Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Electric Kooling-Aid Denialist Test.

Tamino has a New Year's post on Stupid, you know, Stupid, the guy who tells you that it's been cooling since 2007. Tamino is a nice fella, but he believes that if he carefully shows how this is wrong, he might get through. He misunderstands what is happening. These things are not errors, they are tests of who belongs. If you don't drink the electric kool-aid kid, you ain't a denialist, it's kind of Jonestown with mind altering drugs.

A nice example of this can be found at the Marohasy Estate. On Christmas Jen received a visit from denialists past, S. Fred threw a sooty note down the chimney describing the climate

OK; let’s check out the data since 1958. But we don’t want to rely on contaminated surface data – which IPCC likely used – although they omitted to say so. . . . .

1958 – 2005: Total warming of +0.5 C (But how much of that is anthropogenic?)
1958 - 1976: Cooling
1976 – 1977: Sudden jump of +0.5 C (Cannot be due to GHG.)
1977 – 1997: No detectable trend
1998 - 1999: El Nino spike
2000 – 2001: No detectable trend
2001 – 2003: Sudden jump of +0.3 C (Cannot be due to GHG.)
2003 – present: No trend, maybe even slight cooling

sod pointed out this was Stupid (Stupid hitched a ride south on Santa's sleigh that night)

Gordon Robertson opined

sod “1976 – 1977: Sudden jump of +0.5 C (Cannot be due to GHG.) sorry, but this is simply stupid”.

Stupid?? Fred Singer is far more qualified as an atmospheric physicist than you’ll ever think of being. That applies to all the wannabees at RC as well.

definitely a member of the tribe. oil shrill posted

from the beginning of this graph:

the temps leap about 0.4degC or so
why is it “simply stupid”?
the only stupid I see is those who believe in AGW, despite the total absence of evidence.

Another. cohenite is always good for spreading cheer and irrelevance
a temperature trend between 2 points is a temperature trend period; however, a trend doesn’t tell you the rate of change nor does it tell you whether that rate of change is correlated with a causal factor; what Singer is showing is that an overall trend between 2 designated points cannot be causally connected with CO2; the overall trends are a product of sudden and large steps; look at this;
Eli is working on a book proposal. The Electric Kooling-Aid Denialist Test is a work of literary journalism by Eli Rabett describing the travels of S. Fred Singer and his band of Merry Emeriti in their coal shuttle, "Our Thing" and how they reach personal and collective revelations through fantasy and science affliction. It covers their cross country road trips, as well as the Acid Tests for True Believers, and for light relief, 9 track tapes of early performances by the Marshall Institute Trio. Eli is concerned not with yuks, although they are appreciated, but with relating the Emeriti's intellectual and quasi-financial experiences. Large advances are respectfully requested.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Principal Investigator's Burden

After a day of pushing papers in a empty building, in an abandoned university, where the students have fled for the Holiday break, and my colleagues who have no external support are also away with their families, Eli came across this editorial by Alan Leshner in Science

Reduce Administrative Burden

and the bunny said

YES!!!!!! *$&&#&# YES

Leshner goes on to say
A 2007 survey by the U.S. Federal Demonstration Partnership (A Profile of Federal-Grant Administrative Burden Among Federal Demonstration Partnership Faculty) found that 84% of faculty in the United States believe that the administrative burden associated with federally funded grants has increased significantly in recent years. Most notably, the study indicates that of the total time that faculty devote to research, 42% is spent on pre- and post-award administrative activities.
Leshner considers goals
An ideal goal would be for every science-related rule or regulation to be rationalized and streamlined. As a group, they should be integrated as much as possible so as to reduce unnecessary duplication. New versions should address the lack of uniformity across agencies
and solutions
Whoever takes the lead in reducing administrative burden might consider a somewhat unorthodox approach to reviewing and revising existing regulations. Rather than starting with the evaluation of each existing policy one at a time, it might ultimately be better to start anew from an integrated list of all the issues that must be addressed, and then take an entirely fresh look at what rules and regulations should be applied. Although this might trigger fears of "reinventing the wheel," it also might prove the point of another old adage: "Never underestimate the value of 'square one.'"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Something strange comes this way (well it's NJ, what did you expect?)

UPDATE 12/4: Since this was posted much has happened. Eli has added a whole bunch of stuff to the bottom of this post in roughly chronological order, including a response from Black Light Power, and some discussion of it. A fair amount of it has been taken from the hydrino forum discussion entitled five years, but since clicking through is not a habit many have, it will be reproduced here. 12/7: This also includes a comment by Scarmani speculating that monovalent aluminum plays a role who points out that there is enough Al in Raney Ni to account for the energy generated. Some additional comments about papers that show Raney-Ni is very active and explodes when heated under various conditions can be found at the bottom, with references for the interested


Black Light Power is an interesting construct. Operating at the fringe of quantum mechanics, Black Light's entrepreneurial leader, Randell Mills has successfully raised a ton of money (~$60 million, not in the class of your average hedge fund, but better than a typical NIH grant). BLP is one of the few things that Eli and Lumo agree about and comments about its business model have appeared before in this humble blog. It starts but does not end with a refusal to believe in quantum mechanics, followed by a blizzard of hand waving and algebra from which, as Venus from the quantum foam, arises the hydrino, a hydrogen orbit with fractional quantum numbers, very strongly bound, much more so than the ground state of hydrogen (E ~ -R/n2). One of the occupants of the Lumidek, Nigel, summed it up succinctly

This is sustained by the facts, which contradict Mills, who is basically doing for QED what Ptolemy did for ancient cosmology, against Aristarchus’ solar system.
So what now young hares? After claiming that hydrinos are the answer to the energy problem, discovering antigravity, and a few other things, BLP has brought forth a new "energy source"
Our experiments on the BlackLight technology have demonstrated that within the range of measurement errors the significant energy generated, which is 100 times the energy that could be attributed to measurement error, cannot be explained by other known sources like combustion or nuclear energy,” says Dr. Jansson, professor of engineering at Rowan University. “The ability to generate such tremendous power in this controlled process demonstrates that the claim by BlackLight Power that it is able to demonstrate repeatable heat experiments based on their technology can be replicated by independent scientists.”
which has been "validated" by Rowan University.
“Our experiments on the BlackLight technology have demonstrated that within the range of measurement errors the significant energy generated, which is 100 times the energy that could be attributed to measurement error, cannot be explained by other known sources like combustion or nuclear energy,” says Dr. Jansson, professor of engineering at Rowan University. “The ability to generate such tremendous power in this controlled process demonstrates that the claim by BlackLight Power that it is able to demonstrate repeatable heat experiments based on their technology can be replicated by independent scientists.”
This flight of fancy has made its way into the mainstream, the New York Times, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, NPR and a ton of blogs and other media. A lot of these sources play some variation of "no one else has been able to explain this". Recently a small electrical coop in NM contracted for one of the magic reactors
Cranbury, NJ (December 11, 2008)—BlackLight Power (BLP) Inc. today announced its first commercial license agreement with Estacado Energy Services, Inc. in New Mexico, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Roosevelt County Electric Cooperative, (Estacado). In a non-exclusive agreement, BLP has licensed Estacado to use the BlackLight Process and certain BLP energy technology for the production of thermal or electric power. Estacado may produce gross thermal power up to a maximum continuous capacity of 250 MW or convert this thermal power to corresponding electricity.
That's why you hired Eli and his merry band. Eli didn't put the last brick onto this sarcophagus but he did start the thing rolling down hill and since Rabett Run is read by many (maybe two or three) involved in energy issues, it is a decent place to put the answer and let's face it the 116,985th most popular blog could use some links.

