This entry was posted on November 25, 2010 at 22:33 and is filed under English. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
The New YORK Times doesn’t have comics, but does have a good example of effective science communication.
Pull quote: “Other potent warming agents include three short-lived gases — methane, some hydrofluorocarbons and lower atmospheric ozone — and dark soot particles. The warming effect of these pollutants, which stay in the atmosphere for several days to about a decade, is already about 80 percent of the amount that carbon dioxide causes. The world could easily and quickly reduce these pollutants; the technology and regulatory systems needed to do so are already in place.”
What I’ve consistently said – and is supported in the article – is that successful mitigation can and will be accomplished by actions whose primary rationale and benefit is something other than climate. That you, especially, don’t see this is puzzling to me.
I am optimistic about energy transformation and therefore climate mitigation. What is “doomed to failure” is relying on international bodies and punitive pricing schemes.
What I’ve consistently said – and is supported in the article – is that successful mitigation can and will be accomplished by actions whose primary rationale and benefit is something other than climate.
The article doesn’t support that at all. It simply says that it would be relatively cheap to do so. Cheap is certainly a benefit when discussing ways to limit warming, since that’s what they’re saying, I certainly agree with them.
Opposition to mitigation via international bodies and punitive pricing is only ideological if ideological is defined as opposing something that a) is unlikely to happen and b) wouldn’t work if it did. You want mitigation. I show you the way. You prefer to do nothing.
Are you criticizing me for agreeing with a revered scientist? I wasn’t on the internet in 2000 and have never been part of the denialati, but I do remember the reaction I got at climateprogress when I brought up the linked paper and related NASA studies in 2008.
What I’ve consistently said – and is supported in the article – is that successful mitigation can and will be accomplished by actions whose primary rationale and benefit is something other than climate.
Paul, what would be the primary rationale for the reduction of methane, some hydrofluorocarbons and lower atmospheric ozone — and dark soot particles?
You can reduce dark soot particles by accelerating access to fossil fuels, mainly diesel, and improving living conditions – the primary rationale for both, it would seem, lie outside any reasons to reduce CO2. In fact, increasing present-day fossil fuel combustion emissions is perhaps a surefure way to put populations on a path to be able to demand reductions in pollution tomorrow.
Lower atmospheric ozone is a key component of photochemical smog, a problem in the atmosphere of many cities and some rural areas.around the world. It is a major cause of respiratory problems. It is increasingly linked to damage to forests and agricultural production. These negative effects exist even if it were not also a climate forcing.
Dark soot also is a classic air pollutant. In addition, it is a major driver of glacial and sea ice loss. That is rationale enough to reduce carbon soot as proved by the support soot reduction has received from stone climate denier Sen. James Imhofe. That it has now been identified as a significant positive feedback mechanism just makes focusing on it more persuasive.
Paul, what would be the primary rationale for the reduction of methane, some hydrofluorocarbons and lower atmospheric ozone
Why, obviously not to mitigate against climate change, even though the source he quotes says explicitly that this would be a cheap and effective way to mitigate against climate change in the short term!
And as Eli points out, Hansen said this years ago and has continued to say it, giving the lie to Kelly’s claim that in essence concerned people are arguing the perfect (mitigation via vastly decreased CO2 emissions) against the good (more easily taken steps for short-term mitigation).
The reason for focussing first on the “easy” targets is ironically the same as the reason why we can’t abandon focussing on CO2 either: The long atmospheric lifetime of the latter. Because that means two things:
1) It takes much stronger emission reductions (for CO2) to make a dent in the atmospheric concentration (compared to shorter lived compouinds such as ozone or methane or BC).
2) CO2 emissions accummulate in the atmosphere, so in the long run, they’re goin to be ever more dominant. The lomnger we postpone bringing CO2 emissions down, the harder it will be.
Here is what I disagree with – your claim that the authors are in agreement with your claim that their proposal isn’t about mitigation.
I agree with them. I also agree with those who say their proposals will quite likely fail, precisely *because* they’re making a mitigation argument, and any and all mitigation arguments are likely to be defeated due to the political power of those who deny that global warming is a reality.
