Tough Sledding….

28 12 2016

Happy Holidays all,


Mark Cochrane

Last weekend I was treated to a morning of trying to drive my daughter to her swim meet in -32 degree (-50 wind chill) temperatures (Fahrenheit and Celsius are about the same at these temperatures). Annually this sort of thing, or a big snowstorm somewhere leads to either denial of global climate change or the ‘an ice age is coming’ drivel.

However, every time we have massive unseasonable cold somewhere, spare a thought for what that actually means. That cold air didn’t just spring into existence, it had to come from somewhere. If the lower latitudes are experiencing this influx of cold air that means that something has to be back filling the air in the north. Translation, it gets very warm up north in the northern hemisphere. Remember, the key word in global climate change is ‘global’.

This year, yet again, the North Pole is experiencing a massive Christmas heat wave, raising temperatures to near freezing (32 F or 0 C, take your pick). Now this could be just ‘natural variability’ but each year that it keeps happening weakens that argument. You can’t have 1000-yr events every year or two again and again and call that ‘natural’. For several years now I have been a proponent of the theory that this is a signal of ongoing global climate change (e.g.Cohen et al. 2013). Debate is still ongoing in the scientific community about what is driving this phenomenon but it makes too much sense to me that it is linked to the dropping ice coverage in the Arctic ocean for it to be all chalked up to ‘natural variability’, which is just a weasel term for shit that happens periodically that we can’t convincingly explain.

The Arctic is showing stunning winter warmth, and these scientists think they know why

Last month, temperatures in the high Arctic spiked dramatically, some 36 degrees Fahrenheit above normal — a move that corresponded with record low levels of Arctic sea ice during a time of year when this ice is supposed to be expanding during the freezing polar night.

And now this week, as you can see above, we’re seeing another huge burst of Arctic warmth. A buoy close to the North Pole just reported temperatures close to the freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius), which is 10s of degrees warmer than normal for this time of year. Although it isn’t clear yet, we could now be in for another period when sea ice either pauses its spread across the Arctic ocean, or reverses course entirely.

But these bursts of Arctic warmth don’t stand alone — last month, extremely warm North Pole temperatures corresponded with extremely cold temperatures over Siberia. This week, meanwhile, there are large bursts of un-seasonally cold air over Alaska and Siberia once again.

It is all looking rather consistent with an outlook that has been dubbed “Warm Arctic, Cold Continents” — a notion that remains scientifically contentious but, if accurate, is deeply consequential for how climate change could unfold in the Northern Hemisphere winter.

So once again, Santa might be facing some tough sledding this year…

Merry Christmas,


The scariest charts you’re likely to see

9 12 2016

I have now seen one of the charts below, the one I’ve called ‘tipping point’, several times on the internet. I have searched high and low for its origin, and have now finally discovered it…. the Notre Dame International Security Center. It hardly sounds like a left wing University. From its own website, it states…:

The Notre Dame International Security Center was established in 2008 to provide a forum where leading scholars in national security studies from Notre Dame and elsewhere could come together to explore some of the most pressing issues in national security policy.

The center is directed by Professor Michael Desch.

At this site, you will find loads of climate data in graphic form……. and it’s where I discovered the two gobsmacking charts below.  Does this mean the NDISC is taking Climate Change as a serious threat to the security of the US?  We can only hope so, and also hope that they somehow get the ear of the Trumpet…..

You may or may not know that the Arctic polar region has experienced unprecedented temperatures; as high as twenty degrees C above normal. Places where the sun doesn’t even shine (because it’s winter…!) have even been above freezing, for days and days.

The result of this, it appears, is that the sea ice is not reforming. Dare I say, not reforming at all…? This anomaly is so extreme that it’s in the sigma 8 territory of statistical numbers.  σ8 is so weird, that were climate change a gambling game (and you have to wonder sometimes, looking at the policies of the morons in charge) that statistically it would be as uncommon as willing lotto….. or maybe, even more impossible.

