Arctic melt 20 years ahead of climate models

New Scientist reports that the Arctic could become ice-free during summers by 2030.
At the time, researchers including Mark Serreze of National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado claimed that the Arctic had reached a "tipping point" - a dramatic and irreversible slide towards ice-free conditions.

As the summer melting season finished up this year, they waited with bated breath to see how much, if any, ice would survive.

4.67 million square kilometres remained at the end of September. A positive interpretation says that the Arctic defied the apocalyptic prophecies by recovering slightly, thanks to a pattern of colder and windier weather.

But Serreze is sticking to the idea that we have reached a point of no return.

"If you look over the past five years, you see an acceleration of ice loss," says Serreze. Though 2008 did not beat the record set by 2007, it is still the second-lowest amount on record, below the record lows of 2002 and 2005.

Arctic melt 20 years ahead of climate models (Thanks, Alex!)

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  1. But… didn’t you just link to the article about how the sea ice area returned to 1979 levels? What is it then, are we losing ice or gaining?

    I’m confused, can any climate cientists out there clear it up for us?

  2. it’s been ice free before… it’ll ice up again… it’s not man made… it’s the sun and other natural climate cycles…

  3. I think he’s saying that even though the Ice is better then it was last year, its still not nearly good enough to single any sort of recovery.

    He’s just kind of extrapolating the data over the past few years to make it seem less significant.

    Different strokes for different folks, I guess. Think about it how you want. I think its an improvement, and a positive sign.

  4. This should save a huge bundle of money by allowing shipping via the fabled Northwest Passage, right? I’m not being facetious, this seems like a good thing.

  5. @ VOIVOED:

    read the comments in the previous thread. there is much discussion about the accuracy and relevance of the last set of data. also, realize that one instance of increased ice does not discredit a prolonged trend of loss.

  6. Comment #1 above highlights why that previous BB post so badly needed that correction that I had requested.

    Yes, the sea ice level was the same at the end of this year as it was 30 years ago — a level which it has hit twice a year for the past 30 years. The point of the graph wasn’t that the sea ice had miraculously “recovered,” which is unfortunately how the write-up made it sound. Instead it showed the rather interesting fact that record summer losses (which we’ve had these past two summers) can cause equally rapid winter growth for various reasons.

    The graph and article did not imply any “recovery,” and they certainly did not even remotely suggest that we are at “highest level of sea ice” as the post stated…

  7. rAMPANTiDIOCY, when subsequent data does not fit the model, there’s a powerful temptation to question that data instead of questioning the model.

    That being said, even the full set of data lacks, by several orders of magnitude, the depth and the breadth necessary to predict the climate 30 years from now.

    (30 years being our maximum resolution for climate change measurements.)

  8. Why do scientists, politicians and others that want to be given credit for their prophecies always predict that the prophecy will occur during their lifetime?

  9. Also the previous story was about global sea ice cover, which is growing because Antarctica’s sea ice is growing faster than the Arctic’s is shrinking.

  10. At last! We’ll be able to explore the ruins of Atlantis trapped underneath since the last great Age of Man!

  11. @voivoed #1: yeah, I guess this counts as a retraction? or is it intended as a spurious “balance”?

    @manicbassman. #2: “it’s not man made… it’s the sun and other natural climate cycles…”

    No, it (AGW) is not. This is a very tired, lame, and completely wrong. Really, it’s just not up for debate, and claiming it is puts you in the category of inventors of perpetual motion machines or crystal healing types. Suffice to say that if you or anyone else are able to justify your claim, there’s a committee in Stockholm you’ll be hearing from. Is it too muich to ask you acquaint yourself with the literature before making sweeping statements claiming that the world’s climatologists are all fools or rogues? Here’s some suggestions:

    On avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system: Formidable challenges ahead” (Ramanathan and Feng, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 23, 2008, vol. 105, no. 38, 14245–14250)

    Abstract: “The .. increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases since the preindustrial era has … committed the world to a warming of 2.4°C above the preindustrial surface temperatures. […] The range of 1.4°C to 4.3°C in the committed warming overlaps and surpasses the currently perceived threshold range …”

    The Unquiet Ice (Scientific American, Feb. 2008)

    “Abundant liquid water newly discovered underneath the world’s great ice sheets could intensify the destabilizing effects of global warming on the sheets. Then, even without melting, the sheets may slide into the sea and raise sea level catastrophically.”

    Climate change and trace gases (Hansen, et al; Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A (2007) 365, 1925–1954)

    Tipping elements in the Earth’s climate system (Lenton et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 12, 2008, vol. 105, no. 6, 1786 –1793)

    The Economist backgrounder.

    BBC backgrounder.

    And of course the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which summarises the consensus. If you’re a sceptic on the science, start with the Working Group 1 (“The Phsyical Science Basis”) sub-report.

    Finally RealClimate gives a good insight into (a) how complex the science is, and (b) how overwhelming the evidence is.

    So tell me, are all these people deliberately lying? Or going with the herd, despite the enormous rewards that anyone who could falsify AGW? Or part of some vast conspiracy to, er, get people to save energy and burn fewer fossil fuels?

