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“Too Huge to Manage” — New Studies Highlight Danger in Failing to Rapidly Cut Carbon Emissions Now

“If we continue burning coal and oil the way we do today and regret our inaction later, the amounts of greenhouse gas we would need to take out of the atmosphere in order to stabilize the climate would be too huge to manage,” — Lena Boysen from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Phys.org.

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When it comes to dealing with global warming and human-forced climate change, the best options for response have always been rapid carbon emissions cuts and an equally rapid energy transition away from fossil fuel burning. And while swiftly transitioning energy systems away from fossil fuel burning, cutting carbon-based consumption, and aggressively increasing energy efficiency may all be seen as difficult or unsavory to the vocal and powerful special interests invested in continued burning of oil, gas, and coal, such cuts and transformations remain the safest path forward.

At issue is the fact that the two other chief climate change response ‘options’ are either inadequate on their own or, worse, can simply amount to so much reckless and harmful flailing about. Atmospheric geo-engineering and rapid removal of carbon from the Earth System — are either costly, difficult to scale to the level needed to remove carbon from the atmosphere fast enough to prevent serious harms under continuing fossil fuel burning, or, in the case of the solar radiation management version of geo-engineering, flat-out dangerous.

(New scientific studies highlight the fact that there is no substitute for a rapid halt to fossil fuel burning when it comes to preventing the worst impacts of human-caused climate change. Image source: The Sierra Club.)

Some of these basic facts were highlighted this week by a new study in the journal Science. The study — Rightsizing Carbon Dioxide Removal — found that under worst-case carbon emissions scenarios, there is practically not enough forested land area to grow the amount of switch grass and other biomass needed to recapture even half of the projected carbon emission. It also found that land mass dedicated to biomass production would need to equal roughly 1/3 of all forested lands under present emissions cuts goals under the Paris Climate Summit in order to prevent 2 C warming. A level of land use that would likely put global food security at risk.

Study Authors Katherine March and Christopher Field note that:

“The models generating possible trajectories of climate change mitigation bet on planetary-scale carbon removal in the second half of the century. For policymakers trying to limit the worst damages from climate change, that bet is reckless. This puts climate change mitigation, global food security and biodiversity protection on a collision course with no easy off-ramps.”

Only the most ambitious cuts to emissions combined with a moderate assist through considerable advances in atmospheric carbon capture provide a reasonable path to avoiding 2 C warming, according to the study.

A separate but similar study also published in May provides some confirmation to the Stanford study’s results. The co-author of that study, entitled The Limits to Global Warming Mitigation by Terrestrial Carbon Removal,Wolfgang Lucht from PIK notes in Phys.org:

“As scientists we are looking at all possible futures, not just the positive ones. What happens in the worst case, a widespread disruption and failure of mitigation policies? Would plants allow us to still stabilize climate in emergency mode? The answer is: no. There is no alternative for successful mitigation [cutting carbon emissions]. In that scenario plants can potentially play a limited, but important role, if managed well. [Emphasis Added]”

The issue is the fact that while methods like planting trees, changing the way we manage farmland, or even adding various carbon capturing biofuel plants and enhanced weathering materials to capture more carbon from the air is likely only capable of drawing down a fraction of the carbon we presently emit each year (and an even smaller fraction of carbon if emissions keep growing). At best, under practical considerations, we might be able to take down 1-3 billion tons of carbon every year compared to a present emission in excess of 10 billion tons and a BAU emission that could hit 20 billion tons of carbon per year or more.

 

(This graphic, produced by Greenpeace, provides a good illustration of basic carbon math. However, given the fact that warming will tend to push more carbon into the atmosphere from the Earth System and keep it there for a longer period, it’s likely that some assist by enhanced atmospheric carbon capture will be necessary even if carbon emissions are rapidly cut to zero. That said, atmospheric carbon capture at best provides an avenue for moderately enhancing atmospheric carbon draw-down. New studies warn that atmospheric carbon capture by itself and without coordinate rapid cuts to fossil fuel burning is not a practical solution. Image source: Greenpeace.)

Such levels of carbon capture, even if they were achieved in as short a time as two decades, would not be enough to prevent 2 C warming under anything but the most modest future emissions pathways. As a result, the primary climate change response strategy should continue to focus on increasing and rapidly scaling the size of planned emissions cuts. Meanwhile, atmospheric carbon capture is a good potential option as a follow-on to rapid emissions cuts to zero as soon as possible — providing a means eventually, over many decades, to possibly start to claw atmospheric greenhouse gases down from very dangerous and harmful levels. But such an option alone should not be viewed as something that will magically swoop in to save us from climate destruction if we continue to burn fossil fuels willy-nilly.

Chris Field — professor of biology & Earth System science and director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment provides this urgent observation following his study’s publication:

“For any temperature limit, we’ve got a finite budget of how much heat-trapping gases we can put into the atmosphere. Relying on big future deployments of carbon removal technologies is like eating lots of dessert today, with great hopes for liposuction tomorrow.”

With the caveat being that eating lots of dessert today is likely to have far more limited and less disastrous consequences than continuing to burn oil, gas and coal.

