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Climate of Doubt and Escalator Updates

Posted on 24 October 2012 by dana1981

On Tuesday night, October 23rd, 2012, the US Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) is airing a program called Climate of Doubt.  Here is how PBS describes the program, along with a preview:

"Four years ago, climate change was a hot issue and politicians from both sides seemed poised to act. Today public opinion on the climate issue has cooled considerably. Politicians either ignore it or proclaim their skepticism. What’s behind this massive reversal? On Oct 23, FRONTLINE goes inside the organizations that fought the scientific establishment to shift the direction of the climate debate."

Watch Climate of Doubt on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

The program focuses mainly on how and why the politics and public perception of the climate issue have shifted in the USA.  However, PBS also consulted with Skeptical Science to potentially reproduce The Escalator for the program.

We don't yet know if The Escalator made the final cut of the program or if SkS will get any credit, but the program should be well worth watching regardless.  Americans can check their local listings to see when the program will air in their local areas, and the program should also be available online after it airs.

We have also updated both the global surface temperature and Arctic sea ice Escalators.  The surface temperature Escalator had previously used Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) data; however, BEST is a land-only temperature dataset.  Therefore, the new temperature Escalator uses an average of GISS, NCDC, and HadCRUT4 monthly global surface tempererature anomalies from January 1970 through August 2012.

temp escalator

Average of GISS, NCDC, and HadCRUT4 monthly global surface temperature anomalies from January 1970 through August 2012 (green) with linear trends applied to the timeframes Jan '70 - Oct '77, May '77 - Dec '85, Jan '86 - June '94, Nov '94 - Dec '00, Jan '01 - Aug '12 (blue) and Jan '70 - Aug '12 (red).

The Arctic sea ice Escalator has now been updated to include data from 2012.

arctic escalator

NSIDC September Arctic sea ice extent (blue diamonds) with "recovery" years highlighted in red, vs. the long-term sea ice decline fit with a second order polynomial, also in red.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 66:

  1. Arctic escalator image link broken -nil display.
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  2. [...]how and why the politics and public perception of the climate issue have shifted in the USA.

    How and why indeed. AGW is no different than any number of political issues that the public has been invited to weigh in on. Everything from foreign policy to the regulation of financial institutions are open for discussion between professional bass anglers and trailer hitch installers over a cold one down at the bowling alley. The fact that AGW deals with a complex natural physical system, a system that to this day is not 100% completely understood or has every component quantified, yet we equate the musings of a high school physical education instructor with a research physicist in discussing the viability of opposing positions. The fact that complex topics have set up shop on main street and every passing thought is given consideration helps to create a cacophonous river swollen with a flood of misinformation, the kind of misinformation that quickly dilutes what are actual "facts" in favor of personal feelings and opinion.

    What is as big a concern as drowning in a dialog of opinion is the fact that many of these same opinionated voices, whose insight labored in a high school civics class, actually vote.
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  3. JohnB @1 - thanks and sorry, we're having some issues migrating SkS to a new server. I think the link should work now, but the new Escalator graphics won't be available on the Graphics until we get the transition sorted out.
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  4. Any chance of a 'sea level rise escalator' guys?
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  5. You could call Figure 2 "the Icecalator".

    But is there any graph of ice thickness?
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  6. Neal, thickness is less regimentally observable. A surrogate for thickness is volume, which is better constrained and finite:



    Source
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  7. First post

    Great site and congrats to all. To my great shame my brother in law is a climate change denier. The fact that I have a PhD in Physics and that he does not even have a CSE in maths or any science does not seem to trouble him. I just get mad at his "invincible ignorance" as my dad would have put it.

    Anyway sorry for the rant and thanks again for taking the time to compile this. Sadly facts do not seem to work either....

    StB
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  8. StBarnabas@7: With your permission, and proper attribution, I'm gonna *steal* that line!

    "Invincible ignorance:" Truly one for the ages! I too, battle those with severe cases of Dunning-Kruger Syndrome (essentially the same as II, but less fun to say!) and though I always strive to answer questions, once it become apparent that they suffer from II, I give up.