How to describe the "Black Light Process" You can find some details on the Black Light Power site and on a couple of discussion groups, and yes, there is a video and a bunch of animations. The reactor is a tube that can be heated. The cell contains a mixture of Raney nickel and sodium hydride and sodium hydroxide processed who knows how and certainly containing some majic ingridients. As we shall see you don't need anything but the Raney nickel. Raney nickel is an old, well know catalyst for hydrogenation. It is produced
. . . .when a block of nickel-aluminium alloy is treated with concentrated NaOH. This treatment, called "activation", dissolves most of the aluminium out of the alloy. The porous structure left behind has a large surface area, which gives high catalytic activity. A typical catalyst is around 85-percent nickel by mass, corresponding to about two atoms of nickel for every atom of aluminium. The aluminium which remains helps to preserve the pore structure of the overall catalyst.
This is usually done in the presence of hydrogen gas.

BLP claims that in their reactor shown above, an initial heating decomposes sodium hydride yielding hydrogen and sodium atoms. The sodium atoms are said to (look, it's BLP, not Eli) catalyze a transition in the hydrogen atoms from the ground state to one of the lower lying "hydrinos" states. The claimed yield from 1.5 kg of Raney nickel is about a megajoule. The Rowan experiments may or may not have recycled the evolved hydrogen. BLP and their friends at Rowan University say there is no possible chemical explanation for this.

Well, there are some problems of course, if there is a net gain of energy, the hydrinos can't transition back to the hydrogen ground state cause if they did you would have to put in energy to bring them from the deep hydrino basement back up to the hydrogen ground state, so they are said to whisk off as dihydrinos, but, as Fermi said about space aliens, where are they cause they would have been seen everywhere? But the real question is what is happening.

We don't know how BLP is preparing their majic mix except that it has a lot of Raney nickel and sodium hydride, NaH. There is also some aluminum hanging about. Fortunately we do have the chemical literature. Raney nickel is used for hydrogination (adding hydrogen to molecules). Hydrogen atoms chemisorbed (that means they actually form a bond rather than just sitting there) on the Ni surface are easily attached to other molecules. Raney nickel used for such experiments is known to explode or catch on fire later and must be disposed of with care. An old paper, "The Role of Hydrogen in Raney Nickel Catalysts by Hilton Smith, Andrew Chadwell and S.S. Kirslis J. Phys. Chem. 1955 59 820-22 tells the observant pretty much everything
The hydrogen content of Raney nickel has been found by direct analysis to vary between one-half and one atom of hydrogen per atom of nickel. The activity of a sample of this catalyst has been shown to be proportional to its hydrogen content. The surface area decreases linearly with loss of hydrogen until about 70% is removed; then it decreases more rapidly. If the hydrogen is released rapidly, heat is evolved which results in an explosion of the catalyst. The best explanation for these phenomena appears to be based on the assumption that the hydrogen is in the form of atoms attached to the nickel in a metastable state. If desorption of the hydrogen is rapid, the highly exothermic recombination of the hydrogen atoms becomes explosive.
The reaction of the NaOH with the metals to form the catalyst produces a lot of hydrogen which can be absorbed on the surface. The JPC paper found that the maximum amount of H2 that could be desorbed was between ~100 and ~150 ml STP per gram. The aluminum oxide content was ~20%. A lot of surface science experiments tell us that the hydrogen chemisorbed on the surface is in the form of H atoms and can be driven off by heating. The mechanism involves recombination of two H atoms on the surface of the Raney nickel to form H2. The H2 is not bound strongly to the surface and desorbs.

At this point, we KNOW that the sodium hydride has nothing to do with the case, that the Raney nickel alone can evolve a large amount of heat when the H atoms are driven off and that the hydrogen atoms are loosely bound to the nickel (metastable enough that we can drive them of by mild heating)

Grabbing one of the discarded Christmas card envelops that the gentle readers were so kind as to send and turning it to the back, the chemical reaction would be

2 Ni-H(s) --> Ni-Ni(s) + H2(g)

Scaling the 100 to 150 ml/g H2 for Raney nickel up to the 1500 g Rowan/BLP reactor we get (100-150 ml/g)*(1500g) = 150 - 225 liters of H2 or .

(150-225 liter)/(22.4 l/mole) = 6.7 - 10 moles (a serious amount of Hydrogen)

To do this right we would have to know the heat of formation of a mole of H atoms on the Raney nickel and a whole lot of details, Raney nickel is a very nano material, where structure is everything. However, for the back of our envelope we can use bond strengths from the table in the Chem Rubber Bible (aka Chemical Rubber Company Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 9-64 (2008)).

Ni-Ni: 204 kJ/mol
Ni-H: 240 kJ/mol
H-H: 436 kJ/mol

So we break two Ni-H bonds, that costs us 480 kJ/mol and we make one Ni-Ni bond getting back 204 kJ/mol and one H-H bond, getting back 436 kJ/mol

Net heat of reaction is estimated by adding the energies for the bonds broken and subtracting the energies for the bonds formed. (A negative number means the reaction will be exothermic or give off energy in the form of heat)

Net heat of reaction per mole of H2 generated= 2*240 kJ/mol - 436 kJ/mol - 204 kJ/mol = -160 kJ/mol (an exothermic reaction)

Net heat evolved from 1.5 kg of Raney nickel = (6.7-10.0 mol) x -160 kJ/mol = - 1072 kJ to -1600 kJ = -1.1 to -1.6 MJ!!

If the lab bunnies follow the bouncing ball they will see that the BLP and Rowan folk say that reaction with 1.5 kg of their mix, which is mostly Raney nickel releases 1 MJ of energy. This is in the Table on the bottom of page 7 of the Rowan report. They report heats of 1.015 MJ (average of two runs) for the runs with 1.5 kg. Page 4 gives the results with 30 g of Raney-Ni. In these runs, they got 20 kJ. Lets check the reproducibility: (1500 g/ 30 g) * 20 kJ = 1000 kJ = 1 MJ. Pretty good linearity. For standard chemistry with a reaction going to completion, this makes sense.