Links:

Rightsizing Carbon Dioxide Removal

The Limits to Global Warming Mitigation by Terrestrial Carbon Removal

Assuming Easy Carbon Removal is High-Stakes Gamble

Planting Trees Cannot Replace Carbon Emissions Cuts

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95 Comments

  1. wili

     /  May 25, 2017

    Posted this at the end of the last thread, but maybe worth repeating here. Even with drastic cuts in CO2 and other emissions and some success in carbon sequestration, we almost certainly have at least 2 degrees C locked in. So we had better be giving our engineers the best info possible on how to harden infrastructure to the coming changes, rather than having policy makers continually avoiding or denying the whole subject.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/may/25/global-climate-projections-help-civil-engineers-plan

    Reply
    • wili

       /  May 25, 2017

      Thanks for another great post, by the way, robert. We were starting to miss you! ‘-)

      Reply
  2. Brian

     /  May 25, 2017

    One is prompted to remember Winston Churchill’s words from November of 1939 – so very apropos now:
    “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”

    Reply
  3. For completeness the calculations should include those theoretical efforts that involve grooming and capturing magically large amounts of plankton/algae on the oceans. Not that I think it would make much of a difference, but I’ve been conditioned to anticipate potential counterarguments by denialists and overoptimistic geoengineering cranks.

    Reply
  4. climatehawk1

     /  May 26, 2017

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  5. Matt

     /  May 26, 2017

    With the current global anomaly now 1.1C-1.2C above pre-industrial, then factoring the effects of removing heat reflecting aerosols when fossil fuel burning is stopped, adding the inertia calculations into the equation where would this get us? Surely there would not be much change from 2C now already? (not to mention locked in feedback loops)

    Reply
    • entropicman

       /  May 26, 2017

      Matt

      Using IPCC mid-range assumptions one can calculate how much warming has already been locked in. If we stopped emitting tomorrow, in thirty years time we would still see 1.6C due to 400ppm of CO2 alone. Add in other greenhouse gases and we have 525ppm CO2e. That will warm us by 2.6C.

      The fight to reduce emissions​ is not a battle to keep us below 2C. That ship has sailed. It is a battle to keep us below 3C, perhaps even 4C.

      Reply
      • Matt

         /  May 29, 2017

        That was close to my thoughts Entropicman!
        One huge area of concern for me related to the incentives to convert this magical “spare” land to carbon sinks… the only real practical carbon drawing option thus far.
        I think it was Prof. Kevin Anderson who has worked out that it would take the planting of an area the size of India each year to achieve close to the assumptions made thus far by the IPCC. What are the odds of countries struggling to maintain food for their current populations, saying “oh well lets put aside 50% of our land to grow biomass”?????

        Reply
  6. utoutback

     /  May 26, 2017

    Nice to have you back Robert. Hope you enjoyed your break and are recharged.
    As someone who has a sociological and historical perspective I am dismayed with the direction of this crisis.
    In the face of rising sea levels, the development of inhospitable climate zones, climate catastrophes (floods, fires), loss of fresh water supplies, and limited favorable agricultural zones we will see increasing numbers of refugees and regional conflicts.
    Humans being what we are, our tendency is toward defense and violence rather than solving these problems in a humane way.
    Here in the states we are seeing the Trumpist regime cutting foreign aid in favor of building a wall and spending more on our already bloated military. Somehow I don’t see this and an effective response to this global crisis. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
    What we need is to divert resources from war machinery into a “Manhattan Project” to completely overhaul our energy systems.
    What are the chances of this happening? I’m not optimistic.

    Reply
    • Abel Adamski

       /  May 26, 2017

      We were warned of the military Industrial Complex a long time ago, they are going to profit massively, all that bluster about NATO countries spending more is a push for more US arms and military equipment/technology/supplies. Make America Great and employ more Americans. More a mechanism to promote war and conflict.
      Then you have the Fundamental Christian Dominists Taliban winding up, well represented in the GOP and especially the cabinet. Bannon by his speech to Conservative Cardinals some years ago promoted a holy war to destroy the infidels

      Look at elements of the US military who also have a fair representation, especially vfrom the bases and training groups in the radical bible belt such as South Carolina (Most noted in Air Force and support)

      http://www.newsweek.com/christian-fundamentalists-us-armed-forces-national-security-threat-613428?utm_source=internal&utm_campaign=most_read&utm_medium=most_read2
      Trump Effect Inspires Radical Christians in Military

      Donald Trump’s election has led to such a steep rise in fundamentalist Christian evangelizing and religious bigotry in the U.S. armed forces that the matter is reaching the level of a “national security threat,” according to information shared exclusively with Newsweek by an organization that represents and advocates for secular and minority religious views in the military.

      Don’t forget they are the ones who claim it is all Gods will or judgement and lust after the final war and the raising up of the Chosen Ones – there is a whole industry, books , movies etc around the subject

      They control the rabid Right and the GOP and the rabid right media.

