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Messages - Lewis C

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P-maker - thanks for you response and interesting reflections.

I'd concur with your observation of a distinct change in the output from China's climate scientists a few years back - though the extent to which this was an easing of censorship - as opposed to a bottom-up general advance of scientists' understanding, is unclear to me. I should be interested to see the paper you co-authored - over a thousand citations is quite special.

To what extent Beijing has been convinced to change course by the science, and to what extent the science has long been understood in general terms and that change is instead due to having reached a national wealth that will allow it to outbid most other nations' middle classes in the global food markets, is to me an open question. Having been practicing diplomacy for more than ten times as long as the USA, it would seem likely that in setting out to achieve global economic dominance, all of the potential stumbling blocks will have been carefully considered in its centrally planned economy. This would imply that it had a target level of relative wealth at which it no longer needed the extreme fossil-fuelled GDP growth and could instead start to prioretise the restoration of climatic stability. (Not to mention clean air, water, etc).

On one point I'm not sure I follow you - whether China "may succeed with a “Green Growth” path, or whether they will share the same destiny as the Yanks – slowly being destabilized by recurrent extreme events." While newly built appropriate infrastructure and the dispersed nature of RE can certainly add some resilience to a society facing extreme climate impacts, the self-reinforcing nature of the feedback warming (that is widely observed to be accelerating) implies that there is no prospect of particular nations 'muddling through' - either we apply the requisite Troika strategy (Emissions Control + Carbon Recovery + Albedo Restoration) soon enough to resolve AGW's threat to all nations, or all nations successively lose their agricultural capacities. However, perhaps you have a different perspective on the mitigation requirements that alter this calculus ?



Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 22, 2015, 03:16:59 PM »
It might be a better investment to stop destruction of our natural environment (especially deforestation) before speculating about Negative Emissions Technology, NET.

ASLR - It might be, but under the circumstances it seems a vanishingly small probability.

Consider first that the only Carbon Recovery option that offers credible scaleabity to cleanse the atmosphere by 2100 - namely Native Coppice Afforestation for Biochar - will take at least 25 years to reach full operation;

and next that the ocean ecosystems covering ~70% of the planet are threatened by acidification that only Carbon Recovery can reduce;

and next that both the Amazon (now shown to be in rising mortality due to excess anthro-CO2) and the Great Barrier Reef (now shown to be threatened by rising mortality due to excess anthro-CO2) are clearly dependent on the application of Carbon Recovery alongside rapid Emissions Control for their survival.

I'd suggest that Carbon Recovery is now a critical component of a commensurate strategy to mitigate the damage caused by industrial society to date, and that the longer its applicalion is delayed the greater will be the irreversible losses. That said I'd of course agree that equitable measures to halt deforestation and end the pollution and other damage to the GB Reef are absolutely necessary - but I see no case for ranking their priority ahead or behind that of Carbon Recovery, particularly as there is no conflict between them.



Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 20, 2015, 06:01:11 PM »
Bruce - fantastic pigs. What is the breed's history ? Were the coats bred in or basically inherited from a wild breed ? I'd like to know more about them.

My apology for misreading your remark of gathering feed as meaning you were thinking of starting in pigs. One item that came to mind that might be relevant that I heard years ago is of an autumn tradition (in the Balkans?) of setting fine mesh nets under oaks as chutes to feed acorns to sacks tied onto the trunks. Keeping the sacks as dry as poss would presumably be important.
Might save a lot of time on hands and knees given the size of your pigs . . .

With regard to home methanol production I'm afraid it's a tiny and neglected field of R&D - Ethanol gets all the focus, particularly biotech cellulosic, so I'd have to suggest googling. What I've found is mostly a step up scale, for instance Mitsubishi had a 2Ts/day woodchip to methanol plant as a lab device working towards a larger unit.

The Univ of Washington, College of the Environment, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences has been doing work on methanol as a forest product from thinnings, and at one point were developing a unit to go into woodland on a pickup. Looked very positive.

A paper by one of theirs: Ayhan Demirbas
 "Biorefineries: Current activities and future developments" is worth reading though it doesn't cover syngas production and conversion which is the route for serious volume:

For all methanol is less prone to vapour ignition than petrol, I'd fully agree it's one to treat with real caution.



Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 20, 2015, 12:56:00 PM »
What if you don't haul?
What if you cut and process in place with a portable pyrolyzer and bury the biochar where it's produced?
If the main idea is to re-sequester carbon then using the biochar for ag uses is secondary.  In some cases hauling the biochar to fields may not make economic sense, but sequestering carbon might.
Even if hauled it would see that biochar would be cheaper to move than even dried plant matter.

Bob - thanks for these proposed options.
- I'd doubt that burial of biochar from mobile retorts in the coppices would prove viable, since this subtracts both the income from sales to farms and the strong political support for better food security, while saving only the distribution costs and adding the burial costs, while also taking up land within the coppices. Dumping into mines or quarries might serve for a while, but the sheer volumes point to the use of farmland, as well as the economics and food security issue.

But it's right that charcoal is very preferable to wood as a cargo in terms of value/kg.
Using a mobile retort would raise investment costs very significantly for IIIrd world sites, but it might very well pay off as a means to avoid hauling the feedstock wood under N American and European labour rates, with that wood being about three times the weight of charcoal it yields.

Since a lot of room is needed for loading and unloading drums from a mobile retort, as well as space for them to cool safely, something nearer to the traditional approach of dispersed hearths spread out through the woodlands may prove most efficient, with the retort being moved between them and only charcoal being hauled out for milling, mixing, and bagging.

Traces of that system of dispersed hearths can still be seem in much of the Appalachian forests that now appear pristine but are actually grown-out coppice that was cut and regrown cyclically for generations to provide the charcoal on which the US iron industry was founded, and which it continued to use well into the C20th.

It's the best option I've seen for local mass employment once the coalmines are finally closed down.



ASLR - thankyou for your carefully considered responses, which I've been thinking about.

The Clawswitz analysis is familiar to me and seems entirely apposite. He would I think have been dismissive of a state elite that chose to launch hostilities via a means as unpredictable as AGW, with the assumption that a totally untested theoretical technology such as sulphate SRM could be relied on as the control system and exit strategy. Yet 'chose' is a value term here given that by the late 1990s China's eventual rise to economic dominance was widely predicted, and its nuclear arms deter a resort to warfare to suppress it. In this sense, those launching the covert policy may well have felt it was the best of a notably poor range of options.

With regard to the paper discussing the potential disruption of the hydrological cycle by SRM, I'm afraid the physics of the different impacts on hydrology of the three main options (stratospheric aerosols, cirrus cloud thinning and low-cloud brightening) are beyond my competence. I do observe other scientists, including atmospheric physicists, who are cautiously optimistic that a reliably benign system could be developed to provide appropriate cooling. One of these, Prof Forster (an IPCC lead author) put a good article on the issue into the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently:

While I share your concern that a benign system may not be available, there are also other concerns. With the eight Major Interactive Feedbacks [MIFs] observed to be accelerating at just 0.85C of warming, our best case of Emissions Control (seen as near-zero by 2050) would give continuous warming timelagged to the 2080s, while the best case of Carbon Recovery (seen as 3.15ppmCO2/yr starting in 2040) would only start to provide a timelagged marginal cooling in the late 2070s. This implies that without a reliable system of Albedo Restoration the MIFs would have at least 60 years of continuous warming to drive their outputs far beyond offsetting our best case of Emissions Control, while that warming would also impose a climate destabilization massively degrading the afforestation essential for the Carbon Recovery program (let alone agriculture). In effect, if we fail to control the MIFs we've initiated, their CO2_e outputs will be escalated to the point of destroying us not merely as a civilization but as a species.

However, for all the CIA put up part of the $600k for the recent NAS report on Geo-E options (presumably due to the extent to which sulphates SRM has been discredited) there's been a mass of anti-Geo-E articles emanating largely from the US over the last 2 years, with scientists mostly reduced to the self-censored and self-defeating argument for research of ". . .in case efforts for emissions control are not sufficient". This steering of public opinion strongly against Geo-E will be of value if, as is quite likely, US and perhaps world opinion is so hammered by climate impacts before the strategic goals of regime change in Beijing is achieved that it would otherwise demand the use of Albedo Restoration, thus halting the strategy's operation. In short, strong anti-Geo-E sentiment may buy crucial time for the policy to work.

Yet it seems at least equally likely, given Munich Re's finding that the US is being hit by rising climate destabilization far harder than any comparable region on the planet, that its elite will be forced to abandon the policy and will then try to apply SRM in whatever form looks most practical. And there's the rub. As Forster remarks, the research of any SRM system will need to include a decade of observations of trials to be confident of its reliability, on top of which is the lead-time for the negotiation of the governance of the research plus the decision-time for a technique's deployment. In short, a reliable system will need 10 to 20 years for its R,D&D, while the need for deployment may well occur in less than 20 years if serial global crop failures are to be avoided.

Your remarks concerning the potential for "a rude awakening" thus seem to me spot on.



Bob - I think you're mistaken in saying it's just a f'cking liar -

It's not - like others of its type it uses distortion, slander, misdirection, outright lies and whatever it pleases to promote apathy and defeatism,
and to disrupt any semblance of constructive discussion of practical means of accelerating the requisite changes.

We are encouraged to beieve in malicious all-powerful evil cliques against whom we are powerless, but unlike most of the population we are smart enough to know they're there. That they intend to impose a global cull is a given, as is the idea that such a cull is coming whether they impose it or not. The oxymoron of a 'managed collapse' is touted as a means of supposedly making this prospect more palatable.

All of which provides the impressionable mind with:
a/. Somebody nameless and out of reach to blame;
b/. A sense of almost total disempowerment;
c/. An expectation of inevitable catastrophe imposing apathy towards any efforts for change;
d/. An ego-boost of being smart enough to see through the propagandas of contentment.

I'd long wondered why ASI isn't infested like almost every other open-comments climate site with resolutely persistent denialists, either of the person or virtual-persona variety.

One answer is that those concerting the propagandas of denial across many different media and sites are quite smart enough to recognize that they need horses for courses. Brazen denial with fatuous memes will go nowhere if delivered to people with direct access to current papers and discussion of their findings. But undermining morale and confidence of the issue's solubility, and bullying of those who persist with constructive proposals, is another matter.

Just another layer of the onion.

All the best,


Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 19, 2015, 06:05:23 AM »
Bruce - I share your doubts of the CO2CS proposals - both BECCS and DACCS - in spades. I've not seen anything remotely feasible proposed on a marginally significant scale in either of them.
Scaling Carbon Recovery for Food Security [CRFS] is a very different matter for a series of reasons -

- It offers the biochar product that is of both cash value and political value as a means of stabilizing rural populations of subsistence farmers, thereby slowing the pressure of the urban drift on overstressed cities, while also raising farm yields or at least lowering drought impacts on yields thus raising the politically crucial food security;
- It offers coproduct methanol from the retorts' surplus hydocarbon gasses which, with moderately efficient modular conversion kit, can yield at least one barrel of petrol-equivalent per two tonnes charcoal, which on the full scale 1.6Gha.s program would yield at least 9.0Mbbls/day of petrol equivalent, or roughly 10% of present global oil production (which for the many nations spending half their hard-currency earnings on the FF import bill will be a Godsend);
- It offers a carbon sequestration service that is predictably going to be tradable between nations as the issue of Carbon Recovery gains diplomatic profile and nations are faced with the task of recovering their cumulative emissions;
- It also offers both substantial rural employment and the establishment of massive new biodiversity habitat (for which Native Coppice is exceptionally benign) alongside relatively tiny infrastructure requirements, as additional drivers of national and donor-govts' decisions to invest in the necessary afforestation projects.

Regarding that best of livestock, the pig, I'd warmly recommend the Tamworth if you can find some weaners not too far away. They are very bright, eat anything (bar onion & citrus family but including any fallen sheep they can get) are hardy as hell (mine live out on a marsh and oakwood at ~1,000ft at 52N and rarely use the shelter) and are friendly and very peaceable. Gathering food for them is an option, but if you can get veg or bakery wastes you'd save a lot of time. Restaurant wastes are better still but need boiling thoroughly. A fine option for solar-sourced feed would be a plot of Jerusalem Artichokes, which can either be lifted and put in a clamp for winter feed, or can be dug up by the pigs being turned onto a new patch per week behind an electric fence. The latter gets the huge stems trampled in and well dunged, resulting in very high soil fertility the following year.



Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 18, 2015, 04:04:11 AM »
Jai - I answered the question you wrote:
what would be the carbon footprint of falling and dragging, chipping and then processing to char, then grinding, shipping and then burying a forest that is almost 2 times the size of the nation of brazil?

I'm equally willing to answer your new questions, but I'd appreciate a response to the detailed answer to your last one, without which discussion is diminished.

You need first an understanding of the ancient and highly sustainable sylviculture of Coppice, which in preceding agriculture is arguably our oldest surviving sustainable industry.

Coppice consists of a woodland that is harvested cyclically and regrown from the stumps. For a coppice on a 10 year growth cycle there will be 10 plots felled in succession, meaning that there is one ready each year. The roots do not die so long as the cycle is less than ~35 years and browsers are not allowed to graze off the new growth, but instead they put out exceedingly vigorous growth owing to the massive root ball that develops. The rule of thumb is that from the second harvest onwards coppice grows 20% faster than normal cohort forestry. The trees thrive on this regime, with their biological clock being reset at each harvest, with the oldest known in Britain being a hazel near Ashford in Kent that was planted during the Roman occupation.

Coppice is never a clear-cut operation - cutting areas (coups) are limited to the traditional 1 to 3 acres and often smaller. Larger coups would allow more wind in slowing the start of the growth season and leading to lower humidity and soil moisture in summer, again slowing growth. The felling is done during the dormant season in temperate climes to increase the formation of new buds on the stump, though by contast in Burma the trees are cut when convenient and regrow just as well.

Extraction to a stack at the edge of the coup is normally done in winter in temperate climes to minimze plants' obstruction, but on wet sites is better done in summer when the ground is firmer. Haulage in the UK is normally by pony, though in many countries oxen are used. This has advantages of tight manoeuvring, minimal ground disturbance, and when trained of being self-guided between somebody hitching bundles of logs out on the coup and somebody unhitching and building the stack. Tractors are unhelpful for extraction as their ground pressure affects the trees' roots and has been shown to slow growth rates. A timber bob or 'pair of wheels' can be used to avoid logs scraping the ground which adds to haulage load.

An interesting aspect of native coppice forestry is that it accomodates exceptional biodiversity - the highest of any ecosystem in Europe - and I know of no reason against this being the case elsewhere. It does so due to the "ecological edge effect" where year by year the light enters onto a new patch of the woodland floor and then gradually declines as the trees grow during the felling cycle. This generates unique floral and fungal inventories which attract corresponding insect and bird communities plus every mammal, amphibian and reptile that can get a living from the result, including carnivores where they are respected.

So in answer to your questions:
When you chop down the trees, the roots die and decompose,
In coppice forestry they do not; they can live for at least 1700 years.

in addition, you dry out the tropical soil and change rainfall patterns.
No, coppice doesn't dry out tropical soils and change rainfall pattern, particularly when it is planted anew and so adds to total tree cover - as in the proposed program

not to mention biodiversity loss.
A program of Native Coppice Afforestation in plots across 1.6GHa.s will provide an immense and world-changing boost to biodiversity, particularly where it is planted to buffer or rejoin isolated old-growth forest reserves.

