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September 10, 2006

The Dismal Prospects for Stabilization


Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change

The Economist's survey of climate change describes the challenge of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations as follows:

The concentration of CO2 in the air has risen from 280ppm before the industrial revolution to around 380ppm now, and the IPCC reckons that if emissions continue to grow at their current rate, by 2100 this will have risen to around 800ppm. Depending on population changes, economic growth and political will, this could be adjusted to somewhere between 540ppm and 970ppm. The prospect of anything much above 550ppm makes scientists nervous.

But a close examination of research in this area does appear to lend anything but pessimism to the notion that stabilization at 550 ppm is even possible. Forget about 500 or 450.

By contrast, the Economist suggests some optimism for reaching a 550 ppm target. My reading of the Economist survey on climate change suggests that this optimism may be the result of its confusion between stabilizing emissions reductions with stabilization of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide -- a common error in discussions of climate change. This distinction is important because it can lead one to dramatically underestimate the magnitude of the challenge represented by achieving stabilization at levels such as 450, 500, or 550 ppm carbon dioxide.

Indeed, it seems that this misplaced optimism has led the Economist to conclude, "The technological and economic aspects of the problem are, thus, not quite as challenging as many imagine. The real difficulty is political." This line of thinking is the same as that presented in the IPCC’s Working Group III, but it is not at all reflective of a consensus. For instance, the IPCC’s conclusion that climate change is not a technological but a political challenge was strongly criticized by Hoffert et al. (2002) as reflecting a "misperception of technological readiness" and they conclude that "although regulation can play a role, the fossil fuel greenhouse effect is an energy problem that cannot be simply regulated away."

A closer look at the studies referred to by the Economist in its survey on prospects for stabilization of carbon dioxide concentrations is a somewhat sobering exercise. The Economist writes,

If an answer is to be found, it lies in using a combination of economics and a broad range of technologies. Robert Socolow, an economist at Princeton University, offers an encouraging way of thinking about this. His “stabilisation wedges” show how different ways of cutting emissions can be used incrementally to lower the trajectory from a steep and frightening path towards a horizontal one that stabilises emissions at their current level.

What Socolow has proposed is an approach to getting a start on the challenge of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions at a level that might make stabilization still feasible, not an answer to the challenge of stabilization. A closer look at Socolow’s work suggests less reason for optimism than reported by the Economist.

Socolow suggests that under business-as-usual carbon dioxide emissions will continue to increase at a rate of 1.5% per year. This growth rate would result in an additional 525 gigatons of carbon (GtC) being added to the atmosphere by 2054, and at that time an annual rate of emissions of 15.0 GtC. Socolow argues that to eventually achieve stabilization at 550 ppm requires that the annual rate of emissions 2004-2054 not exceed an annual average of 7.0 GtC. Perhaps the simplest way to think about this is that under Socolow’s assumptions the emissions of carbon dioxide by 2054 would need to be reduced by about 53%. Socolow’s approach is valuable in that it has proposed a wide range of approaches that in some combination might feasibly make some progress toward a reduction of 53% in emissions by 2054.

But even assuming the tremendous achievement of a 53% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions would not be enough to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions at 550 ppm. It is absolutely essential to recognize that constant emissions at the present level will not lead to a stabilization of emissions concentrations in the atmosphere. As Pierre Friedlingstein and Susan Solomon wrote in PNAS last year,

It is worth recalling that constant emissions will lead to a linear increase in atmospheric CO2, not to stabilization. Atmospheric CO2 stabilization can be reached only with an emission scenario that eventually drops to zero.

By "zero" this means net of carbon dioxide "sinks." If the oceans and land serve as "sinks" (i.e., they have a net uptake of carbon dioxide) then in order for the atmosphere concentrations to reach stabilization, then human emissions need not be zero but cannot exceed the net "sink." This is described by Socolow et al. (2004) on pp. 14-15 of this paper in PDF). Socolow et al. suggest that the sink level is about 2.5 GtC per year, although they acknowledge that the figure is highly uncertain. Thus, under Socolow et al.’s sink estimate, in order to achieve stabilization of atmospheric concentrations at below a doubling of pre-industrial levels requires that over the period 2054-2104 annual emissions must be reduced by 4.5 GtC, from the 7 GtC that their scenario has for 2054. This rate of reduction corresponds to about a 2% annual decrease in carbon dioxide emissions.

Based on this scenario, we can then determine the aggregate carbon dioxide emissions implied over 2054-2104, which are about 225 GtC. Thus under Socolow’s assumptions, over the period 2004-2104, to achieve stabilization at 550 ppm requires that total emissions not exceed more than 658 GtC (i.e., 433 + 225, for the figure of 433 GtC allowed 2004-2054 see Table S1 in Pacala and Socolow’s SOM). Under Socolow’s business-as-usual, the total carbon dioxide emissions 2004-2104 are about 1630 GtC. Thus, over this period there needs to be a reduction in total emissions of about 60%.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s figures for global carbon dioxide emissions 2004 and 2005 saw about 7.04 and 7.25 GtC of carbon dioxide and 2006 is estimated at about 7.45 GtC. Adding these up results in about 21.7 GtC. Subtracting this from Socolow’s allowable 658 GtC 2004-2104 results in about 636 GtC. One way to think about this is that the world has a carbon dioxide emissions budget of 636 GtC to "spend" by 2104. Under business-as-usual (i.e., EIA estimates to 2030, Socolow’s growth of 1.5% after) this level of aggregate emissions will be exceeded by about 2057. Faster growth rates would of course reach that point faster.

