Commentary on IPCC WG1: Part 2

In Part 2 of the round-up of commentary on the IPCC WG1 report I’ve tried to highlight where people have said something new or not emphasised elsewhere. I’ve not attempted to cover the MSM.

That’s it as a round-up. I plan to revisit particular topics later when the IPCC have finished fiddling with the text and layout.

The following image is the temperature projections representing the most optimistic and pessimistic scenarios. Bear in mind that RCP2.6 is probably hopelessly optimistic and at present we are tracking to do worse than RCP8.5. Also what happens is not likely to be as smooth as the graphs the models spit out.

Temperature_cropped_580

Here’s the link to Part 1.

The New Scientist has a special on the IPCC report which appears not to be paywalled at least yet. Among the questions asked is, can we be sure that any big issues have been missed?

Not entirely, is the answer given, but the text really says, yes, we can be sure. Anything that can’t be well-measured, such as the leaking of methane from permafrost, has been set aside. Also impacts with low probability and higher threat. So the report is restricted to the well-understood knowns and thereby conservative.

Science writer Michael Le Page distils a 10-word bottom line: we have to leave most fossil fuels in the ground.

He points to Norway to illustrate the problem. They get nearly 60% of their electricity from renewable sources and plan to go carbon neutral by as early as 2030. But they will do this by buying carbon credits with the earnings of their fossil fuel exports.

Doug Craig at Climate of Change picks up on the theme. Energy companies are currently spending $600 billion trying to find more fossil fuels.

The Conversation has tagged a topic IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Continue reading Commentary on IPCC WG1: Part 2

Commentary on IPCC WG1: Part 1

Warming_cropped_500

This is a wrap of some of commentary on the recent IPCC report. You can follow the links, or not, according to your needs, time and desires.

Climate Code Red carries a very clear summary of the report, which they got from Climate News Network, a handy site I wasn’t aware of.

The summary covers elements I neglected, such as Evaluation of Climate Models, but doesn’t go into the climate budget approach.

The post includes links to other commentary.

At RealClimate Stefan Rahmstorf solves the problem of the graph showing 82cm as the upper limit of sea level rise compares with 98cm in the text. It’s the last decade, the difference between 2080-2100 and 2100! Under RCP8.0 SLR will be accelerating rapidly according to forecasts.

George Monbiot is ascerbic as usual:

What the report describes, in its dry, meticulous language, is the collapse of the benign climate in which humans evolved and have prospered, and the loss of the conditions upon which many other lifeforms depend. Climate change and global warming are inadequate terms for what it reveals. The story it tells is of climate breakdown.

We need to leave most of the fossil fuel reserves everywhere, but for the corporations it’s full steam ahead, supported by their governments.

At ABC Environment Michael Mann and Dana Nuccitelli are in no doubt as to what’s causing global warming. The IPCC report:

concludes that humans have caused at least 50 per cent and most likely 100 per cent of the global warming over the past six decades, with external natural factors like the sun and internal natural variation like ocean cycles each contributing approximately zero to the warming during that time.

Ryan Koronowski at Climate Progress tells us 15 things we need to know about the report. For one thing Obama’s top science advisor said the report “represents the most comprehensive and authoritative synthesis of scientific knowledge about global climate change ever generated.”

And Stanford scientists Noah Diffenbaugh and Chris Field find that the current pace of warming is happening 10 times faster than any time over the last 65 million years.

John Upton at Grist pulls out the facts and figures. Grist also has an explainer about the IPCC. Continue reading Commentary on IPCC WG1: Part 1

A choice of catastrophes: the IPCC budget approach

wg1cover_175Below I’ve set set out some of the main findings in the Summary for Policymakers (downloadable from here) from the IPCC’s Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis before looking at what they say about the wriggle room remaining to us (ie. the ‘climate budget approach’) if we want to avoid dangerous climate change.

This post follows the introductory post Crisis or catastrophe? What will the IPCC say?

In this report they’ve set up a reference pattern which will be followed unless otherwise specified in the remaining volumes, so we’d better wrap our minds around it.

The basic concept is that of Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) which are expressed in terms of watts per square metre of radiative forcing (W m-2). So when looking at phenomena such as future temperature change or sea level rise there is no ‘business as usual’ (BAU) scenario. Four scenarios have been chosen – RCP2.6, RCP4.5, RCP6.0 and RCP8.5. These are described as, respectively, a mitigation scenario leading to a very low forcing level, two stabilisation scenarios and one scenario with very high greenhouse gas emissions. The last (RCP8.5) is perhaps the equivalent of BAU or a ‘no climate change policy’ scenario.

