Dr. Kenneth Green vs Horatio Algeranon

I do not see any evidence that the Ken who thinks walruses are dying in massive numbers because they are unrepentant liberals with an axe to grind (see comments at the link) is the same as thinktanquista Dr. Kenneth Green, whom we have had as a visitor hereabouts on a prior occasion.

But I did discover that the latter Dr. Kenneth Green is competing with our old friend Horatio in the field of climate and sustainability related rhyming verse. See for yourself.

More Top Notch Stuff

Perhaps most importantly:
Please and thanks.
There’s also two more important climate meta-science pieces:
and Stoat has the latest installment on

Thought-Provoking Week

A whole bunch of interesting stuff to react to this week. The conversation, which advances in fits and starts, has done some advancing.

A very careful effort to rebut Monckton was put together by a team of people who have been ??ist targets of late, drawing upon experts in each Monckton assertion. It got coverage in the Guardian, and plenty of blogosphere reaction (Angliss, Bickmore, Cook, Littlemore, Mandia, Romm, Verheggen), but not elsewhere.
Regarding the limited interest of the press, a veteran science communicator was overheard to say

I didn’t expect it to get a ton of pickup initially. It’s good educational material for discrediting Monckton’s arguments, but because his testimony was from a few months ago, I think a lot of reporters didn’t see enough immediate news-value to write on it. Unfortunately, good, credible scientific analyses always take longer to put together than a powerpoint deck full of misinformation, so the contrarians typically enjoy a “deadline” advantage.

which bears some thinking about. Of course, by “contrarian”, he meant ??ist, the point of view which must not be named.

On that note we have Lubos Motl staking out the anti-Rosen point of view with an appeal to a one-dimensional model of intelligence, at which, as a (presumed brilliant because he can think in eleven dimensions) string physics guy, he clearly claims an outstanding position. The trouble with his position is that it rules out democracy altogether. It’s essentially not just a plea for continued cowardice in journalism, but also a plea for the most unworkable imaginable aristocracy; a world run by the idiots-savant. So no thanks on those grounds. Otherwise it’s unworkable: Lubos’ argument essentially allows no mechanism for governance to be informed by science at all.
On the other hand, in what looks like a breakthrough (but possibly won’t be, old habits die hard), there is some real progress in the difficult journalistic art of letting science speak for itself at Dot Earth. Revkin’s Laughlin piece leads to a follow-up article, and a similarly structured piece a couple of days later, that looks like what a serious science journalist with a good network of contacts ought to come up with.
Along with the stunning and depressing piece by Anthony Doerr, an apparently brilliant writer and sane thinker of whom I was shockingly unaware until this morning, we have a similar jolt of pessimism from Monbiot that made a bit of a splash.
But in my opinion, among all this fascinating stuff, the best thing written in the past few weeks was Bob Grumbine’s. Bob has captured the essence of the science/sustainability problem perfectly.

I think a crucial part of that error is a failure to understand how science works. While you and I (and others) look at it and see masses of scientists from different areas and reach a conclusion, others don’t. The extra piece of knowledge we have is that science has to hang together as a coherent picture. If climate people were seriously wrong about the radiative properties of CO2, then CO2 lasers would not work. And so on through a very, very long list. Conversely, if climate types were seriously wrong about CO2’s radiative properties, laser specialists would look at the climate work and point to the errors and that’d be the end of the wrong climate CO2 work.

Instead, they take the view that science is story-telling. Laser physicists go along with the climate people because the climate folks are telling a story that the laser folks like, not because there’s any particular evidence in favor of it. The “It’s a liberal conspiracy”, or “They only say this because they want to impose one world government” responses are part of this. The he said — she said journalistic line is exactly this, as the science is presented as two stories the reader is chosing between. They think the scientists are doing the same thing. (How would they know differently?)

Aye, there’s the rub.

That’s the problem. In America at least, science teachers do not understand science, and in particular, they do not understand this key constraint that makes science work. The idea is absent not only among the general public, but even among educated and prominent people. I have been calling it “coherence”.

Even many engineers fail to understand how coherence works in science, even though it’s equally a core tool in engineering. Everyday plumbers and auto mechanics (the better ones being by no means unintelligent) experience the constraints of coherence every day, but in a relatively small and clear-cut domain. The fact that coherence works at large to distinguish science from non-science, and that for all its flaws, the scientific culture is sufficiently robust to manage this distinction reliably, is really not understood. I don’t know if we can get anywhere without getting this point across.
Though Bob usually has a much more down-to-earth close-to-the-evidence style than I do, he has described the key quandary better that I have ever managed. Dang.

