How Much Does It Cost: What Can I Do? (6)

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 5:18 AM GMT on May 09, 2013

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How Much Does It Cost: What Can I Do? (6)

This is the continuation of a series in response to the question, “What can I do about climate change?” Links to the previous entries are listed at the end.

Last week rather than taking the conventional view of looking at greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, I presented an accounting of the emissions associated with agriculture. My primary points were that agriculture was a major emitter of greenhouse gases, and, therefore, the choices we make individually and collectively about what we eat have large environmental consequences.

I want to explore more the impact of agriculture, particularly livestock. First, however, I want to remind folks of the series on calculating budgets. Last summer I did a series where I compared the basic methods of climate science to keeping a budget – just like a checking and savings accounts. One of the entries in that series looked specifically at complexity. The idea being that despite the fact that maintaining a budget is a relatively simple matter of addition and subtraction, if you consider all of the ways we get and spend money, then it can become remarkably complex.

I implied the complexity of accounting for the greenhouse gas emissions of agriculture in the previous entry. The amount of emissions from the direct use of fossil fuels is relatively small. Big sources of emissions come from removing trees and changing forests to agricultural lands and soil management. Many aspects of soil management influence how much carbon and nitrogen is stored in the soil. There is also the need to consider greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide: for example, methane associated with ruminates and solid waste from livestock and nitrous oxide associated with fertilizer. Emissions also depend on:

- what crops are grown and what animals are raised

- agricultural practice, for example, whether the land is plowed or no-till methods are used

- policy, for example, renewable energy policy provides incentives and disincentives on what to grow

- biological processes that are different from field to field, region to region, year to year, and that are not highly quantified

The calculation of the budget of emissions from agriculture is a difficult problem. We can say with certainty the emissions are large and they change based on many factors. We can also say that the impact of agriculture on the environment is more far reaching than climate change. Anecdotally, most people think of the impacts of pesticides and herbicides, the issues of genetically modified organisms, soil erosion and water quality before they think of how agriculture and climate change play together. Agriculture is also a major focus of those who think about sustainability.

I ended the previous entry with a relatively weak statement that what we chose to eat or not eat does make a difference. I stated that at the top of the list, perhaps, the easiest decision is to eat less meat. The issue of eating meat, of course, steps into a set of the more controversial subjects of our society. For example, there are the issues of personal choice and intrusion into individual's lives. Also, there are those who place high value on the ethics of raising and slaughtering animals. There is no doubt, however, that livestock production uses immense resources.

The source of much of the material in my previous entry was Livestock’s Long Shadow a 2006 publication of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In that report they conclude:

“Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency. Major reduction in impact could be achieved at reasonable cost.”

As strong as this statement is, there is a school of thought that Livestock’s Long Shadow is a significant underestimation of the emissions due to livestock. Most notably is an analysis by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, Livestock and Climate Change, which does a different accounting of the budget of emissions of greenhouse gases. In Livestock and Climate Change it is maintained that there is significant undercounting and misallocation in the United Nations budget calculation. A point that is particularly important is that the proliferation of livestock production is human-made just as much as any building, road or power plant. Therefore, for example, the carbon dioxide of respiration of the animals needs to be considered in the budget calculation. Taking all of the budget changes in Livestock and Climate Change, the conclusion is that livestock is responsible for 51 percent of the total emissions. With this number, a far larger intervention is needed than “eat less meat.”

In December 2009, I took a group of students to the 15th Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen. When I got off the subway at the conference center, there were two loud groups of advocates. One was People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who had gone around Copenhagen and placed markers on utility poles and in trees where sea level would be if the Greenland ice sheet melted. Another group claimed that if we were all vegetarian, then we could reduce global warming by 70 percent.

The numbers in Livestock and Climate Change follow from a well-reasoned argument in the calculation of the budget of the emissions due to livestock. However, they are not without controversy. This controversy can be found in a number of places on the web: Columbia Journalism Review and Lifting Livestock's Long Shadow, Nature Climate Change and Measuring Livestock's Long Shadow, NYTimes. At the center of the controversy is another accounting of the impact of livestock, Cleaning the Air: Livestock's Contribution to Climate Change by Maurice Pitesky and others. This paper takes a vastly different accounting and concludes that impact of livestock is much smaller than in the United Nations Report, Livestock’s Long Shadow. An interesting aspect of its argument is that “The fact that land-use changes associated with livestock (i.e., forested land converted to pasture or cropland used for feed production) are a significant source of anthropogenic GHGs in Latin America and other parts of the developing world is apparent. However, it is likely that any kind of land-use change from the original forestland will lead to great increases in global warming.” The argument being that development in countries with growing population will lead to deforestation. Their argument is carried further “The United States and most other developed countries have not experienced significant land-use change practices around livestock production within the last few decades. Instead, over the last 25 years forestland has increased by approximately 25 percent in the United States and livestock production has been intensified (concentrated geographically), thus reducing its geographical footprint.”

The line of reasoning in Cleaning the Air: Livestock's Contribution to Climate Change contributes to the argument that concentration into highly efficient, mass producing farms is a more practical way forward than reducing consumption (Livestock production and the global environment: Consume less or produce better?, by Henning Steinfeld and Pierre Gerber).

In this food niche of strategies to mitigate climate change, we see the same arguments emerge as in the discussion of fossil fuels. We could be more efficient in our use of resources. With efficiency, however, in the face of a growing population and growing consumption, we are still faced with a growth of emissions of greenhouse gases. Therefore, if climate-change and broader environmental issues are given priority, then we must consume less of those products that are responsible for our largest greenhouse emissions. We can conceive of sources of renewable energy that are free of carbon dioxide emissions. However, it is more difficult to imagine how we raise livestock without the methane and nitrous oxide emissions, and these greenhouse gases cannot be dismissed.