    Sorry if I sound angry; but I am. Humans have been evolving for a million or so years, our cultures are of the order of tens of thousands of years old, recorded history goes back 5000 years or so, and we’ve been sowing the seeds of the destruction of it all. In the last century (yeah the basic science goes back to Arhenius in 1896) we’ve come to realise what we might be doing, in the last two decades it’s become crystal clear that reality is indeed behaving as the physics predicts. So yeah, I’m rather peeved when supposedly intelligent, well-informed people airly proclaim that it’s all nonsense.

    Meh. I’d have a perspective and tonic if perspective didn’t make it look much worse.

  12. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if sea ice manages to recover over the next few years. Climatology is such a fascinating field to me – any field that can completely reverse its notions in 30 years (from the prediction of a dramatic ice age to the current global melting predictions) is pretty damn interesting. I can’t really think of another field of scientific study (in the modern era, at least) that has experienced such a dramatic shift of popularly accepted beliefs.

  13. And I should point out that I’m being totally serious above – I find all of this completely fascinating.

  14. …any field that can completely reverse its notions in 30 years (from the prediction of a dramatic ice age…

    Must people keep bringing this old canard? There was never any scientific support for this minor hypothesis. Not a single peer-reviewed article. The basis of this, which the AGW-deniers have been hooting about for years, was the hypothesis of a few people and a Newsweek article. No serious research, no peer reviewed articles, and no support from any sizable part of the scientific community.

    …I realize that you’re probably not a GW-denier, but that makes it even worse that the right-wing’s fabricated debate tactics spread everywhere.

  15. [quote]Climatology is such a fascinating field to me – any field that can completely reverse its notions in 30 years (from the prediction of a dramatic ice age to the current global melting predictions) is pretty damn interesting. I can’t really think of another field of scientific study (in the modern era, at least) that has experienced such a dramatic shift of popularly accepted beliefs.
    [/quote]

    It hasn’t.

    A few researchers in the 70’s said it was possible. This was seized on by the newspapers and elaborated far beyond the original research.

    Today, the overwhealming majority of researchers say that the world will get significantly warmer, and they mainly disagree on the extent.

  16. Ryan Waddell, #15,

    “any field that can completely reverse its notions in 30 years (from the prediction of a dramatic ice age to the current global melting predictions) is pretty damn interesting. ”

    Yeah, but it didn’t; that’s a myth.

    Frank W, I’m actually quite uncomfortable with displaying “righteous wrath”. Many people (and I’m sure the OP, and Ryan Waddell above, fall into this category) haven’t the time or energy to spend researching the topic themselves, and naturally get their information from the mass media. They are not evil, they are misinformed. (And let’s not forget that bad reporting cuts both ways on occasion.) It’s hardly surprising when non-specialists conclude that global warming is like the list of things that cause or cure cancer – changing every week. (Talk to an oncologist some time for a bit of perspective on what that “general perception” feels like from the wrong end of the telescope.)
    I thought I was an expert myself until someone (on Slashdot IIRC) challenged me for a citation, at which point I realised that most of what I thought I knew actually came from the mass media. I strongly recommend seeking out primary sources when it comes to AGW, at least. Obviously the vast majority of academic papers are highly technical and inaccessible to the layperson, but RealClimate and similar sites and blogs will often provide pointers to work orientated to the more general reader. The Hansen paper I linked to in #13 is an excellent example of an expert specialist trying to reach out to the general public; if you want to read one of those links, pick that one for the big picture.

    I have a horrible creeping paranoia that I’m coming over as a bit of a self-righteous smartarse know-all prick on this (whaddya mean, “what else is new”?!). All I can do really is appeal to people who are sceptical of the apparent consensus to make the effort to read up on the subject. It’s surely worth the effort. At the darker end of the spectrum of model outcomes, we’re looking at 6 meter sea-level rises within the next century. That means the end of essentially every major city in the world as well as vast areas of massively productive agricultural land (low-lying alluvial plains innit.) Getting back to the topic of sea-ice, one reason that Hansen and others are getting so much more agitated of late is that when you plot the instrument record of the last decade against model outcomes, we are indeed trending towards the more severe and rapid outcomes. The rapid reduction of Arctic sea-ice, as well as the less obvious and under-reported retreats of Antarctic icesheets (a slightly different phenomena, though Greenland’s similar) suggests both that climate sensitivity – the amount of warming caused by a given increase in greenhouse gas levels – is at the high end of the estimates, /and/ that the ginormous thermal buffer of the oceans may be reaching the limits of it’s capacity. (In a wildly hand-waving sense, the sea has been absorbing the majority of the increased heat resulting from AGW over the previous decades; eventually that heat will convect back up into the atmosphere. A fair bit of the so-called “controversy” in the actual science is actually about topics relating to how long it takes the ocean to start releasing that heat back into the atmosphere.)

    O FSM, I’m ranting AND rambling… bad combination. Sorry all. Time for another G&T. Hmmm, is there a BB drinking game?

