Declaring victory and moving on?

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 6:34 AM GMT on February 14, 2011

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Declaring victory and moving on?

In 2006 I started teaching climate change to all comers. It was my first year at Michigan, and I was approached by a set of three students to start a course on climate change. None of these students were physical scientists. It is a fact of universities that professors often start courses so that the professor can learn a subject. I was recruited to Michigan to help develop a focus on climate and climate change, but I was not really a climate scientist. I entered this course with a lot to learn. With the help of the students I structured a course that looked at the intersection of climate change with economics, policy, and business (class link). I think I had 12 guest lecturers the first year.

During the first couple of years there were some truths that became self evident. One of first of those truths was that in the popular discourse of 2006, the arguments around the U.S. not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol was a red herring. Namely, there was this idea that if the U.S. had signed the Kyoto Protocol, then we would have dealt with the climate change problem. It was evident by 2006 that this was not the case; the Kyoto Protocol could not effectively address climate change. In 2006 the students in the class talked about the symbolic meaning of the U.S. as a member of the global community, by 2007 the students arrived at the conclusion that the protocol was, practically, irrelevant.

Several other self-evident truths emerged. People often talk about wanting to look at the evidence themselves and come to their own conclusions. That’s not an easy thing to do in your spare time, and, for climate change, I had the benefit of it being my job. After going through reports and papers and thinking about how to communicate climate-change science to all comers, you realize this massive body of knowledge supports the fact that the surface of the Earth is warming. The evidence is what I called, at the time, coherent and convergent. (In fact, my third blog, a better blog) The correlated information from many measures of the Earth’s climate, the measurements of the feedbacks that follow from the warming, and the stunning amount of evidence from ecosystems form a body of work that, using the word of IPCC 2007, is “unequivocal.”

When we place ourselves in the middle of the climate and its importance to us, the responses to surface warming appear complex. It is easy to conclude that the average temperature of the surface of the Earth will increase, ice will melt, sea level will rise, and the weather will change. We can also say that the changes will be larger in some regions than the other, and that the changes will be disruptive. It is we, the people, that make this more than an academic problem.

More study, more information, and a few outstanding student projects and other truths emerge. One is that there really are not reliable, safe ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere(Reliability of the Forest). Related to this, we conclude that a carbon market cannot be an effective policy vehicle. There are no choices, and markets need choices. There needs to be, at a marginal cost, choices of reduced-carbon energy sources and choices of reliable, safe ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere. All we really have working for us right now is energy efficiency, and we cast efficiency more as a moral value than a monetary value. If we want to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with a market, then we are going to have to use technology and biotechnology to develop those market choices. Without market choices, we are not going to reduce our emissions, because we are not going to give up the standard of living that comes from the use of energy.

Today, right now, our ability to mitigate climate change by reduction of emissions is severely limited. We can design strategies that could make a difference; people teaching classes like mine anchor themselves in Pacala and Socolow, who describe a portfolio of technologically feasible solution paths to reduce emissions. But are we going to build a meaningful number of nuclear power plants in the next 10 years? Most large solar and wind projects are challenged for a variety of environmental consequences – ending or delaying them. Each year of delay is a few more parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We have no algorithm for trading off a large area of desert for invisible tons of carbon dioxide. Our environmental consciousness has no way to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide except by appealing to efficiency. And with that appeal, to argue that we need no new energy infrastructure, or we can personalize our energy generation. How can we reconcile this with the need for an energy-based economy to grow 2-3% every year to make enough jobs for a growing population? How do we put invisible carbon dioxide emissions in balance with perceived unemployment?

No consensus-based international policy is going to emerge in the next decade that will lead to near-term reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. My takeaway message from Copenhagen 2009 was that if there had ever been a European, Japanese, and U.S. opportunity to set the standard for carbon dioxide reduction it was lost. Emerging economies like China, Brazil, India, and South Africa have lots of emissions and plans to grow. They are spending a lot of money on the development of alternative energy; they are spending a lot of money on the development and use of fossil fuels. They spend enough on alternative energy to claim an environmental high ground, and to develop new technologies, new industries, and new standards. We use enough fossil fuels that even with these new sources of energy, carbon dioxide emissions increase at or above historic rates. Our only measure of success is to point to how high the emissions would be without these new developments.

We have to plan for an Earth with a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The synthesis provided by the recent National Research Council document, Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia put the stamp of authority and certification on the fact that once fossil-fuel carbon dioxide is placed in the Earth’s atmosphere, it stays there for a very long time. If we held our accumulated carbon dioxide to a trillion tons, then the carbon dioxide would stabilize at about 440 parts per million. That would be a stunning accomplishment. Far more likely, we will emit two or three trillion tons of carbon dioxide, and we will be living with values at double or more compared with pre-industrial levels; we are looking at 600 parts per million.