Of course, it will almost certainly get colder again before the Northern Summer takes a grip again next year, but surely, we have reached a tipping point…. will next Summer be ice free? Watch this space…..



Tipping Point…..?

Beyond the Point of No Return

4 12 2016

Imminent Carbon Feedbacks Just Made the Stakes for Global Warming a Hell of a Lot Higher

Republished from Robert Scribbler’s excellent website……..

If EVER there was a need to start soil farming, this proves it beyond doubt.

“It’s fair to say we have passed the point of no return on global warming and we can’t reverse the effects, but certainly we can dampen them,” said biodiversity expert Dr. Thomas Crowther.

“I’m an optimist and still believe that it is not too late, but we urgently need to develop a global economy driven by sustainable energy sources and start using CO2, as a substrate, instead of a waste product.” — Prof Ivan Janssens, recognized as a godfather of the global ecology field.

“…we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it… we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.” — Professor Stephen Hawking yesterday in The Guardian.


The pathway for preventing catastrophic climate change just got a whole hell of a lot narrower.

For according to new, conservative estimates in a scientific study led by Dr. Thomas Crowther, increasing soil respiration alone is about to add between 0.45 and 0.71 parts per million of CO2 to the atmosphere every year between now and 2050.

(Thomas Crowther explains why rapidly reducing human greenhouse gas emissions is so important. Namely, you want to do everything you can to avoid a runaway into a hothouse environment that essentially occurs over just one Century. Video source: Netherlands Institute of Ecology.)

What this means is that even if all of human fossil fuel emissions stop, the Earth environment, from this single source, will generate about the same carbon emission as all of the world’s fossil fuel industry did during the middle of the 20th Century. And that, if human emissions do not stop, then the pace of global warming of the oceans, ice sheets, and atmosphere is set to accelerate in a runaway warming event over the next 85 years.

Global Warming Activates Soil Respiration Which Produces More CO2

This happens because as the world warms, carbon is baked out of previously inactive soils through a process known as respiration. As a basic explanation, micro-organisms called heterotrophs consume carbon in the soil and produce carbon dioxide as a bi-product. Warmth is required to fuel this process. And large sections of the world that were previously too cold to support large scale respiration and CO2 production by heterotrophs and other organisms are now warming up. The result is that places like Siberian Russia, Northern Europe, Canada, and Alaska are about to contribute a whole hell of a lot more CO2 (and methane) to the atmosphere than they did during the 20th Century.

When initial warming caused by fossil fuel burning pumps more carbon out of the global environment, we call this an amplifying feedback. It’s a critical climate tipping point when the global carbon system in the natural environment starts to run away from us.

Sadly, soil respiration is just one potential feedback mechanism that can produce added greenhouse gasses as the Earth warms. Warming oceans take in less carbon and are capable of producing their own carbon sources as they acidify and as methane seeps proliferate. Forests that burn due to heat and drought produce their own carbon sources. But increasing soil respiration, which has also been called the compost bomb, represents what is probably one of the most immediate and likely large sources of carbon feedback.


(A new study finds that warming of 1 to 2 C by 2050 will increase soil respiration. The result is that between 30 and 55 billion tons of additional CO2 is likely to hit the Earth’s atmosphere over the next 35 years. Image source: Nature.)

And it is also worth noting that the study categorizes its own findings as conservative estimates. That the world could, as an outside risk, see as much as four times the amount of carbon feedback (or as much as 2.7 ppm of CO2 per year) coming from soil if respiration is more efficient and wide-ranging than expected. If a larger portion of the surface soil carbon in newly warmed regions becomes a part of the climate system as microbes activate.

