Climate clippings 143

1. Greater trust engendered in UN climate meetings

A week of UN climate meetings in preparation for the Paris Conference of Parties in December has just taken place in Bonn. The main outcome was trust, in the Conference co-chairs of the various subgroups established and in the procedures adopted. The week saw the Paris text reduced from 90 to 85 pages. The aim is for a 15 page final document. There are only two meetings between now and Paris.

The meeting entrusted the co-chairs to prepare a cut-down version for circulation in August.

Worth a special mention, a report from the technical group looking at the adequacy of the 2°C temperature target was received and discussed. It’s a 182-page whopper. It was clear, apparently, that 2°C will not produce a safe climate.

Sophie Yeo takes a look at the report and the reaction. While 1.5°C seems a bridge too far at present, there may be some tweaking of the language and the issue kept alive.

2. Global warming speed-up is imminent

The UNFCC and the international community had better get on their bike, because global warming appears to about to speed up. Joe Romm draws from a number of studies, including NOAA, The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Gavin Schmidt of NASA GISS at RealClimate.

Firstly if you draw a trend line from the middle of the last century, there has been no pause:


Schmidt draws a trend from around 1970 and breaks it at 1998. The difference is insignificant:


There was certainly a distinct leap in the mid-1990s and the thinking is that we are about to see similar increases again. Warming in the coming decades could average 0.25°C per decade, that’s an increase of 56% on the trend identified by Schmidt.

3. Oxygen and climate

To date the impact of oxygen levels on the climate has been overlooked in studying paleoclimate. Over the past 500 million years oxygen has varied from as little as 10% of the atmosphere to as much as 35%. It is currently at 21%.

With less oxygen the atmosphere is thinner, allowing more sunlight to penetrate. This produces more water vapour, which has a strong greenhouse effect.

Variations from year to year are so slight that there will be no climate effect from one century to the other, but our understanding of deep climate requires the oxygen effect to be taken into account.

4. New thinking on ice sheet decay

A new technique has been developed to chart the progress of ice sheet decay during the onset of the Eemian interglacial about 135,000 years ago. Researchers have discovered that the ice sheet response was quite different from the most recent one, with different ocean circulation and hemispheric climate patterns. Study of further interglacials may yield insights into the overall climate change pattern we are experiencing.

5. Plants will not flourish as the world warms

As the world warms the biggest impact on plant growth will be in the tropics, with up to 200 fewer “suitable growing days” each year. Plants need to have favourable temperature, moisture and light to grow. Study leader Camilo Mora says “there could be an 11 percent reduction in the plant growing season worldwide.”

    Greater levels of CO2 made no difference one way or the other. At higher temperatures plants open their pores, called stomata, to capture the elevated CO2, which boosts photosynthesis, greening the leaves. But plants also tend to close their stomata in warmer temperatures to prevent water loss. Mora says that on balance the two effects cancel out.

Thanks to a commenter (sorry forgotten who!) for the link.

There’s more at Carbon Brief.

A separate study found that increased CO2 inhibits nitrogen uptake. More CO2 yields less nutritious plant growth, for example in wheat and rice.

6. Climate change deniers will be giant money losers

A Mercer report Investing in a Time of Climate Change details the investment prospects and pitfalls of various climate scenarios.

    Clearly, “climate change will give rise to investment winners and losers.” Some industries, like coal, will likely see average annual returns over the next decade “eroding between 26% and 138%,” depending on how aggressively the world attempts to fight climate change. Other industries, like renewables, could see average annual returns increase by up to 97 percent over the 10-year period — if the world does seriously move toward a 2°C pathway coming out of the Paris climate talks this December.

7. The end of coal

The ABC Four Corners program The end of coal? couches the issues in terms of questions in the promo. The program, however, is quite straightforward – coal is f*cked.

It didn’t distinguish between coking coal and thermal coal, but coal is clearly on borrowed time as an electricity generation source.

