Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Eli Is Busy

Go read Ray Pierrehumbert in Slate on the Koonin follies

Let’s imagine you are a smoker and go to the doctor with a variety of troubling physical complaints. She tells you, “Well, a lot of these troubles are typically associated with smoking, but you don’t have cancer yet and the fact is we don’t know everything about the precise biochemical pathways that connect smoking to cancer, and anyway there’s always the chance you’ll get emphysema before you get cancer.” If you were to apply Koonin’s reasoning to this situation, your response would be, “OK, Doc, I’ll wait to give up smoking until you can tell me exactly how it will kill me and when.” 
Climate science is settled enough (Bunnies read it here) to provide the policy guidance that matters most, namely that there is an urgent need for halting, and eventually reversing, the worldwide growth in carbon dioxide emissions. At a time when essentially nothing effective is being done, it is pointless to fret, as Koonin does, about exactly how much reduction is optimal—the clear answer from climate science is: “The more the better, the sooner the better, and whatever we actually do is apt to be less than what is really needed, though worth doing nonetheless.” Major policy decisions are routinely made in economic and national security areas in the face of far greater uncertainty than prevails in climate science.
and Stefan Rahmstorf at Real Climate explains why the recent jeremiad by David Victor and Charles Kennel advocating giving up on the 2 C limit is hogwash rooted in ignorance (physicist type)
Victor  & Kennel claim the 2 °C guardrail was “uncritically adopted”. They appear to be unaware of the fact that it took almost twenty years of intense discussions, both in the scientific and the policy communities, until this limit was agreed upon. As soon as the world’s nations agreed at the 1992 Rio summit to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, the debate started on how to specify the danger level and operationalize this goal. A “tolerable temperature window” up to 2 °C above preindustrial was first proposed as a practical solution in 1995 in a report by the German government’s Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). It subsequently became the climate policy guidance of first the German government and then the European Union. It was formally adopted by the EU in 2005.
However, Eli believes that, at least as far as the US Government is concerned 3 C is the new 2 C, first the speech by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Shaun Donovan, covered at RR
Looking ahead, leading estimates suggest that if we see warming of 3° Celsius above preindustrial levels, instead of 2°, we could see additional economic damages of approximately 0.9 percent of global output per. Our Council of Economic Advisers puts this figure into perspective – 0.9 percent of estimated 2014 U.S. GDP is approximately $150 billion. 
Last week, Eli went to a symposium at the Brookings institution about the economic effects of climate change moderated by Robert Rubin and featuring Jacob Lew, US Treasury Secretary.  Lew too indicated that the administration's planning is based on a 3 C temperature increase.  2 C is a done deal
By its nature budget projections are backwards looking.  So as we go through a decade of dramatic weather experiences there is more and more being built into the projections as you see in the size of the disaster relief fund that has grown dramatically over the last decade.   I am not sure it encompases every risk out there but it is catching up.  GDP, as you know better than I, is a complicated model that is imperfect but does bring in both direct and indirect effects with a very high degree of utility.  The projections I referred to that the Council economic advisers did that looks at the impact of three degrees versus two degrees increase in temperature on global GDP reflects the indirect impact of climate through the GDP model.  
People so high in government don't say such things by accident.  Lew summarized
if the debate is about how bad it is going to be,  but we know it is going to be bad that is a enough of a case to act.  The fact that there is no uncertainty about the direction and legitimate debate about the exactly how bad it is shouldn't be a reason not to act
Michael Greenstone, the third member of the panel and a environmental economist at the University of Chicago, actually broke in on Lew to state the real consensus:
There is a line that people have that there is clear consensus among scientists.  I think there is one thing that people don't fully appreciate.  There is a consensus among the economists about what to do about it.  That ranges all the way to Milton Friedman to fill in your favorite left-wing economist who writes for the New York Times.  There is a clear consensus about what to do.  That is when you are engaged in activity that is harming other people, that activity should be pricey.  We should not have a society where it is OK for me to dump garbage in the former secretary's yard.

68 comments:

Anonymous said...

the administration's planning is based on a 3 C temperature increase. 2 C is a done deal"

Pretty soon, with the current drill baby drill and frack baby frack policy, 3C will be a done deal and 4C will be the new 3C, then 5C will be the new 4C ...

That's how bureaucracies deal with problems. They redefine them and hope no one notices the difference between 2 and 3 and 3 and 4, etc.