I wonder if you have truly thought through this idea.
I began thinking this idea through in its early formats back in the late 1980s, when I was first consulting to the UK govt on forestry issues. 25 years later I have thought this through in some detail.

Please consider the manpower, logistics
I've done so in close detail for project proposals but given the number of critical variables I'd say here that they depend largely upon local conditions and on inputs.

and environmental devastation such a scheme would entail.
If it it entailed the slightest 'environmental devastation' I'd not be proposing it.

You are talking about clear cutting a significant fraction of the tropical forest belt.
No, I'm talking about nothing of the sort. I'm talking of the feasibility and multiple critical benefits of a global program of Carbon Recovery for Food Security.

All the best,


Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 18, 2015, 03:58:38 AM »
The linked research indicates that prior scientific assumptions about the advisability of converting Africa's wet savannahs to cropland were overly optimistic (see extract).  The application of "Coppice Afforestation for Biochar" to the tropical rainforest may be even more inadvisable:


I feel I should point out that what I have proposed in repeated descriptions has nothing to do with:
"The application of "Coppice Afforestation for Biochar" to the tropical rainforest . . . "

and that:
"The application of "Coppice Afforestation for Biochar" to the tropical rainforest . . . "
has nothing to do with:
"prior scientific assumptions about the advisability of converting Africa's wet savannahs to cropland"
apart from the fact that Africa happens to contain both rainforest and wet savannah.

It seems you might benefit from looking up the term 'afforestation'.


Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 18, 2015, 12:03:41 AM »
Jai - I answered the question you wrote:

what would be the carbon footprint of falling and dragging, chipping and then processing to char, then grinding, shipping and then burying a forest that is almost 2 times the size of the nation of brazil?

I'm equally willing to answer your new questions, but I'd appreciate a response to the detailed answer to your last one, without which discussion is diminished.

You need first an understanding of the ancient and highly sustainable sylviculture of Coppice, which in preceding agriculture is arguably our oldest surviving sustainable industry.

Coppice consists of a woodland that is harvested cyclically and regrown from the stumps. For a coppice on a 10 year growth cycle there will be 10 plots felled in succession, meaning that there is one ready each year. The roots do not die so long as the cycle is less than ~35 years and browsers are not allowed to graze off the new growth, but instead they put out exceedingly vigorous growth owing to the massive root ball that develops. The rule of thumb is that from the second harvest onwards coppice grows 20% faster than normal cohort forestry. The trees thrive on this regime, with their biological clock being reset at each harvest, with the oldest known in Britain being a hazel near Ashford in Kent that was planted during the Roman occupation.

Coppice is never a clear-cut operation - cutting areas (coups) are limited to the traditional 1 to 3 acres and often smaller. Larger coups would allow more wind in slowing the start of the growth season and leading to lower humidity and soil moisture in summer, again slowing growth. The felling is done during the dormant season in temperate climes to increase the formation of new buds on the stump, though by contast in Burma the trees are cut when convenient and regrow just as well.

Extraction to a stack at the edge of the coup is normally done in winter in temperate climes to minimze plants' obstruction, but on wet sites is better done in summer when the ground is firmer. Haulage in the UK is normally by pony, though in many countries oxen are used. This has advantages of tight manoeuvring, minimal ground disturbance, and when trained of being self-guided between somebody hitching bundles of logs out on the coup and somebody unhitching and building the stack. Tractors are unhelpful for extraction as their ground pressure affects the trees' roots and has been shown to slow growth rates. A timber bob or 'pair of wheels' can be used to avoid logs scraping the ground which adds to haulage load.

An interesting aspect of native coppice forestry is that it accomodates exceptional biodiversity - the highest of any ecosystem in Europe - and I know of no reason against this being the case elsewhere. It does so due to the "ecological edge effect" where year by year the light enters onto a new patch of the woodland floor and then gradually declines as the trees grow during the felling cycle. This generates unique floral and fungal inventories which attract corresponding insect and bird communities plus every mammal, amphibian and reptile that can get a living from the result, including carnivores where they are respected.

So in answer to your questions:
When you chop down the trees, the roots die and decompose,
In coppice forestry they do not; they can live for at least 1700 years.

in addition, you dry out the tropical soil and change rainfall patterns. 
No, coppice doesn't dry out tropical soils and change rainfall pattern, particularly when it is planted anew and so adds to total tree cover - as in the proposed program

not to mention biodiversity loss.
A program of Native Coppice Afforestation in plots across 1.6GHa.s will provide an immense and world-changing boost to biodiversity, particularly where it is planted to buffer or rejoin isolated old-growth forest reserves.

I wonder if you have truly thought through this idea.
I began thinking this idea through in its early formats back in the late 1980s, when I was first consulting to the UK govt on forestry issues. 25 years later I have thought this through in some detail.

Please consider the manpower, logistics
I've done so in close detail for project proposals but given the number of critical variables I'd say here that they depend largely upon local conditions and on inputs.

and environmental devastation such a scheme would entail.
If it it entailed the slightest 'environmental devastation' I'd not be proposing it.

You are talking about clear cutting a significant fraction of the tropical forest belt. 
No, I'm talking about nothing of the sort. I'm talking of the feasibility and multiple critical benefits of a global program of Carbon Recovery for Food Security.

All the best,


Policy and solutions / Re: Can we ever stop the rise of CO2?
« on: March 17, 2015, 10:31:58 PM »
Neven -

I hope we may agree the need of the massive growth of new aspirations, new politics, new conduct and new technologies as being pre-requisite for the control of the predicament we face.

It is for this reason that I find 'decroissance' to be a crass misnomer, in that is profoundly unhelpful as a title for the growth we need. It is in origin reactionary, in that it is a reaction against the absurd assumptions of infinite growth, rather than a commensurate response to that folly that describes the necessary change. For that purpose a title of 'global re-orientation' seems more apt, though there may well be better terms. That re-orientation then obviously demands a new metric for the equitable and efficient evaluation of societies' economic performance.

My revered acquaintance, the late Fritz Schumacher (if anyone's unaware, wrote "Small is Beautiful" around 1971) spoke not of degrowth but of building a new and sustainable economy as the old one decayed around us. Many who heard his talks and read his books responded by getting trained in rare skills and starting small enterprises, but without the accompanying political changes most were wiped out in later recessions, and society's course was little changed. The lesson for us was that without re-orienting the politics the physical changes we seek will not take root and flourish.

You'd be wrong to think I oppose a steady state economy in the slightest; but it doesn't seem relevant in our present circs where we face an existential struggle against diverse threats, of which AGW is only the nearest. The point perhaps needs making that if some generations hence our descendants achieve a steady state economy then they will have wiped out imperialism globally, for any residual aspiration to dominance would of course break the boundaries of resource use for the wealth to build weaponry that other peaceable states could not resist. The aspiration to dominance is in my view the underlying driver of unsustainable resource extraction, with the historical record showing this to be the case as far back as Mesopotamia.

By contrast the proposal of 'managed collapse' doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. While it is standard practice to demolish structures of steel and concrete such as the twin towers into their own footprint, attempting to collapse a structure of people's loyalties, dependencies and desires is nothing like predictable as to the outcome. For a start resistance will take unexpected forms as individuals apply their imaginations to the threat they face. And we can be sure that the forces of stasis will utilize every scrap of polarization of opinion that our efforts generate.

Ending a social construct safely is thus nothing like a collapse; it is a deliberate process of dismantling while providing the attraction of a desirable alternative for a minimum of resistance and maximum speed of change. While the intent and also the outcome may appear revolutionary, the process has to be one of perestoika - restructuring - to be efficient in resources and time expended and outcome achieved. (Gorbachev is worth reading on the issue)

From this I hope that it is plain that I fully agree with your statement:
These other problems will drag any solution for one problem down into quicksand. And so you need to not only implement your solution (be it renewables or massive biochar production), but at the same time do everything you can to remove the root cause.

However, to hold coherent discussions on particular aspects of the mitigation of climate destabilization, and to make useful progress, it is surely necessary to focus rather than being continuously diverted into the grand overall picture ? Or by others trying to explain how we are doomed by the evil plans of the plutocratic far right ?  There may be such plans - that demand concerted resistance rather than defeatism - but at what point are they simply off-topic in a thread on Emissions Control ?


(Master Wheelwright & Carriage-builder)

Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 17, 2015, 06:37:00 PM »
the size of the nation of brazil is 849 million hectares.

what would be the carbon footprint of falling and dragging, chipping and then processing to char, then grinding, shipping and then burying a forest that is almost 2 times the size of the nation of brazil?

Jai - good question.

There are three strands to the answer - distance, energy and carbon efficiency.

Re Distance - it has always been the practice in charcoal making to minimize the haulage effort, and this factor shapes the proceedure and the scale of conversion facilities.
- The wood is stacked at the edge of the coup, the felled area traditionally of 1 to 2 acres, where it's allowed to dry out thus shedding about a third or more of its weight.
- It is then hauled a maximum of 2 or 3 miles to the conversion yard, (beyond which distance the economics rapidly go into reverse) with this being well within the proven economic range of teams of draft animals hauling wainloads at a time (though old cheap tractors may also be useful)
- The yard is necessarily of 'village scale' rather than being maximized under the increasingly criticized "economies of scale", and includes sufficient retorts to handle the annual harvest from the catchment area, plus a milling, mixing, tote-bagging and storage facility for distribution by light truck (or by river barge whenever feasible).
- The retorts produce a surplus of hot wood gas after the fraction used for their ignition, (after which the charring is highly exothermic) which contains around 28% of the wood's energy potential. This crude mixture of nitrogen, a little CO2 and hydrocarbon gasses and vapours can be readily purified and converted to the liquid fuel methanol, [CH3OH] that offers exceptionally clean rapid combustion characteristics and about 55% of the energy of petrol per unit of volume. A part of the heat output may be used via the highly durable Stirling Engine for the production of process power.

Re Energy - a series of energy inputs are listed above, all of which are met either by draft animals requiring some grazing land and cerial crops for feed, or by the heat and methanol outputs from the plant.

Re Carbon Efficiency - There is certainly some embedded fossil carbon within the equipment used at all stages, most notably in delivery trucks and metal retorts, but when set against the volumes of carbon being delivered in the form of biochar on a daily basis for plowing in by farmers, that is a negligible volume.

The short answer is thus that the carbon footprint of the extraction, haulage, processing and delivery of the requisite scale of Biochar supply is of only negligible significance.



Policy and solutions / Re: Can we ever stop the rise of CO2?
« on: March 17, 2015, 05:46:15 PM »
In other words, you don't have a clue.  You don't know where you want the world to go except "down".  You have no idea how to get there.  You've no concern for the misery you would inflict on the world.  You have no idea what the post-apocalypse world would look like.

You're just blowing smoke.

It's easy, safe and comfortable to talk from a known situation and criticize people who propose stepping into the unknown. That's one of the two main reasons people won't even consider stepping away from BAU, the other reason being decades of consumption culture conditioning and the belief that progress will always find a fix.

A lot of Roman senators probably said the same things in the 4th and 5th century AD.

BAU seems to me a deficient term for this discussion - it has changed massively in my lifetime, for the worse, in that resource consumption and wastes dumping have been and still are increasing, and that sense of 'Usual' is understood only by an elite of specialists who focus on the issue. Business-as-Despoiler would be nearer the mark.

Plainly to propose the alternative of a steady state economy at a time where we are on track to crash the ecological system - with the proximate threat being of the onset of serial global crop failures during the 2020s - would demonstrate a detatchment from present reality in favour of some future idyll.

The present goal clearly needs to be of declining resource consumption and the terminantion of dumping. Given the elemental forces our misconduct has empowered, such as the acceleration of Albedo Loss, beside that goal we plainly also have to cleanse the system of our wastes and to treat the symptoms they generate - most particularly the warming - during the decades that cleansing will inevitably require.

That immense new economic activity cannot rationally be called 'degrowth', not least because it includes such changes as the growth of a new global forest industry in "Carbon Recovery for Food Security" across around 1,600 million hectares of non-farmland, employing up to 100 million people. "Global Re-orientation" might be a more apt term for the changes needed.

'Degrowth' appears to be used as a euphemism for the decline of a technologically advanced society with an accompanying population crash, which it is wrongly assumed would resolve not only the climate threat but also other issues of declining resources.
There are various flaws in that assumption:
- that the desperation of those up against the wall would not lead to conflict and the permanent widespread loss of soil fertility - through nuclear and other contamination such as chem/bio-weapons;
- that the Major Interactive Feedbacks would not continue their acceleration pushing climate destabilization and ocean acidification far beyond the possibility of reliable food suppies;
- that a crash would not lead to a marginally reduced population under a high tech dictatorship that applies unchecked power to operate a society where the remaining resources are consumed in succession supporting a steadily declining global population under worsening conditions.

In arguing for a crash, and so scorning global efforts for a soft landing, a proponent appears to seek an abdication of responsibility for the outcome - without local, provincial, regional and global coherence being maintained and raised, that coherence is declining into an increasingly chaotic flux where the bully/bandit/warlord is increasingly irresistable, and concerns for resources, future generations, etc are off the table. (Note that 'coherence' is used here in the sense of formal fully accountable co-operation, not the rigidity of a coersive hierarchy's control).
OTOH if that coherence is being raised to improve society's chances of a soft landing with minimal resource consumption and an end to dumping, then the goal is definitely not of achieving a crash.

I've yet to see any case presented where a crash can be proposed as part of raising the coherence of popular interactions - apart from occasional death-cults people generally have no interest in discussing the voluntary intentional collapse of all they hold dear. It is a doomer ideology that serves no one but the organizers of denial of the need for radical change who want to see the status quo maintained.

Here's to the softest landing that consensual politics allows !



Science / Re: Global Forest Watch
« on: March 17, 2015, 04:06:23 PM »
I'm having difficulty finding any paper giving a credible account of the Amazon's widely reported sequestration of ~2.5GtC /yr. If anyone can post a link I'd be grateful.

At issue is not whether the forest could produce that much new carbon each year but where it is accumulating.
- It is not being floated off down the rivers since the volume, around 5.0Gt Wood, would make them impassable to boats.
- If reports of a steady-state topsoil of an avereage 1ft depth are correct then it is not being converted into soil - and if it were, then over the forest's 60Myr lifespan even a minute annual increment would have built an astonishing soil depth by now.
- Weathering of rock must play some role but given that plants, vines and trees will occupy every feasible space that is neither too sheer or too well swept by river waters, it can only occur on a tiny fraction of the overall area.
- The addition of ~5.0Gts of wood per year on an area of ~7.0Mkms2 would imply an addition of 7.14TsWood per hectare per year - which is plainly untenable over time. Apart from balance issues the canopy would get so thick that young trees and the understory species would be killed off by lack of light.

Am puzzled. Better information welcome.



Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 17, 2015, 08:16:49 AM »
Jai -
I'm not clear as to the relevance of the Boreal forests' carbon stock densities, given that coppicing for biochar is necessarily a sylviculture of the temperate and tropical zones, where both growth rates and stocks/ha are far higher.