  17. #4 posted by happykittybunny , January 9, 2009 9:37 AM

    This should save a huge bundle of money by allowing shipping via the fabled Northwest Passage, right? I’m not being facetious, this seems like a good thing.

    Not to mention what this will do for property values in Nova Scotia when it becomes the world’s new tropical resort destination.

  18. Imipak, a very reasonable argument, and much more likely to be seriously contemplated than most on this subject IMHO.

    Thank you for raising the bar.

  19. Personally I think it’s a waste of time to try to debate facts with Denialists. They didn’t arrive at their conclusion through the careful weighing of scientific evidence so trying to present facts, evidence and reasons for the other side will never change their minds.

    Certain personalities gather evidence and come to their beliefs differently than other personalities do. Some people sift through the pros and cons of a position and reason, or attempt to, towards a solution. Other people look to those in a position of authority for direction on what it is they should believe. No amount of reasoning from evidence is going to alter their beliefs.

    The same happens in the evolution/creationism controversy. That has been going on all my life and I’ve never seen any improvement come from the debate. It’s the same phenomena. Creationists do not believe what they do through the careful consideration of the facts. Their leaders tell them what the facts are and what the arguments for or against a given issue are and their followers dutifully ape their leaders.

    Therefore it is pointless to debate this with them. The only solution is to gain political power and force them to obey the rule of law. That is how the creation issue was settled in Ohio. A judge ruled in our favor and ordered the creationist nuts to obey. That is how the global warming controversy will also be settled.

  20. Global Warming strikes me as the Rapture for science minded folks.

    [Much like 2012 is for New Age types.]

    Does anyone honestly think we’re going to actually be able to control the weather? Or that we’re possibly going to be able to control for all the variables in something as complex as that?

  21. @Rob

    “Global Warming strikes me as the Rapture for science minded folks.”

    Based on, uh,.. what, exactly? In what ways are the rapture, gravity, and AGW different?

    “Does anyone honestly think we’re going to actually be able to control the weather?”

    Some people do seem to be keen on geoengineering approaches; personally I think that says more about their psychology than science, technology and engineering reality. Some do sincerely have different opinions on that, though, and realistically our current society’s always going to spend a lot of effort trying to find a technological silver bullet (fusion power, space mirrors, seeding the oceans with iron filings or whatever) before biting the bitter bullet about having to adapt to a less energy-intensive lifestyle or get used to whittling their own bows and arrows. So, maybe some of that stuff will work, maybe not. I’m not counting on it and IMO it would be insanely reckless to rely on some magic invention to make everything alright, with added unicorns.

    “…Or that we’re possibly going to be able to control for all the variables in something as complex as that?”

    To “control for variables” suggests you’re referring to GCMs and other computer climate models, rather than climate modification.

    One of the first tests of any new permutation or development of a model is to give it the starting conditions of, say, 100K years ago[1], let it run, and see how well it reproduces the experimental and instrumental record. Current models actually do very well, well enough to reproduce the famous hockey-stick uptick caused by human greenhouse gas emissions. And if you remove from those models the input of human GHG emissions over the last couple of centuries, the models show a large and increasing divergence from the instrumental record. That’s one reason that “detection and attribution” studies are so unequivocal about the primary cause of the observed warming. If you take the CO2 (etc) out, global temperatures should be significantly lower.

    [1] “…but surely the instrumental record is only a few hundred years, if that?”

    No, because: Paleo-climatology.

  22. All hail Gore!

    I hate to be the kid who sees the king as naked.

    I noticed on the 5th page of the IPCC report (listed as page 27 on the copy I downloaded from THEIR webpage) there is a disclaimer that has to list the definitions of their vagaries.

    If “virtually all serious scientists” agree, then why have they not come up with the “law of global warming”, for example:

    (%increase of CO2)X(Gore’s constant)=(increase in global temp).

    All I am saying is a little skepticism would be prudent before committing to spending unknown trillions on a problem that, for the last several billion years, self corrects.

  23. The same happens in the evolution/creationism controversy. That has been going on all my life and I’ve never seen any improvement come from the debate.

    I’m not entirely convinced that’s true. I think decades of arguing with non-believers may have helped biologists come up with ways of explaining evolution in ways that make it easier for ordinary people to understand and accept. Of course that will never convince the die-hards, but now the average Joe can get the main points summarized in a kid’s TV show instead of thumbing through the 300-odd pages of “On The Origin Of Species.”

    By the same token, Al Gore and others have created easy-to-follow slide shows for those who are still on the fence about climate change. The debate with denialists may not always be of great use to scientists, but it’s necessary to win over everyone else.

  24. “Does anyone honestly think we’re going to actually be able to control the weather?”

    Climate is not weather. Yes, we can control those things we are responsible for in the first place.

  25. I predict a change of the predictions within the next 10 years.

    The current models have proven themselves to be wrong and I haven’t heard of any changes in those. Now go back to your work (might take a decade or two) and make the media shut up already.

  26. Ok, global warming is happening. So when do we start building the nuclear reactors so we can get away from fossil fuels?

    Crickets

    Guess it must not be that much of a threat. Let me know.

