Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hansen et al. affect communication more than policy

(His alternate career, if it hadn't been for Venus.)

My non-scientist thoughts on Hansen's latest:

* We're not doing enough about climate change now, and the appropriate policy option is to do more. Hansen provides more reason to do more, but that doesn't change the right policy option from what we should already be pushing for. So it's another thing to communicate about as to why climate change requires us to get going.

Some exceptions to the above where Hansen makes a policy difference: some things that may have a relatively minor climate benefit might be worth the societal cost if Hansen is right and not if not. Also it might change the priority that climate has among people who acknowledge reality but are not primarily climate activists.

* My expectation is that in 2-5 years, there will be a much better idea than there is now as to what extent Hansen is correct. I'd only expect that to be too short if testing Hansen requires obtaining new data from Greenland and Antarctica. Curious whether scientists agree.

As a non-scientist, my conclusion from above is that I don't need to spend time, for now, really trying to understand Hansen. Smart people will tell me soon if I need to.

* To the extent non-scientists do want to understand his perspective (some of it), Hansen's 15-minute Youtube was very helpful, the second time I watched it. Unfortunate that it's only had 60k views, I naively expected much more.

* I'm a non-scientist but do know something about responding to sea level rise. Adapting to one meter in 50 years is unfortunate and very expensive, but doable in priority economic areas of developed countries, with exceptions like Miami. Two meters in 60 years as Hansen speculates, OTOH, that's a different kettle of fish. There will be urban sacrifice zones. And poor countries are just screwed.

Having said that, 50 years is about how far you usually look ahead in construction, so I'm not sure what changes now in terms of responding to SLR if Hansen's right.

* Hansen does seem to change the priority in determining just how feasible it is to get substantial negative emissions. If negative emissions are too difficult to do, then we need to drop to zero much sooner.


Canman said...

"* Hansen does seem to change the priority in determining just how feasible it is to get substantial negative emissions. If negative emissions are too difficult to do, then we need to drop to zero much sooner."

Hansen is not the last word on whether negative emissions are feasible, possible, desirable, ... etc. Whatever the world does, it will need a lot of energy and the best, concentrated source is almost certainly nuclear! If something needs to be done about CO2, then the next generation of nuclear plants needs to be developed! If Climate is really a problem, maybe something like this is the only solution:


I'd suggest that perhaps CO2 could be frozen and stored in Antarctica.

Hank Roberts said...

> There will be urban sacrifice zones.

Gobsmacked, not that I disagree.

But preparing an area for rising sea level -- properly done -- makes it a food source.
Oysters. Spawning intertidal water for fish. Crabs. Clams. Shrimp.

Migawd, offshore of Wilmington NC, I heard, there a power plant's cooling water outlet that has created a year-round habitat for shrimp, in an area where otherwise shrimp were only a seasonal fishery.

All we need is an economic system that can plan ahead 50 years, to turn seashore land into productive marine harvesting areas by the time they're badly needed.

Any on offer?

> CO2 frozen in Antarctica
I've seen the arithmetic on that somewhere. Running the refrigeration plants needed turns out to be a problem.

Russell Seitz said...

Sorry for the same old same old, but given a prediction of 2 meters ( 200 centimeters ) of sea level rise in 60 years , who wants to bet on the acceleration of the present ~ 0.3 Cm/ year rise thus:

1. 1% of that rise in the next 5% of that interval:
sea level rising two centimeters in the next three years?

2. 5% of Hansen's rise in the next 20% of his 60 year interval:
sea level going up ten centimeters by 2028?

3. 25% of his projection in one generation ;
sea level rising half a meter by 2038?

Thus far ( it has been three years,) nobody has stepped forward to bet on any of the next few calendar decades producing a 10 cm rise.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Sea level rise is the LEAST of your problems.

Bernard J. said...

