Climate clippings 80

Climate clippings_175In these posts the aim is to include eight segments averaging 125 words long with sufficient detail so that casual readers can get the sense of the featured article without following the links, which are there for those interested in more detail. Lately I have been alternating week by week collections of science/observations/predictions and practical matters associated with adaptation and mitigation.

During the last week of political distractions I have had about half my usual time at the computer. Moreover some segments just won’t fit within the 125 word constraint. Next cab off the rank, I hope, will be President Obama’s climate initiative, which demands extended treatment.

So for the next little while I’ll attempt to post whatever I have to hand every Tuesday until things settle down a bit.

As usual these posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. And again I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

1. Climate change measuring instruments are on life support

That’s the story from John Abraham at Climate Consensus – the 97%. He is warning that many measuring systems, especially the satellite platforms, are headed for declines in coverage, which will lead to an information deficit. His worry is that straightened budgets will not allow replacement and hence continuity of information may be broken.

In a specific example, the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) array, which consists of 55 oceanic moorings is involved in the detection, understanding and prediction of El Niño and La Niña, is only operating at 50%.

2. Australia’s ‘angry summer’

Sophie C. Lewis and David Karoly are soon to publish a study of the record-breaking temperatures recorded in January this year. Human induced global warming does seem to be implicated as according to natural conditions the summer should have been slightly cooler than usual.

The 2012-2013 Australian summer set benchmarks for extreme weather in a country that is already well-accustomed to a harsh climate. The summer saw records set for the hottest day in the country’s history, with a national daytime maximum temperature record of 96.3°F [35.7°C], and hottest month on record (January). The temperature in Sydney climbed to a stifling 114.4°F [45.7°C] on Jan. 18.

A record was set for the number of consecutive days when the average daily high temperature exceeded 102°F [39°C], with seven such days between January 2-8. The previous record was four days in 1973.

There are some stunning photos in this link.

3. British Columbia’s revenue-neutral carbon tax

It’s working, according to the story at Skeptical Science (report here).

BC introduced a carbon tax in 2008 at $10 per tonne, increasing $5 each year to the current price of $30/tonne. All revenues are returned in tax cuts and rebates.

The report looked at the data from BC and the rest of Canada and concluded that, from the introduction of the tax to the end of 2011, BC’s consumption of petroleum fuels has fallen by 16.4% relative to the rest of Canada and 15.1% in absolute terms. Over the same period, economic growth in BC has been slightly better than the rest of Canada, so the pessimistic forecasts that the carbon tax would cripple the economy have not materialized.

Because the rocky economic ride of the GFC created a lot of ‘noise’ they can’t be sure exactly what’s happening, but predictions of economic disaster have not been realised.

4. A looming climate shift: will ocean heat come back to haunt us?

For reasons best known to them the media keep overlooking 90% of global warming by publishing misleading ‘pause’ articles. So we have to keep reminding them that 93.4% of the extra heat has been going into the oceans.

Now Skeptical Science has taken a look as to whether this heat will come back to haunt us. It’s a reasonably technical post, but here’s the conclusion:

So to answer the question posed in the title – will ocean heat come back to come to haunt us? Yes, but perhaps not in the way some might think. Heat buried in the deep layers of the ocean will not re-surface any time soon. Instead, when the subtropical ocean gyres spin down, they will no longer be efficiently removing heat from the tropical surface ocean. The transport of ocean heat to depths, and to the poles, will drastically slow down, and this will allow the surface of the tropical oceans to warm rapidly. That heat is very likely to haunt us.

This is based on the finding that the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) plays the dominant role in climate shifts. The IPO is currently in a negative phase, associated with La Niña systems, and is thought to be about to switch to positive soon.

5. Brazil’s clean energy program will increase emissions

Brazil has a program of creating clean hydro energy by building dams in the Amazon. Problem is, according to the IEA that the flooded forests rot in the water releasing considerable quantities of carbon.

And, incidentally, displace indigenous communities from their ancestral lands.

6. Living in a Goldilocks world

If Earth were closer to the sun all the water would boil away. Without the greenhouse blanket the average temperature would be about 30°C cooler, making it too cold for plentiful animal and plant life.

Some recalibration has been done on where Earth sits in relation to the Goldilocks zone in our solar system. The result places us very close to the inner edge:


This raises the question of our susceptibility to the Venus effect (not that one, this one). The good news is that geochemist Colin Goldblatt at the University of Victoria in British Columbia has done the calcs. He thinks we’ll only trigger a runaway greenhouse if we burn all the Earth’s coal, oil, and gas, not to produce energy but to cook up even more CO2 from limestone.

That depends very much on what these guys have and have not included in their models. We know that the edge of the cliff is not far away, but we don’t know yet precisely where it is.