    In the meantime, I’ve been scraping ice off my car windows in Phoenix. If the Arctic wants it back, it’s welcome to it.

  27. Ok, global warming is happening. So when do we start building the nuclear reactors so we can get away from fossil fuels?

    As soon as we can find anybody willing and able to safely store the waste for the next several eons.

  28. Brainspore,

    The technology has existed for decades: reprocessing. It pulls the long half-life products out to be reused in the reactors while the short half-life products can sit in the Nevada caves for a few weeks-years before it is safe.

    Combine it with waste glassification (also around for decades) and you can even eliminate the (microscopic) possibility of the waste getting into the ground water.

    Of course, Carter made these technologies illegal.

  29. @TheMage, #26

    “If “virtually all serious scientists” agree, then why have they not come up with the “law of global warming”, for example:

    (%increase of CO2)X(Gore’s constant)=(increase in global temp).”

    The function you’re hypothesising is called climate sensitivity. Care to guess how long ago this concept arrived?

    “..a little skepticism would be prudent…”

    Whose scepticism is it that must be assuaged? Everyone on the planet? 90%? 51% of the voting population of the USA? (realistically, yeah, the latter. oh, hey -!!)

    @TP1024:

    “I predict a change of the predictions within the next 10 years.”

    Care to put your money where your random assertion is?

    “The current models have proven themselves to be wrong”

    [Citation needed]

    Nuclear power may help in reducing GHG emissions; Lovelock is very definite on that, and who knows? he may be right. As far as using plans to invest in nuclear power as a metric for the importance placed on combatting emissions goes, I’d accept it’s an interesting proxy, and humbly suggest that the evidence is that your use of it as evidence for AGW not being taken seriously demonstrates that you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.

    Oh yeah, and what happens to your car windows in Phoenix, or mine here in the western UK, is due to what we call “weather“. This BB post is about “climate“. I find it’s terribly helpful to know what words mean, when it comes to making sense rather than flapping my mouth and making aimless ga-ga sounds.

  30. Even if reprocessing weren’t available, I think it’s still a good test of sincerity. If the effects of global warming are as dire as claimed, we should be more than willing to sacrifice a few square miles of Nevada to save the world. It would be a fair trade. If the global warming advocates themselves don’t fear global warming enough to make that trade, why should anyone else worry?

    I’ll know they’re sincere when they’re no longer holding out for unicorn farts as a power source.

    Understanding the climate is a complex scientific pursuit requiring years of education. But “actions speak loudest” is an infallible bullshit detector that can be learned in a minute and applied by anyone.

  31. Aw, I thought you were going to mention Patrick Moore. Him I take seriously. But he’s still the exception, rather than the rule, and I still see an awful lot of foot dragging rather than any real race to nuclear power.

    I’d like to see nukes just because I think it’s a crying shame that pregnant women aren’t supposed to eat fish anymore. That’s just wrong.

    Never mind global warming, given a choice between contaminating 2/3rds of our earth with mercury, and contaminating a single-digit percentage of Nevada with nuclear waste, I’ll go with the latter every time. This is not a difficult cost-benefit analysis. Throw in global warming, it becomes even easier.

    And yet, the vast majority of climate doom-sayers can’t even do it. I find that curious.

  32. To #29 Climate is not weather. Yes, we can control those things we are responsible for in the first place.

    Okay, fine. Does anyone honestly think we can control the weather in “given regions over long periods of time”? [Which is pretty much the definition of climate, as they both denote meteorological conditions… one current, one for a duration of time.] But saying “control the weather” is more fun, since you can conjure up ideas of mad scientists.

    Yay! Pedantry is fun!

    I think in terms of natural vs anthropomorphic greenhouse gasses, our efforts would be far more effective in finding ways to functionally adapt our societies to changes that will most likely be coming, as opposed to trying to unring a bell.

    To #26 “Global Warming strikes me as the Rapture for science minded folks.”

    Based on, uh,.. what, exactly?

    And underlying belief in an apocalyptic future brought about by our own misguided behaviors/selfishness/carelessness/greed/sins.

    Note that I didn’t say scientists, but science minded folks. Those who have perhaps moved on from the concept of an invisible Space Daddy meting out punishment from above, but have deep seated hangups about guilt, punishment, shame and “getting what we deserve.” IMHO, folks who perhaps don’t know the science have embraced this to a degree because of exactly that.

    Look, as laymen, most of us don’t have the experience or the ability to know exactly what’s going on with the climate. We read, we listen to the ‘experts’ and we try to make the best decisions and judgments we can. But ultimately, we decide which group of scientists or skeptics to believe based more on our own individual psychology than anything else.

    I know plenty of folks who laugh at the Rapture, but nevertheless display the same kind of guilt and apocalyptical complexes when dealing with the issue of global warming. And then they accept the “word” from on high, the IPCC for example, and redeem themselves by reducing their carbon footprint :)

    To #25 Rob’s point was made more succinctly by Bart Simpson: “Can’t win. Don’t try.”

    Actually I prefer Carlin, but whatever works for you.