This last is where we agree. Coordinated mitigation efforts on a global scale are a non-starter at this point in time.
Where I disagree is:
1. we should give up on mitigation it’s a non-starter because the populace at large no longer believes it’s necessary or beneficial (evidence being CA’s overwhelming support for CO2 mitigation in the last election), as opposed to the flexing of power of special interests which has led to the collapse of action at the national level in the US (action that would’ve taken place already if it weren’t for the filibuster procedural rules of the Senate).
2. we should give up on mitigation at the regional and national levels because efforts by individual regions (US west coast) or nations (Germany etc) are useless.
3. all other arguments you make against mitigation, all of which stem from a personal dislike, on your part, of international agreements and so-called “punitive” pricing.
You must admit that Eli has a point: Hansen seems to have been saying the same thing as you now are for a while. Hansen has encountered some reticence, reticence which you might yourself encounter soon enough. I’m not sure why you dismiss his remark as a criticism for you agreeing with Hansen.
Since this remark from Eli seems relevant in the context of the actual discussion and that your remark is as relevant as Eli’s, I’ll go take a look.
You must admit that Eli has a point: Hansen seems to have been saying the same thing as you now are for a while.
Not quite. Hansen has argued that we pick low hanging fruit while pushing for zero carbon emissions, all in the name of mitigation.
Hansen believes we should directly tax carbon emissions – which I’d say is somewhat different than Kelly’s arguing that we shouldn’t adopt “painful pricing”.
And Hansen doesn’t say we should throw in the towel and stop fighting for climate change mitigation, including CO2, but be satisfied with accepting whatever reductions in CO2 emissions fall out from BAU technological advancements.
Shub and Paul Kelly, thanks for explaining. And what about methane? Another primary rationale for methane. Animal welfare? Anti-flatulent medication? The re-freezing of permafrost? The development of clathrate mining?
To be more clear, Willard, the “revered scientist” is arguing for an efficient approach to mitigate against climate change, while Paul Kelly argues that we drop mitigation as a political goal and simply hope that sufficient CO2 reductions will be a beneficial, if largely accidental, side effect of focusing on technical magic bullets that will enable us to avoid “painful pricing” and international cooperation, etc.
Methane is emitted from a variety of both human-related (anthropogenic) and natural sources. Human-related activities include fossil fuel production, animal husbandry (enteric fermentation in livestock and manure management), rice cultivation, biomass burning, and waste management. These activities release significant quantities of methane to the atmosphere. It is estimated that 60% of global methane emissions are related to human-related activities (IPCC, 2001c). http://chem.ps.uci.edu/~kcjanda/Group/clathrateweb/MethaneSource.htm
I’m asking this here and elsewhere because the answer, which I don’t know, may help inform the discussion.
If doubling CO2 causes about a 1C rise by its radiative properties alone, does an actual sensitivity of 3C mean that other forcings and feedbacks account for 2/3 (or twice that of CO2) of the increase? Does the importance of other forcings and feedbacks increase if actual sensitivity is greater than 3C?
Willard, a major part of the problem is that mitigation and adaptation are bad and coarse ways of describing what we need to do. A major part of this is that climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions is an accumulating problem and that time is a major issue. What Hansen advocated in 2000 is not enough now because we wasted 10 years. This is a problem with major procrastination penalties, something Paul has not come to grips with yet.
What Paul calls mitigation is really substitution, affecting future emissions. What he calls adaptation is really amelioration and conservation. Eli has proposed the five fold way, which is a much better and finer grained way of thinking about how to deal with the problems we face.
# Adaptation to deal with the damage already done
# Amelioration, eliminating harmful effects of our actions
# Conservation with needed and desired but not wasteful usage
# Substitution of green systems for destructive ones
# Mitigation reversing our thoughtless abuse
Yes, the bare radiative effects of a doubling of CO2, leaving all else equal (i.e. not allowing feedbacks to kick in) is around 1.2 degrees C.
If other conditions are allowed to change as a result, we get all kinds of positive and negative feedbacks, where the former dominate according to both theory and measurements, to a total effect of ~3 (+/- 1) deg C. The difference between 1.2 and 3 (or whatever the “true” number is) is indeed contributed by the net feedback. The uncertainty in climate sensitivity is primarily in the strength of these feedbacks.
