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Messages - GeoffBeacon

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Consequences / Re: Wildfires
« on: January 05, 2020, 12:13:08 PM »
CMIP models

A few years ago scientists at the UK Government department, DECC, told me

1. Am I correct in thinking that some of these feedbacks were not used in the models that calculated the “remaining carbon budgets” – as used in the IPCC AR5? [That’s the CMIP5 models]
That’s correct, the models used vary in what they include, and some feedbacks are absent as the understanding and modelling of these is not yet advanced enough to include. From those you raise, this applies to melting permafrost emissions, forest fires and wetlands decomposition.

I have been told some of CMIP6 models do include these feedback effects. Is there a succinct summary of this progress?


Recently have asked Did 2019 really bring us an unusual number of wildfires? and said:

In total, 6.735 megatonnes of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere by wildfires between 1 January and 30 November 2019. This value fits with the gradual declining trend in global total fire emissions since 2003, related to changing land management practices and use of fire in the tropics.

(Being data only up to 30th November 2019, the “gradual declining trend in global total fire emissions” may be outdated.)

For me this raises an interesting question about climate models. Consider

1. Climate change increases the propensity of wildfires through local droughts and weather conditions.

2. “Land management practices and the use of fire in the tropics” decrease the global total fire emissions.

Wildfire questions

What sort of “land management practices” is meant here?

How do climate models separate these two effects?

If they are separated, what policy lessons can be learnt?
e.g. Does it help to cut down forests so they cannot burn? &etc.?

Is there something wrong with the assessment from Copernicus?

Other feedbacks

Any other important feedbacks missing?

Consequences / Re: Wildfires
« on: August 27, 2019, 04:21:02 PM »
I've been trying to find out whether increased wildfires are in the CMIP models
account for forest fire feedbacks. I wrote Carbon Footprints & Wildfires just before the Amazon Headlined.

My latest score is


Corrections and improvements welcome.

Greenland and Arctic Circle / Re: What's new in Greenland?
« on: July 08, 2019, 08:39:50 PM »
Is this sand from Greenland the right sort of sand?

Is the world running out of sand?
Builders like angular sand of the kind found on riverbeds. Sand, sand everywhere, nor any grain to use, to paraphrase Coleridge. A textbook example is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest skyscraper. Despite being surrounded by sand, it was constructed with concrete incorporating the “right kind of sand” from Australia.

High buildings have high embodied carbon.
Let's build low wooden ones.

Policy and solutions / Re: A reference personal carbon budget
« on: June 13, 2019, 02:22:41 PM »
In this thread I am asking for what might be called science-informed moral judgement. I suppose, it's obvious I'm struggling to express it in the best way. I think I did better than above in a recent email:

A representative remaining carbon budget ...

Different judgements can be made of what quantity  is a reasonable
total GHG emissions budget for people living now. A personal judgement
will depend on things like:

1) What  you think the consequences are
2) How Earth saving technology will develop
3) How much you care about the future
4) Whether mitigation is a lost cause.

Notes ...

(1) is often described in terms of global mean  surface temperature but
this is just an imperfect proxy for horrid things happening
(2) depends on things like the confidence in things like BECCS
(3) is personal morality
(4) is how much you believe Guy McPherson.

Not precisely determined ...

Clearly a representative remaining carbon budget is not something
that can be precisely determined: It is a mixture of science, morality
and personal judgement.

Despite these difficulties, I believe that a quantified figure would be
very helpful for planning - even if the quantity was simply an average
of "expert" opinions.

My judgement is 64 tonnes CO2e.

I'd still like to hear more.

Policy and solutions / Re: A reference personal carbon budget
« on: June 11, 2019, 12:41:12 PM »
I'm skeptical of the whole concept because I've lived in that carbon budget.  It's unwelcome in society.  Any hail mary ideas

Any idea how I can make a sensible comment on the York Local Plan, which is promoting planet threatening lifestyles?

I'd like to say the York Plan is encouraging citizens to emit too much CO2 (&etc) but without a meaning for "too much" I'm stumped.

Policy and solutions / Re: A reference personal carbon budget
« on: June 10, 2019, 03:42:41 PM »
  360 gigatonnes / 7.7 billion = 46.75 tonnes remain for each person on earth.  At the global average of 5.25 tonnes per annum, that's a shade under 9 years before the world population would need be carbon neutral.

Thanks. Adding 30% to your CO2 figure gives a reference personal carbon budget of 60 tonnes CO2e.

I wonder if talking about 1.5C target is actually counterproductive.

Agreed. Perhaps I should not have mentioned 1.5C but I wanted to show what influenced my estimate. GMST is only one of the influences on my judgement - and it can be a misleading measure.

Policy and solutions / Re: A reference personal carbon budget
« on: June 10, 2019, 10:41:46 AM »
It's not really an estimate I've done myself, but I thought it was more like 100 tonnes. I mean, that's hard enough to achieve for the rest of my life (I'm 45), but 63 tonnes would be even more difficult, especially for children in the west that are still in the midst of their process of total consumer conditioning.

It should be accepted that those stuck in societies where budgets are routinely greatly exceeded cannot cut their GHG emissions without changes in their societies. For example, taxes are collected by governments for activities, which cause emissions. Wars are a good example.

Although this measure has strong implications for morality, it has a local context. Aubrey Mayher recognises the international context in the principle of Contraction and Convergence.

My interest is town planning and how local communities can be designed so that they are "environmentally sustainable".  An early stage of this is identifying schemes which are claimed to be sustainable but actually have terrible footprints. Another is the creation of an Institute of Enhanced Town Planning to design lifestyles that are sustainable.