Presumably, those who say that we have no more than ten years to get started on this challenge probably recognize that under business-as-usual by 2015 about an additional 100 GtC will be emitted into the atmosphere, drawing down Socolow’s allowable "budget" to 536 GtC to be "spent" over the following 88 years.

For my part, I fail to see any meaningful difference between 636 GtC to be spent over 98 years (or an average of 6.5 GtC/year) and 536 GtC to be spent over 88 years (6.1 GtC/year). If we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the business-as-usual average level of about 16.2 GtC/year 2004-2104 to an average of 6.5 GtC year over that period, then surely squeezing out an additional 0.4 GtC year would not be a show stopper.

Let me suggest another possibility. Under the assumptions presented here (i.e., from Socolow’s recent work) stabilization at 550 is not in the cards. If indeed it is true that waiting ten years is too late, then one has no choice but to conclude that starting immediately is too late as well. This is likely to be an unwelcomed and unacceptable conclusion to many, I know.

What would this conclusion mean for climate policy? Here are a few thoughts.

1. Serious thought and research needs to be given to the prospect of stabilization levels much higher that currently being discussed. What are their policy implications for mitigation and adaptation?

2. The EU, for instance, needs to move discussion beyond its fantasy of stabilization at 450 ppm (see Richard Tol on this here).

3. If stabilization at higher than 550 ppm is determined to be "dangerous interference" in the climate system, then the Framework Convention on climate change needs to be renegotiated from the bottom up. Specifically, its Article 2 needs to be recognized as no longer relevant, and no longer an effective guide to action.

4. Much, much more attention needs to be given to adaptation and its role in climate policy.

5. To continue prospects for successful mitigation policy in the face of the reality that mitigation cannot achieve the goals once set for it will require renewed attention to no-regrets policies.

6. Those who say that abandoning a 550 ppm (or lower) target represents "giving up" or "throwing in the towel" will be setting the stage for a backlash when it inevitably becomes inescapable that those targets are not going to be achieved. At some point policy must be grounded in reality.

7. The longer advocates of mitigation continue to hold unrealistic goals for mitigation policies, the longer it will be before realistic policies are being discussed with a greater chance for policy success.

There are of course a lot of assumptions in the above discussion of Socolow’s work, though I have tried to select those most favorable to stabilization. And there are of course many studies of stabilization paths and scenarios (e.g., as cited by IPCC WGIII). Perhaps this broader literature leads to different conclusions than those presented here. I would be interested in hearing from anyone with a substaintive case to be made for why prospects for stabilization at 550 ppm are more optimistic than the gloomy picture painted here.

Posted on September 10, 2006 07:03 PM

Comments

Roger,

looking at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/emissions.html and figure 66. What is the additional source of anthropogenic carbon in 2030?

The annual increase in atmospheric CO2 is quite stable at 1.5 ppm. That would add 150 ppm in 100 years. That is within 550 ppm.

Posted by: Anders Valland at September 11, 2006 01:32 AM


The main natural "sink" for atmospheric CO2 at the moment is the surface waters of the ocean. The rate at which the ocean absorbs CO2 depends on the difference between the dissolved CO2 content and the CO2 partial pressure in the atmosphere. So all things being equal (which they never are), the greater the atmospheric concentrations, the faster the ocean will absorb.

As for mitigation vs prevention, the ideal balance should work itself out via the market, as long as the entire cost of mitigation is bourne by the CO2 industry. It shouldn't matter if this is done formally, through carbon tax, or informally through litigation. Either way, at the point where the cost of mitigation increases the price of carbon energy over that of renewables for any given market, consumers should switch.

Finally, there is the possibility of sequestration. Requiring all point-source emitters like coal plants, cement factories, smelters, etc. to capture and geologically sequester by 2050 would allow plenty of time for planning and costing, while putting a serious dent in the post-2050 net emissions.

Posted by: Lab Lemming at September 11, 2006 03:28 AM


Anders- Thanks. The figure 66 that you are referring to shows the increase in emisisons, and not concentrations. From the EIA WWW page:

"In the IEO2006 reference case, world carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption of fossil fuels grow at an average rate of 2.1 percent per year from 2003 to 2030."

Socolow uses a smaller value of 1.5% increase per year.

Thanks.

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 05:24 AM


Emissions projections are very uncertain. In particular there is substantial fair disagreement over the potential for efficiency gains, carbon sequestration, and biofuels. Depending on ones assumptions different things become possible - but if one accepts a wider range of uncertainty a lot of futures become possible.

Some examples -

The Dutch RIVM/MNA work using the integrated IMAGE model (http://www.mnp.nl/image/) seems as reasonable to me as Hoffert et al's work, and they suggest 450 ppm is possible. So does the energy assessment being done at IIASA.

Below people from these groups responded to Hoffert et al's Science article

O'Neill (from IIASA) et al write:

"their conclusion--that known technological options are not up to the task--suffers from two shortcomings related to how much decarbonization is required and how soon we need it. First, they do not consider uncertainty in future energy demand, basing their analysis on a single reference scenario (1). In contrast, the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on emissions scenarios (2) foresees a wide range of plausible development paths leading to global primary power demand of anywhere from 20 to 50 TW by 2050. Relative to these scenarios, as quantified by six different integrated assessment modeling teams, stabilizing at 550 ppm may not require any additional energy from carbon-free technologies over the next 50 years beyond that produced by known technologies for reasons unrelated to climate change. Or it could require that additional zero-carbon generating capacity deliver nearly 600 TW-years of energy over that same period. Policy responses to climate change should be robust across this wide range of uncertainty."