Amplifying Feedbacks Starting to Happen Now

The study notes that it is most likely that about 0.45 parts per million of CO2 per year will be leached from mostly northern soils from the period of 2016 to 2050 under 1 C worth of global warming during the period. To this point, it’s worth noting that the world has already warmed by more than 1 C above preindustrial levels. So this amount of carbon feedback can already be considered locked in. The study finds that if the world continues to warm to 2 C by 2050 — which is likely to happen — then an average of around 0.71 parts per million of CO2 will be leached out of soils by respiration every year through 2050.


(When soils lose carbon, it ends up in the atmosphere. According to a new study, soils around the world are starting to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is caused by increased soil respiration as the Earth warms. Over the next 35 years, the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped out by the world’s soils is expected to dramatically increase. How much is determined by how warm the world becomes over the next 35 years. Image source: Nature.)

The upshot of this study is that amplifying carbon feedbacks from the Earth environment are probably starting to happen on a large scale now. And we may be seeing some evidence for this effect during 2016 as rates of atmospheric carbon dioxide accumulation are hitting above 3 parts per million per year for the second year in a row even as global rates of human emissions plateaued.

Beyond the Point of No Return

What this means is that the stakes for cutting human carbon emissions to zero as swiftly as possible just got a whole hell of a lot higher. If we fail to do this, we will easily be on track for 5-7 C or worse warming by the end of this Century. And this level of warming happening so soon and over so short a timeframe is an event that few, if any, current human civilizations are likely to survive. Furthermore, if we are to avoid terribly harmful warming over longer periods, we must not only rapidly transition to renewable energy sources. We must also somehow learn to pull carbon, on net, out of the atmosphere in rather high volumes.

Today, Professor Ivan Janssens of the University of Antwerp noted:

“This study is very important, because the response of soil carbon stocks to the ongoing warming, is one of the largest sources of uncertainty in our climate models. I’m an optimist and still believe that it is not too late, but we urgently need to develop a global economy driven by sustainable energy sources and start using CO2, as a substrate, instead of a waste product. If this happens by 2050, then we can avoid warming above 2C. If not, we will reach a point of no return and will probably exceed 5C.”

In other words, even the optimists at this time think that we are on the cusp of runaway catastrophic global warming. That the time to urgently act is now.


Quantifying Soil Carbon Losses in Response to Warming

Netherlands Institute of Ecology

Earth Warming to Climate Tipping Point

This is the Most Dangerous Time for Our Planet

Climate Change Escalating So Fast it is Beyond the Point of No Return


Soil Respiration

Mark Cochrane in podcast version…

28 11 2016

Mark Cochrane, Professor and Senior Research Scientist at the Geospatial Science Center of Excellence at South Dakota State University, returns to the podcast after a year and a half to update us on what the latest science has to tell us on the (often controversial) topic of climate change.

Mark has been researching the climate for over 20 years, and among his many other accomplishments, moderates what we believe to be the most level-headed, open-minded and data-centric discussion forum on climate change available on the Internet today.

In this week’s podcast, Mark updates us on the latest empirical data, separates out what science can and cannot prove today regarding climate change, and provides clarity into closely-related but less well-understood issues, such as ocean acidification:

Ocean acidity levels have gone up by 30 percent in recent decades. It is off the charts compared to the previous baseline of millions of years in terms of the rapidity of this. Have we had really high acid levels before? Yeah, but that was many millions of years ago. It didn’t happen over night they way it is now.

What we have is all of the organisms that rely on calcium or calcium carbonate shells, whether it’s their external shells or internal systems, they are under increasing amounts of stress, having a harder and harder time making those calcium-based structures.

In a lot of places, we’re already losing things. In the coastal areas they’re is a lot of carbon that was actually buried back in the ’50s and ’60s that is now simply of washing ashore in those regions. That is not even as bad as it is going to be. There is an increasing amount of studies looking at this in various ways to try to get a handle on what is happening now. There is just a study out yesterday showing how they can actually look at what the concentrations are going to be like by 2100. See how things will respond. They took some coral. They put them there and just monitored how they responded. It was not just a question of them resolving or having a harder time to grow. They will fight the tide so to speak. They will keep trying. But they are stressed. What they are finding is that they get these worms that start riddling through it; and actually eating it, and not just dissolving it. It is kind of a double whammy for a lot of these systems.

