make change.”

      Amen. Some posters round here will find that radically counter-revolutionary, but it’s actually a perfectly sensible position.

      1. The problem is: Murray and people like him make any attempt to portray mainstream climate science (i.e. IPCC reports and many others) as a bunch of exaggerated claims if we let them to it. They do this not because they have any evidence to support their position (if they had then we could have a discussion about climate science) but because admitting to AGW being a serious issue is destructive to their political dogma.

        We know for-well that the cost of mitigation rises with every year that we spend passing political hot potatoes around and shift some emissions from one account to another in creative accounting exercises. We will not be able to walk away from paying for the damages that our CO2 emissions cause through AGW + ocean acidification. Politics do not change the Physics.

        The scenarios we are facing thanks to our fossil fuel addiction include truly catastrophic trajectories, with significant probabilities.

        Would Murray and others like him happily board an aircraft that had a 10% chance of crashing killing most, a 30% of crashing killing many, a 40% of crashing killing some, 10% chance of crashing injuring many and a 10% chance of a light crash injuring some?
        But that is pretty much the outlook of AGW towards the end of the century, isn’t it?

        In the best of cases, if we act now and if we act decisively on AGW, we might get away with the best case scenario of our aircraft analogy.
        Murray and people like him however argue against such action and make the other outcomes a lot more likely for all of us.

        1. Murray, if publication of cherry picked climate projections in newspaper articles concerns you then

          1) stop getting your climate science information from newspapers and blogs. Go to primary scientific sources or their representatives. Encourage others to do so too.

          2) take up the issue of poor science communication with the media itself (newspapers TV etc.).

          1. But Richard the continued existence of these media depends entirely upon their supplying a never-ending diet of “shock-horror-probe- scandal-catastrophe” for the consumption of the chattering classes. It’s entertainment!
            Nothing more ; nothing less.

            When one dire prediction loses its impact then they will publish the exact opposite until that too wears off.
            It’s called ‘selling copy”; the content is irrelevant as long as it has the required impact.

            1. Indeed, the press has lots to answer for. When media gets merchandised a functional democracy has a hard to function. Of course certain interests want it precisely this way. If you are one of the 0.1% who hold the majority of the capital of the world, you want to be sure that you can control what the 99.9% of the rest of us have on their minds to a large extent….

              Luckily in NZ we still have National Radio…

            2. “Indeed, the press has lots to answer for”

              The “press” is answerable only to its shareholders. Take a look at the NZ Woman’s Weekly.
              Sadly , there are signs that the rot may have set in at National Radio as well. Best stick to Concert FM : it has less “news”.

    3. Murray, a few questions:

      1) do you think that the IPCC 5 report constitutes an ‘exaggerated claim’?
      2) do you think that the observation of the arctic sea ice decline curve pointing to a summer sea-ice free arctic in the second half of this decade is an exaggerated claim?
      3) do you think that the report of CISRO/CSR on the observed rise in frequency of fire risk in Australia is an exaggeration of the situation?
      4) do you think that the forecast of a rise in fire risk in Australia by CISRO/CSR in their report (see the link back in my posts) is an exaggeration?
      5) do you think that the outlook for the oceans as reported by Gareth in his post here is an exaggeration?

      If you think these points are exaggerations, then ask yourself, where is the evidence that supports your position in each of these points and can you supply us with a reference?
      If you can not come up with some solid evidence then you are just making empty and generalized claims that somehow the climate science community is creating exaggerations. And you are spreading misinformation and creating distrust in the work of these scientists without any grounds other than your personal opinion. In other words, you are making empty claims.

      1. It’s not about evidence Thomas. Perception is reality; the public is tired of the scary “Chicken -Licken” stories.
        All the effects of CAGW /DACC that are warned of concern effects on people ; effects which might easily happen anyway , for reasons not connected directly with climate. Populations rise and fall : that cannot change.
        Individuals can adapt to circumstances , but some do not, for various reasons. That’s life.
        If you think that you know what is coming down the tracks then you can be prepared.
        Smart people are always prepared for anything.

        1. “It’s not about evidence Thomas. Perception is reality; the public is tired of the scary ‘Chicken -Licken’ stories.”…

          …and the reason for this is the relentless propaganda of the denier circus that uses any trick in the book to portrait the work of climate scientists as ‘chicken little’ stories. (Merchants of Doubt).

          I maintain that the stance of Murray and perhaps your own has the facts entirely back to front! The rather conservative projections of the IPCC amount to a frightening scenario for those who can put one and one together. The talk about ‘the people are tired…’ is rubbish. Those among ‘the people’ who don’t care about AGW have been hoodwinked into complacency through a deliberate disinformation campaign!

          Even if we for a moment just look at the state and projection for the worlds oceans, the topic of this post, this alone is a catastrophic development for life on our planet. The fact that people are not up-in-arms about it all is due to the fact these changes are happening ‘under the sea’ and out of sight for most of us and the consequences are still somehow deniable to those who don’t want to listen to the experts.

          But there is zero evidence that all this amounts to a ‘chicken little’ scare. Zero! And this is the main point: The deniers have zero evidence to prove that the climate science community has all this somehow exaggerated. All they do is launch empty propaganda statements that could be right from the textbook of the NAZI propaganda minister:

          “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”
          “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
          ― Joseph Goebbels

          And with some precinct:

          “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.”

          1. Yes O.K. but the question is -what would be an effective message?
            It is accepted that the public is totally complacent about this now , and therefore there will be no political moves.

            As is I understand it , the sceptics are simply saying that the Null Hypothesis has not been falsified, the thesis being that –

            “anthropogenic CO2 emissions are causing catastrophic climate change”.

            This should be a simple matter for science, i.e. to show that it is not possible that the current climate is the consequence of natural variation.
            Is the fact that there were no validated models of natural variation in existence prior to recent decades of warming the reason for the scepticism?

            1. This should be a simple matter for science, i.e. to show that it is not possible that the current climate is the consequence of natural variation.

              Yes indeed and it has been done:
              and also look back to the AR4 report where the measurements again were compared to model runs using only natural variation against those adding the effect of GHG.
              As far as ‘models’ of natural variation prior to the recent decades go, well I refer to Mann and several other studies that independently come up with the same general look:

              So I am not sure what lack of research or validation you require on top of the evidence and the expert reports.

            2. biofarmer wrote: “As is I understand it , the sceptics are simply saying that the Null Hypothesis has not been falsified, the thesis being that -“anthropogenic CO2 emissions are causing catastrophic climate change”.”

              And the sceptics would be wrong. The new IPCC report says “Human influence on the climate system is clear” and “Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

            3. Dave , is it it your position that all climate change is necessarily catastrophic?

              I don’t see the IPCC using the word catastrophic .
              Perhaps you prefer a different statement of the null hypothesis.

            4. Dave , what do you think of this comment:-

              “The Null Hypothesis says it must be assumed a system has not experienced a change unless there is evidence of a change.

              The Null Hypothesis is a fundamental scientific principle and forms the basis of all scientific understanding, investigation and interpretation.
              Indeed, it is the basic principle of experimental procedure where an input to a system is altered to discern a change: if the system is not observed to respond to the alteration then it has to be assumed the system did not respond to the alteration.

              In the case of climate science there is a hypothesis that increased greenhouse gases (GHGs, notably CO2) in the air will increase global temperature.
              There are good reasons to suppose this hypothesis may be true, but the Null Hypothesis says it must be assumed the GHG changes have no effect unless and until increased GHGs are observed to increase global temperature.
              That is what the scientific method decrees. It does not matter how certain some people may be that the hypothesis is right because observation of reality (i.e. empiricism) trumps all opinions.

              Please note that the Null Hypothesis is a hypothesis which exists to be refuted by empirical observation.
              It is a rejection of the scientific method to assert that one can “choose” any subjective Null Hypothesis one likes. There is only one Null Hypothesis: i.e. it has to be assumed a system has not changed unless it is observed that the system has changed.

              However, deciding a method which would discern a change may require a detailed statistical specification.

              In the case of global climate no unprecedented climate behaviours are observed so the Null Hypothesis decrees that the climate system has not changed.

              Importantly, an effect may be real but not overcome the Null Hypothesis because it is too trivial for the effect to be observable. Human activities have some effect on global temperature for several reasons. An example of an anthropogenic effect on global temperature is the urban heat island (UHI). Cities are warmer than the land around them, so cities cause some warming.
              But the temperature rise from cities is too small to be detected when averaged over the entire surface of the planet, although this global warming from cities can be estimated by measuring the warming of all cities and their areas.

              Clearly, the Null Hypothesis decrees that UHI is not affecting global temperature although there are good reasons to think UHI has some effect.

              Similarly, it is very probable that AGW from GHG emissions are too trivial to have observable effects.

              The feedbacks in the climate system are negative and, therefore, any effect of increased CO2 will be probably too small to discern because natural climate variability is much, much larger. This concurs with the empirically determined values of low climate sensitivity.

              Empirical – n.b. not model-derived – determinations indicate climate sensitivity is less than 1.0°C for a doubling of atmospheric CO2 equivalent. This is indicated by the studies of
              Idso from surface measurements
              and Lindzen & Choi from ERBE satellite data
              and Gregory from balloon radiosonde data

              Indeed, because climate sensitivity is less than 1 .0°C for a doubling of CO2 equivalent, it is physically impossible for the man-made global warming to be large enough to be detected (just as the global warming from UHI is too small to be detected). If something exists but is too small to be detected then it only has an abstract existence; it does not have a discernible existence that has effects (observation of the effects would be its detection).

              To date there are no discernible effects of AGW.
              Hence, the Null Hypothesis decrees that AGW does not affect global climate to a discernible degree.
              That is the ONLY scientific conclusion possible at present.”

            5. IPCC makes it clear that people are changing the climate: “Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.”

              and “Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

              My own view is that the phrase “catastrophe” isn’t very helpful unless you can define it consistently across threats. 20th century smallpox called 300M people in 75 years (and was then eradicated). WWII killed 50M in 5 years. Is either catastrophic? Is AIDS (30M deaths in 30 years)? etc. Before throwing words like “catastrophe” around I think it’s a good idea to work our what you’re actually talking about, so that others know they’re talking about the same thing. I haven’t seen much discussion along these lines.

            6. Bio – please don’t do long cut and pastes from Watts (or anywhere). Please paraphrase in your own words and provide a link that makes clear who is making the statement.

              In this case, the author gets the idea of hypothesis testing completely the wrong way round. We know the radiative behaviour of CO2 and other GHGs in great detail, we also know that CO2 is 40% more abundant today than 150 years ago. The hypothesis to be tested is that this will cause energy to accumulate in the climate system, and every physical indicator, from surface and ocean temperature to ice on sea and land confirms that it is.

              To prove that we need to take no action, “sceptics” have to show rigorous proof that overturns the above. They can’t, so they attempt to sow doubt, waste time and cause delay. That’s all they’ve got.

            7. That seems to be the problem right there Gareth, viz the claim that the null hypothesis has been fasified already, i.e. that these two statements have been falsified –

              a) anthropogenic CO2 emissions are NOT causing the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels

              b) rising atmospheric CO2 levels are NOT causing catastrophic climate change.

              To do that obviously requires a total understanding of the carbon cycle and all the drivers of climate. Some say we have that understanding and some say that we don’t yet.

              It seems to me that only time can resolve the difference of opinion. Time will prove one side or the other to be correct. There is nothing unusual about that.

              Regardless of the academic jousting , I will continue down the pathway of adaptation using my best endeavours to work out what is likely in my lifetime, so as to be ready for anything.

            8. Gareth you say “The hypothesis to be tested is that this will cause energy to accumulate in the climate system, …”

              To prove that hypothesis requires absolute certainty that no other cause is possible i.e. that natural variation in both the carbon cycle and accumulation of heat in the climate system cannot account for the current situation.
              You believe that we have that level of understanding and measurement, but others do not believe the same. The question will be resolved when it is clear to everybody that we can predict both factors (atm. CO2 and planetary heat accumulation) with absolute accuracy.
              In the meantime , life goes on. That is not such a bad thing.

            9. Bio, the people you are copying this tosh from have got it 100% backwards.

              a) The observed planetary warming has magnitude of around 280 ZJ (Zeta Joule) of accumulated heat energy between 1980 and today.
              See graph.

              b) We know from the physics of the GHG effect and the attribution of the various components that we are adding about 2W/m2 in global forcing (2012). This corresponds well to the observed accumulated energy.

              The two fit together well.

              The skeptics must:

              a) come up with an alternative theory to where the 280 ZJ of energy would have come from. And don’t say from increased solar radiation, as we know and measure the Suns output with a high degree of accuracy.

              b) Must come up with a theory that negates the 2W/m2 GHG forcing that we know is generated by CO2 and the other GHG gases.

              In fact the deniers must account for some spurious energy source that adds 280 ZJ to the Earth energy budget AND must also account for some process that removes the forcing in the same magnitude that is generated through the GHG process.

              Now that is the task at hand! If you can come up with a veritable theory for that, then we talk again.

              Your ‘Null Hypothesis’ talk is moot as your ‘Null Hypothesis’ has been falsified to a high degree of confidence by the climate science at hand. The energy flux equivalent of 4 Hiroshima bombs per second (in order to equate the rise in stored heat energy of 280 ZJ since 1980) is ample evidence that the system has dramatically changed already.