    “We’re so self-important. So self-important. Everybody’s going to save something now… We haven’t learned how to care for one another, we’re gonna save the fucking planet?” – George Carlin

  33. ” fnd t’s trrbly hlpfl t knw wht wrds mn, whn t cms t mkng sns rthr thn flppng my mth nd mkng mlss g-g snds.”

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  34. @ Rob
    “Does anyone honestly think we can control the weather in “given regions over long periods of time”?”

    Yes, we can. Large metro areas have a heat island effect locally. Large fires can create their own weather. Constant air traffic and their contrails have a cooling effect over large areas. Enough that immediately after 9-11 when all air flights were grounded there was a measurable rise in temps. We have a Dept of Weather Modification in the US.

    Since it is a fact that human activity contributes to climate change i.e. billions of tons of CO2 dumped into the atmosphere. It follows then that if you stop what you are doing that will also have an effect. Denialists need to explain how it is that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas. They are unable to do so.

    Yes, we do need to adapt, some climate change is unstoppable. We also need to stop contributing to the problem. So we need to do both.

    It isn’t that hard to understand climate change. One can get a good understanding by reading what is already out there. It isn’t that difficult. Nor do we have to choose sides. There is no other side just as in the evolution debate there is no legitimate “scientific controversy”.

    For both global warming and evolution there is the science on one side and the anti-science propaganda on the other.

    @ palindromic
    Climatology is a scientific discipline complete with testable hypothesis, experimental evidence and data. All of it actively peer reviewed and debated within the scientific community. I suspect that you do not actually know anything at all and are basing all this on propaganda you read somewhere in the popular press. Go to any of the many climate blogs and ask genuine questions minus the arrogance. Be open to being proved wrong because you will be. This is the path to learning.

  35. Noen,

    “Climatology is a scientific discipline complete with testable hypothesis, experimental evidence and data”

    No, it’s not. Climatology is an observation based science that, at best, draws conclusions from past and future data. At worst, it draws conclusions from completely irrelevant (read: unprovable, untestable) climate modeling. That is climate science in a nutshell. Prove me wrong.

    “All of it actively peer reviewed and debated within the scientific community. I suspect that you do not actually know anything at all and are basing all this on propaganda you read somewhere in the popular press.”

    The active peer reviewing of AGW as a theory is tepid at best, mainly because of the hostile political climate that Al Gore and other demagogues of the theory have created. As for not actually knowing anything at all and having based “all this” on propaganda read somewhere, are you absolutely sure the same accusation couldn’t be leveled at you?

    Go to any of the many skeptical blogs about AGW and you will find a thriving community of scientists and others who are just as baffled as me that such a contentious series of postulates could suddenly be driving global policy. They are: 1. CO2 is the main driving force in temperature change. 2. Man creates enough CO2 to measurably increase global CO2, 3. That increase in CO2 is enough to drive ‘climate change’, and 4. That increase in ‘climate change’ is unequivocally harmful to the ‘health’ of the planet’s climate. Or another way of saying it, we will reach a ‘tipping point’ or some other conjectured event that will cause everything to go to hell in a handbasket.

    There are probably more but I can’t bothered to think them up for you. So here’s a little tip from me to you that will get you started on your path to skeptical thinking. Google “Is co2 responsible for warming?” or “Co2 temperature relation” and don’t just read the reallypoliticallyloadedclimate.org blogs. There are plenty of “real” blogs that question these postulates, and dare to ask questions like “Can we actually conclude from the famous hockey-stick graph that Co2 precedes, or drives temperature?” and other brain teasers.

    You don’t have to be a scientist to realize, if you read carefully, that there is a lot left to debate about when it comes to concluding things about data that is tenuous at best.
    “Do ice cores represent a clean, untainted view of atmospheric gases over the eons?” is just one you can start with. So you are right, the path to learning is asking genuine questions.. coupled with honest answers. You can’t learn from someone using hyperbole, you just can’t.

  36. #34 posted by imipak:

    As far as using plans to invest in nuclear power as a metric for the importance placed on combatting emissions goes, I’d accept it’s an interesting proxy, and humbly suggest that the evidence is that your use of it as evidence for AGW not being taken seriously demonstrates that you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.

    An article in the Telegraph about a call for submissions is evidence of serious intent?

    If carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions are the issue, and the problem is as severe as AGW proponents suggest, then we have a solution right now. Right now. Here. Today.

    You want a 21st-century WPA in the U.S.? Put people to work replacing every fossil fuel-powered plant in the United States with Sodium- and lead-cooled fast reactors or molten salt reactors. Improve, rebuild, and extend the power grid to increase efficiency. Run electric cars, trucks, buses, and trains off that renewable, non- fossil-fueled power grid and you’ve eliminated 88% of the petroleum usage in the U.S. You want real foreign aid? Build the same things overseas. Plop a dozen of those suckers in Africa, wire them up, and watch the entire continent flourish. Do you seriously think anyone can convince China to not build coal-fired plants as fast as it can throw them together? Get real. The only viable alternative is nuclear power. Full stop.