Three posts up at #91 I laid out some basic numbers on the prospect for rapid carbon recovery which you might want to evaluate. If you can propose amendments I'd be interested to see them, as getting the carbon back out of the atmosphere is plainly highly significant to all other aspects of the predicament.



. . . .the unintended consequences of inaction may prove to be far more costly to America than they think.

John - I think you're entirely right, not only by my own tracking of major events in the US & China,
but also by the hugely more credible extreme weather events database built by Munich Re since '73, which shows that the US climate is destabilizing far faster than any comparable region on the planet.

In addition, while the US beieves it is wealthy, it is actually currently creditworthy, which is a very different condition offering nothing like the same stability. In particular, that creditworthyness doesn't afford the maintenance of a fairly decent education system (they never did teach geography to those who didn't get to college) or even the full maintenance of basic infrastructure like bridges, sewers and gas mains.

In terms of damage and recovery, large parts of New Orleans have been left to rot down after the hurricane, but nothing has been spent on an orderly evacuation to a defensible flood line, meaning that they've neither rebuilt nor funded the adaption to a new perimeter.

With this being the case at the start of the curve of climate destabilization, quite how the US is going to stand its cumulative intensification in the coming years remains to be seen.

With China now having the wealth to outbid much of the middle classes of the US and the EU for food, and with a population that has mostly endured privations in the past, one can certainly make a case for America's prospects now heading into decline.



Oren - thanks, I'm glad you found it disturbed the status quo of perceptions, as this means that the analysis can actually get new questions asked !


Wili - many thanks, much appreciated.

I've not read Bacevich, but it does seem to me that analysis of great powers' conduct according to their long-term interests is currently underated.
I do think the next draft should have more focus on the corporations and their propensity for nationalism when their decision-makers are indoctrinated as children. (God willing that is a practice that will one day be outlawed).
I guess it also needs to make clearer the US oil lobby's happyness with the covert policy both in deployment And in its fulfillment.


Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 17, 2015, 06:38:33 AM »
Bruce - thanks for your thoughts on acidification under the Troika strategy - Having recently seen a paper showing severe suppression of shellfish along the N & W coasts of Canada by the late 2020s, I've been rather concerned as to quite how bad our best case of acidification will be.

In the post above to Bob I've put an outline of the numbers required for getting 280ppm by 2100 as best I see them. They are inevitably hazy given the circs, but anything you care to add to give them better definition would be very welcome.

Very sorry to hear of your trials with drought on the fruit trees and coppice. One technique I'd mention in case you're not already using it in the orchards is laying low-grade sheep fleeces around the stem to shade the ground and slow down the evaporation of any pumped water you can get to them. Re-laying the fleeces after watering is laborious but if done while watering the next tree it doesn't cost much time. OTOH a commercial orchard of hundreds or thousands of hectares isn't going to water many trees individually . . .

God willing the El Nino development will turn the weather to a better outlook.


Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 17, 2015, 05:56:51 AM »
I think this is an idea we should explore.  I really doubt the 2100 date, but I'm open to being convinced.

Bob - I'm of course open to correction on the numbers and thus the feasible target date for 280ppm, but from what I know at present 2100 looks like a high but viable goal.

The volume to be recovered is indeed immense, and must reflect both the current 120ppm of anthro-Carbon held in the atmosphere, plus the net addition by the end of anthro emissions (proposed as 2050), plus the volume that can be expected to be emitted by the oceans as airborne CO2 declines. There must also be an allowance for a small inevitable anthro-output such as from rice-growing CH4 converting to CO2.

Under the Conditions outlined at #85 above, the scenario I'm working with allows 25 years for the negotiation, organization and establishment of 1.6Gha.s of native coppice afforestation, (~4.0Bn acres) meaning that the first full harvest of 10-yr-old growth occurs in 2040.
The global average yield is set at 12Ts Dry Wood /ha /yr (TsDWd/ha/yr) which is quite modest given tropical rates under a stabilized climate.
(Without the application of Albedo Restoration all bets on the growth of forest, let alone food crops, are off by the 2030s).

Using moderately efficient retorts that convert 35% of wood to charcoal (the best being ~42% using a high tech microwave system) 12TsDWd = 4.2TsC (charcoal)
Overall yield then equals 1.6Gha.s x 4.2TsC = 6.72GtC /y
Dividing by 2.135GtC per ppm of CO2 = 3.15ppm buried per year
By 2100 this implies a recovery of 60yrs x 3.15ppm = 189ppm
Allowing 120ppm of this to clear the current antCO2 leaves only 69ppm to meet future outputs.

From here on the numbers are hazy.
Michael Mann proposes 50ppm as the feasible target for remaining antCO2 outputs, but I suspect we could do rather better given :
a/. the rapidly falling costs of N-F power and diverse storage options, and
b/. the rising corporate demand to halt FFs by a carbon price of Allocate, Cap & Trade, and
c/. enough people being willing to risk what they have to end society's FF dependence.

The allowance for remaining antCO2 is thus set at 40ppm,
leaving 29ppm to meet the CO2 re-emerging from the oceans.
A rule of thumb puts the amount gone into the oceans at a bit over half what's held in the atmosphere, i.e. around 70ppm, and the most knowledgeable scientist I've spoken to advised a figure of 40% of that being re-emitted as airborne CO2 falls, which is 28ppm.

Against the plain fact that either or both of remaining antCO2 output and ocean CO2 output may in practice be larger than projected above,
is the equally plain fact that we have both additional biomass resources in view including agric, urban and forestry wastes that could be sequestered as biochar;
and also the potential of agricultural practice C sequestration which certainly offers a useful additional sequestration,
as well as the possibility of an advance in DACCS cutting its costs from >$600Bn/GtCO2 to less than $50Bn, (but fortunately we don't appear reliant on this possibility).

Overall there thus seems a good viability case for setting 2100 as the target date for 280ppm,
on top of which is the presentational case of such a beautifully round number,
and on top of that is the actuarial case that we'll be long under the sod by 2100
- so we won't have to listen to whingeing about a goal that was some number of years off.

But to meet the trend of that goal the negotiation of the protocol governing the global program of Carbon Recovery needs to be under way ASAP!, and the concept of a major new global industry in "Carbon Recovery for Food Security" needs to be propagated very widely.


Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 15, 2015, 07:11:21 PM »
Bruce -
thank you for your response.

I'm afraid that through an error of mine it is partly at cross purposes, in that I wrongly assumed the term 'Carbon Recovery' was widely enough used not to need definition as a term for the recovery of airborne carbon and its sequestration, as opposed to referring to the techniques of power stations' CO2 Capture and Storage.

Having some expertise in forestry and having run my own small (40acre) coppice woodlands since 2006, I'm reasonably confident that a very major program of Carbon Recovery utilizing Native Coppice Afforestation for Biochar (for plowing in with farms normal cultivation as a valuable soil moisture regulator and fertility enhancer) could achieve the cleansing of the atmosphere by around 2100.

The Conditions for such an outcome would include a rapid contraction of anthro emissions - at best cutting to near-zero by 2050 -, as well as the deployment of a reliably benign mode of Albedo Restoration as soon as it has been sufficiently researched - by say 2030? - in order to cut the risks of crop failure and halt the feedback outputs as rapidly as possible.

Those conditions would also include the use of efficient village-scale charcoal retorts across the 1.6GHa.s of suitable non-farmland identified as available in the joint WRI-WFN study, with the retorts' surplus hydrocarbon gasses being converted on site to the basic liquid fuel methanol to provide both fuel for the product's distribution and a second product and revenue stream to help defray costs.

A further consideration is that to function well it must be done well and for the right reasons; that is it needs to be developed and operated under the governance of a UN scientific agency for both social and ecological benefit, while its purpose is preferably not as carbon offsets for nations' residual fossil fuel burning but at best as the means by which nations can contribute to costs as a verifiable means of the gradual recovery of their cumulative emissions.

From this perspective I'm looking to the best case of the Troika strategy, implementing rapid Emissions Control with Carbon Recovery and with Albedo Restoration - all of which is aiming high, but I see nothing to lose by doing so.

With regard to the idea of the terminal decline of the oceans, I'd use the term intentionally in the political sense to describe the point where there is nothing left of their ecology that is much use to us for food. This is also of course a point of massive ecological collapse but it is not, as you rightly remark the end of all lifeforms. In my view we need to use alarming language (and always be ready to provide definitions) just as we need to start getting very angry indeed with the bipartisan US policy of obstructing the mitigation of AGW in hopes of maintaining its own dominance.

As you are clearly far better informed than I on the science of ocean acidification, I wonder if you might be persuaded to run some evaluations of the outcome out to say 2150 of the Troika's best case above ? The base case would mean cutting warming back to the pre-industrial level during the 2030s, followed by peaking CO2ppm around 2050, followed by its slow decline to 280ppm around 2100, but any variations on this format showing particular strengths and weaknesses would also be very welcome.

From this perspective I think we still have a chance of resolving the predicament if appropriate action is taken sufficiently swiftly, but I'd be the first to agree that the window of opportunity is closing by the year.



Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 15, 2015, 05:47:05 PM »
". . .technically these mean that albedo geoengineering (again, alone) would decrease alkalinity less than allowing the earth to heat up to the point that these feedbacks kick in. It does not show that albedo geoengineering would not decrease alkalinity."

Wili -
To get it technically precise then if Albedo Restoration had been deployed in isolation before the first of the warming-driven carbom MIFs had taken off - which Dr John Gribben reported in his 1990 book "Hothouse Earth" was Permafrost Melt in Russia in the 1970s - it might be said to have advanced the oceans' uptake of CO2 up to the date where those MIFs would otherwise have started raising airborne CO2ppm.

However this is a rather hypothetical assesment given that in practice the carbon MIFs are already kicking in wholesale, for instance with significant Mts CO2 emitted by each of the Amazon's majoir droughts let alone other Forest Loss worldwide, and with Fertilized Peatbog Decay's CO2 output rising at >6%/yr on track to exceed present anthro-CO2 output in the 2060s.

In practice Albedo Restoration is thus a critical component of the Troika strategy for its role in avoiding termainal acidification, as well as for avoiding the onset of serial global crop failures and the loss of the requisite afforestation for Carbon Recovery.



Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 15, 2015, 02:38:44 PM »
yes, beside there being no quotes I've seen of any serious scientist or politician proposing the use of Albedo Restoration as being sufficient without both Carbon Recovery and rapid Emissions Control,
there is also the fact that the US and EU and others are aiming for "Net-Zero" emissions targets in Paris, which is a de facto commitment to both Carbon Recovery and Emissions Control.
There is thus no serous prospect of Albedo Restoration being deployed in isolation.

However there are at least three other factors which negate the possibility of Albedo Restoration "increasing ocean acidifcation".

- An effective deployment of Albedo Restoration provides sufficient cooling to decelerate the 4 warming-driven carbon-emitting Major Interactive Feedbacks [MIFs] (Permafrost Melt, Forest Loss, Soil Desiccation & Methane Hydrates' Melt) thereby preventing their otherwise inevitable addition to airborne CO2ppm, thereby actively reducing the intake of CO2 and its increase of ocean acidification.
- In halting those feedbacks' raising of CO2ppm, Albedo Restoration also halts the CO2-driven MIF of Fertilized Peatbog Decay, which will otherwise continue to escalate its output of CO2 adding to ppm and thus to ocean acidification.
- In halting (eventually) the warming-driven Methane Hydrates' Melt, Albedo Restoration would avoid its direct addition to the oceans of substantial volumes of CH4 (that are dissolved before reaching the surface) where they are quite rapidly converted to CO2 by methanotrofic bacteria, thereby avoiding a substantial direct addition to ocean acidification.

From this perspective Albedo Restoration is absolutely essential as part of the Troika strategy if terminal ocean acidification is to be avoided.

In my view this is an extremely urgent issue, given not only the loss of most corals under 1.5C of warming, but also the likely onset of serial global crop failures by that point, while at present we are 10 or 20 years away from having a technique of Albedo Restoration sufficiently researched to allow its deployment.

In this light what we face can be seen as the third and final 'window of opportunity"



Thanks Neven - they're certainly better on one thread.



The economist Lord Stern has described the absence of effective action as “the greatest market failure in history” – in effect “a Tragedy of the Markets,” where self-restraint is in no corporation’s interest, but this overlooks the many anomalous acts by both US government and corporations. What is needed is an exploration of the evidence of US policy under Cheney and of it being adopted by Obama, and of just why it still prevails in the preparations for the Paris CoP.

I've tracked several dozen acts of commission and omission by Obama over the last six years, and some of them are simply antithetical to a wish to resolve AGW. On the contrary, they have quite brazenly obstructed the essential global agreement of emissions control to mitigate AGW. At the same time activists' approval has been upheld by a media controversy over his (very limited) renewables support, which few recognize as being largely irrelevant without that global agreement, since decarbonization in the US means that any fossil fuels nationally displaced are simply bought, shipped and burnt elsewhere.

A brief review of Obama's track starts with his focus on the climate issue in the Dec 2008 election, his flagging up of “Healthcare and Climate” as The key issues in his victory speech, and his adamant address to the "Governors' Climate Summit" a few days later, promising strong WH action and every help to states' actions.

Yet by March 2009, there was a reversal. Besides reneging on the US Kyoto commitments (which by a 'best efforts' approach could have earned the US strong kudos globally and encouraged positive responses) he also echoed Cheney in reneging on the US signature of the UNFCCC mandate - by rejecting the legal 1990 baseline and adopting Cheney’s illegitimate 2005 baseline. While these points went over most Americans' heads, they intentionally signalled to all foreign govts that Cheney's policy of a 'Brinkmanship of Inaction' with China would be maintained.

In the same month he had reps of the top 20 green NGOs invited to the WH where they were instructed to stop talking of Global Warming and instead campaign of 'Clean Energy'. McKibben to his credit was one of only two or three who dissented. The closing down of the climate issue had begun. From being one of the two key priorities it was pushed out of sight by “Economy, Health and Immigration” as the 1st term focus, with Obama's use of the word 'climate' falling at times to only one passing mention in two months.

In December 2009 he was manoeuvred to the Copenhagen CoP, after his spokesman had declared with calculated rudeness that "he might attend if he could be sure that all other parties were acting in good faith." There he proceeded to deliver a massive calculated snub to the Chinese premier with maximum publicity, knowing this would mean the premier would have to withdraw due to his own right wing at home. He then demanded a take-it-or-leave-it deal from the substitute that meant each American would have three times the emissions rights of each Chinese in 2050, which predictably crashed the conference. With prepared press briefings steering the media long before Airforce 1 reached the US this again went unseen by most Americans.

During 2010 he played a personal role in the administration's quite blatant sabotage of the Senate climate bill, as was forensically detailed by Ryan Liza in the New Yorker article This closed down any prospect of the swiftest, most economically efficient mode of US decarbonization known as Allocate, Cap & Trade until at least 2017. It also obstructed any discussion at the UNFCCC of this approach as the necessary underpinning of a global carbon price.

