2018-10-20

A large part of the planet will become unlivable: either too hot or too dry?

americanpieVia Twatter, I discover to my alarm1 that A large part of the planet will become unlivable (either too hot or too dry). It's in Salon, which isn't where you'd normally go for scientific accuracy. But it's by that nice Michael Mann, who you'd rather hope wouldn't talk drivel4. To complete the quote, he also says And more and more of the available land surface will be used for agriculture and farming to feed a growing global population. That means more concentrated human settlement—and probably a lot more conflict.

He also says We will need to adapt to a world where damaging extreme weather events are far more common. If we don’t act, these events will become both more extreme and more common. Whilst a touch repetitive, it is at least defensible. But let us return to my headline quote. It isn't clear exactly when he imagines this will occur; perhaps 2050 (a date mentioned later in the article, by Trenberth) or perhaps 2100. Never mind; sometime in the future. For the sake of argument, let's pick Trenberth's 2050, when the world is 2 oC above pre-industrial, so (picking numbers rather out of the air) perhaps northernish land areas are +4 oC, since land warms faster than sea and so on.

Heat and Dust


I find it hard to see how just getting warmer will make the world unliveable, at least for humans. People already live in places that are significantly warmer than where I live. Unprotected humans definitely feel uncomfortable if they get too hot, but that's a rather different matter. And air conditioning makes a huge difference, as Florida shows. Naturally, you'll say that air conditioning takes energy and making it hotter just to cool it down is a bit mad, but there it is. You'll also say that poor people don't have a/c2,, but part of GW is increased CO2 emissions is from the world getting richer, per SRES and so on3.

This doesn't mean there wouldn't be a fair bit of adaption needed, but if we have 30+ years to do it, it will be possible. To point out the hopefully obvious I'm not suggesting that just because we can adapt all is fine; but suggesting areas will become unliveable requires some evidence. Perhaps Mann is on a dial-up line and unable to transmit many bytes.

Dryness and drought is a more plausible problem, but it won't make places unliveable. Because (I hope you guessed this) people already live in areas that are far dryer already. For people, greater dryness isn't a problem, though it may be bad for their lawns. But lawns aren't a good idea anyway.

More of the available land surface will be used for agriculture and farming


Agriculture and farming as well? My, the land will get crowded if they have to do both in the same place. This is a more serious concern, at least when linked to the dryness, because obviously enough droughts are bad for crops. And yet, much of the world's agriculture is dreadfully inefficient, and many of the world's food chains are very badly run, with a large proportion of crops wasted. The answer, of course, is more efficient western style farming and supermarkets, and fewer happy peasants and charming but inefficient mom-and-pop stores. We could feed a growing global population off less land, and return some back to wild, if only the world was better run. Though improving the world's government is not a trivial task.

If the climate changes, the optimal crops for various areas will inevitably change. In Ye Olde Dayes, this would have been a problem, because people didn't have instant access to information and predictions, and didn't have ready access to advice on what other crops they might plant. Happily, now they do.

Wild Thing


You make my heart sing. But this doesn't address the non-human-sphere component, which IMO is where the problems are most likely to lie. But nor do I know much about it, so I won't say much.

More concentrated human settlement


Is a fairly safe prediction. But is it a bad thing? Probably not; probably it's a good thing. Let's concentrate the people and leave the wild alone. Most of the settlement patterns, at least in the West, are a fossil of the days when mot people spent most of their time grubbing in the soil. Most people don't do that any more, so most villages are functionally redundant, other than to cater to tourists coming to look at nice villages.

What should be done?


Bizarrely, having asked two physical climatologists about the likely consequences of GW - an entirely reasonable thing to do - Salon then goes on to ask them about what should be done; an area in which neither Mann nor Trenberth have any particular expertise. Naturally, they have nothing particularly interesting to say.

Science advances one doctorate at a time


I briefly considered writing a post taking the piss out of John McLean's shit PhD thesis, but ATTP has said that it's rubbish, with his habitual disappointing lack of rudeness, and really it's better to leave it to die quietly in a ditch than talk about it.

Notes


1. Don't worry. Whilst I take GW seriously, as you'd expect, I don't find this particular story very alarming. Or at least not in it's original sense. I do find it quite alarming that respectable people will say this stuff, though.

2. Unless they're poor USAnians, of course.

3. Which I haven't looked at in yonks, of course; hopefully my fallible memory isn't misleading me or you.

4. Mann says sane things, for example, here. He's also getting rather political; e.g. Brick by brick, Trump and his enablers are dismantling the incredibly fragile geopolitical and societal infrastructure... But (whilst agreeing that Trump is a twat, and probably a dangerous one) "incredibly fragile" is wrong. It must be. If it was so fragile, it would no longer exist.

