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42 responses to “International action on climate change – what’s happened?”

  1. Terry

    From this week’s Economist

    The mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures is among the biggest puzzles in climate science just now.

    A study from the Research Council of Norway is also discussed, which produces findings on likely temperature changes considerably below those of the IPCC.

  2. zorronsky

    No doubt Abbott Pyne and Co will add to the impressive list of imports from here: ” The multiplicity of lunacies infecting the Republican Party ensures that a nationwide carbon pricing scheme is off the table for now.”

  3. jess

    Hi Terry – I still think there’s a lot of places for the extra energy to go where we can’t see it.

    As the article notes in passing, the deep oceans in particular are very poorly monitored, and have the capacity to store huge amounts of heat. Perhaps we’re lucky, and the ocean handbrake operates faster than we thought, which might reduce the transient climate response to anthropogenic forcing a little bit.

    Doesn’t help much with sea level rise due to ocean warming though…

  4. jules

    More energy in the system might mean more wind.

    Global Trends in Wind Speed and Wave Height

    Studies of climate change typically consider measurements or predictions of temperature over extended periods of time. Climate, however, is much more than temperature. Over the oceans, changes in wind speed and the surface gravity waves generated by such winds play an important role. We used a 23-year database of calibrated and validated satellite altimeter measurements to investigate global changes in oceanic wind speed and wave height over this period. We find a general global trend of increasing values of wind speed and, to a lesser degree, wave height, over this period. The rate of increase is greater for extreme events as compared to the mean condition.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/332/6028/451.abstract?sid=8d90a079-9230-4484-a651-75d1be37d13a

  5. Fran Barlow

    Jess:

    Hi Terry – I still think there’s a lot of places for the extra energy to go where we can’t see it.

    Very much so. It comes down to simple maths and physics. If more energy is entering the atmosphere than is leaving it, then the world, by definition, is warming. That heat cannot simply disappear.

    As you say, the ocean may be doing a better job here and there of sequestering it than we supposed, giving us more lead time to act while nurturing the cognitively dissonant, but sooner or later, we will get all that extra heat in a form we cannot ignore. When that occurs, the practical meaning of having lived unsustainably will be clear to all and those who suffer it will curse those of us who resisted acting robustly.

  6. Roger Jones

    Terry @1,

    thanks for the pointer to the article, which is interesting in an anthropological sense, and has almost certainly got the wrong end of the stick. Trends are socially constructed statistical models that do not adequately represent the warming process. Unfortunately, most climate scientists have not woken up to this fact, so this article asks and answers the wrong question, with quotes from people who should know better.

    The process is inherently non-linear and warming is going to kick something fierce now or soon. Trying to estimate climate sensitivity from this process (atmosphere only) is really silly. It can only be addressed jointly via the atmosphere and ocean because the two are non-linearly coupled.

  7. jess

    Rog – did you ever publish your step change analysis somewhere? Want to post a link?

  8. faustusnotes

    I really hate the “warming has slowed” idea. It’s fundamentally the wrong way to approach statistical methods, and as the Economist article shows, the predicted temperatures do not lie outside the 95% confidence interval.

    Also, that Economist article shows a basic misunderstanding of the difference between a confidence interval (CI) for predictions and a confidence interval for slopes. We can’t say anything about whether warming has slowed or increased until the CI for the latter changes.

  9. alexinbogota

    Interestingly the IMF is now heavily advocating carbon pricing and even describes the lack of carbon pricing as a subsidy. http://www.imf.org/external/np/pp/eng/2013/012813.pdf

    They also suggest they’re going to be putting out a ‘country specific’ estimates in the future, which I imagine will be conservative, but it’s terrifying that the IEA, the World Bank and the IMF are all advocating much more policy action than is occurring – it is a suggestion of the scale we really need.

  10. Bolt1493

    What Europe and the rest of the developed world has done is to increase their emissions by outsourcing manufacturing to developing world. So while there is officially no rise in their CO2 emissions, the real emissions by person including all their consumption is probably higher than in 1990. Owing to less efficient energy generation and productivity offset by lower wages in thetthird world. The studieson this are only partial but all point to this outcome. So most targets and ETS implented in Europe, USA and here will increase CO2 emissions.
    Nothing will change this unless the economics of world trade change (there is some movement in this as some manufacturing moves back to Europe and the USA), or international agreement on CC or transfers of energy generation technology to the third world speeds up or consumption decreases.
    Personally I don’t see any of these happening or the increase in the demand for energy globally moderating. So CO2 in the atmosphere will continue to climb until something catastrophic occurs.
    Mitigation has to become a more considered alternative.

  11. Roger Jones

    Jess (and others),

    Non-linear climate stuff can be sourced at these locations

    Journal of Geophysical Research: behind the paywall

    Article on The Conversation

    The latest spray at 2risk and recent article on The Conversation

    More to come – this time on the economics of these changes, stay tuned

  12. jumpy

    Roger
    Rajendra Pachauri, as far as I can tell, is not a climate scientist.
    How did he get to be IPCC boss?