At the Cancun CoP in Dec 2010 the rubble of Copenhagen was shaped into a system of "voluntary national pledges" on emissions cuts by 2020, with the EU pledging 20% off the legal 1990 baseline and the US pledging 17% off Cheney's 2005 baseline - which is 0.7% off 1990. By this point it was clear that the WH was running a dual messaging system - one to Americans and one to everyone else and their govts, and that the corporate media were complicit.

A singularly callous message was next sent to us foreigners when Obama outdid Cheney's gratuitous raising to 30% the part of the corn crop banned from export for the null excuse of ethanol-output - by raising that to 40%. This came on top of historically low world grain reserves and the resulting spike in world food prices as all grain prices were drawn higher caused massive hunger, and doubtless many deaths, as were reflected in food riots and unrest in many countries, notably including Syria. In an unprecedented response not one but two Democrat ex-presidents broke with protocol (presumably having been rebuffed privately) by publicly demanding that the policy "must" be cancelled. They were entirely ignored, and given minimal media coverage, until, for the sake of Obama's image, a hopelessly deficient post-dated constraint of financial speculation on grain prices was announced. The message to foreign govts was crystal clear: the US was willing and able to use food supplies as a lever of geopolitics as it gets strengthened by climate impacts on global food production.

Apart from minor actions, such as repeated put-downs of the climate issue - for instance, telling an post-middle-age audience that "We know young people get passionate about issues like climate change . . . .", Obama's next coup was the strategy in the re-election campaign. Despite polls showing strong Democrat and Independent voters' support for action on climate, and around half of GOP voters too (as Joe Romm publicized at the time) the massive classic wedge issue of the climate was totally excluded from the campaign. The fact that it was a rather tight race is the measure of how important it was to Obama to avoid raising the profile of the climate issue. Had it been used as it should have been, the Democrat party would have shredded with ridicule and sober scientists the Republican denialism that provides the political cover for Obama's inaction, and he'd have been committed to doing much more in his 2nd term.

Not long after another victory speech with its rousing section on climate, a new set of priorities was announced for the 2nd term: “Economy, Immigration & Gun Control”, with climate being again excluded. However the WH 'Office of Budget Management' finally ran into trouble after five years of gagging the EPA from meeting its legal duty to regulate carbon dioxide when a small NGO (kudos!) filed suit against it. A hasty announcement of EPA action was made and the consultation volume on regulating coal firing was eventually released. It is framed in a manner which may well be stopped in the courts and which wouldn't even start until 2020, assuming the next president doesn't gut it. Like the CAFE standards changes in the 1st term, it doesn't achieve anything much at all before the second half of the 2020s. The lack of urgency is palpable.

The 2nd term has been quite active on the foreign policy front, as exemplified by the US climate negotiator Stern declaring that "A climate treaty is unnecessary and undoable!" In this he made clear to foreign govts once again that the US will not sign any treaty, though the message to Americans was that "the foreigners won't sign a climate treaty but it doesn't matter because we don't need one." The upshot is that Paris will list only voluntary "intentions" to make cuts, not (unless the EU and others achieve a surprise) any sort of binding commitments to make cuts.

It is worth noting here that any US president is at liberty to sign a treaty that the senate would have to ratify, such as one including automatic global tariff penalties for nations signing but failing to ratify and for compliance failures.

As a means to suppress the ambition of other govts' proposed intentions for the Paris CoP, Obama used his trip to China as a high profile platform for backsliding. China had begun deploying the efficient Allocate, Cap & Trade option for decarbonization in a number of its regions and was well on the way to peaking its emissions around 2030, and was willing to declare this as the basis of its Paris 'intention'. In response Obama chose to use the occasion to renege on the second part of his own Cancun 'pledge' by cutting the US 'intention' for 2025 from 30% off 2005 (16.25% off 1990) to ~26% off 2005 (~12.0% off 1990). With a world class effort to steer the corporate media, this has of course gone clean over most Americans heads. But this backsliding has not gone over the heads of foreign govts, who see the US once again discouraging the ambition of their declared cuts 'intentions' for the Paris summit.

Even skimming some of the main points of Obama's track - while excluding his radical support for increased fossil fuel extraction - has already made this a long post, but there is one other item worth considering. Since about 1988 it has been very clear to scientists, such as the renowned Dr John Holdren who keeps Obama fully informed of the climate predicament, that we are going to have to engage in massive 'carbon recovery' to cleanse the atmosphere and reduce the warming. America was very well endowed geographically in 2009 for Obama to launch an exemplary national program of afforestation, preferably of native coppice afforestation for biochar production with its huge employment opportunities, with the product being sold to farms as a valuable soil moisture regulator and fertility enhancer.

But since 2009, with not a sign of WH interest in forestry, the US has lost over 70,000 sq mls of forest killed by pest infestation due to milder winters and unabated ozone pollution. Those dead forests, holding over a billion tonnes of carbon, are now awaiting wildfire or rot, with the latter converting a rather high fraction of the carbon into methane, which is around 86 times as potent a GHG as CO2 over the crucial 20yr period. - In addition, had Obama acted on carbon recovery in 2009 when he had a legislative majority, many thousands of the farms now afflicted by extreme drought could have had their land made at least more resistant to drought and to its suppression of their crop yields and financial viability.

To get Obama's conduct in perspective and to make sense of his motivation for obstructing action on climate, we need to look at what motivated Cheney whose climate policy he adopted. In particular what motivated Cheney when he founded the 'Brinkmanship of Inaction' with China by reneging in Kyoto and putting a crass malicious buffoon to represent the US at the UN. Most of Cheney's decisions could of course be said to serve the oil industry that he was part of, but not all. For instance, raising the corn crop withheld from export for Ethanol from ~12% (IIRC) to 30% was directly against the fossil lobby preference - and that wasn’t done for the green vote.

More to the point, as a classic cold-war warrior serving American dominance right back to Nixon's day there is one huge gap in the policies he promoted from behind GW Bush - he failed to provide any policy to break China's predictable rise to global economic dominance over America - apart from facilitating AGW's mounting threat to China of crop failures and civil unrest leading towards regime change. Given that maintaining America's global economic dominance has been the paramount bipartisan policy priority since WW2, this failure is a very robust item of evidence for his trapping China into a 'Brinkmanship of Inaction' as the core a covert long-term bipartisan policy of letting AGW rip as the chosen means of breaking China's rise.

Obama’s conduct at the Governors' Climate Summit after he was elected in 2008 indicates that he was probably unaware of the covert climate policy and would have had to be persuaded it was the appropriate course regardless of how committed a small informed core of the US establishment was to it. There were two items that he would definitely have required, just as they would earlier have been required by that inner circle of the US corporate elite before they agreed to Cheney's proposal of the policy – of which the first was an acceptable assessment of the damages within America.

The baseline for assessing US damages would have been a comparison with those predictable from the default strategy of breaking China’s rise by warfare, against which the impacts of unprecedented storms, floods and droughts look rather insignificant. This would have been affirmed by the widespread  assumption that developing nations, such as China, would be hit by extreme climate impacts far harder and sooner than would developed nations, such as the US, and that wealthy nations, such as the US, would be far better able to meet rebuilding and recovery costs. (In practice both of these assumptions are proving erroneous).

The impact on US food supplies could also be presented as negligible give its relatively massive food production per capita, meaning that while there might be some price rises affecting the poor there would be no serious shortages for home demand, but rather some level of cuts to food exports helping to raise global food prices. This offered a strong contrast with China’s relatively small food production per capita, which alongside its widespread incompetent damage to its farmland, has been increasing its dependence on food imports. In the event of a serious global crop failure those crucial imports will not be available.

The second predictable requirement in the policy’s evaluation would have been of an exit strategy. In this we may actually get to the policy's originator, for it was supplied in '95 in the form of a scientific paper on the potential of stratospheric sulphate aerosols to control global warming "should the USA someday consider that desirable." It was written by Cheney's longtime friend and close collaborator as far back as the star wars program under Reagan (for which he was originator and chief scientist) namely Edward Teller.

The fact that he had not taken any public position on AGW before publishing the sulphate aerosols paper, alongside the fact that he was renowned across the US right wing not only as an obsessive anti-communist, the father of the H-bomb and pre-eminent nuclear scientist, but also as the strategist that had 'won' the cold war, gives quite some credence to his being the policy's originator. As a means to bring down the sole remaining major communist power without needing to entice them into another arms race (which they were and are unwilling to enter) the policy has a certain genocidally callous elegance that is characteristic of Teller’s projects over the decades.

The one aspect of the present position of the climate issue not yet addressed here is the one some readers (if any get this far) may have had most to do with, and that is the role of denialism. The rapid ramping up of astro-turf denialism in 2009 was matched by really embarrassing flips by GOP legislators, some of whom had previously not only acknowledged AGW but had vocally supported action on it. Without the mounting astro-turf denialism their flips would have been untenable, and without their flips and the GOP taking denial as a badge of respectability, there would have been no political cover for Obama's inaction and obstruction over the last six years. That cover was essential for him to maintain the tribal loyalties for and against climate action and to maintain the good-cop/bad-cop climate circus of Dem & GOP presidents. That circus is also useful internationally where Obama can presented as being hogtied on the climate issue by the GOP, though it is unlikely that many govts are any longer deceived.

Perhaps the core issue of the deceit focussed against climate activists has been the persistent coat-trailing by the fossil lobby inviting the assumption that it is the originator and funder of the denialism across the web and the media. The disproof of that assumption is three-fold.

- First, the fossil lobby generates only about 8% of US GDP, with the majority of the rest, say 72%, coming from other corporations. If it was the fossil lobby driving the astro turf and GOP denialism against the majority's wishes, that majority would have around nine times the financial and political clout to put a stop to it, particularly as most have zero inherent loyalty to fossil fuels and all have the incentive of their profits being in the firing line of mounting climate disruption and damage. Alongside silencing the US fossil lobby, if they didn't approve the policy of inaction they'd predictably have torn down the WH gates by now.

- Second, American corporations' conduct is entirely at odds with those of the EU, where the fossil lobby makes clear it won't fund denialism, and unlike in America there are quite a number of corporations getting very vocal in concerted efforts for climate action - not simply in fitting renewable energy kit but in demanding global action - For instance, the group founded by Prince Charles of major corporations is demanding a "net-zero by 2050" commitment from the Paris Summit. The difference being that unlike US corporations their European counterparts have no great fraction of their profits dependent on the maintenance of America's global economic dominance.

- Third, the propagandas of denialism may seem crude at web level, but they are artfully applied across a host of different audiences and media and are maintained and rapidly updated in many countries' languages as the science and politics requires. The expertise to run such a massive and subtle operation is not readily visible in the US fossil lobby. To find the best assembly of such skills on the planet I'd instead look to the psy-ops capacity of US intelligence agencies. It may be mere coincidence, but with the increasing doubts since 2006 of the viability, let alone safety, of stratospheric sulphate aerosols for Geo-E, it was the bunch at Langley who put up $600k for the US National Academy of Science to provide an authoritative report on the full range of proposed Geo-E techniques, along with a rather timid call for research to be got under way.

In assessing the general cogency of this analysis of a covert US policy of inaction a question worth considering is the message Washington has been sending other govts - if you were an analyst serving the government of China who'd been focussed on the climate issue for the last twenty years, what would be your opinion of US climate policy ?

It is possible, though rather incredible, that all of the anomalous conduct over the past two decades that is noted above and that can be explained by a covert bipartisan policy of destabilizing China’s agriculture, is just the outcome of incompetence and happenstance. But if so, then America is probably the first empire in all of recorded history to be destabilizing its main rival’s food supply by accident.



Introduction to "Climate Destabilization: Tragedy of the Markets or Imperial Defence ?"

Back in the late 1980s the scientific evidence of the onset of global warming and of the scale and hazard of future climate destabilization was sufficient for Reagan, Thatcher and Gorbachev – the most powerful staunchly pro-industry politicians of their day, to establish the IPCC and UNFCCC as the scientific monitor and the diplomatic forum for the issue’s resolution.

In the ~25 years since then, while the evidence has hardened, the commitment to future damages has multiplied and the threat has risen to an existential level, the only marginally significant action agreed has been the Kyoto protocol, in which developed nations were to make the first cuts before developing nations would be expected to join a second universal emissions control treaty. But even that was promptly gutted by Bush’s refusal to submit the treaty for ratification, thus gratuitously reneging on it rather than just letting the US senate decline to ratify it. While many nations complied with their 2012 commitments under the protocol, these had summed globally to just 5% off 1990 and so had little impact on the rise of airborne GHGs, and could do nothing to offset the international distrust Bush’s action had imposed.

With the ex-Halliburton neo-con Cheney as VP, both he and Bush were former oilmen which meant that their reneging on Kyoto and various later actions to undermine the UNFCCC could be readily explained across a neo-liberal media as protection of the vested interests in fossil fuels - who have indeed profited hugely by the delay of restraint on carbon emissions. Yet the launch of Cheney’s ‘brinkmanship of inaction’ with China, whose response was an immediate flat-out coal fired growth policy, should, by any rational analysis, have been ended with the election of the Democrat president Obama in 2008. Yet it was not ended but was instead escalated, despite the climate threat having by then advanced greatly, with solid evidence of the potential loss of global food security and of the acceleration of feedbacks that would fully offset the effectiveness of global emissions control.

The economist Lord Stern has described the absence of effective action as “the greatest market failure in history” – in effect “a Tragedy of the Markets,” where self-restraint is in no corporation’s interest, but this overlooks the many anomalous acts by both US government and corporations. What is needed is an exploration of the evidence of Cheney’s policy and of it being adopted by Obama, and of just why it still prevails in the preparations for the Paris CoP.

To meet the limit on text-length, that exploration is posted on a 2nd topic below.



Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 14, 2015, 07:40:24 AM »
"any efforts to cool the Earth by albedo modification would increase the acidity of the oceans"

Yes, I think that is likely true.

Wili - you know that is patently untrue.

Why pretend you don't ?

Regards,  Lewis

Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 14, 2015, 07:34:37 AM »
- In 1992, average mean CO2 rise was 0.48ppm. This is astonishingly low in a period when global mean CO2 rise was and is typically between 1.5-2.5ppm. This unusual year coincides with a global cooling of ~half a degree commonly associated with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo (SO2 aerosols).

- Contrast this with the sharp annual mean increase of 2.93ppm witnessed in 1998, after the intense el niño of that year led to record warming.

Revillo -

Your assertion of cold water taking in more CO2 than warm water is a rather basic part of various marine sciences, but the attempt to use an El Nino year and the Pinatubo year as a new evidence of this seems both spurious and as yet somewhat under-researched. How many other factors are you willing to consider while trying to find a pair of causal relationships ?

Joe Romm has a good post up that you may find interesting discussing a 2014 paper that identified the long expected decline of the oceans' function as a natural carbon sink. As this leaves more of anthro-CO2 output in the atmosphere each year it is confirmation that Ocean Heating and Acidification is the eighth Major Interactive Feedback. :

However, to propose that Albedo Restoration would significantly increase ocean acidification on the strength of your uproven hypothesis is both premature and patently irrational as a critique of Albedo Restoration's utility.

When two techniques each addresses one crucial part of a critical problem, do you really discard one and ignore the other because neither can by itself address the whole problem ?