            10. Thomas , is it your position that previous warm periods (Minoan , Roman , etc.) were caused by the Sun , but the warming since the LIA is not so caused?

  15. biofarmer wrote: “And I’m really looking forward to the concerted campaign to ban all forms of motor racing i.e. recreational pollution. Yep , F1 , stock cars, V8 supercars , Nascar, jet sprints , water skiing, go Karts, sky-diving, etc.”

    I have actually encountered academics and political activists who support this idea… it strikes me as a seriously dumb idea – some of the companies in racing try out innovations there that filter down to the rest of us. Plus, it brings joy to lots of people, and I don’t think you should ban things like that lightly. [Plus I quite like car-racing.]

    1. On the balance of things banning motorsports has about zero impact on our total emissions as only very few people actually participate.

      What is interesting is the rise of electric motorsport races. The latest generation of electric racers is phenomenal and soon electric racers will leave their petrol equivalents in the dust performance wise.
      Motorsport has done a lot for the evolution of transport technology and high performance electric racing will have significant spin offs for the general advancement of electric transport technology.

      1. True, but when I was a kid with my toy tip trucks I made all these noises. revving, changing gear etc. They still make noises much the same now. What then will the kids do? 🙂

          1. …and for shoppers walking their stuff back to the car. Some people are quite creative about the noises and others would prefer an internal combustion engine noise. I have wondered if the more musical sounds would be imitated by birds, as they do, to the confusion of everyone. I’, wondering what my car will be like. For some reason warning sounds are not included in the specs.:)

      2. I agree with both Dave and Thomas in respect of the impacts of motor sports ; the negatives are small , except for the symbolism.
        If we can afford to “P . . up against the wall” something that is supposed to be getting scarcer, is absolutely essential to economies at this time , and which is alleged to be a dangerous pollutant , . . . then what actually is the problem?
        Bread and circus will always be the bare minimum required to maintain some sort of a civilisation , if only briefly.

  16. Biofarmer, your cut & paste of denialist nonsense from Watts shows your true intentions; to waste time and foster inaction to ameliorate a clear and present danger.

    For anyone intertested in a light-hearted bebunking of Watts et al, Aussie gal Sou at HotWhopper is my favourite:

    1. Fair enough. I’m interested in why no agreement is possible , and frankly I find all these conspiracy theories totally implausible. I am happy to accept that there is some sort of cock-up in understanding.
      You are free to impute motives to me , but you are just guessing. If you say time is being wasted , whose time is it?
      “Fostering inaction”? That looks like paranoid nonsense to me. There will be no concerted global action before 2020, if ever. Nothing that I say or do will influence that in any material way. My interest is purely academic , and focused on why people cannot talk to each other without acrimony in what should be a simple scientific discussion. But you are free to be as acrimonious as you want. And you are free not to engage at all.
      Do you think that acrimony will facilitate your purpose? Why?

      1. biofarmer wrote: “I’m interested in why no agreement is possible”

        ahhh… that’s easy. It’s because everyone wants to see something done, but doing anything very onerous on your own looks like a bad idea, since you’ll reduce your economic competitiveness and make little difference (on your own). That’s the argument every government uses for why it isn’t doing more. Basically, states and companies don’t perceive themselves as having incentives to undertake strong, unilateral mitigation action.

        To get anywhere, we need to make mitigation more attractive – the obvious way is via technology, since that will lower the cost of mitigation. That would be the most robust way of changing the incentives, I think. Carbon taxes, ETS schemes, etc are likely to be fairly weak until they become widespread. [If the problem keeps growing as we expect (as it has since 1990), it’s likely that the pressure for some price on carbon will grow.] etc.

        The point is this: a deal that sticks has to provide incentives to participate and disincentives to not participate. That’s basically the bottom line. I don’t see catastrophism as playing much of a role in that process – I think it hinders progress by creating incentives to step back from multi-lateral and supra-national initiatives (since if life really is going to get Hobbesian the incentives are to hunker down and protect your own, rather than invest in the welfare of others).

        1. Dave, as we all share the same destabilised atmosphere and biosphere, how would the separation into “our own” and “others” work?

          Or are we to expect the world of “Zardoz”, where a fortunate few live in protected biospheres whilst the impoverished masses war and starve outside?

          1. Rob wrote: ‘Dave, as we all share the same destabilised atmosphere and biosphere, how would the separation into “our own” and “others” work?’

            Easy – national boundaries. Country X emits some GHG, and is affected by climate change impacts. Country X has a unilateral reason to take seriously impacts within its borders because they affect its people. It has far less reason to worry about damages to Country Y. States care about their people, as they are mandated to (government “for the people” usually refers to the same people as government “by the people”…) – they care far less about people in other places. Opinions vary on whether this is a desriable state of affairs. Opinions vary less on whether or not it is the actual state of affairs.

            I don’t see any appetite, anywhere, for a country to internalise the damage done via climate change to other countries, unless it is part of some much more specific and idiosyncratic historical game.

            My view is that these sorts of points about the way international relations/politics works are constraints – just like physical constraints. Wishing them away or shooting messengers who discuss them doesn’t actually change the issue.

            PS _ Zardoz looks pretty out there. Must check it out some time.

            1. Yes indeed, “Zardoz” is one of the Best Worst Movies of all time.

              The point I was making, Dave, is that GHG emissions and effects are held in common; national boundaries are irrelevant to mitigation, and permeable to litigation, mass migration, terrorism and war.

              For example, continental Country X emits copious GHG while nearby poorer Country Y starves / drowns. Y’s problem is now also X’s problem, one way or another…

              US military planners are eloquent on this matter:


            2. Rob wrote: ” national boundaries are irrelevant to mitigation, and permeable to litigation, mass migration, terrorism and war.”

              National boundaries matter for mitigation, since mitigation is costly, and as long as mitigation is not universal its costs are borne in some jurisdictions and not others. So it matters very much to people where it happens.

              And as for the effects – some places are more vulnerable to external effects than others. But you can have spillovers without them altering the fundamental incentives – there have been spillover effects from Africa’s various conflicts for decades, and we still see little significant expenditure from the outside world to solve them. These spillovers would have to be huge to change the payoffs.

            3. Dave wrote: “National boundaries matter for mitigation, since mitigation is costly, and as long as mitigation is not universal its costs are borne in some jurisdictions and not others. So it matters very much to people where it happens. ”

              Indeed, but the benefits of mitigation are shared by all, as are, eventually, the costs of not mitigating.

              The fundamental point is that we’re all in this together, whether we like it or not. Of course, some will choose to define “we” in a more restricted sense, but, like the Mayan rulers, their time also will come.

      2. BF asks this question:

        Do you think that acrimony will facilitate your purpose?

        It seems like he is using lying and misinformation to facilitate his purpose. Many people have a grave dislike for dishonesty. That is why people like BF get acrimonious responses to his lies, disinformation and just complete scientific nonsense. It is unfortunate that there are many people who are taken in by this nonsense and give tacit support to people like BF.

        If BF wants a more collegial response then he should stop spreading the lies and misinformation he finds on denier sites. Most intelligent people will not fall for such nefarious tactics. It is obvious that he knows the difference between real science and the misinformation put out by the deniers since he never cites real science, only junk. It seems that he filters out all the real and accurate science he comes across.

        Grow up BF and get a life.

          1. Bad case of what BF? If you relate honesty to “bad case of it” you are more dishonest than I previously thought. You are a despicable person who is trying to ensure great hardships for future generations because of your dishonesty in spreading lies and trying to persuade people that we should do nothing about increasing green house gases from burning of fossil fuels.

            Contrary to what you read and spam from denier sites this will be a great problem for all of us down the very short road since problems are already being encountered in many places.

            And stop the ad hominem comments by trying to infer that I am as dishonest as you. Your comment “Pot -kettle- black I guess.” is a personal attack on my honesty. You have not shown that anything I have written is wrong, dishonest or misleading, contrary to everything that you write.

            1. Everything that you have written about me is wrong , dishonest or misleading. Now just ignore me unless you really need to vent your spleen.

  17. I have a question about the incidence of solar energy on partially clouded days. My inverter gives a readout of watts delivered by the system. On a partially cloudy day this varies rapidly. What intrigues me is that the blue sky reading builds up as a cloud approaches, peaking just before the cloud intervenes. As I am watching the digital readout in the basement I cannot tell at what point in the transition the peak is reached. Is there a lensing effect in operation, or is this an artifact of the inverter itself?

    At present I have the system turned off until a proper in/out meter is installed as the current meter adds the outgoing power to the mains meter tally which is a big no-no.

    1. I think your inverters power meter may have some integrating or dampening circuitry. Perhaps on a day when clouds and direct sun alternate in rapid succession the output reading is still rising when the next cloud approaches. Otherwise, it could be that the reflection from the last cloud, now receding, is growing, adding some to the radiation received, just before the next cloud intervenes. Interesting observation!

      1. The integrating notion may apply. The manufacturers would know. The system also graphs output per hour and all spikes such as I have described have a vanishingly small effect. Nevertheless, on the second of the two days I was observing this behaviour – those two days of very high winds in Auckland following even higher winds further south – the graph showed four hours during which output was closer to 5 Kw than 4. Despite the high variablity of the sky the shape each day was close to a normal curve.

  18. biofarmer wrote: “To prove that hypothesis requires absolute certainty that no other cause is possible i.e. that natural variation in both the carbon cycle and accumulation of heat in the climate system cannot account for the current situation.”

    You misunderstand scientific method. All scientific knowledge is to some extent provisional, since you can only disprove hypotheses, not prove them (Popper made this point, if you’re interested). There is no “absolute certainty” of the links between smoking and cancer, or between HIV & AIDS, or even between atoms jumping up and down atomic energy levels and light. But beyond some point, only crazy people pretend these links aren’t real.

    The link between GHG and observed climate change is like a lot of epidemiological links. We aren’t certain, but the evidence s mounting, and it’s getting to the point where only people who are trying really hard are unconvinced of the links.

    1. I am familiar with all of that Dave. I agree that I should not have put the word “absolute ” in there. Certainty alone would have done the job while accepting that all certainty in science is provisional.
      Maybe the problem is that the only observable climate change in my lifetime has been the multi-decadal oscillation that we call the PDO, and most would just call that weather, even though each phase is about 30 years long. Any other change that may have occurred is imperceptible.
      So when you say “observed climate change” I wonder what you are talking about.

      1. People talk about the energy imbalance of the system
        and the large number of observed phenomena from glacier retreat, arctic melt, temperature observations, comparisons with the paleo-climate record and many more. You must be familiar with all of these.

        Again, if you can come up with a theory that explains the arrival of 280 ZJ of energy from somewhere since 1980 ( about 4 Hiroshima bombs per second) and on top of that the removal of the GHG forcing in the same order, both!!, by some other yet unknown mechanism and if you can then provide firm scientific evidence supporting your theory, then you should publish a paper and see if you find agreement in the science community.

        Until then, the GHG theory matches rather well what we observe on all fronts and matches with the known and established physics of energy transfer and exchange through radiation and establishes a cause and effect relationship to a high degree of confidence.

        1. Yes , I’m aware of the physical changes, but is it your position that these things have never occurred before? I don’t think that is your position. I doubt also that you are saying that these phenomena are outside of the range of natural variation, right?
          So your position must be that you know that natural variation cannot be causing these changes.

          1. You are searching for straw men, BF. Thomas has made a compelling case for the science and challenged you to counter it.

            Which neither you nor all the deluded legions of climate change deniers have ever been able to do, without specious appeals to pseudoscience, conspiracy theories and outright lies.

          2. Bio, the current absolute temperatures are well within what has happened on Earth before, along the long time of our geological record. As you know, we had times when Earth was glaciated and we also had times when Earths poles had melted away.

            But the current Rate of change is according to the scientists who compare events from the geological record, unprecedented.

            The same btw is true for the rate of ocean acidification.

            This happens in lockstep with the also unprecedented rate of change in the Earths atmospheric CO2 content.

            Combined with our understanding of the cause-effect relationship between the GH effect of CO2 and Earth’s temperature we have a very good understanding about the effect of raising Earth’s atmospheric CO2 content by a factor 2 or more. (we will get there with little doubt in due course, unless…..).

            So from the geology and from current observations and from our theoretical knowledge we know that we are going towards a regime of somewhere between 2 and perhaps as much as 4 to 6 deg of warming by the end of the century. We know this rate of change is unprecedented. We know what will happen when we get to that temperature regime. We know how long the CO2 will linger in the atmosphere (millenia) and what will become in the long run of the polar ice caps and consequently the sea level. And we know with very high confidence that it is us humans who are causing this.

            We can debate about when exactly the sea level will have risen by how much or when exactly certain areas of the planet will exceed the ‘wet bulb temperature’ suitable for human survival during summers. We can mull about the time frame by which agriculture in many important bread baskets will become untenable and we can argue whether we could perhaps grow sufficient food in northern latitudes instead. We can argue about how expensive or possible or impossible it will be to rebuild all our coastal cities and infrastructure.