Refs


Credit where it's due - JEB
Wages Reflect Underlying Economic Realities - CafeHayek
* Is Quantum Mechanics a Probabilistic Theory? - NotEvenWrong
Politicians say nothing, but US farmers are increasingly terrified by it – climate change - Graun
* The space race is dominated by new contenders; Private businesses and rising powers are replacing the cold-war duopoly - the Economist

68 comments:

...and Then There's Physics said...

but ATTP has said that it's rubbish, with his habitual disappointing lack of rudeness

Sorry about that. I shall try to do better.

David B Benson said...

Seem to have forgotten the heat wave, mostly in France, earlier this century.

Not to mention the Russian heatwave, enough so that they no longer viewed global warming as a western plot...

Russell Seitz said...

I fear Michael has persuaded himself that increasing the supply of climate hype will somehow reduce the demand for denial .

Frank Rosser said...

"die quietly in a ditch than talk about it."

I like that one, might use it myself sometime.

Phil Hays said...

"I find it hard to see how just getting warmer will make the world unliveable, at least for humans."

Much of the world, and the area where you live, are not exactly the same thing. And much of the world, and the world, are not exactly the same thing. Some places will get more liveable.

Air conditioning helps humans, but what if the power fails during a heat wave?


http://www.secoteco.at/projekte/TriasKatastrophe.pdf


science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/282/5397/2241.full.pdf?ck=nck

Kiwigriff said...

Yip
You think it will be all OK if you just turn on the air con.
Some poor bastards live on a few bucks a day.
They can not afford electricity let alone squandering it on air con .
Most of the time they will be ok just sit out the heat of the day quietly in the shade.
They get a heat wave and things change.
A few days of temps around 50C and they start to die off
Never mind they should have built a nice cool mall to hang out in......

The distribution of extreme temps is not only shifting it is flattening.
Illustrated here.
http://www.agrifood.info/review/2006/Kingwell_files/image007.jpg
Another 2C average global temperature could see more than a 5C shift in the upper bounds of extreme temps
Somewhere that formally has seen extremes of 45C could be hitting 50C for days at a time.
https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate2833
Abstract

A human body may be able to adapt to extremes of dry-bulb temperature (commonly referred to as simply temperature) through perspiration and associated evaporative cooling provided that the wet-bulb temperature (a combined measure of temperature and humidity or degree of ‘mugginess’) remains below a threshold of 35 °C. (ref. 1). This threshold defines a limit of survivability for a fit human under well-ventilated outdoor conditions and is lower for most people. We project using an ensemble of high-resolution regional climate model simulations that extremes of wet-bulb temperature in the region around the Arabian Gulf are likely to approach and exceed this critical threshold under the business-as-usual scenario of future greenhouse gas concentrations. Our results expose a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in the absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future.

William Connolley said...

> forgotten the heat wave

I had actually. But now you mention it, it too didn't make the place unliveable. It killed some people of course, but that's different.

> Lethally Hot Temperatures During the Early Triassic Greenhouse

Fair enough, but that's covered by the "Wild Thing" section.

> http://www.agrifood.info/review/2006/Kingwell_files/image007.jpg

That's just a schematic. You can't read much from that, other than general ideas, which are correct.

> Another 2C average global temperature could see more than a 5C shift in the upper bounds of extreme temps

It could. But then again, it could see the upper bounds even reduce, if the variance were to decrease. There's no strong reason to expect an increase in variance of temperature that I know of; the obvious assumption is that it stays as is.

> A few days of temps around 50C and they start to die off
> Future temperature in southwest Asia projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability

Ah thank you. I would have reffed that had I remembered enough of it to find it. That's the Arabian gulf region. Notice that it isn't raw heat that's the problem, it is wet-bulb temperatures; i.e. heat and humidity. Errrm, well, you could say (following the usual argument that people make and that I disagree with, that oil companies are responsible for the CO2 emissions that comes from burning what they produce) that the Arabian gulf is responsible for it's own problems, then. More plausibly, I'll argue that region cannot be described as "a large part" of the planet.

Peter H said...

"Bizarrely, having asked two physical climatologists about the likely consequences of GW - an entirely reasonable thing to do - Salon then goes on to ask them about what should be done; an area in which neither Mann nor Trenberth have any particular expertise. Naturally, they have nothing particularly interesting to say."

And your area of expertise is also?

William Connolley said...

> And your area of expertise is also?