My original list topper on diet was eat less meat. If we take the high emissions scenario as correct, then a climate priority calls for an intervention into our dietary practices that is comparable to the intervention required for reducing fossil fuels. This is a change in diet that I assert will be more difficult than the change in our energy system. Therefore, back to the original question, “What can I do about climate change?” – eat (a lot) less meat. Vegetarianism is good for the planet. This from a man who does eat a lot less meat than he used to, but has been, I maintain, overidentified with BBQ.

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Some dietary resources: I have not checked these out too closely!

Environmental Working Group: Meat Eaters Guide (I do like this group’s approach to things.)

Climate Diet

Human Media: The Diet-Climate Connection


Previous Entries in the Series

Setting Up the Discussion Deciding to do something, definition of mitigation and adaptation, and a cost-benefit anchored framework for thinking about mitigation

Smoking, Marriage and Climate Behavioral changes and peer pressure

Organizing and Growing Individual Efforts A little detail on efficiency and thinking about how individuals can have more impact than just that of a single person

The Complete List Eight categories of things we can do to reduce greenhouse gases

We Are What We Eat Counting agriculture and its emissions of greenhouse gases


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The RSS Temperature Anomaly for April 2013 was actually slightly warmer than UAH's anomaly when comparing them at the same baseline. This is likely due to the fact that RSS has a poor coverage of Antarctica, which was notably cool this month. April 2013 was the 13th warmest on record in the RSS satellite era, but one of the cooler Aprils over the last 15 years.

The RSS temperature anomaly was 0.22 Degrees C for the month.
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Quoting Birthmark:

A bit soon to be deciding it's natural variability. In point of fact, nothing that happens in the Arctic (especially) any more is simply natural variability. It all occurs against a backdrop of AGW.


I wasn't referring to the long term decline, just the daily decline that John commented about, and said that this was evidence that the big melt was starting early this year. I agree that GW and AGW have had a large influence on the decline in Arctic Sea Ice. However, natural variability has also played a large role in the decline of Arctic Sea Ice as well.
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Apologies - tried to hit the + on several posts this morning - big fingers hit the - instead!
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Quoting JohnLonergan:
Welcome back. Nice hockey stick you brought us.




What the hey that ain't no hockey stick that is a right triangle...That's the Pythagoras Hockey Stick....









...
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
Carbon Dioxide at NOAA%u2019s Mauna Loa Observatory reaches new milestone: Tops 400 ppm

I have returned.


I am not going to like this because I can get it to 300ppm in five years.400ppm is just disastrous...
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Welcome back. Nice hockey stick you brought us.


Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3404
Carbon Dioxide at NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory reaches new milestone: Tops 400 ppm

I have returned.
Member Since: August 9, 2011 Posts: 26 Comments: 8631
Quoting FLwolverine:
The following is about the Dodd-Frank securities regulation, but is indicative I think of what would happen to any serious carbon regulatory legislation that ever managed to be passed.

Gary Rivlin's article in The Nation: How Wall Street Defanged Dodd-Frank. Link
Interview with Rivlin on NPR: Nearly Three Years After Dodd-Frank, Reforms Happen Slowly


"The story of how Wall Street lobbyists worked the halls of Congress, blocking the appointment of Elizabeth Warren, Obama%u2019s first choice to head the CFPB, or pushing bills aimed at defanging Dodd-Frank, is fairly well-known by now. But it was the stealthy work of battalions of regulatory lawyers, who descended on the private offices of regulators deep inside the bureaucracy, that has proven more crucial to the industry%u2019s effort to pick off pieces of Dodd-Frank. There, a kind of ground war has been going on for almost three years, with the regulators waging hand-to-hand combat to defend every clause and comma in Dodd-Frank, and the lawyers fighting to insert any loophole they can to protect their clients%u2019 extraordinary profits. This is how the miracle that was the making of Dodd-Frank%u2014hailed as the most comprehensive financial reform since the 1930s%u2014became a slow-moving horror movie called %u201CThe Unmaking of Dodd-Frank%u201D: a perfect case study of the ways an industry with nearly unlimited resources can avoid a set of tough-minded reforms it doesn't like."

Of course, the possibility of carbon-regulating legislation is so tiny that we don't have to worry about this scenario. /unfortunately not sarcasm


Hey all this trying to regulate Co2 is to late folks. It is a futile attempt and a band aid fix at its WORST....Who did this video the other day here. It was awesome.... I worked over 20 years for the power generation industry and over 12 years in the chemical industry. People have ask me if we monitor stack emissions. I tell them we monitor gasses like Co2, nitrous oxide (NOX) and sulfur dioxide (SOX) and tell them Co2 is our largest emitter but I could never put it in perspective as to how much we actually emit until the other day when I found this neat video on New York's annual Co2 emissions..... It is quite a staggering amount to say the least.. You can't fix stupid and stupid is as stupid does... You are not solving root cause here by limiting the amount of emissions...We already know the Co2 effects are with us for the next few hundred years even if we "STOPPED NOW" so limiting the amount we emit now will just prolong our agony....This is just New York's emissions,imagine what the worlds emissions would look like??? You honestly think you can limit this stuff with world population growing like it is? Come on get real...

Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
The following is about the Dodd-Frank securities regulation, but is indicative I think of what would happen to any serious carbon regulatory legislation that ever managed to be passed.

Gary Rivlin's article in The Nation: How Wall Street Defanged Dodd-Frank. Link
Interview with Rivlin on NPR: Nearly Three Years After Dodd-Frank, Reforms Happen Slowly


"The story of how Wall Street lobbyists worked the halls of Congress, blocking the appointment of Elizabeth Warren, Obama%u2019s first choice to head the CFPB, or pushing bills aimed at defanging Dodd-Frank, is fairly well-known by now. But it was the stealthy work of battalions of regulatory lawyers, who descended on the private offices of regulators deep inside the bureaucracy, that has proven more crucial to the industry%u2019s effort to pick off pieces of Dodd-Frank. There, a kind of ground war has been going on for almost three years, with the regulators waging hand-to-hand combat to defend every clause and comma in Dodd-Frank, and the lawyers fighting to insert any loophole they can to protect their clients%u2019 extraordinary profits. This is how the miracle that was the making of Dodd-Frank%u2014hailed as the most comprehensive financial reform since the 1930s%u2014became a slow-moving horror movie called %u201CThe Unmaking of Dodd-Frank%u201D: a perfect case study of the ways an industry with nearly unlimited resources can avoid a set of tough-minded reforms it doesn't like."

Of course, the possibility of carbon-regulating legislation is so tiny that we don't have to worry about this scenario. /unfortunately not sarcasm
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Birthmark:

Milloy is still around? I'd heard he was sucked into a vortex made of his own self-contradictions and deceptions years ago.

Amazing how resilient we humans are, isn't it?

Another thing that amazes me is how people can try to subjugate science to their religious, political, or economic beliefs. It's a lost cause from the beginning. All I can figure is that they're playing for time. If that's the case for AGW then I have to admit that the frauds have probably "won" this time. They're not going to like the eventual price for that victory. They and/or their descendants will pay heavily.

Unfortunately, so will the rest of us.


Not if I have any say in it.....
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Diagnosing a victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS)

[...] Like most syndromes, ASS is a collection of symptoms that individually may not be serious, but taken together can be quite dangerous — at least it can be dangerous to the health and well-being of humanity if enough people actually believe the victims.

One tell-tale symptom of ASS is that a website or a writer focuses their climate attacks on non-scientists. If that non-scientist is Al Gore, this symptom alone may be definitive.

The other key symptoms involve the repetition of long-debunked denier talking points, commonly without links to supporting material. Such repetition, which can border on the pathological, is a clear warning sign.

Scientists who kept restating and republishing things that had been widely debunked in the scientific literature for many, many years would quickly be diagnosed with ASS. Such people on the web are apparently heroes — at least to the right wing and/or easily duped (see “The Deniers are winning, but only with the GOP“).

If you suspect someone of ASS, look for the repeated use of the following phrases:

Medieval Warm Period
Hockey Stick
Michael Mann
The climate is always changing
Alarmist
Hoax
Temperature rises precede rises in carbon dioxide
Pacific Decadal Oscillation
Water vapor
Sunspots
Cosmic rays
Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark
Ice Age was predicted in the 1970s
Global cooling

Individually, some of these words and phrases are quite useful and indeed are commonly used by both scientists and non-scientists who are not anti-science. But the use of more than half of these in a single speech or article is pretty much a definitive diagnosis of ASS.

When someone repeats virtually all of those phrases, along with multiple references to Al Gore, they are wholly a victim of ASS — in scientific circles they are referred to as ASS-wholes.

Source
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Quoting JohnLonergan:


To make it even worse Investor's Business Daily gets its information from Steve Milloy's JunkScience, which certainly lives uo to its name.

Milloy is still around? I'd heard he was sucked into a vortex made of his own self-contradictions and deceptions years ago.

Amazing how resilient we humans are, isn't it?

Another thing that amazes me is how people can try to subjugate science to their religious, political, or economic beliefs. It's a lost cause from the beginning. All I can figure is that they're playing for time. If that's the case for AGW then I have to admit that the frauds have probably "won" this time. They're not going to like the eventual price for that victory. They and/or their descendants will pay heavily.

Unfortunately, so will the rest of us.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting Birthmark:

Getting your science from Investor's Business Daily makes about as much sense as getting your investment advice from NASA. In neither case are you likely to be happy with the outcome.

The amount of wrong information in that op-ed is pretty impressive, though. It would simply take too much of my time to even begin correcting the amount of nonsense in that brief article.


To make it even worse Investor's Business Daily gets its information from Steve Milloy's JunkScience, which certainly lives uo to its name. The Skeptics Dictonary descibes the junkscience site as Internet Bunk:



The Junk Science Page

The junk science site is run by Steven J. Milloy and is sponsored by the swell-sounding Citizens for the Integrity of Science, a front organization located in Potomac, Maryland, whose WWW page directs the websurfer back to Mr. Milloy's Junk Science Page. This is not surprising since Mr. Milloy is the "Administrative Contact" of the front organization.

The Junk Science Page is not about junk science so much as it is about anything which does not support a conservative or libertarian political agenda for businesses and industries that do not like regulations that limit their ability to pollute or poison us or our environment. Milloy uses the term 'junk science' mainly as a political and polemical term. What the majority of scientists call sound science, Milloy usually calls junk science. And what he calls 'sound science', the majority of scientists usually call junk science.

Nobody who cites either Junkscience or Steve Milloy should be given any credence.


Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3404
what do you mean? clearly, if NASA predicts more drought in dry places and more rain in alread-wet places, it's meaningless. because SHUT UP THAT'S WHY.

Quoting AlwaysThinkin:


lol you're a joke
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So here stands our political class at a waystation along the road of idiocy, apparently determined only to complete the journey.

I'm afraid that that is going to be the way of it.

Plan accordingly.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
The Guardian is busy today, George MonbiotPulls no punches:

Climate milestone is a moment of symbolic significance on road of idiocy

The only way forward is back: to retrace our steps and seek to return atmospheric concentrations to around 350ppm.


The data go back 800,000 years: that's the age of the oldest fossil air bubbles extracted from Dome C, an ice-bound summit in the high Antarctic. And throughout that time there has been nothing like this. At no point in the preindustrial record have concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air risen above 300 parts per million (ppm). 400ppm is a figure that belongs to a different era.


The difference between 399ppm and 400ppm is small, in terms of its impacts on the world's living systems. But this is a moment of symbolic significance, a station on the Via Dolorosa of environmental destruction. It is symbolic of our failure to put the long-term prospects of the natural world and the people it supports above immediate self-interest.


The only way forward now is back: to retrace our steps and seek to return atmospheric concentrations to around 350ppm, as the 350.org campaign demands. That requires, above all, that we leave the majority of the fossil fuels which have already been identified in the ground. There is not a government or an energy company which has yet agreed to do so.


Recently, Shell announced that it will go ahead with its plans to drill deeper than any offshore oil operation has gone before: almost 3km below the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, Oxford University opened a new laboratory in its department of earth sciences. The lab is funded by Shell. Oxford says that the partnership "is designed to support more effective development of natural resources to meet fast-growing global demand for energy." Which translates as finding and extracting even more fossil fuel.


The European Emissions Trading Scheme, which was supposed to have capped our consumption, is now, for practical purposes, dead. International climate talks have stalled; governments such as ours now seem quietly to be unpicking their domestic commitments. Practical measures to prevent the growth of global emissions are, by comparison to the scale of the challenge, almost nonexistent.


The problem is simply stated: the power of the fossil fuel companies is too great. Among those who seek and obtain high office are people characterised by a complete absence of empathy or scruples, who will take money or instructions from any corporation or billionaire who offers them, and then defend those interests against the current and future prospects of humanity.


This new climate milestone reflects a profound failure of politics, in which democracy has quietly been supplanted by plutocracy. Without a widespread reform of campaign finance, lobbying and influence-peddling and the systematic corruption they promote, our chances of preventing climate breakdown are close to zero.


So here stands our political class at a waystation along the road of idiocy, apparently determined only to complete the journey.
Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3404
Quoting AlwaysThinkin:


lol you're a joke


Telling me lies is worse than spreading jokes. You can not disguise what is happening in the Northern Arctic..

img src="">

Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting MisterPerfect:
NASA Makes Another Useless Global Warming Prediction

Posted 05/08/201 Investor's Business Daily


Junk Science: A new NASA study says global warming could "increase the risk for extreme rainfall and drought." We've heard this sort of threat many times before and, no, there's nothing to see here.

According to NASA: "Analysis of computer simulations from 14 climate models indicates wet regions of the world, will see increases in heavy precipitation because of warming resulting from projected increases in carbon dioxide levels. Arid land areas outside the tropics and many regions with moderate rainfall could become drier."

How about that? Heavy rain in soggy regions and drought in the parched ones.



Pardon us if we don't get too excited about this. If it happens, the world will deal with it. But there's a good chance this forecast will end up like many of the other global-warming predictions of doom.

Who can forget that acclaimed 2007 film made by Al Gore, in which the former vice president and failed 2000 White House candidate said sea levels would rise by 20 feet "in the near future" due to man-made global warming? So, if we might employ today's vernacular, how's that working out for you, Al?



Not so good, he'd say if he were honest. The "near future" has come and gone, and the sea has not risen 20 feet, or 10 feet or even a single foot. No coastal city has become the new Atlantis and no beach resorts have been overrun by the ocean.

Years before Gore made his blustery prediction, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that man-made warming would increase sea levels from 11.8 inches to 39.4 inches by 2100. Eleven years later, in 2001, it revised its prediction. The new range was 3.5 inches to 34.6 inches.

Another revision, this one in 2007, put the range between 7.1 inches and 23.2 inches, again by 2100.

How about Earth's temperature itself? Well, those projections haven't been too accurate, either. Things were supposed to be pretty warm by now, but global temperatures have stayed flat for 16 years, according to data from Great Britain's Met Office.

As we have mentioned before, Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist who believes in man-made global warming, conceded six years ago that "none of the climate states in the models corresponds even remotely to the current observed climate."

James Hansen, late of NASA, opened the alarmism gate in 1988 when he told Congress that he was 99% percent sure man-made global warming had begun and temperatures were just beginning to spike.

Two years earlier, he had predicted a 2-degree temperature rise by 2006. Of course his projections have been off %u2014 and more than a little.

John Theon, head of NASA's Weather and Climate Research Program from 1982 to 1994, and Hansen's supervisor, called the 1998 testimony "a huge embarrassment" to NASA.

Then there's the storm or "extreme weather" scare that's been peddled. But it's been overhyped.

Eric Berger, science blogger at the Houston Chronicle, pointed out last week that the tornado spike of 2011 was "attributed to climate change" then asked "what to make of this year's tornado drought?"

And what to make of hurricanes? Aren't we supposed to be living with Sandy-like storms as a matter of course?