Rob Swart from RIVM (now MNA) writes:

We disagree with M. I. Hoffert et al.'s ("Advanced technology paths to global climate stability: energy for a greenhouse planet," Reviews, 1 Nov., p. 981) characterization of the IPCC Third Assessment Report's conclusion that "known technological options could achieve a broad range of atmospheric stabilization levels, such as 550 ppm, 450 ppm or below over the next hundred years or more" (1, 2, p. 8), as "a misperception of technological readiness." First, Hoffert et al. analyze (and dismiss) individual technologies in isolation and do not consider their full combined potential. Absent detailed argumentation at the energy system level, background reports (3, 4) suggest that their critique rests on pessimistic assessments of the availability and efficiency of renewable energy. The IPCC evaluated a broad array of demand and supply studies, not just individual supply-side technologies (5). Most of these studies are much less pessimistic than Hoffert et al. about biomass, solar energy, efficiency, and fossil fuel decarbonization. Second, the authors imply that technologies not technically feasible today (nuclear fusion and space solar power) are needed to stabilize concentrations. But their development and diffusion may require more than 50 years, too long for timely carbon stabilization at acceptable levels. None of the studies assessed by the IPCC assumed penetration rates of new technologies higher than historical experience. Third, Hoffert et al. ignore the IPCC conclusion that no simple technological fix exists and that a portfolio of available technologies must be evaluated "in combination with associated socio-economic and institutional changes" (5). Fourth, they ignore possible carbon emissions reductions unrelated to energy services, such as options in the area of land-use changes.

We agree that carbon stabilization at low levels will be difficult and not cost-free. We agree that enhanced R&D and investment in conventional and new technologies is necessary. But we stand by the IPCC conclusion that today's technically feasible technologies including energy efficiency improvements could stabilize carbon concentrations if further developed and deployed, and if complemented by necessary nonenergy initiatives and associated socio-economic and institutional changes.

-from http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/300/5619/581b?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=%28450+AND+ppm+AND+stabilization%29&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT
--

I don't think the evidence that 450 ppm isn't possible is as clear as you claim.

Part of this disaggreement is due to varying assumptions lurking behind the use of the word 'possible', but part of it is due to different factors (e.g. assumptions about biofuels) being considered in these models.

What does this mean for policy?

My quick response would be:

1) there needs to be a lot more research on efficiency and conservation to reduce the uncertainty around estimates of what is possible.

2) shouldn't give up on lower stablization targets but should consider policies that are robust to not being able to achieve them

3) should invest in building resilience to environmental change (and learning how to do this better).


Posted by: Garry Peterson at September 11, 2006 08:06 AM


Garry- Thanks, this is all great!

I do wonder what specific combination of assumptions you might put together to support your assertion that "I don't think the evidence that 450 ppm isn't possible is as clear as you claim." I don't necessarily disagree, I just don't think that any such set of assumptions reflects likely futures. What assumptions for emissions, policy, emissions reductions does one have to assume to arrive at this scenario?

Socolow's work is oviously not the only or last word on this but it is presently widely cited to suggest that stabilization at 450, 500, 550 is possible or even likely. My sense is that this is the wrong message to take from Socolow's work.

As far as your 3 points of policy implications, we are in just about complete agreement. I would suggest however that in your point #2, having a specific stabilization target may not be consistent with the notion of a more robust approach (i.e., a climate policy robust to whatever concentration of CO2 eventually occurs).

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 08:18 AM


Just a quick citation to support Garry's observation that emissions projections are highly uncertain:

Keepin, B. 1986. Review of global energy and carbon dioxide projections. Ann. Review of Energy 11: 357-392.
http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.eg.11.110186.002041?journalCode=energy

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 08:23 AM


Garry-

Hoffert et al.'s response to the comments that you reference is worth reading. They conclude:

"We are confident that the world's engineers and scientists can rise to the even greater challenge of stabilizing global warming. But it does not advance the mitigation cause to gloss over technical hurdles or to say that the technology problem is already solved."

It seems clear that pessimism with respect to the prospects for stabilization at 550 or below is more likely to led to robust mitigtations policies. If pessimism is unwarranted then the risk is that stabilization occurs at a lower level than pessimism might now suggest is possible, which arguably would be a desirable outcome

By contrast, optimism about the chances for stabilization at 550 or below risks stabilizing at a higher level if it turns out that such optimism is unwarranted.

On what side do you want to err? Mitigating too much or too little?

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 08:36 AM


Roger et al.,

For some additional calculations showing just how much you have to crank back on CO2 emissions to have any real effect on climate (based upon the recent work of Teng et al. (GRL, 2006, L07706, doi:10.1029/2005GL024766), see http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2006/04/10/dialing-in-your-own-climate/ .

Our bottom line: The nickel-and-dime emissions reductions that will be vehemently fought over in various arenas in the U.S. and around the world will have no effect on future climate. Only a major break-through in energy production technology (or a massive turn-over to nukes) will result in a lowering of global CO2 emissions to the degree necessary to impact our future climate pathway in any meaningful way. That time will come, but it isn’t yet upon us.

-Chip

Posted by: Chip Knappenberger at September 11, 2006 08:51 AM


"I don't think the evidence that 450 ppm isn't possible is as clear as you claim."

My (January 2005) estimates for CO2 concentrations in 2100 were:

5% probability = 440 ppm

50% probability = 558 ppm

95% probability = 635 ppm.