I agree that your five fold way is way better than a false dichotomy leading to a false dilemma. More generally, I always find myself in agreement when you offer a finer grained to think about problems.
What does not work is to say something like:
> What Hansen advocated in 2000 is not enough now because we wasted 10 years. This is a problem with major procrastination penalties, something Paul has not come to grips with yet.
This antagonizes Paul for no constructive reasons. It might be fair to use “penalty” when he’s using “punitive”, but the mind probing that follows is certainly not. Surreptitiously introducing quantified reasoning does not help either.
If you think Paul does not understand some concepts, then explain them to him. If you think Paul does need to take some calculations into consideration, show the numbers. If you think Paul has said something that deserves to be refuted, quote him. If you and him agree with what Hansen were saying ten years ago, there are fair chances you can reach an agreement with Paul.
If you want to talk to Paul, try to talk to him. Ignoring Paul is way better than snubbing him.
The other things first approach is the opposite of time wasting. It is the science based strategy that, in fact, offsets the true procrastination penalties incurred while waiting for the Lords of Cancun.
You do turn a phrase and “mitigation is really substitution” describes my position well. I’m not an adaptation advocate and see conservation and efficiencies as part of the substitution process.
The key thing to remember is the approach you can expect.
Reduce soot, methane, and fluorocarbon — short term relief from immediate increase in warming. Then the argument will go there’s no need to make serious longterm cuts in persistent greenhouse gases, or shift investment to non-fossil-fuel energy sources, because we have put the problem off — we have “peace in our time” and the future can take care of itself.
The idea is that cuts in persistent greenhouse gases will be made through a social process rather than a political one. Reducing soot, methane, and fluorocarbon will give both short term and long term relief. When a source of these short lived forcings is eliminated, it is eliminating for good.
I think what Hank is getting at could be a real risk indeed: short term success (diminishing the warming) at the cost of long term success. Esp with the current political climate I deem that more likely than that short term success paves the road for long term success.
I still do not see how reducing methane emissions is low-hanging fruit, and what the primary rationale for cutting it could be other than the AGW-thing that turns everybody off.
I would guess most methane emissions are caused by livestock, yes? That would mean people would have to start eating less meat. Forget about it, it will never happen. How are you ever going to sell it, especially if you are not allowed to say it’s for mitigating the consequences of AGW?
What are the percentages of those three (methane, some hydrofluorocarbons and lower atmospheric ozone — and dark soot particles)? If methane is the biggest contributor, then this whole discussion is useless.
A lot of the AGW-thing that turns some people off can imho be traced back to the CO2 mitigation that turns them off (the science is just attacked as a proxy). Of course that’s not true for all skeptics, but for the shrill political voices who seem to have the upper hand these days it most likely is. For this “anything but CO2” opposition, I think it likely that other mitigation efforts will be less severely opposed, inasmuch as they can be framed in a different rationale than climate mitigation (otherwise they’ll lose face by being overtly inconsistent). So for reductions in BC, O3 and N2O (and to a lesser extent CH4 and HFC’s) I’d expect less opposition than to CO2. The IPCC radiative forcings chapter gives relative contributions, or see this Ramanathan PNAS paper (fig 2).
Main sources of methane AFAIKBH are livestock, wet rice agriculture and waste disposal facilities.
Thanks for those links, Bart. If I’m eyeballing those figures correctly, methane constitutes about 50% of the total warming effect of non-CO2 factors.
I think it likely that other mitigation efforts will be less severely opposed, inasmuch as they can be framed in a different rationale than climate mitigation
Of course, I get that. But what would that different rationale for methane be? Global meat demand and consumption will go up for a while to come, same for wet rice and I don’t see us reducing waste any time soon (Sinterklaas and Christmas sales breaking records like they do every year).
This is only logical, for the economy must grow, grow, grow! Nothing must be reduced.
The risk you and Hank fear seems illogical. First, it assumes only short term benefits from secondary forcing reduction because they are short lived in the atmosphere. This ignores the fact that once a secondary forcings source is eliminated, it is permanent. Each year they are not replenished is another year of benefit.