            But there is no doubt in my mind left after studying climate science intently for the last two decades, that unless we make drastic changes in our CO2 emissions soon, we will be committed to go down a path that will prove catastrophic.

            I don’t know what your background is to assess the science, I am a Physicist.

            1. Botany Chemistry and Pure Maths Thomas. Not that it matters in a discussion of how science ought to proceed.
              I take your point about the rate of change being unprecedented but I wonder if we are really able to be so accurate about past rates of change. You are talking about a time frame of 50 years , or 100 years?

            2. ” after studying climate science intently for the last two decades,”

              What? Only two decades? I read The Survival of Civilisation in about 1984 , and have stayed in touch with the topic ever since 🙂

            3. …yes and I am resting also on the judgement of the vast majority of climate scientists with the best expertise we have on these matters… 😉

          3. biofarmer wrote: “So your position must be that you know that natural variation cannot be causing these changes.”

            Exactly. Knowing what we do about current forcings, there is no known mechanism that would explain the observed response, aside from GHG, which is the obvious and uncontroversial explanation.

            The obvious question to you is “why are you so determined to reject the only sensible explanation?”

            1. The obvious answer Dave is that I haven’t rejected it; neither have I accepted it.

              Is that the real problem; impatience? Is that what causes the likes of Ian to be so unreasonably offensive?

              As I’ve previously said , I’ve been making the necessary adaptations for over 30 years now. I don’t intend to stop doing that in the light of further knowledge.
              I’m interested in how it all came to this; that reasonable people with sufficient science to understand these things have ended up totally polarised , and not even prepared to talk to each other.
              Does anyone here go to WUWT and argue the point?

            2. ” there is no known mechanism that would explain the observed response, ”

              Do you consider it unlikely that we will find one , in other words , that we know pretty much all we are ever going to know about climate mechanisms?
              This may be the real point of difference in respect of the null hypothesis.

            3. Bio, “… that we know pretty much all we are ever going to know about climate mechanisms?..”, no we obviously do not know all we are ever going to know….
              A pretty dumb strawman you are making here!
              But we know enough to make the conclusions that you can find summarized in the IPPC reports.

              Impatience: If you respected the work of climate scientists you would also appreciate that time is definitely not on our side. Every GT of CO2 we add to the atmosphere will make our problems worse for many centuries to come. And then there is the significant risk that further warming will trigger further CO2 release (permafrost, rain forest demise and other mechanisms….), making any attempt from our side to drive emissions down into a battle we may loose.

              We can not wait until every ‘Biofarmer’ of the globe has been convinced beyond his/her personal doubt. The risks of inaction are simply too great. There are still many people who think the moon landing was a hoax and many others tinker with perpetual motion ‘inventions’. There will always be vocal contrarians on all matters, and thanks to the Internet, they have a reach of their voice that was (thankfully) denied to them in the pre-internet era.

              In the end, it does not matter if you are convinced, it matters if we as a people act and if those in leadership show the way. The sooner we get there the better!

            4. ” In the end, it does not matter if you are convinced,”

              Exactly , I’m in perfect agreement with you on that.
              And I’m taking every action available to me , in case the worst comes to pass.

              I disagree that impatience is a reason to be a totally offensive prick though (not you obviously), and those who do it are not helping anybody.

              But I’m not making a strawman. I’m just observing the sides .
              Ethology is my special area of interest 🙂

            5. Oh and on your interest in rates of change and a look back in history, you would have read this I suppose.
              The lead researcher has a good presentation here:

              The research suggests that

              “…this could tell us where we are going in the near future. In other words, the Earth system response to small changes in carbon dioxide is bigger than suggested by earlier climate models.


              Another significant finding is documentation of sustained warmth in the Middle Pliocene, with summer temperatures of about 15 to 16 degrees Celsius (59 to 61 degrees Fahrenheit), about 8 degrees Celsius (14.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than today, and regional precipitation three times higher.

              It suggests very much so, that the IPPC projections are conservative in regards of the temperature regime we are going towards.

            6. Yes , I had seen that one . There is already good evidence in the pollen record that rates of change can be very fast.

        2. Biofarmer: My comment on the Watts post is that it is sophistry. Another term for that in the sense of “blinding with science” courtesy of yourself may now be turbo-encabulation:) The argument rests on a couple of premises that cannot withstand careful examination and depends on the reader accepting them without question. The “scientists” cited have also had goes at scientific sophistry in those papers of theirs I have read.

          To find evidence of AGU I had to look elsewhere than on sites devoted to obscuring this data. Evidence is quite easy to find nowadays.

          1. Yep he is a bit wordy and I have had a run-in with him before but it comes down to the rate of change it seems . Thomas and Dave are both saying “unprecedented”.

      2. biofarmer wrote: “when you say “observed climate change” I wonder what you are talking about.”

        The observed spatio-temporal pattern of change. If you want to see what climate change for the 20th century looks like, have a look at figure 1b in the IPCC SPM . It’s obvious the climate has warmed, and is continuing to do so. The cause is also clear – human activity. None of these things is scientifically controversial.

        1. Dave I don’t understand why you make the statement that the cause of the continued warming is not controversial when it seems that the cause is the only controversial aspect.

          1. biofarmer wrote: “Dave I don’t understand why you make the statement that the cause of the continued warming is not controversial when it seems that the cause is the only controversial aspect.”

            It may be controversial among some sections of society, but it is not among climate scientists. It is simply an error of fact to describe the basic picture of human influence on climate as scientifically controversial among experts. Climate scientists don’t argue over the cause of the observed warming because it is clear that human influence is playing a role. If you are under the impression that there is a scientific controversy over this, it’s because your sources are unreliable. Try the peer-reviewed literature, or textbooks.

            The simple fact is that there’s no great scientific controversy to explain – it’s not like we have a Michelson–Morley experiment issue that’s thrown us into disarray and we’re searching for a new theory. The current ones (standard radiation physics, primarily) are fine.

            1. ” because it is clear that human influence is playing a role.”
              That is widely accepted. The disagreement seems to be over the extent of human influence and whether the result is all bad.

            2. You may disagree and some of your peers may, but if you read the IPCC report you will find that those who actually know what they are talking about accept that AGW poses a significant risk to the well being and in-fact the survival of our civilization as we know it.

              I find it puzzling that you reject the combined wisdom of the best experts on climate change in favor of some home baked misconceptions and the cacophony in the echo chambers of the denier circus.

              If you had been diagnosed with a serious illness, would you put your faith into the hand of the best medical experts or would you first explore a plethora of witch doctors in case their contrarian theories had some miraculous solution that the medical community rejected for some unfathomable reason?

            3. “I find it puzzling that you reject …”

              I think that you misunderstand : I continue to read all sides of the science but I don’t feel that I have to form a judgement yet. But that does not prevent me from taking appropriate steps to adapt to whatever happens. I’m comfortable with my ability to do that.
              It seems inevitable that pressure on congenial habitat/space can only get worse. Individuals are wise to act early ; alone , if necessary.

            4. Bio, nobody forces you to make a judgement yourself.

              But you went well beyond this stance and in fact made all sorts of sweeping assertions and accusations about the ‘uncertainty’ of the science and the facts at hand, none of which are supported by the evidence.

              This is something entirely different than to say that you are withholding judgement yourself for whatever your personal reasons for that may be.

  19. Rob Taylor wrote: “The fundamental point is that we’re all in this together, whether we like it or not. Of course, some will choose to define “we” in a more restricted sense, but, like the Mayan rulers, their time also will come.”

    That’s true of some threats (asteroid strike, cosmic ray bursts) but not others. It’s very probably not true of this one, since the impacts will be harder on some than others. For people to be “all in this together” certain things have to apply – the threat has to be shared, and significant enough to overcome the usual state of competition between people. Governments don’t see it as that sort of problem. Quite reasonably, the government of India doesn’t go green over night because of the threat to the Maldives or Tuvalu. And so on. People just don’t work that way. Quite reasonably, they care more about people close to them than people remote from them.

    1. … that is why we need to improve the role of advocacy towards solutions that serve the common good. I believe that with good leadership and truthful information on the matter the inertia can be overcome. I must believe this as otherwise it would simply mean to resign to a future that will see us destroy much of what we would love to inherit to our children. I can not be a silent bystander in this, nor can many of of my peers.

      Just because humanity has so far not yet evolved our systems of governance enough to overcome what you describe essentially as the ‘libertarian selfish capitalist model’ (who cares if my neighbor drowns as long as my liberty to do as I please is not restricted…) we should not give up hope.

      It is my belief that the long-term survival of humanity hinges on our ability to rise to this challenge. It (AGW) won’t be the only survival challenge we will meet. The sooner we make progress towards a political model that puts the common good higher than the rights of some the better.

      1. You want an end to “elitism”?
        It seems to be a feature of all civilisations , regardless of left/right leanings or any other axis that you care to name. It seems to a feature of human behaviour that once the immediate social group goes beyond a certain size, that splintering occurs , cohesion is lost and conflict ensues.
        I doubt that there is any will to behave differently even amongst those who recognise the problem, as do some here. But still the invective comes to the fore at the slightest hint of “deviation”, real or imagined.

        1. Huh? “….You want an end to “elitism”?…”
          What is that supposed to mean?
          Do you think that “elitism” is necessarily related to being careless about the prospect of humanity? A wicket thought indeed! Only true rednecks would find agreement with you there perhaps.

          As others pointed out before: AGW and Ocean Acidification and the related consequences of our carbon fuel addiction know no borders. Neither will the displaced masses when survival in their home lands is not longer possible for many.

          Humanity must evolve our social memes or we will descent into a hellish future.

          1. Just to clarify Thomas, I was referring to the political class who are could not care less about the prospects for the mass of humanity. They consider themselves safe.
            Of course the events of the French Revolution suggest otherwise, but the lesson will not be learned.

            But for all that I look forward to whatever future remains to me; it must be an age thing. Every day that I wake up is a good day 🙂

            I’ve enjoyed our discussion.

    2. Dave, it’s a matter of timeframes. Let’s suppose that extreme weather events, crop failures and mass migration cause developed nations to get serious about mitigation, say in 2030. Even with crash abatement and sequestration programmes, it will be of the order of hundreds to thousands of years for AGW to subside, assuming the methane cannon doesn’t fire.

      Also, history is no guide; apart from rare sudden-death events like impactors and gamma-ray bursters, only the PETM and the Permian extinction appear relevant, and we are increasing GHG one hundred times faster than in the lead-up to the PETM.

      So, how close do we really want to get to another Great Dying?

      PS: I’m still curious as to your views on the Potsdam / World Bank report I posted on earlier.

      1. The deniers simply don’t get the risk factor. None of them would step foot into an airliner that only had a small chance of a normal flight with a happy landing. Yet when it comes to a world wide slow motion disaster they don’t mind to do just that. Summing up the IPCC projections it works out that we have only a slim chance – and only if we work expediently towards drastic CO2 emissions reductions – to see a somewhat happy landing in perhaps a century. All other scenarios will result in significant hardship, up up to complete catastrophic outcomes, of which OZ is getting a very sad prequel at the moment.

          1. Not at all.

            But we would need to unpack the word ‘happy landing’ in my analogy in order to see if we can find agreement:

            In the airplane analogy a ‘happy landing’ is the end to an uneventful flight with nothing out of the normal happening.

            At the moment our ‘climate flight’ is already out of the normal. Do we agree? So for a happy landing we already must reduce CO2 content in the atmosphere, as even today’s levels if nothing is done, will result in hardship and losses. So ‘no happy normal landing’ is currently booked already unless we act (in my book anyway).

            If we look at the IPCC data and the various scenarios that are likely to unfold with their respective probabilities, how would you label this ‘fan’ of options in the airplane landing analogy?

            Would you board that plane?

      2. HiRob,

        On the clathrate gun hypothesis – IPCC chapter 12 says this: “Very unlikely that methane from clathrates will undergo catastrophic release (high confidence)”. See also FAQ 6.2 in WGI: “Like permafrost thawing, liberating hydrates on land is a slow process, taking decades to centuries. The deeper ocean regions and bottom sediments will take still longer—between centuries and millennia to warm enough to destabilise the hydrates within them. Furthermore, methane released in deeper waters has to reach the surface and atmosphere before it can become climatically active, but most is expected to be consumed by microorganisms before it gets there. Only the methane from hydrates in shallow shelves, such as in the Arctic Ocean north of Eastern Siberia, may actually reach the atmosphere to have a climate impact.”

        Not very interested in the WB report – I’d rather wait and see what WGII have to say. [Something of a mystery to me why there is so much about 4C worlds, but not about 3C worlds.]

        1. Dave, the links I provided demonstrate credible scientific opinion that the IPCC is unduly conservative re the methane risk (not just from clathrates, but permafrosts as well).

          Leaving that aside, it seems myopic to me that climate predictions usually only go to the year 2100, well within the lifetime of children born today. What of the people 2,000 years hence, who are no more distant from us than those of the Roman Empire? Or those 40,000 years hence, who – if they survive that long – will be no more distant from us than the first Australian Aboriginals, yet will still be grappling with the consequences of our GHG emissions today?