...where "probability" means "probability that the concentration will be less than or equal to the value stated."

http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2006/04/complete_set_of.html

Two comments:

1) I share the opinion that stabilization at 450 ppm is highly unlikely. (The exception to this would be if a system were developed to pull CO2 out of ambient air, such as ocean iron fertilization.)

2) The Economist is making the same mistake that virtually everyone makes...actually thinking that the IPCC "projections" are honest. The "around 800 ppm" value that the Economist says the IPCC "reckons" will occur is simply reflects a number that the IPCC needed to get "projected" temperatures high enough to scare people. It has virtually zero chance (less than 1 percent) of occurring.

Posted by: Mark Bahner at September 11, 2006 10:53 AM


Hi,

I goofed (again!). I forgot to sign in...and also forgot to copy my comments before posting. Could someone recover my comments from the spam bin?

Sorry,
Mark

Posted by: Mark Bahner [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 10:55 AM


Any good emissions policy also needs to consider ocean acidity. It is fine for GW if stabilized emissions balance natural sinks at some low risk temperature change, but as long as that means increasing the level of carbonic acid in the ocean, the global environment still faces a huge problem. This urgent issue remains remarkably out of sight in the public debate.

As for the best policy, it is unfortunate that "as much as possible as soon as possible" is not precise enough for policy makers. It is equally unfortunate that public perceptions seem to mirror the fabled "Frog and the Boiling Water". How much worse is 380 than 378? How much worse is 382 than 384, etc etc until we find ourselves asking "how much worse is 550 than 450?"

But perhaps the greatest challenge to both our political and economic ways of thinking is the temporal seperation between cause and effect that characterizes this issue.

What we have here is a perfect storm of societal character flaws and incontrovertible proof of the immaturity human civilization.

Posted by: coby [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 02:40 PM


Coby - I agree that there are secondary or free-rider problems associated with energy consumption that don't get discussed, but the ocean acidity problem should be naturally buffered by the carbonate reaction. In essence extra CO2 will be mixed below the mixed layer and eventually below the thermocline to lower the CCD. This may mean localized effects for ecosystems but in general the ocean's ability to buffer the extra CO2 is far, far greater than the atmosphere's concentrations. Then again I'm a physical oceanographer not a chemical oceanographer....

Lab L - "As for mitigation vs prevention, the ideal balance should work itself out via the market, as long as the entire cost of mitigation is bourne by the CO2 industry." This is fine but let's keep in mind that industry is only a middleman between consumers and the raw, in-ground energy. Ultimately it is consumers burning fossil fuels and industry only enables the behavoir. In the messy balance between science and society, the longer we pin the CO2 problem on industry the longer we allow individual people to remain blissfully ignorant about their individual roles here. In my mind policies that most directly take the "problem" (fossil fuel emissions) to the "source" (individual people) will be most effective.

Posted by: kevin v at September 11, 2006 03:24 PM


hi Kevin,
Actually ocean acidification is something that chemical oceanographers and marine ecologists alike are concerned about. A lot of research in the past few years including a report from NOAA and publications in Nature have suggested that coral reefs, coccolithophores, pteropods, and other calcifying organisms will be severely impacted by increasing ocean acidification. Unlike predicting climate change and associated impacts with temp and precip., changes in ocean chemistry are more directly correlated with the increasing atmospheric concentrations and thus one of the "more certain" impacts. Impacts on biological systems are less certain, but as I mentioned, the signs don't look good. wikipedia has a nice list of refs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification
Lisa

Posted by: LDilling [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 05:59 PM


Coby said, of CO2 in the ocean:
"This urgent issue remains remarkably out of sight in the public debate."
Let's try some math, eh? 100 ppm of 14.7 psi is 0.00147 lbs per square inch. One and a half miles of water weighs about 3500 psi. So, 0.00147/3500 = about 0.0000004. One in 2.5 million.

I'm dubious this is urgent, especially since there is hundreds of times that much CO2 in the ocean already.

Posted by: Steve Hemphill [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 07:12 PM


Lisa Dilling writes, "A lot of research in the past few years including a report from NOAA and publications in Nature have suggested that coral reefs, coccolithophores, pteropods, and other calcifying organisms will be severely impacted by increasing ocean acidification."

You mean, research like this (the first reference in the Wikipedia article to which you linked):

Caldeira, K., and Wickett, M.E. (2003). Anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH. Nature 425, 365-365.

From that paper:

"Simulated atmospheric CO2 exceeds 1,900 parts per million (p.p.m.) at around the year 2300. The maximum pH reduction at the ocean surface is 0.77;..."

Soooo...if the atmospheric CO2 concentrations exceeds 1900 ppm around the year 2300 (in 2006 it's about 380 ppm), the pH reduction at the ocean's surface is calculated to be 0.77?

About the only comment I can make is that, given the climate change community's past performance in predicting (sorry, "projecting"!) future events (e.g. methane atmospheric concentrations) for even **30 years** into the future, I don't have much confidence in their predictions for ***300 years*** into the future!

Why would anyone view a prediction of something 300 years into the future with anything but mild amusement? Can anyone imagine that the founders of Jamestown colony (1706, if I remember my 7th grade history correctly) could predict any aspect of 2006? And technological change is dramatically ***accelerating,*** not slowing down.

Posted by: Mark Bahner [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 08:22 PM


Oops!

Even my memory is dyslexic! I just realized that Jamestown was 1607, not 1706.

But my point remains...can anyone imagine the British colonists in 1706 predicting what the situation would be like in 2006? ("Nuclear power? Yeah, we figured that would happen.") ("And photovoltaics...it's hard to believe THEY weren't major power sources by 1906, at the latest.")