I'm with TLE on this. SLR is comparatively not the most important issue overall, although it makes for good column inches. Ocean acidification and stratification/anoxia are probably going to have greater longer-term consequences in the context of biodiversity and ecosystem function loss, and the direct effects of temperature changes will have profound impacts on ecosystems (and again, on their function on which humans depend).

And the effects of just a few of the inevitable extreme weather events that are increasing in frequency could easily match decades of SRL.

SLR is not unimportant, but it's probably in the second row of Tom's zombie horde.

Brian said...

Russell - William covered that at Stoat. Short term SLR won't change that much even by Hansen's worst-case scenario, and Hansen isn't saying that will happen, just that the existing data and paleo make it possible.

I maintain OTOH that SLR is a better betting indicator of continued AGW than temps themselves - it's a much more stable rise.

Bernard - my guess is that acidification is worse, but 2m SLR will kill tens of thousands, and even more indirectly by forcing them to move in developing countries.

BBD said...

What drives me nuts about all this is the wood for trees aspect of it all. (Some statements of the bleedin' obvious in the following, but please bear with me):

SLR is perhaps more likely to begin to accelerate towards the *end* of the century but once it gets going it will keep on coming for several hundred years (at least) and will be unstoppable because it is gravity driven. Temperature triggers it but reducing temps won't (cannot) stop it.

So: just when things are really starting to get hairy at the end of the century with big hits to global food security and water wars flaring up in earnest, we get the SLR juggernaut rolling in earnest.

Even if Hansen is over-estimating the rate of rise quite substantially, SLR is going to be the killer sucker-punch.

All the arguing about Hansen16 is largely to miss the point. Especially those who have joined the fray purely as an ego-boosting, point-scoring, cock-strutting exercise. It's really not about that at all.

cRR Kampen said...

Greenland ice melt 12% and that place just turned the corner on the coldest time of year.

If Hansen et al are incorrect it is because of the usual: underestimation.

"Whatever the world does, it will need a lot of energy and the best, concentrated source is almost certainly nuclear!"
The usual myth running around for more than half a century now.
As if energy has to be as dirty and expensive as possible.
There is sun in utter abundance. Fuck nuclear.

BBD said...


There is sun in utter abundance. Fuck nuclear.

The objective is to transcend Canman's provocative silliness, not replicate it.

cRR Kampen said...

Time's out for transcending.

cRR Kampen said...

Oh dear, better go nuclear then: http://www.vox.com/2016/4/8/11376196/california-grid-expansion

Russell Seitz said...

Brian, half of " Two meters in 60 years as Hansen speculates" is not 'short term"-- it's three decades- more than a generation.

As the noisy upward trend in sea level has remained pretty linear for several generations, including the one since Jim declared a climate crisis back when his grandparents are alive, I expect to see the sequel to Storms Of My Great-Grandchildren on the remainder tables long before we see 10cm of SLR

Iterating conjecture is an underwhelming communication strategy in the long run.

cRR Kampen said...

As the exponent in the noisy upward trend in sea level has remained pretty linear... there, corrected for you.

Can we have a minute of silence for those who will foot the bill for Peabody's bankruptcy and the bonusses for the CEO's of this failed company? Esp. its Australian victims...

Nigel Franks said...

IIUC sea level rise has three major components, melt, thermal expansion and chunks of land ice becoming sea ice/water. We haven't seen much of the latter yet...

BBD said...

OT, apologies, but Peabody Energy just went bankrupt.

Canman said...

cRR Kampen:

"There is sun in utter abundance. Fuck nuclear."

There is also water "in utter abundance" -- more fresh water than we'll ever need in Greenland and Antarctica and I understand it's even melting for us! Being abundant and practically usable are two different things.

Jeffrey Davis said...

