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2023 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #2

Posted on 14 January 2023 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news and opinion articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Jan 8, 2023  thru Sat, Jan 14, 2023.

Story of the Week 

Relentless Rise of Ocean Heat Content Drives Deadly Extremes

The heat of global warming will keep penetrating deeper into the oceans for centuries after greenhouse gas emissions cease.

Sea Ice Greenland

Photo by William Bossen on Unsplash

Ocean heat content reached a new record high for the fourth year in a row, scientists said Wednesday as they released their annual measurements of ocean heat accumulating down to a depth of more than a mile.

The findings published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Science show that just in the past year, the planet’s seas absorbed about 10 Zetta joules of heat—equivalent to 100 times the world’s total annual electricity production.

The scientists found that the warmth keeps working its way deeper into the ocean, as greenhouse gases have trapped so much heat that the oceans’ deeper waters will continue to warm for centuries after humans stop using fossil energy.

Oceans cover 71 percent of Earth’s surface and have absorbed more than 90 percent of the heat energy trapped by greenhouse gases since the start of the industrial age, dominating the global climate system. Measuring their temperature is one of the best ways to accurately track how Earth’s fever has kept rising since 2016, when the global average surface temperature peaked. 

Co-author John Fasullo, a climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said there are still open technical questions about the use of ocean heat content as a metric of climate change, “but our expectation is that ocean heat content more clearly resolves the march of climate change relative to other indices, such as surface temperature, which have more year to year variability.”

Click here to access the entire article as originally posted on the Inside Climate News website.

Relentless Rise of Ocean Heat Content Drives Deadly Extremes by Bob Berwyn, Science, Inside Climate News, Jan 11, 2023

Links posted on Facebook

Sun, Jan 8, 2023

Mon, Jan 9, 2023

Tue, Jan 10, 2023

Wed, Jan 11, 2023

Thu, Jan 12, 2023

Fri, Jan 13, 2023

Sat, Jan 14, 2023

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Comments 1 to 27:

  1. Five years ago I still believed that humanity would avoid extinction whenever possible. I'm now confident that I was wrong. I see the next generation's ruling elites taking part in climate deception, and then the next if there is a next. 

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  2. EddieEvans,

    I am optimistic about the future of humanity. Human history appears to have a long-term trend towards individual activity being governed by ‘the pursuit of increased awareness and improved understanding of what is harmful’. There appears to be more thoughtful leadership limiting the harm done, encouraging people to be more accepting of harmless differences, and encouraging people to be more helpful to Others.

    I am encouraged by the development of important global understandings like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Sustainable Development Goals, and even the ‘inadequate so far’ global agreements to limit the harm done by climate change impacts.

    Some powerful groups try to fight against helpful harm reducing learning. But it is unlikely that their attempts to stifle learning will succeed in the long-term. Unfortunately, as the climate change challenge proves, a lot of harm can be done while they fight their losing battle against improving the future for humanity.

    However, I understand that the long-term winners may be the disastrous cases in the past where ‘interests contrary to learning to be less harmful’ become permanently powerful by resisting learning to develop sustainable improvements.

    It is tragic when undeserving winners of power and perceptions of superiority relative to others can over-power learning to be less harmful. It is discouraging to see supposedly more advanced people fail to effectively govern and limit harm done. They set very bad examples that others can be tempted to aspire down to (a potentially tragic downward spiral).

    Hopefully more people are learning to be less harmful fast enough to govern and limit the harm done by the pursuits of 'more perceptions of superiority' by people who resist learning to be less harmful.

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  3. I'm basing my comment on what I'm reading and seeing on the Internet and in books. Global ocean warming cannot be stopped or turned around any time soon, and there's plenty of CO2 in the pipeline even if, and when humanity gets it right.

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  4. Eddie... @1: Human extinction is highly unlikely in any scenario. Extinctions (plural) of a broad range of wild species is ongoing and likely to worsen. Those extinctions have impacts on humanity. High emissions scenarios could produce a collapse of modern society as we know it. That would entail a great deal of human suffering. But actual human extinction isn't likely.

    @3: The recent research on "warming in the pipeline" is suggesting this is incorrect. Once we get carbon emissions down to "net zero" (to the point where atmospheric concentrations stabilize) warming is expected to stop. Currently, with renewables scaling exponentially, we could get to net zero by mid-century. (Haufather)

    Climate related impacts are certainly going to keep getting worse until we can get our emissions stabilized. Bringing them back down to, say 350ppm, isn't in the cards any time in the foreseeable future. Thus, I think the climate we have for quite a while is the one where we stabilize emissions. That's a very different world than the one most of us were born into.

