Let's not forget black carbon abatement. It would be mad to be deploying reflective aerosols etc, while continuing to shower the Arctic in soot particles from forest burning, dirty old diesel engines, polluting industries etc.
 
Oliver Tickell.


From: Discussion list for the Crisis Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of John Nissen
Sent: 20 July 2010 23:35
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Climate change, carbon tax and standard of living


Hi Chris,

Yes.  There's no other technique for cooling the Arctic that I know of.  Of course we might be too late even for geoengineering.  But if it's the only way, then we've got to do our damnedest to get it to work.  The survival instinct should cut in.

Cheers,

John

---

Chris Keene wrote:
[log in to unmask] type="cite">So even though we've passed a tipping point where positive feedback has taken over, and the process is continuing at ever increasing speed, you are arguing that we haven't reached the point of no return, it isn't too late.  Is that based on having to use geo-engineering?

Chris

On 20/07/2010 18:53, John Nissen wrote:
[log in to unmask] type="cite">
Brian,

No, it's not quite like a kettle with a cosy.

The "tipping point" is when positive feedback takes over, and a process continues at ever increasing speed.  That's what we're seeing with Arctic sea ice - we probably passed the tipping point in 90s, looking at how observations started to deviate from IPCC's linear models.  (See Copenhagen Diagnosis report, fig 13.)

The "point of no return" is when it becomes too late to do anything about it.  We do not know whether we're past that point in the Arctic.  What we do know - from basic physics - is that emissions reductions cannot cool the Arctic   Therefore we have to find a some other way - and geoengineering seems the only option.  People who dismiss geoengineering as "too dangerous" should consider the risk of not geoengineering to cool the Arctic - what with all the methane there.  BTW, it's probably worse than Copenhagen Diagnosis report says.  Read this:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100304142240.htm

However you do have a point with the kettle analogy - once the water's boiled away the kettle will heat very rapidly until the fuse blows.  In Arctic, once the sea ice has melted away, the region will heat up much more rapidly until the methane blows - and then we could have abrupt climate change globally when that happens, with many degrees of global warming.  Let's not try that suicidal experiment.

Cheers,

John

BTW, the IPCC forecasts for global warming, on which government policies are based, do not take into account the possibility of the methane effect, even in worst case scenarios.  And the need to cool the Arctic is ignored, since they still work on the assumption that sea ice will last into the next century.  Mad.

---

Brian Orr wrote:
[log in to unmask] type="cite">Thanks for the references, John. Will climb into them when given half a chance
and see how far I can pull the relevant numbers together.

But basically, the problem is 'merely', in effect, working out how much quicker a kettle will heat-up
compared with 'normal' if you turn the heat up a little and then enshroud the kettle in a 
tea-cosy.

Two obvious tipping points can be forecast: the first when the water reaches 100 degree C:
the second when all the water boils away.

Hopefully even the most dire of climate change forecasts reach anything like those conditions!!!!

All the best,

Brian
 
On 20 Jul 2010, at 15:03, John Nissen wrote:


Hi Brian,

Here are some figures from the literature.

1.  Existing CO2 continuing to warm for thousands of years:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/24/david-archer-carbon-dioxi_n_169708.html

2. Soils emit CO2 as they warm:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=soils-emit-carbon-dioxide

3.  Sea ice and methane:

http://www.ucar.edu/news/releases/2008/permafrost.jsp

4.  Arctic warming from global warming

Polar amplification of global warming is widely accepted among climate scientists, and its importance is stressed here:

http://climateprogress.org/2009/03/12/what-exactly-is-polar-amplification-and-why-does-it-matter/

5. Methane quantity

The total amount of carbon stored in permafrost has been estimated to be around 1672 Gt (1 Gt = 109 tons), of which ~277 Gt are contained in peatlands (Schuur et al. 2008; Tarnocai et al. 2009). This represents about twice the amount of carbon contained in the atmosphere.

See Copenhagen Diagnosis, page 21:
http://www.ccrc.unsw.edu.au/Copenhagen/Copenhagen_Diagnosis_LOW.pdf

Most of that carbon could emerge as methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, hence the possibility of thermal runaway, where the methane adds to global warming which causes more methane to be released, and so on.  This kind of effect is thought to have lead to abrupt climate change in the past (though from methane trapped on ocean floor):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_gun_hypothesis

So...

Effectively, there is a methane time-bomb in the Arctic.  Unfortunately the only way to defuse the bomb is currently very unpopular as it involves geoengineering.  You will rarely read a good word for geoengineering in the media or scientific press - and this is a giant hurdle to be overcome if we are to do what it takes to save the planet.

But the Arctic is not the only place going critical - the Amazon rainforest could dry out and burn, and ocean acidification could harm the marine food chain.  We are going to have to pull out all the stops if we are to save our planet, hence the carbon tax idea to finance this.