Climatology, rustily, and SW engineering. But Salon isn't asking me for my opinion, so the situation is not symmetrical.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

I suppose it's yet another delusion of age, but I keep imagining a time when you were less predictable.

William Connolley said...

If one talks about the science, one tends to be predicatable. It's why it doesn't play well with the meeja. The people making shit up are unpredictable, because who knows what they'll come up with.

Tom said...

You noted some of the more obvious problems with the piece. Regarding the use of agriculture and farming in the same sentence, it's common--and actually correct, as by some estimates 3/4 of agricultural land is actually pasturage as opposed to farming.

Tom said...

There are times I wish I hadn't retired The Lukewarmer's Way. I think I wrote some of your post pretty much word for word 5-8 years ago...

William Connolley said...

Yeah, but all farming is agriculture. And... the secret of my glorious success is in my timing.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

You were writing about science? Oops, I missed it. The second reading too. What I saw was snark and speculation, though I suppose there was some content in your observation that there were people who lived in places hotter than that you do. So if what you are saying is that England is likely remain habitable, I would have to agree.

Of course you are right that technology and economics might make locations habitable that wouldn't be with today's economics and technology but that speculation is rather more egregious than that of your targets.

Who do think should be asked about the consequences of climate change, if not climatologists? Philosophers? Libertarian economists?

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

These days, I suppose, farming = agriculture. But some of us are still nostalgic for the old meaning of farming = "renting out land."

Andy Mitchell said...

If we take the Syrian model, it does not turn out too wonderful for the people in the habitable places when the people from the "formerly habitable" places show up.

William Connolley said...

> make locations habitable that wouldn't be with today's economics and technology

I don't think that's the point. The piece was talking about making areas uninhabitable. So we're talking about areas that are currently inhabitable, that are supposed to become unsuch. I don't see much evidence for that; indeed perhaps the reverse: tech is likely to make places, like Florida, more habitable.

> asked about the consequences

they weren't being asked about the consequences. They were asked about what-should-be-done. Seriously: this is a pervasive mistake. People keep segueing from "you're physical climatologists, you have the best knowledge of how climate might change", which is true, to the "and so you can best advice us of what to do", which is nonsense.

William Connolley said...

> the Syrian model

The Syrian lesson is that if your govt is shit, then you're in the shit. Everything else is trivial by comparison.

Phil Hays said...

"tech is likely to make places, like Florida, more habitable."

Is that before or after the sea rises to cover Florida?

"I know we've come a long way
We're changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?" (Cat Stevens)

Consider living in a place where the outside is lethal hot. Unlike a very cold place, you have a very limited time you can survive outside. Sure, a "spacesuit" with a lump of ice in the backpack and cooled water tubes keeping you cool might make that time as long as a few hours. Or a powered vehicle for a few days. But no multiple day walks. No picnics in the park. No rowing.

Electric power and mechanical AC are required for survival. A down power line means someone needs to go out in the heat, find the break and fix it.

Sounds like a setting for hard SF... "Where do the children play?

With 1C warming, a few places will be this hot for fairly short amounts of time.

With 10C warming?

"The Syrian lesson is that" ... Our government is starting to resemble your remark.

William Connolley said...

> With 1C warming... With 10C warming?

I think that's the problem. 1 oC is fairly meh; 10 oC is very clearly not. But we're likely heading for somewhere in the middle, which is awkward.

Phil Hays said...

"some estimates 3/4 of agricultural land is actually pasturage as opposed to farming. "

How will this work where the climate is too warm for vertebrates to survive?

Phil Hays said...

"But we're likely heading for somewhere in the middle, which is awkward."

10C is burning most of the easily available fossil fuels and no surprises like a methane hydrate bomb. Isn't that about a realistic long term center case?

Sure, Swanson's law might help us. Might not, as well.

crandles said...

Some places getting hotter and drier -> desertification,
Some low lying lands suffering sea water ingress,
Some areas getting more hot and humid,
...

The lands may still be habitable but do they still support the same population density?

Certainly, I accept that some of the migration happening is due to 'the Syrian lesson is that if your govt is rubbish then .... '. Also some migration is economic rather than refugee.

However, has migration increased? And if so, can we apportion it between bad governance, economic opportunity seeking, land less habitable, and any other categories you might wish to throw in?

Is migration some form of measure of lands becoming less habitable? (obviously on its own a rubbish measure when there are wars and ethnic cleansing and so on but presumably the measure could be improved with suitable adjustments)

Do you accept this is going on, or are you just snarking about the uninhabitable word when it should be 'less habitable'?

William Connolley said...

> s migration some form of measure of lands becoming less habitable?