      It is all a part of the fabric we face at this time, and warnings were given in the bible including in the words of Jesus about false prophets and teachers that would twist and distort God and Jesus’s words at the end times inflicting much evil and suffering on the world. They of course say it is not us it is the others or the Commie Pope

      Reply
    • webej

       /  May 26, 2017

      Yes, the EU and the USA should each be spending around B$500 per year on research and pilots for rolling out renewable energy and for climate mitigation. This amount of money is easily affordable, simply by not wasting it on new types of nuclear weapons and planes, none of which can possibly help humanity (and other species) survive the path we are presently on. Au contrarie. Spending even morre to wean ourselves from fossil fuels should not be seen as crazy when your very life is at stake. As with starting wars, we seem incapable of thinking this thing through.

      Reply
  7. Abel Adamski

     /  May 26, 2017

    Looking promising, but then we have said that before
    http://newatlas.com/lithium-battery-graphene-nanotube-anode/49621/?li_source=LI&li_medium=default-widget

    Lithium metal battery prototype boasts 3 times the capacity of lithium-ions

    According to the study, the anode material is capable of a lithium storage capacity of 3,351 milliamp hours per gram, which is close to pure lithium’s theoretical maximum of 3,860 milliamp hours per gram, and 10 times that of lithium-ion batteries. And since the nanotube carpet has a low density, this means it’s able to coat all the way down to substrate and maximize use of the available volume.

    “Many people doing battery research only make the anode, because to do the whole package is much harder,” says Tour. “We had to develop a commensurate cathode technology based upon sulfur to accommodate these ultrahigh-capacity lithium anodes in first-generation systems. We’re producing these full batteries, cathode plus anode, on a pilot scale, and they’re being tested.”

    The problem with Li Ion batteries is the Dendrites. This has not been observed to develop any

    Reply
  8. NASA Discovers a New Mode of Ice Loss in Greenland

    https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6857

    Reply
    • webej

       /  May 26, 2017

      This creates a whole new meaning for the turn of phrase “glacial speeds”. We may be about to find out that geological processes are like a crocodile. Moving every so slowly and stealthily, and then, suddenly, more speed than a gazelle.

      Reply
    • Wow. A Heinrich mechanism?

      Reply
  9. Shawn Redmond

     /  May 26, 2017

    Perhaps if we could get the subsidies out, the switch away from fossil fuels would pick up speed. The following report is the US only. If applied to the globe, I can imagine the numbers.
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    The federal government is providing extensive support for fossil fuel production on public lands and waters offshore, through a combination of direct subsidies, enforcement loopholes, lax royalty collection, stagnant lease rates and other advantages to the industry, a report released Wednesday found.

    The government is contributing at least $7 billion per year in subsidies to support fossil fuel production on federally held lands and offshore waters alone, and is holding some $35 billion in public liabilities for drilling in public waters of the Gulf of Mexico. These subsidies support increased fossil fuel production on U.S. lands and waters out of step with efforts to meet international climate objectives.
    ………………………………. and the report goes on to say………….
    The report, Unequal Exchange: How Taxpayers Shoulder the Burden of Fossil Fuel Development on Federal Lands, presents an accounting of the minimum amounts of direct taxpayer dollars going to support fossil fuels on public lands, not including externalities such as climate and health impacts, which would bring the totals even higher. If those factors are taken into account, for example, mining coal in the Powder River Basin alone would have a net cost to the U.S. public of some $17.8 billion per year as of 2015.
    https://www.ecowatch.com/taypayers-subsidize-public-lands-2420255485.html

    Reply
    • webej

       /  May 26, 2017

      Globally, public subsidy to burning fossil fuels amounts to about B$490. For renewables the figure is around B$112. These figures are reported by the IEA for 2014. The IMF reports that for 2015 the total subsidy (including health and environmental effects) is 6.5% of global GDP, or $5.3 trillion. We are not exactly citing obscure left-wing clubs here!
      When US Republicans or other climate denialistas start about helping the poor with cheap coal or the poor Germans with their expensive renwable electricity, they are serving up tendentious cherry-picked numbers and comparisons that are no more germane than lipstick to a pig. Denialistas may sound a tad too sexy, but they are after all performing an illusionist high wire circus act with facts and statistics.

      Reply
  10. Suzanne

     /  May 26, 2017

    “How Trump policy will affect U.S. carbon emissions in one graph” at Vox:
    https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/5/25/15689200/trump-policy-carbon-emissions-graph

    Reply
  11. cushngtree

     /  May 26, 2017

    “Scientists just published a study calling out the head of the EPA by name”

    “A new study appeared in the journal Nature on Wednesday, directly refuting the claim that satellite data shows global warming has leveled off, a claim made by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt earlier this year.
    “Satellite temperature measurements do not support the recent claim of a “leveling off of warming” over the past two decades,” the study says.
    The researchers were upfront about why they ran the study, calling out Pruitt by name. “Mr. Pruitt claimed that ‘over the past two decades satellite data indicates there has been a leveling off of warming.’ We test this claim here,” the researchers write.”

    https://thinkprogress.org/pruitt-scientifically-wrong-a114a6492ed7

    Reply
    • Tigertown

       /  May 26, 2017

      I did carpentry for years, and know for a fact that people get the terms level and plumb confused. Plumb is perpendicular to level. If warming continues to not only increase but actually increase the rate by which it increases, we are approaching more of a plumb situation than a level one, mathematically speaking that is.

