Monday, June 8, 2015
The leaders of the G7 industrialized nations are holding a group meeting in Germany, just as western Europe is sweltering in an anomalously early heat wave. Temperatures are as much as 25° above normal for this time of year. Perhaps in response to this heat wave, the G7 leaders pledged today to decarbonize the world economy in 85 years to stop global warming. There was no word on how this "decarbonization" was to be accomplished other than a vague pledge that it would only take place many decades after all the current leaders of the G7 are out of office.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was disinvited to this G7 meeting, but if he had been there he might have pointed out that 85 years is equivalent to 17 consecutive old style USSR "five year plans". In fact 85 years is longer then the USSR itself even existed. Theres no way around it ---- 85 years is a very very long time.
Its great news that several leaders of major industrialized countries have all agreed that climate change is a real problem, and that they need to take action to mitigate global warming. However, its a little disappointing that the best they can come up with is a vague promise that everything will be OK in 85 years. What are people supposed to do for the next 85 years until the decarbonization occurs?
Homes and apartments in France and Germany typically aren't equipped with air conditioning, and past heat waves in Europe have already killed tens of thousands of victims. In 85 years this death toll is likely to grow. In 85 years sea level will have risen by 1-3 m. In 85 years crops will be failing due to drought and heat. In 85 years Arctic Sea Ice will be gone and Greenland Ice will be rapidly melting and the world will be well on its way to climate disaster.
I'm disappointed that the G7 leaders didn't come up with a more concrete proposal that could be completed in a shorter period of time. Let face facts----the G7 pledge to act in 85 years means they intend to take no significant action to stop climate change now.
Friday, June 5, 2015
NOAA has added more data points and "adjusted" some earlier temperature data from the first part of the 21st century, and the newly configured global temperature data set is now interpreted to show no hiatus or slow down in global warming occurred during the first part of the 21st century. This is in conflict with dozens of earlier reports from NOAA that consistently reported that following a record warm El Nino year in 1998, the Earth failed to set a new temperature record for the next 15 years. The period of time from 1998 to 2013 with no apparent global warming had come to be known as the "hiatus."
The earlier reports by NOAA of a hiatus in global warming caused both scientific and political controversy. Some politicians and political commentators opposed to the idea of global warm seized on the hiatus as evidence that the whole scientific idea of global warming warming was flawed, and predictions of the magnitude of future global warming were therefore unreliable. In the scientific community research was done and numerous papers published about the hiatus, with a wide range of scientific theories being offered to explain the hiatus. Possible reasons for the hiatus ranged from the effects of volcanoes, to heat being hidden in the ocean, problems with data quality, to simple random variations in the amount of global warming going on. But there was little doubt that the hiatus posed a problem for the scientific community. Prof. William Collins of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and lead author of the modeling Chapter 9 of the IPCC AR5 said of the hiatus: "
... to be honest with you, if the hiatus is still going on as of the sixth IPCC report, that report is going to have a large burden on its shoulders walking in the door, because recent literature has shown that the chances of having a hiatus of 20 years are vanishingly small."
Now NOAA is claiming that the hiatus never even happened, and that there was no slow down in global warming during the first part of 21st century. If one accepts NOAA's new statements, they have done away with the hiatus controversy entirely by getting rid of the hiatus itself. Apparently all the earlier NOAA reports showing a hiatus, and all the scientific research done on the hiatus, and all the scientific papers published about the hiatus, and all the theories explaining the hiatus were just a big mistake. Its like NOAA made some kind of planetary "boo-boo" and now they want a "do-over."
But if the hiatus controversy is over, a new controversy now exists----this time about the quality of the NOAA global temperature data. Now that NOAA has completely reversed themselves to say there never was a hiatus or slow down in global warming, that means many years of NOAA data were wrong. And if the prior data was wrong, is the current data right?
This year is on track to set a variety of records for record warmth, record droughts, warmest January, February, March, etc. etc. In a new compilation of satellite data put together by German scientists at the University of Bremen, its apparent that Arctic Sea Ice is shrinking at a rate never seen before.
If this pattern continues, by September 2015 we will see a new all-time low for Arctic Sea Ice.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
The UN Climate Change Treaty (also known as the Kyoto Protocols) had a a very simple premise-----if all the countries on earth would sign a UN treaty to reduce their CO2 emissions, then future global warming could be ameliorated. The UN climate change treaty process was set up in a clever way---first would come a "practice" treaty, where countries would accept voluntary, non-binding targets for CO2 reduction and then, after they'd gained experience in reducing CO2 would come a binding treaty where countries would be required to reduce their CO2 emissions and be subject severe penalties if they failed to keep their treaty obligation.