    Dana, thanks for the reminder post; I've done the same on Facetubes, too.
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  9. This may not stand up to moderation. I may have violated the no political comments rule, but, after all you did say, "The program focuses mainly on how and why the politics and public perception of the climate issue have shifted in the USA." So here goes…

    "What’s behind this massive reversal?" Frontline is of course talking about just what happened in the US. Prior to the 2010 midterm elections the House of Representatives did pass a climate bill. Sure it was a weak bill but it finally passed and went over to the Senate where the minority rules. Where it takes 60 votes (we call it a supermajority) to get anything done and the Majority Leader determined that it just could not get passed; no matter what. So it died. After the 2010 elections the “reversal” happened. "What’s behind this massive reversal?" Follow the money. If Frontline is not going to talk about Citizen’s United, the conservative dominated Supreme Court, and who funded the elections of the Republicans in 2010 then we will not hear the whole story.

    So, YubeDude and StBranabas, that is shortcoming of democracy; if you extend the vote to everyone than every fool gets a vote. So far, in the US, the fools have packed the House of Representative so do not expect a climate bill even if Obama is reelected. He could talk until he is blue in the face about the reality of the problem, nothing will get the House to even allow a bill let alone discuss it. No matter what a given poll says, the only poll that counts takes place on election day and the balance of power in the House will pretty much stay the same after November 2. The fools are still in charge.

    De Tocqueville did an excellent critique of democracy. I’ll try to watch Frontline but it comes on pretty late for me.
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  10. Radical concept, no doubt someone will scream discrimination but...

    Any candidate for any seat in government must pass a simple testor they can't standforoffice. IQ greater than 120. This might be relaxed somewhat for those with University qualifications in technical disciplines - science, engineering, maths etc

    Wishful thinking I know but we can dream.
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  11. Oh, many of the denialists are very smart. Certainly the Koch brothers are. It is more a matter of intellectual honesty, and I'm not sure there's a good test for that.

    OT question: Hansen in his TED talk and elsewhere has said that our ghg emissions are adding the equivalent energy to the atmosphere of 400,000 Hiroshima bombs every day.

    Could someone check my calculations (and assumptions) to see if I am somewhere in the right ball park for what that comes to for individual emissions?

    As far as I can figure, Hansen's figure means that, over a decade, the average member of the top billion emitters (who are responsible for about 80% of emissions) has personally released the equivalent of at least on Hiroshima bomb (again, over the last ten years).

    (That would presumably include pretty much everyone who posts here and pretty much everyone that we know.)

    Thanks ahead of time for any corrections, suggestions, tweaks, reactions...
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  12. I hear you about the individual emissions, wili, but I also loathe how that guilt trip thing has become one of the major tools of the dissemblers: "So, just what are *you* personally doing to combat climate change?" To me, it's the equivalent of: "Hey look, there goes a squirrel!", and is used primarily to deflect attention away from whatever is the real topic at hand.

    Yes, we can all try to do our bit, and I'm not saying that every little bit doesn't help. But what we really need to do is change the way we generate electricity (especially, we need to get rid of coal) to use primarily renewables, and then gear up our surface transport to run off this clean electricity. That's a big ask, but it would go a long way towards solving the CO2 problem.
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  13. I agree that it's stupid to somehow try to dismiss, for example, Gore's message because he takes a plane somewhere.

    But I do think that we all need to have some idea of the level of our impact, and look for reasonable ways to reduce it.

    Yes, ultimately systems have to change. But it will be much easier to move quickly to renewables if our use of energy were a fraction of our current rate--in fact we would be within easy reach at that point. But if we all have ever increasing rates of use, or even just hope to maintain our absurdly high rates of energy use, it will be very hard to get anywhere near full renewable use for a long, long time--longer than we have.

    So really, guilt isn't the point. The point is to see clearly what we are doing so we can adequately prioritize the changes we need to make.

    Anyway, thanks for the input. Any further help on the math would be more than welcome.
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  14. Just finished watching the Frontline show. Quote:

    "Scientists call this 'Going Down the Up Escalator'"
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  15. Just finished watching Frontline...