    We have the technology to build safe nuclear plants that reprocess waste as fuel and don’t need to be near a water source. The footprint of what’s left over is miniscule compared to the annihilation of coastal cities and loss of arable land. Let’s get so good at it we can mass-produce the things in modular fashion and ship them around the world in cargo containers.

    So why isn’t this happening? If we’re already at the tipping point, what are AGW proponents waiting for? There is no other solution that will produce the terawatts of power that the world needs, when it needs it. Not one. Nothing else will scale as needed, nothing else will be as efficient, and nothing else will provide a manageable cost per gigawatt.

    So, what do we have?

    Carbon trading schemes which are essentially versions of the derivative financial instruments that just about brought down the world banking system. Wind farms opposed by certain Senators who like their ocean views and environmentalists who are worried about birds. Incremental increases in solar panel efficiency which are years away from mass production and wouldn’t solve the problem in the U.S. unless we paved Nevada with panels and strung superconducting power lines across the entire continent. (Which would be fabulous! But won’t happen.)

    AGW proponents utilize apocalyptic language. Fine, yes. It’s a real threat. Immediate and effective action is required, right now. Granted. Accepted. So quit dicking around and do what needs to be done.

    Again, I ask, why isn’t this happening? IMO, for one reason: the moralistic component of the environmentalist movement…the inescapable sense that certain sectors of the polity think that humanity is a virus which might need a bit of killing, some sort of punishment for its ecological sins. The puritanical notion that our excesses, our shining cities, and our entire way of life are wrong.

    I entirely and with full knowledge aforethought meant to go off on a rant here. The simple fact is that we need to use carbon intensive processes to implement zero carbon power generation facilities, and we need to do it soon. The fact that the AGW elite aren’t proposing the most effective, most immediate solution–which would still be a massive financial and logistical burden–tells me that their publicly-professed agenda is not their true agenda. I have no idea what that agenda might be. But I do know that high-flying rhetoric unmatched by equivalent action undermines credibility, obscures scientific truth, and impedes the effective resolution of the problem the we’re facing.

  37. “Again, I ask, why isn’t this happening?”

    I can’t imagine why. It is a complete and utter mystery to me why progressive liberals and environmentalists do not put into place policies that would destroy the multinational, multi billion dollar coal and oil industry.

    When will the Hippy’s tyrannical reign ever end!? When?

  38. Noen, I’m not saying CO2 isn’t a greenhouse gas.. I’m just questioning the assumption (and it is an assumption) that it is THE greenhouse gas that drives temperature increases globally. According to the Vostok Ice core data on CO2 as correlated to global temperature (in of itself a highly contentious relationship) the graph commonly used shows a significant lag of CO2 to temperature increase. This isn’t up for debate.. CO2, according to that graph, increases as temperature increases.

    For example: http://www.daviesand.com/Choices/Precautionary_Planning/New_Data/

    “Nevertheless, the scientific consensus is that GTGs account for at least half of temperature increases, and that they strongly amplify the effects of small increases in solar radiation due to orbital forcing. ”

    To my question.. WHY is there this consensus about GTGs? (Greenhouse Trace Gases). Is it unreasonable to surmise that GTG’s rise because of solar influence? Meaning, an increase in relative radiation (due to orbit or some change in water vapor patterns) could cause the oceans to heat, thus releasing CO2 and other gasses? Why is it assumed that the increases that are accounted for by solar radiation are small? Is it because the sun has been relatively stable in the tiny amount of time that we have monitored it? Do you see the dilemma?

  39. “Tsuneta said solar physicists aren’t weather forecasters and they can’t predict the future. They do have the ability to observe, however, and they have observed a longer-than-normal period of solar inactivity. In the past, they observed that the sun once went 50 years without producing sunspots. That period coincided with a little ice age on Earth that lasted from 1650 to 1700. Coincidence? Some scientists say it was, but many worry that it wasn’t.”

    So some scientists believe that a rare sunspot period of inactivity could coincide with an Ice age. Worried? Or rather, still worried that increasing CO2 (on the meager scale that we do contribute) is a _bad_ thing? Some have argued that if anything we might be doing ourselves a favor, climate-wise, by introducing more CO2. Preventing another Ice age. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me. But I digress, surely there will be a consensus soon that shows that human radio activity is adversely affecting the sun’s ability to produce sunspots. Kill all radio communications! Am I serious? No.. Am I seriously skeptical that humans contributing CO2 to the atmosphere is a bad thing? Definitely.

  40. CO2 is THE greenhouse gas because it is the one variable that we are responsible for. We can’t do much about methane, which is many times more powerful and even now bubbling up from the ocean floors.

    It lags in past warming because it did not initiate the warming cycle, that may have been due to other reasons like Earth’s wobble. So the Earth wobbles closer to the Sun, the oceans warm up and release CO2 about 800 years into the cycle, the CO2 amplifies the warming trend that is already underway and prolongs it, lasting for about 5000 years.

    So yes, in the past CO2 levels increased due to orbital forcing warming the ocean but conditions have changed. Humans are pumping giga tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Denialists fail to explain how that would have no effect on climate. There is no dilemma on the AGW side.