The reference personal carbon budget could be a useful measure in this context but to be useful it must be quantified.

I'm hoping for further estimates, which avoid the McPh***** route of none left give up.

Neven, I suspect my footprint is worse than yours (perhaps not by much if I discount my share of UK government activities) but although this is relevant, the urgent task is to discover pleasant ways of living that do not cause climate chaos. The hope is that the less "developed" world might be persuaded to adopt similar and avoid doing the damage we have done.

Policy and solutions / A reference personal carbon budget
« on: June 10, 2019, 06:53:35 AM »
The world is dependent on activities that cause greenhouse gas emissions. These make the Earth's climate worse. The relationship between emissions and the "badness" of climate has not been expressed simply enough for most people to easily follow.

One useful concept is remaining carbon budget. This is used in different forms. One example is the remaining CO2 budget for a 66% chance of keeping the mean surface temperature of the Earth below a 1.5C rise since pre-industrial times. This was estimated in IPCC SR15.

I'm skeptical of

  • The use of global mean surface temperature. There is too much scope for interpretation and we should be more interested in the consequences for life on Earth (floods, droughts, heat deaths &etc.).
  • There are other important measures that are not directly related to GMST such as ocean heat content or global ice volume.
  • The way the basket of greenhouse gases is compiled by international protocols is problematic.
  • Climate models. e.g. missing feedbacks.

However, when lobbying policy makers and policy influencers we need something straightforward to say. For this we a reference figure for a global greenhouse gas budget. To make it personal, it is best expressed by dividing the total budget by the world's population.

It should be expressed as CO2e to account for other GHGs. It should not to be tied to a particular GMST. It should simply be the quantity of GHGs that every human can reasonable emit.

Reasonableness is a personal judgement but it opens up the possibility of discussion. e.g.
  • "Is your estimate high because because you think the consequences of a  2.0C rise are bearable?"
  • "Is your estimate low because you believe extra feedbacks  will cause strong forcing?"

Reasonableness is a personal judgement but perhaps "experts" carry more weight. Different "experts" will likely have different estimates but a consensus figure will be useful.

It could be called the reference personal carbon budget.

My estimate based on IPCC SR15  is 64 tonnes CO2e.

What's yours?

P.S. At a recent conference I said
We each have a personal budget 64 tonnes CO2e left, and this development is for people emitting 15 tonnes CO2e/year. We must find a better way.

Was that reasonable?

Science / Re: The Science of Aerosols
« on: January 26, 2019, 12:09:35 AM »
Whether or not this paper is alarmist about aerosols my question remains (perhaps with slightly less urgency):

But do we now have? :

1.Cars - very, very, bad from the start.

2.Beef & lamb -  very bad from the start.

3.Fossil fuel power - very bad but we worry about losing the initial cooling.

4.High buildings - bad but the embodied CO2 comes from "industry" so some initial cooling.

5.Planes - not so bad but we worry about losing the initial cooling.

6. Trees - where can they be planted to avoid the aerosol warming effects?

Point 6 is relevant to BECCS.

Science / Re: The Science of Aerosols
« on: January 25, 2019, 01:19:15 AM »
I'd describe myself as an activist. Rarely successful but I keep trying. Climate change is clearly most important but on this I am a voice amongst many but I try to pass on what I discover to like minds and to decision makers (politicians & related) that I seek out.

(I hope that wasn't to self centred but it might help any response.)

I have an uncomfortable feeling now that decision makers haven't much of a clue (or any sort of a clue) as to the current state of the climate - even those honest and clear minded enough to put aside the "I don't like it so I don't believe it" effect. I also have some problem with the climate science community (OK, that's another thread) and this paper by Rosenfeld et al. causes me some angst.  Partly because it suggests Hansen's Faustian bargain may be much worse. Hansen raised this issue in 1990 in  Sun and dust versus greenhouse gases: an assessment of their relative roles in global climate change, Nature 346 713–9 Later he wrote in the Huffington Post

The principal implication of our present analysis probably relates to the Faustian bargain. Increased short-term masking of greenhouse gas warming by fossil fuel particulate and nitrogen pollution represents a 'doubling down' of the Faustian bargain, an increase in the stakes. The more we allow the Faustian debt to build, the more unmanageable the eventual consequences will be. Yet globally there are plans to build more than 1000 coal-fired power plants (Yang and Cui 2012) and plans to develop some of the dirtiest oil sources on the planet (EIA 2011). These plans should be vigorously resisted. We are already in a deep hole—it is time to stop digging.

A report in Science Daily says of Rosenfeld et al.

For a while now, the scientific community has known that global warming is caused by human made emissions in the form of greenhouse gases and global cooling by air pollution in the form of aerosols.

However, new research published in Science by Hebrew University of Jerusalem Professor Daniel Rosenfeld shows that the degree to which aerosols cool the earth has been grossly underestimated, necessitating a recalculation of climate change models to more accurately predict the pace of global warming

Question 1: Does this mean that Hansen's Faustian bargain has just got much worse.

Question 2: Why has it taken 30 years to find this out?

Question 3: Will any of this get through to policy makers?
(Internet search of BBC and UK: nothing on Rosenfeld. Similarly WAPO & NYT)

As an activist I'm interested in what the policy implications are. I've been campaigning against
cars, planes, high buildings and beef&lamb for climate reasons - for many years now. An naturally have campaigned for renewable energy. I've been campaigning for trees and the use of wood.