    ...but, again, human extinction? No.

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  5. At the risk of being dogmatic, your assessment seems to miss the warming ocean, which cannot be cooled in any foreseeable future. Nuclear weapons, population pressures, plague, and overall loss of sustainable habitat tell me we'll live up to our history, we'll kick the can down the road, and pass the buck to the next generation until there is no next generation. I'm pointing to what I'm reading, seeing, and hearing, and my personal experience. The question is not if, but when. Science cannot answer this question because it's a bit metaphysical. We have no crystal ball, only our history on thi planet.

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  6. EddieEvans @1,3&5,

    The threat to humanity is not the extinction of our species. The threat is the collapse of the world economy and a descent into a future where the sovereign state system is replaced by an anarchy. The further we push the climate and thus also the natural world, the more likely that threat will become a reality.

    The idea of there being "plenty of CO2 in the pipeline" is worth a few words. The IPCC has for some time set out the science which links the rise in global temperature we face with the accumulative CO2 emissions reached at the point of 'net zero', as per AR5 Fig SPM.10 below. As we know the CO2 emissions so far, that sets a budget of CO2 for any measure of temperature rise. And it appears humanity is struggling to stay within a budget commenserate with a +1.5ºC rise, indeed struggling to admit there is any such budget.

    AR% fig SMP.10

    But do note that to curtail the temperature rise for a CO2 budget, the 'net zero' event is now followed by decades of 'net negative' when CO2 is drawn down more quickly than nature would manage alone (amounts depending on the scenario) with (for the SSP1-1.9 projections) all our emissions ~2007-to-'net zero' extracted as 'negative' emissions.

    And the "warming oceans" you mention are actually a bit of a blessing. Once the energy balance out into space is restored, the "warming oceans" will maintain a cooling of surface temperatures. But of course we do need to get the energy balance up above zeroed.

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  7. If you are following US politics, you may believe that descent is underway. It would not matter in any case. I refer to history, especially after US President Johnson pointed to the issue in 1965, over half a century ago. I also refer to Jame's Speth "They Knew: The US Federal Government’s Fifty-Year Role in Causing the Climate Crisis," and Juliana vs The United States Government. James Hansen recently co-authored a paper on CO2 in the pipeline, and it was not encouraging. Then there's global dimming and the rest, not to mention Arctic Sea ice melt, which no one has found a way to rectify. I could go on and on. I have not seen research on cooling the global ocean in any short-term scenario. What I'm reading says "hundreds of years," at least. If you have more comforting information, I would enjoy seeing it. We have no idea what we are handing to the next generation.   "Nature is very complex to think about, and probably more complex than we can think."

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  8. Here's a recent pipeline article by James Hansen. It took some searching.

    "6.14 Recently, the first author (JEH) of our present paper published a
    qualitative description of the decade-long investigation that led to the conclusion that most climate models are unrealistically insensitive to freshwater injected by melting ice and also that ice sheet models are unrealistically lethargic in the face of rapid, large climate change.15"

    Not to be obnoxious, but I did want to refer to James Hansen. Also, if you believe that a warming ocean is a "blessing" to humanity, you might want to take that up with residents in Maimi, Maryland, Vietnam (Mekong Delta, a rice bowl to millions), China, and an assortment of Pacific islanders. Then there's the plankton surviving in a warming ocean, never before tested in human history. Biodiversity in the Global Ocean will become stressed beyond the bounds of natural selection and loss of habitat for unknown numbers of ocean ecosystems. 

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  9. Eddie... Regarding the Hansen paper, note it's not a peer reviewed paper, yet. It's going to go through revisions prior to being published. Take this pre-review version with an appropriate quantity of salt (even from Hansen).

    @5... No, I'm not ignoring ocean heat. What I stated is, once we stabilize CO2 concentrations warming will stop. Please read the Hausfather explainer I linked to.

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  10. I'm not sure where to find you link; I must have missed it.

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  11. Eddie: Rob linked to the Hausfather paper at the end of paragraph 2 in comment #4. The text only displays "Hausfather", but the lin is there if you click on it.