Posted by: Mark Bahner [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 08:32 PM


Roger

Thanks for the response.

Some of my colleagues here at McGill are part of the et al of Hoffert et al and based upon my conversations/arguements with them I think they are greatly underestimating the potential for energy conservation and efficiency, and overstating the problems and CO2 associated with biofuels.

On other things we generally agree. I am interested in the discussion in general, but I can't respond more thoughtfully now, but hopefully you will continue to discuss these issues and I can think about things and respond a bit more in the future.

Posted by: Garry Peterson at September 12, 2006 05:25 AM


Mark B. and Steve H.
I realize it's fairly pointless to debate science with you when you seem from the outset "dubious" and "lacking confidence" in science and its output. But here is another article in Nature from 2005 which addresses the issue with both direct experiments and modeling for this century:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v437/n7059/abs/nature04095.html
The upshot is that important regions of the ocean (mostly high latitude) are expected to become undersaturated in calcium carbonate by 2050 and even more so by 2100. If organisms can't form their "skeletons" or shells, and don't flourish, it will represent a major shift in the oceanic food chain for those areas. But perhaps the world experts will be wrong, as you suggest, and ocean chemistry will have some miraculous recovery that we can't anticipate.
Lisa

Posted by: LDilling [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2006 12:38 PM


Steve,

This is just FYI. I have no real interest in engaging you, but a commenter on my site who prefers not to post here pointed this out regarding your calculations: (passed on verbatim and unchecked)
===============
"Let's try some math, eh? 100 ppm of 14.7 psi is 0.00147 lbs per square inch. One and a half miles of water weighs about 3500 psi. So, 0.00147/3500 = about 0.0000004. One in 2.5 million. "

pH is a log scale. pH was ~8.2 before CO2 started increasing a century ago, it is now 8.1 That means that the concentration of hydronium (H3O+) in the ocean is 10 ^(-8.1) which is a lot less than one in 2.5 million ([T]his math doesn't work anyhow, because the CO2 in the ocean is part of a buffered system.).
=================

Posted by: coby [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2006 02:25 PM


addendum to my first post-- the report I mentioned is actually a multi-authored, multi-agency sponsored report, NSF, NOAA and USGS, and can be found here:
http://www.isse.ucar.edu/florida/report/Ocean_acidification_res_guide_compressed.pdf
The report nicely lays out what we know and don't know about ocean acidification. From the executive summary various lines of evidence "suggests that calcification rates will decrease by 60% in this century" and "...it is certain that net production of CaCO3 [meaning calcification rates of organisms] will decrease in the future."

Posted by: LDilling [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2006 03:52 PM


Lisa said:
"I realize it's fairly pointless to debate science with you when you seem from the outset "dubious" and "lacking confidence" in science and its output"

Weak, Lisa. Especially your use of scare quotes a mere half dozen words from the word "seem". I assure you I am quite comfortable with the scientific method - just not with inbred belief systems. As little as 5% reduction with a doubling of CO2 (per your reference) seems to fit the fact there is already hundreds of times as much CO2 in the ocean as is being potentially added (or maybe just not currently taken up primarily due to heating by solar variability?).

It's a question of orders of magnitude. As usual.

And you're right Coby - this doesn't even include buffering.

Posted by: Steve Hemphill [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2006 09:45 PM


Re #2: Yes, I did see that. The reason for my question has to do with what the figure is supposed to show. It is supposed to show how natural gas, oil and coal contribute to the total increase in emissions. They add up in 2003 and prior to that. But the total for 2030 is way above the combined curves for oil, gas and coal in 2030. Therefore my question: what is the additional source not shown in the figure? How can you make projections like that?

Posted by: Anders at September 13, 2006 02:15 AM


Two comments:

1. You say that we may have to think about aiming for stabilization at a level higher than 550 ppm. But surely the concern is that once we get to a certain level (nobody can say exactly which), we might have lost our chance of stabilising the atmosphere and the climate at at all. There is plenty of research on this, including from the Hadley Centre and the Univesity of East Anglia: Rainforest and boreal forest die-back, CO2 transpiration from soils, vast carbon emissions from thawing permafrost, possible destabilising methane hydrates, possible reduction in the CO2 uptake by oceans, etc. I have read nothing to suggest that we have reached a level of CO2 which cause all this to happen. Yet surely you should acknowledge that there could well be a 'top ceiling' beyond which stabilisation will no longer be possible. Nor adaptation, once you get into the realm of massive methane releases, more rapid ice sheet disintegration, etc.

2.Socolow and Pascala list the different technologies available, but theirs is hardly the only climate change mitigation model. Fred Pearce, in his book 'The Last Generation' has, however, adapted their 'wedges' proposal to show how it could be used to stabilise the atmosphere at 450ppm. I would also advise anybody to at least have a look at the Contraction and Convergence model developed by the Global Commons Institute: http://www.gci.org.uk/contconv/cc.html . This is science-based, looks at sinks uptake, but also acknowledges that technology alone can't provide the solution. After all, we may not be able to all have two plasma TVs, several fridges, air con, heating our whole house to T-shirt temperatures through the winter, etc. on clean energy within the next few decades. That's a question of political and social choice!

Almuth Ernsting

Posted by: Almuth at September 13, 2006 04:01 AM


Anders- I see. The curve you are asking about represents the sum of the other three. Click on "chart data" for details. Thanks.