However, for some time I have had in the back of my mind Attribution of climate forcing to economic sectors by Unger et al. Figure 2 shows the progression of cooling/warming from different activities

As far as I can see, this shows on road transport (mostly cars), household biofuel, animal husbandry (beef & lamb particularly?) warm the Earth early on but industry (inc cement and steel manufacture?), biomass burning, agricultural waste burning and shipping have medium to long term cooling effects before warming starts.

Additionally, Unger has criticised policies for planting trees to slow climate change. From the Nature Blog

According to Unger’s latest findings, the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by trees heat our climate. It’s controversial because it’s a new idea, modeled by Unger, and there are lots of ways to run a model.

Unger has also expressed the view that aviation is much less of a problem than many think and has a significant cooling effect before it turns to warming. I haven't the reference to hand (a saved link broken) but found this

"From the point of view of the general public, there's been a level of anxiety that people feel recently about their carbon footprint when they go to airports," Unger said. "We should be feeling that way when we turn on our car ignitions."

"Attribution of climate forcing.." is now almost a decade old and the latest findings from Rosenfeld seem to have substantially increased estimates of the cooling before the warming starts. As we have short term as well as long term problems, this is worrying

But do we now have? :

1.Cars - very, very, bad from the start.

2.Beef & lamb -  very bad from the start.

3.Fossil fuel power - very bad but we worry about losing the initial cooling.

4.High buildings - bad but the embodied CO2 comes from "industry" so some initial cooling.

5.Planes - not so bad but we worry about losing the initial cooling.

6. Trees - where can they be planted to avoid the aerosol warming effects?

Sadly the "I don't like it so I don't believe it" effect kicks in." and there is
a reluctance to accept that stopping mass car ownership is a priority.

Policy and solutions / Re: Cars, cars and more cars. And trucks, and....
« on: January 14, 2019, 11:36:18 PM »

[Electric buses] are too expensive for municipalities to buy enough to serve all the populations and locations that need them.

We must change the nature of "the locations", so that they are served by nearby transport hubs. In addition we should travel less.

Mass car ownership is not compatible with saving the climate.

This attempt at sustainable living for motorists failed miserably.

Derwenthorpe was meant to be sustainable and have a low carbon footprint but it achieved a planet-destroying footprint of 14.52 tonnes CO2e per resident per year. This was worse than the average for York as a whole, which was still planet-destroying at 14.30 tonnes CO2e.

World average emissions of CO2e are now about 7 tonnes CO2e per person per year. This racks up a planet-threatening 100 tonnes of CO2e in fifty years – even if emissions steadily declined to zero during that time (OK, this is optimistic.). Emissions from Derwenthorpe and the rest of York are more than twice the world average.

We must show the world living without cars can be cheap, pleasant and won't screw the world up.

Consequences / Re: Wildfires
« on: November 13, 2018, 09:08:10 PM »
Michael Mann has been interviewed on  BBC World today - but not on BBC's UK output. Here are twitter links. (I don't know how to get direct links to the video.)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Walking the walk / Re: Top climate-friendly actions
« on: October 12, 2018, 12:17:03 PM »

Urban Planning is key to climate.

I think Europe has a much bigger chance (though not big at all) of reducing the number of cars on the roads, than we in the US.

It's not just about cars on roads we must get away from car-based living. I've just found this piece on about one of my heroes from the seventies, Victor Gruen:

The father of the American shopping mall, the Austrian-born architect Victor Gruen, envisioned the mall as a sort of European-style town center for the American suburbs. He saw malls as climate-controlled Main Streets, with post offices, supermarkets and cafes, set amidst larger complexes with schools, parks, medical centers and residences. You’d hardly need to drive at all. Gruen found cars repulsive.

But only part of Gruen’s vision caught on: the climate-controlled gray box, famous for encouraging car culture rather than stopping it. In 1978, the elderly Gruen railed against what his idea had become.

“I would like to take this opportunity to disclaim paternity once and for all,” he said. “I refuse to pay alimony to those bastard developments. They destroyed our cities.”

The article goes on to describe how in some places Gruen's vision is coming true:
Malls are dying in some places, yes, their too-expensive-to-remove corpses littering the landscape. But in other places malls are becoming “lifestyle centers” much like what Gruen envisioned. And some are going beyond that, turning into entirely different things: apartment complexes, churches, schools. Down the road, urban planners see even more uses: farms, performance venues, pop-up event spaces.

I pray that the current breed of urban planners will be much better than the ones in the 20th century.

Urban Planning is key to climate.

Walking the walk / Re: Top climate-friendly actions
« on: October 11, 2018, 12:47:53 PM »
Top climate friendly action is to get rid of most cars.

Starting now we should be building car-free developments with local employment - particularly food production. Since we have so few years to solve the climate not even electric cars are any good - with their enormous embodied carbon and the unavailability of clean electricity.

I've been pushing car-free living since the 1970s. Then because a car-free town is a better town. Now because cars are at the centre of planet destroying lifestyles.

Currently I'm suggesting that we have car-free additions to existing villages, towns and cities as a start.

See Garden Cities and Green Evolutionary Settlements

Walking the walk / Re: Top climate-friendly actions
« on: October 08, 2018, 10:42:02 PM »

Thanks. You are right about Murtaugh and Schlax.

The nonsense started with Wynes and Nicholas

Walking the walk / Re: Top climate-friendly actions
« on: October 08, 2018, 12:20:14 PM »

That paper by Wynes is peer reviewed nonsense.

Yes, that paper by Wynes is peer reviewed nonsense. Worse, because it was peer reviewed and from an academic source the MSM took it seriously. My take on it was Population is a planet emergency but …. This included:

The estimates of the emissions from having an extra child used a method developed by Murtaugh and Schlax. This is the method:

–1– Assign half of a child’s emissions to each parent

–2– Add one quarter of the emissions of each grand-child

–3– Add one eighth of the emissions of each great-grand-child

–4– …and so on.