      Reply
  12. Erik Frederiksen

     /  May 26, 2017

    The scale of removal of CO2 is huge. The average American throws out less than 1000 pounds of garbage per year and produces around 40,000 pounds of CO2.

    Reply
    • wili

       /  May 26, 2017

      The whole concept of re-sequestering carbon when we are so very furiously and massively UN-sequestering carbon–at what, the rate of over 10 billion tons per year now–is kind of ridiculous.

      It is like someone pouring gallons of kerosene over himself near lit candles, but assuring himself that all will be well, since he has a couple of tiny pebbles that he’s pretty sure he can turn into tiny sponges that will soak a bit of the volatile liquid up before he self-immolates.

      Reply
      • Brian

         /  May 26, 2017

        Self-immolation is a deliberate act (like those monks); you’re describing recklessness that results in injury, but not necessarily “self-immolation”. It’s a great metaphor otherwise!

        Reply
        • wili

           /  May 28, 2017

          True, it is a pointless and largely unconscious act in our case…more’s the tragedy

  13. coloradobob

     /  May 26, 2017

    utoutback / May 26, 2017

    What we need is to divert resources from war machinery into a “Manhattan Project” to completely overhaul our energy systems.
    What are the chances of this happening? I’m not optimistic.

    A couple of things about the “Manhattan Project”.

    Like all things some people were thinking about the subject at hand –

    Adamson was skeptical about the prospect of building an atomic bomb, but was willing to authorize $6,000 ($102,570 in current USD) for the purchase of uranium and graphite for Szilárd and Fermi’s experiment.[17]
    The Advisory Committee on Uranium was the beginning of the US government’s effort to develop an atomic bomb, but it did not vigorously pursue the development of a weapon. It was superseded by the National Defense Research Committee in 1940,[18] and then the Office of Scientific Research and Development in 1941.[19] The Frisch–Peierls memorandum and the British Maud Reports eventually prompted Roosevelt to authorize a full-scale development effort in January 1942.[20] The work of fission research was taken over by the United States Army Corps of Engineers’s Manhattan District in June 1942, which directed an all-out bomb development program known as the Manhattan Project.[21]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein%E2%80%93Szil%C3%A1rd_letter

    3 years later they tested the gadget .

    The B-29 cost even more than it’s bombs. And it gave us the Koch Brothers,The biggest B-29 plant was at Wichita, Home of daddy Koch. Obama’s grandmother worked on the B-29 line.

    I bring all this up because, I am like you . Wearing my old man black history glasses. But people can and do the most amazing things when pressed. And let’s face it , losing to the Japanese in WW II was not an option. In Feb . of 45, we had kill the entire garrison on Iwo Jima. When people are willing to die for a belief. All hope is lost . See Travis at the Alamo.
    See the Spartans at the pass.
    We are in such a time. But history as always been such a time. Except for when was I was sitting outside Debbie Thompson’s house and the Beach Boy’s were playing , All Summer Long

    .

    Reply
  14. coloradobob

     /  May 26, 2017

    Everyone was going to be rich , the Chinese walked to work.

    Reply
  15. coloradobob

     /  May 26, 2017

    I keep pointing to those Beach Boys songs. This is our songs of our myth . Our myth is dead.

    Coal miners are not coming back . Detroit will bloom without cars.

    The American myth is just that .

    Let’s look at coal , we blast top off mountains looking for seams that are too small for men to mine. We dug every ton we could. Now we cut the top off mountains to get to the last scraps. What kind of water will their children drink ?

    Reply
    • utoutback

       /  May 27, 2017

      The myth of American superiority was built upon the destruction of the industrial bases of Germany, Japan, Europe, Great Britain….. at the end of WWII. The USA had geared up our industry (the military-industrial complex) for the war; building tanks, trucks, planes, bullets and bombs in great number (And bringing women into the work force). Relatively untouched by the wars in Europe and the Pacific because of the security provided by two great oceans, the USA started the post-war era with a 20 year head start on the rest of the world.
      We thought it would never end and that our life style wasn’t good because of our escape from WWII damage, but because of our inherent superiority (American exceptionalism). We failed to heed Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex and so it goes….
      Some post-war policies, such as the GI bill were also a factor in building a skilled and educated work force. And yes, our free market system attracted entrepreneurs from all over the world (not just home grown Americans). Hubris and self satisfaction took hold and the neuveau riche took over, mistaking money for value, so now are crying because other nations are working hard to overtake our position of primacy. Instead of a commitment to innovation our political system now works to support the status quo (see carbon fuels).
      And, we no longer support our workers and students.
      Unions have withered and the oligarchs are in control.
      Trump is the logical result.

      Reply
      • Andy_in_SD

         /  May 27, 2017

        All empires throughout all of human history have one thing in common, they end.

        Reply
      • Ed

         /  May 28, 2017

        ut-outback: Your comment on how the US mistook post-war geopolitical luck for “exceptionalism” and skill is spot on

        Reply
  16. Keith Antonysen

     /  May 27, 2017

    A little good news, I received an email from Getup in relation to the Adani Mine, quote:

    “In stunning breaking news, Premier Palaszczuk just announced the Queensland Government will refuse to give the money to Adani.