But again, reality hasn't turned out as the alarmists have predicted. Almost six years ago, in November 2007, the Miami Herald headlined a story "Hurricane Predictions Missed the Mark." Four years later, Chris Landsea of the National Hurricane Center writing on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's website said "the overall impact of global warming on hurricanes is currently negligible and likely to remain quite tiny even a century from now."

Of course there have been the laughable predictions, from then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proclaiming in 2009 that climate treaty negotiators had 50 days to save the world, to Hansen, also in 2009, telling President Obama that he had "only four years left to save the earth" from "runaway warming."

It all makes us wonder how many years we have left to save civilization as we know it from the alarmists.

news.investors.com





Like I am going to listen to JUNK SCIENCE over NASA or Dr. Mann who is "SPOT ON" with his analysis in this video of Hurricane Sandy and the effects of global sea level rise has on such hurricanes which may be influenced by the loss of summertime Northern arctic sea ice ...


Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting MisterPerfect:
NASA Makes Another Useless Global Warming Prediction

Getting your science from Investor's Business Daily makes about as much sense as getting your investment advice from NASA. In neither case are you likely to be happy with the outcome.

The amount of wrong information in that op-ed is pretty impressive, though. It would simply take too much of my time to even begin correcting the amount of nonsense in that brief article.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting MisterPerfect:
NASA Makes Another Useless Global Warming Prediction

Posted 05/08/201 Investor's Business Daily


rel="nofollow">news.investors.com




lol you're a joke
Member Since: August 9, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 394
Oopsie! Someone already posted what was here. Sorry.

Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
More good news for the climate:

Global carbon dioxide passes milestone level in atmosphere

Climate warming greenhouse gas reaches 400 parts per million for the first time in human history


For the first time in human history, the concentration of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has passed the milestone level of 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time so much greenhouse gas was in the air was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today.

These conditions are expected to return in time, with devastating consequences for civilisation, unless emissions of CO2 from the burning of coal, gas and oil are rapidly curtailed. But despite increasingly severe warnings from scientists and a major economic recession, global emissions have continued to soar unchecked.

"It is symbolic, a point to pause and think about where we have been and where we are going," said Professor Ralph Keeling, who oversees the measurements on a Hawaian volcano, which were begun by his father in 1958. "It's like turning 50: it's a wake up to what has been building up in front of us all along."

"The passing of this milestone is a significant reminder of the rapid rate at which %u2013 and the extent to which %u2013 we have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," said Prof Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which serves as science adviser to the world's governments. "At the beginning of industrialisation the concentration of CO2 was just 280ppm. We must hope that the world crossing this milestone will bring about awareness of the scientific reality of climate change and how human society should deal with the challenge."

The world's governments have agreed to keep the rise in global average temperature, which have already risen by over 1C, to 2C, the level beyond which catastrophic warming is thought to become unstoppable. But the International Energy Agency warned in 2012 that on current emissions trends the world will see 6C of warming, a level scientists warn would lead to chaos. With no slowing of emissions seen to date, there is already mounting pressure on the UN summit in Paris in 2015, which is the deadline set to settle a binding international treaty to curb emissions.

Edward Davey, the UK's energy and climate change secretary, said: "This isn't just a symbolic milestone, it's yet another piece of clear scientific evidence of the effect human activity is having on our planet. I've made clear I will not let up on efforts to secure the legally binding deal the world needs by 2015 to avoid the worst effects of climate change."

Two CO2 monitoring stations high on the Hawaiian volcano of Mauna Loa are run by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and provide the global benchmark measurement. Data released on Friday shows the daily average has passed 400ppm for the first time in its half century of recording. The level peaks in May each year as the CO2 released by decaying vegetation is taken up by renewed plant growth in the northern hemisphere, where the bulk of plants grow.

Analysis of fossil air trapped in ancient ice and other data indicate that this level has not been seen on Earth for 3-5 million years, a period called the Pliocene. At that time, global average temperatures were 3 or 4C higher than today's and 8C warmer at the poles. Reef corals suffered a major extinction while forests grew up to the northern edge of the Arctic Ocean, a region which is today bare tundra.

"I think it is likely that all these ecosystem changes could recur," said Richard Norris, a colleague of Keeling's at Scripps. The Earth's climate system takes time to adjust to the increased heat being trapped by high greenhouse levels and it may take hundreds of years for the great ice caps in Antarctica and Greenland to melt to the small size of the Pliocence and sea level far above many of the world's major cities.

But the extreme speed at which CO2 in now rising %u2013 perhaps 75 times faster than in pre-industrial time %u2013 has never been seen in geological records and some effects of climate change are already being seen, with extreme heatwaves and flooding now more likely. Recent wet and cold summer weather in Europe has been linked to changes in the high level jetstream winds, in turn linked to the rapidly melting sea ice in the Arctic, which shrank to its lowest recorded level in September.

"We are creating a prehistoric climate in which human societies will face huge and potentially catastrophic risks," said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics. "Only by urgently reducing global emissions will we be able to avoid the full consequences of turning back the climate clock by 3 million years."

"The 400ppm threshold is a sobering milestone and should serve as a wake up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it's too late for our children and grandchildren," said Tim Lueker, a carbon cycle scientist at Scripps.

Professor Bob Watson, former IPCC chair and UK government chief scientific adviser, said: "Passing 400ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is indeed a landmark and the rate of increase is faster than ever and shows no sign of abating due to a lack of political committment to address the urgent issue of climate change - the world is now most likely committed to an increase in surface temperature of 3C-5C compared to pre-industrial times."