Meanwhile the Abbott government continues its negative jawboning of the wind farm sector and Giles Parkinson identifies 10 things we learned about Tony Abbott’s war on renewables. Here’s what the people think:


By contrast Queensland Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk was in the USA over the weekend investigating the potential for the Australian state to become a green fuel supplier to the US Navy. Biofuel production could be “the next growth industry” for regional Queensland, she said.

38 thoughts on “Climate clippings 143”

  1. We should probably tell the Equator plants about no. 5, seeing as there are virtually zero deserts and almost all the worlds great rainforests.
    Yet plenty of deserts at cooler high altitudes closer to the poles.
    And none on the poles ( biggest deserts on the Planet )

    Oh, and the commercial plant growers that are using heating and pumping in CO2 should also be told they went broke.

  2. @7

    The program, however, is quite straightforward – coal is f*cked.

    Perhaps if a replacement for thermal coal in steel making is discovered.

  3. Jumpy:

    Perhaps if a replacement for thermal coal in steel making is discovered.

    Fascinated to find that thermal coal is needed for steel production. Most of the coal used on blast furnaces is in the form of coke made from metallurgical (coking) coal. A limited amount of PCI can be injected into the tuyeres to reduce coke consumption. (PCI is non-coking coal with low volatile matter.)
    Other ironmaking processes do not need any coal at all.

    Steel is by far the world’s most important metal, with a global production of 1129 Mt in 2005. In 2004, the most important steel producers were China (26%), EU-25 (19%), Japan (11%), USA (10%) and Russia (6%) (IISI, 2005). Three routes are used to make steel. In the primary route (about 60%), used in almost 50 countries, iron ore is reduced to iron in blast furnaces using mostly coke or coal, then processed into steel. In the second route (about 35%), scrap steel is melted in electric-arc furnaces to produce crude steel that is further processed. This process uses only 30 to 40% of the energy of the primary route, with CO2 emissions reduction being a function of the source of electricity (De Beer et al., 1998). The remaining steel production (about 5%), uses natural gas to produce direct reduced iron (DRI). DRI cannot be used in primary steel plants, and is mainly used as an alternative iron input in electric arc furnaces, which can result in a reduction of up to 50% in CO2 emissions compared with primary steel making (IEA, 2006a). Use of DRI is expected to increase in the future (Hidalgo et al., 2005).

    The natural gas could be replaced by renewable hydrogen produced using renewable power.

  4. We should probably tell the Equator plants about no. 5, …

    You bet! That’s why no.5 states

    As the world warms the biggest impact on plant growth will be in the tropics …

    Now if it had said “has been” …

  5. John

    metallurgical (coking) coal

    Of course, my blue.
    You link does say coal is the one used for making steel, the others just recycle.

  6. zoot

    From memory ( cause I can’t get headline 5 link to work ) of your bringing this to our attention initially (h/t), the dude doesn’t seem to know the difference between equatorial and tropic.

    As we all know the equatorial region ( with more solar irradiation ) has no deserts. They are found mostly, right now, on the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer.

    I dismissed it as the garbage it is when you first linked to it.

  7. Interesting use of language Jumpy, as usual.
    My dictionary’s second definition of “the tropics” is the regions lying between and near the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
    Last time I looked that included the equator.

  8. Hmmm, maybe I should have highlighted “in the tropics” which the erstwhile Jumpy appears to have read as on the tropics.
    I’ve heard state schools will do that to you, won’t they Jumpy old son?

  9. jumpy, the headline link @ 5 worked for me, but I’ve now substituted the one zoot gave.

  10. Jumpy: The DRI process makes steel from iron ore, not scrap with the reduction of the iron ore being done by natural gas, not coal. Variations of DRI processes could use renewable hydrogen for the reduction.