As the number of descendants increase the carbon emissions add up to a very large amount – even though for each descendant the share of their emissions is diminishing. Wynes & Nicholas considered carbon emissions in ‘developed’ nations (average lifetime 80 years), it is possible to see that their estimate of the carbon cost of having an extra child is about 4,668 tonnes CO2e – over 46 times the individual budget (100 tonnes CO2e) for avoiding “dangerous climate change”.

One flaw in this argument is the assumption made by Murtaugh and Schlax that future generations will have carbon emissions similar to the initial parents.

I consider seriously Billhook's comment on Grist that the population debate is a dog whistle against real climate action

The reason is the sheer routine stupidity of the cases made for Population being a significant factor in resolving global warming.
Look how many years how many commenters have continued pushing the same routinely debunked arguments - while ignoring all of the cogent arguments for actual climate action - and you have something other than a serious widespread honest concern.

What you have is somebody's propaganda effort, predictably using shills, bots and anyone they can get to parrot the chosen memes.

From where I stand there is a fairly clear explanation of this, which is that public opinion is being programmed to see massive future famine casualties in developing countries as 'inevitable', and 'due to the coloureds overbreeding' and 'nothing the US should change course over', such as by taking emergency climate action by SSA geoengineering.

Billhook was commenting on a talk by Kevin Anderson mentioned by J4onian in a previous comment. I'm not sure where Kevin Anderson says this but J4onian quotes him as saying:

Population is a complete red herring in regards to 2°C budgets.

Even more so in regards to 1.5°C budgets, which are not physically possible any more--partly because we've been delayed by people lying about this and other red herrings.

Kevin Anderson's video is well worth watching.

Consequences / Re: Conservative Scientists & its Consequences
« on: October 04, 2018, 04:56:28 PM »
A pity they didn't do a precis - say two pages of one-liners. It would be, I think, a very powerful document. I don't think I dare.

I really wish you would G..

Yes please. I'd add too many expletives.

Policy and solutions / Re: UN Climate Agreement - Paris 2015 and beyond
« on: September 07, 2018, 12:14:25 AM »
"EIA has great data this morning:
1) 2017 carbon emissions down 0.9%;
2) 2017 emissions 14% below 2005 levels;
3) Total carbon emissions from gas higher than coal;
4) Petroleum top emitter, responsible for 46% of total emissions.”

Are methane leaks properly estimated and counted ?
"Methane emissions of this magnitude, per unit of natural gas consumed, produce radiative forcing over a 20-year time horizon comparable to the CO2 from natural gas combustion" So not really much progress in the power sector.

Are "imported" emissions counted?
"One-quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the manufacture of products destined for export – and are not accounted for in most nations’ climate policies."

Policy and solutions / Re: Cars, cars and more cars. And trucks, and....
« on: August 29, 2018, 06:03:28 PM »
do you have numbers regarding the average carbon footprint of a motorist, and by EU countries (mainly UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy)? and what is the car emission share within the overall carbon footprint of an average citizen?

That's an interesting piece of homework you have set me. I can't answer it easily. I might try more seriously in due course. But here is some fragments:

1. CO2 from driving a car is often given in gms CO2 per km. These are tailpipe emissions and don't include the CO2 emitted in extracting, processing and transporting the fuel. I picked up a figure of 10% for this somewhere. So for these cars, I have made these estimates using emissions data from the Department for Transport and UK average car miles from Drivers' annual mileage rates drop to new low.

2) The CO2 from manufacturing a car is large. These figures come form Mike Berners Lee in What's the carbon footprint of ... a new car? and Average age of cars on the road in the United Kingdom (UK) between 2000 and 2016*:

3) The combined result, which is dependent on assumptions you can see above, is:

However, having a car is an indicator of affluence and there is a relationship between car ownership and affluence as the Stockholm Environment Institute noted in their report on Derwenthorpe:
the richest 10 per cent of households nationally consuming three times more carbon for household energy and travel than the poorest 10 per cent.

One consideration is that they tend to live in places that require more daily travel but there are many other reasons. Worldwide it's the affluent that are ruining the climate as this Oxfam infographic shows:

Clearly, more work needed but I feel confident that building new homes for motorists is contrary to UN Resolution 42/187 and so it is now against planning regulations in the UK.

Policy and solutions / Re: Cars, cars and more cars. And trucks, and....
« on: August 28, 2018, 07:12:03 PM »
The carbon footprints of most motorists are enormous. In incorporating UN Resolution 42/187 in to the new National Planning Policy Framework, have the UK Ministry of Housing banned building new homes for motorists?

Can motorists really achieve sensible lifestyles that don't screw the climate?

There is a study by the Stockholm Institute in York that did some carbon footprinting of a 'sustainable' housing development. Let down by their personal travel, the average footprint was over 14 tonnes CO2e per year. That's surely climate destroying.


Science / Re: Comparison: forcings from CO2, CH4, N2O
« on: August 27, 2018, 02:27:57 PM »
 I've just written "Cheating with temperature"  It argues that using temperature as a measure in the Paris Agreement was too vague. It should have specified limits to GHG emissions.

This is relevant to TeaPotty
The whole point of this thread's argument is about Ned's claim that CH4 will be insignificant in future decades.

Not all the bad things that are caused by climate change depend directly on temperature. For example sea level rise. In discussing the paper mentioned by AbruptSLR, Myles R. Allen et al. (2018) I say

One of the authors, Dr Michelle Cain, explains in , that since methane has a lifetime of about 10 years it does not contribute much to long-term temperature rise and the goal of the Paris Agreement.