I think it is a rubbish measure. On its own, as you say, but also in combination; because it is so dominated by other things.

> Do you accept this is going on

That the world, as a whole or in large parts, is becoming less habitable? I don't think I do. Do you think there is good evidence for it becoming so? One piece of good evidence would be the population decreasing. Clearly, we see the reverse. In rich countries, a/c in summer and heating in winter makes *more* places habitable, not less.

It seems to me that this is like the "GW will cause crop yields to decrease" stuff. Yes, considered purely by itself, perhaps it will. But overall, crops yields are increasing and can be expected to continue to do so, because of other aspects of our industrial civilisation.

crandles said...

>"One piece of good evidence would be the population decreasing."

Well it might be a good piece of evidence if we are near the carrying capacity of Earth. But if we are a long way off that and increasing population seems to indicate this ... then ... seems like another rubbish measure?

crandles said...

Is it reasonable to suppose GW increases Earth's carrying capacity? Eventually large areas of high northern latitudes like Siberia, Canada etc thaw out enough to have huge cities and agricultural land. Small areas of tropical land become less habitable.

Do you see there is still a problem with the land becoming less habitable has already started or at least will shortly while the large areas becoming better only start to get noticeable increasing population density ability starting in 100 years or so?

>"so dominated by other things"
Certainly there are other things after you have adjusted for wars, ethnic cleansing, rubbish governance which certainly includes things like technology advancement. But does tech advancement create sudden changes that create migrations comparable to the size of refugee migrations? (perhaps another rubbish measure as a lot of people will stay put despite economic migration opportunities?)

William Connolley said...

> the population decreasing

If you're trying to assert that, all things considered, the world is becoming less habitable, then this would be excellent evidence. The contrary - that population is increasing - must be at least weak evidence that all things considered, the world is becoming more habitable.

> GW increases Earth's carrying capacity?

Of itself, I think that would be doubtful. But that wasn't what I was saying. I was saying that "GW plus industrial society and it's associated CO2 emissions that cause GW" increases the capacity. Can you doubt that?

> has already started

Only if you look at the effects of GW purely in isolation. But why would you do that?

> create sudden changes

No, tech is gradual. But so are the changes in migration patterns. No?

crandles said...

>"The contrary - that population is increasing - must be at least weak evidence that all things considered, the world is becoming more habitable."

Are you deliberately missing the point that the world carrying capacity can be increasing but there can be small but growing areas within that that are seeing falling levels these areas can support?

>"GW plus industrial society and it's associated CO2 emissions that cause GW" increases the capacity. Can you doubt that?"

Why would I have to doubt that when I was postulating GW increases Earth's carrying capacity as an extreme version and saying that even with that I could still see issues arising. Mean carrying capacity rising but increasing variations in different regions.

>"No, tech is gradual. But so are the changes in migration patterns. No?"
Huh? Economic opportunity seeking migration patterns may change slowly but refugee migrations become a problem when a trickle turns into a flood and that seems to me to happen rapidly. Sometime predictably but still rapid.

You might argue this is weather not climate and to an extent I would have to accept this. However:

Now I will admit that the adjusted migration figures probably are a poor measure but not because the concept is poor, I think the concept is correct (at least much better than a binary habitable/uninhabitable style analysis). The problem is a measurement issue. One person will say there is very little migration caused by CC induced changes to population levels an area can support, all the migration is due to war/ethnic cleansing/rubbish governance etc. However another person may reach completely the opposite conclusion because the wars/ethnic cleansing/rubbish governance were brought on issues caused by circumstances where there was some effect from CC induced effects on level of population that could be supported by an area perhaps via lower living standards increasing discontent in the population.

If the areas adversely affected were 1% of the land area and this stays at 1% though different 1% at different times, then the 99% can accept the refugees without significant issues. If the 1% has grown to 3% and this is causing a few more issues then you might say that 3% of land area is not 'a large part of the planet'. However, if that 3% can be projected to grow to 6% or more then we might have a significant issue.

These percentage figures are completely made up and I don't know what they would be even if we could agree some method to work them out. However, it seems to me that your rather flippant 'population is increasing therefore there isn't an issue' and 'it isn't a large area' sort of attitude doesn't seem adequate to settle the issue.

William Connolley said...

> but there can be small

Sure, you can have that point if you want.

Tom said...

Mr. Hays, may I ask if you believe this comment to be true, or even possible?

You wrote "How will this work where the climate is too warm for vertebrates to survive?"

I assume you are aware that nobody predicts, projects or guesses that to be even an outlier possibility....