  13. John D

    Check out the CO2 data for Muna Loa by Feb 2014 CO2 will have reached 400 ppm. The rate of increase has now reached 3.26. Too fast for carbon price schemes to make a difference.
    If you want to get serious we need to go on a war footing. We need the equivalent the Snowy River Scheme to convert Australia’s power to 100% renewables. We need…….

  14. Roger Jones

    Jumpy,

    the IPCC covers climate science, impacts, vulnerability, adaptation and mitigation over three working groups. Each WG has two chairs and a number of vice chairs from 6 regions. Then there is a Chairman of the IPCC.

    Bob Watson was chair until the Third Assessment Report and there was a move to replace him because he was perceived as being too political (read effective). The US was a player. Pachauri was involved in the mitigation side and is from India, a developing country, so geopolitically a good thing.

    There have been moves to seek another chair but they have come to naught. There is a lot on this I can’t say in a public forum.

    Oceanea’s WG II rep is Neville Smith from the Bureau. Nice chap and knowledgeable.

  15. Paul Norton

    A few year ago I wrote a post titled “Rip Van Bolt’s Missing Months” that discussed the respective roles of the atmosphere and the oceans as repositories for additions of energy to the climate system. That was in response to a column by the Usual Suspect claiming that the global climate was cooling, which was the talking point du jour of the denialists at the time. It’s wryly amusing to see that they’ve shifted from the “global cooling” claim to the claim that global warming has halted – only slightly less amusing than the claim that “global warming stopped in 1998” coming from people who were claiming in 1998 that the world was cooling.

    Regrettably, both that post and another I wrote around the same time are currently inaccessible.

  16. Martin B

    Re: the Norwegian study

    Berntsen at al used statistics to investigate the relationship between global temperatures and changes in radiative forcing. (Radiative forcing is a measure of how much energy is contained in the Earths atmosphere. CO2 is one of many factors). When the scientists added data from the year 2000 to 2010 to their 160 year long time series, the climate sensitivity dropped from 3.7°C to 1.9°C.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but a change of that magnitude from extending the data series by ~6% raises a red flag for me.

  17. Paul Norton

    Martin B @17, it does for me as well.

    In the second of the two lost posts I mentioned @16, I referred to a study published in 2008 that suggested that we were about to see a short-term plateau in gobal atmospheric temperatures, and posited that if this eventuated, global policymakers could be at risk of repeating the Goyder Line disaster on a vast scale, due to the plateau being misinterpreted as a reason to ignore climate change warmings in the same way that the 1865 bumper rains were seen as grounds to ignore Goyder’s advice about the aridity of South Australia’s interior.

  18. faustusnotes

    I think it would be great if the sensitivity dropped. Martin B, what is that a red flag of? Time series analyses can be very sensitive to data points at the end of the series, and if they were using 2000 as their end point previously then their series was ending at a monster el nino (1998). It seems reasonable that adding points that aren’t as extreme as 1998 will change things. Also note that article gives the 90% confidence interval for the climate sensitivity – the 95% confidence interval clearly overlaps the IPCC estimate, suggesting no substantial difference in findings.

    A lower value for sensitivity would be great, though…

  19. Martin B

    It seems reasonable that adding points that aren’t as extreme as 1998 will change things

    Of course, but look at the magnitude of the change – from considerably higher than current ‘best’ estimates to very considerably lower. The actual climate sensitivity (whatever it is) hasn’t changed in 10 years, so why is the estimate from one methodology bouncing around quite so much? Will another 10 years data see the estimate bounce back up again?

    If the study is that sensitive to end-points then the methodology does not seem to be very robust and certainly doesn’t look like it is giving a tight constraint. Not saying it is wrong (which I can’t because a) I’m not an expert and b) I haven’t read it) but that looks suspicious.

  20. jess

    Martin,

    Yeah those estimates are really sensitive because we don’t have much data. Part of the problem is that not all the pieces of the climate system interact on a nice short time scale. For example, to be able to fully integrate heat transfer to the deep ocean requires time scales on the order of thousands of years.

    But why does climate sensitivity have to be constant? As an emergent property of the Earth’s climate system, the effective climate sensitivity should be a function of the forcing history – if we push the climate system hard we’ll get a different sensitivity that if the forcing is slow and gradual.

  21. pablo

    Anyone getting as nervous as me about an oncoming El Nino to punch a hole in the ‘no warming’ lull? A La Nina pattern has predominated here for a while now and the Southern Oscillation Index doesn’t seem to be indicating an imminent change. But I’m still nervous.

  22. Martin B

    No, it’s not constant. It will depend on tectonic arrangement and overall atmospheric composition, for a start. At geological timescales it certainly varies.

    But it’s not going to have changed in any significant way in 10 years.