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  12. Thanks for helping me out with the Hausfather paper. It took a couple of readings but is worth the time. It clarifies the "mixing of two different concepts: a world where CO2 levels in the atmosphere remain at current levels; and a world where emissions reach net zero and concentrations begin to fall." I believe that I was at the latter, "a world where emissions reach net zero and concentrations begin to fall." That was some years ago, and it seemed intuitive. Somewhere I became interested in the former and forgot the latter. I remind myself of today's biggest climate literacy problem, how many voters mix weather and climate. (My in-laws) I will summarize the article and make a robotic read video for Youtube.

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  13. Honeycutt@4

    "Once we get carbon emissions down to "net zero""

    The mistake scientists are making is assuming so strongly that we will get to net-zero emissions, that they are already saying there is no warming in the pipeline because we will get to net-zero emissions. There is no evidence to suggest that we will reach net-zero emissions, but there is ample evidence to suggest that we will continue with emissions sufficiently high to effectively guarantee warming in the pipeline.

    It is merely a theoretical conclusion that there need not be warming in the pipeline, but this is a theoretical conclusion that currently appears to be completely disconnected from our actions. I am planning my life and recommending that others plan as though there is warming in the pipeline. If, not when, we get emissions under control, we will be that much better off. But so far, nothing we have done has slowed the upward acceleration of the Keeling Curve. There is lots of talk and plans, but it is relatively easy to get a small sector of the world to agree on what we need to do. It is an entirely different matter to get the rest of the world to follow suit.

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  14. "But so far, nothing we have done has slowed the upward acceleration of the Keeling Curve."

    I cannot ignore the past, and there's more than enough evidence to show the role of government and fossil fuel's role in the Keeling Curve's relentless climb. James Speth, "They Knew" and Juliana vs The United States ), and the Climate Files scream at us to stop burning fossil fuels.

    We have no real cause to doubt the inexorable climb of the Keeling Curve and our reliance on passing the buck to the next generation, as they will do to the next generation. 

    I have a sense of the frustration Galileo must have felt.

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  15. Take a look at the following curve that I published in Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution. It suggests a very strong connection between population and the accumulation rate of CO2 in the atmosphere, spanning many different levels of technology and governance. It also illustrates our path to net zero emissions, even though this graph only shows our path to stabilizing CO2, and not to net zero emissions. My point in bringing this up is that we must not speak confidently of reaching net zero emissions as though it will happen. If all we did was to follow the path to net zero accumulation, that would still leave "warming in the pipeline".

    Plot showing accumulation rate of CO2 vs population

    I also offer thoughts on this issue in a separate post, Climate Confusion, where I address this issue of prematurely concluding that there is no longer warming in the pipeline. Some people are becoming confused by the scientific messaging, thinking that warming in the pipeline represents old science. The only way we avoid warming in the pipeline is by going beyond atmospheric CO2 stabilization and getting it to drop. Here is a graph of what the warming would look like if we stabilized CO2 immediately, and reached net zero emissions by 2100.

    Warming in the pipeline for net zero emissions reached by 2100

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  16. Evan @13... I don't think "scientists" make such a mistake, nor do they make specific assertions about whether we will or won't get to net zero. 

    Climate research offer up a very wide range of potential outcomes, since obviously no one can predict future events. All researchers are doing is saying "if" we get to net zero (and there certainly is a chance we can achieve this in the next 30 years) then warming should stop as we reach that level.

    You say, "But so far, nothing we have done has slowed the upward acceleration of the Keeling Curve." I think the challenge there is, when you're at the inflection point it's very hard to determine where the trend is going to go by eyeballing charts. 

    I remain positive on this topic because I do see things are happening. Every day when I read the news I see new technologies and new strategies aimed at elimination of greenhouse gases. I know that renewable energy is now the cheapest energy available and is continuing to fall in cost, and it's now scaling exponentially. 

    I also find pessimism to be a mindset that robs people of motivation to achieve new things. By framing the issue as "we're screwed" tends to act as a self fulfilling prophecy.

    I am realistic in that I know for certain things are going to get worse. The tasks ahead are gargantuan. The impacts are going to affect different people to different degrees. But there are levels of how bad this gets. As Dr. Stephen Schneider said, "'End of the world' and 'good for us' are the two lowest probability outcomes." 

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  17. Thanks Rob for your comments.