"There is a consensus among the economists about what to do about it. That ranges all the way to [from] Milton Friedman to... We should not have a society where it is OK for me to dump garbage in the former secretary's yard."

yeah, I'm sure Milton Friedman would have agreed with that.

Right.

Anonymous said...

"Pretty soon, with the current drill baby drill and frack baby frack policy, 3C will be a done deal and 4C will be the new 3C, then 5C will be the new 4C ...",
yes, but that's a problem for a new generation of economists labeling themselves green. And why stop in 5, there are bigger numbers, like 6 and 12 and we all knowe bigger's better.

Hank Roberts said...

But see Krugman
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/15/opinion/paul-krugman-how-to-get-economic-policy-wrong.html

Like he has to ask it as a question:

"But would it have mattered if economists had behaved better? Or would people in power have done the same thing regardless?

If you imagine that policy makers have spent the past five or six years in thrall to economic orthodoxy, you’ve been misled. On the contrary, key decision makers have been highly receptive to innovative, unorthodox economic ideas — ideas that also happen to be wrong but which offered excuses to do what these decision makers wanted to do anyway."

cRR Kampen said...

One word. Just one word.

Four.

One way only.

Hank Roberts said...

> when you are engaged in activity
> that is harming other people

But remember, people in the future are discounted; harming one of them isn't like harming one real person. At least, that seems to be what economics and realpolitik agree.

You have goose that lays golden eggs? So: one golden egg today, worth keeping the goose. But for tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, an endless future of golden eggs? Value approaches nothing, discounted for the future, and besides, scarcity is value; cornucopias and magic geese are deadly dangerous to profit.

Eat the goose. Economics advises.

Anonymous said...

Actually, hank

I think what most mainstream economists (especially those from the Chicago school) advise is to "cook your own goose" and on the highest temperature setting possible so as to maximize GDP.

Windchasers said...

Hank, the value of the eggs produced 1000 years from now may approach zero, but the value of the goose is the sum value of all the eggs from here out until eternity, including the eggs produced this week.

The discounted value of tomorrow's egg is pretty close to that of an egg today, and surely much more valuable than a goose dinner. So, economics does not advise eating the goose.

Sorry, I just had to point out the flaws in your discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis. :-p. I think DCF analysis really is a great way to approach these types of economic problems, as it helps us address questions like "is it better to invest now to decrease carbon emissions, or is it better to invest elsewhere and accept the damage?"

For the US, I think the math is clear; reducing emissions is better. For countries like India or China, though.. there are clear benefits to industrializing now over industrializing later, and these benefits probably outweigh the problems of higher CO2. Plus, there's the Commons problem: if they don't burn the coal and oil, probably someone else will.

Which is why this is a tough problem, politically. If the US actually wants to reduce carbon emissions, it probably needs to reduce the cost of alternatives to CO2-intensive industries, so that India et al have better choices. Or, we can use some combination of carrot-or-stick: either impose tariffs on imports from CO2-intensive economies, or pay them to not emit.

J Bowers said...

"Plus, there's the Commons problem"

There never was a Commons problem. The problem was the loss of the commons with the Enclosure Acts which starved the rural poor into the factories. When a propaganda myth is used as the basis for economic assessments, there's surely a problem with the economics.

Fernando Leanme said...

"Climate Science Is Settled Enough" for what? Isn´t it interesting to read climatologists write we have to go all out to do something...but they lack the education and the training to figure out what that something is supposed to be ("cut CO2 emissions isn´t enough").

Fernando Leanme said...

Windchaser´s comment is what I was trying to get at. I get a bit tired of reading statements pushing for action, but an objective analysis shows the actions are impossible to execute successfully.

This is even more impossible with that silly 2 degree C target tied to a really high transient climate response.

Don´t tell me I may end up with cancer is your solution is to bathe in a sulfuric acid solution twice a week.

Dano said...

We simply do not know how to manage our own affairs. We can act and concern ourselves with our own family groups and somewhat larger circle, but after that we don't know what to do or how to do it. We repeat the same mistakes over and over, we never learn, etc etc etc.

Wishing that it were otherwise is folly. Big societal shifts to turn this boat? Come now.

Best,

D

Fernando Leanme said...

Lets see..,we have spent over $1 x 10^12 USD invading Iraq and setting up a Shiite regime which tends to be friendly to Iran which we dislike because it helps Hezbollah which opposes Israel. We spend a ton if money propping up Israel, and that goofy Netanyahu builds more settlements in East Jerusalem, and we pick conflicts with Russia, and rebuild New Orleans below sea level and fail to help Liberia with the Ebola epidemic and now we got Ebola in Dallas and meanwhile the president defends human rights in Hong Kong while the USA wiretaps the galaxy and tortures prisoners quite openly.