22 thoughts on “Climate clippings 80”

  1. As I said in the previous climate clippings (?) the “pause” is just a statistical artifact, and no one on any side of any debate should be looking for structural causes of a lack of identifiable variation across certain time ranges within a series of the given slope and variance. That means scientists shouldn’t be trying to “explain” the “pause” through possible changes in distribution of heat (e.g. into the deep oceans). It takes a median of 21 years to identify a statistically significant trend in GISTemp when you start from the highest anomaly (as the advocates of the “pause” are currently doing), so it’s a waste of time trying to explain a 17 year pause. The same applies to all the other data sets.

    Everyone needs to take a chill pill about the pause, and someone really needs to put it into statistical context. There will always be a 15-20 year long “pause” in the time series, and so the denialists will always be able to make this stupid claim.

  2. @2 faustusnotes.

    That’s if the system is on a single, random walk. It isn’t and there are structural aspects to what’s happening.

  3. Silkworm, fixed now. The last was an afterthought this morning.

    Helen, very amusing!

    fn, in the link the first graph shows the increase in the total heat content as fairly smooth. It seems reasonable to me to want to know how it is transported and distributed.

  4. Roger Jones, yes the system is not on a single random walk. But the temperature series is, functionally, and all claims of a “pause” are based on nothing more than brute calculations of the temperature series. There is no point in engaging deeper to explain those brute calculations away when the brute calculations are themselves completely wrong. I agree entirely (and with Brian) that understanding those deeper processes (how it is transported and distributed) is important. But that’s not what the “pause” is about: it’s about a simple rhetorical device built from a pathetic misrepresentation of statistical method. We should respond to it not by looking for deeper explanations of short term variability in the temperature series, but by pointing out that the stats used to construct the rhetoric are shallow and fallacious.

  5. It is worth noting that Australia’s RET emissions trading scheme is also revenue neutral. This is because the RET is an offset credit trading scheme.
    The RET scheme awards credits to power companies that have an above target percentage of renewable power in their mix. Power companies that have below target percentages of renewable power in their mix have to buy these awarded credits to continue selling this below target mix.
    In effect the RET is a market based system that sets a levy on dirty power that is used to subsidize clean power. No money goes to the government.

  6. Related to no.1
    New forecast doubles lead time for El Nino

    The forecasting algorithm is based on the interactions between sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific and the rest of the ocean, and appears to warn of an El Nino event one year in advance instead of the current six months.

  7. We know that the edge of the cliff is not far away, but we don’t know yet precisely where it is.

    In other words because ‘we’ think its bad it must be?

    To the rest of the world this so called cliff is receding rapidly and may well be nothing more than a gentle incline.

  8. John D @ 8. Macquarie Generation, corporate owners of Liddell and Bayswater power stations is selling it’s single demonstration wind generator and a 2ha, 2MW solar facility. This latter sale suggests it is happy to buy permits at $24.15 a tonne C02 – the windmill is in the way of other developments. I am assuming that MacGen would have kept a target percentage of renewables to prevent this?

  9. Who watched Catalyst on ABC-1 TV last night?

    Great stuff. So simple and direct that even the most committed climate change sceptic (if there are any left) would be able to understand it.

    It will be repeated on ABC-1 at 12:pm (AEST) on Saturday (possibly repeated on ABC News24 but I’m not sure about that though).

  10. Thankyou, Graham Bell, for that ” heads up” on the Catalyst programme and thankyou Catalyst for putting together that very credible animation of our changing climate and its causes. I would be keen to hear Robert Jones’ thoughts on the article, how this correlates with his research and which parts of the presentation may be better understood with future research.

    Here is a link to the item:

  11. A critical assessment of electric cars, by a chap who was working for GM when it “killed” its EV1 electric car. A plug-in advocate at the time, he later realized that electrifying cars just trades one set of environmental problems for another. Zehner is now a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.

    He summed up

    Upon closer consideration, moving from petroleum-fueled vehicles to electric cars begins to look more and more like shifting from one brand of cigarettes to another. We wouldn’t expect doctors to endorse such a thing. Should environmentally minded people really revere electric cars? Perhaps we should look beyond the shiny gadgets now being offered and revisit some less sexy but potent options—smog reduction, bike lanes, energy taxes, and land-use changes to start. Let’s not be seduced by high-tech illusions.

  12. Ootz,

    Reading the Zehner article I decided that he was part of GM’s problem, not part of its solution. His perception of EV’s as I suspect it to be can best be experienced by attempting to move a couple from a McMansion to a two room flat. This is the American design problem. Failure to understand that the fossil fuel dream is over leads to an inability to design for a future that cannot be comprehended.

    The critique demands a very rigid perception of what constitutes an EV to have credibility. Naturally Zehner bases this on the very vehicle model that GM failed to make commercial and not on future vehicles that he from his perspective cannot imagine. At the end of the day it will be from some of the hundreds of small business startups around the world that the future successful EV solution will evolve, and it will no doubt be at some future time when climate change and resource depletion have advanced. The problem for GM is that the ultimate decision makers all grew up in the 60’s when the global population was just 3 billion, and these people are failing to register that the population is now over 7 billion. They are able to ignore the changes as they have jet aircraft to take them away from the masses to living spaces that reflect their memories of the past.