However, the temporary warming caused by methane will have gone somewhere: A higher surface temperature for a decade or so will cause some of the heat to be lost to space but some of the warming will have contributed to melting ice sheets and a much larger amount will have warmed the oceans, raising sea levels.

In Emission metrics and sea level rise, Sterner and Azar, discuss sea level rise caused by short-lived pollutants, such as methane. Their conclusions show that methane is many times worse than CO2 – for sea level rise even though it does not affect log-term surface temperatures greatly.

Perhaps the Small Island Developing States must agree with Myles Allen, who thinks methane emissions from current meat production is not much of a problem:

“We don’t actually need to give up eating meat to stabilise global temperatures,” says Professor Myles Allen who led the study (meat production is a major source of methane). “We just need to stop increasing our collective meat consumption.”

But the Small Island Developing States might worry about our meat consumption (especially beef and lamb) because it causes significant sea-level rise through enhanced methane emissions – although it doesn’t affect long term average global temperatures much.

And echoing TerryM's
I think it's rather axiomatic that the best way to prevent future forcing is to cut back on present forcings, preferably using the most efficient methods.

I worry that

short term heating can cause the feedbacks discussed in Lowe & Bernie’s paper mentioned below

Are there any papers that expand on "the worry that short term heating can cause feedbacks"?

The rest / Re: The Media: Examples of Good AND Bad Journalism
« on: August 10, 2018, 07:02:08 PM »
Example of bad journalism from a last year - but the impression may remain.

I do believe we have a population problem but I came across this fairly recently

A teacher with no children goes on several big flights a year. She has a lifestyle far more sustainable than a family of 5, no matter how little they travel.

This idea came from a press release from Lund University The four lifestyle choices that most reduce your carbon footprint, which said “having one fewer child would save 58.6 tonnes per year.”

This was repeated in many main stream papers, e.g. The Guardian, The Telegraph.

Although having children, is bad for the planet, it's not as bad as "driving an average car a distance of 1000 kilometers every day of the year. All your life." 

What was missed out of most (or all?) of the journalism was that  the effects of having children in "advanced" countries (USA,Canada, Europe &etc) was very, very, very much worse than in poor countries.

I know this topic has many different angles but the journalism was terrible - swallowing whole the muddle of the original paper.

See Population is a planet emergency but …. This took me far too long to write, hindered as usual by a way round pay walls.


This was on the BBC front page this morning as well... briefly. At least awareness of these dire possibilities is starting to reach the mainstream, even if it's rapidly displaced by politicians choosing unfortunate wording.

Yes, the BBC downgraded 'Hothouse Earth' piece  by moving it to the back pages quite quickly.

On the BBC Six O'clock News today Zeb Sones and Richard Shukman were saying this (At about 16m30s):

Zeb Soanes:
The scientific community has reacted cautiously to a new study which warns that the world is at risk from dangerous levels of climate change the could make some areas of the planet uninhabitable. The paper by a team at the University of Stockholm predicts that as global warming gathers pace it will become impossible to control but while many other researchers acknowledge the threat posed they say the predictions in this latest report a very much a worst case scenario our science editor David Shukman has been weighing up the arguments.

David Shukman:
At a time of multiple heat waves from California to Britain to Japan an apocalyptic vision of an overheated future, what's called a hothouse Earth has caught the imagination. The scientists argue that natural features of the planet help to keep it cool. The oceans and the forests absorb much of the carbon dioxide released by cars, factories and power stations and without them the gas would into the atmosphere and raise temperatures further but it's  suggested if there's damage to these natural buffers a series of dominoes would suddenly fall. The frozen soils in the arctic releasing methane, the melting of the ice sheets accellerating, weather patterns shifting and whole region becoming hostile to life. So how plausible is this?

Individually each of these processes is physically possible but taken together the idea of a cascade of impacts triggering runaway warming is more extreme than many other studies of climate change. It goes far beyond the carefully drafted assessments of the United Nations.

Privately some scientists not involved in the study regard it as speculative - technically feasible but much less likely the more established forcasts for the future climate. Even so, many in the field say the research is a reminder that the planet is definitely getting hotter than that urgent action to cut the gas is the course of warming is needed to limit the damage.

"some scientists" ? Any guesses?


Just found your very helpful answer


A Consumption-Based Greenhouse Gas Inventory of San Francisco Bay Area Neighborhoods has

The carbon footprint of the average S.F. Bay Area household (Figure 1) is 44.3 metric tons of CO2  equivalent gases per year (16.3 tons tCO2e per person). This compares to about 50 metric tons for the average U.S. household.

HADCRUT4 and the Paris agreement

There is an interesting article on Carbon Brief  Permafrost and wetland emissions could cut 1.5C carbon budget ‘by five years' describing a paper in Nature Geoscience

This work is, of course, very welcome. Getting a better grip of the size of some of the feedbacks missing from the CMIP5 models will (or should) be important to policy makers.

However, I note they use the HadCRUT4 temperature measure, which ignores the Arctic with its faster rising temperatures. HADCRUT4 is also a mix of sea surface temperature and temperatures measured a metre or so above the land surface. Land temperatures are rising significantly faster.

HADCRUT4 does not include the temperature of the oceans below the surface. This is the main driver for sea level rise.

So this paper does not easily translate to an estimate of the full nasty effects of raised temperatures on land or - something that was important in the Paris agreement- the drowning of the Maldives.

Californian Emissions

At 429 million tonnes CO2e, that's 10.86 tonnes per Californian. I would have assumed much worse.