  41. “CO2 is THE greenhouse gas because it is the one variable that we are responsible for. ”

    So because CO2 is the one greenhouse gas that Mankind can influence, it is absolutely without a doubt THE greenhouse gas to monitor and be worried about? Good logic.. except that.. no. It is absolutely unfair and presumptuous to preclude other factors (many of which I have mentioned) as being as responsible, if not more responsible, for the current warming trend of the planet. Like the astronomers say, this sunspot dead period may mean that we are in store for something far more dramatic than our influence on CO2 atmospheric content could ever account for. “Denialists” don’t have to explain anything, only conjecture that warming may not be the worst trend our climate could experience. Doesn’t this information make you in the least bit worried that a carbon negative lifestyle could hurt us rather than help us?

  42. Palindromic, #40 (and #45, again):
    “…dare to ask questions like “Can we actually conclude from the famous hockey-stick graph that Co2 precedes, or drives temperature?” and other brain teasers.”

    See, that right there is a great example of something that looks to an uninformed lay-person like open-and-shut evidence that CO2 doesn’t cause global warming, but which in fact is nothing of the sort. It’s an AGW-101 observation to point this out as if it invalidates any of the model predictions. Your using it demonstrates that you haven’t done the basic reading around the literature needed to understand the topic.

    (For those who don’t know, it’s true that in the paleoclimate record, temperatures start to rise /before/ CO2 levels. Not only does this fact not invalidate the basic GHG hypothesis, but it fits elegantly and beautifully into what we could loosely call the ‘standard model’ of Earth’s climate. Google hint, try “tipping point”, “feedbacks”, “ice-albedo flip”. Or read the “avoiding tipping points” and the Hansen paper that I linked to up-thread. They’re relatively short and accessible, even if just read the abstract, introduction & conclusions. ) (WRT methane – humans do affect their levels. The relative contributions of each are neatly laid out in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, and you can trace the references back to the primary research from there if you want to quibble with it.)

    Consider the vast amounts that are starting to thaw out of the melting permafrost. Oh hey, that would mean that the warmer the climate gets, the more GHG are released, which warms the climate, which would be a sort of… feedback. loop. Oh yeah.)

    @IWood, #42
    The Telegraph article was one random hit from a large number. If you’re not in the UK you might not be aware that the Labour govt. IS, in fact, strongly working towards a new and extensive programme of new nuclear generation capacity in the next couple of decades. They’re following this massively controversial and politically risky strategy entirely as a response to AGW.

    More background:
    http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&q=%22UK+government%22+new+nuclear+climate+change

    I don’t really have an informed opinion on how good or bad a response it actually is; there are good points on most sides of the debate. What gets my goat is straightforward lies or misrepresentations of the basic, well-established science basis; and, to a lesser degree, people who have been impressed by the denialist talking points, not found more accurate myth-busting material, or are mistaken or misinformed for othe rreasons beyond their control. But arguing that if governments took AGW seriously they’d be doing something about it is not a very credible argument. Governments *are*, finally, starting to do something about it, in the EU at least.

  43. The earth has an immune system, but the problem is that it does not serve humanity.

    Whatever we destroy, the “balance” (think salt/water, not esoterica) will adjust, and if that means we destroy our own life/health/property values then that’s our problem!

    The real problem is Heliocentricity.

  44. Palindromic
    “So because CO2 is the one greenhouse gas that Mankind can influence, it is absolutely without a doubt THE greenhouse gas to monitor and be worried about?”

    I’m sorry, perhaps I misunderstood the question. Greenhouse gases drive climate change. Past rises in temp cannot be explained without CO2. In fact, the reason the Earth is not a frozen ice world is due to the presence of CO2, methane and water vapor. Water vapor currently accounts for a large amount of the greenhouse effect but, as I indicated, it’s not the result of human activity. Water vapor also gets cycled pretty quickly, CO2 does not. CO2 hangs around a long time. Long after it’s source, humans, volcanoes, ocean respiration (the ocean is alive, it breathes) is gone.

    So… We are responsible for current levels of CO2, CO2 causes global warming, it remains in the atmosphere a long time causing further damage. Therefore it is important that we deal with it and do our best to undo the damage we have already done. Or else suffer the consequences.

  45. What damage?? Where is the damage? You keep saying there will be consequences, how do you or anyone else know this? You’re just parrots for Hansen’s diatribes about tipping points, yet there is little or no evidence that warming periods produce any kind of calamitous weather or ocean level changes. If you repeat something enough times it becomes fact apparently.

  46. Hansen is a major scientist who has done original research and is published in peer reviewed journals. You do not understand the science, not even at the elementary level. You argue exactly like a creationist.

    “there is little or no evidence that warming periods produce any kind of calamitous weather”

    How could it not? You see, this is just you being a denialist. I remember reading a long time ago a history on flat Earthers. This one scientist worked one on one with a denialist and showed him proof after proof. One day he asked him to look through a telescope where one could plainly see markers (sea buoys I think) sink into the horizon. Direct, plain evidence of the curvature of the Earth. He denied it. That is you. No argument, no evidence I could ever present will ever change your mind.