What is my intent? If you look at the issues raised above, many of them are where we have maintained and will maintain ongoing public arguments. These arguments attract attention, take our time, and take our minds. We align behind ideas like cap and trade and Kyoto, but by the time they might, maybe, possibly be made politically viable, they do little for addressing climate change. They take on the spirit that if we support them, then they are a symbolic first step. We align behind ideas of alternative energy and advocating efficiency, but the implementation of these ideas is met with opposition and challenges. Climate change is from the invisible gas, and the consequences are in the future; we relegate it to an issue of the common good. The urgency to address climate change is lost again and again; it is easily derailed by convenient political arguments and philosophical beliefs. The short-term always trumps the long-term. Our continued use of fossil fuels confirms that we want our energy; our resistance to a comprehensive energy policy relegates attention to climate change as secondary.

The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society has a special issue on world at four degrees warmer. In the Introduction by Mark New and colleagues many of the ideas addressed above are addressed more elegantly and more completely - new ideas emerge. The rate of warming matters a lot. The projected rate of population growth and our current warming trajectory work to maximize stress at the same time. With warming approaching four degrees, stress on resources and human systems related to climate change become comparable to those from population stress.

The acceptance that, with even our best efforts, we are moving to a world that is much warmer removes the incapacitating anxiety of argument. It gets us past the idea that we are going to avoid dangerous warming. We can get to work. I believe that the climate change projections provide us opportunity. I want my students to learn to exploit these opportunities. I believe that trying to exploit these opportunities will make the problem real to many more people, and that their talking about their opportunities, their solutions, will beget more of the same. They will gain, ultimately, advantage.

It is disingenuous to continue to teach my course in the same way. I will talk about the ways we can reduce emissions. I can talk about the need to keep our average warming below two degrees centigrade, our convenient definition of “dangerous climate change.” I can and will talk about policy options, but the truth is, our population and economic imperatives in combination with our lack of real alternatives and policy opportunity leave us with very little wiggle room. Describing that warm world and developing adaptation strategies will make the climate change problem more concrete. It will make the costs far more real. It will bring the problem home to cities, communities, and people. It will motivate technology, solutions.

Here, I advocate we do something different, because what we are doing is not working. I heard arguments for more than a decade that talking about adaptation would keep us from addressing mitigation. Now if we talk about geo-engineering we will fall into the false security that we can manage the climate. It is not rational that by avoiding these subjects that we will somehow change our energy system and reduce our emissions. It is not rational that our denying and ignoring the possibilities, while others take advantage of the information, somehow contributes to a productive dialogue to development of abstract policy solutions to seemingly distant problems. I assert that by addressing these real problems of adaptation, we will identify risk in a meaningful way, and we will make real the need for mitigation.

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Figure 1. Cover of Four degrees and beyond: the potential for a global temperature increase of four degrees and its implications

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Quoting cat5hurricane:

Tunnels for you,

tunnels for me,

Tunnels will set us free!


You are a smart person!
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 133 Comments: 20555
Poll: Climate emails spurred TV meteorologist's global warming doubts

"A climate science brouhaha over emails stolen from climate scientists led to more doubt about global warning among TV weathercasters, suggests a new poll. Hacked in 2009, the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit cache of roughly 1,000 emails (and computer code) sparked investigations after climate naysayers complained the researchers spoke about harshly about their critics and schemed to obscure shortcomings in their own research. A series of high-profile investigations cleared the "climategate" researchers of the scientific misconduct charges. But the damage to public perception of climate science may have been felt, at least briefly, suggests the poll of TV meteorologists.

"In particular, politically conservative weathercasters expressed more climate change doubts, finds the Bulletin of the American Meteorology Society poll analysis led by Ed Maibach of George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, Va. ""Most members of the public consider television weather reporters to be a trusted source of information about global warming%u2014only scientists are viewed as more trustworthy," says Maibach, in a statement. "Although subsequent investigations showed that the climate scientists had done nothing wrong, the allegation of wrongdoing undermined many weathercasters' confidence in the conclusions of climate science, at least temporarily."

"Since political views have largely driven U.S. global warming views in the last decade, it may be that TV weathercasters are not immune to ideology guiding the response to such scandals, they conclude."


Article...
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Why Are Americans So Ill-Informed on the Topic of Climate Change? (Subtitle: Why are so many Americans scientifically illiterate?)

"As glaciers melt and island populations migrate from shores to escape rising seas, many scientists remain baffled as to why the research consensus on human-induced climate change remains contentious in the U.S.

"The frustration revealed itself during a handful of sessions at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., this past weekend, and it came to a peak during a Friday session, 'Science without borders and media unbounded.'