  11. I think we should keep most of the coal in the ground and use it during the next Ice Age 🙂

  12. But on a more serious note:

    In 2005 John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist from Stanford University, caused a stir with a paper showing why, as a matter of statistical logic, the idea that only one such paper in 20 gives a false-positive result was hugely optimistic. Instead, he argued, “most published research findings are probably false.” As he told the quadrennial International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, held this September in Chicago, the problem has not gone away.

    Dr Ioannidis draws his stark conclusion on the basis that the customary approach to statistical significance ignores three things: the “statistical power” of the study (a measure of its ability to avoid type II errors, false negatives in which a real signal is missed in the noise); the unlikeliness of the hypothesis being tested; and the pervasive bias favouring the publication of claims to have found something new.

    Given the enormous amount of gravy involved in climate change research courtesy of concerns about AGW (several billion dollars annually in the US alone) and the prestige and tempting slice of the pie on offer for those who find something “big and scary”, one shouldn’t hitch up one’s skirt and jump on top of the table and start screaming each time a new scary story gets printed in the science literature.

    It is precisely this sort of silliness that saw many parents give up on vaccinations after The Lancet published Andrew Wakefield’s nonsense on a suposed link between vaccinations and autism. Dare I say it was such unwise haste that saw our very own Brian grow increasingly flustered as he endeavoured to manufacture a polar bear repellent in his basement lab after reading something scary in the National Geographic about the impending Ice Age.

    Let’s wait for the emergence of consilience.

  13. Karen, can I just say that you consistently characterise me in a way that those who know me would not recognise. I think you should think seriously about the ethics of using ridicule in these comments.

  14. Karen: Love that theory. Provides an escape clause that will allow you to claim that any stupid theory you have hasn’t been disproved by the facts because of the Ioannidis analysis.

  15. … and the prestige and tempting slice of the pie on offer for those who find something “big and scary” …

    Karen, there’s an instant Nobel Prize for anybody who proves AGW is not happening.

  16. All the ” consensus ” among botanists that plants thrive on increased levels of CO2 is moot because Camilo Mora, an assistant professor of geography ( according to Scientific America ) said.

    Got it.

    His phd was ” Ecological and conservation consequences of dispersal in marine fishes ”
    Perhaps not enough fame and grants in that.

  17. Brian,

    Lighten up. It is humor not ridicule. You must admit that your switch between two diametrically opposed scares in the space of a few short years is a comedy gift that just keeps on giving 😉

    John Davidson,

    I’ve read your comment twice and it still doesn’t make sense, to me at least. I’ve cited Ioannidis but if you have been following science lately you would know that in recent years plenty of papers on systemic problems in science, such as p-hacking, have delineated what is obviously a very serious problem.

    I’m simply calling in to question Brian’s habit of jumping on the next big scare while it is still hot off the presses. This is precisely what science communicators are told not to do, for reasons that are obvious.

    As I’ve already said on numerous occasions, I follow the consensus and the consilience. This means accepting the mainstream science position on each and every issue without so much as a single deviation.

    I don’t do silly pet theories. I don’t make heroes out of fraudulent creatures like the detestable charlatans, Vandana Shiva and Lord Monckton, simply because it is ideologically convenient, and politically correct in the case of the former (brown tick, woman tick, third world tick) to do so.


    Given the long established consensus concerning AGW, public policy should proceed on the basis that it is real. Undoubtedly such policy should proceed faster than it has to date, especially since the costs are relatively small and the side gains (better air quality from reduced coal use etc …) are so significant.

    So yeah, there is indeed an an instant Nobel Prize for anybody who proves AGW is not happening. Gravy corrupts science, but only up to a point.

  18. Karen, bullies use humour as a tool. I change my mind when the information changes. In 2004 I hadn’t read much about climate change, and find that I’d initially missed a statement by Hansen in 2003 that the next ice age had been cancelled. My bad. I really only came on board with climate change when the Stern Review was published in 2006.