    I agree with most of your points, but differ in messaging. Climate scientists, and even yourself, use the phrase "Once we get carbon emissions down to net zero," as though it is a foregone conclusion that we will. For the not-so-well-informed, watching from a distance layperson, one could get the feeling that we've found a way out of our mess, that we're well on our way, and that the current rollout of renewable energy and EVs will solve the problem. Yes, there are promising technologies, but rolling them out across the globe and replacing, not supplementing the fossil-fuel industry, is quite another matter. This all assumes, of course, the renewable energy is replacing fossil-fuel energy. Or is renewable energy merely allowing cheap expansion of more generating capacity? Rapid growth of renewable energy does not mean we are reducing emissions.

    And as you well know, energy consumption is just one part of the problem.

    I am not trying to spread pessimism. I am trying to help people prepare for a likely future. It is far more likely that we will have warming in the pipeline for decades to come, than not. It is far more likely that our current CO2 concentrations represent committed warming than not. The fact that the future theoretically lies in our hands and depends on what we do, cannot be construed to give us a likely future where we get to net zero emissions by 2050.

    Take a look at the following graph, where I've taken the 1970-2005 upward accelerating trend line and projected it forward. The 2010, 2015, and 2020 data all lie about this upward accelerating trend line! I don't see any indication of an inflection point. What I do see is a hint, not proof, but a hint that the trend line is more than accelerating upwards.

    For all of our sakes Rob I hope you're right and that I'm wrong. But the Keeling Curve only tells me one message. Time to prepare for a very tough future. We're in the middle of building a house now, and we're putting a lot of money into building it strong, into a ground-source heat pump, and into an expensive roof that can withstand high winds and hail. In short, the Keeling Curve is suggesting that we must build far beyond current building codes to keep up with the changing climate.

    I am serious, though, when I say that I hope you're right and I'm wrong. I don't want to be a pessimist. But I do want to help people prepare for the likely future.

    Upward accelerating Keeling Curve

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  18. Evan... Oh, we absolutely will get to net zero carbon emissions. There's no doubt about that. It's a little like flying an airplane. You're eventually going to land, it's just a matter of how you land.

    My personal optimism comes from the fact that energy technologies are coming forth in rapid succession. Years back I remember wondering why so much money was being poured into off-shore wind when the cost was >$300/MW. Then, I watched turbines escalate in size and fall in cost and I went, "Ohhh..." Same is happening with grid storage now. There are certainly going to be physical constraints to each solution that comes to market, but fortunately lots of solutions are coming to market.

    All (or nearly all) energy generation plants are going to be replaced over the coming 30+ years. It already makes little sense to invest in new FF plants. There are aspects of decarbonization that are going to be more tenatious problems to solve, but I know smart people are eager to work on those problem. My larger 30,000 ft level view concern is the general notion out there that nothing is being done, and it's just plain wrong. People have been working on this for decades and those efforts are clearly bearing fruit.

    Regarding the Keeling Curve, I believe it's going to be a lagging indicator of what's happening, and figures related to the growth of renewables (which have been tragically underestimated) is more of a leading indicator.

    The biggest wild card, in my mind, is human behavior. We're sure to see some pretty serious socio-political upheaval over the coming 30 years. My biggest concern is whether such disruptions will further delay progress right as we need to further accelerate progress.

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  19. I'm not sure on what basis you say that we will get to net zero emissions. Yes, airplanes eventually run out of gas and crash. If that's what you're referring to, then it is a moot point. When we talk about getting to net zero emissions I am framing it in the context of doing so while simultaneously preserving something that resembles our current civilization. That represents a planned landing, not a crash.

    The problem with talking about net zero emissions is that this is only one component of what drives the Keeling Curve. I originally responded in this thread to the issue of whether there is effectively warming in the pipeline. That is governed by the behavior of the Keeling Curve. Even if we get our emissions to 0, we may have already triggered feedbacks that cause atmospheric CO2 to continue to rise. That is, the longer we delay, the less we are able to affect the behavior of the Keeling Curve.

    Long story short, given the difficulty of reducing our emissions, and given that even if we reduce our emissions that feedbacks in the system may continue to drive the Keeling Curve upwards, I think it a far safer bet to assume that there is warming in the pipeline equivalent to the current atmospheric CO2 concentrations. It's been 35 years since the IPCC was established, and if history has taught us anything, it takes far longer than people project to bring about the kind of change needed to reach net zero emissions.

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  20. Evan... I was being sarcastic by inferring a complete collapse of modern civilization would also bring us to net zero.