    For the loan to go ahead, it has to go via the Queensland Government. Now that Queensland Labor have refused to act as go-between on this dirty deal, Turnbull’s craven billion-dollar payoff to Adani has been left stranded.”

    Reply
  17. Spike

     /  May 27, 2017

    Seeing reports of hundreds of workers collapsing in heat in Bangladesh and ferocious heat in Pakistan with temps of 51C.

    Reply
    • wili

       /  May 28, 2017

      Indeed: http://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2017/05/26/panic-in-bangladesh-factories-as-workers-collapse-in-heatwave/

      ‘Panic’ in Bangladesh factories as workers collapse in heatwave

      Bangladesh has more than 4,500 garment factories, many of which lack basic ventilation and air coolers, and which employ four million women workers at minimum monthly wages of $68
      Bangladesh has more than 4,500 garment factories, many of which lack basic ventilation and air coolers, and which employ four million women workers at minimum monthly wages of $68

      Dhaka (AFP) – Panic broke out in more than a dozen factories in Bangladesh’s capital as hundreds of garment workers fell ill in a heatwave, forcing the plants to close, police said Thursday.

      Police said 18 factories, which export clothes to Western retailers, had been shut since Wednesday after chaotic scenes saw some 30,000 workers leave in the middle of their shifts.

      “490 workers became sick (Thursday) and were taken to hospitals. On Wednesday 365 workers fell sick,” Shoeb Ahmed, head of Gazipur industrial police, told AFP.

      Reply
  18. Suzanne

     /  May 27, 2017

    At Politico this morning: Leaders issue G7 declaration with U.S. a holdout on Climate Change
    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/27/trump-paris-climate-deal-238883

    Leaders of the G7, the world’s most exclusive geopolitical club, issued their 2017 declaration Saturday, with U.S. President Donald Trump refusing to join his counterparts in pledging commitment to the 195-nation Paris accord on climate change.
    ___________________________________________

    Anyone else tired of all this “winning” yet?

    GOP = Greed Over People

    Reply
    • Ryan in New England

       /  May 27, 2017

      The rapidity of American decline is making my head spin. And the completeness with which the Trump cult has bought into his bullshit is beyond sickening. He is the most ignorant, unstable, narcissistic person I have ever witnessed in my life, and also lies the way most people breathe. Yet his cult members are immune to objective reality, and will still support their dear leader when they wake up homeless, barefoot and starving. They’ll vote to kill their own children as long as it isn’t a Democrat. They’re too smart to vote for someone who would actually improve their lives and really make the country great.

      Reply
      • Yup, the comments on Politico are an indication of mental decline, sad. No gratitude from the global prizewinners of a century-long carbon fiesta.

        Reply
    • Ryan in New England

       /  May 27, 2017
      Reply
  19. I did some calculations last year http://phasm.co.uk/the-global-carbon-footprint/ and came to the conclusion”; if on reaching 2030 the World has achieved a 75% reduction in fossil fuel emissions, adopts a zero emissions target for the next ten years, and similarly a vegetarian diet, then by 2040 the fossil fuel age will come to an end leaving a 700 billion ton carbon footprint on the atmosphere.”

    Reply
  20. wharf rat

     /  May 27, 2017

    As renewable energy breaks new output records in California, both the need for and availability of gas in California have both declined.

    It’s been a big spring for renewable energy in California. A very wet winter has meant a high level of hydro generation, but this is not the only factor. Due to rising wind and solar production, on May 13 the state hit a new record with renewables excluding large hydro peaking at 67% of electric demand on a Saturday.
    This combination of increased hydroelectric, solar and wind generation has in turn resulted in the lowest levels of natural gas use for electricity generation in five years, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

    https://www.pv-magazine.com/2017/05/25/more-solar-and-hydro-brings-california-gas-use-to-five-year-low/

    Reply
  21. RobertTanguay

     /  May 27, 2017

    The only way to make meaningfull change is by pricing pollution, which can be done with an emissions tax. http://www.EmissionsTax.org/incentives-environment – It all comes down to “Incentives and the Environment”.

    Reply
  22. Suzanne

     /  May 27, 2017

    “Alaska Sea Ice is Melting unusually Early”
    https://insideclimatenews.org/news/25052017/arctic-sea-ice-disappearing-alaska-climate-change-warm-winter-chukchi-sea

    The Arctic’s record-warm winter has allowed thousands of square miles of sea ice off Alaska to melt more than a month early, leaving the shoreline vulnerable to waves and exposing dark ocean water to absorb more heat from the sun.

    The loss of ice in the Chukchi Sea will boost the regional temperature and could increase precipitation over nearby land, said Alaska-based climate scientist Rick Thoman.

    Reply
  23. Great post. I’ll read these papers in detail ASAP.

    The conceptual frames implicit in some of these papers trouble me, though. Thinking that climate scientists have such a complicated system all figured out, and that all we have to worry about are CO2 emissions is one of those conceptual frames. So, the possibility of destabilization of methane hydrates is left out of these papers. So, on the climate prediction side, likely these papers underestimate the real world, I think.