    Jumpy, you could be right that Mora is wrong. We’ll see how the issue develops. I wish to point out though that he isn’t saying that more CO2 doesn’t give more growth. He’s saying that the number of days when the combination of factors promoting growth are present will be fewer. He’s also saying that the growth promoted by the extra CO2 is offset by increased warmth in the tropics.

    Karen, I see my role mainly as keeping people informed about what is being published. It’s up to them what they make of it.

    I do express an opinion at times, but often I actually withhold it.

  19. Karen: There is a swag of fossil money floating around that will support anything that allows doubt to be cast doubt on climate science. The statement:

    “most published research findings are probably false.”

    is a useful tool for those who are fighting the current scientific tide.
    In terms of climate science the clincher for me was the temperature and CO2 graphs from the Vostok ice cores These graphs show a 400 yr cycle with temperature and CO2 dropping for most of the cycle followed by a rapid increase in both temperature and CO2 until the cooling starts again.
    The 400 year cycle is driven by one of the earth’s orbit cycles. However, the nature of the orbit changes would be expected to result in a sinusoidal curve instead of the shape of the curve we see. My take is that the cooling is slow because packing away CO2 is a slow process. (Packing away the CO2 extends the cooling period because reducing CO2 has a cooling effect.) The heating part of the cycle has to wait until there is enough heat from the sun on the northern hemisphere to overcome the cooling effect of the low CO2.
    Once the heating part of the cycle starts the CO2 unpacks much faster than it could be packed away during the cooling part of the cycle. The greenhouse effect of the rising concentration of CO2 drives the rapid rise in temperature until the decline in sunlight on the northern hemisphere is enough to restart the long cooling cycle.
    Note that the 400 hundred year cycle is not the only cycle effecting sunlight falling on the norther hemisphere. This is part of the explanation for the rapid fluctuations within the 400 yr cycle.

  20. You’re right Jumpy (I already agreed with you) and I think the fact that James Watson’s qualification was in Zoology and Francis Crick’s was in Physics completely invalidates their research in the field of molecular biology.
    They should be stripped of their Nobel Prize immediately.

  21. Vostok doesn’t sound like a nice place.
    Warmest temp on record of -14c in 1974.
    Coldest ever recorded of -89.2c in 1983 ( although – 91c was recorded in 1997 but not officially confirmed )

    And nary a raindrop nor plant can be found.

  22. zoot

    Wiki tells me both are molecular biologists, so I say, let em keep the prize.

    In which field are you nominating Camilo Mora ?

  23. John D:

    I gained much of my knowledge about contemporaneous research on the systemic problems in science literature by reading reading articles and comments by Brian’s accomplices who seek to cast doubt on GMO science.

    Personally, I have no trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. I can accept that science is a flawed human institution with systemic problems that need to be addressed while also accepting that public policy should always be based on any long established consensus, especially when that consensus is backed up by multiple lines of evidence from multiple disciplines within science (ie consilience).

  24. In which field are you nominating Camilo Mora ?

    Jeez you’re slow on the uptake. When will it sink in that I agree with you? He’s an obvious fraud, just like Watson and Crick. I’ve already pointed out that Scientific American has no standing whatsoever because it’s such an obvious hotbed of warmist propaganda. What more do I need to do? Your intellectual brilliance, unarguable logic and sheer personality have won the day.

  25. John D

    There is a swag of fossil money floating around that will support anything that allows doubt to be cast doubt on climate science.

    It’d be an interesting comparison between Fossil fuel dollars against and Government ( taxpayer ) dollars for.

    I’m guessing 1:10000, could be more.

    Anyone got the stat ? Karen ?

  26. zoo said,

    What more do I need to do?

    How about be honest and not play game mate.

    I find that approach, even if i’m wrong, maintains my dignity.

  27. Jumpy:

    Anyone got the stat ? Karen ?