    This is the element of your statements that I'm challenging here: "...even if we reduce our emissions that feedbacks in the system may continue to drive the Keeling Curve upwards..."

    Two years ago I would have agreed. Based on more recent research it's far from certain and may not be correct at all. 

    I think one other thing history teaches us is that early research is slow, difficult and costly (and that's where we've been). But once we get to a cost effective point markets can scale very quickly (and that's where we're headed). This very moment in history we are probaly at the inflection point between those two.

    Renewable energy markets have been ploughing through R/D, getting through the expensive Valley of Death, and are now emerging with highly profitable businesses. I think the challenges in the coming 30 years are going to be more related to resource availability over carbon emissions. Those are infinitely better challenges for humanity to face over a civilization ending 4°C+ planet.

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  21. Rob,

    "Those are infinitely better challenges for humanity to face over a civilization ending 4°C+ planet."

    Obviously I agree with this statement. But for the large voting population that still thinks climate scientists are being alarmists and feel that we can easily adapt, they will be more concerned about the supposed negative economic impact of taking action than they will be about the impact of a "small" amount of warming. I get this specific feedback from a lot of people whose opinions I respect.

    I will change my view of the future when the upward acceleration of the Keeling Curve begins to slow. Not before.

    Rob, you are making business analogies and projections which I respect, but businesses are usually selling things that people want. Getting to net zero requires an awful lot of negative emissions technologies that are effectively a tax, things that are likely to be strongly opposed.

    My point is this. The more we sell to the not-very-well-informed people the idea that the future lies in our hands (i.e., future warming depends on future emissions and not past emissions), and the more we sell the idea that there is a renewable energy and EV revolution that will drastically cut our emissions, the more likely they will believe that all is well and no need to worry. We are effectively removing their impetus for revolutionary change and accepting evolutionary change as sufficient.

    The Hausfather paper indicates that an immediate 70% reduction in emissions would get us to stabilizing atmopheric CO2 emissions, which effectively leaves warming in the pipeline (read here). That's 70% of emissions across the entire world and across every sector, including agriculture and deforestation. And that massive effort still leaves warming in the pipeline. Then year on year that 70% reduction has to grow to keep theatmospheric CO2 concentration from increasing.

    Therefore, (repeating myself here) I continue to advise people to expect that the current atmospheric CO2 levels correspond to committed warming. If and when the upward accelerationg of the Keeling Curve begins to slow, I will modify that advice. Until then, I think it prudent advice.

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  22. Rob,

    "Based on more recent research it's far from certain and may not be correct at all."

    Can you provide a reference to recent research that is downplaying the effect of feedbacks?

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  23. Evan... The paper I'm referring to is the same Hausfather paper. In the link we've both cited the lede to the article seems pretty clear.

    Media reports frequently claim that the world is facing “committed warming” in the future as a result of past emissions, meaning higher temperatures are “locked in”, “in the pipeline” or “inevitable”, regardless of the choices society takes today.

    The best available evidence shows that, on the contrary, warming is likely to more or less stop once carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reach zero, meaning humans have the power to choose their climate future. [emphasis added]


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  24. Rob, rather than a long rebuttal, I refer you to a paper I published recently on this very subject titled "Climate Confusion." In it I deal with the very subject we're discussing, and reference the Hausfather paper.

    There are only very special conditions where we don't have warming in the pipeline: all of humanity come together to do the right thing and nature plays nice. I will continue to point people to the Keeling Curve as the best assessment of how we're doing and what to expect. In the meantime, Hausfather's paper presents a result of a scientific modeling study, and is not an assessment of the likely trajectory of the Keeling Curve.

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  25. I have been an interested follower of this discussion. I am optimistic about humanity in the long term, but pessimistic about the short term.

    My current understanding is that when the Keeling Curve levels off, when human activity is no longer causing CO2 levels to increase, there should not be a significant further increase of the global average surface temperature.

    However, I also understand that increasing temperatures will activate feedback mechanisms that will increase CO2 levels. Therefore, before the Keeling Curve is levelled off, any activated feedback mechanisms will require more reduction of human impacts than would have been required before the feedbacks were triggered. In other words, more warming makes it harder for humans to reduce human impacts enough to ‘level-off the Keeling Curve’ (get to net-zero).