So we know it’s ongoing. We can measure it. We can see it. The question is trying to infer what will occur because of it? Now, we know we are losing the base of a lot of food chain items. Therefore, it’s harder and harder for other things that are not directly impacted to feed. We also have a variety of other things going on for the coral reefs between the heating causing bleaching, people blowing them up, fishing and other human-based efforts.

Right there, we are losing the food source for about a half a billion people.

This will take time to play out. But it’s a major concern right now. It’s one that’s not on many people’s radar because it’s the ocean: it’s far away and vast. It’s been around for a long time.

Well, life will go on. It will just not be the sort of life that we’re used to.

The modern version of ‘Let them eat cake’

19 11 2016

In this spontaneous conversation between two of Britain’s most vocal scientists on climate change and engineering, we see a frank analysis of the details that belie inconvenient truths for each one us……

Our current carbon pollution rate is taking us towards a planet that is on average 4ªC warmer than today with regional variations far exceeding this and changes to the natural world that will be so profound that it is fair to say, this will not be the same planet.

Carbon sequestering technologies

Anderson: “Carbon sequestration works at very small levels. Whether you could scale it up to 35 billion tonnes… this is where you suck the CO2 either out of the atmosphere or out of chimneys from power stations and then you store this as liquid CO2 somewhere for the next thousand plus years. To store this quantity of CO2, this is a huge challenge. Yet, this is normalised in almost all of the models that are advising policymakers… every single scenario that has been discussed, at this event in Paris that I have heard, assumes, without actually mentioning it up front, that this technology works. It is highly speculative!”

Carbon Budget

One of the big omissions from the Paris Accord is the mention of the carbon budget. Anderson discusses why this is so important. The remaining 900 billion tonnes that analysts say we can burn before exceeding the carbon budget for safe climate change (a figure that should not be taken as absolute fact, but rather, based on ‘scenarios’ that are themselves dependent on carbon negative technologies, that currently do not exist, and emissions reductions that should have started years ago) is meant to be divided up in a fair and equitable way, placing emphasis on the world’s poor to give them a better quality of life and resilience to climate changes in their region.

By taking out the mention of the carbon budget in the early stages of the Paris negotiations, the implication is that the conversation over who burns what can be sidestepped and the wealthy nations do not have to tackle this central issue straight on.

It is worth adding to this that achieving 1.5ºC as a safe limit of global mean temperature rise to ensure the safety of exposed regions (such as low lying lands and small island states), is only possible with aggressive and immediate decarbonisation over the next ten years. Thus, the number is only being treated as “aspirational” and not realistic.

Anderson: “The problem with carbon, it is in the dyes in my shirt. It is in the ship that brought my shirt here, it’s how we got to this event, it keeps the lights on, it’s keeping your computer running. Carbon is completely pervasive.”

The +2ºC world

Anderson: “It is highly unlikely that we will hold to 2º Centigrade. It is a choice. We know how to do this today but it does require this social and political change in the short-term.”

The reality of the issue is that we are losing the window of opportunity to stay below 2ºC. As we start looking to a 2-4ºC world, we are looking at planet that is likely to be wrought with famine, conflict, overwhelming migration and huge degradation of natural systems.

There are worrying feedbacks to warming the planet that should concern us all. One example is the collapse of global forests. A scientific study has shown that at 2.5ºC increase in temperature many of the worlds forests will collapse. These are huge carbon sinks and sources of oxygen. The world without trees is certain to be challenging.

Of course, we can add in all kinds of other impacts such as the collapse of ice sheets, melting permafrost, dying off of oceans, and they are all severely bad for life on Earth.

Social values and climate justice?