But maybe we're all wrong.

crandles said...

http://www.pnas.org/content/107/21/9552
Sherwood, Huber 2010
"T(W) never exceeds 31 °C. Any exceedence of 35 °C for extended periods should induce hyperthermia in humans and other mammals, as dissipation of metabolic heat becomes impossible. While this never happens now, it would begin to occur with global-mean warming of about 7 °C"

7C global mean warming to get 4C T(W) increase. That does sound above likely range for ff we are likely to burn, though exceptional cases including methane from permafrost and methane clathrate burbs, strong negative aerosol effect causing ECS to be higher than expected .....

Tom re 'even possible', are you planning to move to Venus? ;)

Not really at odds with Kiwigriff's:

"Another 2C average global temperature could see more than a 5C shift in the upper bounds of extreme temps Somewhere that formally has seen extremes of 45C could be hitting 50C for days at a time."

Nevertheless, not quite sure where that comes from, its accuracy or whether it has any implications for the 7C global mean to get 4C T(W) increase ratio.


Andy Mitchell said...

"So if what you are saying is that England is likely remain habitable, I would have to agree."

England cannot feed itself and so is reliant on a world food surplus that will disappear sooner or later. So England will not be habitable for a population of its current size.


Luckily, as a member of the EU we will have priority access to the EU's food surplus for as long as that exists. Oh, wait a sec....

crandles said...

Wondering if William has any comments on http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2018/20181019_FromXianWithLove.pdf

"La Nina minima probably provide a better estimate, and they provide a more recent rate. As the figure shows, the most recent two La Ninas imply a warming rate of 0.38°C per decade, at least double the longer term rate! Acceleration is predicted by climate models for continued high fossil fuel emissions as a result of amplifying climate feedbacks and is a cause for concern. We expect global temperature to rise in the next few months and confirm that the global warming rate has accelerated."

Phil Hays said...

"I assume you are aware that nobody predicts, projects or guesses that to be even an outlier possibility...."

No one, not even the BBC?

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20151130-how-hot-could-the-earth-get

"A 12 °C rise in temperature would render half of the Earth’s land area uninhabitable."

crandles said...

Phil Bad miss, the BBC just report. That 12C comes from same paper I linked above
http://www.pnas.org/content/107/21/9552

"With 11–12 °C warming, such regions would spread to encompass the majority of the human population as currently distributed.
...
Recent studies have highlighted the possibility of large global warmings in the absence of strong mitigation measures, for example the possibility of over 7 °C of warming this century alone (1). Warming will not stop in 2100 if emissions continue. Each doubling of carbon dioxide is expected to produce 1.9–4.5 °C of warming at equilibrium, but this is poorly constrained on the high side (2, 3) and according to one new estimate has a 5% chance of exceeding 7.1 °C per doubling (4). Because combustion of all available fossil fuels could produce 2.75 doublings of CO2 by 2300 (5), even a 4.5 °C sensitivity could eventually produce 12 °C of warming. Degassing of various natural stores of methane and/or CO2 in a warmer climate (6, 7, 8) could increase warming further. Thus while central estimates of business-as-usual warming by 2100 are 3–4 °C, eventual warmings of 10 °C are quite feasible and even 20 °C is theoretically possible (9)."

Phil Hays said...

"So England will not be habitable for a population of its current size."

What England population size might be sustainable after all the ice melts and the sea rises?

http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/advances/1/8/e1500589.full.pdf

Phil Hays said...

Crandles, I apologize. I was searching for news sources that had wide readership, not journal articles.

I do wonder, how much of the Earth's land area would be uninhabitable after a 20 C warming?

Phil Hays said...

"But overall, crops yields are increasing and can be expected to continue to do so, because of other aspects of our industrial civilisation."

Perhaps likely, with a 1 C warming.

What about a 10 C warming?

William Connolley said...

> Perhaps likely, with a 1 C warming. What about a 10 C warming?

Did you miss this?

> any comments on http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2018/20181019_FromXianWithLove.pdf

Yes: the font makes my eyes hurt.

But the central point appears to be that using join-the-dots at El Nina minima is a better measure than LS fits across the whole record. This is obviously deeply dodgy, and without some clear justification should be treated with great caution. Hansen, as usual, runs with his own ideas without making any great effort to justify them. This time he gets even more carried away, because he joins the dots to a minimum that hasn't even happened yet. WTF?

crandles said...

I have to agree with your 'Hansen gets even more carried away' but I am not sure about your reasoning for that. Given ENSO is back in positive territory for last few months and heading for El Nino conditions if not an episode, the minimum seems highly likely to come soon.