And you want my support for anything these idiots propose? If they keep wearing ties and acting stupid the best option is to invest in land in Tierra del Fuego and build a house 75 meters above sea level.

David B. Benson said...

What we have now is bad enough. Another 2 K will be wretched; 3K unthinkable.

Anonymous said...

the administration's planning is based on a 3 C temperature increase."

So what, specifically are they planning?

More drilling and fracking?

More pipelines to go around the world twice? (since Obama has already gone around once)

Sounds like a jolly good plan.

Hank Roberts said...

> the value of the goose is the
> sum value of all the eggs from
> here out until eternity ...

That's only true presuming you convince most of the rest of the population to cook their geese.

That's what's going on, now.

I'm predicting a couple centuries from now the Greenland Archipelago will be a vast freshwater inland sea, domed and defended, a green blister on the planet.

Scarcity is value to the economist-minded. Nature's generosity was too cheap to meter, til it was gone.

Ask any whale.

Anonymous said...

"We should not have a society where it is OK for me to dump garbage in the former secretary's yard."

Better to dump it in some poor African's back yard (according to American economists, at least. see Larry Summers memo)

Fernando Leanme said...

David Benson, ref your comment

"What we have now is bad enough. Another 2 K will be wretched; 3K unthinkable."

As far as I know what we have now is rather nice. As far as I know that 2 degree C limit is referenced to pre industrial temperatures. This means it´s about 1.2 degrees C over today´s temperature.

We lack the ability to estimate the economic impact of higher surface temperatures, but the estimates we have show a slight increase in temperature on top of what we already have (say about 0.5 degrees C higher) would be slightly beneficial. The same estimates show that increasing temperatures more than 1.2 degrees would be detrimental.

A 3 degree increase over the pre industrial temperature would be about 2.2 degrees C over today´s temperature. This would mean an even higher increase in land temperatures, and given the size of human population and the lack of sustainability we seem to have, all hell will break loose. This in turn will mean a reduction in human population. However, it´s not going to be the end of the world. The world would just be a meaner place to live as we adapt to the change.

Given the fact that we are running out of oil there´s going to be other impacts which may cause even more problems. The climate issue is just a subset in a whole range of problems we face....therefore we have the ability to pick the poison we wish to discuss.

Which means we do have to consider geoengineering research as a possible escape hatch.

I shall now wait for the hail of stones and expletives....

J Bowers said...

Fernando, if you had even a modicum of the intelligence you believe you have, that last comment of yours would make your blood run cold, especially as you've told us you have grandchildren.

turboblocke said...

No Fernando, we're not all having it rather nice now. Just take a look at what's happening around the world rather than outside your window.

Is there really an opinion that a modicum of warming would be more beneficial than stopping climate change? If so I bet it ignores acidification of the oceans.

I have to agree with J.Bowers remark above. Rather than greet your post with stones and expletives, it just needs a reminder DFTT.

Hank Roberts said...

> when you are engaged in
> activity that is harming
> other people, that activity
> should be pricey.

Sheep: we keep them penned up;
you shear them; we tax you.

Anonymous said...

"economic effects of climate change moderated by Robert Rubin"

I would note that Summers (who signed the infamous memo linked to above) was a protege of Rubin (and both were instrumental in supporting policies that gutted regulations, leading to the recent financial meltdown, which harmed LOTS of people.

You can't believe a single word that these economists say(unless, of course, it is in a memo that was not intended for public consumption)

the claim that there is a consensus among economists to make activity that is harming other people pricey is just false.

And it's just a cruel joke coming from an economist at U of Chicago, which has a long, sorry history of opposing regulations (including those that might control activities that harm other people.

Anonymous said...

Well, Rheinhart and Rogoff did identify de-regulation as a historical precedent to financial crisis.

But it's never really direct and clean.

The law to allow just variable rate mortgages passed in 1980
( used to be only fixed rate mortgages were allowed before )
because inflation had run roughshod in the 1970s.
Realtors probably wanted that, but so too did consumers.

Regulatory capture can happend not just in nefarious smoke filled rooms,
but from popular demand as well.

We have met the enemy and it is us.

Anonymous said...

"Rheinhart and Rogoff did identify de-regulation as a historical precedent to financial crisis."