    Also, the science (from decades ago) indicates that warming above 1.0 C risks significant harm (now proven). And warming beyond 2.0 C is considered to be very risky (hopefully never proven). That understanding is the basis for the 1.5 C objective that is paired with the need to limit the peak impact level to less than 2.0 C. (Refer to the Story of the Week “1.5 and 2°C: A Journey Through the Temperature Target That Haunts the World” in the “2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #50”)

    Developed governing economic ideology is justifiably questioned. The short term competitive pursuit of status interests over-powering the reduction of harm is detrimental to the global future of humanity. Also, the perceived need for constant growth of activity that is perceived to be profitable develops harmful results.

    The removal of excess CO2, levels above 1.5 C impacts, is now almost certain to be required. CO2 impacts exceeding 1.5 C are ‘in the pipeline’ because it will take time to correct the current harmfully over-developed activity that is the result of a lack of actions to limit impacts through the past 30 years. And the marketplace will not naturally develop CO2 removal to bring peak human impacts back down to 1.5 C levels because that will never be a profitable activity. External governing will be required to make it happen.

    External governing of economic activity will also be required to limit the amount that impacts exceed 1.5 C before they are drawn back down. A key understanding is that the area under the global average temperature curve needs to be minimized to limit the future challenges. The more that 1.5 C level of impacts is exceeded the more harm is done. The longer the 1.5 C level is exceeded the more harm is done. But the required changes of the developed governing socioeconomic-political systems are contrary to ‘popular developed socioeconomic ideology and the developed status-quo’.

    So, in my comment @2 I expressed optimism about the long term future of humanity. However, I am also pessimistic about how harmful the impacts of the ‘over-developed harmful marketplace system fuelled by marketing that is focused on promoting positive impressions’ will be before that system is corrected (I made a similar point in my comment @4 on the SkS item “Can induction stoves convince home cooks to give up gas?”). That pessimism will be reduced when a significant amount of ‘unprofitable’ CO2 removal facilities are operating. The sooner those ‘correction of harm done’ facilities are operating the sooner there is justification for optimism that there will be a sustained improving future for humanity.

    Many of the supposedly highest status people today are obliged to pay for carbon removal facilities to be built and operated in the current day. That activity cannot ethically be pushed off to be a ‘future, development that will continue to face reluctance to be implemented because it is not profitable’. And it is important for those ‘unpopular and unprofitable’ facilities to be almost certain to be harmless. Less expensive and ‘more harmful in other ways’ ways of appearing to reduce the harm of CO2 need to be understood to be unacceptable. It is important to see evidence of leadership pursuing the limiting of harm done, not claiming to be reducing harm done by actions that are harmful in other ways. All harmful impacts need to be limited to sustainable Planetary Boundary levels of impact, not just CO2.

    Therefore, I am hopeful and optimistic about the long term future of humanity. But I am skeptical/pessimistic regarding how soon there will be evidence to support that optimism. I am justifiably concerned about how much harm will be done that future generations have to overcome in order to develop sustainable improvements. Sustainable improvements can be achieved almost Forever within the Boundaries of this One Amazing Planet if that is a governing objective, which it really should be.

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  26. OPOF, thank you for your comments. We missed you in this conversation. :-)

    "My current understanding is that when the Keeling Curve levels off, when human activity is no longer causing CO2 levels to increase, there should not be a significant further increase of the global average surface temperature."

    According to the best climate science, IF, not when, the Keeling Curve levels off, we will still have "warming in the pipeline". To have no significant further increase of global average temperature the Keeling Curve must decrease, as would happen for a time if we were to reach net-zero emissions. This is what I address in my recent paper Climate Confusion.

    I wrote that paper because there is confusion about the implications of different emissions pathways. Many are thinking that recent scientific research shows that we can limit the warming to no more than we've already caused, but as Hausfather notes, this science dates back to 2008 and is not a new result.

    "The best available evidence shows that, on the contrary, warming is likely to more or less stop once carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reach zero, meaning humans have the power to choose their climate future.

    When scientists have pointed this out recently, it has been reported as a new scientific finding. However, the scientific community has recognised that zero CO2 emissions likely implied flat future temperatures since at least 2008. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 special report on 1.5C also included a specific focus on zero-emissions scenarios with similar findings"

    But it's rise to prominence now is causing confusion between what happens if the Keeling Curve levels off and what happens if we reach net-zero emissions. These are two different scenarios, but the science behind each has been known for a long time and is not a new result.