UPDATES: From Randell Mills via a yahoo discussion group,
The heat of formation of nickel hydride is negative and small (-2.1 kcal mole/H2). It is referenced in my paper R. L. Mills, G. Zhao, K. Akhar, R. Chang, J. He, Y. Lu, W. Good, G. Chu, "Commercializable Power Source from Forming New States of Hydrogen", in press (Reference 78 at Eq. (45)).

[78. B. Baranowski, S. M. Filipek, "45 years of nickel hydride‹history and perspectives", Journal of Alloys and Compounds, 404-406, (2005), pp. 2-6.]

Thus, nickel hydride decomposition is endothermic, not exothermic. Furthermore, his main mistake is that he has incorrectly calculated the heat of formation of nickel hydride using bond energies. Specifically, the bond energies regard gaseous atoms,and the energy to vaporize Ni metal to atomic nickel is +429.7 kJ/mole Ni (CRC) or +4.45 eV/Ni atom.

D. R. Lide, CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 86th Edition, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton, (2005-6), p. 5-16.

Also, nickel hydride is H dissolved in a Ni metal lattice. It does not comprise covalent Ni-H bonds.
Eli's response here (see the comments for complete details):
Folks, BoE means you grab stuff. Using the chemical reaction

2Ni-H --> Ni-Ni + H2

is a cartoon of what is happening, and using the diatomic bond strengths is a really rough estimate, but it is rough on both sides of the arrow, AND is very much in keeping with how bond strengths are used to estimate heats of reaction. (see your tattered GChem book) . . . . . .
Part II: As Eli understands it, BLP assumes the Raney nickel is a passive support. Raney-Ni is known to be a very active catalyst for hydrogenation and a pyrophoric material, indeed a dangerous one to be handled with care that has on occasion exploded. Scarmani and Oakthicket on the hydrino forum and Eli have pointed out that the metals themselves in Raney-Ni, principally Al and Ni, can participate in energetic chemistry, as could H atom recombination. And, let us be frank about it, and Na metal or NaH could also take part. We also know from the development of hydrogen storage devices that the addition of small amounts of other metals can significantly change the storage capacity of Ni for atomized hydrogen. It is very easy to see that there are enough possible chemical reactions around in 1.5 kg of doped Raney-Ni to provide 1 MJ of exothermicity. . . .
Scarmani at the hydrino forum;

[[ edit: in a response to Rabett's blog entry posted to SocietyforClassicalPhysics mailing list, Mills has provided a reference for this: doi:10.1016/0021-9517(81)90102-0

The paper states "A commercial Raney nickel evacuated at 25 °C evolved about 23 cm3 (STP)/g H2, as measured by volumetric and temperature-programmed-desorption (TPD) methods... Without H2O addition hydrogen desorption was only slightly exothermic, but when H2O was added, it was highly exothermic. The latter process appears to be the reaction of H2O plus zero-valent aluminum; this reaction did not proceed to a large extent in the usual desorption tests. Thus, most of the hydrogen was present as chemisorbed and interstitial hydrogen."/edit ]]

This seemingly contradicts the description in the old 1955 paper "The Role of Hydrogen in Raney Nickel Catalyst" (J. Phys. Chem., 1955, 59 (9), doi: 10.1021/j150531a005) which states "The hydrogen atoms are slowly desorbed on standing... The process may be greatly accelerated by increasing the temperature. In fact, the desorption may be so rapid that the highly exothermic recombination of the hydrogen atoms becomes explosive."

The difference may be that with sufficiently high concentrations of atomic H, recombination of atomic H can proceed rapidly; under high vacuum or low surface loading of hydrogen, recombination of atomic H does not occur at a significant rate because the concentrations of atomic H do not reach sufficient levels. ... 41C707.pdf . . . .

Recombination of atomic H to molecular H on the surface of solids can occur more quickly, due to other mechanisms (

A friend I'd been trying to persuade to look closely into Blacklight mentioned in passing that rapid recombination of built-up atomic hydrogen to molecular hydrogen might be behind the observation of excess heat generally in systems containing hydrogen where energy was input (e.g. cold fusion, Mills electrolysis and Blacklight gas plasma cells). He pointed out the atomic hydrogen torch ( At the time I dismissed this as a possible explanation, but it is starting to seem more plausible.
Oakthicket makes two points:
If you want to show that 'hydrinos' result in large amounts of excess heat, why would you not run a control sample of undoctored Raney-nickel catalyst under identical conditions and measure excess energy? You then compare the two sets of results. Using control samples is a standard scientific approach. That wasn't done by Rowan University. They simply took doctored Raney-nickel, heated this highly-exothermic substance, measured the energy output and declared that most of the energy generated cannot be explained by normal chemistry.
Scarmani continues
I completely agree. In Mills' main paper (, pp 21-24) there is a control - but the control is "3 wt% Al(OH)3 doped R-Ni/Al alloy"

In other words, the control Mills selects is not actual Raney Nickel - it is the non-porous, non-hydrogen containing starting alloy powder of 50/50 Ni/Al, laced with a small amount of Bayerite. Why did Mills chose a solid metal alloy powder as the control, rather than use the obvious, meaningful, directly comparable control (identical, porous, hydrogen-containing R-Ni, sans vital catalyst)?
and brings another idea about a conventional chemical reaction
In the R-Ni experiments, if you take the conventional view, the original driving source for the energy is not to do with NaH, but rather the oxidation of Aluminum metal. To illustrate how much energy is stored in the Aluminum, the amount of energy released in preparing R-Ni from the starting alloy is 300x the amount of energy released from the same weight of R-Ni in the Mills / Rowan experiments. (Another illustration is ... 0Cells.pdf)

The 15 wt% or so residual Aluminum metal present in the R-Ni is used to drive the formation of hydrogen from NaOH (or if hydride formed, will likely give up hydrogen very easily with heat in the presence of R-Ni due to lower activation energy, doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2007.06.030). Because of the surface doping, most of the resulting hydrogen is directly absorbed in atomic form on the R-Ni surface. At a threshold temperature, activation energy is reached and there is a runaway recombination / desorption of the hydrogen from the R-Ni. The recombination to molecular hydrogen is highly exothermic; this very exothermic runaway recombination does not occur in earlier thermal desorption studies of R-Ni because there is not a great enough concentration of H atoms in those studies (under full vacuum rather than in a sealed pressurized container, surface loading of H lower than critical threshold since the R-Ni is not doped in a way that can directly generate hydrogen on the surface of the Nickel).
12/7 The paper by Nicolau and Anderson, J. Catal. 68 (1981) 339 cited in the comments by one of BLPs supporters reports that a small amount of water vapor causes Raney-Ni to release more than double the amount of hydrogen and significant energy on heating (they had a small sample, about a half a gram, which could not heat the mount it was on much, not 1.5 kg). They ascribe this to the reaction of water with zero-valent aluminum.