Oh, my. Really?


It hardly takes a Rheinhart and Rogoff (or anyone with an IQ greater than 50) to see that.

For any who might not know, those two are the "geniuses" who made a simple spreadsheet error that was used to justify massive austerity measures.

Harvard may be the only econ department that has more mathturbating monkeys than U of Chicago.

Hank Roberts said...

flash from the past:

“A demand for scientific proof is always a formula for
inaction and delay and usually the first reaction of the
guilty ... in fact scientific proof has never been, is not and should not be the basis for political and legal action”

An example of (private) candour from a scientist at the tobacco company BAT1. (S J Green 1980)

http://www.who.int/tobacco/media/en/TobaccoExplained.pdf
The truth about the tobacco industry ...in its own words

Hank Roberts said...

Oh, and a thought -- remembering that the fossil fuel companies employ climate scientists and run their own climate models, because they need to predict from climates of the past where oil-forming conditions occurred.

They must know a lot.

Think on this, from that same WHO tobacco history:

---------------
Alan Rodgman, a research chemist with RJ Reynolds writes that the company is
publicly denying a link between smoking and cancer in public, whilst the
company’s own research shows there is a link.

“What would be the effect on this company of not publishing these data now, but being required at some future date to disclose such data, possibly in the
unfavourable atmosphere of a lawsuit? ... It is recommended that the Company’s management recognise that many members of its Research Department are intensely concerned about the cigarette smoke-health problem and eager to participate in its study and solution.”
23 (RJR,1962)

Bryson said...

I think the key problem with the widespread acknowledgement that we need to make activities that cause harm to lots of other people expensive is that, while it's obviously necessary in principle, there is always a chorus of 'serious' economic voices that argues, in any given case, that this activity really isn't generating the kind of externality you're looking for... Broad acknowledgement that, yes, that was a truly nasty externality only emerges long after the profits have been made...

EliRabett said...

There are majic words at Rabett Run:)

Eli

J Bowers said...

OT, but Mobbsey's been tracing the British fracking tree. No wonder they're trying to remove the trespass obstacle even when over 92% to 99% said not to.

http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/musings/2013/20130725-behind_every_picture_lies_a_story.html

Fernando Leanme said...

turboblocke, that statement

"No Fernando.....Just take a look at what's happening around the world rather than outside your window."

Looking at the world beyond my window is my specialty. My analysis shows the world´s climate is doing quite well at this time, with temperatures at 0.8 degrees above pre industrial temperatures.

Did you notice Obama´s speech at the UN last September 24th? I just wrote a paper with a qualitative analysis of Obama´s speech. He mentioned "America" 26 times, "war" 24 times, words associated with the Middle East 25 times. Climate and renewable were mentioned once. He also dropped the ball with Ebola, mentioned health related issues and the epidemic around six times. That was the same day the Liberian visitor was starting to show symptoms of Ebola as he laid in bed in a Dallas apartment.

Is climate change an issue we need to be worried about? Sure. Is the climate as it exists in 2014 a big worry, or "bad for humanity"? No.

I suppose the differece arises because I´m quite nimble, can change sides, have no particular dogma nor religion, and I´m too crafty to believe government ditties. If you were to achieve the intellectual flexibility I have achieved then you could have a discussion with just about anybody about anything without seeing your blood pressure rise.

What I´m trying to achieve is to let you understand you do need to be less wedded to any particular belief. This tends to cloud your thinking and leads yout to reject and deny information. Such rejection and denial can be quite deadly.

J Bowers said...

Another day, another epic facepalm.

Anonymous said...

DFTT.

He's been filtered out from so many places he's desperate for a new audience.

BBD said...

Fernando The Modest

If you were to achieve the intellectual flexibility I have achieved

For someone blessed with such a willow-pliable mind you have remarkable difficulty in admitting error.

* * *

This tends to cloud your thinking and leads yout to reject and deny information. Such rejection and denial can be quite deadly.

Indeed Fernando, indeed. What were the major forcing changes over the last ~50Ma? If you are clueless, check Hansen & Sato (2012) section 2.

turboblocke said...

Anon, yep.
BBD, DFTT please.

Fernando Leanme said...

BBD, did you bother to read that Hansen and Sato paper? That piece has a few factual errors. Didn't we discuss the fact that geography was very different in the Eocene? I thought we had buried Hansen's discussion about the Eocene, India and carbonates a couple of weeks ago?

J Bowers said...