Update: Note also that Bob points us to this interesting discussion.

Anthony Doerr on Geoengineering

Read the whole thing. It starts

During my sophomore year, 1992, 1,500 scientists, including more than half the living Nobel laureates, admonished in their Warning to Humanity: “A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

So what have we done? Not much. From 1992 to 2007, global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels rose 38 percent. Emissions in 2008 rose a full 2 percent despite a global economic slump. Honeybees are dying by the billions1, amphibians by the millions, and shallow Caribbean reefs are mostly dead already.2 Our soil is disappearing faster than ever before, half of all mammals are in decline, and a recent climate change model predicts that the Arctic could have ice-free summers by 2013. Unchecked, carbon emissions from China alone will probably match the current global level by 2030.

The god thou servest,” Marlowe wrote in Dr. Faustus, almost four hundred years before the invention of internet shopping, “is thine own appetite.” Was he wrong? How significantly have you reduced your own emissions since you first heard the phrase “climate change?” By a tenth? A quarter? A half? That’s better than I’m doing. The shirt I’m wearing was shipped here from Thailand. The Twinkie I just ate had 37 ingredients in it. I biked to work through 91-degree heat this morning but back at my house the air conditioner is grinding away, keeping all three bedrooms a pleasant 74 degrees.

My computer is on; my desk lamp is glowing. The vent on the wall is blowing a steady, soothing stream of cool air onto my shoes.

h/t Andrew Sullivan. Anthony Doerr, whom I had not heard of until today, lives in Idaho, writes “on Science” column for the Boston Globe, and is a 2010 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Peak Oil? Or not?

So what are we to make of the Farrell and Brandt graphic found at Romm’s?

If it holds up, it tells us that “peak oil” is not looming at all.

It’s always been a question: will “peak oil” get us before “global warming” does? The stock answer from the climate community has been that “peak oil” is an economic problem with relatively little impact on climate. That is, we accepted “peak oil” fears and presumed that the bulk of the risk from fossil fuels came from coal reserves, which looked to be much larger than oil or natural gas.

A fellow named David Rutledge at Cal Tech has even been arguing that coal reserves are overestimated. He’s been taking the position that, as a consequence, the whole climate issue is overblown, since all the fossil fuels would be going away soon.

Here’s Rutledge’s picture (from his powerpoint):

So, worry about energy supplies, he says, but not about climate. We are running out of fossil fuels too soon to worry! I actually ran Rutledge’s idea past Stephen Schneider on the day I met him. He dismissed it out of hand.

But if Farrell and Brandt are right, then Rutledge is wrong. In their schema there is plenty of reserve of fossil fuel, not even counting clathrate deposits as a fuel. (Whether they count as a feedback is out of scope here.)

Admittedly, half of F & B’s projection is coal. But there are great swaths of petroleum potential from the new natural gas (“fracking”) supplies (GTL), tar sands, and enhanced production from sites that were played out to the limits of old technologies. The uncertainties are huge, but if we consider the high end, we see that we have tapped barely a twentieth of liquid fuel potential, and the production costs leave room for profit even under present pricing.

Also, presumably F & B maximize liquid fuel production at the expense of stationary energy plants. This is arguably what will happen if we don’t attend to transportation infrastructure, after all.

But it’s also worth noting that these methods double to quadruple the impact of each unit of energy consumption. If the sources and efficiencies of fossil fuel recovery continue to grow (in what would ordinarily be seen as the “techno-optimist” scenario) that leaves a whole lot of room for baking the planet.

People talk a lot about uncertainties and then get all worked up about climate models. The sensitivity is between 2 and 4, okay?

It would be nice if we knew within a factor of ten how much carbon we are worrying about! Please and thanks.

Potential Liquid Hydrocarbons and Impact

A couple of excellent, highly informative infographics, via Joe Romm, viaFarrell and Brandt of U C Berkeley.

Figure 1. Global supply of liquid hydrocarbons from all fossil resources and associated costs in dollars (top) and GHG emissions (bottom). EOR is enhanced oil recovery, GTL and CTL are gas- and coal-derived synthetic liquid fuels. The CTL and GTL quantities are theoretical maxima because they assume all gas and coal are used as feedstock for SCPs and none for other puposes. The lightly shaded portions of the graph represent less certain resources. GHG emissions in the lower figure are separated into fuel combustion (downstream) and production and processing (upstream) emissions by a dashed line. Results are based on costs and conversion efficiencies of current technologies available in the open literature. Gas hydrates are ignored due to a lack of reliable data. The GTL cost estimates assume a range of $0.5 to $2 per MBTU.

See Brandt and Farrell (2006) for details. (Brandt A R and Farrell A E 2006 Scraping the bottom of the barrel: CO2 emissions consequences of a transition to low-quality and synthetic petroleum resources Clim. Change)

Warlord of Mars

Thanks to the Baron for noting this article on R-TX31 Congressman John Carter’s website.

The Warmers are back.

They were thoroughly discredited just last year in the international “Climategate” scandal. The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and their pals from the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit in Great Britain were caught red-handed, through their own email communications, to have intentionally falsified the scientific data on which they claim that human activity is a leading cause of global warming. Further, they were found to have hidden their own research results that showed world temperature not rising, but actually falling over the past several years.

Global warming is simply a chicken-little scheme to use mass media and government propaganda to convince the world that destruction of individual liberties and national sovereignty is necessary to save mankind, and that the unwashed masses would destroy themselves without the enlightened global dictatorship of these frauds.

Every form of alternate energy should be researched and developed to the fullest extent possible, including solar, wind, tidal, and geothermal sources. We should encourage continued development of hybrid, natural gas, and total electric vehicles.

We don’t have to raise taxes or electric bills to do any of this. We don’t have to pass punitive new regulations on homes or businesses. We don’t have to kill hundreds of thousands of oil or coal industry jobs.

We don’t have to take anybody’s freedoms, or sacrifice one whit of U.S. sovereignty to any global entity to achieve these improvements for our environment or economy.

All of which is why the Warmers have fought against every one of these common-sense solutions for decades.

“Simply.” I like that.

Remarkably, this fellow represents the mostly upper-middle class suburbs of Austin in Williamson county (along with a rural fringe heading NNW from there which is not very populated). Are people in Williamson County really so tolerant of this level of fantasy in their public representative?

To my pain and sorrow, an ambitious fellow who works for the Williamson County Republican Party did a presentation at the Austin Python User Group a few months back for his clever get-out-the-vote semi-automated phone call management software. It struck me as a very cynical effort, but the guy knew what he was doing both technically and politically. I suspect he would find nothing to object to in Carter’s rant, not because he believes it, but because it apparently attracts more votes than it repels.

Maybe he’s from Mars too.

And maybe the people who might think this is unreasonable aren’t aware of it.

(Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/5swAtWd96)

Me on "Disruption"

This was September 8. I specifically advocated for “Climate Disruption” over “Global Warming”.

I don’t normally read from a prepared text, so I was a bit awkward.

The event was not a success; it was a press conference for a statewide environmental lobby that no press showed up for :-/ . I was actually talking to an empty room, the event organizer, the other speaker, and a cheap handheld video recorder…

But I stand by every word. Given three minutes to speak to Texas, I chose to emphasize “disruption” over “warming”.

Humans have become the dominant force on our planet. A hundred years ago or further back, when the land changed, when the ocean changed, when the air changed, it was nature that did it. Now, when the land changes, or the ocean changes, or the air changes, it’s us.

One of the biggest changes we are making is in how energy flows through the atmosphere. We do this with various pollutants including carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is the most worrisome for two reasons: first, much of our technology is built on a platform of fossil fuels, and second, because nature has no way of quickly getting rid of the extra carbon that we pump into the system.

The result of these changes in how sunlight flows into the earth and how heat makes its way back out is climate disruption. The most well-known part of this climate disruption is global warming, and global warming is real enough, and measurable. But to focus on “warming” leaves people with the idea that the changes are going to be gradual and gentle.

The way that the earth moves energy around from the light coming in to the heat going out is called “weather”, and the usual patterns of weather are called climate. When we shift the inputs and outputs around, we change the climate, and that means we get weather we are not used to. When it rains in Pakistan as it would in a wetter place, or it warms in Moscow as it usually does here in Texas, the people, the ecosystem, and the infrastructure are unprepared, and unprecedented disasters may strike. The more we disrupt the climate, the worse these changes will get.

Climate scientists are not a very politically adept group, and there are clever people who don’t want our results to be heard. We need to start taking real science seriously and to ignore the nonsense propagated by people with a financial stake in business as usual. It is our responsibility to future generations to take this problem seriously, and to look at ways not just to reduce, but ultimately to eliminate carbon-based emissions.