Is there a catch? Are these just production emissions not consumption emissions?

I'm pleased to report the UK Committee on Climate Change is getting more open about this issue.

Where was the steel made for all those cars in California?

I'm still fiddling with figures for a submission to the York Local Plan. Note for writing up in English:

Carbon Clock (Guardian) says remaining carbon budget in CO2e for 2°C is 736 Gt CO2e

World population is 7.6 billion

So that's nearly 100 tonnes CO2e each

Global Carbon Project says CO2 emissions in 2016 were 40+ Gt (including land use change)

Increase by 25% to get 50 Gt CO2e /year

That's 7 tonnes per person which will last 14 years.

A bit longer if reductions happen soon.

Anything seriously wrong?

gerontocrat.   Thanks. That's helpful.

I am writing a submission to th City Of York's Local Plan. I can't quite believe what I've just written.

As I write this (8th July 2018), the Guardian's Carbon countdown clock gives the remaining catbon budget for staying below 2C as 736.5 billion tonnes of CO2e (CO2- equivalent) considerably less than in the diagram. That's just over 100 tones CO2e for every person on Earth. For a temperature rise of  1.5C the remaining CO2e budget is under 2.2 billion tonnes CO2e or 0.3 tonnes for every person on Earth.

Is this sensible?

Science / Re: Carbon Cycle
« on: June 25, 2018, 02:33:47 PM »
I'm trying to find out the extra heating that comes adding an extra tonne of CO2 (& CH4) to the atmosphere. 

I think I'd like the answer in joules/sec, with perhaps the immediate change and some sense of the decay function. (CO2 - not much decay? CH4 - almost disappearing after a decade or so?)

Anyone know of an easily accessible source?



I think I see these terrible events in a better perspective now.


Very impressed by the Obama Era video of Joshua Landis.

Has he said more recently?

Historically, France and Britain seem to have set the scene for the continuing disasters.

Did they realise what they were doing?

Were there particular individuals responsible? - or is that a stupid question?


I know it's absolutely forbidden to say any particular events are caused by climate change but do the dust and thunder storms happening in India have any CC connection.

Brilliant. Best I've heard him do.

The rest / Re: US intervention in foreign lands
« on: March 09, 2018, 03:53:21 PM »
Humanitarian aid has its problems, because it's often used to dump surplus food (so the manufacturers don't lose money) and kills local agriculture. Humanitarian aid is also often used as leverage between warring factions, and it stimulates corruption.

The Pollution Tax Association is a very small group - me and some friends.  We pay a (much too small) self-imposed carbon tax and give to charity from time to time.

Long before the current fuss, we have had doubts about "official" charities and the way the money gets spent.  The cash we have in the bank isn't enormous but we wondered if there was a way to get it direct to individuals. e.g. Choose a terrible situation (easy). Identify a few individuals, more or less randomly (harder) and send a small donation (difficult?).

Is there any charity, without enormous overheads that could do this?

Policy and solutions / Re: If not Capitalism... then What? And, How?
« on: March 09, 2018, 01:08:01 PM »
Solartim27 & sleepy

That Goats and soda article, If We Bring The Good Life To All, Will We Destroy The Planet? is based on a new study in Nature Sustainability, A good life for all within planetary boundaries by O'Neill et al.

O'Neill et al. say things in a complicated academic way struggling for rigor and precision in an field where none is possible - but who here would disagree with:

Overall, our findings suggest that the pursuit of universal human development, which is the ambition of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals], has the potential to undermine the Earth-system processes upon which development ultimately depends. But this does not need to be the case. A more hopeful scenario would see the SDGs shift the agenda away from growth towards an economic model where the goal is sustainable and equitable human well-being. However, if all people are to lead a good life within planetary boundaries, then the level of resource use associated with meeting basic needs must be dramatically reduced.

SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts references Paris Agreement and many here will worry/know that with this agreement alone we stand limited chance of avoiding climate disaster.

O'Neill et al. use nation states as basic units. However, all states now contain demographic groups in their population, which have unsustainable lifestyles. This gives a clouded picture. A search for sustainable and happy lifestyles, which can be exemplars for sustainable development should look at smaller units like neighbourhoods and villages.

Also, why just look at the present? Are there past examples worth examining?

Design and plan

The key point should be: If there have been no worth-while exemplars, past or present, then design and plan some that are suitable.

Financial incentives for sustainable living

P.S. The question "If not capitalism ...?" is a big question that's beyond me but I see nothing stopping efficient large corporations bringing sustainable living to the market - except that there are few financial incentives for sustainable living and that means no profit for corporations - yet. We need strong government to set the incentives to make capitalism sustainable - and give a basic income to all.  Like a carbon fee with dividend. [My idealistic version.]

On that topic, James Hansen [a small town republican?] has recently posted

Young Republicans are showing that they will not accept politics as usual, they understand climate change is real, and a substantial number of them advocate exactly the conservative policy that could address the matter successfully: carbon fee with 100% dividend uniformly distributed to the public.

P.P.S. I a member of the Labour Party, supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and admire The Adam Smith Institute.

Consequences / Re: Near Term Human Extinction
« on: March 08, 2018, 06:25:22 PM »
I'm trying to write something on town planning and housing. I believe creating new ways of living is one of the few slim chances to avoid Near Term Human Extinction. The thread I started about a target for our individual carbon budgets didn't seem to take off so can I ask here if the following sounds reasonable.

The science isn’t exact but it is reasonable to say:

Humanity can emit about 100 tonnes CO2e per person before the Earth’s temperature rises 2°C above pre-industrial times. A rise of 2°C will cause changes in the natural environment but above 2°C there there will be much greater changes. These changes may see the deaths of billions of people and the extinction of many other species.