    On the CO2 removal side of these studies, I’m not sure that they fully take into account the synergistic effects of BECCS (Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage) especially the ability of BECCS to displace fossil fuels by generating useful electricity. So, BECCS simultaneously puts carbon back underground, displaces fossil fuel use, and generates useful electricity that could be used for electric vehicles to displace yet more fossil fuel use.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bio-energy_with_carbon_capture_and_storage

    So the downside of inaction could be worse, and the upside of BECCS could be better than what they say, I think. Certainly, stopping fossil fuel usage ASAP is a prerequisite to any happy scenario.

    I also think that converting the coal plants that are closing ASAP to BECCS power plants with solar thermal assist would be a good idea, as part of an emergency WWII scale climate stabilization effort. That way, we would probably be OK, even if the methane hydrates start to destabilize, or we get some nasty surprises like a trillion tons of methane in the possible meta-stable layer of methane hydrate under Siberia.

    In the real world, we’ll likely try to muddle through, with a gradual conversion to renewable energy sources. This could be catastrophic. As Read and Lermitt pointed out 15 years ago, BECCS is rate limited- if the system becomes too destabilized it will be too late for BECCS to do anything about it.

    At that point, with the climate system destabilized, some sort of unlikely to succeed scheme involving direct air capture of CO2 could be our last resort. Of course, international cooperation at that point is just a dream, and direct air capture on a scale big enough to make a difference is also likely a dream.

    Reply
    • Read and Lermitt advocated a graduated response, a couple of decades ago – before there was unmistakable evidence that the polar ice sheets were melting. They advocated planting the biomass plantations first, then developing BECCS on an emergency basis if a clear signal was received from the climate system.

      http://www.claverton-energy.com/wordpress/wp-content/files/BioSequest_Read_Lermit_2003P_read.pdf

      Well, now we’ve gotten that signal – emphatically. But we could still start with massive tree planting efforts. This might be so politically popular that bipartisan Congressional leaders could force it past Trump. Trump might even see it as a harmless way to increase his popularity – who doesn’t like trees?

      Reply
  24. utoutback

     /  May 27, 2017

    Recent Jennifer Francis lecture:

    Reply
  25. Donald Trump says decision on Paris Climate Agreement coming “next week”.

    From Time:

    http://time.com/4796621/paris-agreement-donald-trump-g7-summit/

    In an alternate reality, Trump admits that there is a real world with a climate that really looks to be destabilizing, and goes back to his previous position on climate change. The world cheers, and his approval rating jumps 20 points. He agrees to abide by the Paris agreement, and invests very minor amounts of money in a massive tree planting program. He unveils a new program to accelerate the development of BECCS (Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage) transforming old coal fired power plants to BECCS power plants using oxy-fuel combustion, with a solar thermal assist. He employs laid off coal miners as biomass heavy equipment operators. He promises to keep an open mind in the future, and actually change his mind when reality dictates he must do so.

    In this alternate reality, a flock of pigs flying like geese in a V shaped formation buzz the podium while he makes his announcement, oinking noisily.

    Reply
    • wharf rat

       /  May 28, 2017

      There’s a war going on between Ivanka, Kush the Tush, and some of the “I’m not a Fossil Fool” people, including Mattis, Cohn, and I think Tillerson, vs Bannon, Wrench Priebus, Scott Pruitt, and the rest of the Fossil Fools

      http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/335333-white-house-trumps-views-of-paris-climate-deal-are-evolving

      Reply
      • “The time has come,” the Walrus said,
        “To talk of many things:
        Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
        Of cabbages–and kings–
        And why the sea is boiling hot–
        And whether pigs have wings.”

        If there is a God, just this one time, he could pound some sense into that foolish man’s tangerine colored head.

        The Paris accord is of course inadequate, but it is a start.

        If there is a God, just this one time, He could make the pigs fly, and Trump change his mind.

        A flipping warp in space time could occur, the earth could open up, and this ultimate fool could, almost at random get something right.

        Reply
  26. Vic

     /  May 28, 2017

    Nearly 200 people are dead or missing after very heavy monsoon rains caused severe floods and mudslides in several southern and western areas of drought-stricken Sri Lanka. Some areas reportedly received 12 months worth of rain within just 24 hours.

    https://watchers.news/2017/05/27/sri-lanka-floods-landslides/

    Reply
  27. Ryan in New England

     /  May 28, 2017

    No surprise to anyone, but word is Trump is telling those close to him he plans on exiting the Paris climate agreement.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-paris-confidants_us_592a1b49e4b0df57cbfbff9e?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

    Reply
  28. meansnecessary

     /  May 28, 2017

    Missing from much discussion of carbon removal techniques is the basic nature of disgorging very old, deep reservoirs of carbon into the surface reservoirs (vegetation, soil, and seas in addition to the atmosphere). Most feasible removal techniques merely transfer the carbon from the atmosphere to another surface reservoir. This may be practical in the context of working hard to get to zero emissions ASAP, but it falls far short of reversing the damage caused by disgorging millions of years worth of deep carbon.

    Over the long term, the surface reservoirs naturally balance out the distribution of carbon. So most removal techniques should be thought of as temporarily sequestering atmospheric carbon in another surface reservoir for awhile.