    But I’m a sucker for this. How could it not? How could melting the Greenland glaciers, the Arctic polar ice cap, virtually every mountain glacier on Earth NOT raise sea levels? How could adding energy to the Earth’s atmosphere, that’s what heat is, energy, how could that NOT result in bigger hurricanes, bigger T-storms and so on.

    “You keep saying there will be consequences, how do you or anyone else know this?”

    Because there are always consequences. CO2 drives climate change.

    “Where is the damage?”

    CO2 is increasing, Methane is being released from the ocean floor, more frequent extreme weather, glaciers are disappearing, Arctic ice is melting, Antarctic ice is melting, Greenland ice is melting, tropical diseases are spreading, the oceans are warming and coral reefs are bleaching, coastal flooding, the World Health Organization estimates 154,000 people die from global warming every year.

    “If you repeat something enough times it becomes fact apparently.”

    It really isn’t that hard to understand the basic science behind it. Maybe you’re just not able to. I mean it’s pretty straight forward. CO2 traps heat preventing it from escaping into space. The more CO2 there is the more heat will be trapped. Climate is a bit more difficult but it can be understood as a non-linear hysteresis system. Pump more heat into it and it resists change but exceed a certain value and the system flips to a new state. This is climate we’re talking about so the “flip” takes a long time in human terms but we also don’t know where the tipping point is. Most climatologist have said by the end of this century is when we’ll see the worst effects. Unfortunately it seems like it’s happening faster then even they thought it would.

    On your end you really need to explain how it is that CO2 does NOT result in warming. Do you even know how that works? Because our current understanding of how CO2 traps heat is based on well known physical science (quantum mechanics) you need to provide an explanation for how CO2 would NOT trap heat. Please do so and collect your Nobel Prize.

  47. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado released an alarming graph on August 11, showing that Arctic ice was rapidly disappearing, back towards last year’s record minimum. Their data shows Arctic sea ice extent only 10 per cent greater than this date in 2007, and the second lowest on record. Here’s a smaller version of the graph:
    Arctic ice not disappearing

    The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)’s troublesome ice graph

    The problem is that this graph does not appear to be correct.* [See Editor’s note, below] Other data sources show Arctic ice having made a nice recovery this summer. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center data shows 2008 ice nearly identical to 2002, 2005 and 2006. Maps of Arctic ice extent are readily available from several sources, including the University of Illinois, which keeps a daily archive for the last 30 years. A comparison of these maps (derived from NSIDC data) below shows that Arctic ice extent was 30 per cent greater on August 11, 2008 than it was on the August 12, 2007. (2008 is a leap year, so the dates are offset by one.)

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/15/goddard_arctic_ice_mystery/

  48. @Palindromic

    You’re just parrots for Hansen’s diatribes about tipping points,..

    Could you point to any specific points where you refute the science in the Hansen paper? I don’t mean simply asserting he’s wrong, I mean point to actual evidence that anything in that paper is wrong?

  49. Firstly I’d like to thank you all for a massively interesting debate, there are some excellently written, thoughtful and (hopefully) informed posts up there that have helped me make more sense out of the whole mess…

    Regardless of whether we can accurately predict climate change/global warming and our species’ impact on them, surely we should be acting as if it is the worst case scenario? As ANON @51 says, I have no doubt that the planet over time will assert a balance, and that this does not bode well or indeed include us.

    Or am I missing the point?

  50. It’s marked as we begin to map the limits of the known universe; we fail to appreciate the limits of the very planet we depend on for the continued survival of all dependent species.

    We’ve rushed at the wheel for control, only to find an abandoned helm; the planet sets the course and it always will.

    We discount the planets ability at radical simpatico adaptation; whilst second guessing a far superior system which has survived for eons in hostile space environments. The part we play is minuscule in comparison, and misguided in the extreme.

    We deserve the fate we promote we’ve consumed all too effluence

  51. Accelerated polar melt is a precursor to Gulf Stream slowdown as the planets puts into place a simple cause and effect failsafe cooling with time as a constraint mechanism. As it strives too maintain global ambiance

    It’s marked as we begin to map the limits of the known universe; we fail to appreciate the limits of the very planet we depend on for the continued survival of all dependent species.

    We’ve rushed an abandoned helm; for control, only to find the planet has set the course

    We’ve discounted the planets ability at radical simpatico adaptation; whilst second guessing a superior eco system which has survived for eons in hostile space environments.

    We deserve the fate we promote we’ve consumed all too effluence, we are Mars in the making

  52. Its possible the world will keep getting warmer.

    Its also possible that a large volcano will erupt cooling the earths global temperature by several degrees Celsius.

    Meteor strike could also cool the world down a lot.

    Solar output which fluctuates could go into a downward trend.

    Large earth quake could trigger another mass methane hydrate release, and we’d see some “Real” global warming as in several degrees centigrade hotter. In a matter of days.

    No matter what predictions are made, the universe like humanity is extremely unpredictable.

    And for the record if a polar bear had the opportunity to eat your kids, it would.

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