An interesting paper from Hotta, et al, in Kagaku to Kogyo (Osaka) 41 (1967) 269 reports that Raney-Ni heated with small amounts of organics, such as alcohols exploded on heating to about 200 oC. Another paper by Mikhailenko, et al, J. Catal 141 (1993) 688 notes that
However, usage of Raney catalysts is often limited by their propensity for self-heating and self ignition in air. The nature of these phenomina is influenced by the presence of a large amount of hydrogen in active form (5, 8-10)
We do not know exactly what was in the 1.5 kg furnished by BLP to Rowan, but we do know that Raney nickel is a very energetic material and not a passive support. Eli, Scarmani and others have pointed to several possibilities for reactions that would furnish enough energy to produce 1 MJ from a 1.5 kg sample of Raney - Ni, and we have pointed to several reports of occasions on which Raney-nickel was reported to explode. It is not a passive support. There are several chemical possibilities to explain the observed heating.


The honest broker quote mine

Ethon, hovering high above the Colorado train wreck has spotted a world class quote mine from the USCCSP chapter on abrupt climate change due to sea level rise. As pointed out first by Mary-Elena Carr at the Columbia Climate Blog, Roger Jr has engaged in Climate Cabala, reading the report to say

So when asked . . . how high will sea levels rise in the 21st century?

. . . the scientifically correct answer, according to this report, is “we don’t know.” It could be large, but it also could be similar to that of the 20th century (and I am implying nothing of probability here). Of course, such a situation lends itself to cherrypicking and political Rorschaching. So the proper response might be “Well, what do you want it to be?”

based on a tasty bit on page 92,
Considerable effort is now underway to improve the models, but it is far from complete, leaving us unable to make reliable predictions of ice-sheet responses to a warming climate if such glacier accelerations were to increase in size and frequency. It should be noted that there is also a large uncertainty in current model predictions of the atmosphere and ocean temperature changes which drive the ice-sheet changes, and this uncertainty could be as large as that on the marginal flow response.
Of course, our honest broker (count your fingers bunnies) doesn't want you to RTFR, because if you did, you might see that the uncertainties all lie in the direction of much higher sea level rise than predicted in the AR4, in other words, the AR4 remains the minimum base for sea level rise and things could be worse, but are unlikely to be better. The report concludes that
Recent rapid changes at the edges of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets show acceleration of flow and thinning, with the velocity of some glaciers increasing more than twofold. Glacier accelerations causing this imbalance have been related to enhanced surface meltwater production penetrating to the bed to lubricate glacier motion, and to ice-shelf removal, ice-front retreat, and glacier ungrounding that reduce resistance to flow. The present generation of models does not capture these processes. It is unclear whether this imbalance is a short-term natural adjustment or a response to recent climate change, but processes causing accelerations are enabled by warming, so these adjustments will very likely become more frequent in a warmer climate. The regions likely to experience future rapid changes in ice volume are those where ice is grounded well below sea level such as the West Antarctic Ice Sheet or large glaciers in Greenland like the Jakobshavn Isbrae that flow into the sea through a deep channel reaching far inland. Inclusion of these processes in models will likely lead to sea-level projections for the end of the 21st century that substantially exceed the projections presented in the IPCC AR4 report (0.28 ± 0.10 m to 0.42 ± 0.16 m rise).
Even better, in the comments RP uses his misrepresentation to bash Joe Romm for actually having read the report, and accepts the acclimation of the crowd for his honest broker act.

Hat tip to the Columbia Climate blog

PS - if you wonder what Ethon has been up to

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Perhaps something worth talking about

Mary-Elena Carr has a new post up at the Columbia Climate Blog about the US Climate Change Science Program synthesis report on abrupt climate change. By way of introduction she starts with the etymology

The term abrupt climate change arose in the study of past climate. Some definitions of the term refer to the climate system passing a threshold between different states (for example, with ice to ice-free). As opposed to a gradual change, it can be difficult to anticipate or to understand the passage from one state to another. Some climate tipping points include melting of the Greenland ice sheet or shutdown of major circulation systems.
and points out that the USCCP has evolved (or according to Stoat, devolved) the term to
A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems.
Carr enlarges upon this
Climate changes that do not involve rapid changes from one state to another can also be abrupt when considered from this human perspective.

Why do we care? A crucial consideration for climate change is the rate at which change occurs. One relevant rate is by comparison to the speed at which human societies or biological systems can react. It is easier to respond to sea level rise over a period of centuries than over a decade.

Abrupt climate change has occurred in the absence of human perturbation to the planet, but in today's world, societies would be extremely vulnerable to rapid changes such as those seen in the past. There is an added concern that anthropogenic forcing might trigger an abrupt change.

This raises, and provides at least one answer, to the perhaps important question of this essay, what is the relevant time for climate change and how long must they persist to be considered a climate change. One must also grapple with the issue of whether local changes, desertification for example, climate changes? Indeed, in their introduction the USCCSP discuss why they have adopted their definition

What is meant by abrupt climate change? Several definitions exist, with subtle but important differences. Clark et al. (2002) defined abrupt climate change as “a persistent transition of climate (over subcontinental scale) that occurs on the timescale of decades.” The NRC report “Abrupt Climate Change” (NRC, 2002) offered two definitions of abrupt climate change. A mechanistic definition defines abrupt climate change as occurring when “the climate system is forced to cross some threshold, triggering a transition to a new state at a rate determined by the climate system itself and faster than the cause.” This definition implies that abrupt climate changes involve a threshold or nonlinear feedback within the climate system from one steady state to another, but is not restrictive to the short time scale (1-100 years) that has clear societal and ecological implications. Accordingly, the NRC report also provided an impacts-based definition of abrupt climate change as “one that takes place so rapidly and unexpectedly that human or natural systems have difficulty adapting to it.” Finally, Overpeck and Cole (2006) defined abrupt climate change as “a transition in the climate system whose duration is fast relative to the duration of the preceding or subsequent state.” Similar to the NRC’s mechanistic definition, this definition transcends many possible time scales, and thus includes many different behaviors of the climate system that would have little or no detrimental impact on human (economic, social) systems and ecosystems.
For this report, we have modified and combined these definitions into one that emphasizes both the short time scale and the impact on ecosystems. In what follows we define abrupt climate change as:
"A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems."
The USCCSP discusses four major possibilities for abrupt climate change in the next century

(1) rapid change in glaciers, ice sheets, and hence sea level;
(2) widespread and sustained changes to the hydrologic cycle;
(3) abrupt change in the northward flow of warm, salty water in the upper layers of the Atlantic Ocean associated with the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC);
(4) rapid release to the atmosphere of methane trapped in permafrost and on continental margins.

to which we shall return and return and return. The bar is open.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It takes a village

Blogs are culturally similar to science. You interact with people you seldom (or even never) meet. Some you like, some you hate most you ignore. Some repeat themselves forever, others move on and you hear about them from other friends who have visited or you pick up on a conversation you started two years ago as if nothing happened.