"at least double the longer term rate" does seem "even more carried away". If there was acceleration that could cause anything like that rate of acceleration in just a few years, why have we got a fairly linear increase over the period 1970 to date?

The other point I had was his reasoning for expecting acceleration being "a result of amplifying climate feedbacks". I guess it is possible to come up with some feedbacks that have the right timescale: methane from permafrost or methane clathrates maybe. It just seems more natural to me to attribute acceleration that models produce to high heat capacity of oceans.

Layzej said...

It seems like Hansen's analysis would have given a very poor picture of what is to come if it was done in 2011. At that time the slope between consecutive La Ninas was diminishing.

Phil Hays said...

"Did you miss this?"

No. I just want to keep pointing out we are almost at 1 C now, with little sign of not proceeding to 10 C and beyond.

Russell Seitz said...

The elephant in the room is a demographic trend -deliberate migration and emigration into warmer climate zones.

Are there any recent published studies that can inform a comparison of the degree-day shifts in average experienced climate arising from voluntary population movements towrds the "sunbelt", and those arising from involuntary climate change?

Tom said...

Mr. Hays--Really? 10C? Reality is going to be tough enough... why must we contemplate science fiction?

Andy Mitchell said...

I'm with Phil Hays. Its called carbon feedbacks.

"By 2300, the models suggest that the global warming will be somewhere between 6.4 and 9.5 degrees Celsius."

https://arstechnica.com/science/2016/05/what-happens-if-we-burn-all-the-fossil-fuels/

That's if we burn all proven fossil fuel reserves:

"So, the researchers behind the new work, all based in British Columbia, set up some whole-Earth climate models to explore how the planet would respond to lots of additional carbon—5,000 gigatonnes, roughly equal to the amount currently in conservative estimates of our fossil fuel reserves. The models were run out to the year 2300."

The fossil fuel industry is out there looking for more.

William Connolley said...

> By 2300...

Tricky. See my Should we care about the world after 2100?

> burn all proven fossil fuel reserves

Probably not a realistic case, if it includes all the coal.

Andy Mitchell said...

"Probably not a realistic case, if it includes all the coal."

30 years ago who would have guessed China would build so many coal plants? If that's not enough, migration is empowering Trump style politicians across the globe.

crandles said...

>"30 years ago who would have guessed China would build so many coal plants? If that's not enough, migration is empowering Trump style politicians across the globe."

Are you saying you think Trump and people like him can overcome economics of solar and wind being cheaper than ffs? Already over half of new power generation capacity is solar and wind and the costs are continuing to spiral downwards. When the costs of energy from renewables is less than the fuel cost for those coal plants, the coal plants will go bust.

Coal generation is being converted to gas because coal is too expensive and renewables are beating gas. If oil and gas ran out, we could go with liquifying coal but that would add more expense and why do that when the economics are so clearly in favour of renewables? As William said probably not realistic. Sure things could change but then we are into realm of science fiction.

Tom, sure these are extremely unlikely possibilities/science fiction but you were the one who asked if it was 'even possible'.


Changing the BAU scenarios to reflect the new economics of renewables could be problematic: If this is done, environmentalists may lose moral authority to demand action on CC. If the scenarios aren't changed then environmentalists look like they are making absurd assumptions to justify their beliefs in taking action on the issue.

With luck, economics sorts out the problem before it gets really serious. But will that be fast enough and are there possibilities of nasty changes to the economics which brings back the problem? IMHO Carbon taxes still make sense to speed up action but it may be harder to show that with more realistic BAU scenarios.

Andy Mitchell said...

"When the costs of energy from renewables is less than the fuel cost for those coal plants, the coal plants will go bust."

What you write makes sense, but when you have crooks like the GOP anything is possible. The GOP subsidises fossil fuels, the fossil fuel companies put money in the GOP's pockets. That becomes easier, the scale of corruption can grow ever larger, in the age of Trump where facts no longer matter.

Its a bit like thinking you can't have massive tax cuts for billionaires when the country is running a huge deficit. Or you couldn't possibly confirm a nominee for the Supreme Court if that nominee can be shown to have repeatedly lied in his confirmation hearing. Or you couldn't possibly investigate a sexual assault claim without interviewing either the accuser or the accused.

crandles said...

When it is close a 25% import tariff on solar panels might swing the balance. If the gap opens up a little more people will start to be against high tariffs for locking out jobs in installation. Manufacture will be all automated so little to no jobs at stake or the economic advantage will mean they can be produced in country of use without high labour costs.

crandles said...