The exactness of this may be open to question but it's sure that if everyone in the world emitted 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the next 50 years, the climate response would be terrible.

worryingly overcautious.

Thanks. Nice grown-up phrase.

Most of you here are a bit more grown up than me - despite my fairly advanced age so perhaps someone can help.  I've tweeted this

The UK Met Office is adamant that what is occurring now should be regarded as part of the natural ups and downs we get in our weather. … (They think it's not climate change - now their bosses are in the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy?)

Snow from the "Beast from the East"

Three questions

1. Was the Met Office being reasonable?
2. Was the BBC wrong in ignoring the Jennifer Francis story?
3. Is my conspiracy theory barmy?

I see Carbon Brief are writing on this today:
Explainer: The polar vortex, climate change and the ‘Beast from the East’

Walking the walk / Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« on: February 26, 2018, 11:03:12 AM »

...I am certain their compost isn't all produced from their three acre property...

I worried about that too.

...I suspect I am making some sort of math errors...

Your calculations are very helpful.  I find that sort of checking hard to find.

... both my farm and theirs have the biggest problems with distribution.

I'm interested in settlements where there are incentives to consume food grown locally.

... If electric /battery trucks that are affordable become available this last hurdle can be surpassed.

In York there are deliveries on bikes and bikeways (some on disused railway tracks).

I farm my farm without any outside labor. I wish I could have more help but I think I still have enough years left to get to the zero carbon or negative carbon farming I strive to achieve.
I could get there now if I all I needed to do was feed my wife and me.

To survive, the world will need more farming like yours - and build communities around them.  I've just looked at The green settlement handbook (part1) and found it a bit of a shambles - I hope to find time to start it again but it does contain this

Guidelines for a settlement
1. It will be managed by  a social landlord, a  cooperative or possibly even the right private landlord.
2. It will have legal covenants and financial incentives to encourage green behaviour.
3. It will attract residents who have:

1. a willingness to experiment
2. an environmental awareness
3. bikes and no cars

4. It will be built on a greenfield site with cycle routes to nearby urban centres
5. It will have food grown for local consumption
6. It will have public transport with good waiting areas

I still have property payments, taxes, insurance etc. so I still need to create income. We are eating well on only farm produced foods. We use almost zero fossil fuels to feed ourselves. Trying to produce income results in fossil fuel use, largely from transportation and animal feed costs.

Ideally we would be paying you for your action research but people with high carbon footprints should be fined to pay those with low ones - but don't hold your breath.

As a kite to fly on this topic - the morality of carbon budgets - I have put a post on one of my blogs, Are you evil or very evil?

The Science

The science isn't exact but it is reasonable to say:

Humanity can emit about 100 tonnes CO2e per person before the Earth's temperature rises 2°C above pre-industrial times. A rise of 2°C will cause changes in the natural environment but above 2°C there there will be much greater changes. These changes may see the deaths of billions of people and the extinction of many other species.

The Morals

Now let's apply moral judgement or “moral sentiments” as philosopher David Hume called them.
1. Killing billions of people is wrong.
2. Exterminating most other species is wrong.

This means

1. Emitting greenhouse gases is wrong.
2. The greater the emissions, the greater the wrong.

Emitting 100 tonnes CO2e per person is a “shameful” amount - because a 2°C rise will actually cause some very bad effects.  We can make a sample table linking carbon emissions with morality categories.


Any guidance would be appreciated.

I've modified the table so it now reads

Remaining budget per person in terms of CO2e
1000Very very evil
500Very evil

It's now 7 categories - 3 either side of 'Shameful', the 100 tonnes CO2e mark. I did wonder about making it CO2 not CO2e because of the debate (and confusion) about short lived climate forcing agents(SLCPs) but that's probably a step too far for now.

The numbers in the order 'Excellent' to 'Very, very evil' can be written [-20,20,50,100,200,500,1000].

It would be very useful if there were some other estimates from people here then perhaps we could have a "ASIF Carbon Morality Measure" (ACMM?). I would like something like this to object to some planet destroying new plans that various town planners are hatching.


What does it means in a humans daily life to have a budget of lets say 500. Because i have no idea where that would bring me. What can you eat, what can you do, what can you do to warm your home.... Can you for example buy more budget by planting a forest, technically that would be possible, not ?


I'm sure you know this sort of stuff from Carbon Brief

The IPCC has previously laid out estimates of how much CO2 we can emit and still keep global average temperature rise to no more than 1.5C, 2C or 3C above pre-industrial levels. These are known as carbon budgets.

MCC Berlin give estimates of how fast we are running out of budget with their carbon clock. At the time of writing this for their medium estimate for staying under 2C there is just under 715 billion tonnes CO2 left.  With that shared between  world population (currently about 7.6 billion) that's less than 100 tonnes per person.

The question is:How much of this 100 tonnes CO2 do you feel entitled to?

Would you be ashamed to grab 200 tonnes and proud to only take 50 tonnes?

Personally, I would admire anyone that grabbed a 200 tonne budget but "paid for it" with a genuine 180 tonne offset. However this is personal morality not science and I was hoping for a range of moral judgements - moral judgments informed by scientific knowledge.

When I started this thread, I had hoped that it would provide some numbers associated with moral obligation. I hoped to work towards a table like
Remaining budget per person in terms of CO2e
1000Very very evil
500Very evil
-10Something to aim at

I had in mind that the budget should last about 50 years.

Perhaps this can be dealt with by using an average person and follow the C&C methodology of the Global Commons Institute?