Australia has a passel of bloggers, and one Eli has always enjoyed is the Lab Lemming. Chuck gave up climate blogging and the sheltered life running a high res mass spec to head into the Outback as an exploration geologist and blog on rocks, but times are hard and evidently there is too much uranium on the market, so he was let go and is blogging about it

After about a month it looks like he has picked up a temporary contract. Eli doesn't know if there is anything he can do, but would be happy to help. He is sure that many here are of the same opinion.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Rabett was wrong and you were right, Stoat?

More later, perhaps, but by way of Climate Progess from Reuters and the World Meteorological Organization, for 2008

"Overall [Arctic] ice volume was less than that in any other year”

mostly because a lot of the ice that was left in 2007 was new ice.
Arctic sea ice extent during the 2008 melt season dropped to its second-lowest level since satellite measurements began in 1979, reaching the lowest point in its annual cycle of melt and growth on 14 September 2008. Average sea ice extent over the month of September, a standard measure in the scientific study of Arctic sea ice, was 4.67 million km2. The record monthly low, set in 2007, was 4.3 million km2.

Because ice was thinner in 2008, overall ice volume was less than that in any other year.

A remarkable occurrence in 2008 was the dramatic disappearance of nearly one-quarter of the massive ancient ice shelves on Ellesmere Island. Ice 70 metres thick, which a century ago covered 9 000 km2, has been chiselled down to just 1 000 km2 today, underscoring the rapidity of changes taking place in the Arctic. The season strongly reinforces the 30-year downward trend in Artic sea ice extent.
Wm owes Eli a beer, Eli owes William a beer or something.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hard Times

S. Fred Singer, the fellow for whom the S. Fred for Climatology Incoherence Award is named (the comments at the link are hilarious) has hit tough times and is appalling for help

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ SEPP needs your support! Donations are fully tax-deductible SEPP relies on private donations only, does no solicit support from industry or government SEPP does not employ fundraisers, mass mailings, or costly advertisements SEPP has a modest budget, no employees, pays no salaries, relies on volunteers SEPP scientists donate their time pro bono and assign book royalties and speaking fees to SEPP Please make checks to SEPP $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
One of the issues rich old bunnies have is they can't shelter income. In the US you can't contribute to retirement accounts after age 72, and in fact you have to pull money out. Eli has been quite the admirer of S. Fred Singer's solution to this problem.

Some have asked what SEPP is. The answer is a tax shelter. If you follow their tax statements (Form 990 for tax free organizations), and the Bunny has, what you see is donations of about $100K/year, outgoes of 30-50K per year, occasional income from activities like the NIPCC report (SEPP, or in other words S. Fred got 143K$ for that in case anyone wonders what the wages of obfustication are) and an increasing stock portfolio.

S. Fred has been socking the difference between income and expenses away in the SEPP stock account and profiting on stock sales without having to pay tax on the realized gain. SEPP, of course, is tax free. From 1998 to 2007, the value of the portfolio increased from 203K$ to 1,692K$.

The portfolio supports S. Fred's travel, an office and some other stuff, but the big question is what was the exit plan to pull the money out. A simple one would for SEPP to pay Singer or anyone he designates (or wants to see get the money) a salary when he needs the money, or find some way of covering expenses.

Yet, this may not arise. SEPP appears to have been Bushed in the meltdown and needs help. It will be amusing to see their 990 for 2008.

Feeling poor bucky? Make a comment.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A bit of housework

Unlike the lazy Stoat, Eli occasionally updates his blogroll. In addition to instigating Werner Aeschbach-Hertig's Reality Check, Eli has been negligent in adding it to his list although he did mention it early on.

Oh wonder, how many goodly climate blogs are there now, this time we are adding (again late) Barry Brook's Brave New Climate. As Orwell (?) explained, BNC stands as a bulwark

"...By the year 2050 - earlier probably - all real knowledge of Oldscience will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Evolution, climate science, vaccinations - they'll exist only in Newscience versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of Oldscience will disappear. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like "CO2 is life" if you don't abolish the concept of reality? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Denialism means not thinking - not needing to think. Denialism is incoherence..."
UPDATE: In the comments Barry updates Eileen O'Shaunghnessy's, (Eric Blair's wife, look it up bunnies) poem End of the Century-1984

"...Hansen's bones are quiet at last,
...No science disturbs the lucid line,
For sun-scorched Earthers tune their thought
To Offword Station 'Holocene-1'
From where they know just what they ought,
...memories of times past that should be banished
Only relics, philosophies and a parched wasteland lie below..."

Also, welcome to Greenfyre, a lovely taste of which starts

I am Ngudima Madriguru, Climate Minister of my country. On behalf of my family (the Abacha’s), my country and the Free World I would like to seek your advice and help.

I have data that proves human caused climate change is a hoax, but UN thugs intent on world domination are keeping me from sharing it with you.

There is proof that I dare not reveal yet. The earth is cooling even though all of the science shows it is not. The sun is what is making the Earth warmer even though the sun is in a cool phase. The Arctic ice is expanding even though there is less of it. The sea is shrinking even as it rises. The glaciers are advancing even though they appear to be shrinking. I have the evidence!
Green has a great candidate for the 2008 Tim Ball Award.

Finally we added the Klimalounge, which features posts by Stefan Rahmstorf

Admittedly the blogroll on this site is ideosyncratic and not complete. OTOH it is Eli's blog however we are always interested in suggestions.

Other suggestions?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Tim Ball Nominees

Readers of this blog will realize that it is the Award Season. In past years, the Bunny Blog has asked for nominations for the S. Fred for Climatology Incoherence and Eli hisself was awarded second and fourth in the Bag of Rocks sponsored by cohenite. Now in past years, Eli has admonished Marc Morano, by giving him the Gold Plated Mouse, for lazy cut and paste posting. Marc works as Sorcerers Apprentice to Wizzer Inhofe, but Marc has a little list he keeps adding to. Last year there were 400 folk who are scientists, might have met one once, or has played golf with one. Now there are 650

Thus, the Tim Ball Award for Resume Stretching. Tim, you may remember, was the former First Ever Climatologist in Canada who got called and stomped on by Dan Johnson, for, well, resume stretching.

Morano is in charge of nominations and, thanks to his strenuous cut and pasting, and quality decontrol, we have some new high quality nominations.