    I doubt that any meaningful climate responsive decisions will be made by the world at large until we all are required to live within a personal CO2 emissions quota. At that point people who want to travel by jet aircraft will need to achieve that luxury with some real sustainable living performance.

    We aren’t even allowed to make real choices due to stale thinking from our politicians. It is possible to get around at speed fully sustainably.

    80 kph
    80 klm range
    1.5 Kwhrs energy consumption
    50 kg vehicle mass

    Now to test Zehner’s assertion take 2 stealth bombers take the energy storage to 6 kwhrs add an envelope and another seat and you have a 2 seat ev with 160 klm range under 300 kg mass. Use ironless motors, carbon fibre construction and the Norwegian argument along with Zehners argument is dead in the water.

    Not realistic you say? Look at the quantum leaps occuring in the electric aviation field.

    The VWXL1 is an important stepping stone solution for commuter transportation. I wonder if Zehner has heard of it. Yes it is a diesel, if you need range, but for local performance it can be entirely electric and powered from ones own roof. And at half the weight of the Chevy Volt this too represents the failure of Zehner’s argument.

  13. I have to say that I am not very enthusiastic for air engines mainly due the energy losses in compressing the air and again from the expansion in the “engine”. No doubt the device can be made more effective by using the air in its compressed state mixed with fuel to save compressing the air in the engine itself. I just don’t see the benefit. Its all just a bit too French, Jumpy.

  14. Bilb
    I, like most consumers, look through selfish eyes and what suits my circumstances.
    Up here even in winter the car air-con is on and draining efficiency.
    Some of the energy lost in compressed air is cooling ( rare for an engine ) that could be utilised.
    That’s not a game breaker but an interesting aspect.
    I check the developments of Dean Bensteads (not a Frenchman) bike occasionally but nothing recently announced. At about 100km range and 140km/h top speed is more than enough for my situation.

    There may come a magic bullet one-size fits all engine ( to match your ideals and needs) in the distant future but in most peoples eyes, at present, that’s petrol or diesel making those more efficient bring Jevons paradox into play.

    ( early morning ramble finished, off to the fairways )

  15. Jumpy, it’s not the range/speed/energy density that’s the problem with compressed air motors. It’s the overall efficiency – you start with X joules of usable energy, be it electricity or mechanical or whatever, and the question is how much of that turns into usable mechanical energy in the car. With compressed air, even if it’s very direct (windmill mechanically linked to compressor, say), the efficiency tends to be under 30%. Which makes windmill-electricity-grid-my house-electric car battery-move the car seem pretty darn reasonable (usually 50-70%, depending on fine print – rooftop PV to car can be over 70%). For urban dwellers it’s likely to be compressor in garage to car, so you can add in all the losses of the electric car but you’re still at 30% for the compressed air cycle, where the electric system is 90% battery efficiency into an 80%-ish motor.

    Now, if you thermally insulate the air tank and use the air quickly it gets much better… but no-one does that. Some systems de-cool the air before it’s used, but that only helps a little.

    Like Bilb, I’m excited by the people’s car project because it’s a small vehicle, so we might actually be able to reduce the amount of crap motorist carry round with them. 300kg is much better than 700kg (current small car) or 2000+kg (large car or urban assault vehicle).

  16. wow, this seems to have just happened.

    “the most intense, wettest moment in toronto’s history” (environment canada).

    126 millimetres of rain fell on the city in just two hours last night. (previous record hurricane hazel in 1954 was 121.4 millimetres).

    underpasses, basements, subway station flooded – people trapped in vehicles – 1,400 trapped on commuter train, took 7 hrs to get them off.

    $600 million damages – power station flooded – hydro electricity “hanging by a thread” (mayor) – 500,000 homes without power – hospital on generators – planned rotating blackouts – calls to disconnect all non essential appliances (its summer & sweltering).

    head of public works & infrastructure committee (obviously an alarmist) is “tremendously concerned” about the impact of the storm. “if you have hurricane hazel having happening every couple years we’re going to be a lot more trouble than we ever imagined”.

    more thunderstorms forecast. city population 2.6 million, greater toronto area 6 million.

  17. Thanks av. I’ve just emailed my sister who lives in Toronto. The extreme weather events recently have included dry and fires in Arizona, floods in Central Europe, Calgary, and the Himalayas in India. The latter have been the most serious in terms of lives lost.

    I believe they had a cold snap in Alaska, whereupon Sarah Palin said “Global warming, my gluteus maximus!. Not long after they had 35C.

  18. and they call us alarmists. when i was growing & a bottle of pop was 10 cents these kinds of events happened only once in a while and in one country at a time. tellingly, populous parts of both calgary & toronto are low lying vis a vis the river. -a.v.

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