    Myron Ebell of the CEI says, "There are holdouts among the urban bi-coastal elite, but I think we have won the debate with the American people in the heartland. The people who get their hands dirty, people who dig up stuff, who grow stuff and make stuff for a living; people who have a closer relationship to tangible reality, to stuff"

    I guess one only needs to check their finger nails to know what side of reality they are on, or to what degree they are being manipulated by skilled contrarians who avoid the science in favor of witty word play and glossy spin miestering.
    Without directly saying so, Ebell just called a majority of working class Americans too dumb to do anything other than work with "stuff", and only smart enough to understand that which is directly in front of their faces. On that last point I tend to agree.
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  16. Yah, I'm not sure the AFP guy could have written a better script for telling his freedom-loving constituency that "I control your opinions, I'm proud of it, and I think you're too dumb to do anything about it (or even realize it when I'm telling you all this point blank)."

    Ultimate public response from this piece?

    *reaches for the bottle of anti-depressants*
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  17. Where do you start with people like that?

    They need a major brain rewiring job.
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  18. ...I think we have won the debate with the American people in the heartland.

    A two-way minority, as the US census and opinion surveys on climate change tell us.

    Global Warming’s Six Americas
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  19. Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.

    Bert
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  20. Fred Singer likes to see "good science"? Heartland believes in "sound science"? Gee, don't say those nasty warmistas have been misunderstanding these paragons of virtue!

    I'm glad I don't own any of those North Carolina beachfront homes, because leaving it to my kids in my will would be giving them a poisoned chalice.
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  21. "I agree that it's stupid to somehow try to dismiss, for example, Gore's message because he takes a plane somewhere."

    Hypocracy is the easiest way to havevagruements dismissed, and therefore I suspect due to this AL Gore has done more harm than good.

    And if he flies despite what he says then why shouldn't everyone else?

    He's hardly taking it that seriously is he?

    Hansen flies alot as well and yet we have a world of instant global communication.

    About time people walked their talk I'd say.

    Also about time climate scientists starting saying they are alarmed and be proud to be so!
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  22. The head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, when asked if you’re wrong about humans changing the climate said "--- then I will have to say I’m sorry---“.

    Sorry, but saying sorry is unequivocally not good enough because it will be too late.
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  23. ranyl, it would only be hypocrisy if Gore had ever said something to the effect of, 'the situation is so dire that we should stop using airplanes'.

    Given that he hasn't said anything like that, the whole 'Gore flies on airplanes so global warming must be fake' argument is, to borrow a phrase, 'not even wrong'. It's just stupid.

    Halting all air travel would not solve AGW... and solving AGW does not require halting all air travel. They might as well claim that Al Gore does not really believe in global warming because he continues breathing... which releases CO2! Humans will continue emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. That is inevitable and no one is saying we need to stop it. Rather, what Gore, Hansen, and other sensible people have called for is that we limit how much CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) we emit such that we do not continue strengthening the greenhouse effect.
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  24. Further to CO2 emitting issue. It's not about how much CO2 we are emitting. It's where the CO2 comes from.

    For example, if the fuel for Al Gore's jet comes from cooking oil then he can fly as much as he wants, with no adverse effects on CCycle nor atmospheric CO2 rise. Burning C from biosphere does not matter in grand scheme, because that CO2 will be absorbed back by that biosphere eventualy. But burning C from FF sequestered for 100s My is a different story.
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  25. http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/an-inconvenient-question-should-al-gore-fly-to-stockholm/

    Gore did make some comments about flying.

    And of course it is CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and habitat destruction that need addressing not breathing.

    Hansen is calling for 350ppm, therefore carbon sequestration, which would basically need the total cessation of fossil fuel use and a massive carbon sequestration effort through eco-system restoration.

    Therefore as flying is one of the most intensive fossil carbon emitting activities, it doesn't really seem a sensible activity for anyone understanding the urgent situation we are facing.