The graph of the rising CO2 at Mauna Loa is known as the Keeling curve, after the late Dave Keeling, the scientist who began the measurements in March 1958. The isolated Hawaiian island is a good location for measurements as it is far from the main sources of CO2, meaning it represents a good global average.
Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3404
A good discussion of Climate sensitivity at The Guardian:


What you need to know about climate sensitivity


It's a critical aspect of the climate system, but the basics are simple


Climate sensitivity is a subject sometimes explored in mainstream media articles. For example, The Economist tried to summarize some recent research on the subject, although as climate scientist Michael Mann and I noted in an article for ABC, they made some key mistakes.

What is climate sensitivity?


We know that humans have increased the greenhouse effect due to the carbon emissions associated with burning fossil fuels. This increased carbon dioxide traps more heat in the Earth's atmosphere, causing a global energy imbalance. There is more energy incoming than escaping, and as a result the planet will warm until it reaches a new balanced energy state (equilibrium), with equal incoming and outgoing energy.

We also know that if we double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the increased greenhouse effect will cause the planet's average surface temperature to warm about 1.2°C (2.2°F) in response. That may not sound like very much, but the difference between an ice age and the current warm period is only about 5°C (9°F). Seemingly small temperature changes make a big difference in the Earth's climate.

In addition, there are feedbacks that can dampen or amplify the warming from the increased greenhouse effect. For example, when ice melts it makes the Earth's surface less reflective, causing it to absorb more sunlight and warm further. A warmer atmosphere will also hold more water vapor, and water vapor is another greenhouse gas.

The term "equilibrium climate sensitivity" refers to the total amount of warming that will occur at the Earth's surface once it reaches a new balanced energy state, including from the increased greenhouse effect from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and including these feedback effects.

What are the biggest feedbacks?

Water vapor is probably the largest individual feedback. A 2009 study published in the prestigious journal Science by Andrew Dessler and Steven Sherwood found that, as climate scientists expected, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere is increasing by enough to double the warming from the increased greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide.

As discussed above, melting ice is another significant warming feedback. Releases of stored carbon from beneath permafrost and methane from the deep ocean would also amplify global warming.

Unfortunately we don't know of many large negative feedbacks that would dampen global warming. Global plant growth has increased so far, and plants absorb carbon dioxide. But that trend probably won't last as extreme weather events like heat waves and droughts that damage plant life become more common.

Clouds are really the only plausible feedback that could significantly dampen future global warming. They're tricky because clouds cause both warming by increasing the greenhouse effect, and cooling by reflecting sunlight away from the Earth's surface. High clouds tend to have an overall warming effect, while low clouds tend to have an overall cooling effect.

So what types of clouds will become more abundant in a warming world, and what will the net effect on temperatures be? We don't yet know the answer to that question. Thus climate contrarians often argue that clouds will save us from dangerous climate change. However, the evidence so far from researchers like Andrew Dessler indicates that clouds don't play a large role in either amplifying or dampening global warming, at least in the short-term.

What are the estimates of climate sensitivity?


There are three main categories of studies estimating climate sensitivity, which are based on:

1) very detailed climate models.
2) combining recent climate measurements with simpler climate models.
3) measurements of past climate changes.

Most studies have been very consistent in estimating that surface temperatures will warm between 2 and 4.5°C (3.6 to 8.1°F) in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide, most likely 3°C (5.4°F). As The Economist article noted, there have been a few recent studies estimating climate sensitivity toward the low end of that range, mainly using the second approach listed above, applying recent measurements to simple climate models. However, as Mann and I noted in our ABC article, that approach is subject to large uncertainties that could cause it to either underestimate or overestimate the true climate sensitivity.

Meanwhile, a major recent study published in the journal Nature examined nearly two dozen studies estimating climate sensitivity based on past climate changes over the past 65 million years. These were all consistent with the established range of climate sensitivity estimates between about 2 and 4.5°C. Estimates based on detailed climate models are also consistent with this range.

Every approach and each individual climate sensitivity study has its own drawbacks. Past climate data tells us how the climate previously changed, but the future Earth will not be identical to the Earth of millions of years ago. Climate models are very detailed simulations of the Earth's climate, but they are still just simulations. There are significant uncertainties associated with the second approach listed above, and it also relies on climate model simulations.

However, when we put all the evidence together, we can be confident that average surface temperatures will warm between about 2 and 4.5°C in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. It's also important to remember that this range is based on a large body of evidence using several different approaches, which all give us about the same answer. No single study is going to overturn that vast body of evidence.

What does this mean for the future?

So far we're about 40% of the way to doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide compared to levels before the Industrial Revolution, and rising fast. If we continue on our current track, we'll reach the doubled carbon dioxide mark around mid-century; even sooner when the warming from other human greenhouse gas emissions like methane is included.

That's bad news, because it's internationally accepted that more than 2°C surface warming would be very dangerous. So we're on pace to commit ourselves to 2 to 4.5°C warming by mid-century, and 2°C is considered too dangerous: the math doesn't look good. It tells us that even if climate contrarians are right and climate sensitivity is relatively low, our current emissions path is still unacceptably dangerous.

So while there is still a lot of uncertainty about the Earth's exact climate sensitivity, and while it's an important question to resolve, from a policy standpoint, it really doesn't matter. Whether climate sensitivity is 2°C or 3°C or 4.5°C, we're not doing enough to avoid very dangerous climate change in any case. From a policy standpoint, climate sensitivity will only be a relevant issue once we start to take serious steps to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels.
Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3404
Quoting goosegirl1:


I don't know how Dr. Rood feels about youtube videos, so I won't link it, (but google Cows with Guns in your spare time!)