Tim Lambert and friends do the dozens on Louis Hissink, one of the Aussies who is very, very grumpy because people only laugh at him. Bernard J at #21 had it pretty well

Hissinkfit's efforts though eclipse everything that we ever came up with, and they are all the more flabbergastingly hilarious for the fact that he apparently has a Masters, and that he genuinely believes in what he concocts.
Some science historian in the future is going to review the two sides of the climate change debate that is currently percolating, and when that person analyses the fruitcake that is the body of current denialist dogma they will shake their heads in disbelief.
Tuvalu Marc has the touch. Eli found an interesting one straight off
“Many [scientists] are now searching for a way to back out quietly (from promoting warming fears), without having their professional careers ruined.” - Atmospheric physicist James A. Peden, formerly of the Space Research and Coordination Center in Pittsburgh.
Now James is retired from a job in the defense industry and earns his keep as a webmaster in Middlebury and a part time, garden troll flourishing in a CO2 rich environment, and at the bottom put his qualifications
James A. Peden -better known as Jim or "Dad" - Webmaster of Middlebury Networks and Editor of the Middlebury Community Network, spent some of his earlier years as an Atmospheric Physicist at the Space Research and Coordination Center in Pittsburgh and Extranuclear Laboratories in Blawnox, Pennsylvania, studying ion-molecule reactions in the upper atmosphere. As a student, he was elected to both the National Physics Honor Society and the National Mathematics Honor Fraternity, and was President of the Student Section of the American Institute of Physics. He was a founding member of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, and a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. His thesis on charge transfer reactions in the upper atmosphere was co-published in part in the prestigious Journal of Chemical Physics (JCP). The results obtained by himself and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh remain today as the gold standard in the Astro Chemistry Database. He was a co-developer of the Modulated Beam Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer, declared one of the "100 Most Significant Technical Developments of the Year" and displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
Tim Ball, could learn from this guy. The web, being the world wide web, this gets taken a bit apart in yahoo questions, with Peden dropping in for amusement value. They quickly find out that he has two papers (you turn up a couple more reports in Google Scholar) that one of them has no cites and the other 31. More about that later. d/dx + d/dq + d/dz actually reads Peden's climate blather and remarks
That's two more papers than I surmised by reading part of the article. There are more errors in the paper than I want to list, but the first few are:
and he lists them closing with
I find it difficult to conceive of a practicing scientist making so many blunders. Is Peden actually alive, or is someone else abusing a name taken from a tombstone? If he were dead that would explain the lack of papers.
Eli wants to take some time to show you the little guy hiding behind the curtin. The first clue is that the last author of the JCP paper was Wade Fite, the founder of Extranuclear, a company that made the best quadrupole mass analyzers. The bit about "co-published" means that some of the results from Peden's thesis appeared in an article in JCP, which is a good journal, but still "published in the prestigious" is insecure overkill. The paper has three authors. Peden's advisor, Wade Fite is the third author, the place where group leaders generally go in these things. What is important to note is that Peden is the second author, which means that his contribution was less than that of the first author. This is unusual for something based significantly on a student's thesis, which indicates that it was not or that he pissed Fite off, or something. (Steve Bloom says in the comments that there is no evidence that Peden has a doctoral degree so he may have a Masters. That is consistent with the evidence. The research division of Bunny Labs is looking in to this.) The American Society for Mass Spectrometry was founded in 1969, when Peden was a student of Fite's so he may have joined when it was founded, but it is a bit hard to believe he was one of the founders. One of the first members, yeah, but WTH that goes with the style.

Fite and Brackmann used modulated beam mass spectrometry in 1959 while they were at General Dynamics, so Peden may be slightly exaggerating his role, again, in keeping with the general trend. He probably worked on the instrument while with Fite.

The listing of undergraduate clubs and honors is one of those things you do to get into graduate school, but not much thereafter, again a sign of insecurity. The Space Research and Coordination Center in Pittsburgh was a center for students studying the natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, or health areas related to the aerospace field at the University of Pittsburgh that was opened in 1962. It's hard to say for sure, but being an Atmospheric Physicist sounds a lot like doing graduate research in the building. He might have post-doced a bit( check above on degrees) , aka couldn't get a job elsewhere, those were tough times for science jobs

As a service Eli rewrote the bio
James A. Peden -better known as Jim or "Dad" - Webmaster of Middlebury Networks and Editor of the Middlebury Community Network, did his graduate research in atmospheric physics at the University of Pittsburg Space Research and Coordination Center and Extranuclear Laboratories. He studied ion-molecule reactions in the upper atmosphere under his adviser, Wade Fite. As an undergraduate Peden was elected to honor Physics and Mathematics societies at XYZ College . He has been a member of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, and a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. His (Masters??) thesis was on charge transfer reactions in the upper atmosphere, parts of which were published in the Journal of Chemical Physics. The results of that work are still used. At Extranuclear he assisted Fite in commercializing the Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer. It was declared one of the "100 Most Significant Technical Developments of the Year"* by xxx magazine and displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Peden left atmospheric chemistry in the 1970s to work in the defense industry, from which he recently retired.
There is a trend here folks, you just have to read the self-descriptions of the ignorati**, Hissink, Gray, Courtney and this guy, to see it. Eli is but a simple Rabett.

* Vaguely Eli has it between his ears that the award was for the commercializing of the quad, not the modulated beam part. It may have been the IR100 awards. Eli is a VERY old bunny

** They who are to be ignored, any other meaning is strictly in the minds of the gentle reader, for which Rabett Run assumes no liability.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Steven Chu on energy and climate change

Steven Chu, Nobel Prize winner, current Director of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, will be nominated to become Secretary of Energy in the Obama administration

Other links at Climate Progress, Wonk Room

Via Quark Soup

Notice of an interesting debate between Bjorn Lomborg and James Annan's buddy, Myles Allen. Before commenting further, allow Eli to say that David Appell was one of the first bloggers from which the bunnies learned, and he was sorely missed during his hiatus.

Allen's decription of climate change is clear and understandable, the sort of thing you need when exchanging words with Lomborg. Appell summarizes it well, so we will only provide the link (honor among blogger and all that) However it is Allen's economic argument that reduces Lomborg to surstromming or if you prefer, lutefisk. The basic point is that Lomborg is only looking at current and near term damage and using a small social discount rate, for which he relies on Yohe and Tol among others. But