    And if someone wants to look for a way out in denial this is all too easy with this inconsistency of message to action.
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  26. Please do not make this a personal issue. This is a social issue. This is a geo-social issue that needs corrective actions from every nation around the world.
    Making this a personal issue is one of their tactics so that nobody wants to force on themselves indivisually. Only thing each indivisual has to do is to admit AGW is real and happening now. Nobody would have to buy a hybrid car with 59 hp or paint our roof white if they admit/agree. It is a social policy issue.
    Even if all agree, we will not be able to realistically, practically do drastic things. There will still be the fuel fossil industries and other geo-political, economic factors.
    Let's get the first thing first. Let's get the majority admit it's real and happening now so that the policy makers wouldn't have to be pressured to say otherwise, so that all those green technologies will be more accetable to people and that would mean better economic advantages, oppertunities for the industries.
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  27. "flying is one of the most intensive fossil carbon emitting activities"

    That's another "look, squirrel!" argument. Coal burning electricity generation is the biggest problem and will remain thus until industrial scale coal burning is eradicated. That may not happen until it runs out, in which case we are in a heap of trouble. If ground transportation and electricity generation can be freed from fossil fuels, we have a chance to avert drastic changes, regardless of what is done with air transportation.
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  28. Glenn, on the IQ test:
    I have to disagree that it is a good idea, or would even achieve the objective. Plenty of the deniers are actually highly intelligent (clearly more than 1 std dev above the mean); but, they refuse to accept information contrary to what they want to believe.

    Singer, Lindzen, Curry, etc. are all highly intelligent; that does not imply they are right. Who knows, maybe even "legitimate rape" Akin would pass that test.

    You don't have to be a rocket scientist to be a good leader. You do have to be able to know your own limitations, and be able to choose who to believe rationally, without predisposition to those who tell you want you want to hear. Maybe that is the rub of what I'm trying to say; high intelligence and rational behavior do not always correlate.

    In any event, it is a mistake to assume that those with whom you disagree are stupid, or that smart people always come to the same conclusion.

    I was pleased to see the escalator; I'm not sure that credit was given where it was due. But, that is small potatoes relative to making the point that it makes.
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  29. Energy Imbalance
    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/energy-budget.html

    510,000,000 square km = 510,000,000,000,000 square meters
    0.58 W/m^2 = 0.58 J/m^2/s

    295,000,000,000,000 J/s = 2.95 x 10^14J/s

    Little Boy ~= 6.3 × 10^13 joules

    4.6 bombs/s ?

    Yeah, about 400,000 bombs/day
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  30. Since air travel is such a small contributor to global CO2 emissions when compared with electrical generation, ground transportation, industry and agriculture that it seems to be a bit silly to require that all climate activists stop traveling by air. What about ocean transportation? Consider all that bunker fuel burned to deliver coal and oil around the world. When James Hansen shows up at a coal power plant in Great Britain do you suppose he did not get there by air? Bill Mckibben is one of the most energetic activists in the US and he is currently on a big campaign that will take him to most of our major cities and college campuses. He freely admits that to do his work he must travel by air. I wonder why Gore gets all the criticism for air travel? Could it be due to the success of the politically motivated anti-science organizations mentioned in the Frontline piece like the Heartland Institute? Gore is a name that seems to easily get Jasper and Eustis off the tractor and into the streets to protest. But the climate activists use this technique too. Mckibben likes to use Exxon to enflame the public. But the politics is not about party affiliation it is strictly about government action on climate change. Look how quickly the money and power moved against Bob Inglis in the 2010 midterm election. All he said was, “climate change is real.” That was enough for the Republican power brokers. He had been a respectable Republican for many years but that didn’t matter after those fatal words. Anyone who thinks bipartisan effort is possible with this issue is mistaken. Anyone who thinks that just because some majority of folks in the US thinks climate change is real, means that political action is possible is mistaken. The fossil fuel funded conservative influence to control thought and opinion is powerful. It is so transparent that it is laughable yet it is so tragically effective.

    I thought Frontline did a good job of laying out the history of the politically motivated opposition to any government action to reduce CO2 emissions in the US. They covered pretty much all the important events that have led up to the current situation. I was troubled a bit by the climate scientist who admitted that the opposition to any realistic solution was overwhelming and he just wanted to be able to say he had done his best to warn the public. I wonder if that will help when he talks to his grandkids about their future. I get that sick feeling in my stomach when I think about my grandkids.