    Reply
  29. coloradobob

     /  May 28, 2017

    Merkel: Europe ‘can no longer rely on allies’ after Trump and Brexit

    More fecal matter enters the rotating device.

    Reply
    • entropicman

       /  May 28, 2017

      From a European, or even UK perspective, the US is looking much less solid than it once did.

      The Trump administration is cancelling treaties across the board. They are withdrawing from long established trade treaties. They are about to leave the Paris Agreement. They are blowing cool on NATO. “America First” presages an isolationist and protectionist posture. Immigration has become a dirty word, with the Wall symbolising a wider rejection of outsiders. The White House and the intelligence community are so leaky that information too sensitive to tell allies is given to the Russians and confidential information on the Manchester bombing is given to the New York Times.

      What should the UK do? The US has been a staunch ally and deserves our support, but seems bent on self-destruction.

      My apologies if I am out of line, but this Englishman fells like a man watching a once reliable friend become a drunken bum, with no way of helping

      Reply
  30. coloradobob

     /  May 28, 2017

    I often read op-eds from smaller papers, this one is from Columbia, Missouri.
    A state that is currently getting it’s brains beat in by extreme weather :

    Hunters, anglers should take climate change seriously

    “Convergence” is a short film recently released by Conservation Hawks with the support of numerous partners that shows the effects of climate change on fisheries.
    Numerous anglers, professional guides and business leaders appear in the film giving testimony about how water impacts their life and what concerns they have for our future.
    Conservation Hawks is a nonprofit organization made up of hunters and anglers who rally behind their motto: “Hunters and anglers defending our future.”

    http://www.columbiatribune.com/sports/20170527/hunters-anglers-should-take-climate-change-seriously

    Reply
  31. coloradobob

     /  May 28, 2017

    Pakistan’s hottest day recorded in Turbat
    Published: May 29, 2017
    ISLAMABAD: Citizens of Turbat sweltered through the hottest day recorded in Pakistan’s history, as the mercury shot up to 53.5°C (128.3F) on Sunday.
    The temperature equalled the one measured on May 27, 2010 in Mohenjo
    Daro which broke a 12-year record – 53°C in Larkana on May 31, 1998. …

    Reply
  32. coloradobob

     /  May 29, 2017

    The greatest album of all time dropped on Wednesday fifty years ago . In England , the next day we got it.

    Reply
  33. coloradobob

     /  May 29, 2017

    What a time it was, what a time this is,

    Bonnie Raitt-Angel from Montgomery

    Reply
  34. coloradobob

     /  May 29, 2017

    Reply
  35. coloradobob

     /  May 29, 2017

    SUGARLOAF “Don’t Call Us We’ll Call You” 1975 HQ

    Reply
  36. coloradobob

     /  May 29, 2017

    hope or rope ………..

    A timeless question . I was born with the rope , I spent my entire life dodging it. This gave me a rather wonderful perch to see hope.

    Reply
  37. coloradobob

     /  May 29, 2017

    I’ve got words in my head so I say them.

    Reply
  38. coloradobob

     /  May 29, 2017

    Howlin’ Wolf – “The Red Rooster” [Vinyl]

    Reply
  39. coloradobob

     /  May 29, 2017

    Little Red Rooster With ” Howling wolf, Eric Clapton, Steve Winood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts

    Reply
    • coloradobob

       /  May 29, 2017

      The great blend from the past to our time. So we did not lose it.

      Reply
  40. coloradobob

     /  May 29, 2017

    Wang Chung – To Live And Die In L.A.

    Reply
  41. coloradobob

     /  May 29, 2017

    Wang Chung – Everybody Have Fun Tonight

    Reply
  42. coloradobob

     /  May 29, 2017

    Western Barbarosa 1982 Willie Nelson, Gary Busey

    Reply
  43. utoutback

     /  May 29, 2017

    CB –
    The soundtrack for my life.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  44. Tigertown

     /  May 29, 2017

    New updates by Wipneus. Area and concentration of NH sea ice dropping fast.
    http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,1837.msg115195.html#msg115195

    Reply
  45. Sobering article on record highs and lows at Cat 6 by Christopher Burt. Nice discussion of the urban heat island effect.
    https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/us-daily-record-highs-outnumber-lows-5-1-2010

    Reply
  46. Oh, great.

    As many as 100,000 “alternative pingos” created by methane gas under pressure, forming in Siberia, says Vladimir Romanovsky, geophysicist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks:

    Russian scientists find 7,000 Siberian hills possibly filled with explosive gas

    https://www.adn.com/arctic/2017/03/27/russian-scientists-find-7000-siberian-hills-possibly-filled-with-explosive-gas/

    This is more support for the idea that there may be a layer of meta-stable methane hydrate under Siberia. Certainly, small hills 50-100 meters across filled with methane gas under pressure, that then blow out and leave craters, is not a phenomenon commonly encountered elsewhere, suggesting something really unusual under Siberia. Meta-stable methane hydrate could be formed under previous ice sheets, or if the process of freezing and ice crystal expansion produces high pressure in permafrost.