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 13, 2006 06:26 AM


final try, for anyone actually interested in what science has to say (as opposed to hunches or gut feelings) about ocean acidification, please read the report and references contained within. All the issues about ocean carbonate chemistry, how the system works, and what is unknown still are laid out:
http://www.isse.ucar.edu/florida/report/Ocean_acidification_res_guide_compressed.pdf

Posted by: LDilling [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 13, 2006 03:04 PM


Lisa Dilling writes, "I realize it's fairly pointless to debate science with you when you seem from the outset 'dubious' and 'lacking confidence' in science and its output."

No, Dr. Dilling, the reason you probably don't want to debate science with me is the same reason your Colorado Buffaloes don't want to play the Virginia Tech Hokies in football...or even the Duke Blue Devils in basketball. You will probably lose.

But in case you *do* want to debate science with me, I have two suggestions for topics:

1) "Resolved: Ocean acidification from CO2 emissions is one of the top 10 environmental problems in the world," or even better

2) "Resolved: The IPCC Third Assessment Report's (TAR's) projections for methane atmospheric concentrations, carbon dioxide emissions and atmospheric concentrations, and resultant temperature increases constitute the greatest fraud in the history of environmental science."

I'm open to any variations on either of these debate topics. Further, we can do the debate here on Prometheus, or at my blog. I've set up a post for topic #1:

http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2006/09/a_modest_propos.html

And I proposed topic #2 on my blog more than a year and a half ago:

http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2005/01/resolved_the_ip.html

I've made the same debate topic offer here at Prometheus and at Real Climate. Curiously, no scientist has ever taken me up on that offer. Why do you suppose that is?

I don't have time to address your comments and your references on ocean acidification in detail right now, as I'm still trying to get John Rennie (Editor-in-Chief at "Scientific" American) and the authors at "Real Climate" to answer these simple, straightforward questions of basic science. I invite *YOU* to answer them, too, since you obviously think you know science:

1) Is it necessary for projections of future events (e.g. the IPCC TAR projections for methane atmospheric concentrations, CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations, and resultant temperature increases) to be falsifiable, in order for them to be scientific?

2) Are the projections of methane atmospheric concentrations, CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations, and resultant temperature increases in the IPCC TAR falsifiable? Please consider especially the IPCC warning that:

"Scenarios are images of the future or alternative futures. They are neither predictions nor forecasts."

http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc/emission/025.htm

3) If the projections in the IPCC TAR *are* falsifiable, what hypothetical future events would falsify them?

4) If your answer to #1 is "yes," and your answer to #2 is "no," have you ever pointed out (e.g., on Prometheus) that the projections in the IPCC TAR are not scientific? If not, why not?

5) If your answer to #1 is yes, and #2 is no, have you ever seen any paper in Nature or Science that points out that the projections in the IPCC TAR are not scientific? If not, why do you think that is?

Sincerely,
Mark Bahner (environmental engineer)

Posted by: Mark Bahner [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 13, 2006 06:43 PM


Mark,

Your questions are ill-posed, that is why no one takes you up on them.

Question 1 is ill posed, but as written I would say no. Question 2 is ill posed, but as written I would say yes. Question 3, the answer is that a scenario would be shown to be flawed (falsified in your poorly framed question) if the population, economic and energy use patterns described by it came to pass but GHG's did not rise as projected.

My answers to 1 and 2 disqualify me from answering 4 or 5.

It is a mistake to lump scenarios of GHG level in with the resulting temperature predictions, they are very different. One is a hypothetical future, the other is a scientific prediction based on that hypothetical. Please see the link below for another example of that same mistake.
http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/09/economist-on-climate-change.html
HTH!

Posted by: coby [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 13, 2006 09:16 PM


Coby,

You write, "Mark, Your questions are ill-posed, that is why no one takes you up on them."

Coby, with all due respect, my questions were not directed to you. (Was that somehow unclear?) My questions were directed to Dr. Dilling and all of the authors at Real Climate.

Regarding your answers to the questions I did not ask you, if Dr. Dilling and the authors at Real Climate agree with your answers, or have answers of their own, I'd appreciate it if they'd say so.

"HTH!"

No, not really, at least so far, since my questions were not directed to you. However, if your answers prompt Dr. Dilling or any of the authors at Real Climate to respond to my questions, that would indeed help.

Mark

P.S. I've responded to your comments on The Economist article on your blog.

Posted by: Mark Bahner [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2006 04:54 PM


Hi Roger,

Sorry about getting off the topic of your original post. ;-)

Regarding your post, there are some things I don't understand and/or seem to be wrong. You write:

1) "But a close examination of research in this area does appear to lend anything but pessimism to the notion that stabilization at 550 ppm is even possible."

Shouldn't this be "close examination of this research leads to nothing but pessimism..."

After all, "anything but pessimism" means either: a) optimism, or b) neutrality.

2) "Socolow suggests that under business-as-usual carbon dioxide emissions will continue to increase at a rate of 1.5% per year. This growth rate would result in an additional 525 gigatons of carbon (GtC) being added to the atmosphere by 2054, and at that time an annual rate of emissions of 15.0 GtC."

Well, there's a problem with that suggestion. The world's per-capita CO2 emissions have been absolutely flat for approximately the last ~35 years:

http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/glo.htm

It's possible that per-capita CO2 emissions will begin rising again after being flat for 35 years, but it's more likely that they will remain essentially flat, and then begin to gradually decline...not increase.

I've predicted the following emissions for 2050 (where e.g. "5% probability" means "5% probability emissions are less than...":

5% probability = 6.5 gigatonnes (that's METRIC tons) carbon

50% probability = 8.8 gigatonnes carbon

95% probability = 12.2 gigatonnes carbon.