    We all know this will not be easy. We have to change everything: power generation, all forms of transportation, agriculture and industry. It is nothing like CFC’s. We had an easy substitute for that, it is having unintended consequences, but the ozone holes are slowly getting smaller so far. It is nothing like acid rain. AGW is a gargantuan problem and we sure don’t need anti-science politically motivated supporters of the fossil fuel industry confusing things. It is hard enough. Even African nations that have suffered tragic droughts from climate change cannot stop themselves from developing oil resources once they are discovered. If our problems were just confined to disruptions to the carbon cycle and an overheating planet that would definitely be enough but they are not. We are not even that lucky. I won’t list all the others here but we humans have really built a lot of booby traps into our marvelous civilization.
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  31. Thanks Chris G for checking on that part of the calculation. Can anyone recheck the rest of the calculation.

    If you are taking airplanes because it is the most effective way to spread vital messages about the need to combat global warming, I think that is perhaps one of the few legitimate uses of that mode of transport. So again, I see most critiques of Gore and others on that point disingenuous, at best.

    But saying "air travel is such a small contributor to global warming" and so is not something anyone need worry about is similarly misleading. If I cut used tires into little triangles and burn them by by the bushel in my backyard, it won't wash for me to say, "Oh, but triangular-used-tire-bit incineration is just a small part of pollution in my area."

    I is the portion of ones own contribution that should be looked at, and the fact of the matter is that there are few legal activities you can participate in that put more CO2 into the air in such a short time than riding in a big metal bird for the minutes it takes to go from ground level to five or six miles high, and from zero mph to about 600 mph.

    And of course it is a societal problem.

    But individuals are part of society. It's as if some here are saying that no-one should have participated in the bus boycotts of the south since segregation was a social problem.

    We have to organize a global "boycott" of fossil fuels, and that will take a lot of individual as well as social action (and organized non-action).
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  32. Air travel is about 5% of CO2 emissions if I remember right, so not insignificant.

    Air travel can be differentiated.

    Air travel to scientific meetings is quite likely productive and useful, though every meeting should be scrutinized for utility and impossibility of some other better substitute. There's nascent organizational movement in the direction of not mindlessly jetting around the planet (praise be to the TSA for negative reinforcement).

    Air travel to Costa Rica for an "eco adventure" seems pretty twisted; please at least don't call it "eco travel." Waltzing around Antarctica as a tourist also is a pretty strikingly ironic posture to adopt.
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  33. "If you are taking airplanes because it is the most effective way to spread vital messages about the need to combat global warming, I think that is perhaps one of the few legitimate uses of that mode of transport. So again, I see most critiques of Gore and others on that point disingenuous, at best. "

    I don't feel there is any justification warrants hoping on a plane in the current circumstances with the global communication networks and if climate change communicators say no that message would echo much louder than any lecture series given.

    "We have to organize a global "boycott" of fossil fuels, and that will take a lot of individual as well as social action (and organized non-action)."

    Agree with you here, and for me the easiest place to start is at home in any way that I can but it is a peicemeal process, such as not flying (easily done), giving up the car (not so easily done, but reducing use is easily done), turning down the thermastat a couple of degree in winter and wearing long-johns (easily done), not showering everyday (easily done), not eating so much meat (easily done), not buying high embodied enrgy items and stuff just for stuff sake (easily done), growing own veg (maybe possible), turning of lights (easily done), using a bike and walking (easily done and health improving), renovating home if have funds (doable and fascinating if you get into it), buying electricity from renewable sources (doable but needs more community thinking to realise equitabel distribution), using as little power as possible (easily doable), and so on, all adds up and let sothers see how easy it can be...but there is a limit to these actiosn where community help is required such as non fossil fuel public transportation etc....

    Therefore maybe all climate change communicators should be walking the walk as hard as they can, being examples of the possibility and helping others in everyway possible to do the same?

    Communities also have to come together to adapt to the inevitable changes coming in terms of flood mitigation, carbon sequestration, preparing for migrations without nationalistic overtones and predjudices, etc, etc,...