"I thought we had buried... "

You often seem to think something was decided or agreed that never was except in your head. You do understand that you're nobody's boss or convener here, right?

Fernando Leanme said...

(Sigh). I'm sorry. I thought that was settled. Hansen's paper ignores large differences in geography, I also noticed he starts out with a title which implies he will really get into the mid Eocene, but he skipped rather quickly over tens of millions of years to get in a more comfortable setting.

I don't think climatologists really worry much about the gritty details...the models of Eocene climate are like rabbits pulled out of a hat. But that period sure has more investigation and data gathering to be performed. This is one of those cases where people don't know what they don't know.

For example, the timing of India's collision, the highly speculative co2 emissions from carbonate platform subduction, the supposed heavy carbonate deposition and the inability to even consider the inland sea in Central Asia and the Turgai render the Eocene discussion quite meaningless.

Mal Adapted said...

J Bowers: "There never was a Commons problem. The problem was the loss of the commons with the Enclosure Acts which starved the rural poor into the factories. When a propaganda myth is used as the basis for economic assessments, there's surely a problem with the economics."

Huh? Whatever Hardin had in mind, as a metaphor the Tragedy of the unmanaged Commons is central to Environmental Economics. It applies whenever the full benefit of an individual's exploitation of a resource, the "commons", accrues to that individual, while the costs of exploitation are shared by all those to whom the resource is available (which may be a wider class of individuals than those who are exploiting it). The tragedy can be avoided by management, e.g. by an agreement among the exploiters to limit their exploitation.

It should be easy to see the capacity of the Earth's atmosphere to absorb greenhouse gases without trapping additional heat as a commons on the global scale.

The key point is that in the absence of management, individual exploiters have sound economic motives for not limiting their exploitation of the commons. As an economic metaphor, the TotC is closely tied to the concept of externalities. Climate change is the result of allowing CO2 from burning fossil fuels to escape into the atmosphere for free. In other words, the cost of climate change is externalized by fossil-fuel producers, who can sell their product to consumers at a lower price than if climate change was counted as a cost of production. Producers and consumers both enjoy the full benefit of low-priced fossil fuels, while the costs of climate change are paid by everyone, whether or not they consume fossil fuels.

Since the producers have sound economic motives for externalizing climate change costs, management must be supplied by the consumers, who must decide to limit their consumption. One way is for the consumers to collectively (i.e. through their government) impose a tax on producers representing the cost of climate change. If the producers want to make a profit, they'll pass on the additional cost in the prices they charge consumers for a tank of gasoline, tonne of coal or cubic meter of natural gas. Consumers will then then motivated to reduce their consumption, perhaps by switching to energy sources that are cheaper because they don't have climate-change costs.

That prospect, of course, gives fossil-fuel producers sound economic motives to resist being forced to internalize climate-change costs. Hence the AGW-denial industry, and the continued failure of our government to enact a carbon price.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

I hear violins. Or are those fiddles?

Fernando Leanme said...

The conspiracy theory about the "powerful Koch brothers" is a refuge. It helps you avoid the awful truth: people prefer leaders who focus on the short term, highly visible issues, are quite willing to fight wars but don't like building hospitals, and want to be left alone to eat chips and drink beer.

If the subject is so important why did Obama's UN speech use the word "war" 25 times, when climate and renewable merited one mention each?

Do you think Obama has been brainwashed by the Koch brothers? Or does he focus on what he thinks is important? Do you think the isolated muttering and repeating of a conspiracy theory help you solve the problem? What are you going to do? Put in a polar bear suit and go parade downtown?

J Bowers said...

Mal Adapted, from my perspective the problem is that by having access to the Commons the rural lower classes were self-sufficient to the point that they were able to shun working in appalling factory conditions for Adam Smith's laissezfaire champions the newly founded bourgeoisie, and from being beholden to the upper classes. The Tragedy of the Commons (although maybe not termed that way) is actually an 18th- to 19th-Century concept used to justify their eradication, and, unlike as the metaphor goes, the Commons were mostly managed very well by rural communities, which is where the metaphor falls down. The gentlemen of the Enlightenment positively despised the Commons because "every idiot knows the lower classes must be kept poor or they will never be industrious", and the Commons were the main obstacle to the new industries, and were keeping wages high and productivity low due to a shortage of labour. As well as the Enclosure Acts which were designed to force the rural poor into factories, the Game Acts also served a similar purpose. This is applied to Britain, by the way, where the industrial revolution began. The irony is that the same political economists that today's laissezfaire champions uphold as speakers to the truth were the same ones who used overuse of the Commons as a tool to disenfranchise the lower classes of their independence.