          1. Rob – you can find a few noisy people who disagree with IPCC on activist websites and in the Graun. Cool. Mr biofarmer can find a few noisy people on activist websites and in the WSJ who disagree with IPCC, too. You’re both scrabbling around on blogs trying to find people who disagree with IPCC, and then claiming that this “demonstrate[s] credible scientific opinion that the IPCC is unduly” whatever. But I don’t think this is true – of course some people disagree with some aspects of IPCC. Of course they do. But they don’t trump it in the way you both argue.

            And the RCPs were designed in part to provide a consistent way of going beyond 2100. Plus, the irreversibility thing with clathrates is the formation of the clathrate, not the climate forcing. The climate forcing from the methane would be intense but short-lived. etc.

            1. The key point, Dave, is that the IPCC is, by design, a conservative process. It provides a bottom-line to the science, something everyone can accept (a point you made in your talk at the RSNZ a couple of weeks ago). It consciously excludes outliers. That’s good and important because it establishes a common ground that only the highly motivated or deluded can reject or ignore.

              But the consensus-forming process is not a risk assessment. The outliers that are excluded are not necessarily wrong – just too new or unexpected to have reached mainstream acceptance. Sea level rise provides a good example, as this article at e360 shows. Fundamentally, the argument with SLR is not how much (at equilibrium, for a given CO2 level, paleo estimates tell us where the sea level will be), but how soon. Different methods provide different answers, as does new knowledge about WAIS, etc.

              Your other point about extremes on both ends mischaracterises the reality of what passes for debate in this area. The people arguing for inaction are the polar opposites of those who say we’re doomed whatever we do. There are some who argue that (and a great deal more who privately fear it!), but the middle is not the IPCC position – it’s IPCC plus current research/events. That’s why I asked that question about AR6 at the RSNZ morning: I think we need more nimble research/current event updates that are relevant to policymakers and the public, perhaps overlaid on more monolithic consensus reports that are pulled together less often. Climate change is happening fast, and we need information and planning processes that can keep pace.

            2. ” and we need information and planning processes that can keep pace.”

              I don’t have any quibbles with the pace of the information flows in the modern age ; they won’t ever get much faster, but they could get slower in some scenarios.
              But “planning processes” seem to be a very effective way of holding up progress of any sort on almost anything.
              It is only individuals who can respond immediately.
              Personally , I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I apprehend that you may think differently.

            3. Come on, Dave, surely there is no equivalence between denialist sources such as Watts and the WSJ on the one hand, and actual climate scientists whose research findings are considered by the IPCC to be “outliers”.

              For starters, the latter publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals such as these:



              Also, whilst the climate forcing from methane releases may be short-lived, it persists as CO2 for centuries.

            4. My point wasn’t about deniers.* My point was that the dynamics of finding researcher X who objects to IPCC and then going “ta da! IPCC is wrong” is unconvincing since it over-weights researcher X’s point of view. [X could be Judith Curry or Peter Wadhams or any number of people with strong research portfolios.]

              This is not a point that X is definitively wrong. This is a point that I don’t see a justification for giving their views the same or higher weight as something like IPCC. I think this is important because if we’re all free to give massive weights to our favourite researchers and to ignore as “conservative” or “alarmist” or “sceptical” the opinions of all others, then there’s no shared understanding of the problem. That would not be constructive.

              *I am profoundly uninterested in climate deniers. I don’t think they matter.

            5. Fair enough, Dave, but surely its the quality of the research and importance and timeliness of the findings that should provide the weighting?

              As Gareth points out, the IPCC process is slow and cumbersome; are there any changes underway to make it more nimble?

            6. “*I am profoundly uninterested in climate deniers. I don’t think they matter.”

              I agree completely that deniers don’t matter , but they are not the only ones who are inconsequential. You can say the same , with some justification , about not just the “activists”, as you call them, but also the IPCC, and the UN for that matter.
              I think it was Dave who made the point earlier that it is national interests which are determining the outcomes here, and it is simply a fact that for the major powers in the world , both the UN and the IPCC are just sideshows to be ignored.
              That is what I see happening.

            7. “This is a point that I don’t see a justification for giving their views the same or higher weight as something like IPCC.”

              I’m not sure that China or India or Russia or the U.S. see any good reason to listen to you or me or anybody else.
              They can discount any opinion that they don’t like .
              They don’t have to justify their positions to anyone , in some cases.
              In the so-called democracies, the ruling elites don’t even have to justify their position to the “people” ; only to the “electorate” which is “the money” in some cases.

  20. SMH letters editors = LA Times letters editors:

    Climate change deniers or sceptics are free to express opinions and political views on our page but not to misrepresent facts… On that basis, a letter that says, “there is no sign humans have caused climate change” would not make the grade for our page.

    Australia is getting a very, very grim foretaste of its future right now – and, due to the amazing Stupidity of the Tweedledee/Tweedledum electoral/media complex we overwhelmingly elected a government of incompetent Muppets – and a few Fringe Loonies to the Senate who secured less than 1% of the vote in their own right – only a month ago! The absolute worst people who could possibly be in place to do anything about it!

    Voters of Australia – Repent!

    You have to either laugh or weep…

    I predict that Abbott will be about as popular as Gillard before the first anniversary of the election. You’d hope this might mean people might finally learn to actually bloody think about voting… however, that sound you’re not hearing is me holding my breath…

  21. FYI, here’s a reference for the slow build-up to the PETM:

    The Svalbard core researchers found it took ~ 20,000 years to spike global temps by 5 C; under BAU, we could do that in ~ 200 years.

    The likelihood of the methane cannon firing is vigorously debated in this Guardian article:

    and at Skeptical Science:

  22. Rob asked: “As Gareth points out, the IPCC process is slow and cumbersome; are there any changes underway to make it more nimble?”

    Maybe. In some ways it is kind of unwieldy. But to me the great things about IPCC are its mandate, its scale, its diversity and its thoroughness. Those make it distinctive. If nimbler means smaller and faster, ok… but I’d hate to see speed come at the cost of loss of diversity of points of view, or loss of thoroughness. Also, I worry a bit about capture if it downsizes much. [As a Treasury alum I’m a bit sensitive about scientific institutions resembling worked examples from a public choice theory class…]

    Personally I think IPCC reform would be a good thing – it can’t indefinitely keep doing this because of the diminishing marginal value (what will AR27 tell us that we didn’t know in AR26?). I’ve heard a few different ideas, but for me preserving the good bits (see above) is the key to maintaining the value of the thing. There are obvious small things like doing something about the comments – maybe insist on a modicum of familiarity with the research scene before accepting comments from “experts”. That would save some time.

  23. biofarmer wrote: “I agree completely that deniers don’t matter , but they are not the only ones who are inconsequential. You can say the same , with some justification , about not just the “activists”, as you call them, but also the IPCC, and the UN for that matter.”

    Denialists don’t matter for a specific reason – because time is increasingly showing that they are wrong. Time is showing that IPCC is broadly right about the relationship between GHG and climate. [Also, denialists tend to be of a certain age… I don’t think there are any well-qualified denialists under age 55, are there?]

    Agree that the UN matters less than many suppose – but it still matters because it is one of the important venues of international communication. IPCC matters because governments sign off on its assessment of climate change, and because that assessment provides a shared understanding of the problem. Individual legislators, and political parties, and regimes, are all free to disregard this science if they like, just as they are free to choose to disregard the benefits of capitalism, free trade and human rights, if they so choose. In the long run, there tend to be consequences associated with these decisions. With climate, those consequences could play out in a range of ways. But given the fact that the problem is evolving broadly as we expected, some of those consequences are likely to arise soon.

    1. Dave, as we have your kind attention, I would really like – for the sake of my own bearings also – your comment on the risk comparison to my ‘airplane flight’ analogy…

      I posed earlier the question:

      In the airplane analogy a ‘happy landing’ is the end to an uneventful flight with nothing out of the normal happening.

      At the moment our ‘climate flight’ is already out of the normal. Do we agree? So for a happy landing we already must reduce CO2 content in the atmosphere, as even today’s levels if nothing is done, will result in hardship and losses. So ‘no happy normal landing’ is currently booked already unless we act (in my book anyway).

      If we look at the IPCC data and the various scenarios that are likely to unfold with their respective probabilities, how would you label this ‘fan’ of options in the airplane landing analogy?

      Would you board that plane?

      Could you elaborate your stance?

      I am interested in this as often so called deniers seem to attribute virtually no risk to the rising CO2 content, yet, just like any of us, would never even think of boarding a plane that had a 1 in 10 chance of crashing.

      Can you see in the IPCC report a sensible way to put probabilities on the scenarios? And if I were to label a >4Deg warming as catastrophic (you may disagree?) what is the assessment of the risk of that happening? 10%?? More??

      1. Hi Thomas – sorry for not replying earlier (today’s been busy… and yesterday was full of displacement activities on account of the enormity of the task of sitting down and writing a CoRE climate change bid…).

        As a diagnostic summary of the consequences of climate change I don’t think the airplane is a good fit – plane rides are either (1) normal; (2) contain incidents; (3) contain accidents (am guessing the “loss-of-hull” variety is the sort you have in mind?). My take is that climate change damages/consequences may have discontinuities of that sort at the local level, but that I don’t see much evidence to think that discontinuities are either (a) present at the global scale or (b) are likely to cascade upwards as a result of discontinuities across scales. As a diagnostic summary of the strategic dimensions of climate change I think it’s a poor fit because it fails to reflect that some countries are far better able to deal with climate change than others. We really aren’t all in the same boat. So as an analogy for the expected impacts of climate change it fails to reflect our unequal vulnerabilities, and it overplays the discontinuity issue. [Also, crucially, the analogy incomplete, since not getting on the plane is not costless (ie there are benefits from emissions, even if there are costs, too).]

        In terms of odds on scenarios – that’s an interesting exercise. I think 10% odds of T>4C seems a perfectly reasonable assessment – could be higher or lower, depending on your non-climate assumptions, but sure, it’s reasonable.

        Personally, I think 4C would clearly be worth avoiding since the costs (even just the quantifiable ones) can be expected to outweigh the benefits of future fossil fuel emissions. But not at *any* costs. There are happy and sad ways to avoid 4C. One bad way would be a global pandemic. Another might be totalitarian rule. I would rather live in lots of (but not all) 4C worlds than live in pandemic/totalitarian/etc <4C worlds. In short, I don't think the decision to live in a <4C world is made independently of other decisions, and I can think of plenty of instances where those other factors would dominate.

        Most the 4C worlds I can imagine involve severe disruption to many ecosystems, and to communities in some (perhaps many) regions of the globe. But not all. If food gets more expensive then the rich will pay more for their food. But they will still get it, since higher prices make innovations in food production (more extensive use of controlled environments, GMOs, etc) more plausible options. And their built environments will be maladapted, but they can probably make (expensive) adaptations. etc. Basically, yes it would be costly, perhaps very costly, but I don't see why it should be catastrophic (eg have death rates comparable to the black death or nuclear war, for instance) for people in societies like ours.

        Finally, and not quite parenthetically, people do get on airplanes. There *is* a risk of catastrophic failure. But people make their own assessments, and it's interesting to note that the tail does not usually drive behaviour. People live with risks all the time, including some genuinely hideous ones. Personally, I'm unconvinced by the argument that climate change is sui generis, though others do buy the argument and there are papers arguing the point in the literature (see Weitzman, Pindyck, Stern, etc).

        1. Thank you!

          Lots of material there. Will take some time to mull about this. I think we are getting towards a very fruitful domain of the discussion with this direction.
          Will be back after some introspection on the matter.

          1. I agree with David that your aeroplane model may not be comparable to climate change risk. I would instead use the analogy of whether or not you would allow your daughter to go out dating a guy with a track record of killing young women. Can we assume that since he has been on good behaviour recently, he won’t re-offend? Or perhaps somehow this time he will be different because your daughter is somehow special.


            I think that it is dangerously assumed that since climate trends to date have been relatively slow in comparison to a human life span, doesn’t mean that there will be no abrupt changes in the future. What the IPCC appear not to have factored into their analysis, is the expected effects of rapid albedo loss, which will occur swiftly when the Arctic disappears. Unless someone can point me to that study which shows with high confidence the effects of rapid albedo loss, I place no assurance in any forecasts by the IPCC or any other body for that matter.

            1. Tony wrote: “What the IPCC appear not to have factored into their analysis, is the expected effects of rapid albedo loss, which will occur swiftly when the Arctic disappears.”

              Err… not sure where you get that impression from. See section and, and figures 12.29 and 12.30 from the report for relevant info/projections on models and their simulation of sea-ice/snow. Models may do this stuff imperfectly, but it’s misleading to suggest that these processes are not “factored into their analysis”.

              And I think your analogy is inapplicable (and kind of creepy…) it has a single agent (the parent) instead of agents in competition with each other, and the decision to say “no” is costless (unlike GHG mitigation). Plus, like the airplane one it has very steep discontinuities. So I think it’s also a poor fit to climate change.

            2. “Err… not sure where you get that impression from. See section and, and figures 12.29 and 12.30 from the report for relevant info/projections ”

              Thanks for these links. My apologies if I have missed something, but it seems the links don’t seem to describe the likely consequences of Arctic albedo loss. Projections of when and how much are of little consequence when the trajectory is so obvious. The consequences, however, are potentially numerous and devastating with a range of positive feedback tipping points possible. Where was that discussed?.