  1. The major damage will occur around late in the century,
  2. There is no reason to believe the majic coal fairy will invent some great new technology which will solve the problem
  3. The ground has shifted and Anthoff, Tol and Yohe (2008) following Weitzman now understand that the costs are asymmetric, heavily weighted to the high end of warming and the risks on that end are so large that the social cost of coal goes to $200/ton C
Abstract: The Stern Review reported a social cost of carbon of over $300/tC, calling for ambitious climate policy. We here conduct a systematic sensitivity analysis of this result on two crucial parameters: the rate of pure time preference, and the rate of risk aversion. We show that the social cost of carbon lies anywhere in between 0 and $120,000/tC. However, if we restrict these two parameters to match observed behavior, an expected social cost of carbon of $60/tC results. If we correct this estimate for income differences across the world, the social cost of carbon rises to over $200/tC.
Allen importantly points out that the cost of mitigation is reasonable (10-20%) compared to the value of the energy industry. Moreover, the cost of fixing the things that Lomborg and his crew of merry economists consider more important for human welfare is small, 50 billion. Allen puts it to Lomborg,
I came of age in Mrs. Thatcher's Britain. And under Mrs. Thatcher you applied the principle that you paid for what you wanted to do. And that's essentially all we are saying here if we want to use fossil fuels we need to pay to make sure that we can use them in such a way that doesn't impose risks on other people who haven't chosen to take those risks.
This reduces Lomborg to saying that well, up till now we have not been very successful. From Eli's post about "Clean Coal" the answer is to paraphrase Robert Siegel putting it to the coal man:
But Mr. Lomborg, you are also saying that you influenced that opinion. That in part what people are saying about climate change is, is in part, what when you've gotten them to think it is by campaigning over the last eight years
There are a bunch of other interesting talks, including Lumo's love interest Klaus at the Climate Forum site. Having taken a good approach, Allen apologies for it
We thought our participants might be amused to see Myles Allen in action in a debate against Bjørn Lomborg, the well-known critic of mainstream opinion on climate change, at last week's Swiss Climate Forum in Thun, Switzerland. Myles would like to make clear the debate format pushed him into being unscientifically combative... If any participants were at the forum, we'd be happy to hear from you.
Never apologize, never complain. Comments

Who says

Much blather about how US car companies can't make economical autos with good gas mileage. This is a lie. The problem is that they neither make or sell them in the US. The picture to the right is the new Ford Fiesta (UK). Diesel versions get over 60 mpg, there is even a model with a claimed 76 mpg (ok bunnies, Eli knows that is imperial gallons so in US speak that is 48 and 61 mpg. Gas versions get between 40 and 35 mpg US. Eli went all over town trying to get a Euro version of the Fiesta a year ago and generally got laughed at. The US Fiesta was equivalent to the ten years ago UK version, only not so good and the fittings were cheap. It was a car they had to offer to maintain fleet mileage limits but didn't want to sell.

GM owns Opel in Germany and several other places, as well as Vauxhall in the UK. The Opel Astra gets 5.4 l/100 km to 9.3 depending on the motor version (in US speak 44 mpg to 26 mpg US), not so good, but a lot better than is on offer in the US.

Other examples of US companies manufacturing useful autos with good mileage welcome in the comments

Sunday, December 07, 2008

An idea??

Eli has been thinking about clean coal. Not being an absolutist, the bunny will gladly settle for half a carrot (or even a third, below that we can negotiate), and his idle thoughts went along the following track. . . Coal gasification is an interesting technology, certainly an old one with town gas being around for going on 200 years. You start by burning coal

C(s) + O2(g) --> CO2(g), ΔH0 = -394 kJ/mole

The - means that that much energy is released per mole of carbon burned. Coal is mostly carbon. If you keep the oxygen availability low the CO2 reacts with hot coal to give

CO2(g) + C(s) --> 2CO(g), ΔH0 = +172 kJ/mole

so you get carbon monoxide and now you add superheated steam to the system

C(g) + H2O(g) <--> CO(g) + H2(g), ΔH0 = +131 kJ/mole

You can also play with the water gas shift reaction

CO(g) + H2O(g) --> CO2(g) + H2(g) ΔH0 = -41 kJ/mole

usually using some catalyst to produce more hydrogen or you can drive coal gasification at high pressure by

C + 2H2 <--> CH4, ΔH0 = -75 kJ/mole or

CO + 3H2 <--> CH4 + H2O(g), ΔH0 = -206 kJ/mole

Town gas has a varied composition depending on how the process was tuned (temperatures, pressure, etc. Typically 50% H2, 35% methane, 10% CO and 5% ethylene, but pretty much any variation is possible depending on end use. The CO is why old movies have people killing themselves by doing a turkey imitation and sticking their heads into an oven. It doesn't work real well with natural gas, although you can blow your house up by leaving the gas full on for a couple of hours and lighting a match.

But to get to the point, combining a concentrating solar power plant with a coal mine, or come to think about it an oil shale or tar sand extraction facility might be a viable way to get to lower carbon emissions for producing liquid fuels and chemicals. If nothing else we need lots of hydrocarbons for the chemical industry. While the net energy output would be lower than from separate coal + solar electricity generation (there will be inefficiencies), it could be greater than either separately and the CO2 emissions would be lower than from a coal burning plant alone. In other words, this is a strategy for less polluting coal, not clean coal. We talked about that earlier.

Now this is but an idle thought, and whether it is worth anything depends on the details, but let Eli throw it out their for others to chew on. He suspects others have thought about this too and would appreciate if somebunny pointed it out


Friday, December 05, 2008


In a recent Science perspective Peter Cox and Chris Jones show why things are probably worse than we think and may become worse than we can think. A major issue for climate science is the availability of a second Earth. A duplicate would be very handy to experiment on, or at least use as a second example. This, of course means that we can study in detail what is happening today, and in the absence of a way-back machine we can use proxies to look at the past. However, in both these activities, natural variability (aka a combination of random chance, chaotic behavior and stuff we don't know enough about) provides wide ranges of various climate sensitivities and looking at only one period badly constrains them.

While there are not very many if any unknown unknowns there sure are a pile of badly known knowns (Eli plays the anti-Rumsfeld here) among which are CO2 sensitivity of carbon stores and the climate sensitivity of CO2.

The first is one of the denialists' favorite outs. It expresses how increases in CO2 will increase (or decrease) the amount of carbon stored in soils/oceans, etc. It determines changes in the flux of CO2 from the atmosphere to other reservoirs and is given in GtC/ppmv or gigatons of carbon stored elsewhere per part per million change in atmospheric CO2. The ranters from the right (mostly they come from there although some are way out in left field and others, like the Larouchies are commuting from Mars) claim that plants will flourish at high atmospheric CO2 in a slightly warmer world, net primary production of vegetative matter increase and, dear Candide Bunny this will be the best of all possible worlds. Unfortunately for us, it appears that this effect will saturate well before Peabody digs up all the coal and burns it.

The second, on the other hand (this is a Science blog at base, and there is nothing without caveats) asks the question, if you have increase (or decrease the amount of carbon in soils and the oceans, how does that affect the global temperature. It is expressed in GtC/K or the change in the amount of stored carbon per degree K. Now there are several effects here. One, of course is you can change the amount of carbon stored by burning fossil fuel. Or you could change it by decomposing leaves (something we in the Northern Hemisphere are currently doing, come to think about it we are also burning a lot of fossil fuel). Or you could change it if the temperature of the oceans changes, and so on.

Cox and Jones point out that modern measurements badly constrain both of these (pink band in the leftmost part of the image from their article) given interannual variability (light green band, the overlap being shown in brown), but that if we add information from the Little Ice Age in the Northern Hemisphere (turquoise band in the rightmost panel) we can narrow the range considerably (purple area in the right panel).