J Bowers said...

To add, perhaps it could be said that modern industrialists and laissezfaire champions (yes, the Kochs and Grover Norquist, Fernando, it's documented) are using the Tragedy of the Commons to disenfranchise the lower and middle classes in Florida of any hope of energy self-sufficiency, by effectively removing their ability to install PV and wind turbines through financial penalties, and so that they have to carry on using fossil fuel generated energy.

J Bowers said...

"I don't think climatologists really worry much about the gritty details...the models of Eocene climate are like rabbits pulled out of a hat."

Think what you like. I think you're projecting your own lazy way of thinking and limitations onto climatologists.

BBD said...

Fernando

What were the major forcing changes over the last ~50Ma?

Please stop being evasive on this point.

* * *

The squirrel over the timing of the *collision* of the Indian plate with the Eurasian plate has been shot already. The putative CO2 source was sedimentary subduction during the northward progress of the Indian plate across the Tethys. NOT the collision with the Eurasian plate. This has been pointed out several times now. Please don't force me to repeat this correction again.

All that is necessary for CO2 concentrations to rise over geological timescales is that the rate of production be higher than the rate of drawdown. The equation is balanced globally by the rate of outgassing vs the rate of uplift weathering.

No more squirrels.

Let's go back to physical climatology. What were the major forcing changes over the last ~50Ma?

Fernando Leanme said...

The largest influence on the climate was continental motion. Isn't it evident that's the primary trigger for change since the paleocene?

The second largest was orbital and axis variations.

If you are fishing for CO2, I consider it a feedback mechanism. This is why that paper misfired...the guy didn't study the Eocene geography.

BBD said...

Fernando

The largest influence on the climate was continental motion. Isn't it evident that's the primary trigger for change since the paleocene?

AKA 'tectonic forcing'. This explicitly includes the radiative forcing change from geological-scale variations in CO2. As discussed.

The second largest was orbital and axis variations.


Milankovitch forcing has always been there but the effects are cyclic. They don't drive climate trends spanning millions of years.

If you are fishing for CO2, I consider it a feedback mechanism. This is why that paper misfired...the guy didn't study the Eocene geography.

Whether you consider CO2 to be a feedback or a forcing is irrelevant.

H&S12 didn't "misfire".

Let's get back to physical climatology. H&S12 shows that the ~50Ma cooling trend characterising the Cenozoic can be understood as the consequence of long-term forcing change (section 2).

Solar luminosity has slowly and steadily increased as a consequence of stellar evolution. The change across the Cenozoic should have contributed a weak warming influence as forcing increased by about 1W/m^2.

CO2 concentrations ~50Ma were much higher than at present and gradually fell from over 1000ppm to as low as 170ppm during Pleistocene glacials.

This represents a reduction in forcing of about 10W/m^2. This is, by far, the largest forcing change of the last ~50Ma.

Since physical climatology doesn't operate by magic or wishful thinking, it is clear that CO2 shaped Cenozoic climate.

Mal Adapted said...

J Bowers, I think we probably don't disagree about much. A systems approach to political and environmental economics accommodates both our perspectives. From the political-economic perspective, the claim that the peasantry was incapable of managing land held in common was undoubtedly used to justify enclosure, to the benefit of both landowners and industrialists. On a larger scale, much of the impact of human economic activity on the natural world can be seen as a tragedy of the commons.

Anonymous said...

What precisely albedo is now is not known, much less how it may have varied in the past century, and certainly not how it has varied over millions of years.

Speculating is fun, but it's also useless.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

That's right, the albedo of the water in the oceans is well known to vary dramatically from year to year, it could be almost anything!

Therefore, all bets are off.

Russell Seitz said...

Kudos to the energy industry for anticipating vaping with low tar, high BTU natural gas.

BBD said...

Dear Anon.

What precisely albedo is now is not known, much less how it may have varied in the past century, and certainly not how it has varied over millions of years.

RTFR. From H&S12:

Continent locations affect Earth's energy balance, as ocean and continent albedos differ. However, most continents were near their present latitudes by the early Cenozoic (Blakey, 2008; Fig. S9 of Hansen et al., 2008). Cloud and atmosphere shielding limit the effect of surface albedo change (Hansen et al., 2005), so this surface climate forcing did not exceed about 1 W/m2.