        2. Hi Dave, thanks again.
          Here some preliminary comments to your argument, which is I think getting us somewhere in this discussion:

          1 – Assessment of the probability warming trajectories

          a) Risk of dangerous climate change: 10% risk of getting to a >4C world would need to be un-picked a bit further: I would say that the risk of getting there obviously depends heavily on our actions in the next decades. If we do not change our emissions, or in fact continue growing them, then I would believe (correct me if I am wrong) that the 4C+ world become quite probable with perhaps a >50% probability at present. In fact, on a status quo of rising emissions, a 4C world in my understanding is rather certain from our current perspective.

          b) Risk of ‘moderate’ climate change: Going with the mainstream science assessment we ‘might’ be able to limit the trajectory to 2C IF we are able to act swiftly to reduce emissions, basically towards zero in the next decades. The chances of that happening seem dim at present.

          c) Risk of ‘low impact’ climate change… not possible any more. We are committed to at least a 2C world unless some rather unlikely negative feedback mechanism crops up from somewhere.

          2 – Impacts / local global of a 4C+ world:

          As far as I can see a 4C+ world would bring:

          a) eventual total melt of Arctic and Antarctic ice masses and a SLR of perhaps 20m. (this matches with our geological evidence)
          This SLR would cause all coastal countries to loose a very significant part of their infrastructures and arable lands. An SLR of 20m would take time to be reached but it seems unavoidable in the end.

          b) A 4C warmer world would see locally excursions of well over 4C. In fact as the 4C is a global average including oceans, land temps would rise a lot more than that. From observations of the delta temp distributions, Arctic temps would likely rise disproportionally. In fact 10C+ scenarios will be seen in various locales. In already hot regions we could see seasonal excursions past the survivability wet bulb temp for humans, making those areas no-go zones in the hot seasons without personal climate control anywhere you venture (space age personal cooling aid…)
          At these temps impacts on the hydrological cycle and the ability for staple crops to flourish would be severely affected.

          c) Other global impacts: With a 4C+ scenario and the according CO2 added to the C cycle, we would see ocean acidification increase significantly. Combined with warmer ocean temps this would significantly affect some of the most important species of the oceans food chain. It would seem that we would risk a significant extinction pulse in ocean species. The global impacts of a severely altered ocean state would be enormous. It seems from the geological records that the recovery of such events towards re-establishing a productive and diverse ocean system would take millions of years.

          d) Local Benefits? Can the severe effects of a 4C world somehow be balanced by positive effects in some locales? Can we grow corps in the higher northern latitudes?
          Even under much higher temps in the North, the seasonal insolation will still stay the same. Growing food is foremost an energy harvest equation. It is questionable if the insolation will sufficient at higher latitudes to grow food at a rate required to replace lost production in the traditional regions.
          I am very doubtful if there are local benefits in a 4C+ world that can make up even for a fraction of the destruction elsewhere.

          Political / Ethical considerations:

          Dave said:

          Basically, yes it would be costly, perhaps very costly, [to produce food and otherwise adapt to a 4C world] but I don’t see why it should be catastrophic (eg have death rates comparable to the black death or nuclear war, for instance) for people in societies like ours.


          What Dave is saying in other words is: Even faced with the risk of a 4C+ world (which unless we act swiftly is more likely than not at the moment) we – i.e. Western high tech societies – will be sort of able to ‘buy’ our way through this.

          a) Dave gives little to no consideration to the fate of the vast majority of the people on the globe who would be unable to provide for their basic human needs in a 4C+ world.

          b) Dave believes that our Western societies would be left to do ‘sort of all right’ while the rest of the globe goes to hell. [i.e. have catastrophic death rates]

          c) Dave must also then believe that we would defend our enclaves simply shooting those who appear over the horizon to claim their space in the lifeboat enclaves. The zombie movie genre gives examples I guess….

          Dave then goes on to say that for himself he would prefer to live in such a world of 4C+ where he can enjoy the current liberties of our ‘free capitalist society’ over living in a <4C world where those liberties to some degree have been traded away against a compromise that allows the biosphere and the rest of humanity a chance of making it through the CO2 pulse that our society has generated.

          Dave prefers the destruction of much of humanity and much of the ecosphere over a life in a society that negotiated restrictions to our exuberance and private liberties….

          I guess this is the curx. Every person alive must think this through. Would you prefer your children to live 'free' in a heavily defended enclave in a world where a significant extinction process is taking place, or would you like your children to live in a world that has negotiated a settlement of some description that restricts the liberties of the individual in favor of the 'greater good' ?

          For me the questions then remain:

          Will we find the will and will we have the wisdom to craft a ‘new global deal’ that avoids a 4C world?

          Will our governments employ the council that is deeply committed to work towards such a deal?

          Will our electorates vote for a government that is committed to such a deal?

          If Dave lived to see a 4C world with all its consequences, would he still defend his current position?

          1. Thomas wrote: “What Dave is saying in other words is: Even faced with the risk of a 4C+ world (which unless we act swiftly is more likely than not at the moment) we – i.e. Western high tech societies – will be sort of able to ‘buy’ our way through this.”

            I’m saying we have a capital stock and incomes that buffer the effects. And I think (as is fairly common) that the high economic growth rates we see in most of the developing world will give those folks increased abilities to cope, too.

            “b) Dave believes that our Western societies would be left to do ‘sort of all right’ while the rest of the globe goes to hell. [i.e. have catastrophic death rates]”

            No – I don’t believe that the rest of the world will face catastrophic death rates, either. One example: the Indian economy has grown by around a factor of five over the last 20 years – project even half that growth rate out fifty years, and then consider that even if food prices trebled under climate change, Indians (to take one example) would be sufficiently wealthier that they ought to be better able to buy food. So I don’t really believe in decimation anywhere (except maybe a few unfortunate parts of the world which haven’t shared in the growth opportunities that will arise in the next fifty years). So I just don’t accept the premise about 4C leading to widespread decimation of human communities.

            “Dave prefers the destruction of much of humanity and much of the ecosphere over a life in a society that negotiated restrictions to our exuberance and private liberties…”

            Total mischaracterisation of my position. My objection was to totalitarianism, not to “negotiated restrictions to our exuberance”. I support climate policies to reduce warming. I do not accept that this requires severe restrictions on political (or other) liberties. I don’t believe climate policy amounts to a choice between a 2C world where Clive Hamilton/George Monbiot/etc tells you what to do, and a 4C world in which we enjoy political (and other freedom). I think you’re posing a false (and silly) dichotomy.

            [I’ve snipped a bunch of stuff I don”t agree with but can’t be bothered about fighting over. I don’t accept that the odds of T>4C are greater than 50%. (I thought we agreed 10%?)]

            1. Hi Dave, I just picked 10% as a starting point. And I would hope it was a realistic odd.

              But, if we walk down the business as usual path with even the growth of emissions continuing as they do at the moment, then I understand from the IPCC scenarios that 4C is more likely than not, >50%.

              If we do undertake a serious and sustained international effort to reduce emissions with an aim for a <2C scenario, we would still face the risk of a 4C outcome due to lack in success with the reduction measures and perhaps positive feedback such as albedo change and permafrost out-gassing working against us stronger than we hoped for. The 10% risk of 4C remains in this case?

              I would think that the 10% odds for a 4C+ world I picked as a starting point are predicated by a significant effort to avoid the same.

              I am glad that you agree that there is path other than 'totalitarianism' versus 'acceptance of a 4C' world. From your post it did not sound like you have that much hope though and it sounded like you think we must trade between these two extremes somehow.

              But I hope that we are in agreement that it is worth while fighting for a negotiated pathway to avoid 4C.

              On your argument that due to our 'wealth' we will be able to afford more expensive food…
              My family has been through WWII and the Great Depression times in Europe and 'wealth' meant little when it got down to finding the next meal. It was more about connections, the garden in the back of the house and community supporting each other. Sure some people traded their jewels for bread. How long could they sustain that…?

              I found the World Bank Study on the risks associated with a 4C+ world informative:

              The impacts of the extreme heat waves projected for a 4°C world have not been evaluated, but they could be expected to vastly exceed the consequences experienced to date and potentially exceed the adaptive capacities of many societies and natural systems.
              Thus, given that uncertainty remains about the full nature and scale of impacts, there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible. A 4°C world is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage, and dislocation, with many of these risks spread unequally. It is likely that the poor will suffer most and the global community could become more fractured, and unequal than today. The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur—the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen.

              (World Bank Report, 2012)

  24. “Getting climate scientists to agree on anything is as hard as herding cats,” was a comment on the IPCC process I read recently, probably on RealClimate.

    Hunting down this expression I came upon <a href="; a site on Dealing with Climate Change Denial whereon I found a raft of links to interesting graphics (still based on AR4) and a link to this very entertaining article on Greenhouse gas theory disproved with two fish boxes and a roll of cling film.

    The writer asked Professor Steven Sherwood at the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre to review Dr Pearson’s experiment. His response includes this statement:

    “The greenhouse effect is determined by the difference in temperature between the added infrared absorber (in this case, CO2) and the surface. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere radiate to space at an average temperature of about 250K (-23C). It is because they are so cold that they exert a greenhouse effect. Absorbers at temperatures matching those of the surface would exert no greenhouse effect.”

  25. Hey, Gareth, since we’re doing ba(n)d puns –

    Rage Against the Anthropocene
    The Hockey League
    La Nina and the Waves
    The (Water) Vapors
    IP/CC (‘For those about to Report / We Salute you!’)
    Woo! Fighters

    and on the dark side –

    Deniosaur Jr.
    Hot Air Supply
    Daft Junk
    Heartland (think Polluta rather than Barracuda!)

    which leads me to –

    Tools (think about it! Or Trol, for that matter…)

    And surely only you and I recall Carter USM? Who got stripped of a few shekels by the (always hard-up) Rolling Stones, IIRC?…

          1. But that seems like a typical ad hominem Noel. I think Lomborg is actually having some effect on public opinion when he says :-

            ‘Very clearly we do want to fix global warming, but you aren’t fixing it if you end up paying an enormous amount of money to do very, very little good.
            . . .whenever you buy an extra solar panel or whenever you subsidize an extra wind turbine you don’t actually cut carbon emissions, you simply make it cheaper for someone else to use more coal fire power.”

            Would you refute that argument? Clearly in Godzone it is not so relevant but then we do here occupy an enormously privileged position with our proportion of renewable energy.

            1. The example I linked to displays one of Lomborg’s typical misrepresentations, with which many are so familiar we would not accept his unsupported word on anything.

              With respect to the article from which you have quoted he does not offer any actual evidence of what he is saying and I think the UK energy industry would not support his word on the UK situation from what has already been put forward in this very long thread.

              If however, he is criticising European ETS schemes, then the answer would have to be a direct tax on carbon sources without the exemptions and credits that have rendered ETS schemes rather useless, but he does not say that.

              As to refuting his argument: I do not have the numbers and he has not offered any.

              I am a beneficiary of Germany’s effort on solar energy because I have here an inverter made by a German firm that has become world No1 in such technology according to my installers.

            2. “Would you refute that argument?”
              yes of cause: We need to do both: Advance the roll out of alternative energy AND tax fossil fuels. Doing just the first will indeed have the unintended consequence of seeing somebody else burn the oil you did not burn yourself.

              However, even without taxing fossil fuels yet as we should do, the assistance that solar and wind received to roll them out in huge numbers has brought the price down very significantly. It has made solar and wind affordable and in many places closing in on the cost of traditional fuels even without the taxation we would need. Even in our coal rich neighbor Oz, wind energy is now cheaper than coal energy!

              But what Lomborg should really be saying is this: Lets not worry about the subsidies for alternatives, we achieve good things with them, NO, lets worry very much so about the $1.5 Trillion in annual subsidies we give the fossil fuel industry, against which subsidies to alternatives pale into insignificance! (International Monetary Fund report)

              So indeed, Lomborg is inhabiting some parallel universe where the reality of all this is not applicable and where selective contrarian talks with side jabs against alternative energy concepts get noticed for all the wrong reasons and by all usual crowd of seekers of something, anything, to support their private parallel reality from collapse….

            3. Typical of BF to spam rubbish from someone so dishonest and ignorant of science as Bjorn Lomborg. His book was full of lies, misrepresentations and misinformation (just like BF’s rubbish).

              Here is a critical response to his rubbish:

              The concern over Lomborg’s misrepresentation of the science was so great that three complaints were lodged with the Danish Committee for Scientific Dishonesty, which Lomborg describes as “a national review body, with considerable authority”. [5]

              The committee found “the publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice”. [6] They stated “there has been such perversion of the scientific message in the form of systematically biased representation that the objective criteria for upholding scientific dishonesty … have been met”.


              Interesting how someone (BF) claims not be a be an AGW denier but he consistently quotes those who are well known deniers. It interesting that BL makes out that he is a scientist and economist when he is neither, his background is political science.

            4. …but Lomborg’s point is a good one: invest in the areas that have the best return on mitigation, not on those that make you feel better about your “leadership”. In other words, invest effciently.