Hunt: “So, why is the mood here quite optimistic? It seems to me we may well have passed some tipping points. Time will tell in the next few decades.”

Anderson: “Part of the optimism comes from rich people in the northern hemisphere who think we can buy our way out of it…. you hear people use this kind of language… what this means is, ‘we’ll muddle through because we are rich enough to buy our way out of it, and the poor will die!’ If you look at the language we use and peel away the layers, and look beneath it, what we are saying is fairly savage!”

Hunt: “This is the modern version of ‘Let them eat cake’. We seem to be accepting that our lifestyles will not change very much. Somehow we have to put in a political framework, a legal framework, a governance framework to solve the problem, without affecting our lifestyles.”

“Geoengineering” the climate

Anderson: “Personally, my view on this is that we should do the research on these techniques and we should do the research on the techniques for sucking the CO2 out of the air, but all of our policy framing should assume they don’t work. So it is an insurance policy that has a very high probability of never paying out. So we should do the research and assume that they will never work. The problem is that we are not doing very much research and we are assuming that they work.”

Hunt: “The research that I have been involved in on the SPICE project (Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering), a small test that we want to do, had to be stopped because of the concerns about the perception of what we were doing. It was not because of the concerns about what we were actually doing, but about the perception of what we were doing.”

“I think that this is a bit worry that the perception of what we are doing in pumping 35 billion tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere seems not to be of any great concern, but the perception of research we might do into climate engineering is of great concern. I’m not saying that it is not a great concern but let’s get a balance.”

Anderson: “I take the view that we can actually make a big difference by making social changes now. We can still just make the 2ºC but it needs rapid and deep reductions by this relatively small set of big emitters. Because we are saying we’re not prepared to do that, therefor we have to think about the other sets of issues. I think we do need to reinvigorate the debate about social change in the short to medium term, whilst we put the low carbon energy supply in place.”

“All these other techniques are contentious and they may not work. If we could reduce our energy consumption today, that is not everybody on the planet but just a relatively small number of us. Then that definitely would have an impact on our carbon emissions very quickly.”


Hunt: “We are coming into a period of great stress. I think that our young kids at school now are going to be our new generation of inspirational people. I am not just relying on them rather hopefully. I just believe that the world we are going into will be very stressful and that people will rise to the challenge and great things will happen.”

Anderson: “I think we have all the tools we need to resolve this problem, pretty much at our fingertips, but we are not prepared to use them now. And the two I have mentioned are: Very significant social change for the few in the short to medium term, and engineers doing what engineers have been very good at doing for decades, if not centuries, and that is changing our infrastructure towards a very low carbon future going forward.”

“If you put those two together I think that 2ºC is still a viable goal for our society.”

Another Harquebus newsletter…..

19 10 2016

Hi all.

It has been some time since my last. I have been hoping against hope that some of our main stream journalists would have realized by now that, the growth mantra espoused by business leaders and pursued by their minions, our politicians, is not the road to prosperity but, is instead a fools errand that will eventually bring about a collapse. Mathematics does not lie.

Pursuing growth is equivalent to chasing death and we are gaining on it. It is destroying the environment, poisoning everything in the ocean that we eat and consuming at an ever increasing rate all that is required to sustain us.

Our politicians are crazy. Only the insane could think that growth can continue forever.

Our main stream journalists, they are wimps. They are more interested is saving their jobs than they are about saving their children. Who else would sacrifice their children for the insane concept of infinite growth other than insanely pathetic wimps?

Again, I urge all journalists on my list to wake the (insert expletive here) up, find your courage and do something about this mad pursuit of growth at all costs while there is something left to save. Time is short.

“As long as we pursue growth, no amount of resources will solve our problems.” — Irv Mills

“One day, because of the white mans’ or Yo-ne-gis’ greed, there would come a time, when the fish would die in the streams, the birds would fall from the air, the waters would be blackened, and the trees would no longer be, mankind as we would know it would all but cease to exist.” — Eyes of Fire of the Cree Indian tribe prophecy.