Hansen seems to have clarified that it is aerosol forcings not feedbacks that he is blaming for acceleration in rate of warming.

http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2018/20181024_AGU+CAScombined.pdf

which also includes good news for carbon tax and dividend from Canada:

"“For years, CCL grassroots lobbyists have pressed both the U.S. and the Canadian governments to enact carbon fee and dividend ....

The policy announced today by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau applies a tax on carbon starting at $20 per ton in 2019, rising $10 per ton annually until it reaches $50 per ton in 2022.

William Connolley said...

"Global warming accelerated markedly in the past several years (see Chart 13)".

Well, no. As his chart shows, temperature has actually decreased noticeably in the past "several" i.e. 2-3 years. But if he cherry picks some other period, doubtless he can show some "acceleration".

> carbon fee and dividend

"fee". Who does he think he is fooling? It's a tax. "fee" is his pet idea so he calls it that, but everyone else is calling it a tax. I do hate it when people try to impose their own names on things as a form of ownership.

However, interesting story, I must catch up on it.

crandles said...

Yes, I agree that drawing line(s) from strong La Nina to weak La Nina whose minimum may have occurred (or is imminent) and saying 'look faster rate! therefore there is acceleration' does look deeply dodgy.

I think the chart makes clear that by "past several years" he means at least 6 years. When he is talking rubbish, is there really a need to misinterpret what he is saying? Surely that just makes you look as foolish? (Or is the aim to look like a bitter old critic?)

William Connolley said...

What he says is ambiguous, but actually it hardly matters, because 2-3 or 6 is besides the point; he has convinced himself of his El-Nina-Based-Warming-Theory, and will now quote himself in support of that, until it becomes obviously disproved.

Phil Hays said...

"10C? Reality is going to be tough enough... why must we contemplate science fiction? "

We must contemplate, as there is no alternative.

Oh, we could just contemplate fiction without any science, but that is hardly better. Or not contemplate at all.

The future is unknown.

One possible future would have renewable energy displacing all fossil fuels by just pure economics. That's science fiction.

Another might have renewable energy displacing half of fossil fuel usage in the next few decades then stalling, and continued economic growth leading to increasing fossil fuel usage, ending only after burning all the reserves of fossil fuels. Oh, and about 7C warming. That's science fiction as well.

A third might burn all of the possible resources of fossil fuels. Everything we know how to extract now, plus everything we might learn how extract in the future. Leads to more than 20C warming. Oh yes, science fiction as well.

Yet another possible future has us nuking the planet back to stone age, and leaving most of the fossil fuels underground. SF, for sure.

The future is unknown.

Some believe very strongly in the first future I've listed. I don't, as I see too many applications were fossil fuels are very unlikely to be ever displaced. Need one example? Fighter jet.

The future is unknown.

We might decided not to contemplate it, and draw a line at tomorrow or 2020 or 2100 and refuse to consider what might happen after that line. But there are no lines that we will not cross.

crandles said...

>"Some believe very strongly in the first future I've listed"

I guess that is aimed at me though I don't fully agree with that view. Fighter jet yes unlikely to be displaced from ff. But amount of ff used in such ways is tiny and who says we cannot create sufficient biofuels?

Fighter jets are only a tiny use of ff compared to air transport and that is more of a challenge. There is also heating where ff seem cheaper than electric heaters and heat pumps seem expensive compared to a ff boiler.

My view is more that there is lots of progress we can make with electric from renewables and ground transport with electric vehicles. If we do pretty much all ground transport with electric and 90%+ of electric with renewables over the next few decades then we will be in a much better position to work out how to do the last few percent of electric and the awkward areas like air transport ....

Who knows what the future will bring? Perhaps large desert areas covered with PV will make such deserts more productive to produce biofuels for use for air transport.

William Connolley said...

> Fighter jet yes unlikely to be displaced from ff

Cue You just can’t parody this junk.

Andy Mitchell said...

Fighter jets are rapidly becoming obsolete because of drones. The greatest difficulty is going to be persuading pilots that the "right stuff" have been made obsolete by - essentially - video gamers.

William Connolley said...

> asked about what-should-be-done

See-also my 2015 Climate science identifies the problem – it can’t tell us what to do in response?.

crandles said...

>"convinced himself of his El-Nina-Based-Warming-Theory"

El-Nina ??? a derogatory title for the 'theory', or a slip? or a freudian slip?

crandles said...

If "large part of the planet will become unlivable" is bad how about

"the human race and most other species are at high risk of extinction within decades"
so say 94 umm, well, Emeritus seems to crop up a few (15) times. ;)
https://extinctionrebellion.org/
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/26/facts-about-our-ecological-crisis-are-incontrovertible-we-must-take-action

William Connolley said...