First, Eli obviously has to work on him image skills, but in the meantime you can click on the image to get a clearer view. Second, the middle panel clearly shows a case where temperature driven by other forcings drives CO2 concentrations, but as has been pointed out n+1 times, CO2 in the atmosphere can both be a driving force as is the case when we burn fossil fuel, and a response or feedback, as when, for example the sun cools or heats up.

Eli, being a sunny bunny will leave the last word to Cox and Jones (emphases added for our denialist friends)

The perturbations of climate and CO2 during the LIA period from 1500 to 1750 are strongly correlated, with climate leading CO2 by ~50 years (11). These records indicate a tight relation between CO2 and climate, with a gradient of 40 ppmv/K. However, given the discrepancies between different temperature reconstructions, and the uncertainties associated with interpreting Northern Hemisphere climate proxies in terms of global mean temperature, we estimate a gradient of 20 to 60 ppmv of CO2 per kelvin of global warming (see the figure, middle panel).

This is a conservative estimate based on the assumption that human CO2 emissions from land-use change were not significant in the LIA, which seems consistent with the strong lead-lag relationship between climate and CO2 during this period. Even so, the estimate is at the high end of the 20th-century simulations with the IPCC C-CC models, encompassing only the model with the largest feedback over this period. When considered alongside contemporary constraints, the LIA data thus enable a much tighter constraint on the climate and CO2 dependences of the carbon cycle (see the figure, right panel).

The LIA data imply that atmospheric CO2 will increase more quickly with global warming than most models suggest. One implication is that the 20th-century CO2 rise due to anthropogenic emissions may have been amplified by 20 to 30 ppmv through the impacts of global warming on natural carbon sinks. Furthermore, the existence of a strong climate effect on the carbon cycle indicates that larger emissions cuts are required to stabilize CO2 concentrations at a given level. The LIA is just one example of a natural climatic anomaly in the past that can provide insights into the strength of the coupling between the Earth's climate and carbon cycle. Paleoclimatic data cannot tell us how to meet the challenge of managing 21st-century climate change, but they can help us to better understand the nature of this challenge.

Read the comments for further enlightenment

Thursday, December 04, 2008

King Coal is wearing no clothes

Above the Alliance for Climate Protection's new ad describing the fine clothing that King Coal is selling this Christmas season. Of course, if you don't believe them (and if you do Eli will sell you some excellent air capture technology) Ethon has it on good advice that all we have to do is wait for a miracle. Still if you want to watch the good king being undressed listen to today's interview on NPR with Al and the Mountain(Remover)eers, esp the latter

If you don't have the eight minutes, there is a summary, but it really does not capture how Robert Siegel did his mountain top removal act on Joe Lucas, Vice President for Communications for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. You need to hear the voices to sense the desperation of Lucas as Siegel skewers him. NPR politely skewers, but well, it's pretty clear that Lucas never expected what he got, and although it is NPR, it still signals a shifting of public opinion Eli has transcribed a bit of the Gore interview

Siegel: The American Coalition for Clean Coal and Electricity ... says that they have made a commitment to use coal cleanly and wisely and have shown great progress in achieving that goal

Gore: The question is not whether you are for it or against it, the question is whether or not it exists. It is a theoretical possibility and if it could be brought into existence at some future date at some unspecified cost then it would be great, but it doesn't exist now. Its not anywhere close to being a reality.... Let's not pretend it exists now
And most of the Lucas one
Siegel: What do you think of the add campaign launched against you says that in reality there is no such thing as Clean Coal

Lucas: Well I don't agree with that at all Clean Coal is a term of art that has been around for over thirty years it is shorthand for clean coal technology. It is that whole suite of technologies that have been used to reduce the environmental footprint of using coal to generate electricity. We have made tremendous progress in reducing the environmental footprint in using coal to generate electricity
Here Lucas plays Humpty Dumpty trying to define his way out of trouble, but Siegel is well prepared having read at least a bit of the FR
Siegel: When McKinnsey and Co. the big consultant firm studied CO2 capture and storage technologies in Europe they defined the aim of all of this as capturing around 90% of CO2 emissions from a coal burning plant. If that is what Clean Coal is, does it exist right now. Is there really an existing big industrial scale plant in which you can capture 90% of the CO2
Open mouth, insert foot:
Lucas: There is not that plant, but that is not what Clean Coal is today. Clean Coal is an evolutionary term just like medical technology. Thirty years ago when we didn't have MRI machines we didn't say that we didn't have medical technology but now we have medical technology that includes MRI machines so our understanding of medical technology has evolved.
Siegel takes a bite:
Siegel: Don't you think that the analogy between clean coal and medical technology is a bit imperfect here. That clean coal is a value judgement. It implies something good, successful that has happened. Medical technology implies no particular success, it's just a great enterprise. Clean Coal seems to imply that it is good, it's here.
Lucas now tries to remove foot with bite marks
Lucas: I don't agree with you that it is a misnomer, or a misuse of the term at all. It is in fact talking about this evolutionary progress that we have made over the years. And if you had the Vice-President and me sitting side by side here in the studio we would agree that the ultimate goal is to reach that zero emissions portfolio. The answer is how to we get there, how fast and what does it cost
Siegel re-inserts Lucas' foot into Lucas' mouth carelessly dropping a few toes on the floor. Eli is enjoying this
Siegel: But there is a difference between a process and a product. The process you are saying is over the years making clean coal. Right now the product that is Coal that emits hardly any CO2 into the atmosphere, that's not here yet.
Lucas chokes (you have to listen, Eli told you) on foot swallows to try and extricate leg
Lucas: Somebody asked me that question over a year ago about clean Coal and I said that I learned a long time ago when my mother told me to go clean my room that people's value judgement about what was clean was different. I thought I did a very good job on cleaning my room only to find out that her definition was different.

Siegel: What about that McKinnsey definition they said that 90% of the CO2 emitted from burning the coal would be captured and then you could store it somewhere

Lucas: That is what they described When I look at what the majority of Americans say is clean coal is the fact that we are using technology today to reduce the emissions of hazardous air pollutants and the fact that we will be able to over the next ten years begin to bring technologies into the market place to capture and store carbon That's what the American people believe that clean coal is
That last was a big mistake. Siegel then does his foo bird imitation and dumps the entire load on Lucas
Siegel: But Mr. Lucas, you are also saying that you influenced that opinion. That in part what people are saying clean coal is, is in part, what when you've gotten them to think it is by campaigning over the last eight years
Lucas should have worn it. Eli wants video.
Lucas: But I think the American public looks at things. What you see over time is that today the reality is Americans believe, in great measure, that the coal based electricity sector has been able to deliver affordable reliable energy using domestic energy resources where applicable, keep costs low and continuous environmental improvement.
Feel free to comment after the jump.