    350ppm is a long long long long way away, it will be a miracle if humankind can acheive this, but it does seem a goal worth going for, for anything else just seems beyond adaptation even.

    The addiction it seems to me is not to fossil fuesl but to to the power they produce, and this is a huge amount, equivalent to ~all the wind power in the atmosphere.

    Powering down is cheap easy and effective and is also a creative and fulfilling process I find.

    Lets take this seriously, climate changes are occurring at a scarey pace, we already have a massive carbon debt, do we really have the slack to spend billions of tonnes of additonal carbon and incur the additional envrionmental impacts of replacing the car fleet with electric counterparts say, when most travel could be done with public transport and there are vital amenities like hopsitals and flood defences that are likely to need all the carbon emissions we are prepared to risk in the transformation to a truly sustainable and safe..ish future.

    350ppm by 2100 means 400ppm peak and before 2020!

    And thats not counting the permafrost!
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  34. The goal is *not* to curtail air travel and go back to the dark ages. That is what opponents of action on climate change would have us believe, because obviously that is not desirable and would increase opposition to climate action. Rather, the goal is to use our great big brains to make air travel smarter, by making it more efficient and powering it with sustainable, renewable fuels.

    Boeing's Dreamliner is 20% more fuel efficient than a conventional jet because it is mostly made of carbon fiber rather than aluminum (a general principle for cars, trucks, and aircraft called " lightweighting"). Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, not to mention the U.S. Military, are committed to developing sustainable fuels for aircraft. Branson announced a low-carbon biofuel made from carbon monoxide (CO) waste from industrial processes, which would normally be flared (i.e., burned to make CO2), and he is also investigating various renewable jet fuels. The U.S. Military has shown that a 50/50 biofuel blend works well in F-22 fighter jets, and a similar fuel has even fueled a giant C-130 transport plane. Fortunately, the U.S. Military sees global warming for the real threat that it is, as they will ultimately be called upon to deal with the National Security aspects of it, such as the social unrest from hundreds of millions of climate refugees fleeing low-lying areas as sea level rises and from encroaching deserts that can no longer sustain humans.

    The Bottom Line: Al Gore or Bill McKibben's flying is a red herring ("look, squirrel!"), as the real goal is not to eliminate air travel but rather to do it sustainably.
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  35. Maybe I didn't explain it enough. I don't have much vocabulary. Moving this to a personal issue is one of their tactics, similar to attacking M. Mann personally, his character, etc, instead of his message. Talking about indivisual's action, what s/he can do or should do, and demand unrealistic, unfair conditions so that the discussions move to uncomfortable, impossible indivisual issues rather than the real ones.
    It easily becomes one of religious arguments "Who is more pious?". If you're less pious your view don't count. If you don't do enough to reduce carbon foolprint your opinion don't count becasue you must not be serious enough. How can I trust you.
    Another tactics is to move it to economic ones. They demands the whole total soutions now today otherwise it is not wise to do so or to make things too impossible to do so, or talking about the solutions perpetually with no end in sight.
    Moving this to impossiblity is one of ways to avoid to talk about it. They'd do anything to avoid to talk about it. Then wait 6 months to bring out the same old arguments again and again. You've got to keep your eye on the basic issues for now. That's my simplton's view.
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  36. I never see attempts to lower carbon emissions as an individual responsibility. Because what I may do as an individual has very little effect. Any realistic attempt to lower carbon emissions must be collective. And a price on emissions is probably the simplest and most effective collective method to achieve this. It will make flying more expensive, and that means people will do a different cost-benefit analysis before they fly. So some trips that would have been made, will not be made. And some aeroplane modifications that were not cost effective, will become cost effective.

    Saying that those arguing against emissions should not fly is self defeating. The CEI and Heartland won't feel constrained and will have their conferences and publicity, and get their message out more effectively.
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  37. John B at #36 said "what I do as an individual has very little effect"

    So adding the energy equivalent of a Hiroshima bomb to the atmosphere is what you would quantify as "very little"??

    (See my post above at #11.)