Yeah, that is funny. Lol'd when I saw it.

And getting back on topic, I have a real weakness for beef. I can cut back some at home, but if I go into a restaurant...yeah, it's gonna be some part of a cow on my plate (at least I hope it's a cow). I'm afraid that as long as the beef distribution network holds up I am going to be eating beef.

I try to make up for it by driving very little.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting Birthmark:

Maybe they are terrified that this really happens:



Sometimes it's better not to know. :^)

I actually like your idea. I wouldn't have thought of it in a million years.


I don't know how Dr. Rood feels about youtube videos, so I won't link it, (but google Cows with Guns in your spare time!)
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Quoting goosegirl1:


I live 15 miles from the entrance to Dolly Sods and spend a little time up there. Change is coming, and it isn't all good either: Link

We are building too, hopefully this year :)) We have the lot, we have the plan, now we just need to sell the current property... anyone want to move???

Boat. We are in it with you. lol

I could go for a good housing bubble right about now.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting greentortuloni:


I wanted (and tried to convince) local farmers that if they were organic and humane, they would install live webcams of their operations.

Maybe they are terrified that this really happens:



Sometimes it's better not to know. :^)

I actually like your idea. I wouldn't have thought of it in a million years.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting Birthmark:

That looks nice! Very similar topographically to where we'll be building.


I live 15 miles from the entrance to Dolly Sods and spend a little time up there. Change is coming, and it isn't all good either: Link

We are building too, hopefully this year :)) We have the lot, we have the plan, now we just need to sell the current property... anyone want to move???
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JohnLonergan:
Greenland "snow drought" makes big 2013 melt more likely

Greenland is the big boy on the block wrt to sea level rise at this point. If Greenland begins melting out appreciably faster than forecast, trouble will find us pretty quickly.

Of course if that happens and so much as a pot shard is found somwhere on the newly melted surface then the denialati will claim that that's proof Greenland has melted out completely before and that there were towns, banks, and probably an amusement park with seal rides, so this is no big deal. lol
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting SouthernIllinois:

Any chance it holds out to maybe 2025 or 2030?

Yep. Might even hold out until 2040. But I don't think it matters all that much. The loss of ASI probably is impacting Northern Hemisphere weather already. Given that the patterns that caused this past (for most us) winter's weather are very similar to what weather should look like in a post-ASI, I think that a case can be made (and probably will, after study) that lack of summer ASI was the cause.

It's probably all downhill from here.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Greenland “snow drought” makes big 2013 melt more likely

[Excerpt]

"A friend in Greenland’s capital Nuuk reported (with a frown) that the backcountry skiing this year was poor due to a “snow drought”.


Figure 1. Western ice sheet snowfall totals are 30%-70% of normal. Brown areas have less than ‘normal’ precipitation. Blue/purple areas are anomalously ‘wet’. The precipitation anomalies are calculated from ‘re-analyses’ data after Kalnay et al. (1996).

Multiple melt factors combine to increase the odds of more melt water runoff from the ice sheet during the 2013 melt season:
1.less ‘cold content’ of snow to melt away (ablate) for a given energy input before bare ice is exposed;
2.a longer period of exposed darker bare ice, in this case weeks earlier bare ice exposure is likely unless a big snow dump before or during the coming warm season;
3.Less snow leads to a smaller refreezing capacity in the lower accumulation area. Thanks Robert Fausto of GEUS for reminding me of this one.
4.a possible higher concentration of light absorbing impurities per unit volume of snow, assuming that the impurities are deposited whether or not it snows."

More

Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3404
Quoting goosegirl1:


It is mostly rolling right here, with a few steep peaks. We live immediately to the east of the Allegheny Front that forms the eastern continental divide. Our water rolls into the Potomac, but go 10 miles west and the streams run to the Ohio. Just south and west a few more miles, and you are in some of the highest peaks of the Apps in Pendleton and Tucker counties.

Link

The reasons I am concerned about climate change? Children, and places like this:
Link

That looks nice! Very similar topographically to where we'll be building.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting goosegirl1:


My husband can remember going into a large rabbit hutch with a litter of nearly grown babies and their mom to play as a child, and then his own dad asking him to pick which one was for dinner and then helping carry out the sentence. It didn't bother him then, but I make sure to keep both eyes on my show Jersey Woolys today :))It's a cultural thing- we live in rural WV, so we see meat on the hoof every day and know the source, sometimes personally. Most people in the US think steak comes from the supermarket in plastic trays, and forget the cow. If they had carry out all the work involved, they would eat less meat.


I wanted (and tried to convince) local farmers that if they were organic and humane, they would install live webcams of their operations.

The idea was that if they treated their cows humanely, people would pay more for the meat. By having webcams, they could 'prove' they were humane and they would actually be able to make more money than without cameras.

It seemed like a win/win for the farmer and the animals. Then it would force other farmers to follow until the only ones that were left were the factory farms who wouldn't dare do it. It seemed like a way to use the market to put pressure on reducing factory farming.

I couldn't get anyone to do it though. I didn't expect more but I thought my arguments might soften them up in time. Maybe i just didn't stick with it long enough.

--- I think if I was doing it myself, i would keep an online video record of the entire life of the animal as a way to prove how it had been treated.

They sell 'sunny pig' around here, which are pigs that are raised in the forests and fields for two years before slaughter. The idea being that the life of the pig is abotu as good as it can get before a quick 'painless' death. (argue about painless but if you had to be a pig for food, you'd probably chose that route over a factory farm). The meat does find a niche market, especially in restaurants.
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Quoting SouthernIllinois:

You think 2013 is the year we make a run at an ice free Arctic, Birthmark?

No, but there is every possibility that I am wrong. We're all just guessing at this point since no one has ever seen the Arctic Ice Cap melt out before. Some of those guesses are more informed than others, me about middlin' informed. So take my guesses for what they are worth --very little. :)

I went on record four or five years ago and guessed our first ice-free day in the Arctic would occur in 2017. That guess looks like it has a chance of being right.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting SouthernIllinois:

Goose,

Are the hills out by you steep or more rolling in nature?


It is mostly rolling right here, with a few steep peaks. We live immediately to the east of the Allegheny Front that forms the eastern continental divide. Our water rolls into the Potomac, but go 10 miles west and the streams run to the Ohio. Just south and west a few more miles, and you are in some of the highest peaks of the Apps in Pendleton and Tucker counties.

Link

The reasons I am concerned about climate change? Children, and places like this:
Link
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Quoting SouthernIllinois:
Good morning, Climate Enthusiasts. What will be the topic today? How about some good news from Antarctica. Happy Friday, gang. We'll be checking in from time to time throughout the day.

Happy Friday to you, too. If I see any happy news from Antarctica, I'll be delighted to post it. I don't expect to be making such posts, and relative to unhappy news from the Antarctic such good news will probably be insignificant.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting Snowlover123:


It's natural variability. It's probably not indicative of anything at this point.

A bit soon to be deciding it's natural variability. In point of fact, nothing that happens in the Arctic (especially) any more is simply natural variability. It all occurs against a backdrop of AGW.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting Daisyworld:


Lord help me, I love a good BBQ. Though, I can't say that climate change has affected my menu choices on the grill, unfortunately. I've tried vegetarianism on occasion, but cannot seem to suppress the carnivore in me. However, I have found that I can portion meat better if they're on skewers, rather than cooking up a full marinated brisket. This has led to more chicken and shrimp, and less beef on the fire.

One thing that may give hope for us carnies is the advent of cultured meat. If the "yuck" factor can be overcome, it has the potential to significantly reduce agricultural emissions from raising livestock. Although some may find the idea creepy or abhorrent, a walk through an operating commercial slaughterhouse may give second thoughts to such sentiments.


My husband can remember going into a large rabbit hutch with a litter of nearly grown babies and their mom to play as a child, and then his own dad asking him to pick which one was for dinner and then helping carry out the sentence. It didn't bother him then, but I make sure to keep both eyes on my show Jersey Woolys today :))It's a cultural thing- we live in rural WV, so we see meat on the hoof every day and know the source, sometimes personally. Most people in the US think steak comes from the supermarket in plastic trays, and forget the cow. If they had carry out all the work involved, they would eat less meat.
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Quoting spathy:
Clammer and scream for all the new laws you want.
Just realize that the new laws are going to be inforced as well as the existing ones.

How soon til you realize new laws are pouring more good money after bad?
Its our laws!
Its our money.
Its our responsibility.
When was the last time you actually looked around YOU,and wrote a letter ,or sent an email?
Think Globally,
Act locally?  !


So you are saying new laws require new enforcement costs? I don't think that follows.

Suppose there is a curve for drunk driving costs, e.g. the number of accidents each year = x dollars on average.

Then there is a cost for enforcement. Whether the limit is 1.8, 1.2 or .8, the enforcement costs are roughly the same. Similarly if thc was banned, etc.

Meanwhile, the benefits of enforcement are huge and offset enforcement costs. This isn't just words, it has already been proven true in many economic situations that I know about. For example, OSHA and construction safety: most serious companies realize that a good safety program is not just the law but in fact is a strategic asset: borrowing costs go down, insurance costs go down, reputation goes up, moral goes up, organization and attititude improve, etc.

I think you would have to make a much more complicated argument instead of just "new laws or new standards equal higher costs".
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Quoting Daisyworld:


Lord help me, I love a good BBQ. Though, I can't say that climate change has affected my menu choices on the grill, unfortunately. I've tried vegetarianism on occasion, but cannot seem to suppress the carnivore in me. However, I have found that I can portion meat better if they're on skewers, rather than cooking up a full marinated brisket. This has led to more chicken and shrimp, and less beef on the fire.

One thing that may give hope for us carnies is the advent of cultured meat. If the "yuck" factor can be overcome, it has the potential to significantly reduce agricultural emissions from raising livestock. Although some may find the idea creepy or abhorrent, a walk through an operating commercial slaughterhouse may give second thoughts to such sentiments.


As a long time vegitarian, I can say that it isn't always easy. I remember about 2 years into it, I had a craving for meat so bad that I gave in, went to the supermarket and treated myself to a steak. I found myself out in the parking lot eating the steak raw.

But that craving does go down. Now it's like smoking: I can remember wanting a cigarette and remember enjoying the sensation but I can't relate to it anymore. I do occasionally eat meat, sometimes socially it is placed in front of me and I chose to eat rather than go through the whole process of refusing, explaining why, then explaining that it is ok, assuring the host I am not offended, etc.
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Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting Daisyworld:
30-year timelapse shows earth's changing surface





Pretty cool relationship there. As urban sprawl expands Glacier ice retreats... More Co2 from urban sprawl causes the ice to melt...
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401

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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.