When you break a leg you could tell the doctors on arrival at hospital that you won't have a plaster cast because that would just leave the bones out of alignment and unable to heal up - Or would you respect their expertise in applying Two techniques to the One broken leg ?

The technique that is the complement to Albedo Restoration can be described as Carbon Recovery. It is employed to recover airborne carbon dioxide, at best to the extent of drawing the excess CO2 back out of the oceans to restore their natural alkalinity.

Neither of these two modes of geo-engineering can resolve our climate predicament alone, nor in tandem with the essential rapid emissions control.

Rapid emissions control alongside both modes of geoengineering could potentially serve to minimize the peak level of CO2 and the peak level of warming and its associated climate destabilization. In this Troika format global temperature is restrained during the many decades required for the cleansing of the atmosphere, thereby conserving the necessary forestry that would otherwise be lost to the impacts of warming.

As yet the best proposals for Albedo Restoration need at least a decade of stringently supervised research before there could be any confidence of their reliably benign function in operation. The starting point is the development of that necessarily global supervision capacity.


Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 11, 2015, 06:37:50 PM »
least cost and proven technology, also the most likely to replicate current anthropogenic aerosol loading.

Jai - the least cost option is that of "Cloud Brightening", using ~2000 wind powered hoats of 100ft length, as compared with the purchase, maintenance, operation and fuelling of a fleet of cargo jets shuttling to the stratosphere each day and staying there while gradually releasing their load.

The sulphates option does have the example of Pinatubo's cooling effect as a theoretical demo, but that is very different from delivery in small lots by jet being proven, which would require long research. Given that it cannot be effectively researched at less than global scale (whatever volume is released then spreads round the stratosphere) and that it takes ~2 years to rain out, and that it is liable to cause very damaging disruptions to global rainfall patterns (being untargettable) and given that the alternative of using titanium oxide would at least avoid the massive acid rain effect,
the sulphate aerosols option seems the least likely of the 4 most prominent proposals to end up being selected.

If opposition to well supervised research were to mean that at the point where serial global crop failures began to generate geopolitical destabilization zero research had been achieved, then I'd agree that sulphates and titanium oxide might be seen as the only 'ready' options and the latter then being deployed by default - but that would involve enough people being sufficiently stupid to oppose the demonstrably necessary scientific research.
Re the moral hazard question, getting a credibly stringent Emissions Control treaty into operation is the starting point of actually cutting global GHG output, not least because without it any fossil fuels locally displaced by renewables are simply bought, shipped and burnt elsewhere. At that point all nations are committed, and the subsequent deployment of the Albedo Restoration mode of Geo-E can no longer have an effect on what nations' commitments are under the treaty.

In addition, I think our assessment of just what forces are at the core of opposition to the mitigation of AGW are probably rather different. More on this anon.

re: human and species loss.  I don't think you really understand the systemic response that will occur under a regime of June 21 ice-free arctic and 2.5C globally averaged temperature anomalies, with an additional 1.5-4.5C of locked-in warming due to feedback effects.

In response I can only say that studying the systemic response under such warming since the early 1990s is the reason that I understood the innate deficiency of the Emissions-Control-alone approach some years ago and so began to write of the necessity of a commensurate 'Troika' strategy that includes both modes of Geo-E. While it is not yet a popular position, it is heartening to see it gaining support wherever it gets a fair hearing rather than being merely shouted down by opponents. I hope you'll give it further consideration.


Neven - surely it was neither 'peal' nor 'peel' but rather 'pry' ?

"In the end this is all about respecting limits, and Green BAU is just another way to work around that, like we've always done."

As a commoner, what you say here appeals to me very much, with the proviso that the prevailing ideology is only a recent construct in most places.

"The only way to respect limits is to impose limits, even though it doesn't sell well because of our conditioning. Green BAU is just a pacifier, and if it doesn't work, the crash will only be larger and worse. It could work if the system is changed, and limits are imposed."

Here we would differ primarily in the description: limits have to be recognized and agreed - the Commons essentially function on co-operation, with their defence being imposed only in response to abberant behaviour. On Open-access resources, such as the atmosphere at present, nations' rights and duties have yet to be agreed and allocated and all parties tend to indulge in maximizing output to try to avoid being overpowered by others doing the same.

The idea of Green BAU seems to me an oxymoron, in that a society where energy supply is not concentrated in fenceable reserves but is globally ubiquitous is a fundamentally different creature, and any attempt to run it under the old system of privatised (fenced) open access resources is patently untenable, and will fail in a meeting of non-fossil filler-cap and tail-pipe issues. Like on the oceans and the land, we need to agree a treaty of the Atmospheric Commons to establish the baselines of conduct within which rates of the resource's use are rapidly contracted and under which the new non-fossil technologies can function sustainably.

". . . . and profits need to grow because otherwise GDP doesn't grow, whether BAU is black or green. And so first the definition of GDP needs to be adapted to make the required changes possible."

The incompetence of supposedly professional economists since say "Silent Spring" came out in the '50s in failing to account the 'Net Domestic Product' seems a permanent disgrace. How the transition is to be made to include resource consumption and renewal is a huge issue, but we can maybe see the outlines in an agreed interim period of nations' cuts-in-impacts being positively accounted to a diminishing extent. (Others likely have far more insight than I on this).

"But you need to change the system so that limits are respected. Green BAU doesn't respect limits, it's a trick."

The distinction here is in my view between a US-led 'free-market' approach to the proximate concern of climate destabilization and those who seek to agree the limits allowing the 'fair market' to thrive by respecting the commons. This controversy is as old as the first attempts to sieze and enclose the commons, at least as far back as Mesopotamia.

I'd certainly agree that the supposed 'free-market' solutions to AGW - in the current guise of Green BAU - are a trick, but it is one whose objective in my view runs far deeper than merely trying to sustain fossil energy dominance. That's yet another large issue, so maybe a brief sketch will be of some interest here.

- In view of Washington's fifteen years of foot-dragging and outright obstruction of the agreement to mitigate AGW,
and in view of its paramount bipartisan policy priority since WW2 of maintaining America's global economic dominance,
- what strategy serving that policy priority has been in place since Cheney took power  - apart from a covert policy of awaiting the climatic destabilization of China's agriculture, leading to intensifying civil unrest and inexorably towards regime change, thereby ending China's bid to achieve global economic dominance at America's expense ?


Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 10, 2015, 07:39:05 PM »
Jai - I note you offer no evidence to back your assertion that the chosen mode of Albedo Restoration will be sulphate aerosols, depite the range of patently preferable options.

Could you explain this ?

Regarding the moral hazard issue of Geo-E's potential undermining ambition in Emissions Control, I personally doubt the strength of that hazard given a simple clause in the requisite UN protocol for Geo-E governance, whereby the member states' eventual decision to deploy is not valid without a credibly stringent Emissions Control Treaty being in force.

Your assertions of human and other species' losses seem speculative without accompanying data on AGW controls decade by decade. I'd well agree that losses could be that severe or worse, but with care and massive effort they could equally be a lot better.


Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 10, 2015, 06:30:22 PM »
Neven - thanks for your response.

What expertise I have is a few decades study and practice of native coppice forestry, so on the Carbon Recovery for Food Security mode of Geo-E I can say with some confidence that in concert with rapid Emissions Control it has the potential to minimize the peak of CO2 ppm and to cleanse the atmosphere of anthro-CO2 by around 2100.

Howevers -
1/. The re-emission of CO2 from the oceans as airborne ppm falls is potentially large - the 2100 target includes ~40% of what's gone in - so every scrap of available ag & urban & forestry biomass wastes may also be required - allowing for other ag uses' continuation. If needed non-boreal paper-pulp forestry could be replanted as extra coppice as it's harvested.
2/. The scale envisaged is of the 1.6Ghas of suitable non-farmland seen in the WRI-WFN report.
3/. That scale is an immense planting program in its own right, and is at best completed by the 2030s, meaning full harvest of 10yr-old growth doesn't start till the 2040s, meaning that first marginal cooling doesn't start till the 2070s.
4/. Without the Albedo Restoration mode of Geo-E being successfully applied the MIFs + Anthro-CO2 outputs would very likely impose a climate destabilization heavily degrading the program's forests well before 2070.
5/. Carbon Recovery is thus a necessary but not sufficient addition to rapid Emissions Control for a sustainable outcome.

DACCS & BECCS in my view are nowhere remotely near competitive with CRFS either in terms of $/T CO2 sequestered, nor in benign results /TCO2, nor in their physical scaleability, noting that CRFS has a potential second revenue stream from coproduct methanol made from charcoal retorts' surplus hydrocarbon gasses.

Pasture Carbon sequestration certainly appears to have a significant potential where circumstances allow, but I've yet to see cogent research identifying the actual scale that is viable. Item no. 473645 for greater research, ASAP.

Regarding Albedo Restoration, of the several serious proposals Cloud Brightening and Cirrus Cloud Thinning currently appear most promising, given that they can be effectively trialled at local and regional scales and trials' effects can be halted within a fortnight (by raining out the catalysts) and that the former can be deployed by about 2,000 wind-powered vessels of 100ft length. But on this I've no expertise, just some study.

Given the strong potential for unilateral deployment of harmful forms of Geo-E to generate warfare, it is only through the UN member states' decision that deployment could occur sustainably. And that in turn indicates the need of the governance of a concerted research and selection process under a UN scientific agency. To avoid any risk of suppressing nations' ambition on rapid Emissions Control I'd urge the adoption in the decision-making protocol of a clause stating that a decision to deploy the Albedo Restoration mode cannot be valid until a credibly stringent Emissions Control treaty is agreed, ratified and in force.

However - a decade or more of research and observations of the effects of the leading option is needed to be confident of having identified a reliably benign system of targeting and intensity of effects, on top of which is the time needed to negotiate the UN governance protocol and then finally the time needed for the decision to deploy.

An overall schedule may thus be somewhere between 10 and 20 years for this sequence, which is very late indeed from the perspective of the looming threat of the onset of serial global crop failures during the 2020s. Once they hit, we'd be very likely to lose the geopolitical coherence needed to operate the Emissions Control treaty, as well as the Carbon Recovery and Albedo Restoration programs.

From a risk avoidance perspective the negotiation of the Geo-E governance protocol is thus a matter of the greatest urgency - certainly no less than the Emissions Control treaty.

All of which is a seriously difficult mountain to climb, but I observe that actually humanity doesn't have anything better to do, so we might as well get on with it.  8)


Consequences / Re: NH Snow cover loss
« on: March 10, 2015, 04:50:05 PM »
Michael - thanks for this.
I'd long been looking for a decent overview of the various research groups' findings.
If ever you find an assessment of the consequent Albedo Loss as a % of anthro-CO2 I hope you'll post it.

Ramanathan et al:    - found ASI Albedo Loss to average 25% of the A-CO2 warming since '79, and I'd very much like to get the warming for Cryosphere decline as a whole.


Bob - from where I stand limits to growth does have a relevance, albeit a very unwelcome one.
It tells how we are 40 yrs late, and how, if it hadn't been for Reagan's treasonous deal with Iran to pervert the course of US democracy, things might have been very different.
Spilt milk.

Its relevance is that the core question is not what Near-zero GHG date would avoid 2.0C, but  how swift is our best achievable termination of fossil fuel dependence ?

And 'achievable' to my mind means maintaining sufficient economic activity to maintain the crucial sense of common purpose and avoid rebellion, conflict and failure. Indeed, the scale of economic activity just in replacing the global energy production capacity is actually very great. As it is in the planting of sufficient native coppice forestry to supply the requisite new worldwide industry in "Carbon Recovery for Food Security".

Anyone who actually thinks that an early crash of society - due almost certainly to the onset of serial global crop failures and consequent geopolitical destabilization, would impose less damage in the way of genocide and ecocide than would striving by whatever means are necessary and sufficient to avoid that crash - in my view simply hasn't been paying attention to the science, let alone doing their homework.

The eight Major interactive Feedbacks [MIFs] are up and running. Besides being driven by anthro-warming, they are also being driven by numerous direct coupling mechanisms (I found over eighty reported in the literature in a few days study) of which the classic example is of arctic sea-ice decline and Albedo Loss warming mobile air masses over the Arctic ocean whose signature can then be traced in raised Permafrost Melt up to 1500kms inland. A third indirect driver is each MIF's own warming input adding to SAT after the timelag of ocean thermal inertia and thus adding to all MIFs' further escalation.

The most advanced MIF that I've seen reported is Albedo Loss which (in case anyone reading this hasn't seen it) was reported in the Jan 2014 paper by Ramanathan et al :  It evaluated the Arctic sea ice decline in the satellite record since '79, and found that the warming from Albedo Loss on average equalled 25% of the warming from anthro-CO2 stocks for the period. This is roughly equal to a new China's worth of annual CO2 output, and given the progress of ASI decline it is plainly on a rising trend.

The fact that ASI decline is only a part of Cryosphere decline, and that Albedo Loss is only one of eight MIFs, should be borne in mind in collating their potential with our best efforts at Emissions Control.

IF a best efforts target were set for "Near-zero global GHG outputs by 2050", then beside the warming unveiled by the closure of the sulphate parasol we should also see anthro-warming timelagged potentially to the 2080s (there was a paper disputing the timelag, which Gavin S at RC shredded last year). This would allow around 70 years of continuous anthro-warming of the MIFs, as well as their own indirect warming, which indicates to me (and this is interpretation) that their CO2_e outputs on top of anthro-warming would more than fully offset our best efforts at Emissions Control. This prospect offers no chance of staying below 2.0C.

Nor does it do anything to reduce the prospect of major regional droughts coinciding during the 2020s to cause the onset of serial global crop failures. This possibility is drawn from a study by Prof Forster, an IPCC lead author, into the prognosis for extreme drought in Asia and shows that China, Pakistan and Turkey are the most seriously affected of the region’s major producers of wheat and maize.
From the press release:

Oct 2012 “Food Security: Near future projections of the impact of drought in Asia”
"Research released today shows that within the next 10 years large parts of Asia can expect increased risk of more severe droughts, which will impact regional and possibly even global food security. On average, across Asia, droughts lasting longer than three months will be more than twice as severe in terms of their soil moisture deficit compared to the 1990-2005 period. This is cause for concern as China and India have the world’s largest populations and are Asia’s largest food producers.

Dr Lawrence Jackson, a co-author of the report, said: "Our work surprised us when we saw that the threat to food security was so imminent; the increased risk of severe droughts is only 10 years away for China and India. These are the world’s largest populations and food producers; and, as such, this poses a real threat to food security.""

So with 0.85C realized, and at least another 0.5C in the pipeline realized by 2050, and another ~0.6C of the fossil suphate parasol closure, and whatever the MIFs provide, and with Anthro GHG outputs crashing say in 2027 after a mere 12 years, by 2050 we are still at or above 2.0C even with the lower future anthro-CO2 inputs.

No less an authority than Michael Mann puts the passing of 2.0C under BAU at 2036 (on an ECS of 3.0) and at 2046 (on an ECS of 2.5). How much difference our best efforts before 2036 would make is unclear.

The question I've yet to see answered is just why fast crash proponents assume that with MIFs up and running at 0.85C, and SAT rising to at least 2.0C, they can then be expected to stop escalating, in direct contravention of their mutually self-reinforcing capacity ? What is to prevent their continued rise ? And what is the effect of that continued rise on human stragglers from a collapsed society and on the remaining vitality of the terrestrial and marine ecologies ?