"Near the session's conclusion, Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate scientist Kerry Emanuel asked a panel of journalists why the media continues to cover anthropogenic climate change as a controversy or debate, when in fact it is a consensus among such organizations as the American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, American Chemical Society, American Meteorological Association, National Research Council and the national academies of more than two dozen countries."


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Looks like we have peaked. We need Tunnels to get back where we were! Get them now!

Link
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 133 Comments: 20555
Links Between Longer Ragweed Season and Climate Change Confirmed

ScienceDaily (Feb. 22, 2011) — Studies by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist and cooperators have confirmed what many pollen-sensitive people already suspected: In some parts of North America, ragweed season now lasts longer and ends later.Ragweed pollen in some parts of the northern United States and Canada now lingers almost a month longer than it did in 1995, and these increases are correlated to seasonal warming shifts linked to climate change dynamics in the higher latitudes, according to a study published on February 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"One of the biggest challenges in studying climate change is finding out how the plant kingdom is adapting to increases in air temperature and other meteorological phenomena," said Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Administrator Edward B. Knipling. "Studies like this also show us that these ecological shifts don't stop at crop production. They can also have a significant impact on public health."

Link
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 133 Comments: 20555
Quoting HaloReachFan:


How many states are there?

You certainly do ask that a lot. Be patient; they'll cover that when you get to fourth grade. ;-)
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Quoting McBill:
Still.

Waiting...

For HaloReachFan

Proof?

Or have you left us again to play video games?


This way of writing

it is very poetic

like an old haiku...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Seatbelt's are for socialists.

I Buckle up everyday as I didnt one day in 79 and a Ford 9000 tractor Rig,well,,thus the MRI and Surgery...again this month.

Some things follow one forever.

One Bad decision in a auto and, well..


So,,Red means stop, green means GO,,and Yellow means go Faster?

You will never see 23.


LOL





Moving on...
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 433 Comments: 132803
Quoting HaloReachFan:


The light is yellow.

Yellow doesn't mean STOP.

Red does.

If somebody is driving and they go through a RED light on their side and mine is YELLOW.

I don't think I'll be in one bit of trouble.

Thanks for worrying though ;)


You have been warned! Go ahead keep driving through yellow lights. You are the very reason why we tell children to look both ways when crossing the street.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 133 Comments: 20555
2.28 billion gallons per sec and 3333 MW/s. Get you some!


Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 133 Comments: 20555
Quoting HaloReachFan:


Because I go through yellow lights and don't follow the speed limit.

Means society won't ever advance?


It won't for those who get killed by such negligence will it?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 133 Comments: 20555
Quoting HaloReachFan:


Yes. Just so I don't run into a little kid.

Yes I run yellow lights.

I don't believe in speed limit signs.

Unless in a neighborhood I don't go the speed limit.

There should be a suggested speed limit just like the Autobahn you go over it and wreck sorry you don't get coverage.


Well there you go. I ask how will society ever advance with such ignorance?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 133 Comments: 20555
Quoting HaloReachFan:


I don't smoke because I don't want to smoke and get addicted to something.

Not because the surgeon general tells you so.


You stop at intersections with stop signs? Do you go through yellow lights?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 133 Comments: 20555
Hey there JFL!

Been busy and cold in HTX.

Everyone starting to come out of hibernation now.
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Quoting HaloReachFan:
the IPCC is corrupt.

Proof is everywhere.

Do you have that proof? Or just more unfounded allegations cribbed from the pages of WUWT (or JB's blog before they took his keyboard away)?
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Quoting martinitony:
It seems that anything I, or others that disagree with you, post here is rather pointless

Your admission is duly noted, and your candor is appreciated. ;-)

Seriously, though, please tell me where I told you what you were thinking. I merely stated long-established assumptions based on years of observation. (You know, how science is done.) Please tell me where I said anything untrue.
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JB,,..."Your Fired"
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 433 Comments: 132803
Quoting Neapolitan:
Denialists have no science to back them, but you gotta admire their zeal. In order to believe as they do, they have to avoid reading major science magazines like New Scientist and Scientific American and journals like Nature and Science, and avoid publications from the most important scientific organizations on the planet like the IPCC, the NAS, the AAAS, the US Global Change Research Program and many others from a long list of national science organizations denialists ignore like a vampire avoids garlic. Scientific facts are to denialists what water is to the Wicked Witch of the West or global warming is to glaciers: denialism will melt if it's exposed to science, and so that science must be avoided at all costs.

Honestly, part of me--a very small part--admires the quaint tenacity displayed by the denialists, even though their denial almost always has nothing to do with science. And they'll never change. Not ever. If you're a denialist in 2011 and you're able to ignore the avalanche of scientific evidence supporting AGWT, you are a denialist for life. Ask a denialist what evidence they would need to accept AGWT, and they will never answer you. That would be like asking a Baptist, a Buddhist, or a Muslim what evidence would convince them to betray their religion. Ain't gonna happen. Not now. Not ever. Denialism is their religion, and they practice it with a fervor unseen outside of religious services.