    This is more support for the idea that the circular lake topography found in the Yamal area of Siberia, covering hundreds of thousands of square kilometers, may be associated with a subsurface layer of meta-stable methane hydrate.

    What is the total mass of methane hydrate in this layer, if it exists, and how rapidly will it be released? A billion tons, or 100 billion tons, or a trillion tons of methane in this layer? Methane released tomorrow, or in 100 years, or in 1000 years? Is this possible layer of meta-stable methane hydrate a curiosity, or a catastrophe?

    If all of the circular lakes of those regions are pockmarks left over from the Holocene climatic optimum 9000-5000 years ago, these things are going to be popping like popcorn. North America also has some of this circular lake topography, but Siberia has by far the most of it.

    “”This is really a new thing to permafrost science. It has not been reported in the literature before,” said Vladimir E. Romanovsky, a geophysicist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. “It doesn’t mean the process is new. It means that it was never picked up and reported on.” Perhaps for want of a better name, Romanovsky called the gassy bulges “alternative pingos.”

    These humps are some 50 to 100 yards across, up to a tenth of the size of a classical pingo. Romanovsky said it was unknown exactly how the alternative pingos were formed. But he has an idea. In place of an ice kernel, alternative pingos may contain methane hydrate, the milky solid that forms when water mixes with natural gas and freezes.

    “It’s definitely related to warming,” Romanovsky said. If these solid chunks warm up and decompose – and the Arctic region is heating up at a rate double the rest of the planet – the methane gas within the alternative pingo builds up.

    A count of 7,000 pingos, alternative included, was likely an underestimate, in Romanovsky’s view. Across the entire Arctic permafrost, he estimated there may be as many as 100,000. But he could not say how many fell into which category – a symptom, in part, of the relatively poor resolution of imaging satellites that travel above the tundra.

    It is possible that alternative pingos exist in North America. The conditions seem ripe for it in the natural gas fields of Canada and Alaska. “It is just a matter of time when some of those craters appear in North America as well,” Romanovsky said. And several pingos have emerged, the scientist said, “right under the Alaskan pipeline.” If one of those bulges turned out to be an alternative pingo, he noted, that’s not good news, either.”

    Reply
    • Here is an image of some of those circular lakes, possibly left over from methane blowouts. The big circular lakes, if the methane blowout idea is correct, would be smaller circular lakes merged together. The blowout lakes would be the tiny dots in this image:

      http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Kettle_(landform)

      These lakes have been called kettle lakes in the past, left over from ice blocks from glacial retreat. It’s interesting to see the variation in depth of these lakes. Blowout lakes would start out very deep, but erosion of the permafrost walls would progressively enlarge them and make the lakes shallower.

      Or, they could just be kettle lakes.

      Or, there could be a trillion tons of methane in the meta-stable layer of methane hydrate that formed them.

      Reply
    • Let’s try that again:

      Reply
  47. wharf rat

     /  May 30, 2017

    Cyclone Mora: Bangladesh tries to evacuate one million
    Cyclone Mora is likely to hit the eastern coast early on Tuesday, the meteorological department said.

    Port cities in the south-east have been asked to display the highest warning system known as “great danger level 10”. Ports further west are on level 8.
    The cyclone formed after heavy rains in Sri Lanka caused floods and landslides that killed at least 180 people.
    The worst flooding in 14 years on the island has affected the lives of more than half a million people. More than 100 people remain missing.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40087344

    Reply
  48. Mark in OZ

     /  May 30, 2017

    Mac!
    That other famous son of Lubbock Texas.
    Must be somethin’ in the water. Some real talent!
    Ah do believe that makes 3!

    Reply
  49. Ryan in New England

     /  May 30, 2017

    Some good news for the planet (not the US)…

    China and India have knocked the United States off the top spot of the index of best places to invest in renewables. Analysts cite the impact of Trump’s policies in favor of coal and petroleum.

    Meanwhile, as Trump talks up a return of coal in the US, global coal markets have been shaken to the core by the Indian government’s decision to cancel planned 14 gigawatts of coal plants. They took the decision because solar power has fallen in price so dramatically that the coal plants were no longer competitive.

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/coal_is_in_a_death_spiral_as_india_cancels_14_gigs_solar_prices_20170530

    Reply
  50. Phil L

     /  May 30, 2017

    coloradobob – Bonnie Raitt does a great job with Angel from Montgomery, but giving credit where credit is due, it should be pointed out that John Prine wrote that song. Prine also wrote a song “Some Humans Ain’t Human” which he didn’t perform live for many years. He has started performing it again since Trump took office. Check it out on Youtube.

    Reply
  51. You can listen to my in-depth interview with lead author Lena Boysen on Radio Ecoshock here: http://www.ecoshock.net/downloads/ES_Boysen_LoFi.mp3

    Reply
  52. https://seekingalpha.com/article/4089437-dynacert-promising-boost-transportation-business-profit-margins This article gives an overview of @dynacert which has products that reduce carbon emissions by up to 40% and particulate matter over 65% alongside fuel savings of up to 19.2%.

    Reply
  1. “Too Huge to Manage” — New Studies Highlight Danger in Failing to Rapidly Cut Carbon Emissions Now | necltr

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