The premis that a fast crash offers a better outcome in terms of genocide and ecocide than the all out attempt at mitigation is not borne out by the prognosis once the MIFs are included.

It may also be noted that the premis is the most wildly unsaleable proposal and so has zero prospect of preventing the coming global attempt at effective mitigation.  The most it could do is to damage that attempt by demoralizing individuals - But, under a war-footing to address an existential challenge, most nations have the tradition of treating the promotion of defeatism as a serious crime, so those who choose to abstain from helping would do best to withdraw.



Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 09, 2015, 12:51:14 PM »
It is worse by far than a waste of time it is insane.  So the basic answer to geo-engineering has to be a giant f**k no!  I expect sometime in the future that people taking this path will face deadly violence.

The core problem here is systemic civilizational change.  IF we were capable of that we would not need to resort to geo-engineering as we would rationally make the changes needed 'now' and thus avoid the worst effects of collapse.
Jim -
I'm sorry to see this ill-informed and aggressive post from you. Taken at face value it plainly opposes Geo-E on false grounds, when even the US and EU govts are in process of formally committing to the Carbon Recovery mode in Paris, with their widely reported aims of achieving "Net-zero global GHG outputs" "by 2100" and "in the 2nd half of the century" respectively.

Geo-E is far from a waste of time, alongside Emissions Control it is a necessity to which GHG emissions to date commit us, both to avoid the terminal acidification of the oceans and to halt the escalation of the 8 Major Interactive Feedbacks and to avoid the onset of serial global crop failures and their consequent geopolitical destabilization. Both modes of Geo-E are also already a fact on the ground with rising popular commitment to both tree-planting and the white painting of roofs etc.

If you are really unaware of the urgency of the predicament you might benefit from reading Prof. Mann's account of our track past 2.0C by 2036  While this is a projection under BAU, there is no prospect of lowering atmospheric CO2 stocks by that date, so Emissions Control has little or no bearing on that outcome.

Your claim that "The core problem here is systemic civilizational change" is arse-about-face since systemic civilizational change is clearly the core solution.  The climate predicament is evidently far beyond mitigation merely by civilizational change altering our conduct on emissions. Your idea that we wouldn't need Geo-E "IF we we're capable of civilizational change" actually acknowledges the need of Geo-E, but your assertion that enacting that capability would "avoid the worst effects of collapse" is patently fatuous. It is unclear whether you read more of my post than you quoted, but as I laid out in detailed evidence in it ". . . it is rather obvious that we are fully committed to the Major Interactive Feedbacks' CO2_e outputs exceeding our best case of Emissions Control if they are not constrained by Geo-E." This in turn means that without Geo-E we are fully committed to the onset of serial global crop failures in a world that faces not a mere population explosion but an absurdly heavily-armed population explosion. Quite what worse effects of collapse you envisage you've yet to make clear.

. . . .there is absolutely no chance what so ever of the UN ending up in charge of anything much less telling powerful countries what to do and trying to enforce such dictates.  Surely you recognize this.  Almost no country on earth would allow such control except at gunpoint.  If you even suggested such to the US we would burn your house down with you in it.  Harsh words but the reality of the world.  Global governance is just not going to happen.
Your remarks on the UN and nations' refusal to accept constraints and commitments on their conduct are simply bizarre. The US operates like almost all other nations under the terms of dozens if not hundreds of UN agreements which limit its freedom of action. Some you may have heard of are the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the Global Environment Facility, and the World Bank. The very act of a nation signing up as a UN member places constraints on its conduct.

Your idea that the UN seeks global dictatorship is a paranoia that seems quite strongly propagandized in the US, when in reality the UN actively encourages a wide range of the basic conditions in which democracy can flourish, including education, poverty reduction, access to communications, etc. What the propaganda is at pains to hide is the plain fact that the UN can by its mandate do only what its member nations instruct it to do. It does not have and it does not seek any power to do other than it is instructed to do. It does, as instructed, actively encourage instructions which, from its global vantage point, it can see will serve the common good. When it is instructed to establish a scientific agency for the global governance and supervision of Geo-E R&D it will do so, just as it will assist the formulation of a protocol defining the process of member-nations' collective decision on Geo-E deployment. To put it bluntly, if we didn't already have the UN as a global parliament, we would have to invent it.

Where we may agree is that it is reason, not new technology, that offers the solutions to our predicament. The Carbon Recovery mode of Geo-E is a case in point, given that the technology of the charcoal retort is an invention of the 19th or possibly 18th century. Biochar, going back over 2,000 years is another. Coppice forestry, going back over 6,000 years is a third. What is new and relevant is the reasoning for their joint application to resolve the damage of stupid unreasoned fossil fuel dependence. Using our capacity to reason it is very plain that running away from a complex society is no solution and does nothing even to delay a crash, let alone to mitigate it. On the contrary, the more that intelligent people are persuaded to run away, the lower the chance of effective mitigation. We have no option but to re-orientate the vessel that carries us while also re-organizing the reasoning in its decision-making processes to deflect rogue actors like the US. Those who want to jump ship and head for the hills to play at survivalism are of course free to do so, but they abdicate any influence over the vessel's destination, on which they remain dependant.

Your post above appears to me to reflect a common misapprehension that the loss of US global economic dominance leads necessarily the end of civilization - which is perhaps most clearly promoted in the failed ASPO thesis of assuming that the decline of one key resource would terminate the concerted global effort to maintain the material expansion of society and would cause its collapse. Had ASPO's study been of "the Peak of Crude Oil", accepting that other oils would be brought online as required, it wouldn't face credibility problems now, when the reality includes not only a passing glut of fracked oil etc but also the vast potential resources of Coal-Seam-Gasification for liquids and of Methane-Hydrates for liquids.

I've long noted that the ASPO doctrine pushed by Heinburg and others for many years dismissed the possibility of AGW being a serious threat on the ludicrous grounds of insufficient FF supply, then as this became untenable it switched to a defeatist position of claiming that it is beyond society's capacity to mitigate AGW and that, since collapse was inevitable, we should refrain from concerted global efforts to do so and instead focus on grass-roots 'adaption'. I have to say that I'm unable to distinguish these arguments from those promoted by the opponents of timely action to mitigate AGW.

And no, I am not saying you (or Heinberg) are intentionally acting for the delayers, but yes, I suspect you have been conned by one of their several potent propaganda programs.


Policy and solutions / Re: Carbon Fee & Dividend Plan
« on: March 09, 2015, 08:50:02 AM »
Can anyone provide, or provide a link to, a coherent refutation of the charges that the Carbon Fee & Dividend :
- not only fails to yield predictable cuts in GHG outputs over the required decades, (given that the fee is entirely subject to political variation and that the system provides neither any limit on FFs' extraction, use or export nor any funding for non-fossil energy supply)
- but also is in effect trading in stolen goods (given that with <5% of population the USA has liability for ~30% of airborne anthro-CO2, meaning that revenues from CF&D are rightly owed not to the US public but to those nations with far below average per capita airborne CO2 liabilities who face extreme loss and damage from climate destabilization).

The latter point is especially significant in its potential to ensure the abandonment of massive coal reserves in developing nations which, with very low labour costs, will otherwise remain competitive with new non-fossil energy suppy for decades to come.


Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 08, 2015, 01:04:03 AM »
Bruce - thanks for your response.

Re the decline of the ocean carbon sink I've not seen anything that refutes the expectation of its decline - Given that ocean heating and acidification both reduce the intake of CO2 (not to mention the knock-on loss of plankton and the influx of large volumes of ex-glacier carbon dust) it would have to be something pretty spectacular that's been overlooked thus far to provide a cogent refutation.

What concerns me is not the potential scale of the Ocean Heating & Acidification Feedback, which is relatively minor, but the number and degree of direct coupling mechanisms it has with all other major feedbacks except possibly Soil Desiccation. In particular I'm looking for any papers on the potential rates of cooling of the upper oceans to below the depth of the most vulnerable Methane Hydrates, since cooling the SAT is nice but SFA use if the oceans' warmth then penetrates the Hydrates for too long. I hope you'll post anything worth seeing on this.

Re the need of a miracle I'd well agree - and I rather think that it's here but is not yet widely recognized, let alone employed. - What are the odds of an agricultural practice ~2000 years ago that demonstrated across an area the size of France and Spain a reliable means of Carbon Recovery - that uses only coppice harvest and agricultural wastes, is exothermic in production, offers a co-product liquid fuel, and that not only raises poor tropical soils' fertility but also acts as a soil moisture regulator ?! The odds are quite astounding in my view, which I find helps with maintaining the faith that we can resolve the predicament we face.

You're right that the comment deconstucting the standard bullshit article on Geo-E in Climate Central was mine - as I recall the editor ducked the question of why he accepted it. Since then, with the NAS report on the issue with its timid call for research, there have been scores of such articles worldwide (Google tracks all of those in English for me) pushing the same range of absurdly brittle claims.

The best one in my view is the strawman of "Space Mirrors" which anyone with half a brain - let alone scientists - can see through in a second if they stop to look. Why Mirrors ? Why not rocks, thistledown, ladies' handbags or dead rabbits ? All will block sunlight at least as well a mirror can. The fact that this option would permanently shade the planet, and cannot be tested at local scale, and is beyond any estimation of costs, are a few further pointers to some very influential agency wishing to steer public opinion into strongly opposing Geo-E.

The only conceivable objective I've seen to date is far fetched from a "received wisdom" perspective, but should none the less be considered on its merits -
In the event of the onset of serial global crop failures, famine and mass migration, with some govts being partly destabilized, a population strongly opposed to Albedo Restoration will be far slower to pressure its govt into lifting its veto at the UN on using the Geo-E option, thereby allowing climatic destabilization to continue its work. Any govt with the capacity to produce large per capita food surpluses is then holding the cards that matter, without firing a shot.

This is of course conjecture, but it's the only objective I've seen that fits both the required level of influence across the corporate proletarian media and tamer green websites such as Grist & Climate Central, while also yielding an outcome of interest to the dominant state. Any other explanations would be very welcome.


Policy and solutions / Re: But, but, but, China....
« on: March 07, 2015, 07:59:24 PM »
Good comment by Aubrey Meyer of GCI in response to the Guardian's article on Thursday.

" AMeyer    2d ago

The subject of Li Keqiang's comments above are Chinese Pollution local to China. The only aspect of Chinese Pollution that is not local to China but global is Greenhouse Gas Pollution.

Non-Chinese people and countries other than China may be legitimately concerned about those emissions. However, if they are concerned about this, there is a lot more to concerned about than just China.

We (globally) have already gone over an 'event-horizon' that now leads - according to NASA - inexorably to the full collapse of the Antarctic ice-shelf as a result of 80% of emissions having come from the industrial countries.

If there is to be any chance of not crossing an 'event-horizon' to uncontrollable rates of climate change taking hold globally, seriously organized rates of international emissions-control are needed urgently. "

A link in the above may not repost, so here's the address for those interested in how nations' rights and duties towards the Atmospheric Commons can be allocated: 


Policy and solutions / Re: Geoengineering, another rush for money?
« on: March 07, 2015, 03:51:34 PM »
Given the predicament, the research, trials and deployment of both modes of geoengineering seem to me appropriate under a range of limiting conditions.

The first, as Neven rightly remarks above, is the systemic change of society as an accompanying transformation - without which Geo-E is patently insufficient.

A second is of governance, with a UN scientific agency mandated for the supervision of proposals' research and trials, and potential accreditation, with any deployment being by the collective decision of the UN member states, with such decisions for the Albedo Restoration mode being valid only after a credibly stringent Emissions Control treaty is in operation.

A third is of the need for both modes' deployment alongside Emissions Control, as there is no case for any individual approach or any two of the three approaches offering a viable means of the mitigation of AGW.

A starting point of the debate is the need of a stringent Emissions Control treaty, without which, as Wili rightly points out above, the RCP 8.0 massive renewables' deployment doesn't cut emissions since any fossil fuels locally displaced by them would continue to be bought and burnt elsewhere.

Yet Emissions Control alone demonstrably cannot resolve the advanced and accelerating threat we face. As Prof. Mann pointed out on 18/3/14, under BAU we are on track for 2.0C by 2036, or by 2046 if ECS were as low as 2.5. :  Given that even a cut not in anthro-emissions but in anthro-CO2 stocks will provide a cooling only after the ~35 yr timelag of ocean thermal inertia, even the best case of Emissions Control cannot avoid the hazards of passing the 2.0C threshold.

Taking that best case to be "near-zero global GHG output by 2050" exposes further limitations. Beside the substantial warming unveiled by the closure of of the 'fossil sulphate parasol' the majority of warming from 2050 emissions is not realized until the 2080s, allowing the eight Major Interactive Feedbacks [MIFs]~70 years of continuous anthro-warming, plus warming from their own direct and indirect interactions, escalating their CO2_e outputs far past the point of fully offsetting our best case of emissions control. While the precise levels of those outputs cannot be calculated, the MIF outputs' track records to date strongly affirm this perspective.

For example, consider the paper by Ramanathan et al from Jan 2014 :  It is a study of the Arctic sea-ice decline fraction of Cryosphere decline in the satellite record since '79, which found that warming from the resulting Albedo Loss was equal on average to 25% of the warming from anthro-CO2 stocks during the period. This is roughly equal to a new China's-worth of annual CO2 output, and given the progress of the sea ice loss it is on a strongly rising trend, but has thus far been masked by ocean thermal inertia. With ~43% of anthro-CO2 outputs going into natural sinks, we should need to cut outputs not by 25% but by 43.8% to offset the warming from ASI decline Albedo Loss.

Given that this is only a part of overall Albedo Loss, and that that is only one of the eight MIFs, it is rather obvious that we are fully committed to the MIF outputs exceeding our best case of Emissions Control if they are not constrained by Geo-E.

Unfortunately even the best case of the simpler mode of Geo-E, "Carbon Recovery for Food Security" cannot provide a timely cooling to halt the MIFs' escalation. While techno options such as DACCS have just their CO2-capture function costed at "at least $600/TCO2" by the American Physical Union ($600Bn /GtCO2), the benign option of native Coppice Afforestation for Biochar offers a second revenue stream via the production of Methanol from the retorts' surplus hydrocarbon gasses.

Yet even with the massive deployment incentives of minimal infrastructure, plus two revenue streams plus raised global food security, and even using efficient village-scale retorts across the 1.6Gha.s of suitable non-farmland identified in the joint WRI-WFN study, there is little prospect of full scale harvests of 10-yr-old growth before the 2040s. This indicates that if this approach was used alongside the best case of Emissions Control, its global cooling could not even begin before the late 2070s, and thus offers no useful control of the MIFs. The real and indispensable functions of a new global industry in Carbon Recovery for Food Security are thus of helping to stabilize global food security ASAP, of minimizing the peak of airborne CO2 ppm potentially before 2050, and of fully cleansing the atmosphere by around 2100, thereby conserving at least a part of the oceans' ecology by limiting the peak and the period of ocean acidification.