The geological record says (according to Hansen) that such changes are possible because, after all, they've happened before. The black swan has already landed in the lake. In fact there are pairs of them and they're breeding. If the critical element that ice responds to is the warming forcing from an increase in CO2 then we're screwed because the rate of the growth of that is unprecedented. If the inertia of the ice sheets overwhelms the heat from the forcing -- i.e. Hansen hasn't accounted for a crucial hidden variable -- then we've temporarily dodged a bullet. I'd feel better if Miami weren't already flooding from time to time.


Michael Hauber said...

I used to think sea level rise was the scariest part of global warming. Heat - you can turn on an air conditioner, drought - you can irrigate more, cyclones - build stronger buildings. But if the ocean rises, maybe you can build a wall, but what if it leaks, or if you get a bigger wave.

Now I think the opposite. Heat - heat waves may be strong enough one day to kill use if our air conditioners aren't 24/7, drought - irrigation has its limits, and who knows what ecosystem disruptions might spring nasty surprises on us (think pine bark beetle but something that hits crops, or a disease that hits us direct). And sea level rise, just build your house somewhere else, there will still be plenty of room for everyone's houses, and the number of houses we will build in the next century for quite a variety of reasons will dwarf the number of houses we'd have to build to move everyone out of the way even in the worst possible scenarios.

Jeffrey Davis said...

re: Michael Hubler

I think sea level rise is a dramatic effect, but the most serious one is political instability. Climate change at a certain level puts everyone on the move. And there's no place to go these days. The economic cost of political instability is very difficult to calculate. ISIS got a boost from drought in Syria. What's the cost of that? The refugee influx in Europe has a dollar cost as well as a human one -- phrasing it backwards for effect. The so called Arab Spring broke out over higher food prices. And increasing instability will breed the impulse to drastically treat symptoms over causes. Human nature doesn't change.

David B. Benson said...

Negative emission schemes:

Could Planting Trees in the Desert Mitigate Climate Change?
This group suggests planting Jatropha curcas unlike
Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming
where a large eucalyptus is suggested.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

The problem, Can'tman, is that the second the polar glacial meltwater hits the ocean surface, it becomes unusable for any practical purposes. Entropy is weird that way.

Canman said...

8c, my point is that solar energy is like fresh water. There is plenty of both, but actually utilizing them is not necessarily practical. Ever look at a pie chart of energy or electricity sources? Note how thin the solar sliver is.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

If you were attentive, Can'tman, you would observe that solar is the engine that creates fresh water through climatic evaporation and condensation (aka distillation) and coal, gas and oil through photosynthesis and decay (composting). Good luck eating, drinking and staying warm without it.

cRR Kampen said...

'8c, my point is that solar energy is like fresh water.' - your point, referring as it does to Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is that those ice sheets cover the entire world (like solar).

'Ever look at a pie chart of energy or electricity sources? Note how thin the solar sliver is.'

This proves that we never used coal or oil as energy sources. Because note how thin the coal sliver is in 1800.

I will not accept that thinking is that hard - so I sense revisionism here.

cRR Kampen said...

Sea level rise isn't that scary.
Compared to what is apocalyptic.
That is what the end of coral is going to be, and this will be realized within 20 years. That is not about the loss of some pretty colours and fish. It is not that this will rate as a mass exctinction in itself. It is a little bigger: it will fubar oceanic and atmospheric chemistry.
Go to Cambrian for a little inspiration, and as someone observed above (in different wording): we got nukes.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

C: There is plenty of both, but actually utilizing them is not necessarily practical. Ever look at a pie chart of energy or electricity sources? Note how thin the solar sliver is.

BPL: Which is like pointing to a pie chart of urban transportation in 1890 and saying, Note how thin the automobile sliver is.

David B. Benson said...

Passed the tree planting paper citations referenced above to Bill McKibben who was visiting today.

Gingerbaker said...

"Sea level rise is the LEAST of your problems."

Think again:


BBD said...

David B. Benson

No time this morning to read the studies you link above (sorry) so can I just ask: do they deal with the warming caused by lowering albedo through intensive desert afforestation?