Or are you arguing that low marine cloud cover has increased for ~50Ma and was responsible for the Cenozoic cooling trend? Because if you are, then you need to explain how cooling drives an increase in low marine cloud formation. If you check with a meteorologist, they will explain that the reverse is true, and low marine cloud cover increases with SST and evaporation.

The stupid, incessant, reflexive denialism is getting tedious btw.

Anonymous said...

BBD,

"Cloud and atmosphere shielding limit the effect of surface albedo change (Hansen et al., 2005), so this surface climate forcing did not exceed about 1 W/m2."

This is not a significant statement - of course cloud variance is much greater than surface contribution to albedo - that's what's in the energy budget cartoons.

No one knows how albedo varies now much less how it varied in the past.
And it would appear extremely unlikely that a proxy for global albedo of the past will ever exist ( particularly since we can't even measure it precisely now ).

To wit, Hansen:

The difficulty with the satellite approach becomes clear by considering first the suggestion of measuring Earth’s re-flected sunlight and emitted heat from a satellite at the a-
grange L1 point, which is a location between the Sun and Earth at which the gravitational pulls from these bodies are equal and opposite. From this location the satellite would continually stare at the sunlit half of Earth.
The notion that a single satellite at this point could measure Earth’s energy imbalance to 0.1 W m^2 is prima facie preposterous. Earth emits and scatters radiation in all directions, i.e., into 4π steradians. How can measurement of radiation in a single direction provide a proxy for radiation in all directions? Climate change alters the angular distribution of scattered and emitted radiation. It is implausible that changes in the angular distribution of radiation could be modeled to the needed accuracy, and the objective is to measure the imbalance, not guess at it. There is also the difficulty of maintaining sensor calibrations to accuracy 0.1 W m^2, i.e., 0.04 percent. That accuracy is beyond the state-of-the art, even for short periods, and that accuracy would need to be maintained for decades. There are many useful measurements that could be made from a mission to the Lagrange L1 point, but Earth’s radiation balance in not one of them.

These same problems, the changing angular distribution of the scattered and emitted radiation fields and maintaining extreme precision of sensors over long periods, must be faced by Earth-orbiting satellites. Earth radiation budget satellites have progressed through several generations and improved considerably over the past half-century, and they provide valuable data, e.g., helping to define energy transport from low to high latitudes. The angular distribution problem is treated via empirical angular distribution models, which are used to convert measurements of radiation in a given direction into radiative (energy) fluxes. The precision achieved by the most advanced generation of radiation budget satellites is indicated by the planetary energy imbalance measured by the ongoing CERES (Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System) instrument (Loeb et al., 2009), which finds a measured 5-yr-mean imbalance of 6.5 W/m^2(Loeb et al., 2009). Because this result is implausible, instrumentation calibration factors were introduced to reduce the imbalance to the imbalance suggested by climate models, 0.85 W/m^2 (Loeb et al., 2009)

The problems being addressed with this tuning probably involve the high variability and changes of the angular distribution functions for outgoing radiation and the very limited sampling of the radiation field that is possible from an orbiting satellite, as well as, perhaps, detector calibration. There can be no credible expectation that this tuning/calibration procedure can reduce the error by two orders of magnitude as required to measure changes of Earth’s energy balance to an accuracy of 0.1 W/m^2


Lucifer

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

No one knows how albedo varies now much less how it varied in the past.

I guess fossilized vegetation and pollen doesn't count in your world.

You really do not comprehend how stupid you sound to a scientist.

Mal Adapted said...

Fernando Leanme:

"Do you think Obama has been brainwashed by the Koch brothers?"

Ah. FL has not in fact read Covert Operations, The New Yorker's 2010 expose of the Koch brothers's political machinations against Obama. One presumes he hasn't read author Jane Mayer's later pieces in the same venue, either.

"Do you think the isolated muttering and repeating of a conspiracy theory help you solve the problem?"

Heh. Being published in The New Yorker ensures that those mutterings are no longer isolated. By now it's apparent to everyone but FL that he's the one who's isolated.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Oh I get it, albedo is the new front line denier meme, since we don't have a good handle on it, that must be it! And of course, we can never know! All science is invalid, don't bother with it, everything you know is wrong.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/earth-albedo-effect-basic.html

Anonymous said...

The parable of the blind women and the elephant should remind you to ponder that which is sensed in terms of that which cannot be sensed.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

I sense nonsense, and when I see it, the natural response is to point it out, and then avoid it.

BBD said...