              That’s a perfectly reasonable point, and just taking the man out without the ball (as Ian does above) is a poor response. So to you & Thomas: on what basis do you approve of inefficient investment in climate policy? Do you approve of it because of its symbolic value within Europe, or because of its political value in negotiations with other parts of the world (ie others think it’s important that you do something domestically, rather than doing something cheaper and more effective overseas)? It’s a sincere question – efficiency is important but not the only thing. Your posts indicate that you don’t think it’s important here – why not?

            5. Dave Frame asks:

              on what basis do you approve of inefficient investment in climate policy?

              As I said in my previous post, BL is neither a scientist nor an economist. Dave, how can you support his dishonest writings, surely you can appreciate that omission of important information is dishonest in both science and economics? BL omits completely from his “economic” assessment the two most important factors.

              1. No mention of the huge subsidies fossil fuel companies receive.

              2. No mention of the huge externalized costs associated with our continued use of fossil fuels.

              If you include these costs then wind and solar is more economic than fossil fuels. I would have expected a better interpretation of BL’s article than you have provided, considering your position.

            6. “on what basis do you approve of inefficient investment in climate policy?”…

              What is “inefficient” is a matter of perspective. And I am not sure which inefficiency you are getting at?

              Developing wind and solar to mass production status is a matter of necessity. Society must be weened off fossil fuels one way or the other and the sooner the better.

              Efficiency is certainly very important, but – and that is part Lombock’s own point – just making us more efficient in using fossil fuels, without at the same time regulating somehow restrictions on their use – will mean that we lower the cost of the fuel and in the end consume the same amount in total as the efficiency gains make the use of the fuel more attractive and cheaper and what is saved at on end will be burned at another.

              Really, if reducing CO2 emissions is the goal as it must certainly be, then making CO2 emissions costly is the way forward. And one of the best ways to do that would be to tax the fuel at the source in such a way that it gives very significant incentives to build out alternatives. Once you tax the fuel, and heavily so, perhaps progressively with known annual tax increases, business will put creativity behind using energy efficiently and using alternatives where possible. Let the market then decide which technology is best.

            7. Lomborg is an opportunist, one of several otherwise undistinguished mediocrities who have realized they could actually do quite nicely dishing up gobbets of chum to the ignorati.

              You can learn a lot about a movement by studying the people it raises to prominence. Next.

  26. Ian wrote: “As I said in my previous post, BL is neither a scientist nor an economist. Dave, how can you support his dishonest writings, surely you can appreciate that omission of important information is dishonest in both science and economics?”

    What he says in this article is reasonably sensible. He accepts we must do something about climate change. Many people have made the point that the EU renewables policy is wasteful, eg Dieter Helm, who argues that those subsidies would be better spent as basic research, rather than as subsidies to make uncompetitive technologies appear competitive. That seems reasonable to me. The subsidies on solar power in Germany have been eye-wateringly high. As this article ( from Der Spiegel shows, Germans pay €20 billion for electricity they could buy on the market for €3 billion. That’s uncool, by any measure.

    The basic point here, which is uncontroversial among policy people, is that even if you agree on a goal, there are good and bad policies for achieving that goal. Not every pro-renewables policy deserves our support. This shouldn’t be surprising.

    And the fact that fossil fuel generation receives subsidies in some jurisdictions is neither here nor there. Of course we should end those. But that still wouldn’t make current European renewables policy very attractive. If you really were determined to take €17 billion off German consumers, then the best ways to use it would be to invest some of it in basic research, and some of it in changing energy markets elsewhere, where the returns in terms of emissions reductions per dollar are higher.

    I don’t see any of that as being very controversial.

  27. Just a few comments:

    1) The Spiegel article laments that average German three person households will soon pay 90 Euro in monthly power bills… This is pretty much what an average NZ household pays today already: $5.60 per day x 30 = $168, whereas 90 Euro is $150 at the current exchange rate. So what are the Germans moaning about??

    2) Energy is the one resource that predicates all others. The entitlement thinking about energy having to be available in copious amounts at dirt cheep prices is an aberration borne in the reckless squander of our fossil fuel inheritance over the last century. Energy has been too cheep for our common good. If it had been valued more closely to the real cost of its provision and its environmental cost, we might today be further down the track to have sustainable alternatives ready + have a society that would value it as should be. We might actually have avoided the pitfalls of our throw-away consumer nonsense too. Some will herald our Western consumer society as the icon of human ingenuity and a sign of wealth, that other societies on the planet should emulate…. others will see it as the manifestation of the most stupid behavior possible….

    3) There may well be better or more equitable ways to structure the energy transition to sustainable sources than the German model of energy economics and legislation. But on the bright side: Once fossil fuel burning is priced with the full environmental cost included, the German power prices might look comparatively affordable. Eventually, burning coal, oil and gas for electricity generation may become simply politically impossible to sustain. Countries with significant alternative generation will look smart then. The switching off of the German nuclear plants is a point in case. Once severe climate impacts cause mayhem likely much worse than Fukushima, coal power plants will prove rather unpopular….

    4) More investment in R&D: Certainly, but lets not forget, this is exactly what happened. The price incentives for the deployment of solar in German created a market that drew the necessary R&D to scale PV production to world market capacities. Today significant price competition at the panel makers is bring the price down year by year. Already in NZ you can now buy a solar roof system that produces power at cost equivalent to the 25 cents / kwh you pay behind your meter, with no subsidies in place at all. And German PV regulators and equipment is leading the world market. The amount of jobs created overall in Germany in the alternative energy industry is very significant.

    Every birth is painful they say, and the “Energiewende” from a fossil fuel dominated society to an energy harvesting society won’t be painless. Germany’s worries are really just a prequel to the real pain that will hit us all when we come to realize our precarious situation of an energy hungry society sucking the fossil fuel wells dry while wrecking the planet. And anybody who claims to have an easy solution for all this is dreaming!

  28. Thomas wrote: “So what are the Germans moaning about??”

    Unnecessarily high prices. The point is they could get the same emissions reductions far cheaper (I think the €3 billion they could buy electricity for includes the existing price on carbon).

    It sounds to me as though you feel the need to defend any and all renewables policies, no matter how inefficient or irrational. That’s bad policy thinking for several reasons, the most important of which is that that sort of eye-wateringly painful but ineffective policy will rapidly erode public support for the energy transition. Germans will quickly tire of paying an effective price on carbon (if that is how the transition is sold) of around €400/tC (as it has been at times) for their electricity, when others are paying far lower rates, and making better progress.

    Ultimately this sort of policy is counter-productive since it erodes political will to tackle climate change. The people who are this policy’s biggest (though secret) fans are anti-climate policy people (there have been various smug articles about it in the WSJ, the Spectator, and so on). They like these sorts of policies because they are like fish in a barrel for any competent policy analyst. It makes Germany – and climate policy people – look completely irrational, very wasteful, and uncaring about the opportunity cost of those billions – especially in view of the fact that the costs of this policy are borne disproportionately by the poor. The more green activists defend it, the more you give ammo to your political opponents to portray you as irrational and uncaring zealots, deaf to the interests of the poor. etc.

      1. On that point, it’s going to be intriguing watching the costs, blowouts, timelines etc. of the mooted British PWR/s.

        Not to mention who actually pays, who actually assumes the risks, and who gets to take home the profits, and whether those profits will be actual, real-live market outcomes, or more by way of being corporate welfare.

        I confidently predict that a large percentage of the people who can spot a solar-panel subsidy casting the poor into the winter snows a mile off will suddenly find themselves uninterested, and, my, look, something shiny! And, of course, all nascent industries will suddenly need a hand-up, it’s obvious, think of it as an investment in the future, and what about the climate? etc.. But I’m like that.

        At any rate I’m sure Dave is diligently doing his bit to ensure that the annual $1.4 trillion ‘mis-pricing’ distortion that benefits the FF industry – that’s IMF figures, this is their estimate of the famous ‘externality’ costs the community gets to pay and the corporations get to carry off as swag – is corrected.

        I mean, wow; $502 billion p/a in the US alone… Golly, that’s about 363 billion euros!…

        And, golly gee, seems the IMF reckons the actual subsidy cost of carbon is pretty-well the price of carbon here in Australia. Won’t be soon, of course, because as resident genius Tony ‘it’s crap / it’s an invisible gas / it’s hogwash’ Abbott told us only today, it’s also Social!sm!…

        1. You know, I just went looking for Bjorn Lomborg’s denunciation of the ‘mis-pricing’ scandal as identified by the IMF, but, blow me if I could find it!

          Never mind, I’m sure one of his many friends will point it out to us…

          What I did find was objections to, well now, pretty-well absolutely every green program that has ever been put in place anywhere ever. He doesn’t like electric cars! He doesn’t like wind turbines! He doesn’t like biomass! He doesn’t like solar panels! And him an ‘environmentalist’! It says so on his book cover, so it must be true! Golly!

          But well, guess what he does like: fossil-fuels! I mean, now, how did you know that? I mean, for instance, look at this

          The switch to fossil fuels has also had tremendous environmental benefits.

          Which he proceeds to outline. All as opposed to ‘renewable energies’, you see. Here, of course, he’s referring to the solar panels and wind turbines the historical FFs were replacing? Oh, they weren’t? What’s that at the back? This is all ahistoric, tendentious crap, you say? Oh, that’s not nice!

          But, let’s be fair; I mean, the man’s into balance:

          Of course, fossil fuels brought their own environmental problems.

          Of course! So ‘of course’, it seems, that he need not waste much time in this instance outlining them. He’s acknowledged them. Check mark in the ‘balance’ box. Next.

          Now, unkind people – no-one here, of course – might suggest his call to put money into green-energy ‘R&D’ – and who’s going to pay for that, Bjorn Baby, and why isn’t that a public ‘subsidy’ anymore, exactly? Oh, and the current subsisides aren’t driving R&D? The cost of renewable technologies hasn’t plummetted as a result of these subsidies? – is about as sincerely practical as his previous suggestion that we’d be better off not spending the money we might use to fight climate change and giving it to poor nations instead, and, yeah, that happened in every country that solemnly followed his advice. Didn’t it? Aw, c’mon, you know it did!

          Anyway, I digress; unkind people – no-one here, certainly – might think this is all just waffling apologetics for the status quo that only gets a platform because it’s exactly what the truly powerful want us all to hear – and hopefully get lost in – and that he actually just wants us to permanently lose sight of the ‘renewable energy’ issue by shrouding it in a sea of topsy-turvy world fog!

          And leave us with the tremendous environmental benefits of fossil fuels. Of course.

          And money. Did I mention all the money? Because if you’re rich enough you don’t really need a functioning ecosystem, and, that’s right, I just remembered; they’ve all only got better, haven’t they? Happy days!…

          Frankly, to my mind, if you really take this stuff seriously, there’s no hope for you. And, if enough of you really take this stuff seriously, there’s no hope for us.

          1. Precisely. And if the only argument the anti-sustainability talking heads have got is the fact that energy is getting more expensive, by golly, what an insight indeed!
            Civilization has no entitlement to the continuation of the energy bonanza that the easy fossil fuels of the last century provided. The current oil production can only keep up with demand at $100 a barrel or there about and when the shale plays will be called for their bluff, that won’t be enough either and oil will rise again.
            And once sane people convince the rest of us to actually somehow account for the true cost of the planetary wrecking action due to our CO2 emissions, then anybody who is silly enough to listen now to the nay-sayers about alternative energy will stand with their pants down to their ankles.
            What ARE the economic cost of another Permian Temperature Maximum event and the long tail of its consequences for life on Earth?
            Anybody who thinks that people are entitled to paying less than $150 a month for their home energy should be put in a boot camp where they have to pedal on treadmills daily to generate their power…. (kidding) but really, what are these cornucopian dream heads on about? Even with $150 a month in electricity, we still live the life of the proverbial Ryley.

            And good on the Germans for actually investing in a nation wide grand program to reinvent their energy infrastructure. If their example fails we are all much worse off as their are no reasonable alternatives really in the long run.

            Perhaps Thorium reactors will one day provide a long horizon of nuclear power, but the current Uranium reactors are certainly no plan B. There is not enough Uranium around to feed them for much more than several decades at the moment plus no country has solved the long term waste storage problem despite many decades of R&D on that. Much of the highly dangerous waste sits in slowly rotting tank farms above ground posing a growing hazard.

    1. DF “Many people have made the point that the EU renewables policy is wasteful, eg Dieter Helm, who argues that those subsidies would be better spent as basic research, rather than as subsidies to make uncompetitive technologies appear competitive.”
      Leaving aside government support for renewable R&D such as through the UK’s Research Councils, you could look at investment in renewable development as either encouraging deployment or funding R&D. Both should act to bring the cost of an installation such as solar PV or wind turbines down. But by providing a modest incentive to deploy, the stimulus also encourages the progressive development of a manufacturing sector. Best of all, once it is up it is displacing fossil fuel use. Imagine if in the 1990’s 30m turbines had not been deployed because of the prospect of continued R&D delivering 90m turbines 15 years later. Yes the 90m turbines are vastly superior, but those 30m ones were cutting CO2 emissions while the 90m ones did not exist.
      You approve of the remarks of Dieter Helm you cite, but do they still appear reasonable to you if you acknowledge that renewable R&D is being supported by national governments and the early kit deployed, (although surpassed by what is available now) has made and continues to make a valuable contribution.
      Oh, and on top of the national government support for renewables R&D, did you stop to consider the quantity of treasure being tipped into fusion. Fingers crossed, one day it may even work!