“Limits to growth means a shrinking piece of pie for everyone.  Capitalism can only justify the huge disparities in wealth distribution the constant propaganda that we all have the potential to become billionaires (especially if the government stops regulating businesses and taxing the rich).”
“Capitalism is lauded as the best political and economic system, but in reality it’s just the most successful at extracting energy and natural resources the most quickly to enrich mainly the top 0.1% of the population, future generations be damned.


“Every minute, on average, there was a net increase of some 169 people, and every day, an already overburdened Mother Earth had to somehow furnish food, clean freshwater, wood, energy, land, raw materials and a safe, stable climate for 244,000 new claimants and consumers.”
“The need to provide ever more energy for an ever-increasing population will alone generate massive environmental impacts.”
“Human overpopulation and overconsumption have pushed the Earth into its sixth major extinction event since multicellular life emerged on the planet.”
“But reality is reality: on a finite planet, population growth will stop, one way or the other. The only question is how:”


“We know our current path will lead to catastrophe—incompatible with the livelihoods of billions of people. These profound changes will happen in our lifetimes. These impacts will happen, and are happening, to us. That scientists are willing to speak in increasingly bold terms about the seemingly impossible situation we’re in may help us to question the fundamental economic model that’s brought us to this point.”


“Despite its outlandish theoretical flaws and nonsensical economic jargon and the catastrophic empirical evidence of its failure to prevent financial downturns or “stimulate” sustainable growth, Keynesianism remains the ruling paradigm of economic thought.”

“A number of trenchant reasons have been given for the General Theory’s continued dominance, however, one stands above all else: Keynesian economics provides the intellectual justification for economists, statisticians, technocrats, bureaucrats, and policy wonks in their exalted positions as “fine tuners” of economies the world over.”
“That Keynesianism continues to reign supreme, despite its theoretical and empirical bankruptcy, speaks volumes of the state of Western intellectual and academic life.  Instead of the pursuit of truth and the refutation of error, Western intelligentsia is primarily concerned with securing privilege and power for itself.


“So from 1992, right when Earth was experiencing a freak cooling period caused by a humungous volcanic eruption, scientists established a whole new way of measuring sea levels, and it’s led to one of the biggest mysteries in climate science – why rising sea levels have remained so oddly consistent.”

“And so we now live in a hyper-sensitive society in which social memes and feelings have overtaken biological and objective reality as the main determinants of right and wrong.”

“This is what the cynics just don’t seem to grasp; we are dealing with a group of narcissistic psychopaths organized around a cult ideology and with nearly unlimited resources at their fingertips.  These people think they are rising man-gods, like the Egyptian pharaohs of old.  They cannot be persuaded through superior logic or emotional appeal.  They will not be deterred by mass activism or peaceful redress.  They only understand one thing — the force of arms and the usefulness of lies.”

“So as the cheaper, easier stuff is no longer growing, the world has to rely on more expensive unconventionals, like tar sands in Canada or shale gas in the US, which require costly fracking technology to extract, and more difficult processes to refine.”
“The more we rely on more expensive and lower quality energy to keep the economy moving, the slower the economy moves.”


“From 1998 to 2012, the rate at which the global surface temperature increased slowed down—a phenomenon dubbed “the global warming hiatus.” During the same time period, sea level in the western tropical Pacific Ocean increased four times faster than the average global sea level rise.”

“There’s a danger that, as the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, huge amounts of methane will enter the atmosphere due to destabilization of hydrates at its seafloor.”

“For the capitalists, the bottom line is far more pressing than the fate of the planet or those who live on it.”