Essentially you’re saying that instead of taking action now that will definitely diminish warming, it is better to willfully let the situation get worse in hope that politicians in the future will do something that 20 years of experience indicates they won’t.
Again, I urge you to look at cutting CO2 emissions as a social process, rather than a political one.
You’re not paraphrasing me correctly, as I’m not arguing that willfully letting things go worse is the way to go.
In a simplistic picture, I think it looks more or less like this:
Reducing shortlived warming agents (with a limited atmospheric lifetime) doesn’t reduce the slope (i.e. the long term rate of warming) very much, but rather shifts the line of temperature vs time to the right (or effectively downwards) by a little. Its benefit is constant in time.
Reducing longlived emissions (e.g. CO2, which therefore accumulates in the atmosphere) reduces the slope (i.e. the long term rate of warming). Its benefit grows over time.
The risk Hank put forward is not physically illogical, though you may deem it less politically realistic than he and I do. I hope you’re right, though I’m not quite convinced.
And let’s face it. If we’re honestly concerned about methane effects, let’s get the 800 lb gorilla out of the room, the CO2.
Permafrost and clathrates releasing methane because of CO2 (or any other) warming will be far, far worse than our puny production.
As for politicians, my suspicion is that the business community is getting ahead of them (leaving the FF industries out of this one). And it will be the business groups representing technologically advanced industry who will drag the politicians, kicking and screaming if necessary, out of the corner they’ve painted themselves into.
No, I don’t think they would. If the reduction in emission is permanent, then the benefit (say, -0.1 deg C) will also be permanent, but will not increase over time. This is of course very simplified, mind you, but nevertheless touches on a major difference between reducing longlived vs shortlived species.
I linked to the NY Times op-ed not because it was about OTF, but as an example of good communication. The authors presented the science in an understandable way. They recommended optimal achievable strategies based on the science.
OTF looks to have growing support ranging from the enthusiastic to the grudging. Some favor it because a sound basis in science, others for a lack of better options. Some for both. Even those who favor CO2 first generally agree the political approach is closed in the near term.
The main criticisms of OTF are: 1) They may be no more politically possible than CO2 policies. 2) Actions to reduce CO2 would be put off or abandoned. I’ll try to show that neither criticism is correct.
2) This is only valid if governments must be the vehicles of action. When cutting CO2 is done as a social process, OTF becomes no impediment at all.
The case for OTF is convincing and not just because of political realities. OTF is dictated by the science. There is no reasonable argument against it. I cite Hansen, Tobis, and the Jacobson Stanford group as authorities for this statement. Those who are most concerned about potential disastrous effects of greenhouse gases should enthusiastically endorse it.
I had never heard the term other things first before this thread started. While I thinks it’s the right idea, I do not intend to advocate, promote, defend or explain it. Anyone with questions about or disagreements with OTF should contact the authors of the op-ed or the scientists mentioned above.
Those who think we should be about cutting CO2, whether before or in tandem with OTF – and I include myself in the second group – should certainly focus on that. The challenge is to do it in a way that does not directly attack CO2.
There are only two ways to directly suppress CO2 emissions: shut down the electrical and industrial infrastructure or tax the hell out of it. Neither of those options are available. Actually that is liberating. It frees us to think of mitigation in terms of fossil fuel replacement. Success is measured by how much substitution takes place, The focus is deployment, deployment, deployment.
If so, that would put Ramanathan in the grudgingly came to OTF category, his decision based more on social science than on physical science. He might have said, and by the way, it’s solid on the physical science too.” I think we can leave the discussion of OTF to others more interested in it. There are more interesting topics, e.g. replacing fossil fuel.
There are several equally valid and not mutually exclusive reasons to replace fossil fuels. Among them are economics, environment, geopolitics, the march of humanity and, of course, climate. One single goal, energy transformation, satisfies all of those reasons. It is a single goal that fulfills the aspirations of prosperity, peace and a sustainable planet.
I wondered if any reason suggested the best path to the goal. I started to ask what would be the course of action if each particular reason was the only reason to replace fossil, then looked at them in combination. I wanted to find an optimal basis for action and for the measurement of success. I settled on an approach dictated by economics and the march of humanity.