AR5 uses four time reference points, two past and two future – 1850-1900, 1986-2006, 2046-2065 and 2081-2100.

I have called 1850-1900 ‘pre-industrial’, while 1986-2005 is roughly ‘now’. It needs to be borne in mind that the 0.61C warming had already taken place from pre industrial times to 1986-2005. Looking forward 2046-2065 is ‘mid-century’ while 2080-2100 is roughly the end of the 21st century.

I’ve prepared a spreadsheet showing in the first column the prospective temperature rise from ‘now’ to the end of the 21st century. The second column adds in the warming from pre-industrial until ‘now’. Finally I’ve tabulated the increase from pre-industrial to mid-century. I’ve only quoted the mean values so that the signal doesn’t get lost in the noise.

Figure 1: RCP temperature scenarios
Figure 1: RCP temperature scenarios

I’ve used green to indicate a comparatively ‘safe’ climate, orange to indicate the increasingly contested zone which clearly carries some danger, and red to indicate breaching the 2C guardrail which everyone with half a brain accepts as dangerous.

What needs to be emphasised here is the non-linearity of climate vulnerability and risk. As temperatures increase the potential for nasty surprises or ‘tipping points’ increases, but frankly we are already entering that zone.

Some points to note here. Firstly, the change from 1880 to 2012 (the real ‘now’) is given as 0.85C (0.65 to 1.06 with 90% certainty).

Secondly, while the CO2 levels are linked to certain watts per square metre in the RCPs the CO2 levels stand as a marker for all greenhouse gases. The RCPs don’t change if you additionally identify the MH4 and NO levels, as they are already included in the calculations.

This table from the report shows the forecast temperatures, plus sea level rise, with uncertainty ranges.

Table 2: RCP scenarios for temperature and sea level rise
Table 2: RCP scenarios for temperature and sea level rise___

The uncertainty range is a bit narrower than it was in AR4 in 2007. Please note, the text actually gives the range for RCP8.5 as 0.52 to 0.98m.

If we discard RCP2.6 because it won’t happen the total range of prospective sea level rise is 32cm to 82cm, with medium confidence. A linear extrapolation of the current rate of 3.2mm pa will yield the lower bound of that range. Also we are told:

Confidence in projections of global mean sea level rise has increased since the AR4 because of the improved physical understanding of the components of sea level, the improved agreement of process-based models with observations, and the inclusion of ice-sheet dynamical changes.

Furthermore:

Based on current understanding, only the collapse of marine-based sectors of the Antarctic ice sheet, if initiated, could cause global mean sea level to rise substantially above the likely range during the 21st century. However, there is medium confidence that this additional contribution would not exceed several tenths of a meter of sea level rise during the 21st century.

Under RCP8.5, however, the annual rate of change by 2100 will be from 8mm to 16mm, with a mean nearly four times the current rate. Apart from RCP2.6 sea level rise will continue in subsequent centuries.

RenewEconomy has a simple summary of the report, which includes this on precipitation:

Changes in the global water cycle in response to the warming over the 21st century will not be uniform. The contrast in precipitation between wet and dry regions and between wet and dry seasons will increase, although there may be regional exceptions.

Evidence for human influence has strengthened since AR4. It is now considered extremely likely (formerly very likely) that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. Moreover,

There is high confidence that changes in total solar irradiance have not contributed to the increase in global mean surface temperature over the period 1986 to 2008, based on direct satellite measurements of total solar irradiance.

Here’s the graph of radiative forcing:

Figure 1: Radiative forcing drivers
Figure 1: Radiative forcing drivers___

Here’s the historic graph for temperature rise, showing clearly that warming is still occurring:

Figure 1: Land and ocean surface temperature anomaly 1850-2012
Figure 2: Land and ocean surface temperature anomaly 1850-2012

Crisis or catastrophe – the climate budget crunch

Generally speaking, the 4C limit is said to be the point at which civilisation as we know it is threatened. Of relevance here, the AR5 document tells us that the near-complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet will occur, over a millennium or more, with a temperature rise of somewhere between 1C and 4C relative to pre-industrial.

The report still uses the guardrail of 2C temperature rise relative to 1861-1880 (Figure 2 shows that this would be similar to 1850-1900) in order to mark dangerous climate change. You’ll get plenty arguments about that. Bolivia, for example, wants to use 1C as the limit for a safe climate. In this post I noted that some developing countries sought a lower guardrail of 1.5C rather than 2C while the African civil society group Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) wanted 1 to 1.5C.