“The exploitation at the heart of capitalism also gives rise to a wholly oppressive system that is not simply economic. Exploitation cannot function without an accompanying ideological and legal apparatus backed up by the armed might of the police and the military.
At its heart, capitalism is an exploitative system driven by competition for profit. These features cannot be reformed away. They can be overthrown only by the working class collectively taking control of the means of production and wielding them to create a society in which profit and competition are no longer our masters.”
“Of all the resources in the world, oil is top dog.  All other resources depend on oil.  You can get every fish in the sea, drain every drop out of non-renewable aquifers, make enough concrete to pave the planet, and convert every square mile of land to grow crops and feed barnyard animals cutting down the remaining forests.  Which we are well on our way to doing.  But only oil can do it, because the heavy-duty diesel engines that do the essential work of civilization run on diesel fuel.”

“In addition to the acidification threatening the bottom of the oceanic food chain, we have already stripped off the top of the food chain. 90% of the apex predators in the ocean are gone, fished out and eaten by humans over the last 100 years. The ocean is now largely a garbage-filled desert, favored by ever-increasing numbers of jellyfish.”
” From the evidence in the ice core records, natural processes take about 1000 years to remove 1 ppm of CO2 from the air. So it would take the planet 120,000 years to remove the CO2 we’ve added over the last 200 years. And we’re adding another 2,500 years to that planetary bill every single year.”


“Drought and heat are the apparent culprits in the largest killing of mangrove thickets ever recorded in the world — 17,000 acres along 400 miles of northern Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria. This catastrophe for all sea life in the region, just reported last week, coincides with the world’s worst ever coral bleaching event, on the Great Barrier Reef, and the death of a 60-mile-long stretch of kelp forest off Australia’s western coast.”

“Long story short, we should be frightened because if humans continue on their current course, we are very likely (insert expletive here).”
“Lead researcher Associate Professor Nerilie Abram from The Australian National University (ANU) said the study found warming began during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution and is first detectable in the Arctic and tropical oceans around the 1830s, much earlier than scientists had expected.”
“”The Southern Ocean winds are now stronger than at any other time in the past 1,000 years,” Abram said.”
[http://”Lead researcher Associate Professor Nerilie Abram from The Australian National University (ANU) said the study found warming began during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution and is first detectable in the Arctic and tropical oceans around the 1830s, much earlier than scientists had expected.” “”The Southern Ocean winds are now stronger than at any other time in the past 1,000 years,” Abram said.”]

“The principle antagonists in the destruction of orangutan natural habitats are the companies who have come to depend on cheap palm oil to produce a broad array of consumer products from biodiesel fuel to hair and beauty-care products like shampoo and toothpaste to food products such as pizza crusts, frying oil, snack foods and noodles.”
“Given that much argument and hate is fought in a world of insult (the cleverer the better) often waged intemperately and unreasonably, the protections of such an exempting section are bound to be skimpy. Australia’s continued hostility to a Bill of Rights insists that judges and lawmakers, not the public, which is regarded with suspicion, should determine reason and good faith.”
“Free speech remains the terror of the Antipodean mind, one ever faithful to penal control and state regulation.”

“Sea levels are dropping, earthquakes and volcanoes are waking up, and even the earth’s axis is moving—all because of melting ice”

“The age of 400 parts per million CO2 is here. It’s something not seen in about 3 million years.”


Another silver bullet bites the dust….

10 10 2016

A recent article in the Guardian explains why scientists now believe that soil’s potential to soak up climate changing carbon dioxide has been overestimated by as much as 40%….

Hopes that large amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide could be buried in soils appear to be grossly misplaced, with new research finding that the ground will soak up far less carbon over the coming century than previously thought.

Radiocarbon dating of soils, when combined with previous models of carbon uptake, has shown the widely assumed potential for carbon sequestration to combat climate change has been overestimated by as much as 40%.

Scientists from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) found that models used by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assume a much faster cycling of carbon through soils than is actually the case. Data taken from 157 soil samples taken from around the world show the average age of soil carbon is more than six times older than previously thought.


Mark Cochrane

Mark Cochrane, our resident climate scientist, recently picked up on this at Chris Martenson’s Peak prosperity blog and wrote the following……?