The Albedo Restoration mode of Geo-E has had a rising chorus of bad press over the last two years that has been oddly concerted in using standard easily refuted charges - on exactly the model of concerted climate denial. The most obvious of these can be seen in this thread's title, when in reality the very eminent Prof. Holdren (Obama's chief science advisor) while critiquing the sulphate aerosols proposal has pointed out that its costs "could be met by a middle rank economy out of its petty cash" - i.e. there are no vast profits to be made.

While the patently deficient sulphate aerosols proposals are widely cited as the standard option, in reality there are potentially benign options such as 'Cloud Brightening', where seawater is lofted to low clouds as a very fine mist. This option is targettable to provide regional cooling (e.g. of the arctic) and to have any extra rains fall over oceans, and can be halted within the fortnight required for treated clouds to rain out. Its infrastructure costs would comprise around 2,000 wind-powered vessels of 100ft length, and its operation would need to be maintained for the most of the duration of the Carbon Recovery program.

From this perspective Dr Pierrehumbert's shrill denunciation of Geo-E is simply bizarre for a formerly reputable scientist - pretending that we'd be committing future generations to maintaining Albedo Restoration for millennia is intellectually dishonest in assuming, without mentioning, that no Carbon Recovery technique is employed in his scenario.

However, there is a long lead time before any benign Albedo Restoration option could be deployed, consisting of the years needed for negotiating the appropriate governance, for the mandated agency's supervision of proposals' research and their shortlisting for trials, for observations of the chosen option's effects over at least a decade, and then for the negotiation of its full deployment. If that summed to as much as 21 years, it could take us to Prof Mann's 2036 deadline.

The difficulty with this is not only another 21 years of the escalation of the MIFs, whose momentum is then far harder to control (e.g. Methane Hydrates' melt), but that we are liable to see two or more major food producing regions having extreme droughts simultaneously during the 2020s, thus imposing the onset of serial global crop failures and severe geopolitical destabilization. The increasingly erratic annual harvests, going from serious shortages, exceptional prices, national hoarding and unrest to a bumper harvest within a few years indicates that a climatic destabilization of agriculture is already under way and we are already on that track. Whether such geopolitical destabilization generates global conflict is an open question, but it almost certainly curtails the global co-operation essential for the mitigation of AGW, thereby tightening a vicious spiral of hunger and conflict.

From this perspective it is extremely urgent that the negotiation of appropriate UN governance of the R,D&D of Geo-E is formally established without delay. Prof. Forster (an IPCC lead author) wrote an article:  that is aptly titled as "Not enough time for geoengineering to work ?" and is well worth reading for a more authoritative background on the issue.


Consequences / Re: When and how bad?
« on: May 18, 2013, 09:31:12 PM »
Jim - re your remarks
I am highly skeptical of such proposals.  For many reasons.  Foremost among them is that we quickly run into the Law of Unintended Consequences.  Do we really know the entirety of the effects and consequences of executing any one of the many Geo-E proposals?

I'd point out that unintended consequences are primarily an indicator of deficient research. Why you think we'd  run into them quickly via Geo-E is obscure, as that depends on what research is undertaken before deployment. The fact that we are heading for catastrophic impacts on food production  and the geopolitical destabilization that implies, means that we will predictably see emergency deployment of the only ready Albedo Restoration option - the ultra-cheap, dirty and dangerous sulphate aerosols - if opposition to the research of better options prevails. With unprecedented famines, what opponent of Geo-E would even get a hearing ?

Yet I'd well agree that we cannot know "the entirety of the effects and consequences of executing any one of the many Geo-E proposals." The same question may have been quite an issue among those who first contemplated coming down from the trees. Could they be entirely sure that the trees wouldn't simply keel over and die, brokenhearted at the loss of their inhabitants ?
(Note: this is a joke, not snark)

. . . .you have to consider the likely amounts of resources needed to execute and whether the other competing interests for those same resources are going to have precedence over your requirements.

As climate destabilization impacts global food security to the point of emergency, its control via Geo-E options will predictably face rather few competing interests. I gave a fairly comprehensive answer on the resource requirement for the best of the present options in a post to Ritter above, which may be of interest.

Regarding the date of the onset of mega-famines if effective mitigation is delayed, my contention is not of 2030 but rather within a decade. I laid out the scientific indicators for this in a general overview post near the foot of page six, which I hope may be of interest. I would note that your contention of agriculture enduring till 2050 seems complacent even in comparison with Prof Beddington (UK chief scientist) who put the crisis at around 2030 back in 2010.

The core issue of course is just what political pressure will be raised to advance the necessary reform of nations' priorities regarding agreement of commensurate global action on AGW. We have the huge assistance from rising extreme weather impacts in raising that pressure, but it is being badly undermined by people voicing their defeatism and lack of will to strive at all costs for a successful outcome. As I'm sure you don't wish to add to the difficulties and the mega-deaths from famine, perhaps you'd consider keeping your defeatism to yourself on public fora and instead talking up any prospect of success you can find ?



Consequences / Re: When and how bad?
« on: May 18, 2013, 08:07:02 PM »
Wili - you are right again - I know of only two options for Geo-E that appear viable, and one of those, Cloud Brightening, is still being denied the chicken-feed research funding to discover whether or not it actually is viable. Roll on the day when foundations are established by philanthropists specifically to fund earth sciences' research and end their current dependence on commercial and governmental backing.

Other Albedo Restoration techniques are primarily focussed on stratospheric aerosols, with sulphates having been proposed by Edward Teller in '95. Their pollution factor is an issue, but it is minor in comparison with concerns over the unavoidably global impacts - due to them spreading round the stratosphere - on regional rainfall patterns. Various alternative chemicals are being studied, such as titanium oxide, to avoid the pollution issue, but they don't assuage the major concern.

By using natural seawater for cloud brightening those concerns can potentially be resolved. Water rains out of the atmosphere in just nine days on average, meaning that the operation can be focussed on areas where any unhelpful changes in rainfall can occur over the oceans, rather than posing a global effect. In this sense it is a precision tool for planteary cooling, rather than a blunt instrument. It is also feasible for localized trials, whose effect can be halted in nine days if necessary, while the stratospheric options can only be at the global scale, with a halt-period of 2 years for the use of sulphates.

There has been discussion of surface brightening through different land-use and physically painting roofs, but I've yet to see and cogent account of its being of more than marginal effect. The ongoing acceleration just of cryosphere decline would more than outweigh a maximum global program of this option.

There has been rather wild talk of covering oceans with floating reflectors, but the ecological impacts, alongside the costs of their maintenance at sea, make this a fantasy.

The option beloved as a strawman by the nay-sayers is the fantasy of vast numbers of mirrors in space, placed at a distance where they don't fall back to earth. The financial, energy and carbon costs of getting them there negates their practicality, but worse is the fact of their irretrievability - we'd be stuck with a permanent shading of the planet. Sheer nonsense, hyped by some for their own reasons that have nothing to do with controlling AGW.

On the Carbon Recovery mode of Geo-E, only the use of biomass for biochar and co-product methanol, harvested primarily from native coppice afforestation, offers the necessary self-funding potential. It is necessary owing to the sheer scale of the task of recovering over 170ppm of CO2 (450-280) to restore the natural atmosphere. With 2.1GtC per ppm, we're looking at around 360 thousand million tonnes of airborne carbon, plus some fraction of 80GtC coming back out of the oceans as atmospheric CO2 is reduced.

Biochar's production not only offers a potentially significant global supply of the exceptional liquid fuel methanol, its use in farmland as a soil fertility enhancer and as a vital soil moisture regulator give it both a financial value and a critical strategic value in raising global farm yields to help meet the needs of the remaining rise of population. Its feedstock's production is also economically valuable in providing massive additional rural employment, thereby helping to halt and potentially reverse the increasingly perilous urban drift. The massive gains in biodiversity within 1.6GHa.s of coppice forestry would be very welcome, but they're currently of little commercial value to allay overall costs, and at best would at least help with feeding people.

There is a novel approach to ocean fertilization with iron dust that warrants some consideration here. The basic problems of stimulating organic growth being limited by the next mineral shortfall, and the worse problem of that growth falling to the seabed where its decay depletes oxygen levels, after which it decays to produce highly poisonous gas, are potentially resolved by this new approach. It proposes fertilizing areas of deep ocean that currently produce little plankton with an appropriate blend of minerals to generate massive plankton volumes. Rather than leaving these to die off, appropriate species of krill would be established to graze the plankton and grow to massive volumes per year. The trawling of these and their use for biochar would reportedly provide a very significant carbon sequestration in their own right.

There are a host of questions around this proposal's feasibility and desirability, which would require some serious research to resolve. My own primary questions would be on the viable scale of the operation for it to be of significant effect. If the ex-krill charcoal were dropped to the sea-bed from a floating production vessel, the only cost-offset is the export to shore of the liquid fuel coproduct. OTOH, if the carbon is freighted to the nearest port, the tonnages are rather fantastic. To recover just one ppm of CO2 per year would require 2.1GtC to be transported, needing 10,000 trips by 100,000 tonne super-freighters for each 1.0GtC. Which makes 21,000 runs per year by such super-freighters. There might perhaps be a moderate scale of operation that would be feasible IF the many other questions can be resolved positively, but at best it seems unlikely to be more than an incremental addition to terrestrial biochar production.

The idea of air-capture of CO2 via Dr Lackner's 'artificial trees' has gained undue press as a potentially significant solution, as he developed the concept as a means for industrial plants to recover their carbon outputs when a carbon price allows. These devices offer no prospect of being generally useful for carbon recovery as they face worse scale problems than the Krill-plankton option. For each 1.0GtC of carbon collected (from 0.48ppm CO2) by reaction with a suitable mineral, there is more or less than another 1.0Gt of the feedstock mineral that must be dug up, milled, transported and then elevated to the collectors and spread along their shelves. You then have more or less than 2.0Gts of mineral waste that must be got off the collectors' shelves, loaded onto trucks and transported to some disposal site.
And at no point is there anything of value produced to help offset the costs.

These notes on various Geo-E options are only a layman's opinions as I've no relevant expertize beyond the field of coppice forestry and the UK tradition of charcoal making.  I hope they may be of some help in providing comparisons of the various options' feasibility, not least because it is no longer possible to demonstrate the viability of controlling AGW by Emissions Control alone - even without accounting for any feedbacks. And as Terry indicates above with his remark of the pine-beetle now attacking Canada's vast Jack Pine forests, carbon feedbacks capable of dwarfing anthro-emissions are now accelerating. From this perspective the choice we face is not whether to employ Geo-E, but of which options will have to be employed.



Typo corrected

Consequences / Re: When and how bad?
« on: May 18, 2013, 05:11:28 PM »
CCG - IIRC the report is referring to insured and uninsured losses, not to insurers' losses.

Munich Re is a supremely risk-averse organization - to the extent of having avoided the temptations of the novel 'financial instruments' of the last decade and thus maintained steady growth - unlike its competitors. From this perspective it isn't going to make claims of evidence of rising climate impacts, nor of the US being the prime target, without rock-solid justification. Insurers would switch away from Munich Re if there was even a hint that their rates reflected an unjustified assessment of regions' changing climate risks. In reality, their weather risks business has been growing steadily.

To get chapter and verse on the matter I'd suggest contacting Prof. Peter Hoppe who runs the relevant department, who is reportedly very approachable and should be able to give clarification.



Consequences / Re: When and how bad?
« on: May 18, 2013, 03:31:55 AM »
Ritter - there are a couple of points you may want to consider.

First the millions of years of stored solar energy is not quite what it seems - the total known & projected fossil fuel reserves represent the tiny fraction of the biomass that grew over the aeons that happened to have the necessary conditions to end up fossilized and metamorphosed by geology.

Next, the energy and resources needed for effective geo-engineering are readily available for the Albedo Restoration mode of Geo-E  - where the most promising option of 'cloud brightening' would reportedly need between one and two thousand wind-powered vessels of about 100ft length. The pumps driving the seawater mist jet would be driven by submerged rotors taking power from the vessel's speed.

The second mode, Carbon Recovery, has only one feasible option due to its huge scale and thus its need of a partly self-funding carbon sequestration option. At best, it is about native coppice forestry for biochar and co-product methanol, working with village scale plants to minimize feedstock transport losses. Those plants would need to be mass produced in modular form to minimize capital outlays, but the operating energy requirement is negative as the process is both highly exothermic and puts about 28% of the feedstock's potential energy into woodgas, which is readily converted to methanol that should amply cover product-disribution fuel-needs.

The major resource need is of course of non-farmland for afforestation, which sets the limit on the maximum potential carbon recovery per year. Using all of the 1.6GHa.s identified by the WRI-WFN study as available globally, plus harvesting most of the present infestations of water hyacinth, plus using a good fraction of the global urban and rural biomass wastes, the program would demonstrably need to run into next century to restore the pre-industrial atmosphere.  A smaller feedstock resource would of course require a longer period of operation, implying a worse acidification event for the oceans.

Next, its worth noting that both modes of Geo-E are only the necessary adjuncts to a stringent Emissions Control program, without which they'd be simply futile. They are no kind of quick overall fix.

Next, with even very stringent Emissions-Control-alone being patently unable to control the warming that we've unleashed, what other choices do we have ? There are of course no guarantees of success - it seems the nearest we have to a guarantee is of our failure as a species if we fail to try.



Consequences / Re: When and how bad?
« on: May 17, 2013, 08:46:33 PM »
Wili - you're quite right that not all opposition to Geo-E is astroturf, and I didn't intend to imply that it was. There are certainly people of integrity with strong doubts - due quite often to misleading information foisted on them - with whom I'm happy to spend time discussing the issues.

In this sense there is a parallel fraction of people who get called deniers when they don't remotely deserve the term. Flukers would be a far better characterization of their doubts that man could actually affect the whole planet's climate, not only because they tend to discount impacts to date as yet more flukes, but also because it can be used amicably in discussion to leave them ample room to one day declare they've changed their mind after yet another outrageous weather event.



Consequences / Re: When and how bad?
« on: May 17, 2013, 08:34:36 PM »
CCG - consider the ratios of the impacts reported in the regions:

"The study shows a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades, compared with an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1.5 in South America. "

They are plainly neither the ratios of GDP growth, nor of the value of vulnerable infrastructure in place. They are as stated the increase in "weather related loss events" - i.e. where extreme weather has come in and destroyed something. The Africa-Europe ratio is perhaps the most telling on this, but even the N.Am-Africa ratio makes the case pretty clearly.



Policy and solutions / Re: China to lead the way?
« on: May 17, 2013, 08:12:58 PM »
Bob's list of countries per capita emissions is badly bent, in that it includes territories that are not independent countries or member states of the UN. Wikipedia shows the same bent list with, for example Aruba (7th) which is part of Netherlands Antilles (3rd) which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (28th). To give a major state like the USA a lower ranking, both New York State and Long Island could be included under this misleading system. For clarity's sake I've put a line through the inappropriate territories

         Wikipedia 2009 data
Actual   Per Capita CO2
Rank    "Rank per country"

1   1   Qatar
2   2    Trinidad and Tobago
-   3    Netherlands Antilles
3   4    Kuwait
4   5    Brunei
5   6    United Arab Emirates
-   7    Aruba
6   8    Bahrain
7   9    Luxembourg
-   10    Falkland Islands
8   11    Australia
9   12    United States
10   13    Saudi Arabia
11   14    Canada
12   15    Oman
-   16    Gibraltar
-   17    Faroe Islands
13   18    Nauru
14   19    Kazakhstan
-   20    Montserrat
-   21    New Caledonia
15   22    Estonia
16   23    Russia
-   24    Saint Pierre and Miquelon
17   25    South Korea
18   26    Czech Republic
19   27    Taiwan[2][3]
20   28    Netherlands
-   29    Greenland
21   30    Libya

The scientifically rational measure of nations' responsibility for the CO2 problem is, as CCGWebmaster points out, the scale of their cumulative emissions - to which their current per capita emissions are but an annual addition. Given the 100yr residence of CO2, the table below shows 100yrs of nations' cumulative emissions alongside their 2009 per capita emissions, using WRI and World Bank data respectively.