So I've predicted less than a 5% probability emissions will be more than 12.2 gigatonnes (that's 13.4 gigatons, in English tons).

When I re-do my estimates in the future, I might bump up the 50% probability, and almost certainly will bump up the 95% probability value, but I doubt that there is a 50/50 chance of 15.0 gigatons as carbon.

3) "Under Socolow’s business-as-usual, the total carbon dioxide emissions 2004-2104 are about 1630 GtC."

Well, I strongly disagree that there is anywhere near a 50/50 chance that emissions will AVERAGE 16.3 GtC in the 100 years from 2004-2104. I find it hard to imagine anyone who knows about historical and likely future emissions could seriously think that emissions will AVERAGE that high. They'd have to end the century at well ABOVE 20 GtC to do that. There's simply no way that's likely. Look at the work of Jesse Ausubel. We will be in a hydrogen economy by 2100, almost certainly.

In summary, I don't think stabilization at 550 ppm by 2100 is at all unreasonable. In fact, I think there's about a 50/50 chance that's what the concentration will be (unless future people decide to suck CO2 out of the air).

Mark


Posted by: Mark Bahner [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2006 06:58 PM


Mark B.-

You ask:

"But a close examination of research in this area does appear to lend anything but pessimism to the notion that stabilization at 550 ppm is even possible."

Shouldn't this be "close examination of this research leads to nothing but pessimism..."

Yes, thanks for the catch!! (Should be "does not")

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2006 09:52 PM


Hi Roger,

I don't understand your figures, lets assume current values of 7GtC emissions, 2.5GtC sinks, CO2 rise of 2-3ppm/year. Therefore each GtC above 2.5 leads to 0.45-0.67 ppm rise in atmospheric CO2.

To stop CO2 levels reaching 550ppm (an increase of 170ppm above present levels) 253-377GtC above the steady state level (2.5GtC/year) will need to be emitted. The time over which this excess is emitted makes no difference (to a first order approximation). At current levels of excess (4.5GtC/year) we will exceed 550ppm in 56-83 years. If we are to limit CO2 levels to 550ppm we must limit the excess to zero eventually.

Waiting 10 years with CO2 emissions rising at 1.5% a year, not only reduces the allowed limit by 50GtC, leaves a higher level from which to make the cuts.

Posted by: Mike Atkinson at September 15, 2006 05:29 AM


Another way of looking at things is to consider that in about 10-15 years time we will have emitted since the start of the industrial revolution about half the total CO2 necessary to reach 550ppm. Most of that has been in the last 40 years.

Posted by: Mike Atkinson at September 15, 2006 05:36 AM


Mike-

Thanks very much for these substantive comments.

The numbers I am presenting are straight out of Pacala and Socolow. But I don't see anything inconsiustent between what you have presented and P/S (?)

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 06:23 AM


It is that Climate Change is occurring always, the LIE is in the attempt to overlay supposition of a 'greenhouse effect' and 'unnatural alterations' from such by 'Humanity'. There is not required policy for, or otherwise, any 'remediations' beyond consideration of POLLUTION within the real environment. The focus on 'political play' involving supposition of 'climate doom' still only avoids notice of the REALITY that Humanity lives within, trying instead to focus on aspects of HOW humanity 'lives' these being parcelled within the various attached platforms' the 'greenhouse wagon' drags along.

Notice the reality of the warmer Planetary Surface (slides in link * below), it is the MEDIAN SURFACE TEMPERATURE that is so oft heard of in relation to 'warming'. It is seen see that the Ocean Surface trend follows the present Land Surface rise in 'shape' even, lagging by 15 years due to the productions of Conduction and Convection transporting that Kinetic Energy TO the Ocean Surface whilst the muting of that displayed trend is due to internal production of Turbulence in the Ocean surface as reaction to those inputs of Kinetic Energy (this trend is seen in plots at the link * below).
The cumulative effect from the rematerialing produced within Human Habitat Sprawl (related to Human Population growth in its rapid rise from 500 Million to over 6 Billion in ~400 years) can be seen (again with slides in *) directly related to these alterations in Median Surface Temperatures.
Interaction of Oceanic (slower) and Atmospheric (faster) process will see the style of variation of TEMPERATURE so far observed in the 'century/decade' time frames far too often mentioned with allusion to supposed 'climate change'. Nor would it be UNNATURAL if 'Climate' continued to rise from the current Primary Trough behavior and (back) into the more 'common' Primary Crest, the defining process observations indicate no reason to expect such will NOT happen. Then (reasonably) RAPID rise in relative sea level could occur and the Secondary Climate Oscillation will, instead of being outlined in recurring Glaciations, be observed in alterations to Relative Sea Level all of much 'higher' levels (at both the 'high' & 'low' points) than those within the 'current' ~3 Million year 'long' Primary Trough, generally speaking.

The supposed 'climate remediations' formed from 'greenhouse supposition' can't have any REAL & beneficial effect. There isn't possible any 'CO2 based' warming effect, these 'greenhouse remediations' can only then be seen as potentially DETRIMENTAL to the NATURAL course & persistence of 'Climate events' in their production of NATURAL alterations as observed in their irregular, but otherwise reasonable & 'GENTLE style'.

There is not any policy needed to remediate 'climate change', there is not shown any UNNATURAL alterations and the Natural changes are NOT at all needing 'blind tinkerers' to become involved.