David Spratt asks the question as to whether current levels of CO2 are already dangerous. His answer is unsettling, to say the least. What do our politicians think of the notion that we need to keep the temperature rise to less than 1.5C if we want to preserve more than 10% of corals worldwide?

He also found that during the Eemian 120,000 years ago we had three metres of sea level rise within 50 years with much gentler forcing than we have now, in probably the best analogue of what lies before us.

In a warming world what matters is the total quantum of CO2 in the atmosphere. The ‘climate budget approach’ identifies the total anthropogenic CO2 emitted to cause warming of 2C. For a 66% chance of staying under 2C the total CO2 emitted must not exceed 1000Gt, according to calculations done by Malte Meinshausen and others back in 2009. The later we leave cutting the harder we have to cut. Meinshausen’s article in Nature is paywalled, but this graph in an article by Stefan Rahmstorf (in German) gives the idea:

Figure 3: Meinshausen's emissions reduction options
Figure 3: Meinshausen’s emissions reduction options

Rahmstorf’s text talks about 1000Gt of CO2 or about 1500GT of CO2 equivalent with other greenhouse gases for a 25% chance of staying within 2C. Forget the precise figures, it’s the pattern of peaking and subsequent reductions that matter.

Now, as Giles Parkinson reports, the carbon budget figures have taken a haircut to become 800Gt for a 66% chance of 2C when “accounting for non-CO2 forcings”. Problem is we’d already used up 543Gt of the budget by 2011.

Fiona Harvey at The Guardian tells us that the decision to put the numbers in the report was hard-won. There was concern they “would have political repercussions”. I think that was the intention!

Oliver Milman also at The Guardian, tells us that cuts of 10% per annum will now be necessary, though I can’t find that in the report. He doesn’t say from when. This graph, from the Climate Commission’s 2011 The Critical Decade report (the site is now down the crapper – my summary is here), shows 9% pa from 2020 for a 66% chance.

Figure 4: Emissions reduction options
Figure 4: Emissions reduction options

I suspect the new 10% is from 2015 or 2017.

The above graph is sourced from a substantial 2009 document (in German) produced by WBGU (The German Advisory Council on Global Change) making the case for a carbon budget approach. Of more use to us is their English summary which on page 5 outlines the steps to be taken to provide an equitable way forward. The high polluting countries should take urgent steps to reduce emissions. Developing countries are then given space to increase emissions before reducing. The strategy is captured in this graph:

Figure 5: The climate budget approach
Figure 5: The climate budget approach

The red line represents the industrialised countries, green the developing countries. Newly industrialising countries such as China, Thailand and Mexico are represented by orange. With world-wide carbon trading (a world climate bank is proposed) the pattern would be varied along these lines:

Figure 6: The carbon budget approach with carbon trading
Figure 6: The carbon budget approach with carbon trading

By 2100 all countries are allowed the same per capita emissions.

There is no doubt at all that the Germans and possibly the Europeans hoped for a deal along these lines from the UNFCCC meeting in Copenhagen in 2009. In the end a weak ‘contribute what suits you’ deal was cooked up in a small unofficial meeting that took place when President Obama went looking for his Chinese counterpart and found him ensconced with the leaders of India, Brazil, South Africa and others. The Europeans were not in the room. To say they were pissed off is an understatement. Nor was our man Rudd in the room, one of three leaders appointed to assist the Danish chair.

Now we have a deal to conclude a deal by 2015 within the UNFCCC framework, to be implemented from 2020. We’ve lost five years and the task is immensely harder.

Parkinson notes that our skinny remaining carbon budget means we can only afford to use about 10% of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves. But there is $4 trillion of shareholder value tied up in 200 listed companies in the industry carrying $1.5 trillion in loans. Writing down the value of that lot could break a few banks deemed too big to fail.

We’ve got a crisis for sure and a choice between two catastrophes.

It will be interesting to see what the mitigation working group comes up with. For my money, whatever they propose the Americans and the Chinese will not be pinned down to anything binding. In both cases their internal politics will not allow it.

The full WG1 report is now available. It’s 2126 pages long and they ask you not to quote it yet.

I outlined the budget approach in a post in January 2011:

Climate crunch: the fierce urgency of now .