    Note that I have not said that no one arguing against emissions should fly. I agree with doug b when he says that some flights to, for example scientific meetings may be worth the added CO2, and certainly flights to do actual studies in, for example, Antarctica may be crucial. But I also agree when he says we should always look for opportunities to do things in other ways. As ranyl points out, there are lots of more energy efficient ways to communicate information across distances than ferrying our bulky bodies in metal birds. Words and images travel much more lightly on the internet or telephone wires.

    And no, larry, this is not sending us back to the dark ages (which weren't quite as dark as advertised anyway '-). It gets tiresome to have to counter "we might as well live in caves" cliches after every suggestion to modify our behavior so as to be even marginally less ecocidal.

    We have at this point locked our kids (and pretty much every other living thing) in a flammable, gasoline-soaked house with now windows, doors or other means of escape. The flame has been lit and horrible death and suffering is inescapable for most of them.

    Is it so much to ask that we each try to think of ways to dump a little less additional gas to the fire tomorrow than we did yesterday? Do we all really hate the future that much?
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  38. Wili, I'm not against people taking individual action. Only against thinking that anything other than collective action will work.
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  39. wili, there are several problems with your 'each person adds one Hiroshima every ten years' conclusion.

    I don't know exactly what Hansen said, but you paraphrased it as, 'our ghg emissions are adding the equivalent energy to the atmosphere of 400,000 Hiroshima bombs every day'.

    Assuming that is accurate I would take it to mean that the accumulated emissions of the human race over the past two hundred years (i.e. increasing atmospheric content from ~280 to ~400 ppm) have had that effect.

    You then say that the top 1 billion emitters are responsible for 80% of emissions and apparently extrapolate that to their also being responsible for 80% of the 400k hiroshimas... which isn't going to be accurate because humans do not live for 200 years and thus there are huge temporal/demographic factors which you are glossing over.

    However, if we ignore that and apply your numbers I get;

    400,000 Hiroshimas * 80% = 320,000 Hiroshimas
    320,000 Hiroshimas / 1,000,000,000 emitters = 0.00032 Hiroshimas per emitter

    That is a daily factor... for 200 years worth of emissions. To get your '10 years' I assume you are using;

    0.00032 * 10 years * 365 days = 1.168 Hiroshima

    However, that is 10 years worth of heat accumulation caused by 200 years worth of emissions... not 10 years worth of emissions.

    You can't assign all the 'blame' for heat caused by 200 years worth of accumulated emissions to people living now. The current rate of atmospheric CO2 increase is about 2 ppm per year. Taking myself as an example, 2 ppm * 40 years old * 80% / 1,000,000,0000 other people = 0.000000064 ppm. If we then ignore the logarithmic nature of CO2 forcings (which mean that the warming impact for each increase by a fixed amount decreases as the total value rises) and take the increase from 280 to 400 ppm to be responsible for the 400,000 Hiroshimas we get;

    400,000 / (400 - 280) = 3333 Hiroshimas per ppm
    3333 * 0.000000064 = 0.0002 Hiroshimas

    So, by this math, I'd have to live to be 200,000 years old to cause 1 Hiroshima worth of warming.
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  40. Wili @37: My main point was just to counter the red herring that Al Gore et al. do not "walk the walk" because they fly places. The argument distracts from discussing the essential point that we need to strive for flying (and other activities) that are low-carbon or ideally carbon-neutral, as opposed to eliminating the activity altogether. Jimmy Carter didn't inspire many people when he turned down the thermostat in the White House and put on a sweater, because unfortunately many people aren't willing to undergo what they perceive as sacrifice, and yet the need to reduce energy consumption and GHGs remains.

    That said, I fully agree with you that there is a large role for individual action, partly for its actual contribution to reducing GHGs and partly just for consciousness-raising about the moral principle that pointless waste is inherently wrong/bad and it endangers the future. Personally, I very rarely fly these days (once in the past decade), and like Jimmy Carter I actually *do* keep my thermostat at 66F in the winter and put on a flannel shirt if I'm chilly, and I have a very energy efficient house with solar panels on the roof, and I've had the same small car since 1992 that gets 33 mpg.