I'm thinking of giving you my login information. It seems that anything I, or others that disagree with you, post here is rather pointless and you could probably do a better job of posting for me. You know what those that disagree with you are thinking and even why they are thinking those thoughts.

Actually, what you display, is that common attribute of almost all liberals, unlimited arrogance. It's a shame you waste all that knowledge taking the time to post here. Why, I bet you could make millions, even billions in the stock market applying all that knowledge, knowing what people are thinking and why they are thinking it, probably before they think it.

Would you let us know, in advance, when you might be posting here again. I'd hate to miss out on something really important.
Member Since: July 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 970
Denialists have no science to back them, but you gotta admire their zeal. In order to believe as they do, they have to avoid reading major science magazines like New Scientist and Scientific American and journals like Nature and Science, and avoid publications from the most important scientific organizations on the planet like the IPCC, the NAS, the AAAS, the US Global Change Research Program and many others from a long list of national science organizations denialists ignore like a vampire avoids garlic. Scientific facts are to denialists what water is to the Wicked Witch of the West or global warming is to glaciers: denialism will melt if it's exposed to science, and so that science must be avoided at all costs.

Honestly, part of me--a very small part--admires the quaint tenacity displayed by the denialists, even though their denial almost always has nothing to do with science. And they'll never change. Not ever. If you're a denialist in 2011 and you're able to ignore the avalanche of scientific evidence supporting AGWT, you are a denialist for life. Ask a denialist what evidence they would need to accept AGWT, and they will never answer you. That would be like asking a Baptist, a Buddhist, or a Muslim what evidence would convince them to betray their religion. Ain't gonna happen. Not now. Not ever. Denialism is their religion, and they practice it with a fervor unseen outside of religious services.
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Quoting Patrap:
How many times we gonna hear,,that this week?

"Couldnt of said it better myself" ?





Agreed. If one's going to be repetitive, they should at least strive to be grammatically correct.
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I have not commented on your blog, or anywhere much, but I have extra time this morning. I am not sure where you are going with the "change the direction of your college course" but I think I like it. It sounds, however, like it might be changing to more of a philosophy course. I believe, and I believe 99% of all people believe, that we should be good stewards of the earth. The question is what does that mean. If we progress to the point technologically where we can keep the earth's climate exactly like it is right now - same temperature, same humidity, same everything - should that be our goal? And if we did that, what would be our motivation - selfishness to keep from dying, because we don't like change, other? If we decide we can let the earth's climate change, should it change only due to effects of non-living creatures? If we decide to let the earth's climate change including the effects of living creatures, should it be all creatures except humans? If we decide humans can also contribute to climate change, what ways are acceptable and what are not? Those questions hit more at our motivations. After that come questions like: What is the best climate for the earth? Just like it is now? A little warmer? A lot warmer? A little colder? A lot colder? I'll be the first to admit I struggle with all of the questions. I know I don't like litter, and the air getting difficult to breath, and fish dying in a river because a plant puts out toxic chemicals. I grew up an environmentalist in the 60's. Still, I draw the line somewhere in us wanting to control everything. I'll keep thinking. And good luck with the new direction for your class.
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I am a socialist, in that I support and believe in the armed services, the police, border security, firefighters, the SEC, courts, highways, teachers in public schools, etc.

Private enterprise's goals are at odds with general public services. Private enterprise is in business for one reason - to maximize shareholder returns. The best way to do that is to get a state-protected monopoly (an you say local cable?). I don't want private contractors running my highway department or my prison system - in Texas we have seen that train wreck too many times.

Woof!
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Quoting cat5hurricane:

Sure it is, for that one specific area that graph suggests.


You could also determine that Black is White but is that correct?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 133 Comments: 20555
er,,make dat "6" Sport.

LOL

Somewhere a X-box warms and a controller sits idle,still.



Global Climate Change




NCDC is the world's largest active archive of weather data. NCDC produces numerous climate publications and responds to data requests from all over the world. NCDC operates the World Data Center for Meteorology which is co-located at NCDC in Asheville, North Carolina, and the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology which is located in Boulder, Colorado.

NCDC supports a three tier national climate services support program - the partners include: NCDC, Regional Climate Centers, and State Climatologists.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 433 Comments: 132803
Quoting HaloReachFan:
To say people that are deniers are pro pollution is a huge mistake.

I'm not pro pollution.

I just don't feel the need to have my government tell me what I can and cannot do.

If I don't want to drive some little electic car then I should have that choice.


You believe the surgeon generals warning about cigarettes?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 133 Comments: 20555

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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

RickyRood's Recent Photos

Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.