Lucifer

What would drive albedo change over millions of years?

Please remain within the world of physical climatology, where you will find tectonic forcing.

Denialist agnosia and verbose, irrlelevant quotation get us nowhere.

BBD said...

And Lucifer, in your haste to throw up a great deal of irrelevant quotation you did not acknowledge my remarks about low marine cloud and COOLING TRENDS.

As I mentioned earlier, the stupid, reflexive, climate-illiterate denial is becoming tedious.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Just forget about the trolls and try to focus on the more present problems, and then you can sort out the Eocene effects when they arrive again, very soon by the looks of it.

http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate2387.html

http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate2389.html

This should help Steve Koonin with his pronounced agnosia problem. He seems to be able to see and smell the money just fine so maybe these smelling salts will bring him back to reality.

BBD said...

Let's re-state the facts:

The difference between the Eocene hothouse and the Pleistocene icehouse is a reduction in CO2 forcing of about 10W/m^2.

I know this is unpalatable to the deniers here, but there it is.

Hank Roberts said...

> a consensus among economists

Yeah?

________________________
"... The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, is a multimedia exploration of the theory that mankind evolved in response to climate change. ... The message, as amplified by the exhibit’s Web site, is that “key human adaptations evolved in response to environmental instability.” .... no mention is made of any possible role played by fossil fuels. The exhibit makes it seem part of a natural continuum.... An interactive game in the exhibit suggests that humans will continue to adapt to climate change in the future. People may build “underground cities,” developing “short, compact bodies” or “curved spines,” so that “moving around in tight spaces will be no problem.”

Such ideas uncannily echo the Koch message. The company’s January newsletter to employees, for instance, argues that “fluctuations in the earth’s climate predate humanity,” and concludes, “Since we can’t control Mother Nature, let’s figure out how to get along with her changes.”
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/08/30/covert-operations
-----

Yes, increase that selective pressure, and evolution will produce more "little people" to live beneath the Kock dynasty's towers.

Anonymous said...

In the parable of the blind men and the elephant, each took what they sensed and assumed the rest was constant ( nonexistent ).

In global warming, we take what we can estimate ( CO2 forcing ) and assume albedo is constant.

There is no good reason to believe that we know if albedo is constant or variable.

But there is the possibility that albedo could be much different.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

There is no good reason to believe that we know if albedo is constant or variable.

Says some anonymous denier troll on the internet. Dude, we have the paleorecord. It speaks to us. Volumes. They're in your local world class university research library, check it out sometime.

EliRabett said...

Yes, we know nothing, no nothing at all.

Hank Roberts said...

Just you wait. A Republican Senate could reform arithmetic, so the cost of a political decision would be adjusted to assume the promised result. They want to do it with the budget; think how that would change the carbon budget!

Hat tip to Krugman today for the pointer to
http://thehill.com/policy/finance/218160-ryan-political-reality-weighs-on-fiscal-hopes

"... Ryan said if Republicans take control of the Senate, they will be able to calculate the price tag of legislation differently. Republicans have long pushed for the Congressional Budget Office to use “dynamic scoring” when calculating the costs of legislation. Currently, the CBO scores legislation using static scoring, which does not take into account how behavioral changes brought on by legislation could in turn alter how much a particular provision costs.

But Ryan and Republicans argue that adopting a new scoring method would make it easier to adopt revenue-neutral policies, and also paint a more accurate picture. If the GOP controlled Congress, they could change the calculation methods employed by the CBO.

“The scorekeeping we use is not correct,” he said...."

Russell Seitz said...

Hansen's critique of one satellite albedo measurement scarcely applies to anthropgenic albedo forcing- the area is obvious, and many channels of measurement could be brought to bear.

The problem obviously needs attention , but the rate of land use change limits annual changes in forcing considerably- while half the land surface of the earth has been altered by human action , it has taken millennia to do so , and the albedo changes considerably offset one another.

It could none the less become a major microclimate variable in locales where albedo is deliberately adjusted in one direction, e.g. by urban 'ehite roofs " initiatives.

EliRabett said...

True and not true. Land use changes in North America, Australia and Africa have been concentrated in the last 150 years or so.

Russell Seitz said...

I must beg to differ- the admittedly huge lagomorphogenic albedo changes in Australia pale in comparison with what the pesky hominids did with fire on arriving a couple of eons ago.

Likewise, the terracing of most indopacific hillsides in the rice boom of the last 6,000 years, and the impact of corn hybridization in the precolumbian Americas