  23. faustusnotes

    Martin B, I didn’t notice from the link that it had reduced by half – that certainly seems extreme, and would suggest their method is very sensitive to outliers. Perhaps their method is “naive” in that it just uses a standard predictive model (they say they use “statistics”) and not a physical model? ANyway, hardly any point getting into a big debate about a paper neither of us have read, that hasn’t been peer-reviewed.

    Re: 23, i would suggest it might be possible for the sensitivity to change a lot in 10 years if a new forcing enters the system. The arctic ice cap has been on a death spiral since 2007 – that may be introducing new feedbacks through e.g. huge increases in snow cover (or in the opposite direction, ocean surface), changes to el nino patterns, or different patterns of heat exchange between deep ocean and surface.

    I’m with pablo in thinking that the next el nino is going to be very unpleasant. Let’s hope there’s a large negative forcing effect from the melting ice cap …

  24. Roger Jones

    The reason the arctic ice cap is retreating at speed is because since the mid 2000s, the Arctic has been 1C warmer than it was previously.

    Re the Norwegian study – interesting blog entry from Andy Revkin on it. Suffice to say, they fired blanks – it isn’t reviewed and is unlikely to be a game changer.

    I have a postdoc who has build a probabilistic version of MAGICC based on Bayesian analysis of parameters using 20th century obs and can confidently say there is no way one can back out a tight, low estimate of sensitivity from the data as it stands. It is too interchangeable with other uncertainties.

  25. jumpy

    Antartica seem to be holding it’s own, ice that is.

  26. akn

    Ocean acidification remains the dark horse. I don’t buy the current atmosphere of waitin’ and a hopin’. Climate change is as liable to be rapid and catastrophic as it is to be something we can document and bureaucratise; keeping records won’t protect us from nature gone truly feral.

  27. akn

    Damn, that’s ugly! Never mind.

    [I fixed it – didn’t close off the HTML. Brian]

  28. David Irving (no relation)

    jumpy, if you pick something from a denialist website, dating from 2009, that’s false, don’t expect not to be ridiculed to within an inch of your life.

  29. faustusnotes

    The gain in sea ice in Antarctica is a tiny proportion of that being lost in the Arctic, as well.

  30. jumpy

    faust

    The gain in sea ice in Antarctica is a tiny proportion of that being lost in the Arctic, as well.

    That’s all I said with

    Antartica seem to be holding it’s own, ice that is.

    DI (nr), CTFD.

  31. faustusnotes

    so you contributed nothing relevant.

  32. Katz

    Folks standing on the stern of the Titanic might have cheered themselves by declaring, “Look! We’re further away from the water than we ever have been!”

    These folks didn’t say that. They were more intelligent than climate denialists. They knew that local effects often contradict the general case*.
    ________

    *Historical note for Titanic sinking denialists: Eventually, even the stern of the Titanic sank.

  33. jumpy

    [email protected]
    Or as Lincoln pointed out to the jury about the prosecution with a little anecdote about his son.

    “Pa, pa, the hired man and sis are in the hay mow and she’s lifting up her skirts and he’s letting down his pants and thy’re afixin’ to pee on the hay.” “Son, you got your facts absolutely right, but you’re drawing the wrong conclusion.”

    ( the defendant was found not guilty BTW )

  34. Paul Norton

    Antarctic sea ice has been in the news over the past few days. Note the headline.

  35. jumpy

    @35
    As that article suggests the wind strength and direction has an effect on local temps.
    Just look at the prolonged strong northerly winds that occurred in the areas affected by fire in Australia this year.
    Straight off the desert rather the off the ocean was the main culprit there, no doubt.

  36. David Irving (no relation)

    I’m perfectly calm, jumpy.

  37. pablo

    A potentially decisive unilateral action would be the US deciding not to build the Keystone pipeline, though IMO it would not be described as such by any announcement from President Obama. This is the international connection across the US-Canadian border aimed at sending Alberta tar sands to refineries along the US Gulf Coast. Keystone could be circumvented by other means eg rail, but the implications of Obama knocking it back are significant, particularly in oil trading terms. Canada will be miffed, facing a landlocked energy source. US oil refiners will face a loss of some overseas markets. Local gas (petrol) prices might rise on the disruption of a neighbour’s significant energy share. Some US proponents will say it will benefit China should Canada build an alternative pipeline.
    But environmentalists will be delighted that a very dirty product is largely kept out of the US both in potential pipeline leakages and very real greenhouse gases.

  38. nottrampis

    This piece has made IT!

  39. Tim Macknay

    In related news, Australia has just hit the milestone of a million rooftop PV systems, up from a mere 20,000 just five years ago, and Geodynamics has actually commissioned its pilot geothermal plant in the Cooper basin.

  40. BilB

    When talking about published authors and peer review here is a new complexitity to keep in mind

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/08/health/for-scientists-an-exploding-world-of-pseudo-academia.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130408&_r=0

    I have wondered what the angle was with some of the spam mail coming through my box, now I know what is going on.