Cheers,

John

---

Brian Orr wrote:
[log in to unmask] type="cite">John, and t'others who've joined the debate.

You state, and I broadly agree with you, that:-

"Even if CO2 emissions could be reduced to zero overnight, the existing CO2 level would remain well above pre-industrial level for centuries if not millennia.  Therefore global warming would continue this century and long after.  This would cause emissions of CO2 from soils and ocean as they warm, thus the CO2 level would continue to rise after emissions were cut to zero.

One of the most significant effects of global warming is the dramatic retreat of Arctic sea ice, whose complete loss would almost inevitably be followed by discharge of massive quantities of methane for permafrost, and we are then liable for thermal runaway.  But continued global warming is liable to lose us the Amazon rain-forest, with equally catastrophic consequences.

Thus emissions reductions cannot save the planet, from the physics of the situation..........."

Are you able to put any figures to your assertions - the most simple
would satisfy me for present purposes. c.f. some 'Scandinavian' over
100 years ago predicted today's global temperature rise with surprising
accuracy - long before the electronic computer was invented?

"One picture is worth a thousand words." I say "some simple sums can
save several books."

Brian

On 13 Jul 2010, at 16:07, John Nissen wrote:

Hi all,

Brian has suggested a lifestyle reduction of 60% (see posting appended below), but consider the following points.

It is now a generally accepted premise that, if CO2 emissions can be drastically reduced, the planet can be saved.
Following from this premise, there is a common assumption that we have to change our lifestyle to reduce carbon emissions - and  I think that is probably why there are so many climate change sceptics - they simply want to believe that they can carry on as they have been doing without guilt.  Hence we have a fight between climate change believers and climate change sceptics - and this underlied the impasse at Copenhagen last December.

But is the premise true?  Even if CO2 emissions could be reduced to zero overnight, the existing CO2 level would remain well above pre-industrial level for centuries if not millenia.  Therefore global warming would continue this century and long after.  This would cause emissions of CO2 from soils and ocean as they warm, thus the CO2 level would continue to rise after emissions were cut to zero.

One of the most significant effects of global warming is the dramatic retreat of Arctic sea ice, whose complete loss would almost inevitably be followed by discharge of massive quantities of methane for permafrost, and we are then liable for thermal runaway.  But continued global warming is liable to lose us the Amazon rainforest, with equally catastrophic consequences.

Thus emissions reductions cannot save the planet, from the physics of the situation.  The premise is false.

By accepting the false premise, all our efforts are focussed, at Copenhagen and in NGOs, on emissions reduction.  But because the premise is false, we are on a hiding to nothing.  Forget your hair-shirts and other lifestyle changes!

Stop and think.  The global warming is due to the existing CO2 in the atmosphere - so one of our challenges has to be to reduce that level towards 300 ppm and the preindustrial level.  How do we do that?  Use biology and chemistry - a two prong approach.  Use plants to absorb CO2, and bury the carbon.  It's called biochar.  Use chemicals to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere, and bury the CO2.

How do you pay for this?  The obvious way is using a carbon tax on fossil fuels, raised like VAT at the point of extraction, as the fossil fuels are sold on.   This tax would be gradually ramped up over the years.  At some point, the tax would be sufficient to pay for as much carbon put in the ground as taken out.  CO2 removal from the atmosphere would exactly balance CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.  The world economy would be carbon neutral automatically.  Beyond this point the world economy would become carbon negative, and CO2 levels would fall - eventually approaching pre-industrial levels.

How much would it cost?  I reckon the tax would need to reach about $1 trillion per year - equivalent to 1.5% global GDP -  hardly enough to effect most people's lifestyle - even gas-guzzlers!  Certainly not 60% for you, Brian.

So off with that hair shirt.  Let's stop fighting one another, and campaign for a carbon tax directly on fossil fuel out of the ground to pay for the geoengineering to get the CO2 down to near pre-industrial level.

And, while we're about it, some of the tax should for the geoengineering to save the Arctic sea ice - a mere $1 billion per annum.  A snitch.

Cheers,

John

---

Brian Orr wrote:
Tom,

You've certainly moved the debate a lot closer to where it should be at but I suspect you've pulled back from the brink a little - the abyss would frighten all but the totally fearless or the totally unfeeling.

How far would you agree with my 'guess' that the West will need to drop its material standard of living by 60% over the next 20 - 30 years? 30% to achieve zero carbon emissions, 20% to achieve ecological/environmental sustainability and 10% to allow the developing world a measure of expansion - which we owe them many times over.

Running on a material economy 40% of what we have now - we will have gone back to pre-war conditions. Sure! But with greater equality we can insist on and the huge progress we have made in the 'knowledge sphere' as it applies to industry, learning, medicine and entertainment should mean we will have much more enjoyable lives.

We won't be able to take our i-pods to 2030 but if technology can't give us an 'alternative technology' for 2030 then I suggest its climbing into a death spiral.

Brian Orr

[snip]


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