      1. Beaker wrote: “You approve of the remarks of Dieter Helm you cite, but do they still appear reasonable to you if you acknowledge that renewable R&D is being supported by national governments and the early kit deployed, (although surpassed by what is available now) has made and continues to make a valuable contribution.”

        Of course. I think government investment in R&D is a superb idea. I cannot recall ever thinking or arguing otherwise. It was certainly my main way of boring my colleagues when I was at Treasury.

        But support for govt science funding (and for renewables) does not mean I believe that consumers should be paying so grossly over the odds for particular technologies in Germany. That’s a complete non-sequitor.

        The point here is that there are better ways to get the gains they are making than the existing policy. Imagine the following thought experiment: Germany could take that €17 billion and give it to Robert Mugabe on the handshake promise that he would install a single solar array. Would that be a good policy? The correct answer – since some of you appear to need help with this – is no. You could reduce a lot of emissions for €17 billion, so the return on the vaguely promised array is lower than the expected return on lots of other non-fossil investments. You should make those investments instead.

        That’s basically the argument here. It’s not actually very controversial. And running that sort of efficiency argument doesn’t make me or der Spiegel or Dieter anti-German or anti-green or pro-fossil fuel.

        1. What a load of crock:

          Imagine the following thought experiment: Germany could take that €17 billion and give it to Robert Mugabe on the handshake promise that he would install a single solar array. Would that be a good policy? The correct answer – since some of you appear to need help with this – is no.

          What gives you the audacity to think that anyone criticizing some of the things you are saying would ever come up with such a “thought experiment”?
          As for you repeating “the expensive cost of German electricity”, it is half of what I pay in Canada. On top of my per kWH cost of $0.11 I have other costs added which increases that substantially. Please do not continue to repeat the arguments that renewable power causes gross increases in electricity prices, it does not.

          Good grief, Australia really is between a rock and a hard place with the PM’s anti climate views and your nonsense telling us that we will all be bankrupt if we switch to renewables.

          1. I never said we would be bankrupt if we switched to renewables. I said the German policy is a bad one: “The point here is that there are better ways to get the gains they are making than the existing policy.”

            The Mugabe example was to show that there is some hypothetical extreme policy which even the most ideologically committed of you would accept is a very bad policy. Once you’ve realised that not all renewables policies deserve your undying support, I figured you might be more open to a rational assessment of the efficiency/cost-effectiveness of real world policies. Depressingly, neither you nor Beaker seem capable of saying “yes, there are some pro-renewables policies that would clearly be nuts”. You just witter on about how it’s really not that bad (you did do better than Beaker – s/he just spouted a load of drivel).

            Supporting reform of current German policy would actually help your cause – reform that gets similar gains at lower cost would broaden support for the energy transition; it would also show that you care about the costs of renewables policies as well as the benefits. Those things are important if you want to actually play a constructive role in helping policy develop.

            [PS- I have no idea why you mention Australia. I’ve been there twice, I think, including stopovers.]

            1. DF asks:

              I have no idea why you mention Australia

              My mistake, I confused two Victoria Universities, one of which is in Wellington and one in Melbourne.

            2. Dave, the German “17 Billion Euro” annually are the equivalent of 0.56 Euro Cent per day per German head of population.

              So what did they buy for that:

              1) Being a technology leader in Solar and Wind.
              2) Having individual citizens producing their own power/
              3) Having made a significant contribution to bringing down the cost of solar and wind for everybody and setting world records for solar power.
              4) Having a system that can power at good days over 50% of a nation of 82 Million people.
              5) Having created about 500,000 jobs in the alternative energy industry.

              I think people who focus solely on cost miss the point entirely. There is no way you could trow 17 Billion into state funded R&D and expect anything like the result of energizing private enterprise and the ingenuity that comes with that by setting a market that allows for the production and deployment of a technology in the way it was done. Those companies who spear headed mass production for solar and wind generation did a lot of R&D to get them there, plus they actually deployed a system that works very well indeed.

              And Dave you have been asked to explain which technology you would have invested 17 Billion Euro in instead? I would really be interested to know!!

              Nobody argues with you Dave that there may be more equitable ways to divvy up the cost of energy than the German model.

              But I will persist to argue that energy is much more valuable and fossil fuels much more costly than what we pay at the moment. We are still in the ‘high’ stemming from the dirt cheap oil of the last century. We are still in denial over the consequences that we have and are causing due to fossil fuel use. Alternative energy technologies such as solar and wind are a ‘must have’ unless somebody can show me a working alternative.

              Solar in particular is also very democratic. People can produce their own power. And a solar roof at 2013 prices adds only a couple of % to the cost of a typical house: 5KW for $20,000 installed in NZ is 4% of a typical $500K property. Then you have a significant portion of your electric energy paid for and perhaps enough to charge your car on good days too and feed into the grid.

              Why is Solar so cost effective today? The German model has something to do with it….

            3. “5KW for $20,000 installed in NZ is 4% of a typical $500K property”

              I actually paid $18,500. Perhaps being the first subscriber to the Thames container helped as did the exchange rate being in my favour compared to the quote at the time. Panels from China plus electronics from Germany accounted for S15,500. The rest was for formalities, mounting gear, cabling and installation – nearly 5 man days, between showers, for 2 electricians . GST is included in the above amounts. However, I’m still awaiting metering 🙁

            4. DF – “you did do better than Beaker – s/he just spouted a load of drivel.” Load of Drivel? I will have you know that that was a thought experiment thank you very much!

            5. Yep, gotta love these ‘thought experiments’! 😉

              You know, Beaker, I for one appreciate that you’re actually quite wittily rebuffing – love the Scooby-Doo reference – someone who is behaving surprisingly badly.

            6. “…someone who is behaving surprisingly badly.”
              I am far from a paragon of virtue when it comes to polite engagement from behind a username, but I am at least consistent in that.

        2. DF – “blah blah blah Thats a complete non-sequitor. yadda yadda yadda, Bob Mugabe!”
          5 paragraphs and you did not go anywhere near acknowledging the Dieter Helm stuff was screwy (because R&D for renewables has been and continues to get state support) or that making the future better the enemy of the current good is rather silly.
          You did however comprehensively skewer me on my advocacy of multi billion euro investment in renewables via Robert Mugabe, or as I call him, ME. And I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids.

          “It was certainly my main way of boring my colleagues when I was at Treasury.” Did you try getting their opinion on that?

        3. Imagine the following thought experiment: Germany could take that €17 billion and give it to Robert Mugabe on the handshake promise that he would install a single solar array. Would that be a good policy? The correct answer – since some of you appear to need help with this – is no

          Ultra-strawman, total absurdity, and patronizing to boot!

          And to compound it all, the ‘even the most ideologically commited of you’ below is also even more explicitly grossly offensive! As it was doubtlessly intended to be.

          I find it highly ironic, given this outburst, that you still apparently feel you have the right to glibly cast others in the role of ‘zealot’.

          And since you seem to believe others have difficulty following things if it doesn’t suit their ideological purposes, I will repeat what I’ve said elsewhere. While particular distortions surrounding renewables may well – and even may not – exist, it is highly-irresponsible to uncritically accept ‘evidence’ on the say-so of blatant ideologues AND, as I have already clearly demonstrated by quoting capitalism’s own exectutive priesthood – the IMF – they are but a drop in the ocean when compared to to the far-longer running and far more pernicious distortions perpetuated on behalf of the FF industry.

  29. I understood the Spiegel article to be lamenting the lack of significant power generation when solar/wind are not as effective, and that is where the additional costs come in. There doesn’t seem to be the equivalent of our hydroelectric power in Germany.

    If that is the case, then they should reconsider nuclear, and how to run it safely. For example away from coastlines, and in areas less prone to flooding and that are seismically less active. Better quality engineering could make nuclear a cleaner option, at least until better alternatives are found.

    There is nothing uneconomic about solar or irrational. Like with any technology it requires a capital cost investment, but after that it pays for itself many times over in the space of 10-20 years after factoring inflation. In contrast fossil fuels mean money perpetually out the window never to be returned, and as the resource becomes depleted and/or the heavy externalities become recognised, the cost differential becomes even greater.

    1. With respect to balancing or backing up intermittent generators we tend to overlook what can be achieved with smart grids, and HVDC transmission, in large countries or groups like the EEC – the sun is shining for much longer than it does in just one place, wind is always blowing somewhere. The EEC has these advantages and is not without storage capabilities. However the big one has to be the Desertec scheme making use of CSP tech with molten salts storage or synthetic oil heat storage that can be used to run steam turbines at night as well. Their scheme envisages a wide range of installations in the Sahara linked up with a wide range of generators in Europe via a smart grid with HVDC low loss transmission.

      Acciona is building what could become part of such a scheme in the Sahara.

      The CSP Complex will be located near the city of Ouarzazate, at the edge of the Sahara Desert and among the foothills of the Atlas mountain range, a remote location that offers outstanding solar and environmental conditions. The 500 million euro facility will have an installed capacity of 160MW and will make use of SENERtrough cylindrical-parabolic collector technology and a molten salts storage system capable of generating electricity even in the absence of sunlight. The plant’s solar-capture technology base will be 100% made in Spain.

      I had thought the Desertec Scheme had got a green light but with the political instability across northern Africa and financial woes in Europe perhaps not yet. Still a smart grid and CSP are answers to non fossil generation issues where hydro is not such a big deal as in NZ. Continent wide smart grids are on the agenda or at least being discussed not only in Europe but in USA, China and Australia if I recall right. CSP too is essentially more efficient than PV and although pricy now the only way to get the price down is to start in on it. Fortunately there are people ready to go with that.

      I have to agree with Dave that financing R&D is essential to development, including smart grids, and climate change mitigation technologies. There is an interesting commentary in Nature magazine on this point generally – the writer would encourage such investment during economic recession.

      However, big schemes don’t count for so much when it comes down to the choices of individuals and small groups without the financial and political clout to engage in large undertakings, I being one of them. If we want to stop relying on fossil fuels we come down to just PV in urban settings. n this at least we can vote with our money, such as it is.

      But what, I wonder, could be the biggest move we could make to lower GHG emissions? That could be the abolition of consumerism and the teams of advertisers whose business it is to fog our lives with glamours and to stimulate desire. In Erewon all advertising is banned excepting an online register of products and services subject to feedback from customers and to quality checks from consumer organisations. It should be obvious why the location of Erewon may not be disclosed 🙂

    2. Dave

      The Mugabe money seemed more like a strawman to me because I do not see exactly where 17b euros are being given away that might otherwise be available for something else. So far I have only Lovins numbers to work on linked below by Bill. Trying to find what you are at I quote:

      Germany’s renewables surcharge is artificially inflated by hefty and rising industry exemptions that place greater burdens on households – a policy now under legal investigation by the EU as a potential illegal subsidy – but it is not public money, is not a subsidy (Germany hasn’t subsidised photovoltaics since 2004), and is a minute drop in the bucket of German households’ energy costs. It works just like the way many American households pay prices set by state regulators for approved power plants, only it’s far more transparent – and in Germany you have the option of earning back your payments, and far more, by investing as little as $600 in renewable energy yourself. Citizens, cooperatives, and communities own more than half of German renewable capacity, vs. two per cent in the US.

      In 2013, the FIT surcharge raised households’ retail price of electricity 7 per cent but renewables lowered big industries’ wholesale price 18 per cent. As long-term contracts expire, the past few years’ sharply lower wholesale prices could finally reach retail customers and start sending households’ total electricity prices back down. The latest analysis suggests that this may even occur in 2014, sooner than expected.

      I too have pet names for certain observations. One of these I called the Royal Tour Illusion because at the time utilitarians in NZ were arguing that the money spent on a royal visit to some Pacific island would have been better spent on a hospital which the island really needed. The illusion is that the money spent on the tour would otherwise have been available to build the hospital.

      If a need is seen it should be addressed directly.

      1. DF – what are these “better ways”?
        You say”

        The point here is that there are better ways to get the gains they are making than the existing policy.”

        R&D is not an answer in itself. For money to be evoked in some way there has to be a proposal put forward. If German citizens get to see that answer then maybe they will switch support. If ,however, the better ways are not things they cannot generate themselves, as at present, I can bet those ways will be left for other interested parties to finance.

        1. Thanks Noel.
          The Swedish model sounds better, since it places the obligation on energy firms to choose winners, it doesn’t disporportionately reward the least competitive technologies and because it’s less prone to loopholes (companies can be exempt from the surcharge if they apply for dispensation; people with enough capital to join in as providers, etc). Basically by being less prescriptive about the details of the energy system and more focussed on outcomes, it seems to be a better system. That would put more money back in the pockets of consumers, which woulod obviously be a good thing.

          1. A long running policy development without any particular tech focus, lots of R&D and a straight out tax on CO2 🙂 – Hydro, nuclear, bio-energy equiv to the other two, wind increasing. As a government policy it really makes NZ, with even better assets look absolutely pathetic, but we all know that..