This was a repost and update of one I did in May 2009, Climate crunch which linked to a special edition of Nature where I think an early version of the Potsdam climate budget approach was outlined.

The post Suffer the little children told the story of what happened in Copenhagen and beyond.

Crisis or catastrophe? What will the IPCC say?

In sum, the dynamics of the global coupled human-environmental system within the dominant culture precludes management for stable, sustainable pathways and promotes instability.

In other words, we’re f*cked!

That quote was from here, linked from Christopher Wright.

The quote was actually from the abstract of a sober, technical paper by geophysicist Brad Werner. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report will also be sober and technical, based on peer reviewed literature, at least accepted for publication two to three months before the draft of each section is finalised, plus ‘grey’ material, which I take it means reliable sources such as government reports and reports prepared by or for organisations such as the International Energy Association, the World bank and our erstwhile Climate Commission.

There will be three working group reports, each with a summary for policymakers, plus a synthesis report. The working groups are:

    WG1: The Physical Science Basis
    WG2: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
    WG3: Mitigation of Climate Change

It remains to be seen how urgent and dramatic the summaries for policymakers will be. The full import won’t be on view until the publication of WG3 in April next year, but the first should give us an idea of the seriousness of the situation.

Here’s the timetable for releasing the reports:

WG1_cropped_c

Here’s the site for WG1. Here’s where the Summary for Policymakers should appear on 27 September. Here are the chapter headings of the report, due on Monday: Continue reading Crisis or catastrophe? What will the IPCC say?

Climate clippings 84

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition is mostly about the doings of our new government, prospective EU targets, a statement by religious leaders and a couple of items on health implications.

1. Greg Hunt’s role diminished

Whether or not Greg Hunt gets to go to the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) Conference of Parties (COP) in Warsaw from 11 to 22 November. Julie Bishop will henceforth be the lead negotiator in international climate talks.

The story in the AFR says Hunt has been “stripped of responsibility for global climate change negotiations”. He still gets to go and hang out at the talks. One might say that Australia’s representation has been upgraded. Suspicious minds might also think that Hunt couldn’t be trusted. He actually believes human activity causes global warming and might join the warmist urgers if not kept on a tight leash. Continue reading Climate clippings 84

Arctic sea ice extent minimum for 2013

The summer melt of the Arctic appears to have reached it’s limit with the sea ice extent at 5.1 million km2 (cf. the 3.41 million km2 record in 2012) as shown on this graph from the NSIDC’s Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis site:

2013_cropped_580

The black line is the 1981-2010 average, plus and minus two standard deviations. The blue is 2007 and the dotted line represents the 2012 record. This year is the sixth lowest on record as this graph from Skeptical Science shows: Continue reading Arctic sea ice extent minimum for 2013

Abbott’s direct action on climate

On Thursday the Abbott government took four actions on climate change. First, Greg Hunt phoned Tim Flannery, letter to follow, that the Climate Commission was to cease operation. We can take for granted that money was not the problem. Five million over four years in a $400 billion pa budget is not even small change.

Abbott told us on Wednesday that his governments actions would be based on values rather than ideology.

“We will be a problem-solving government based on values, not ideology,” the new Prime Minister added.

So what problem were they solving? Too much information on climate change? Is information from independent scientific sources too inconvenient? We are told that the information we need will be prepared by the public service in the future, where there will no longer be a dedicated department for climate change.

Lenore Taylor thinks the sacking of senior public servants smacks of ideology, not values. She says two of them, Martin Parkinson and Blair Comley, appear to have been punished because of their roles in implementing the former government’s policy on climate change.

The Climate Commission site is still there, for now. I wonder for how much longer.

The other three actions require legislation – getting rid of the ‘carbon tax’, shutting down the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. So all the Government can do now is commence preparing legislation. Continue reading Abbott’s direct action on climate

Climate clippings 83

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. Again I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition contains items, exclusively, I think, in climate science and impacts. The thread is meant to function also as a roundtable to share information and ideas.

1. Climate change picked the crops we eat today

The New Scientist carries a story about how some cereals we know today were changed by the climate as we came out of the last ice age. Researchers at the University of Sheffield, UK took seeds of precursors of modern wheat and barley found with human remains in a 23,000-year-old archaeological site in Israel. They grew these together with four wild grass species that aren’t eaten today, but were also known to grow in the region at that time, and grew them under conditions replicating levels of CO2 then and also the higher levels when farming first arose 10,000 years ago.