Are you saying you reject both the physical science and the political rationales for OTF? If so that’s fine with me. As I’ve said, we should both focus on CO2 cutting. However, continuing to seek CO2 cutting through politics is, at this point in time, a form of inaction.
Based on those (i.e. informed by science) and how I compare/treat different risks (i.e. informed by my values) I think the best course of action would include a strong focus on CO2, and to start making a quick dent in the warming also on shortlived forcings initially. Putting also the political situation and one’s perception of what’s realisitically possible into the mix, and the rationale for OTF obviously increases.
Paul Kelly, I had to think of you while watching this interview with Bill McKibben. And I don’t mean that sarcastically or anything, but I think your POV is fueled too much by the enthusiasm for your project. I can relate to that because I also did some projects of my own a few years back.
“The science is very clear. The window is narrower than we thought. The task is larger than we thought. We’re not going to do it, picking around the edges.”
What bothers me (and I think others as well) is that you come up with this idea that it is strategically more efficient to focus on the low-hanging fruit first, as if people didn’t think about this many years ago already. I mean, the whole thing has a very high amount of DUH to it. For instance, I’ve been donating around 100 euros per year to efficient woodstove projects in Pakistan and India for quite a while now, because quite simply it’s a no-brainer.
And what gets me even more – and MT has criticized you for it as well – is that you don’t seem to get past the duh-proposal. When I engage you and ask how you propose to get people and politicians to cut methane emissions – which constitutes over 50% of the non-CO2 climate forcing stuff – without using climate as a primary rationale, I don’t get a reaction. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so cynical at first, but I don’t think the question is too stupid to be addressed. In fact, I think it goes to the heart of the matter.
Again, I really appreciate your enthusiasm and your project, but unless you start explaining – and please, try to be original if you do – you are mainly wasting people’s time, including your own. And don’t let Keith Kloor encourage you too much, as he needs to do a lot of catching up himself and end his infatuation with the Breakthrough regurgitating tactic of dressing up discussions of 20 years ago in a seemingly brand new outfit. I think you’re too genuine to be employing delaying tactics on purpose (the same goes for KK who can be forgiven for being a journalist :-p ).
Read in above comment: “I had never heard the term other things first before this thread started. While I thinks it’s the right idea, I do not intend to advocate, promote, defend or explain it.” Those who do advocate OTF stress that it is matter of timing, not emphasis.
On the thread on this at KKloor’s I specifically said that He and Bart were wrong to call carbon soot low hanging fruit. I said it is complex and expensive. You may not have read that thread, but these examples make me wonder if you have actually read what I have written, or understand the words in the sentences.
I got drawn into the OTF tangentially because it happened to be mentioned in what I thought was quality science communication. I’ve talked about black soot, but not in the context of OTF, which I didn’t even know soot is part of. I used it as an example of a significant, effective, doable mitigation action whose primary benefit is something other than climate.
Once again, questions about or disagreements with OTF should go to the authors of the op-ed or the scientists mentioned above. I am focused on bottom up methods of deployment through individual initiative. The criticisms by MT and others on that topic are well taken.
Some seem to think I advocate everybody should drop what they’re doing and do what I’m doing, which is absurd. What I advocate is that a portion of the time effort people now put to discussing the nuances of the science or hoe to persuasively frame it or waiting for the political winds to change be put to thinking about how individuals, by themselves and in concert can impact the solution. I don’t know why anyone would resist this out of the box exercise. I am sure they would come up with many ideas different from mine and probably better, too.
Paul, it is true that I perhaps haven’t read all your comments or thoroughly enough, as this thing is spanning multiple threads on multiple blogs. I apologize if I misrepresented you and agree with your comment. There should be at least some bottom-up action to start with. There is one thing I dislike more than the top-down dragging of feet we are witnessing, and that’s all those people who are worried about AGW and demand the government solve it for them.
I really prefer to comment only here (about action vs inaction) and at stoat (mostly about science, but occasionally not). I got spread out – and off topic – after being quoted at Kloor’s, which led to a couple of other places. It confuses me too. Should I bring all that was relevant to bottom up over here?