The UN Treaty signed in Kyoto was the "practice" treaty, while the binding treaty was supposed to be signed at the UN meeting in Copenhagen in 2010. But after President Obama feuded with the Chinese delegation in Copenhagen and the new treaty was shelved, a decision was made to shift the UN treaty process in an entirely new direction. Rather than targeting CO2 emissions, any new UN treaty would instead set as its target a limit of 2° on the amount that the Earth would be allowed to warm and further stipulate that there would be no penalties or binding agreements on emissions. As NATURE puts it:
The negotiations' goal has become what is politically possible, not what is environmentally desirable. Gone is a focus on establishing a global, 'top down' target for stabilizing emissions or a carbon budget that is legally binding. The Paris meeting will focus on voluntary, 'bottom up' commitments by individual states to reduce emissions.
In addition to warning that the new UN treaty negotiation are on the verge of failing, NATURE is expressing concern that scientists and their integrity are coming under assault in defining the new 2° C warming target. The problem is that while the goals of the old Kyoto style treaty were clear and simple to define ---- reduce CO2 emissions----the new target of keeping the world below a 2°C warming target is putting unanticipated pressure on scientists and government scientific advisors. Nature says:
There is another casualty: scientific advice. Climate scientists and economists who counsel policy-makers are being pressured to extend their models and options for delivering mitigation later. This has introduced dubious concepts, such as repaying 'carbon debt' through 'negative emissions' to offset delayed mitigation — in theory.
Scientific advisers must resist pressures that undermine the integrity of climate science. Instead of spreading false optimism, they must stand firm and defend their intellectual independence, findings and recommendations — no matter how politically unpalatable.
Climate researchers who advise policy-makers feel that they have two options: be pragmatic or be ignored. They either distance themselves from the policy process by declaring that it is no longer possible to stay within a 2 °C-compatible carbon budget, or they suggest practical ways to dodge carbon-budget constraints.
In other words, politicians are demanding that scientists and govermental scientific advisors lie. The politicians want scientists to affirm that what is likely to be weak, ineffective climate change treaty will stop global warming, even though the scientists know this isn't the case.
Of course, this kind of thing is exactly why the world will eventually need planetary geoengineering to stop global warming. It might be possible for politicians to fool the public and the news media about the effectiveness of a sham climate treaty, and it might even be possible to find scientists who will join in fooling the public, but a sham climate deal won't stop global warming. You can't fool Mother Nature.
Monday, June 1, 2015
"I'm so hot!!! I'm on fire!!!"
I found a copy of the 2006 movie "An Inconvenient Truth" at a rummage sale for $0.25. I'd seen the film when it first came out and I remember mainly being irritated by it. It seemed to me that the film spent a bit too much time on Al Gore's personal life, including his bitterness about losing the 2000 Presidential election, at the expense of time that could have been better spent discussing global warming. Also, as a scientist working on global climate change, I thought Al Gore came precariously close to presenting the work of scientists as his own without giving credit to the people who were actually doing the work.
I was curious how the movie would stand up after 10 years, so I gave the lady at the rummage sale a quarter and took the DVD home and spun it up.
With 10 years of hindsight, Al Gore comes off a little bit differently then he did in 2006. While the film portrays Al Gore as a kind of solitary ecological saint who travels alone from city to city to give his powerpoint show warning about climate change, one can't help remembering Al Gore's arrest for sexually assaulting a masseuse in a hotel in Portland in 2010. The masseuse claimed Al Gore attacked her "like a crazed sex poodle." Two other masseuses later said Al Gore had sexually assaulted them as well. And then there's Al Gore's more recent arrest for indecent exposure in Miami after he took off all his clothes" when the Will Smith song "Getting Jiggy With It" was played at a nightclub called "Heat Wave."
“Witnesses said that when the song came on, Mr. Gore just went wild and kept yelling, ‘I’m so hot! I’m on fire!’, at which point security guards at the popular downtown nightclub, called Heat Wave, escorted Mr. Gore to the parking lot, and made him put his pants back on.”
The scientific parts of the movie hasvestood the test of time better then the reputation of Al Gore himself. The story of Prof. Roger Revelle and the famous Keeling curve of atmospheric CO2 is done well, and the prediction of global warming in the movie remain valid. Probably the most controversial part of the film when it came out was the idea that sea level might go up as much as 20 feet, submerging parts of the coast in Florida, Bangladesh, India, China, etc. But here we are in 2015, and Greenland is melting, Antarctica is starting to melt, and the rate of sea level rise has grown to over 3 mm per year and is still increasing, so the prospect of even an eventual 20 foot rise in sea level can't be ruled be out.
So its still a good movie, but it the goal was to inspire a mass political movement that would demand new laws and treaties to reduce global CO2 emissions then it didn't succeed. So why didn't Al Gore convince the general public to take action to stop global warming? Again, with 10 years of hindsight, I suspect the problem was that the powerpoint lecture that Al Gore was giving in the movie was boring, and people lost interest. I remember at the showing I went to in 2008 (a free event at the University of Alaska) that people were walking out early.
Its just too bad they didn't use the song "Getting Jiggy With It" as the soundtrick for "An Inconvenient Truth" because then the film would have ended with the credits running and the song playing and Al Gore taking off all his clothes and going wild and screaming "I'm so hot! I'm on Fire" and even though the film would've had an "X" rating at least people would've stuck around to see the the film all the way through to see how it all came out.