Sunday, November 29, 2015

Party on Garth

Dear Mr fantasy
Play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
-Steve Winwood

He likes to sing along
But he don't know what it means
-Kurt Cobain

       I hope everyone had an excellent Thanksgiving, (and hope you all stayed home on Black Friday).  One thing I am thankful for is that it started raining on the Olympic peninsula, and put the rain forest fire out.

       The Paris talks are about to kick off, and Nature has devoted an issue to it.  The kick off article kind of let's the at out of the bag.   Is the two C world fantasy?

       Its a problem that few are willing to admit.   The official line is that it is "ambitious but achievable"   .  That has a nice ring to it.  Unfortunately, even getting to 2 , without economic disruption seems to requires  "negative emissions" . .  Of course the "negative emmissions technology doesn't yet exist yet, so we'll probably have to go past 2, and then come back. .  But they do provide good political cover for continuing to " party on"

"Models that have these negative emissions really do let you continue to party on now, because you have these options later,” says John Reilly, co-director of the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge.

   But the costs and difficulties of such a strategy are minimized due to political considerations

"Although the caveats are listed in the IPCC assessment, the report does not adequately highlight economic and technical challenges or modelling uncertainties, says David Victor, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, who participated in the IPCC assessment. Victor does not place all the blame on scientists glossing over the problems: when researchers drafted the assessment’s chapter on emissions scenarios and costs, he says, they included clear statements about the difficulty of achieving the 2 °C goal. But the governments — led by the EU and a bloc of developing countries — pushed for a more optimistic assessment in the final IPCC report. “We got a lot of pushback, and the text basically got mangled,” Victor says.

  A more honest assessment is provided by Kevin Anderson, here
    "We are incredibly unlikely to succeed on two degrees. We are unlikely to hold to three.”  Paris is probably the end-game for two degrees C. ”

Hansen offers a more direct comment

          "...the United States has adopted a policy of calling for each country to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions, and will push for the adoption of technology to capture and store carbon dioxide. That approach, Hansen wrote in a new letter posted on his web site, "is so gross, it is best described as unadulterated 100 percent pure bullshit."

..."Watch what happens in Paris carefully to see if all that the leaders do is sign off on the pap that UN bureaucrats are putting together, indulgences and promises to reduce future emissions, and then clap each other on the back and declare success," Hansen writes. "In that case President Obama will have sold our children, and theirs, down the river."

          The "party on" folks continue to pin their hopes on negative emissions.  Here is a review of the "Third Way" suite of carbon sucking technologies.  The author enthusiastically concludes:

"It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the boom in third way technologies will result in a tech revolution far deeper and broader than that provided by wind and solar. If we discard highly speculative possibilities such as seaweed farming and capture of CO2 over Antarctica, a conservative estimate of the third way’s potential to capture atmospheric CO2 is that, by 2050, it could be drawing down around 15 gigatonnes per year – a little less than is needed to reduce atmospheric concentrations by 1ppm. If that sounds like science fiction, just consider what nuclear, jet-age 1950 would have looked like to those living in 1915."

I'm not sure I find that very exciting, though. In 2050, we will have passed 2 degrees, and CO2 levels will be at 500.   Which tipping points will we have passed?  Or willing tipping points be met before 2 degrees?    

Meanwhile a recent study calls into question one of the key components of the climate model.   That is the "sensitivity " of the earth to increase in "CO2 levels.   This study indicates that the sensitivity may be twice what was assumed.  
The researchers found that climates on Earth may be more sensitive to rise in CO2 levels than was previously thought.
The new data suggests that past predictions significantly underestimate the impact of greenhouse warming and that Earth’s climate may be more sensitive to increased carbon dioxide than was once thought, said one of the researchers Tim Lowenstein, professor at Binghamton University in New York.
The study examined nahcolite crystals found in Green River Formation in Colorado, US. The crystals were formed 50 million years ago during a hothouse climate. They found that CO2 levels during this time may have been as low as 680 parts per million (ppm), nearly half the 1,125 ppm predicted by previous experiments.
“The significance of this is that CO2 50 million years ago may not have been as high as we once thought it was, but the climate back then was significantly warmer than it is today,” Lowenstein explained.

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