    Most fossil fuel companies gave up funding climate change denialism a long time ago, but even when they did provide funding, the total was AFAICT, never more than a few million each year. You can add to that another few million dollars from other right wing interests, like the Koch bros. BY way of contrast, the US federal budget for climate change research for 2014 was $US2.7 billion.

    The real point is that you don’t need to produce much sh!t to attract blowflies if the blowflies are hungry.

  28. The real point is that you don’t need to produce much sh!t to attract blowflies if the blowflies are hungry.

    Spot on, but the true purpose of a blowfly is the make more maggots and multiply.

    Until they run out of the sh!t produced but others.

  29. During FY2014 the US government expenditure was $3.504 trillion. $2,7 billion is a bagatelle, considering the nature of the threat.

    Having worked for nearly a quarter of a century in government in an area (schooling) where most of the research was ratshit I can tell you that you that typically you have to make decisions on the basis of imperfect information. Waiting for clarity, pure rationality and consilience is a pipe dream. You’d never do anything.

    You have to make the best of what you’ve got.

    I like to think that if you stay with Climate Plus you’ll be somewhere near the cutting edge, in a form that is digestible by the lay person.

  30. Having worked for nearly a quarter of a century in government in an area (schooling) where most of the research was ratshit I can tell you that you that typically you have to make decisions on the basis of imperfect information. Waiting for clarity, pure rationality and consilience is a pipe dream. You’d never do anything.

    And yet some call for government to be bigger with more power, unbelievable right ?

    When the alternative is having individuals ( voting citizens ) choose for themselves.

  31. Brian:

    Waiting for clarity, pure rationality and consilience is a pipe dream. You’d never do anything.

    True, Brian. This is why I reach for my shotgun whenever some annoying Greenie invokes the Precautionary Principle to stop whatever it is they don’t like.

    Amusingly, right-wing elements in the Senate have now invoked the Precautionary Principle to throw a wet blanket over the wind power industry. I enjoy the sight of wind turbines in the country landscape, they remind me of modern sculptural art, only much more useful, intelligent and interesting. But seeing the Neanderthal Greens get a kick in the kidneys in the Senate brings brightness and warmth to these otherwise dull winter days … 😉

  32. And the same green mechanisms use to prevent building dams will be exploited to prevent wind farms and large scale solar thermal.

  33. In case you have missed it Don Tony Q’s tilting at windmills has effectively stalled new investment due to the uncertainty he started to create about the Howard government’s RET scheme from about Jan 14. Not sure what his Quixote commissioner (Commissioner for tilting at windmills) will achieve apart from making Aus seem a bit ridiculous.
    Suspect some of the states will start using strategies like the ACT/Brazil/South African renewable auction systems to drive wind investment in their states.
    Don Tony may have missed it but wind and solar tend to complement each other.

  34. Karen: Most of the climate research money will be spent on gathering climate data and seeking a better understanding of what drove past events. Very little will be spent on “proving AGW”.
    Suspect that fossil carbon companies stopped spending much because the technocrats that dominate these companies would have found the climate skeptic research embarrassing.
    Brian: Education research is difficult because an enthusiastic teacher/researcher trying a new theory will get good results because teacher enthusiasm makes a big difference.
    I found mining industry research a lot more useful.

  35. John, I’m out of touch with education research now, but my experience was that much research was underfunded, making access to a proper sample of the target population difficult.

    Moreover, it’s a social science and not as tractable as science. Most of the research operates within the paradigm of the current schooling model. Methods, provisions, policies etc are tested as to whether student ‘outcomes’ improve, but this is done in relation to students’ performance on the current curriculum not on their ability to lead a successful and fruitful life.

    In the main.

  36. Brian: You are right about

    but this is done in relation to students’ performance on the current curriculum not on their ability to lead a successful and fruitful life.

    My German teacher was one of the more influential teachers I had because he opened all sorts of windows for us. Yet I only got a B in German.
    Often the most important things in a child’s development is the chance remark that has nothing much to do with the subject being taught.

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