    In December, thousands of scientists (including some SkS people) will attend the annual AGU (American Geophysical Union) meeting in San Francisco. I wouldn't begrudge most of them for making the trip and benefitting from the exchange of information and networking, as this is how ideas and collaborations are born. But wouldn't it be great if their planes were fueled by carbon-neutral algae-based biofuel?
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  41. So the Escalator did make the final cut of the program. Congrats to the SkS team!
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  42. The reason the manipulators can use the latest proaganda tools to influencs their followers is that the followers (voters) and the manipulators have the same short term goals.
    The followers do not want to pay more for electricity (cap & trade), change their lifestyle (sacrifice anything), feel they are in control of their usually frustraiting lives (no more goverment).
    The manipulators want to continue to please their "handlers" (Exxon, Koch, ect.) and reap their benefits ($).
    The long term solution is renewable energy. Short term, fossil fuels must be used until we get to the long term.
    What if ther was a way to use fossil fuels with zero emissions AND cheaper cost?
    There is a way. Low cost pure oxygen production being developed right now, to increase efficiency and eliminate pollution and CO2 emissions.
    Coal & gas & oil burning units (including cars) would have the incentive economically, without gov intervention, to
    deploy the new technology. The followers would vote with their pocketbooks (also known as the capatalist free market system).
    It can be done quickly to turn things around.
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  43. The early stages of the PBS video, featuring snippets of speeches & interviews by CEI, Heartland, Republican contrarians, Monckton & the like crowing about their PR successes is making me feel ill.
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  44. @sincam

    If this is the low cost pure oxygen production technology you're referring to:

    Oxygen-separation membranes could aid in CO2 reduction

    ...then you still have the problem of what to do with the pure stream of CO2 that is emitted by the process. They suggest it could be sequestered in the ground, but that comes with its own set of problems, as you are well aware. And how could it possibly apply to cars? Not the panacea you make it out to be.
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  45. No. Ceramic membranes have been investigated for years. Their problem is that they require 700-900C to operate. MIT only moved the heat source to attain that temperature from the back end (exhaust heat) to the front end (incoming fuel heat).
    This new technology uses air at ambient temperature and pressure and relies on the fact that O2 is electro negative and N2 is not. This means that O2 will absorb electrons to become negative ions and N2 will give up electrons to become positive ions. Powerful forces can be generated on each molecule to separate them.
    Carbon sequestration is moving CO2 to long term storage reservoirs. The reservoirs can be underground caverns or it can be rocks (check how limestone is formed), or it can be sodium bicarbonate to feed alge, which produce fuel.
    This could also apply to cars. You go to a gas station to fill up and to recycle the captured carbon from the engine designed to run on pure oxygen and produce only H2O & CO2 (loose the pollution control equipment- not needed).
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  46. sincam, as a long-time car nut/mechanic, could you show me the source of an engine, of any type, that can run on pure O2? Not being combustible in any automotive engine I'm aware of, I need to see what documentation supports the idea. I'll also step in here and say that, other than in the form of H2, no internal combustion engine runs solely on water.
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  47. vroomie.
    You go to a gas station to fill up on hydrocarbon fuel which powers an engine designed to eficiently burn the hydrocarbon fuel with pure oxygen. The hydrogen combines with oxygen to produce heat and H2O. The carbon combines with oxygen to produce heat and CO2. The temperatures attainable are higher than using air, which contains 79% Nitrogen. The efficiency of a heat to work engine is proportional to the difference between the highest and lowest cycle temperatures (Carnot).
    The products are work, CO2 and water. The CO2 can be temporarily captued in a recyclable media, which is recycled at the gas station while you fill up. Zero emissions, much better gas mileage, higher efficiency, unbelievable power.
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  48. sincam - i think if pushed pure oxygen in the engine, you would loose the engine very quickly and very messily. You would need a complete redesign to use pure O2.
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  49. scaddenp,
    EXACTLY!!
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  50. I seem to remember a (apocryphal?) story about a car or truck accidentally being run through a wall into an area at Cape Kennedy where the air was enriched w/oxygen for some reason. If I remember rightly the main the outcome was lots of flame in the wrong places; impromptu external combustion engine, so to speak.

    Can't find the story on Google so presumably it does not even rise to the level of Internet rubbish...
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