            I’ve just read through the Gov’t stuff on energy policy and see Obama has something to say about it too.

            I was intrigued by a reference to a project to extract bio-energy from “black liquor” which I take to be the very dark reddish throwaway liquor which is left after wood pulp processing to make paper and cardboard. I recall that the long defunct Whakatane Board Mills, one hot summer (’58 or thenabouts) put this liquor in tankers and sprayed it on the many dusty roads around Whakatane to lay the dust which had been making road travel rather dreadful at the time – about the only use they found for it. I have remarked before that the Tarawera river is locally called the black river below the discharge from the Kawarau pulp and paper mill. Over decades of environmental agitation they have not cleaned up their act.

  30. To coin a phrase, I’m always sincerely curious about the motivations of those people in the room who loudly decry the mouse, but choose to ignore the elephant…

  31. In a timely coincidence, here’s Stanford’s Mark Jacobsen being interviewed on Letterman about what he sees as the next energy revolution.

    This being hosted at Climate Crocks, the discussion below provided another link to an Amory Lovins commentary that specifically covers the current alarmist (genuinely!) claims of ‘ruin! ruin!’ regarding Germany’s energy revolution.

    Think of the above as you may, I hold the following to be self-evident: we all – with the possible exception of a small band of genuinely fossilized FF interests – stand to gain from the creation of the largest and most efficient renewables sector that we can possibly develop, and irresponsibly parroting one-sided naysayer talking points is doing no-one – except that narrow band of interests – any favours.


    1. Thanks Bill – at last we see that the story Lomburg would tell is downright false, as suspected, and the ongoing real story is a good one. Now the numbers and actual situation is seen. I knew that Lomburg was targeting renewables and I knew that German coal power was not increasing because I had checked up on that a while ago and now I learn that the grid is being upgraded to cope with community and household power generators as it should be.

      1. I particularly appreciated the last point in the text of the Letterman interview;

        Most people would argue that having local sources of energy increases local jobs and energy reliability, particularly when a disaster occurs. The fact that the local communities are producing too much can easily be rectified by converting other sectors of the local energy economy (e.g., transportation, heating/cooling, industry) to electricity.

  32. Dave, if you are still listening, I am still really interested to know which energy technology the Germans should have built out instead of Wind and Solar with their 17 Billion Euro?

    BTW: Energy efficiency is rather high in Germany already (in case that was the direction you would argue for). The very efficient electric rail system is a world leading transport network, their cars had efficiencies better than most others for a long time, their houses are very well insulated and very energy efficient. Many cities have local transport systems making private car use for commuting unnecessary etc. And their industries are very energy efficient in order to compete on the world market despite high wages. Their rubbish and recycle system is good too.

    If the Germans can power a significant part of their nation with solar at 50 Deg Northern Latitude, this sends a clear message to the more solar endowed of the rest of the planet that there is no reason doubt that going solar in a distributed generation network is possible, even on a very large scale.

  33. Anyway, in the meantime: Aussies – and I know you’re there:

    GetUp! fears that Shorten’s about to climb down on the tax. Leaving us with nothing but the cynical joke of a not-even-legislated-or-funded ‘Direct Action’ plan (there’s the Trotskyist Right for you!)

    So we go from international beacon to global laughing stock in one fell swoop!

    Don’t let him.

    Here’s the link.

  34. ‘ If the Germans can power a significant part of their nation with solar ..’
    2 percent in 2012. ( 4 percent of electricity). Burning trees in coal plants and burning rubbish gave nearly twice as much power. Nuclear, even with 8 out of 17 reactors shut down, made four times as much. Wind made considerably more even though PV got the bulk of the subsidies.
    Solar proponents will point to sunny days when PV met half the grid demand. Detractors point to entire weeks or months in winter, when demand is much higher and PV minimal or absent.

    1. But Solar, like wind, is scaleable. Burning rubbish is not. Being scaleable is important. Solar proponents and solar detractors do both point to the polar opposites of solar production. We used to have a twit round these parts who regularly checked UK grid stats just so they could pop up on instances of low wind and make some egregious claim (its a hobby I suppose). Trick is not to base decisions on advocates for a particular single generator – like the Thorium fanboys, but listen to objective experts. From what I see they are in favour of continuing to add solar and wind to the generation mix.

      1. Over in the USA, Walmart is now the biggest user of solar power:

        Other large companies follow suit. Walmart is also getting into retailing solar energy components! Wow, the mass market time for Solar must surely be here!

        For the PV panel bashers: Have a look at this image:

        It shows the daily generation profile in Germany for two days in May last year. It is interesting to note that during the time when the sun was not contributing, neither fossil nor nuclear power went up! The profile of the generation seemed to match what the grid accepted.

        Germans in general are very supportive of their Alternative energy and the ownership of the production assets is widely spread amongst the population:

        1. Thomas – just to put Walmart’s Solar usage into perspective – Walmart is the largest retail firm in the world. According to Fortune, Walmart sold $421,849,000,000 worth of stuff in 2010. That $421.8 billion is also about $9 billion less than Taiwan’s 2010 gross domestic product — the total value of the country’s goods and services in a single year — and $7 billion more than Norway’s 2010 GDP. In other words, if Walmart were a country, it would be the 25th largest economy in the world. Sadly their arrival on the renewable scene, like all of their behaviour in the retail sector, will not be one of goodness and light. Not if their behaviour in the supermarket sector is anything to go by – but that is another story. Just don’t hold your breath…..

          1. I agree with you 100% on Walmart being way to powerful for their own good and the good of any nation it sets foot into.
            What is intriguing is that once Walmart realized that Solar PV is working for them, Solar PV will likely get a significant boost in market penetration. If we want Walmart in on that is a very good question, but it shows that the technology has come to a great level of maturity.

            1. Yes The technology is certainly doing that – interestingly I read that last year global investments in renewables (not including large Hydro) fell for only the second time since 2006 – the reason – the 30 – 40% drop in Solar prices, while wind installations surged. So actual installed capacity was up. The total global investment in renewables last year was $244 Billion US with the developing countries spending $112 Billion almost that of the developed! In 2007 developed countries invest 2.5 times more in renewables than developing.
              “After being neck-and-neck with the US in 2011, China was the dominant country in 2012 for investment in renewable energy, its commitments rising 22% to $67 billion, thanks to a jump in solar investment. But there were also sharp increases in investment for several other emerging economies, including South Africa, Morocco, Mexico, Chile and Kenya.”
              Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2013 Bloomberg

            1. “Not to mention their appalling treatment of employees”

              I wasn’t going to mention that bill!

              But I’m just rereading “Not on the Label” by Felicity Lawrence in which Supermarkets feature prominently. We have a fantastic farmers market here in Thames – (do you drop by at all Thomas?). Most of the food for the week is bought there.

              I was thinking a new avatar was in order and a blind cat can’t catch birds 😉

            2. We have a local farmers’ market that we’re members of, too. I mean, who knew fruit and vegetables have seasons? 😉

              And my partner runs a community garden, to boot… you should hear her if I ever confess I just picked up something at Coles (because, in my defence, it really is the only local stockist! Honest…)

            3. Yes we love the market in Thames. I am not coming past often these days but we always visit when we come though on a Saturday. And yes, your avatar is great! 🙂

  35. That graph of electricity generation will look a bit bony in ten years if they remove nuclear from the bottom of it, and even more so with the promised cuts in fossil fuels in another twenty. Replacing on demand power sources like fossil fuel and uranium with inherently variable sources like wind and sun is going to require immense levels of energy storage, yet the current tiny amounts of pumped hydro storage are actually being closed as they are under utilised and uneconomic- they used to provide power for the midday peak, which is now filled by solar. Making hydrogen and adding it to the methane network is also just a small addition to, not a replacement for the use of fossil gas- most of the energy is lost in the conversion, the energy density is much lower for the same gas volume, and pure hydrogen would need replacement of most of the infrastructure.
    Beaker – an easy way to spot an objective expert is if they support more wind power. If they don’t they’re probably a twit or a Thorium fanboy.

    1. John, moving to a sustainable energy future will arguably be the most difficult technological challenge for humanity over the next century.
      We must move away from fossil fuels, so much is clear (unless you deny the findings of climate science). Uranium has no long term future either, just look at the resource stats, also the waste problem remains unsolved. Thorium might be a game changer, but its rather silent at that front. Fusion might one day come to be board, some interesting private enterprises have made some note worthy proposals lately there.
      In the meanwhile, if you plaster your roof with 5kW of solar cells you can become a net electricity exporter with your property. Further, we are still using electricity with the mindset of the 20th century: Its always there in copious amounts. Perhaps we must adapt and use energy more intelligently and get used to living and working with energy that is priced by availability, even for end-users.

      1. Uranium is present in sea water in billion ton quantities, should it ever get too expensive to mine. With an energy density thousands of times higher than any chemical fuel, that’s unlikely. And Thorium is about three times more common than Uranium. One of the very first civilian power reactors – Shippingport- ran on Thorium for eleven years, at the end of which time it was still going strong and had more fissile in it than it started with. Experiments on using Thorium fuel in current reactors are underway in India ( which has beaches full of it , but not much Uranium), in Russia, and in Norway. As for ‘waste’, since it still has ninety five percent of it’s original energy, the easiest and cheapest thing to do is to store it till you can use it. The quantities are tiny compared to the energy output.
        I was reading last week an account of how Lyndon Johnson, after he got into Congress, moved heaven and earth to get power reticulated to the poor rural area of Texas he’d grown up in, and how grateful the people there were for it – especially the women, who didn’t have to wear themselves out carrying water and washing clothes by hand. The same happened in rural Southland, where my mother grew up. Going back to a society where energy is scarce, intermittent , and expensive, will only drive people to use dirtier fuels. In India, millions, especially women and children, sicken or die from cooking over open fires. I spent a night in a Nepalese house where you had to keep your head below waist height if you didn’t want coughing fits and sore eyes. In the cities there, those who can afford it fire up diesel generators whenever one of the frequent power cuts occurs. Would it be different here, if your power stopped any time the wind died?
        According to the government, in 2012 New Zealanders used 65 petajoules of renewable energy and 331 from oil, coal and gas – a big hole to fill.
        Even though this computer is running on undiluted hydro, I’ll stop now.

        1. John, lets just say that Solar Energy, especially in the very poor nations, is doing much more for the people there than nuclear pipe dreams or building fossil fuel power stations!

          • For many poor, remote and rural areas in developing countries, locally produced solar power is already cheaper than electricity generated at large, centralised coal-fired plants.

          The cost of solar is coming down faster than the Moors law curve.


          And the big difference is: You can solar electrify one hut in Nepal at a time. You do not need tens of billions in up front capital to roll out massive central power generation and long lossy grids.

          Sifting through the oceans for Uranium…. good luck to you! Putting a million tons of thin plastic strips into the ocean annually to get uranium particles stick to them at a reasonable rate seems like a pipe dream to me.
          Plus you must solve the waste problem….

          Look John, the metrics of change are pointing to decentralized user generated electricity (PV) becoming an increasingly important part of the energy future. Developments in battery technology will also likely put local storage into the economic range. You will not have to go back to the dark ages because you live in a solar powered home. I guess you should visit people who actually live that way!

    2. “Beaker – an easy way to spot an objective expert is if they support more wind power. If they don’t they’re probably a twit or a Thorium fanboy.” Subjectively, I wholeheartedly agree.
      Re German pumped storage closure, I had not heard about this but if so it would appear to be a result of market failure for the German grid (grids?). Pumped storage should thrive on buying low and selling high. Wind, solar and nuclear are all low marginal cost generators, and should therefore optimise the business case for new pumped storage never mind retaining existing ones.

      1. Speaking of objective experts, here’s Yale economist William Nordhaus on his new book, a primer on climate change for the young:

        I think for young people, [climate change is] a really interesting set of problems. You can learn a lot about our world — and not just the natural world, but also the social/economic/political world — by studying it… it’s really a laboratory where everything comes up — from taxes to international law, international trade, treaties and the natural sciences as well… I would really encourage people just to take some time to enjoy the wonderful science in this area.

  36. At last – President Obama issues Executive Order re the necessity for climate change adaptation:

    By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to prepare the Nation for the impacts of climate change by undertaking actions to enhance climate preparedness and resilience, it is hereby ordered as follows:

    Section 1. Policy. The impacts of climate change — including an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise — are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the Nation.

    These impacts are often most significant for communities that already face economic or health-related challenges, and for species and habitats that are already facing other pressures.

    1. No doubt americans will have a lot of legalistic fun working out what it means. On first reading I would summarize it as saying every Federal department must get acquainted with climate science, weigh up risks and in a year be back with a plan for adaptation and mitigation within their area of business.

      1. … at the uggly part of that debate, surely, the right wing nut cases of the U.S.A (Republican madmen) will enter some clause somewhere on some entirely unrelated bill, that prevents sate funding for climate research… just as they prevented any state agency to fund or work on any science that factors gun control…..
        If the comedy show of US politics was not part of a sad and very sick reality, nobody could possibly have invented it and get away with a believeable plot for a trash novel….

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