"thank you" for that. I considered making a cheap blog post out of it, but on reflection it's best left to die.

Anonymous said...

Here's a very long video called 'Climate Change - Why we are heading for extinction and what to do about it' in which one of Extinction Rebellion's founders, a self-described 'numbers man', pulls numbers out of his arse in support of ER's notion that activists going to jail will force the people who are planning to make humans extinct (the British government) change their minds:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgFc4Zhvjtg

It's 70 mins long. Here's a brief and incomplete summary for those who are too sensible to spend time watching it:

Hitler and justifiable mass rape; the word 'consistency' doesn't always end with an E; Nancy Mitford AKA Lady Mitford married Oswald Mosley and was mad about Hitler; a 2014 graph of Arctic sea-ice volume is 'objectively the most important graph in the world, probably the most important graph in the history of humanity' and shows that the ice will disappear in 2022 (also 2024); denying this fact, as some 'major professors and supposed intellectuals of the world' do, reveals psychological problems; the End-Permian Extinction was caused by something called nitrate sulphide; when playing Monopoly your true and arithmetically derived chances of winning after you have lost your last house are 1 in 50 million (but also 1 in 100 million, 1 in 1 million and 1 in 10); more Hitler; 6 million x 50 is an unquantifiable number; conventional juropedence (sic) says that 'the people running society are guilty of something somewhere to the right of Hitler' because they plan to release gases throughout the world and cause 'mass death for a lot of people in the world and possibly extinction'; Thomas Hobbes was a conservative; tipping points; more Hitler; you can work out the number of activists who need to go to prison to get public policy changed (it's between 10 and 50,000); 'getting people to go to prison is the single most important tactic of the last hundred years for civil resistance movements'; you can expand your Facebook following from 10 to 50 in a week by spraying stuff on walls.

That's based on a partial (lots of skipping) viewing of the vid's first hour. Only ten mins to go but I'd had enough.

The last time I looked on Twitter, the letter in the Graun had been backed by Morgan Fairchild, Peter Tatchell, several reputable Graun and ex-Graun journalists and ATTP. Do they really think that climate change threatens humanity with extinction* or are they just boosting what's trendy without knowing anything about it?

Its 94 signatories are said to be 'leading academics'. Some of them are (why, Danny Dorling, why?) but a lot of them are little-known and often emeritus and, for some unfathomable reason, often specialise in psychology and the like. Then there's The Most Revd Baron of Oystermead. But he at least is sort of an academic these days. Others are simply activists with no academic clout at all.

===
*More on that here: feralculture.blog/2018/07/30/interview-with-extinction-rebellion

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I forgot to sign the above (again).

--
Vinny Burgoo

crandles said...

https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=429.0;attach=110584;image

Pig calved again.

Risk of unblocking SW tributary and from that Thwaites further destabilises?

https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=429.0;attach=110450;image

William Connolley said...

> Pig calved again

It's hard to know how important this is. You have to do Science to find out, I think.

crandles said...

Nice gif of calving front at
https://twitter.com/StefLhermitte/status/1057264449122373632

which lead to Arndt et al 2018:

https://www.the-cryosphere.net/12/2039/2018/tc-12-2039-2018.pdf
"Konrad et al. (2017) show how changes to the ice shelf
and grounding line region of PIG and other Amundsen Sea
embayment glaciers propagate upstream on a timescale of a
few years. Thus, the recent reduction of back stress can be
expected to propagate to the grounded trunk of PIG, causing
further acceleration of flow and thus further dynamic thinning.
Accordingly, a restabilisation of the ice shelf due to repinning
at a ridge, e.g. by a very rapid advance or thickening
of the ice shelf, cannot be expected in the foreseeable future,
at least for as long as rapid basal melting driven by CDW
incursion continues. Instead, the ice-shelf calving line seems
to have made an irreversible step to a new position and orientation
in 2015, which has been confirmed in 2017, following
progressive detachment from the pinning point over the
previous decade. We do not expect further significant rapid
calving line retreat in the next few years. The northern margin
is now stabilised by a pinning point near Evans Knoll,
which rises above sea level where the nearby ice-shelf thickness
is about 450 m, and the southern margin is stabilised by
thick tributary ice inflow (Fretwell et al., 2013). Nevertheless,
continued rapid ice-shelf thinning as observed in other
studies (Pritchard et al., 2012; Rignot et al., 2013) and as
confirmed by our observation of pinning point loss (Fig. 3)
will further destabilise the PIG ice shelf in the future and
at some stage is expected to lead to calving occurring even
further upstream."

Hmm., does retreat look like it is already retreating past Evans Knoll?