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  27. Evan,

    I appreciate the value of the Keeling Curve as evidence that the required change of direction of over-developed harmful human ways of living is occurring. And, of course, my concern is all harms, not just climate change harm. But the generalized point can be made by focusing on climate change.

    Developed popular and profitable climate change harm, the powerful resistance to ending the harm, and the even stronger resistance to repairing the harm done, is a clear example of many other harmful impacts developed by misleading marketplace over-development of human ways of living. And a very harmfully misleading aspect is a focus on the positives. That focus on the positives delays and resists learning about the negatives. It also excuses the negatives ‘because of the perceived positives’. An example of climate change impact reduction misleading marketing is the Alberta production of oil sands for export being claimed to be working towards being net-zero by 2050. That sounds good until you realize that there will be other harms produced by the activity in Alberta, potentially even new harms as a result of ‘focusing on the positives’ of the actions that ‘get to net-zero carbon impact of the part of the fossil fuel system happening in Alberta’. And the real eye-popping negative is that actions ‘outside of Alberta’ related to those ‘net-zero Alberta exports’ are not going to be close to net-zero. The total global impacts needs to be ‘net-zero’, not just parts of it. However, the impacts of people already living better than basic decent lives need to lead the transition to ‘total global net-zero’. So Alberta oil sands production becoming net-zero by 2035 would be genuinely helpful, with the understanding that before 2060 there would be no export market for what Alberta wants to benefit from exporting export.

    Back to the Keeling Curve. In spite of the value of the Keeling Curve the more important measure of the required transition to limit harm done is the amount of global average surface temperature increase above pre-industrial levels. The uncertainty of the relationship between CO2 levels and resulting average temperature makes the temperature a more relevant measure. The science strives to narrow the range of CO2 levels to be targeted. But the understanding that 1.0 C is where we should be striving to eventually get back to in order to limit future harmful consequences is clear. And the CO2 levels for 1.0 C warming are now well known (proven due to the lack of corrections of development direction to limit harm done to 1.0 C). And the CO2 levels for 1.5 C warming will also almost certainly become known in the near future. Hopefully the CO2 levels for 2.0 C warming will never be proven by the lack of correction of human development. That is the ‘BIG IF’. The science is clear that ‘when’ the upper limit on global harm is reached the the higher the magnitude of that peak the more harm is done to the future. And the harm done includes the extra unprofitable effort required to bring the level of harm back down below 1.5 C. And the sooner it is brought back down the better. The science also indicates the disastrous consequences ‘If’ the correction does not happen, or happens too slowly (and the correction has been happening too slowly because of the incorrect economic ideology that requires ‘perpetually more, never less, especially never less for people with higher status and more power’).
    Important points are:

    • ‘When’ is the appropriate term for the science of climate change impacts.
    • ‘If’ is the term for socioeconomic-political results.

    So my current understanding is that ‘when’, scientifically, total global human activity transforms to the point of no longer causing accumulating global warming impacts, and continues to transform to reducing CO2 levels at an increasing rate, there may even be a delay of response in the Keeling Curve.

    The annual rate of human impacts is the important item to track. And the Keeling Curve is one of many measures for tracking harmful human impacts. Global fossil fuel use is another way to track things. The current situation is ‘human activity impacts cause significant annual increase of CO2 levels’. The curve of human impacts on CO2 levels needs to be brought down to ‘Zero’ and continue to be brought below zero, removing CO2, to limit and repair the harm done by human impacts. Admittedly some of the harm done will not be able to be repaired. And some of the repairs, like reversing glacier retreat (regrowing glaciers), may take a long time. So limiting the magnitude of harm done needs to be the ‘governing objective’ rather than compromising that objective by attempting to protect developed status quo perceptions.

    That leads to understanding that continuing to ‘grow global economic perceptions based on the developed ideology that promotes the positives and tries really hard to ignore or dismiss the negatives’ makes the future required corrections more dramatic. And, pushed too far, the result will be socioeconomic-political collapse that ‘catches a lot of people by surprise’.

    Optimism for the future of humanity does require the ‘ending of harm done’ to be ‘when not if’. There is no improving future for humanity ‘if harmful ways of living are not ended’. Developing harmless replacements for developed harmful ways of living can help. But some 'developed popular and profitable activities' likely need to be 'restricted to only help the poorest live better'. And the amount of harm done to the future continues to increase until the harmful activity is ended. And improving the future requires efforts to repair the harm already done. And all of that is contrary to developed popular socioeconomic-political ideology.

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