Your's,
Peter K. Anderson a.k.a. Hartlod(tm)
E-Mail: Hartlod@bigpond.com
(*)- http://hartlod.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Peter K. Anderson at September 18, 2006 04:00 AM


There has been some question as to how Turbulence & interactions of Mass within the environment could produce sufficient alteration to the intrinsic 'temperatures' of the Masses involved. Turbulent Process interactions between and within the (kilogram)x(10^24) Masses of the Ocean and Atmosphere will produce alterations to internal Turbulence within those materials that WILL release (or uptake) vast amounts of Kinetic Energy, and that this will then be observed as a RISE (or DECLINE) in the measured Temperature of that System, with NO NEED for alteration of the RATE of overall 'new' Kinetic Energy induction even necessary. It is only really necessary to begin notice by consideration of the actual Mass of materials involved within the liquid of the Ocean and the Gas mix that is the Atmosphere.

Remember also that the ‘Temperature of a System’ is that Kinetic Energy residual within the materials constituting that System that is NOT directly involved in the production of the processes of Turbulence within that System. In a System where-in the Mass of the most involved materials contained is proportioned in (kilograms)x(10^24), then alterations to Turbulence within those materials WILL release (or uptake) vast amounts of Kinetic Energy, and that this will then be observed as a RISE (or DECLINE) in the measured Temperature of that System, with NO NEED for alteration of the RATE of overall ‘new’ Kinetic Energy induction. Interaction of Oceanic (slower) and Atmospheric (faster) process will see the style of variation of TEMPERATURE seen so far.

It is also these alterations to turbulence that induce 'weather patterning changes' inducing 'unusual 'drought' or 'flood' situations, thus it IS being observed that alterations to overall 'Turbulence' are being made. This is accentuated by the sprawl of Humanity, this sprawl replacing Natural Surface with a 'concrete desert' that is repositioning across the Land Surface point so STRONG kinetic energy induction, facilitating these UNNATURAL alterations to Turbulent process and leading to the 'unusual weather patterning's'. The size of these alterations is noticed in slides in link * for geographical density of Human Population and also with notice of FUTURE alterations being made by forecasting of potential population growth (slide in link * from U.N. site) in the 'developing nations', with those presently considered 'western developed' presenting only a 'steady state population' condition.

Thus new population (within the developing nations/economies) can only INCREASE the POTENTIAL for 'Human-made sprawl' alteration to overall Turbulent Processes. Those 'new 8 million kilometers of asphalt in China, expected within the next few decades, will ALL be leading somewhere, for an example of the 'sprawl creation' being forecast. So weather patterning will continue to 'walk' without 'climate' altering as CLIMATE processes continue to rise from the recent (only 20,000 years ago) 'Ice Age'. This current 'warm climate period' is only ONE of many within the last ~3 Million year 'Primary Trough' period, it could well be the last without any need to allude to 'humanistic alterations', the forces involved are well beyond 'human tinkering' still, fortunately. All Humanity has done is move where the Rain might fall, but it will still be falling...just elsewhere than 'now'.

Your's,
Peter K. Anderson a.k.a. Hartlod(tm)
From the PC of Peter K Anderson
E-Mail: Hartlod@bigpond.com
(*)- http://hartlod.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Hartlod [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 18, 2006 08:02 AM


Peter - We appreictae your participation. Please do keep your comments on topic and concise. Thanks.

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 18, 2006 08:06 AM


Just an opening set of comments Rodger to place my discussions into place. I tend to refer to the link * for further details and make reference to said link, I hope that this is suitable and do make notice of the length of my initial posts, just trying to give sufficient detail to make a coherent statement...

The policy needed is not so much of concern to 'stabilise climate', such a situation is NEVER going to be Natural with Climate always altering within a natural & irregularly periodic Oscillation set, and it is futile to expect any effort of Humanity could do such with any success. It is also that there is NOT any unnatural climate change, so again there is not needed 'stabilisation policy'. The effort being made to redirect resources TO 'climate change' is however allowing REAL issues to go not only unnoticed but 'unchecked' and the Potential for 'even sprawl' of 'new Human Population' within regions that are still NOW generally still under 'naturally materials' will see the present 'weather walking', produced form the past 400 years of accumulated surface alterations more rapidly become more 'severely presented'.

The last 400 years involved not only the rise of Human population from ~500 Million to ~6 Billion, but the lagging effect of technology development. The next 100 years will 'begin' with technology to RAPIDLY rematerial vast regions of surface with an expectation for a 'rise' in 'new population' to be ~5 Billion, or even more for a near doubling of the present overall population. So all that has already happened over 400 years CAN be expected AGAIN in the next 100 years....all within 'new regions' of so far still 'naturally materialed surface' and presently with only sparse Human Habitat constructions included.

(As an aside, is it possible to place small images here, as I would include the most relevant slides here (as sub 50kb .jpg images), if not I will make another 'blog entry' at * just as 'image gallery' for easy construction of dialogue.)

Your's, Peter K. Anderson a.k.a. Hartlod(tm)
From the PC of Peter K Anderson
E-Mail: Hartlod@bigpond.com
(*)- http://hartlod.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Hartlod [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 19, 2006 11:13 AM


Made a slide gallery anyway, and link:-

http://hartlodsgallery.blogspot.com/

With slides pertinent to this issue, in outline with comments.

Your's, Peter K. Anderson a.k.a. Hartlod(tm)
From the PC of Peter K Anderson
E-Mail: Hartlod@bigpond.com
(*) - http://hartlod.blogspot.com/
(**)- http://hartlodsgallery.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Hartlod [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 19, 2006 01:02 PM




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