The article points again to the problems with global models of climate change. Those who generally complain about ‘models’ usually do so to try to imply that they are wrong and that this therefore means that they are overstating climate change. The fact of the matter is that although they are ‘wrong’, the errors, in principle, are just as likely to understate as overstate the situation. In reality, the science tends to be conservative, as scientists are usually constrained to using what is statistically defensible for many of the parameters within their models, so the likelihood of understating known issues (e.g. ice sheet collapses) is greater than substantially overstating them, which is why the vast majority of new findings point out that climate change is progressing faster than we have been estimating.

The famous quote by George Box “All models are wrong, but some are useful” nicely sums up the state of things. Much of what we do in this world is based on our internal modeling, some of which is of high accuracy, “the sun comes up every morning”, and other ideas somewhat less so,  “I’m a safe driver so driving is not risky”. Weather models are notoriously inaccurate but we find quite a lot of utility in consulting them anyway. They may not be absolutely ‘right’ but they are usually reasonably close to the ultimate conditions. Climate models have multitudinous components but their ultimate function basically boils down to calculating the balance between sources and sinks of carbon in the atmosphere, then estimating what the ramifications are of the net changes in type and amounts of the so-called greenhouse gases.

Sources are emissions from things like burning fossil fuels, and positive feedbacks like melting permafrost that releases a portion of the carbon stock, that has literally been frozen in place for millennia, to the atmosphere as the climate warms. Sinks are things like ocean uptake of carbon as higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations force the gas into the water, like occurs in your soda bottle or beer can. Negative feedbacks are those that ultimately bring the system back into balance after excessive emissions and include things like plants soaking up carbon and ultimately depositing some of it for long term storage in soils, in addition to transformation of silicate rocks to carbonate rocks as mountains erode and deposit sediments into the sea, soaking up atmospheric carbon in the process.

As I have mentioned before, the existence of a positive or negative feedback is only part of the story, we also need to know the rate at which it proceeds and ultimately how long it might continue. If you put a match to a high concentration of an explosive gas (say hydrogen) the positive feedback of energy release from a few molecules transferring energy to the proximate molecules will proceed very rapidly but not for very long before the process runs its course in the explosion. On the other hand, eroding the Himalayan mountains down to sea level will soak up immense amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere but will take millions of years to accomplish.

All of which is providing context for what the He et  al. (2016) paper is saying. Soil carbon is a catch all term for many chemical compounds in soils that have carbon as a component. This makes the ‘organic’ component of soils. If you are modeling the rate at which carbon can get soaked up by soils you need to know the processes involved and calibrate them using parameters that balance the rates at which carbon enters and leaves the soil. What the new research is showing is that the current Earth Systems Models (ESMs – components of Global Climate Models – GCMs) currently underestimate the age of organic materials (carbon) in existing soils which effectively means that they overestimate the rate at which carbon is likely to be sequestered through plant growth/soil formation in the future. The upshot being that the models are currently estimating that soils will soak up potentially twice as much carbon between now and 2100 as seems likely. If the carbon isn’t getting soaked up it means that it could pile up in the atmosphere for longer than presently estimated and act to warm the planet more than currently projected.

As in all scientific matters, these results will be tested by other scientists and either be verified, refuted or refined. So what does it signify if this is correct? The soil component is only one pool among many but the net fluxes are what matters in the climate situation. For example:

With a Net Terrestrial Uptake of 3.0, the findings could indicate that this should be better described as 1.5-2.0. This could conceivably move the net atmospheric increase from 4.0 to 5.0 or so, a 25% increase. Non trivial. That said, what it probably means is that existing errors in other components of the modeling are either partially overstating emissions or global photosynthesis or understating net oceanic uptake. Therefore, instead of a 25% increase in atmospheric carbon there would be a smaller compounding increase between now and 2100, how small is the question. Future studies will be aimed at teasing these interacting components apart.