WRI data      UN World bank data      
1909 - 2008     2009      
Cumulative   Per capita      
GtsCO2  Rank  TsCO2 Rank Country
258.64    1   17.3    9   US America
111.41    2   5.8    57   China
90.15     3   11.1   15   Russian Federation
53.89     4   9.0    27   Germany
46.87     5   8.6    29   Japan
33.89     6   7.7    36   United Kingdom
28.26     7   1.6   114   India
24.03     8   5.9    55   Ukraine
22.08     9   15.2   11   Canada
21.80    10   5.6    59   France
18.14    11   6.7    45   Italy
17.68    12   7.8    35   Poland
12.13    13   18.4    8   Australia
12.04    14   10.1   19   South Africa
11.96    15   4.0    77   Mexico
10.72    16   10.4   16   Korea (South)
10.30    17   6.3    52   Spain
10.07    18   14.0   13   Kazakhstan
9.93     19   1.9   105   Brazil
9.27     20   8.2    33   Iran
7.94     21   10.3   18   Netherlands
7.80     22   10.3   17   Czech Republic
7.18     23   16.1   10   Saudi Arabia
7.04     24   1.9   107   Indonesia
6.62     25   9.6    24   Belgium
6.58     26   3.7    83   Romania
5.87     27   3.9    80   Turkey
5.76     28   4.2    76   Uzbekistan
5.61     29   10.9   20   Taiwan
5.57     30   4.4    74   Argentina

In terms of the allocation of national emissions rights under a declining global carbon budget, there is plainly no point in conflating the cumulative with the current emissions liability. The former are in some cases so massive that their inclusion in the calculation would leave no significant allocation at all, thereby maximizing the opportunity for demagogues to gain power on the promise of reneging on their nation's treaty commitment. That rather punitive approach, favored by CAN and the "greenhouse development rights" crew could be highly counterproductive.

As a practical matter the recovery of nations' cumulative emissions will take over 100yrs, even with the advantages of a partly self-funding means like afforestation for biochar and co-product methanol. The current emissions are a distinct issue and it makes more sense to treat them as such, with the allocation of tradable emissions permits starting at nations' current levels and converging over an agreed period to per capita parity. Allowing an additional annual allocation to perhaps the least-developed third of nations - which they can trade for clean energy tech, desalination plant, etc, - would seem both humane and also rational in preventing the increase of failed states.



Consequences / Re: When and how bad?
« on: May 17, 2013, 03:39:34 PM »
CCG - re Munich Re, the link below is to the press release of the report in question, which gives two key quotes:

"Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America. The study shows a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades, compared with an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1.5 in South America. Anthropogenic climate change is believed to contribute to this trend, though it influences various perils in different ways."

The Head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research unit, Prof. Peter Höppe, commented: "In all likelihood, we have to regard this finding as an initial climate-change footprint in our US loss data from the last four decades. Previously, there had not been such a strong chain of evidence. If the first effects of climate change are already perceptible, all alerts and measures against it have become even more pressing.”

Re Salter, did you hear just what the nuclear lobby did to his Osprey wave energy vessel ? Utterly brazen.

The present lack of petty cash funding for his critical research of cloud brightening points to the same influence as can be seen behind the widespread, shrill and irrational astroturf opposition to Geo-E - So Qui Bono ?



Consequences / Re: When and how bad?
« on: May 17, 2013, 07:14:57 AM »
It seems to me the proper answer to "When and how bad?" has to be "Depends - on the problem's scope, and on what we do about it." That there are things to be done that are commensurate with the problem seems to me obvious - though I accept this may be a minority view on ASI at present.

The problem's scope is already daunting for many, and while it is not an elephant at six inches, I'd well agree it's an elephant not very far away. My perception of it is from two main perspectives.
First as an activist, having attended and infiltrated the first UNFCCC COP in Berlin, and first being accredited for the following year's COP in Geneva to deliver a paper to delegates on "The Migration of Rainfall" for GCI.
Second as a countryman, with a particular interest in forestry taken to the extent of first consulting to government in '87, and also in farming, which led to my taking on a hill farm in Wales in 2006 of about 120 acres of pasture and 40 of coppices and a couple of square miles of mountain grazing rights.

As a countryman I'd say that the British temperate climate began to decay noticeably in the '70s, and has been destabilizing at a varying pace ever since. As a farmer I've seen several extreme droughts and have been unable to make hay here for the last three summers owing to deluges starting before it was ready to cut, and lasting into September. Previously, losing a hay crop was a once in a generation misfortune up here. A further pressure on traditional farming (which is little more resilient than the 'subsistence' version) is that feed prices have gone from extortionate towards ruinous, to the point that keeping a ewe through winter costs more than the profit from her lamb next autumn.

The latest blow to hill farming was the cold wave that hit in late March as a blizzard and deep frost, and lasted through much of April. When it hit officialdom admitted that 250,000 ewes were killed across Wales alone, with many more expected once the drifts melted. This figure was then withdrawn and replaced with 50,000 overall. The consensus locally is that around 500,000 ewes were killed in Wales, and more than that of their lambs.

Hits on this scale, that rarely attract international media, are occurring with increasing frequency worldwide.  And for every such hit there are a number of poor to bad years that lack their drama, and so are discounted. But this is the real decay of global agriculture, in which a Thai flood or a Russian heatwave are the punctuation marks that attract grudging media attention, and no integrated analysis of the trend.

As an activist, I'd point out that a decent regional analysis was provided in the recent study by a Leeds Uni team, led by an IPCC lead author, called "Food Security: Near future projections of the impact of drought in Asia" which is available online in the 'reports' section at:

Quotes from the press release:

"Research released today shows that within the next 10 years large parts of Asia can expect increased risk of more severe droughts, which will impact regional and possibly even global food security. On average, across Asia, droughts lasting longer than three months will be more than twice as severe in terms of their soil moisture deficit compared to the 1990-2005 period. This is cause for concern as China and India have the world’s largest populations and are Asia’s largest food producers.

Dr Lawrence Jackson, a co-author of the report, said: "Our work surprised us when we saw that the threat to food security was so imminent; the increased risk of severe droughts is only 10 years away for China and India. These are the world’s largest populations and food producers; and, as such, this poses a real threat to food security."

The fact that Munich Re's 40yr database of catastrophic weather impacts shows that they're rising faster in the USA than any comparable region of the planet, to me implies that without commensurate mitigation we are around a decade away from the start of mega-famines - and the geopolitical destabilization that will generate. NCAR's report on global PDSI to 2090 by Algui Dai gives a timeline of the changes and a graphic that I wish I could post (if anyone else can, I'd be grateful). It projects that by the 2030s agriculture is finished around the Med, and has largely stopped in the US, with various other regions also hard hit.

The certainty of mass migration can be seen in the fact that it has already begun, first from crushed subsistence farms to shanty towns worldwide, and thence to wealthy nations. Notably Central America and Mexico are worse hit than the US, meaning that a proportion of 160 million people are heading north. Just how angry US Latinos get at talk of mining the border is an open question, but I rather doubt the US people would tolerate famine camps and mega-deaths just beyond the fence.

Personally I'd put the start of the climatic destabilization of geopolitics much earlier than the Arab Spring, and perhaps earlier than the grinding multi-year Afghan drought that drove myriads of farm boys into the Taliban to try to support their families. That geopolitical destabilization is clearly progressing, and the further it does so, the more fraught the difficulty of achieving the global collective effort that is pre-requisite for the commensurate mitigation of AGW.

By my count we are many years past the point where Emissions Control alone could resolve the problem. With 0.8C realized, and 0.7C timelagged in the pipeline, and at best 0.6C from emissions' phase-out by 2050, we're committed to 2.1C of warming. But Hansen and Sato found that ending our cooling fossil sulphate emissions unveils another 110% (+/-30%) which would thus give around 4.4C in the 2080s after the 30yr timelag. This in turn would allow about 70yrs of continuous anthro-warming for the interactive feedbacks to accelerate beyond the possibility of control. This is plainly a terminal outcome, despite the successful operation of a quite stringent Emissions Control treaty.

Deploying a global Carbon Recovery program in addition is entirely feasible, but even on a maximum practical scale (limited by the 1.6GHa.s of non-farmland available for native afforestation for biochar) the lead time implies that we'd be doing well to peak airborne CO2 in the 2040s with a slow fall to 280ppm early next century. While this would reduce the peak and duration of ocean acidification, it would do nothing effective to halt the loss of agriculture, and of forestry, or to halt the acceleration of the feedbacks.

The essential complement is thus Albedo Restoration, which Prof Salter (with 30 yrs of Wave Energy tech design and 15yrs of Cloud Brightening research) points out would restore the pre-industrial temperature within two to three years. The three options of Emissions Control, Carbon Recovery and Albedo Restoration can neither function effectively individually nor as any pair in combination; only the three options operating in concert can provide a commensurate mitigation of our predicament. Strangely some of the opponents of Geo-E insist on ignoring this very obvious fact, however often it gets repeated.

The international politics of climate have been thoroughly veiled from the public from the outset, not least by the lie that the IPCC (whose advice the UNFCCC must negotiate from) provides the scientific consensus - when in truth it yields the lowest common denominator of national govts' preferences for public information. Numerous myths have been pushed as received wisdom - that renewables can save the planet (despite any fossil fuel displaced being bought and burnt elsewhere) that the fossil lobby dictates US climate policy (despite providing just 8% of US GDP) and that the denialists fetter Obama from taking action (despite his steadfast obstruction of the treaty being far beyond their reach).

Seen from within the negotiations it is very bloody obvious that US govts since 2000 put maintaining global economic dominance before climate mitigation, knowing that delay raises the threat to China of crop failure, shortages and civil unrest leading to regime change. It might be claimed that this effect is only accidental, but if so, then America is perhaps the first empire in history to be destabilizing its rival's food supply by accident.

Yet with the US getting hammered by climate impacts to the extent that last year they cost most of US GDP, and with finances so tight that the budget for fighting wildfires is cut even as fire projections rise, the outcome of the superpower rivalry is far from settled. It is perfectly feasible that diehards will be ejected due to a mutual realization by cooler heads that the brinkmanship is a lose-lose game.

In that event, the long propaganda since 2000 that "negotiations can't resolve anything" will be exposed as a lullaby for the gullible. With Carbon Recovery offering an equitable and verifiable means of nations clearing their historic emissions by an agreed date, the primary obstruction to agreement is removed. With the prospect of Albedo Restoration (after duly supervised research) rapidly ending climate destabilization, the global South is no longer facing open ended catastrophic climate impacts, and the global North is no longer facing open ended liability for its majority share in the causation of those impacts. The prospect for the adoption of an equitable and efficient framework for mutual commitments is thus transformed.

An unusual feature of the two polar outcomes possible - collective global mitigation or general global collapse - is that there is so little chance of intermediate outcomes. If we fail to halt the famines we lose the geopolitical stability essential to the operation of a climate treaty. If we fail to halt the feedbacks, we lose the possibility of any organized food production.

Getting the decision made to overturn the brinkmanship of inaction will in my view take implacable public pressure on the centres of power. Raising that public pressure is assisted by rising climate impacts, but massively undermined by those who feel the need to declare their defeatism. If they actually give a damn for other people or for the ecosphere they'll recognize that in time of war voicing defeatism is called 'giving aid and succour to the enemy', and they will learn to conceal their doubts while talking up the chances of success.

And that is really the bottom line - if we pull together, globally, as committed ordinary people, we can still resolve the predicament. If we leave it to nationalist politicians and their corporate backers, we shall almost certainly lose the planet's habitability.



If anyone has a better (less hazy) topographic map of the bedrock than this:

I'd be very glad to see it posted.



The reason that a greater focus on cryoconites seems warranted is that the propensity for snow droughts under the rising occurrence of the Greenland high appears pretty much ideal for the acceleration of their expansion across the GIS.

If the paper by Wientjes et al (2011) is correct in implying that the ice-sheet's entrained and windborne dust impose no significant darkening effect, as the clean white ice under emptied melt-lakes attests, then it is the microbial component of cryoconites that are capable of imposing very significant albedo loss to coincide with the peak of the melt season, thereby amplifying meteorological melting influences.

See this from Nasa, taken on August 17 2010 by their EO-1 satellite of an area of SW Greenland centered on 68.91N x 48.54W, for an image of the contaminated surface ice in contrast to underlying ice exposed by former melt pools:

Given that the melt area since '79 has on average extended right across the GIS as far north as 67 degrees (NSIDC), and that this releases water through the permeable surface to form a fairly impermeable ice layer at the level that it freezes, the cryoconites' need to be able to form mini-pools to flourish is increasingly being met across potentially huge areas of what has been the accumulation zone as the accumulation rate declines.

In effect the ablation zone is gaining elevation, which is critical to the rate at which the ice-sheet's internal decay advances. To my mind it is not simply the area of additional melt lakes forming over newly impermeable ice that is troubling, but their location. For example, along the west coast for each five metres of extra altitude melt-lakes form at, there is around 1,000 kms2 of extra area whose moulins deliver melt water within the encircling bedrock watershed to increase the internal voids and thus the volume of the retained water under the ice sheet.

We already have around 60,000 kms2 in the SW and 20,000 kms2 in the SE whose melt-lake moulins are within the watershed and are feeding that reservoir - as can be seen by overlaying the watershed and maximum melt-lake altitude lines on a topographical map. Moreover that water is not heading for Jacobshaven but for the lowest point it can find, specifically the 300km-wide depression at about 68 degrees North. Only when the water-table in the arterial melt-water system and in any caverns it carves out exceeds the level of the bedrock watershed inland of Jacobshaven does it start to overflow to the sea. And at the end of the melt season and the end of that outflow it then has all winter to transfer its remaining heat into the base of the ice sheet.

Given that the melt-water arteries must lead first to the depression and only then to the outlet, it follows that the entire contents of the system is replaced with freshly warmed water each summer, thus delivering an annual pulse of heat energy into the ice sheet's underside, which is already warmed by heat emissions from the underlying bedrock.

From this perspective the potential of snow droughts to assist the expansion of the cryoconites' microbial ecology not only along the coasts but particularly up and across higher elevations looks like a highly significant factor in the coming GIS melt rate, and in the advance of the date where the ice-sheet base is decayed to the point of starting to collapse into its underlying water reservoir. With an average of well over 2,000 tonnes of overlying ice per square metre of the base, the resulting changes may be somewhat abrupt.



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