All the plants grew larger under the higher levels of CO2, but the relatives of wheat and barley grew twice as large and produced double the seeds. This suggests the species are especially sensitive to high levels of CO2, making them the best choice for cultivation after the last ice age.

The team plan to look at whether other food staples around the world are similarly affected by elevated CO2 levels, for example millet grown in Asia and maize in North America. They also plan to compare the effects of CO2 on legumes such as peas. Continue reading Climate clippings 83

Soil carbon and direct (in)action

Last week on the 7.30 Report we were treated to a debate between Mark Butler, the climate change minister and his Opposition counterpart, Greg Hunt, that just did not work. Leigh Sales tried a hard-edged questioning style, but unfortunately did not come close to being familiar with the topic. So large parts of the LNP agenda were unaddressed, such as their dismantling of the institutional framework of the the Climate Commission, the Climate Change Authority, the incorporation of the Climate Department into the broader environment department and the dismantling of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

One issue canvassed was the sequestration of carbon in soil, which comprises a large part of the LNP’s mitigation strategy.

Mark Butler said the cost of such abatement was higher than previously thought, the potential for sequestration less and given the problems and uncertainties there “may be some opportunity to abate carbon pollution through soil carbon initiatives in the future, but it is grossly irresponsible to make it the centrepiece of a nationwide carbon pollution policy.”

Hunt dismissed those concerns, quoting the CSIRO but when he was pressed on whether he was talking about just soil carbon he said he meant the full range of green carbon initiatives – mallee and mulga revegetation, reforestation, avoided deforestation, soil carbon.

A recent article in Nature (paywalled) came to the conclusion that:

considering carbon storage on land as a means to ‘offset’ CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels (an idea with wide currency) is scientifically flawed. The capacity of terrestrial ecosystems to store carbon is finite and the current sequestration potential primarily reflects depletion due to past land use. Avoiding emissions from land carbon stocks and refilling depleted stocks reduces atmospheric CO2 concentration, but the maximum amount of this reduction is equivalent to only a small fraction of potential fossil fuel emissions.

Continue reading Soil carbon and direct (in)action

Direct action examined and found wanting

Yesterday The Climate Institute released a policy brief Coalition Climate Policy and the National Climate Interest which not to mince words is a complete crock, will increase emissions and ruin our reputation on climate matters in the world. The report, based on modelling by Sinclair Knight Merz-MMA and Monash University’s Centre of Policy Studies, was then declared by Greg Hunt to be “one of the silliest reports” he has ever seen prepared by “a clear partisan political organisation” which backs the ALP.

Giles Parkinson’s article The black hole in Tony Abbott’s frat party climate policy gives a comprehensive account and I commend it to readers.

Abbott in response to Rudd’s bringing forward of the ETS gave his memorable opinion on such trading schemes:

“It’s a so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.”

Sara Phillips finds this curious since

the financial markets do a lot of trading in non-deliveries of invisible substances to no one. Water-front mansions in Abbott’s electorate of Warringah have been built on the profits of those trades.

Continue reading Direct action examined and found wanting

Are they liars and clunkheads still?

Back on 3 September 2010, 12 days after the election, Laura Tingle wrote:

There are two possible explanations for how an opposition presenting itself as an alternative government could end up with an $11 billion hole in the cost of its election commitments.

One is that they are liars, the other is that they are clunkheads. Actually, there is a third explanation: they are liars and clunkheads.

But whatever the combination, they are not fit to govern.

Then this:

But what is more extraordinary is that now, having been caught out, Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb are continuing to try to bluff their way through, suggesting there is nothing more than a gentlemanly difference of opinion between them and the bureaucracy.

The brazenness of the three men only becomes really clear when they claim the bureaucrats’ document actually proves the budget would be $7 billion better off under the Coalition.

There is no other term for any of this except “complete bullshit”, to use one of Abbott’s favourite terms.

Ever since those three brazen bullshit artists have been rubbishing the institutions that called them on their incompetence and/or perfidy.

On Tuesday this week Treasury and Finance issued the Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook (PEFO) in which the charter of budget of honesty requires them to identify “all other circumstances that may have a material effect on the fiscal and economic outlook”. Laura Tingle explains how Treasury and Finance have used the modelling at their disposal to project receipts and payments over the next ten years. The results are inconvenient to the common view that we are headed down the crapper. You see they found that receipts are going to pick up in the out years, so that in ten years time net debt will be restored to around zero. Continue reading Are they liars and clunkheads still?

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff