Plan Z

Well, I’m not gone yet. I just read this op-ed in today’s NYT by Thomas Homer-Dixon, which is related to, um, a certain controversial post.

Count Homer-Dixon among those who believe it will take a major, unequivocal climate shock to spur worldwide action on global warming. Meanwhile, he writes:

Policy makers need to accept that societies won’t make drastic changes to address climate change until such a crisis hits. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for them to do in the meantime. When a crisis does occur, the societies with response plans on the shelf will be far better off than those that are blindsided. The task for national and regional leaders, then, is to develop a set of contingency plans for possible climate shocks “” what we might call, collectively, Plan Z.

Some work of this kind is under way at intelligence agencies and research institutions in the United States and Europe. Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government has produced one of the best studies, “Responding to Threat of Climate Change Mega-Catastrophes.” But for the most part these initiatives are preliminary and uncoordinated.

We need a much more deliberate Plan Z, with detailed scenarios of plausible climate shocks; close analyses of options for emergency response by governments, corporations and nongovernmental groups; and clear specifics about what resources “” financial, technological and organizational “” we will need to cope with different types of crises.

Let me thus amend Eli’s 4th bullet point to read:

The Mitigation-centric blinders drives the procrastination penalties for Adaption to tragic proportions.

74 Responses to “Plan Z”

  1. Hank Roberts says:

    > Mitigation-centric blinders
    What?  Block that metaphor ….
    Do you mean the word in the sense of ‘blinders’ keeping a horse from looking anywhere except straight ahead?  they are by definition off-center blocks to vision.
    Perhaps you meant ‘mitigation-blindness’ or ‘blind spot about mitigation’ there?

  2. Keith's Wife says:

    Keith,
    I implore you – show some self control and relinquish the reigns to  Teofilo.  I promise, once the other stories are done, I will approve your return to the blogosphere. I think you are the one in need of blog blinders here……

  3. Keith Kloor says:

    Hank, I’m comfortable with the metaphor. However, I can see I’ve got real trouble on my hands, so that’s it for me. I’m done. (I didn’t think she’d be checking.)

    I’m letting go….

     

  4. RickA says:

    I like the Plan Z approach.

    It is sort of like my wait and see approach.

    Lets wait 30 more years – get better data and really see if we warm and how much of the warming is due to humans (over which we could have some control) and how much to natural variability (over which we have no control – except perhaps via geo-engineering).
    In the meantime – lets do research on producing energy cheaper than we currently do – but which doesn’t produce CO2.

    The way to cause a switchover is by making alternative energy cheaper than existing energy – than people will switch over naturally.
     

  5. Keith Kloor says:

    RickA:
    It is not at all a wait and see approach. Read the entire op-ed. You’ll not find anyone more convinced than Homer-Dixon that AGW is real and should be acted on post-haste.

    But he is also a realist and recognizes human nature (an argument I have made many times here myself)–thus the adaptation imperative he makes the case for.
     

  6. laursaurus says:

    Hi Keith’s Wife!
    ….waving………….
    Being a blogger’s wife apparently has it’s challenges. I’m surprised my DH hasn’t complained about how much time I spend online (yet). Keith has an awesome blog  as a result. I have nothing!
    But Daddy does object to how much time the kids sit in front of the computer. On the weekends, he makes them go play outside with real kids.
    Mom doesn’t set a very good example. Thank you for bringing it  to my attention . I appreciate the sacrifices you’ve made to enable Keith’s blogging success!
    Just 15 more minutes……..setting the timer………then I promise myself to log off.

  7. Chapter 4 of this report deals explicitly with the question of what to do if the shit hits the fan.

  8. (I didn’t think she’d be checking.)

    🙂

  9. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Keith,
     
    Homer-Dixon’s emphasis isn’t on the adaptation that is so dear to RPRj (and you apparently).  He’s talking more about laying the groundwork for aggressive mitigation once the political will exists.  In other words, he’s rehashing his earlier work “The Upside of Down: Leveraging Catastrophe for Positive Change“.
     
    On a separate note, he writes:
    “Climate change has become an ideologically polarizing issue. It taps into deep personal identities and causes what Dan Kahan of Yale calls “protective cognition” “” we judge things in part on whether we see ourselves as rugged individualists mastering nature or as members of interconnected societies who live in harmony with the environment. Powerful special interests like the coal and oil industries have learned how to halt movement on climate policy by exploiting the fear people feel when their identities are threatened.”
     
    I couldn’t help but think of Judith Curry when I saw the bit about rugged individualism…
     
     
     
     

  10. I really would like this question made more specific. I still don’t understand what the tension is about. When Mrs. Scape allows Collide-A to venture out again, I hope he’ll tell us what adapting to things that haven’t happened yet and may or may not actually happen would actually look like.
     
    The pastiche on Eli’s point makes absolutely no sense to me.
     
    I don’t mean I disagree. I literally mean I don’t understand. Exactly who has mitigation blinders on, and exactly how does this interfere with adaptation?
     

  11. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    I second MT’s question: who is actively opposing action on adaptation in order to focus more tightly on mitigation?
     
    I see many people who are saying that we shouldn’t take any major actions to mitigate emissions (some because rapid and deep mitigation would cost too much and others because they judge that however desirable rapid and deep mitigation might be, it’s politically completely unfeasible), but I don’t see anyone saying that we shouldn’t take major action, and quickly, to adapt.
     
    After all, the much-maligned IPCC does devote one third of its reports to studies of vulnerabilities and adaptation.
     
    A big problem we face, though, in adapting, is that the less we mitigate, the greater the range of possible outcomes to which we must adapt, and thus the more expensive the adaptation because it must cover such a broad range (both quantitatively and qualitatively) of stresses.
     
    That’s why so many people are saying that adaptation and mitigation need to go together.
     
    Back to Homer-Dixon, Marlowe Johnson is quite correct. Having an emergency response plan in place is totally different from adapting gradually to obviate the need for an emergency response. Adaptation would mean preventing “regional or continental disruption.” Homer-Dixon is not proposing that this is politically realistic. All he’s proposing is that we have a plan in place to respond once our failure to adapt becomes obvious (e.g., instead of adapting by building a robust water supply for Southeastern or Southwestern cities and limiting their populations to what that supply can handle under stress, we will let the cities grow and focus instead on how to evacuate Atlanta or Phoenix, ration water, and prevent riots after the water runs out). Essentially, he’s proposing having an SKU number handy for a shiny lock so we can order it quickly once we have verified that the horse is no longer in the barn.

  12. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Marlowe Johnson:
    Connecting what Horner-Dixon writes about Dan Kahan’s “protective cognition” idea to the affect heuristic from behavioral economics (Paul Slovic, Daniel Kahneman, and Amos Tversky, among others, have discussed it at length) would create the kind of thinking that Myanna Lahsen attributes to Seitz, Nierenberg, and Jastrow in her “Experiences of Modernity in the Greenhouse:”  Protective cognition links our cognitive framework to our world view; affect heuristic means we tend to be blind to negative characteristics of things that we value or positive characteristics of things we dislike (more generally, as Granger Morgan has demonstrated, people tend to be blind to things that don’t fit into their mental model of the world, but the affective aspect of this may be particularly important to politically fraught issues). The upshot is that people who value a technology that allows us to master nature tend to fail to fully see the hazards associated with that technology, whereas people who see a technology as interfering with a desirable natural state tend to fail to fully see the benefits of that technology.
    To some extent, seeing both the positive and negative attributes of a particular technology becomes as difficult as seeing both the duck and the rabbit simultaneously in the well-known gestalt image (or the woman and the girl, or both perspectives on the Necker cube).
    Lahsen writes of Seitz, Nierenberg, and Jastrow that they tended to dismiss fears of anthropogenic climate change (and other environmental hazards) in part because their appreciation of the great benefits technology had bestowed upon humanity made them unwilling or unable to believe that the same technologies that produced great good could also produce great harm.

  13. Tom Fuller says:

    I really think this argument gets lost in a morass of point and counterpoint for one very specific reason.
     
    Nobody is willing to put boundaries or constraints on what it is we are trying to mitigate. Adaptation is tactical and most of it makes sense with or without climate change.
     
    But to a certain point, so does mitigation. The difference is that mitigation requires strategies, as it crosses borders. Adaptation is by nature regional or even more site-specific.
     
    I’ll repeat myself–what are the worst possible outcomes we are trying to mitigate? It makes a difference.
     
    The problem is that it requires a different level of resource commitment to mitigate 2 C climate change than it does 7 C. Worse, some of the things that make sense mitigating 2 are not relevant to a scenario of 7.
     
    There are people out there writing as if they had a straight face that 20 foot sea level rises will occur this century. I’m not going to support mitigating that occurrence because I think it’s balderdash.
     
    So, mitigate what, exactly?

  14. Andy says:

    MT (#10) and Jonathan (#11),
     
    To me it’s a question of resource allocation.  If you have $100 to work with on climate change (and substitute $100 for however much you wish), how do you divvy that money up?  Even that is an overly simplistic example, because that $100 doesn’t come from the ether.  There are opportunity costs to be  get that money and that is, to me, why the politics on this are so difficult and why political consensus is lacking.
     
    Historically, the human race doesn’t do rapid change very well absent a clear and present crisis (the exceptions, unfortunately, frequently involve centralized power and despotism). That goes for mitigation and adaptation.  The same forces arrayed against rapid mitigation policies are also working against adaptation policies. You’re not going to see, for example, much political support for greatly improved building codes justified by climate change adaptation.
     
    In short, absent a crisis,  incrementalism will rule the day for both mitigation and adaptation.  However, I see no reason not to push both tracks against the limits to the greatest extent possible.  What I think people need to realize is that one can’t bust past incrementalist limits with good arguments and evidence. Consider Social Security and Medicare in the US.  Everyone knows that something will have to be done about them because their insolvency is practically a mathematical certainty.  Yet nothing happens.  There’s no political support to make major reforms now.  Reforming now is certain to cost less than reforming later yet there is still not sufficient political support.  Why?  The answer is largely the same for  climate change – people are people and time horizons are short.

  15. Hank Roberts says:

    > people out there writing … that 20 foot sea level rises
    > will occur this century.
    Pointer please?  I’d like to see anyone who actually believes it. (Not saying someone _else_ believes it, nor the AP typo.)

     

  16. Venter says:

    On the question of adaptation, mitigation, action etc. based on the precautionary principle, it is worth reading the below post Willis Eschenbach made 8 months ago at WUWT.
     
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/31/climate-caution-and-precaution/

  17. Tom Fuller says:

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/04/0420_040420_earthday.html
    However, the biggest danger, many experts warn, is that global warming will cause sea levels to rise dramatically. Thermal expansion has already raised the oceans 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters). But that’s nothing compared to what would happen if, for example, Greenland’s massive ice sheet were to melt.
    “The consequences would be catastrophic,” said Jonathan Overpeck, director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Even with a small sea level rise, we’re going to destroy whole nations and their cultures that have existed for thousands of years.”
    Overpeck and his colleagues have used computer models to create a series of maps that show how susceptible coastal cities and island countries are to the sea rising at different levels. The maps show that a 1-meter (3-foot) rise would swamp cities all along the U.S. eastern seaboard. A 6-meter (20-foot) sea level rise would submerge a large part of Florida.
     
    New research says if current warming trends continue, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are on track to melt sooner than previously thought, leading to a global sea level rise of at least 20 feet.
    “This is a real eye-opener set of results,” said Jonathan T. Overpeck, a geoscientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson and co-author of the paper.
    http://news.mongabay.com/2006/0323-sea_levels.html
     
    Meltwater pulse 1a increased sea levels by about 16 meters over 300 years or less; the record is not fine enough to tell. So we have a precedent of at least 5 meters of sea level rise per century; for practical purposes it must have been faster than that at some point.

    Let me emphasize the take home point. We do not have any strong limit on how fast significant chunks of Antarctica can fail, neither theoretically nor observationally, but we know it can be at least as fast as 5 meters per century.

    There is little doubt that contemporary human behavior is destabilizing both Greenland and the West Antarctic, implying an eventual sea level rise of an additional 15 meters (dominating thermal expansion and minor ice caps). What we don’t know is how fast this will happen.
    http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2007/08/4-meter-sea-level-rise-precedent.html
     
    Tell me if you want more.

  18. Tom Fuller says:

    Not to belabor the point, but set the boundaries so we can at least understand the costs of mitigation before we say yes, no or maybe.

  19. Overpeck is a serious and qualified person. However, nowhere did he say anything about this happening within a century. 6 meters in a century looks unlikely, but in a few centuries it indeed looks like that is what we are signing up for. Indeed, we are signing up for it this century, but it won’t be delivered for a couple of centuries more. Your reference does not explicitly support “20 foot sea level rises will occur this century”, and Overpeck would not say anything like that. Nor would that other guy you quote.
     
    A couple of meters this century remains quite plausible.
     

  20. Tom Fuller says:

    Okay. We have one vote for 7 feet of sea level rise this century. I don’t buy it for a second, but are there supporting voices out there?
     
    Michael, quite plausible is really too vague. If we are going to take mitigation seriously, please provide a range and a percentage of probability (such as 1.8 – 2.0 meters is a 75% probability by 2100). Can you do that? Can anyone?
     
    Because really, who can honestly be expected to throw their support behind the concept of mitigation if we can’t put numbers around it?

  21. Chris Ho-Stuart says:

    Tom asks: “Because really, who can honestly be expected to throw their support behind the concept of mitigation if we can’t put numbers around it?”
     
    Most people, I hope. Putting numbers on things is actively misleading if there isn’t solid numerical foundation for numbers… as is usually the case with complex problems and risks. There are various risk models that can give numbers, under some cases; but what the heck does “probability” even mean for a one off prediction?
     
    We don’t know the probability, because we don’t know the world that accurately, to put numbers on it.
     
    The kind of thing you can do is consider a number of difference physical models, and then say that in a certain proportion of models happens to give a particular consequence. But is that a probability of the event in the real world? I don’t consider it so! James Annan has some good discussions recently of the flaws of trying to get to precise on the basis of an ensemble of models.
     
    The idea of not taking action until you have a precise numerical estimate of likelihoods is backwards. It’s fatal in war time — which is an analogy Judith Curry has proposed, I think.
     
    A better approach, I suspect, is to try and identify a range of physically plausible results.

  22. Hank Roberts says:

    Tom, you didn’t find anyone saying 20 feet this century.  You won’t keep repeating that, will you?
    > can’t put numbers
    Sometimes the estimate as of now is “very, very stupid” — but that’s not an argument against doing something very, very stupid.
    Is it?  ‘Peace in our time’ is a poor argument for inaction, even while we know we don’t know the worst possible result.  Again, see Judith Curry’s comments about uncertainty.
    We know adding CO2 is irreversible at the scale of thousands of years.
    http://dels.nas.edu/Report/Climate-Stabilization-Targets-Emissions-Concentrations/12877
    “… other climate changes and impacts are currently understood only in a qualitative manner. Many potential effects on human societies and the natural environment cannot presently be quantified as a function of stabilization target (see Figure S.6). This shortcoming does not imply that these changes and impacts are negligible…. indeed, some may dominate future risks due to anthropogenic climate change….”
    and see
    http://www.eenews.net/public/climatewire/2010/07/19/2
    Ultimately, whether the Anthropocene will amount to a blip in Earth’s history or a major climate shift lasting “many thousands” of years depends on the choices society makes about whether — and how much — to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, the new report says.
    That requires making value judgments about the level of risk we’re willing to endure — a question that goes beyond scientific projections, said experts who worked on the new report.
    “When I think about things I can do in my own life where I can go back and reverse them, I treat them differently from things that are irreversible,” Solomon said. “If I knew that every piece of cheesecake would give me a pound of weight gain that would never be reversed, I would eat a lot less cheesecake.”….

    … ’emissions reductions larger than about 80 percent, relative to whatever peak global emissions rate may be reached, are required to approximately stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations.'”
     
     

  23. Tom Fuller says:

    Mr. Robert, your silly ‘gotcha’ games don’t really mean much. I wrote that Joe Romm didn’t say it. I didn’t write that it wasn’t being said by someone else.
    Mr./Ms. Ho Stuart, I’d be willing to live with a range of plausible results. Haven’t seen much along those lines, however. I’m assuming that you (and Mr. Tobis, obviously) don’t believe the 145 scenarios plotted by the IPCC adequately capture the possibilities.
     
    Where are yours?

  24. Tom Fuller says:

    The Earth’s warming temperatures are on track to melt the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets sooner than previously thought and ultimately lead to a global sea level rise of at least 20 feet, according to new research.

    The red and pink areas in this image of the state of Florida indicate the areas that would be submerged if the sea level rose about 20 feet (six meters). Courtesy of Jeremy Weiss and Jonathan Overpeck, The University of Arizona.

     
    If the current warming trends continue, by 2100 the Earth will likely be at least 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than present, with the Arctic at least as warm as it was nearly 130,000 years ago. At that time, significant portions of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets melted, resulting in a sea level about 20 feet (six meters) higher than present day.

  25. Alex Heyworth says:

    The idea that Florida is going to be underwater any time soon  is laughable. The Dutch were able to keep the sea at bay with pre-industrial technology. The only reason for modern technological societies to have large scale coastal flooding would be government incompetence (viz New Orleans).
    As for ridiculously exaggerated claims of sea level rise, recall that Robyn Williams, of the (Australian) ABC’s Science Show, is nicknamed “100 meters” because of his claim that the sea could rise that much this century.

  26. Tom Fuller says:

    King said some recent predictions by independent scientists put the possible range of sea level rise at 3 to 5 feet. And that could be just the beginning. The last time the world had as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as it does now was 130,000 years ago, and the seas were 20 feet higher, King said.
    King cited data from Jonathan T. Overpeck and Jeremy Weiss at the University of Arizona. They plotted the consequences of sea-level rise on all of the country’s coastlines. (The researchers’ findings can be found at http://www.geo.arizona.edu/dgesl/index.html)
    Regulators should be planning for the 20-foot sea-level rise, rather than 3 to 5 feet, King said.

  27. Chris Ho-Stuart says:

    Tom, I don’t have strong views on what is or is not possible with respect to sea level rise; I have spent most of my time learning about other aspects of climate science. A comparatively uninformed opinion from me would not add anything useful to discussion.
     
    My only input above was to question the requirement for numeric predictions before considering mitigation steps.
     
    It seems to me that change is occurring, and that planners would be sensible to consider high end bounds of what is plausible. If there’s lack of knowledge, then this makes it hard because we don’t know what the bounds might be.
     
    The question for planners would be as follows: can you give a bound and say with any degree of confidence that sea level is unlikely to rise that high? If I was a planner, I’d be looking at a range of views from people who are actively studying the subject.
     
    On what physical basis or argument, for example, can someone be confident that sea levels rises are unlikely to be more than five feet this century? Or is that just a guess?
     
    It seems like a reasonable kind of bound, but if I was actively pursuing the subject, I’d be looking for the models and the arguments from those who present a specific number like that as the upper bound. I’d like to understand how it is justified. The two factors to consider are how much additional water from melt; and also how much thermal expansion as the ocean heats up.
     
    I’m Christopher Ho-Stuart, by the way.

  28. Keith Kloor says:

    Marlowe (9), Michael (10), Jonathan (11),

    I take your points. I should have resisted the teptation to rush out a final drive-by post. I’ll try to clarify all this in a fresh post in a few weeks. Now, before the long reach of Mrs. Scape reaches me, I’m going to crawl back into my undisclosed, offline location…

  29. Hank Roberts says:

    OK, I’ll take the misstatement by Australian TV science guy Robyn Williams as a close enough cite for “Activists say” if you want to claim that’s your source.  Clearly his mistake, and here’s the pointer and transcript:
    “The initial comment was made by Mike Archer. Bolt raised it in an interview with Williams and challenged him if he believed it, to which Williams replied “It is possible”….
    Archer’s comment was couched in very specific terms ““ “if the Greenland and Antarctica icesheets melt (which they are doing in spectacular fashion), sea levels could rise, “¦ by 100 metres”
    http://blairboltwatch.wordpress.com/2008/08/26/advice-dispensed/#comment-9008
    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2007/1867444.htm#transcript
    _______
    October 7, 2009 Environmental Policy Examiner Thomas Fuller …. “Activists say flooding will reach 20 feet this century, when it won’t even be 2 ….”  From “Global-warming-a-confederacy-of-dunces”

  30. NewYorkJ says:

    My last comment didn’t make it through so here’s the somewhat shorter version.  Fuller apparently has a terrible time understanding what the phrase “this century” means.  He continues the train wreck in #25 by selectively copying and pasting from an article without providing the source.

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-03/uoa-pmm031506.php

    Missing from Fuller’s quoting:  “The ice sheets are melting already. The new research suggests the melting could accelerate, thereby raising sea level as fast, or faster, than three feet (about one meter) of sea level rise per century. ”

    and

    “An image of the area around New Orleans, La., with the water shown in blue. The portions of the image colored pink and red represent areas that would be submerged if sea level rose about three feet (one meter).”

    So correcting Fuller’s strawman claim, we get:  “There are people out there writing as if they had a straight face that there are people who believe 20 foot sea level rises will occur this century. ”

    Fuller’s way down the line in the telephone game, however, although he’s an active participant.

  31. Tom Fuller says:

    NewYorkJ, are you suggesting (with a straight face) that numerous claims of 20 foot SLR have not been made in the media?
     
    On what basis do you consider this a straw man? This is not a peripheral argument. One reason for opposition to both mitigation and adaptation spending is the lack of limits to the issue. Are we defending against a 1, 2, 5 or 20 foot sea level rise?
     
    I am only paraphrasing slightly to say that many are telling you to get your story straight before asking for control of the budgets.

  32. NewYorkJ says:

    Fuller Goalpost Location 1 (note the strawman): “There are people out there writing as if they had a straight face that 20 foot sea level rises will occur this century.”

    Fuller Goalpost Location 2: “are you suggesting (with a straight face) that numerous claims of 20 foot SLR have not been made in the media?”

    Question for Fuller (now that the goalpost appears to planted in Location 2):  Are you claiming with a straight face that a 20 foot sea level rise due to anthropogenic global warming is not supported by the science?

  33. NewYorkJ says:

    Fuller: Yes

    “With polar temperatures ~3″“5″‰°C warmer than today, the last interglacial stage (~125″‰kyr ago) serves as a partial analogue for 1″“2″‰°C global warming scenarios. Geological records from several sites indicate that local sea levels during the last interglacial were higher than today, but because local sea levels differ from global sea level, accurately reconstructing past global sea level requires an integrated analysis of globally distributed data sets. Here we present an extensive compilation of local sea level indicators and a statistical approach for estimating global sea level, local sea levels, ice sheet volumes and their associated uncertainties.  We find a 95% probability that global sea level peaked at least 6.6″‰m higher than today during the last interglacial; it is likely (67% probability) to have exceeded 8.0″‰m but is unlikely (33% probability) to have exceeded 9.4″‰m. When global sea level was close to its current level (≥-10″‰m), the millennial average rate of global sea level rise is very likely to have exceeded 5.6″‰m”‰kyr-1 but is unlikely to have exceeded 9.2″‰m”‰kyr-1. Our analysis extends previous last interglacial sea level studies by integrating literature observations within a probabilistic framework that accounts for the physics of sea level change. The results highlight the long-term vulnerability of ice sheets to even relatively low levels of sustained global warming.”

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v462/n7275/full/nature08686.html

    20 feet appears to be somewhat conservative. 

  34. rustneversleeps says:

    See the chart and commentary on page 290 in Archer et al., 2008  .

    “There is a clear and strong correlation between long-term global average temperature and sea level in the geologic record. Sea level has the potential to change much more than is forecast for the coming century, and it has done so in the past. The slope of covariation from the geologic record has been 10″“20 m/°C. Of course, there is a world of complexity that is collapsed into this simple figure…” (discussion of complexities…)

    ” In spite of the potential complications, the figure shows a clear correlation between global temperature and sea level in the geologic past… The forecast for the coming century is for only 0.2″“0.5 m under business-as-usual (A1B scenario), in spite of a temperature change of 3°C (Solomon et al. 2007). The sea level response to global temperature is one hundred times smaller than the covariaton in the past. The contrast between the past and the forecast for the future is the implicit assumption in the forecast that it takes longer than a century to melt a major ice sheet.”

  35. Tom Fuller says:

    New York J and Rust never Sleeps, I am not overwhelmed or convinced. ‘implict assumptions’ and ‘probabilistic frameworks’ based on what? Measurements or modelling?
     
    Sea levels change. Temperatures undoubtedly play a part. How much, when compared to isostatic rebound and subsidence?
     
    CO2 undoubtedly affects temperatures. How much? 60% of observed temperature increases? More? Less? How do you attribute this?
     
    Sea level rise is not severe at the moment by any measurement. The partial contribution of CO2 to a temperature rise that is itself a partial contribution to sea level rise, without numbers attached, is just idle speculation.
     
    Or scare talk.

  36. GaryM says:

    This kind of thing is just hilarious.  CAGW activists publish report after report that sea levels will rise x feet, ice sheets will melt, glaciers will disappear.  And in article after article, they omit the time frames for these catastrophes.  Then when anyone objects to the alarmism, we get “well, they didn’t say  it would happen soon.”
     
    1. “The maps show that a 1-meter (3-foot) rise would swamp cities all along the U.S. eastern seaboard. A 6-meter (20-foot) sea level rise would submerge a large part of Florida.”
     
    2. “New research says if current warming trends continue, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are on track to melt sooner than previously thought, leading to a global sea level rise of at least 20 feet.”
     
    3. “In its most recent report, released in 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that a full collapse of the ice sheet would raise sea levels by 16 feet (5 meters) globally.”
     
    4. “But most climate scientists now believe that the main drivers of sea level rise in the 21st century will be the melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (a potential of a 16-foot rise if the entire sheet melts) and the Greenland Ice Sheet (a potential rise of 20 feet if the entire ice cap melts).”
    (and there are bunches more)
     
    Notice anything missing? Like the actual projected time line anywhere near the scare quote?  Number 4 is the best example of the tactic.  The clear implication for the lay reader (ie. voter), is that there is a potential for a 16 foot rise in the 21st century.  But of course, it doesn’t actually say that.  How hard would it be to include the correct projected time line for these catastrophic events, say  anywhere near the scare quote?
     
    Why isn’t that done? Time after time, after time.  Is it an accident?  Are they all really all just poor writers?  Or is it maybe because they want to create the impression of impending immediate doom, without someone being able to prove the lie?
     
    Pathetic, and transparent.

  37. Tom Fuller says:

    GaryM, I share your frustration, especially in long comment wars. The only thing I would call to your attention is the possibility that you should be targeting either journalists or their editors more than scientists. Although it seems a bit odd that so many reports would have the same flaw in timelines.

  38. Chris Ho-Stuart says:

    Tom, I think you are not giving adequate recognition of the fact that it is possible to have good reason to expect significant changes without having strong confidence in specific numbers, even as bounds.
     
    The bare assertion that a lack of numbers can only be “idle speculation” or “scare talk” doesn’t match up at all with comparable cases where we routinely admit the existence of real risks for which we can anticipate and plan for even without the models that give accurate numbers.
     
    In any case, it appears that in some cases there ARE numbers… it is just that you are highlighting the fact that different people use different numbers. In other words, there isn’t unanimity on numeric details. This too, is a not a rational basis for dismissing all consideration of consequences as “idle speculation” or “scare talk”.
     
    My own main interest has been in the physics relating to heating, and less with the follow-on consequences. The forcing of carbon dioxide in particular is one of the most straightforward aspects of climate science; there are also other greenhouse gases which have a big role (N2O, CH4, and CFCs especially); plus the more complicated impacts of aerosols and land use change. Natural forcings are (at the moment) smaller by comparison and mostly inclined to reduce global temperatures rather than increase them. So warming might be, say, 110% anthropogenic and -10% natural. Speaking of percentages tends to obscure the fact that some forcings are negative, others are positive. Better to give the forcing itself, and a total, with uncertainties. That’s what is generally done.
     
    Then there are the uncertainties in going from forcings to temperatures (that is, climate sensitivity) and also the uncertainties about what we are going to do (different scenarios, the collective human choices). Finally, you have to go from temperatures to melt water and thermal expansion to get sea levels.
     
    The IPCC 4AR estimated 18 to 59 cm by 2100, under different scenarios. Subsequent work has fairly consistently shown this to be conservative. A recent paper on the subject (“How will sea level respond to changes in natural and anthropogenic forcings by 2100?”, Moore, Jevrejevad and Grinstede 2010, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L07703) gives a range of 60 to 160cm. This paper also lists some of the other research giving estimates. From the paper:

    Lately these IPCC numbers have been challenged with new estimates of 0.5″“1.4m[Rahmstorf, 2007], 0.75″“1.90 m [Vermeer and Rahmstorf, 2010], 0.8″“ 2.0 m [Pfeffer et al., 2008] and 0.8″“1.3 m [Grinsted et al.,2010] sea level rise by 2100.

     
    It seems to me that the responsible and cautious approach, in an uncertain world, is to plan for at least 1.5m (about 5 feet) by 2100, recognizing that it could be more and will hopefully be less. Also, one of the largest sources of uncertainty in those numbers is the different scenarios. So finding ways to reduce our impact by reducing emissions is also a sensible strategy. I don’t consider this scare tactics or idle speculation; but the normal approach we have in all kinds of diverse areas of risk.

  39. Chris Ho-Stuart says:

    Oops. Keith or whoever is managing this in Keith’s absence; please delete all the format nonsense in my previous comment. I thought I had got rid of it, but I messed up. Sorry! You can delete this comment as well!
     
    The first line begins “Tom, I think…” [[FIXED//kk]]

  40. Tom Fuller says:

    Hi Christopher,
     
    Hard to know where to start. I think your description of the physics of CO2 and climate change is uncontroversial–well, at least I accept it. I just don’t think we know very much at all about the sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of the concentrations of CO2.
     
    There have been papers saying the IPCC was too conservative (they were, obviously–they didn’t consider ice sheet dynamics and said so), but looking at the authors, I think I’d like to see more work before accepting their results automatically.
     
    If everyone could agree on 5 feet, it would not be herculean to draft a strategy to adapt to it. If we had a better idea of the mechanics of climate change, we could quantify what level of emissions we would need to curtail to mitigate x percent of it. And again, that would not be herculean in nature.
     
    But the simple fact is, every time someone mentions a less-than-catastrophic level of projected sea level rise, a bunch of people, some pedigreed, chime in with counter claims, making anybody interested in working on a solution throw up their hands.
     
    Send ’round the petition, create the consensus. There are people who want to help design a solution.

  41. NewYorkJ says:

    It’s quite amusing that while Tom Fuller is attacking scientists or journalists by falsely claiming they are predicting a 20 foot sea level rise this century, GaryM is attacking the same articles for not giving a timeframe, confirming only that Fuller is wrong.

    GaryM:  CAGW activists publish report after report that sea levels will rise x feet, ice sheets will melt, glaciers will disappear.  And in article after article, they omit the time frames for these catastrophes. 

    So they don’t say 20 feet of sea level rise will happen within a century?  Nice  to see GaryM confirm that Tom Fuller is wrong.

    GaryM: Notice anything missing?

    I do.  Here’s one of they key quotes you omit from the article you’re quoting from.  Odd that you would miss this since it’s quoted above as well.

    “The new research suggests the melting could accelerate, thereby raising sea level as fast, or faster, than three feet (about one meter) of sea level rise per century.”

    Now it’s true that the article in question doesn’t put a timeframe on the 6 meter or more sea level rise.  Why should it, when the timeframe isn’t known with great precision?  While this minimum level of sea level rise in response to projected global temperature trends isn’t really in doubt, there’s a fairly high amount of uncertainty regarding the rate.  It could be a few centuries or a millenium.  Should they just make it up, as Tom Fuller does?  Archer’s study covers some of the uncertainties in how quickly sea levels will rise (see rust’s source above):

    The sea level response to global temperature is one hundred times smaller than the covariaton in the past.
    The contrast between the past and the forecast for the future is the implicit assumption in the forecast that it takes longer than a century to melt a major ice sheet.

    There are reasons to believe that real ice sheets might be able to collapse more quickly than our models are able to account for, as they did during Meltwater Pulse 1A 19 kyr ago (Clark et al.

     

     

    2004) or during the Heinrich events (Clark et al. 2004), neither of which are well simulated by models.”

    …noting also that the IPCC is inevitably a conservative estimate:

    “Recognizing the insufficiency of current ice sheet models to simulate these phenomena, IPCC excluded what they call “dynamical changes in ice sheet flow” from their sea level rise forecast.”

    Contrast this careful discussion with the denial crowd simply inventing things like “There are people out there writing as if they had a straight face that 20 foot sea level rises will occur this century.”

  42. Tom Fuller says:

    NewYorkJ, when I have given you examples of people making this claim. Here’s a repeat.
    Bear in mind that this is an oceanographer giving advice to a planning commission on specific issues.
    http://www.projo.com/news/content/crmc_global_warming_10-17-07_KA7GLV6.34b791c.html
     

    “King said some recent predictions by independent scientists put the possible range of sea level rise at 3 to 5 feet. And that could be just the beginning. The last time the world had as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as it does now was 130,000 years ago, and the seas were 20 feet higher, King said.
    King cited data from Jonathan T. Overpeck and Jeremy Weiss at the University of Arizona. They plotted the consequences of sea-level rise on all of the country’s coastlines. (The researchers’ findings can be found at http://www.geo.arizona.edu/dgesl/index.html)
    Regulators should be planning for the 20-foot sea-level rise, rather than 3 to 5 feet, King said.”
    NewYorkJ, these are potential real world consequences of misinformation. Blame King, blame Overpeck if you want–but people are being given bad advice because of fears of 20 foot sea level rise.
    You can harp on about this as much as you want, but I’m done with the subject for now.

  43. NewYorkJ says:

    “But the simple fact is, every time someone mentions a less-than-catastrophic level of projected sea level rise, a bunch of people, some pedigreed, chime in with counter claims, making anybody interested in working on a solution throw up their hands.”

    That’s not my impression.  Some disputes are worked out.  Take for example Siddall 2009, which projected sea level rise this century close to conservative IPCC estimates, and in contrast to some recent studies to the contrary.  Siddall recognized some fatal errors which undermined their claims (brought to their attention by Vermeer and Rhamstorf) and retracted their paper.  Note how the media/blogosphere spun this.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Scientists-retracted-claim-rising-sea-levels.htm

  44. Chris Ho-Stuart says:

    Tom, I don’t think you can, or should, simply “create consensus”. It actually IS a hard thing to model and estimate, and you WANT people to have freedom to explore alternatives. That’s how science eventually gets to consensus; not by artificially demanding a consensus before it arises naturally.
     
    As for policy response… that’s going to vary too. People making decisions for which future sea levels have to be taken into account have no rational choice but to recognize the uncertainty and decide what risk they will allow. It is precisely the wrong approach for policy to drive science to reach definite conclusions before they are properly warranted on the basis of normal scientific work.
     
    There does seem to me to be, if not consensus, then at least a fairly broad base, which considers 2100 sea levels are likely to be something between 0.5 and 2 meters. You can pick a particular study and accept a tighter range… but you don’t want to silence all the others!
     
    The concerns about “timelines” are likewise misplaced. It IS worth knowing the consequences of the full collapse of an ice sheet, even if you have very little idea of how soon it will occur or how likely is the collapse. Note that a lot of science is driven by simply by the desire to know about the world, even if not immediately useful to planners. I am a strong believer in the value of growing general knowledge about the world for its own sake; and you never know when it may turn out to be pragmatically useful as well, or spin of or support some application.
     
    For planners and policy makers, there is still real value in research looking at impacts of various events even without a timeline. There’s also PLENTY of research which considers time spans. But some research topics are not tightly time constrained. Disparaging all research which does not give tight timelines is — again — failing to give adequate recognition that there really all kinds of uncertainties and it is merely a distortion of good science to dismiss useful research because it lacks certain numbers you’d like for policy reasons.
     
    Timelines are nice for planners, but they are not always going to be easy to get. There’s plenty of research which does use timelines; and I cited some it just above. Use that, if you like, and assume that they are taking into account the knowledge gained by related research which does not have tight times. But whether times are well constrained is not a rational way to distinguish good or bad research.

  45. NewYorkJ says:

    Again: No “this century” in your quote or anything resembling that.  The only thing that comes close in the article is:

    “By the time today’s babies become elderly, scientists predict that climate change will cause local ocean waters to be at least 3 to 5 feet higher than they are now.”

    which is in line with some current estimates.  They then go on to say that this “could” (a weak term really) be just the beginning.  I don’t know a single climate scientist who believes sea level rise will be limited to this century.

    “these are potential real world consequences of misinformation.  Blame King, blame Overpeck if you want”“but people are being given bad advice because of fears of 20 foot sea level rise.”

    Blame everyone but the guy in the mirror.  I understand the false claim didn’t originate with you, and you’re way down the line in the telephone game, but it’s sloppy, nonetheless.  I agree that there are real-world consequences for misinformation.

  46. GaryM says:

    NewYorkJ,
     
    Like I said, pathetic and transparent.
     
    “While this minimum level of sea level rise in response to projected global temperature trends isn’t really in doubt, there’s a fairly high amount of uncertainty regarding the rate.  It could be a few centuries or a millenium.  Should they just make it up, as Tom Fuller does?”
     
    How about rather than just making it up, they include the very uncertainty you just described?   I’ll let Tom Fuller defend himself, but the implication in the articles was clear.
     
    It’s not an error of omission.  It’s propaganda, plain and simple.  The intent is to create the appearance of imminent catastrophe without coming right out and saying it. Which I explained in detail above, but you managed to ignore in claiming I agreed that Tom  was “making it up.”
     
    Oh, and that “odd” quote you say I left out, only reinforces my point.  “…or faster than…” followed by your comment “Now it’s true that the article in question doesn’t put a timeframe on the 6 meter or more sea level rise. ”
     
    I mean I could have posted 20 or 30 more examples, and I thank you for adding one yourself.  But I think I made my point, and while you try to slam Tom Fuller, I don’t see any actual criticism of my point.

  47. NewYorkJ says:

    GaryM,

    By saying they don’t put a timeframe on any sea level rise, you’re refuting Tom Fuller’s claim that they do.  With regards to a 20-foot sea level rise, you’re correct.  Tom is wrong.  However, you run into trouble by making a generalized claim:

    GaryM: “CAGW activists publish report after report that sea levels will rise x feet, ice sheets will melt, glaciers will disappear.  And in article after article, they omit the time frames for these catastrophes. ”

    when the article you quote from clearly refutes this:

    “The new research suggests the melting could accelerate, thereby raising sea level as fast, or faster, than three feet (about one meter) of sea level rise per century.”

    GaryM: It’s not an error of omission.  It’s propaganda, plain and simple.  The intent is to create the appearance of imminent catastrophe without coming right out and saying it.

    So you and Tom read whatever you want to read, inserting statements (Tom) and “implications” (Gary) that don’t exist, and of course omitting quotes that stand in contrast to your narrative.  I can’t help with that.

  48. Keith Kloor says:

    Roger Pielke Jr. has an excellent post up today relevant to this discussion. Money quote:

    “Adaptation is not just a response to the marginal impacts of human-caused climate change, but rather to complex situations of vulnerability with inter-related and often inseparable social and climatic factors.  Improving the adaptive capacity of communities — whether they be New Orleans or New Caledonia — makes sense irrespective of the fraction of imapcts that can or cannot be attributed to human caused climate change.”

  49. Tom Fuller says:

    Christopher and Keith, I admire your detached perspective, and only wish those advocating for ‘decisions now!’ shared it.

  50. GaryM says:

    DFTT?  (he asked showing how unhip internetwise he is)

  51. willard says:

    Don’t Feed The Troll.

  52. GaryM says:

    Sounds like a Blue Oyster Cult song.

  53. Tom Fuller says:

    When instead the song we need was actually performed by Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks (How can I miss you if you won’t go away…)

  54. Chris Ho-Stuart says:

    For the record, I DO advocate decisions now. Waiting for better information, or real numbers, or disparaging the work being done to help sort out the relevant science because it doesn’t give you all the numbers you want, is silly and bound to be expensive in longer term.
     
    The notion that some research doesn’t have timelines because they want to be scary is completely unjustified and absurd on the face of it. Some hypotheses and research simply doesn’t have strong constraints on time, and there’s no reason to malign the researchers on that basis. In reality, it would be much less responsible for scientists to give times when there isn’t a good basis, or to hold off publishing new research until it has definite time estimates.
     
    I’m “detached” in the sense that I don’t spend a whole heap of time doing advocacy for action or decisions. I’m mostly interested in the science and in how the world works. But it seems to me that the lesson from what we know so far is that decisions are needed ten years ago; with “now” as second best.
     
    I’m also detached in the sense that I don’t actually expect decisions to be taken now that could be taken now, and my guess is that one of the more expensive and painful scenarios is what the coming generation will be dealing with. I also suspect there will be other problems even more serious than sea level rise.
     
    But I’m not a policy maker, and my own expectations or guesses for the future don’t have special standing. I’ve long since learned to be relaxed that world is not perfect and that I don’t have all the answers and that some folks will disagree with me. So I try not to be a bore about my opinions when I’m out with friends, and try to avoid carrying on arguments beyond the point where wheels are starting to spin. I think we may be at that point now.
     
    So thanks for the exchange; I’ll be happy for engage more if there is any room for progress here; but if not then best wishes all, as you continue to explore the subject, from any perspective.
     
     

  55. Tom Fuller says:

    Chris, I hope you find a reason to stick around, or at least check in from time to time. If not, all the best.

  56. Chris Ho-Stuart says:

    Sure, Tom. I only meant this particular exchange!

  57. Tom Fuller says:

    The way to structure a combined adaptation/mitigation scheme based on a 1-1.5 meter sea level rise would be phased infrastructure redevelopment, starting with relocating roads and railways out of harm’s way, adding insurance surtaxes on buildings and improvements in threatened areas, identification of areas qualifying for sea barriers, etc.
     
    The EPA estimated that the total cost for doing this in the U.S. would be a one-time expenditure of about $200 billion, which if spread over the next 50 years would be just a hiccup.
     
    Combine that with a stated phase-out of older coal plants and a mandate for hybrid (at least) automobiles and extension of tax credits for residential and commercial takeup of energy efficiency measures ranging from appliances to power generation.
     
    Tack on $1.5 trillion to the estimated cost of modernisation of the electricity grid to make it smart, taking the total cost to $8 trillion. Mandate smart meters with the cost split between users and utilities (throw tax relief at the utilities to make it less painful).
     
    Commit (in the U.S.) to doubling nuclear power over the next 20 years.
     
    Restructure foreign aid to target energy provision to the bottom billion and helping clean up current energy sources in the developing world.
     
    Provide a loan guarantee program to finance a long list of energy projects, ranging from compressed air storage and waste to energy plants to ground source heat pumps.
     
    Accelerate depreciation of installations of combined heat and power plants.
     
    Offer tens of millions in prizes for effective innovations with targeted achievements in solar, storage and 4th generation biofuels.
     
    What’d I miss?

  58. Tom Fuller says:

    Oops. First mistake found already. The EPA estimated the one time cost at $400 billion: epa.gov/climatechange/effects/downloads/cost_of_holding.pdf

  59. GaryM says:

    “The notion that some research doesn’t have timelines because they want to be scary is completely unjustified and absurd on the face of it. Some hypotheses and research simply doesn’t have strong constraints on time, and there’s no reason to malign the researchers on that basis.”
     
    Who said researchers were omitting “time lines” in the primary research?  My that would be absurd (let alone to claim that there might be good reasons for doing so), when the research on sea ice is fairly clear about the length of time it would take for Greenland, the Arctic, and Antarctic to melt.
     
    My point was of course exactly the opposite.  I wrote “CAGW activists publish report after report that sea levels will rise x feet, ice sheets will melt, glaciers will disappear.  And in article after article, they omit the time frames for these catastrophes.”   Each of the examples I cited to were news articles, not primary research.
     
    CAGW activists know full well that the research shows that it will take millenia for the Greenland and Antarctic ice to melt.  But the lede for the second article I cited was “New research says if current warming trends continue, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are on track to melt sooner than previously thought, leading to a global sea level rise of at least 20 feet.” The only reference this bit of propaganda makes to when this might happen is the very scientific “sooner than we thought.”
     
    The very next paragraph claims “The study, published in the March 24 issue of the journal Science, projects that by 2100 the Earth will likely be at least 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than present, with the Arctic at least as warm as it was during the last interglaciation, 129,000 to 116,000 years ago, when sea levels were about 20 feet (six meters) higher than the present.”  A couple of paragraphs later we get “”Unless something is done to dramatically reduce human emissions of greenhouse gas pollution,’ said Peck ‘we’re committed to four-to-six meters (13 to 20 feet) of sea level rise in the future.'”

     
    Read that and tell me a layman/voter would not come away with the impression that the 20 foot sea level rise might not well happen this century.
     
    But I would agree, this issue is exhausted here.  Those who see this kind of “journalism” as objective will never be persuaded to the contrary by anything I would write.

  60. Tom Fuller says:

    Oh, yeah. Forgot a carbon tax and money for R&D…
     
    Small carbon tax at $12/ton for ten years, to be adjusted according to climate response and emissions totals.
     
    Research grants for basic study into energy efficiency.

  61. NewYorkJ says:

    Gary M: “CAGW activists know full well that the research shows that it will take millenia for the Greenland and Antarctic ice to melt.”

    “CAGW Activists” know more than the scientists?  You might want to read some of the studies that have been posted and thoroughly research the phrase “nonlinear ice sheet disintegration”.  Quoting Archer again:

    “Recognizing the insufficiency of current ice sheet models to simulate these phenomena, IPCC excluded what they call “dynamical changes in ice sheet flow” from their sea level rise forecast.”

    If your matter-of-fact statement above was part of any mainstream media article, I’d probably have to write to the journalist.  It’s irresponsible and doesn’t adequately consider the uncertainties.

    Whether or not an article “implies” something is obviously highly subjective.  Deniers are notorious for reading whatever they want to read.  The SS link posted above described a lowball sea level rise estimate withdrawn by the authors.  Note the Guardian headline:

    “”Climate scientists withdraw journal claims of rising sea levels

    That’s begging to be misinterpreted (and it was).  In fact, the article omits the research that indicates the estimate was lower than current ones to begin with.

    Then we have “ClimateGate”, where nearly every article on the topic of hacked emails “implied” some kind of great scientific fraud, which of course didn’t happen.  Which brings us to…

    Tom Fuller: DFTT

    That’s why I never visit Tom’s blog.  Since he gets paid for web traffic, the phrase takes on a more literal meaning.

  62. Chris Ho-Stuart says:

    GaryM, my apologies for not properly recognizing you were being critical of secondary news outlets rather than the science itself!
     
    Writers for news and general publications are extremely diverse. There’s good and bad, terrible and excellent.
     
    There’s a lot that worse that the issues you’ve raised; outright lies rather than issues with emphasis and omitting some details. It’s good to see, for example, the widely repeated slanders against IPPC chairman Rajendra Pachauri being corrected. They never had the slightest basis in anything.
     
    I do take issue with your suggestion — if I understand you right —  that the primary science does always give times, but that’s a minor detail. The example of ice sheet collapse you mention is one in particular where time constraints are really uncertain. By collapse, what I meant is not removal of the whole ice sheet, but sudden shifts in mass balance (compare erosion: a collapse is like a landside, not like complete removal of a mountain) and these can/may lead to very sudden jumps in rates of sea level change. That is, the process of meltwater input is highly non-linear, and total times for loss of the ice sheet are wildly uncertain.
     
    Cheers — Chris

  63. willard says:

    Chris Ho-Stuart,

    The first article cited in #38, i.e.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/04/0420_040420_earthday.html

    has three links.  The first one has this timeframe:

    > If current climatic conditions persist, the legendary glaciers, icing the peaks of Africa’s highest summit for nearly 12,000 years, could be gone entirely by 2020.

    The second one links to an article with this lead:

    > Greenland’s massive ice sheet could begin to melt this century and may disappear completely within the next thousand years if global warming continues at its present rate.

    The third one links to this lead:

    > By 2050, rising temperatures exacerbated by human-induced belches of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could send more than a million of Earth’s land-dwelling plants and animals down the road to extinction, according to a recent study.

    (The links are not provided to bypass moderation.)

    The first link was provided in a paragraph stating that:

    > From the melting of the ice cap on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak, to the loss of coral reefs as oceans become warmer, the effects of global warming are often clear.

    This second link was provided in this paragraph:

    > However, the biggest danger, many experts warn, is that global warming will cause sea levels to rise dramatically. Thermal expansion has already raised the oceans 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters). But that’s nothing compared to what would happen if, for example, Greenland’s massive ice sheet were to melt.

    To get the third link, you need to click on Next page, and click somewhere in this lead:

    > The climate change is likely to impact ecosystems, agriculture, and the spread of disease. An international study published in the science journal Nature earlier this year predicted that climate change could drive more than a million species towards extinction by the year 2050.

    In this article, the models by Overpeck and his team are portrayed as being related to the melting of the Kilimanjaro and Greenland.  Since we have access to the projected time-frames of these two events, saying that the time-frame has been omitted is litteraly true, if we are to believe that it’s not enough to provide links and that readers can’t connect the dots regarding the timeframes offered by these links.

    We would ask ourselves why this particular quote was used, whence all the other claims in the article were associated with the timeframes of the studies.  We won’t, and will simply admit that it could have been made more easier to provide a direct link to the study to Overpeck and his team.  Having to rely on the list of related stories, related websites or list of sources is certainly not enough.  Having to dig for a link shows bad usability.

    Incidentally, the article is written by Stefan Lovgren, for **National Geographic News**.  So we are to believe that the “CAGW activist”, in this first case, is Stefan Lovgren, **National Geographic News**, or both.   This seems like a peculiar use of the word “activist”.

  64. Eli Rabett says:

    You gotta compare Eli’s clear statement
     
    Adaptation without mitigation drives procrastination penalties to infinity.
     
    To Keiths muddle
     
    The Mitigation-centric blinders drives the procrastination penalties for Adaption to tragic proportions.
     
    to understand that the emperor really needs a vacation.
     
    That being said, the whole the whole 66 or whatever  until this post gets approved, Eli being on  double super secret probation by the owner operator, who knows if this will appear for weeks thing is the classic muddle MT has been moaning about for ages.
     
    There are things that just are not up for discussion, that there is a real greenhouse effect that warms the Earth’s surface by ~30 C or so, that the increase in CO2 has been caused by fossil fuel combustion. One of these things is the equilibrium response of sea level to a global warming.  OK, equilibrium means eventually which can be a long time, but you can pretty much graph the equilibrium change in sea level against the change in temperature and get it right.  The wiggle room is what will the change in temperature be, and how long will it take to get to equilibrium.
     
    But here we have two people, Tom and Gary, basically arguing from ignorance who are quite convinced that they are right. Postmodernism indeed.
     
    BTW Keith, if you teach journalism, it might be good to stress clarity.
     

  65. Keith Kloor says:

    Eli,

    If there is one thing your detractors and admirers agree on, it is that you are often anything but clear. I think “cryptic” is the charitable description that I’ve seen.

    Couple of things, so your fans don’t get the wrong impression:

    1) you’re one of a handful on moderation because you have this unfortunate tendency of saying rather nasty things about the people you disagree with. Interestingly, simply knowing that you’re on moderation has served you well, since you’ve cut back on the nasty stuff, knowing, I suppose, that it won’t get through.

    2) Your comments otherwise are always promptly approved. Nobody ever waits more than a few hours, unless they post when I’m in a REM stage or traveling. (Ordinarily, I approve comments within the hour.)

    Lastly, I share the good, the bad, and the ugly of blogging with my students, including examples from my own blog.

  66. GaryM says:

    I think Eli wants to be the Don Rickles of the climate debate, with the added attraction of a “Neon” Deion Sanders affectation.   One never got the sense that Rickles was so in love with himself though, which may be why Eli’s schtick doesn’t work as well.

  67. Tom Fuller says:

    Mr. Rabett, I’m a bit unclear on what I said (or what GaryM said, for that matter) that caused your comments about our ignorance, of which you know nothing and can be charitably be described therefore as an example of what you criticize, nor where we speak against the hallowed (if vain) search for equilibrium in the oceans.
     
    If asked, I would say that we don’t have good knowledge of the cycles that drive oceanic-atmospheric exchange of either heat or CO2. I don’t think I would say anything further.
     
    For someone who’s title comes from a box of Fruit Loops, I think you live up to your moniker pretty well. Back in the box with you…

  68. GaryM says:

    I think Trix has the rabbit, Fruit Loops has the tucan.
    Silly Rabett, tricks to hide the decline are for kids.

  69. Chris,

    Excellent comment at 25-08  7:58
    Indeed, the rational approach is to take the inherently uncertain projections by science, esp if they converge to a consistent and stable picture, and decide on how to deal with those consequences, recognizing that it may be worse and hoping that it will be better.

    One could add that in a risk based analysis the low probability / high impact dominate the risk, a point often made by Michael Tobis. It’s inherently difficult however how to deal with those issues, and depends very strongly on one’s risk aversion and viewpoint of how probable it really is. In the absence of solid knowledge, it’s tempting to adapt that view based on one’s willingness to deal with the consequences.

  70. willard says:

    Chris Ho-Stuart,
     
    The second link provided in #38 is even more interesting:
    Here was the problematic quote:
    > New research says if current warming trends continue, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are on track to melt sooner than previously thought, leading to a global sea level rise of at least 20 feet.

     
    This was the lead of the article.  There are no time-frames.  But look at the next paragraph:
     
    > The study, published in the March 24 issue of the journal Science, projects that by 2100 the Earth will likely be at least 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than present, with the Arctic at least as warm as it was during the last interglaciation, 129,000 to 116,000 years ago, when sea levels were about 20 feet (six meters) higher than the present.
     
    This instance does not justify that this article omits the time frames for these catastrophes.  Admittedly, “by 2100” is not very precise.  But we can’t say it’s not there, in the article.

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