This may seem confused - that's why I'm asking for help here - but what other tools are there to put to policy makers to measure the correctness of their plans?

Will anyone else on the ASIF dare share their own table?

Walking the walk / Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« on: February 15, 2018, 11:23:02 PM »
... thoughts on building soil carbon in the garden:
Ive just seen No-Till Farmers Elizabeth & Paul Kaiser (video)
Keynote, 2017 NOFA Mass. Winter Conference, January 2017

Singing Frogs Farm seems to have local food, local employment & carbon sequestration. A possible core for future green settlements.

Consequences / Re: Sea level rise and nuclear powerplants
« on: February 10, 2018, 09:41:22 PM »
I wrote a note to Mike Weightman in 2011.  He was then Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations and head of the Office for Nuclear Regulation. He was reporting on the safety of nuclear power after the accident at Fukushima.

The note concerned the increased possibility of tsunamis. Excerpts

1. Scientists link melting glaciers to earthquakes

Experts ponder whether tectonic activity increasing

Also the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports
"Historically, when big ice masses started to retreat, the number of earthquakes increased,” ...

2. Study Sees North Sea Tsunami Risk

A computer model designed by Norwegian scientists shows the possible consequences of a mega-landslide. They have forecast the progression of a disaster...

3. Tsunamis from submarine “slumps” triggered by the dissociation of methane hydrates

...Geologists speculate that massive submarine “slumps”, which can be likened to sea-floor avalanches, may occur when hydrates break away from the steep slope...

I did a postscript in 2015:

Sometime in the 1960’s, I was with my father when he stopped to talk to an old work colleague, who was working on the Dungeness B advanced gas-cooled reactor nuclear power station. He was welding stainless steel pipes and commented adversely on the design. I remember him saying the spaces were too tight and the pipework was  so convoluted they would be very difficult to mend. Wikiedia’ description of the breakdowns and also the  financial and engineering difficulties is instructive. It ends:

    “In 2005 the station’s accounting closure date was 2018, 35 years after first power generation.[22] In 2015 the plant was given a ten-year life extension, with an upgrade to control room computer systems and improved flood defences, taking the accounting closure date to 2028.”

One of the reasons for this power station’s longer than usual life is that it was shut down so often that it hasn’t worn out yet. Although it is good to see that the sea defences have been improved, my impression from informal conversations at conferences, is that they are not yet good enough to withstand the uprated predictions for sea leve, rise and mega storms that some scientists are suggesting.

Science / Re: Earthquakes and climate change
« on: February 07, 2018, 06:31:29 AM »
Volcanoes Get a Kick from Climate Change

This is a recent article about likely increases in volcanic activity in Iceland as the ice melts. It is based on a meeting with geologist Magnus Guðmundsson in April 2017. Guðmundsson googles well and has authored lots papers but doesn't seem to have been mentioned on ASIF. Excerpt from the article:
“If the ice melts, that can destabilize the magma,” Guðmundsson says. In the months that followed, Katla’s earthquakes diminished as the threat of eruption fizzled out. But the possibility of enormous ice caps melting, releasing pressure, and contributing to volcanic eruptions remains. And with the world warming and glaciers disappearing, the possibility of powerful eruptions to come is growing.


Bob Wallace
Longer term we do not need a daily wattage allowance...

I'm a little embarrassed with Had we but world enough and time. Using Herrick's poetry is a bit pretentious but the post does make the point that the real question is not whether we can get to a low carbon economy but whether we (or our descendants) can get there fast enough.

It's no good getting to zero carbon by 2100 because we (and our descendants) will have tipped the climate into an uncontrollable state.

The area under the graph is much more important than the final carbon emissions.

The area under the graph is the remaining carbon budget - and I suspect 816 Gt CO2 is an optimistic estimate for the 2°C carbon budget.

Sigmetnow, the reference you gave says

One of the objectives of ethical consumption is to consume less and
conserve resources by changing behavior, that is, by driving less, flying
less, eating less meat, and adjusting the thermostat so as to minimize
energy consumption; such changes in behavior can aid in slowing the
depletion of the earth’s limited resources.

That's a good start.


Then I wish have some means for suggesting targets.  I think that should be somehow related to remaining carbon budgets.


Thanks Sleepy but targets is the bit I'm most interested in. If it costs 80 tonnes CO2e to make a place for a new resident in a new town how bad is that? Is there any academic work I can refer to to get a moral judgement? Or is the conceptual distance between morality and climate science too great?

Carbon calculators

A decade or so ago I set up The Green Ration Book with some friends so have some knowledge of carbon calculators.  We used a citizens' jury approach because we didn't trust many sources and we used some collective guesswork (aka judgement) having looked a tthe information available.  It's a pity we were not more successful - "How bad are bananas?" by Mike Berners-Lee was a bit similar but much more successful.

There is some good Lifetime Carbon Analysis around but the available calculators are rather opaque and don't help you much when you are shopping, traveling to work or planning a holiday.  They may just end up telling you a final tonnes CO2e per year.


Policy and solutions / Re: If not Capitalism... then What? And, How?
« on: January 26, 2018, 02:19:43 PM »
Capitalism - to late to stop it

We have to control the beast of Global Capitalism & take from the rich&affluent to give to the poor. The rich&affluent are screwing up the climate, possibly leading to a sixth mass extinction of life on Earth.

Those that live sustainable lifestyles (basically the poor) should be rewarded and the polluters (the rich&affluent) fined heavily.

That could be a World Wide Carbon Fee and Dividend or anything that took from the rich to give to the poor  and encouraged the poor not to do what we have done.

This would be to force capitalism to solve the problem - if it can be solved.

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