Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What snow machines can tell us about the 21st century

Studies conducted by University of Colorado snow scientist Mark Williams and his colleagues predict that, if we continue to pollute the way we do now, skiing will be confined to the top quarter of Aspen Mountain in average years by the end of the century. Utah’s Park City Mountain Resort will have no snowpack whatsoever. The Great Melt will hit maritime ski resorts in the Cascades and Sierra even sooner. A study in New England found that only four of the region’s 14 major ski resorts will still be profitable by 2100 — if they even survive that long.
 -- "As the climate warms, skiers can kiss their Aspen goodbye"

Madeleine Thomas over at Grist has an article up with the catchy title "In the ski business, there are no climate deniers." To the optimistic mind, this might seem a herald of good things to come, as climate change's effects impact people and businesses so directly and forcefully that it's no longer practicable not to take into account. And so it may come to pass. But lurking in the latter paragraphs of the piece is a stark warning that the actions taken in response to that reality may not be what climate activists hope:
Many resorts across California, normally a Mecca for powder hounds, are being left with no option but to invest in snow-making equipment in order to stay afloat during the winter months — as much as $8 million worth within the last three years at larger resorts like Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. But making snow is not without its costs: At resorts like Big Bear Lake, snowmaking equipment can suck up to 7,000 gallons of water from the lake per minute, at a whopping $3,000 per hour.
Economic analyses of the costs of climate change typically assume rational adaptation -- sacrificing places and aspects of are way of life when sustaining them becomes expensive or impracticable. But the opposite reaction is all too plausible -- expending resources lavishly to sustain one's existing patterns of behavior.

We would like a ski resort owner to hasten to DC a purchase a piece of a Congressperson in the service of fighting climate change. But what they are doing in practice is buying snow machines. Just as the people feeling the heat in New Delhi are buying air conditioning. And not just there, of course, but all over the globe:

China is already sprinting forward and is expected to surpass the United States as the world’s biggest user of electricity for air conditioning by 2020. Consider this: The number of U.S. homes equipped with air conditioning rose from 64 to 100 million between 1993 and 2009, whereas 50 million air-conditioning units were sold in China in 2010 alone. And it is projected that the number of air-conditioned vehicles in China will reach 100 million in 2015, having more than doubled in just five years.
As urban China, Japan, and South Korea approach the air-conditioning saturation point, the greatest demand growth in the post-2020 world is expected to occur elsewhere, most prominently in South and Southeast Asia. India will predominate — already, about 40 percent of all electricity consumption in the city of Mumbai goes for air conditioning. The Middle East is already heavily climate-controlled, but growth is expected to continue there as well. Within 15 years, Saudi Arabia could actually be consuming more oil than it exports, due largely to air conditioning. And with summers warming, the United States and Mexico will continue increasing their heavy consumption of cool.
Beyond air conditioning or snow machines, desalinization of sea water, farmed fish, and vertical farming are all examples of energy-intensive "adaptation" that may make the long-term problem worse. This is something we are going to see a lot of in the come years, so we will need a name for it. You might call it local energy-intensive resistance (LEIR.)

I don't begrudge an Indian family a cool place to sleep or, indeed, a ski resort owner their snow, which is, after all, their livelihood. But from the perspective of the larger civilization, these energy- and carbon-intensive solutions are maladaptive, not adaptive. They exacerbate climate change by increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and in exchange temporarily mitigate the harm caused by those emissions. They solve the problem of over-exploitation of the natural world by exploiting it harder.

Since LEIRs are available only to the comparably well-off, they additionally have the pernicious effect of weakening solidarity in confronting a crisis that threatens both rich and poor. The ski resort owner with his snow machine is not likely to become a climate warrior, even though the cost of climate change is real and immediate to him. He has made a separate peace.




Friday, September 12, 2014

It's official: ENSO is fucking with us

We are now in the longest Nino-less period since NOAA record-keeping started:

Source
The last three-month period classified as El Nino was March-April-May of 2010. 51 months have passed since then (with more likely in the pipeline, given a 0.0 anomaly now.) This chart only goes back to 2002, but the full record shows what an anomaly this is. Fifty month gaps occur in 1959-1963 and again in 1978-1982. The present 51 months is longer than either.

So, how is this significant? Most simply, recent temperature trends are likely to under-estimate the long-term trends, unless a suppressed El Nino is a long-term consequence of AGW. That's possible, but most climate models predict El Nino will become more frequent and strong in a warmer world, rather than the converse.




Monday, June 30, 2014

Hell, yes!

In a Guardian piece on things that annoy climate scientists -- a piece that hit all the usual marks about ignorant politicians, people who don't understand uncertainty, etc. -- was this gem:
The thing that bugs me most about the way climate change is talked about in the media is journalists citing scientific papers without providing a link to the original paper.
Readers often want to get more details or simply check sources, but this is very difficult (or sometimes impossible) if the source is not given. I've raised this a few times, and get lame excuses like 'readers get frustrated when the journals are paywalled' but that's not good enough. Media should provide sources – end of.
-- Professor Richard Betts, chair in Climate Impacts at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, UK

 Dear God, that irritates me to no end! Not only no link, but often they don't even give you the name of the paper, or the issue of the journal it's in! (Or is going to be in.) It's 2014, cite your fucking sources! Preach it, Dr Betts, preach it!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Good Anthropocene" and other clickbait

Well, Andrew Revkin successfully suckered me into listening to his talk. The faux-controversy over the title and Clive Hamilton's hissy fit sucked me in.

Nowhere in the talk does Revkin actually say that we are going to have a good Anthropocene. It's mostly just Revkin being Revkin -- "Don't scare the nice people, wear more bright colors, you'll never find a husband if you don't smile more."

Clive Hamilton's response, meanwhile, could be a prearranged piece of performance art intended to strengthen Revkin's argument about the limitations of "Woe is me, shame on you" rhetoric:
In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”
Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.
- See more at: http://clivehamilton.com/the-delusion-of-the-good-anthropocene-reply-to-andrew-revkin/#sthash.elSdryoA.dpuf
In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”
Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.
- See more at: http://clivehamilton.com/the-delusion-of-the-good-anthropocene-reply-to-andrew-revkin/#sthash.elSdryoA.dpuf
In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”
Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.
- See more at: http://clivehamilton.com/the-delusion-of-the-good-anthropocene-reply-to-andrew-revkin/#sthash.elSdryoA.dpuf
In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”
Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.
- See more at: http://clivehamilton.com/the-delusion-of-the-good-anthropocene-reply-to-andrew-revkin/#sthash.elSdryoA.dpuf
In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”
Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.
- See more at: http://clivehamilton.com/the-delusion-of-the-good-anthropocene-reply-to-andrew-revkin/#sthash.elSdryoA.dp
In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”

Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.
untly. In short, I think those who argue for the “good Anthropocene” are unscientific and live in a fantasy world of their own construction. - See more at: file:///Users/robertfarrell8/Downloads/The%20Delusion%20of%20the%20%E2%80%9CGood%20Anthropocene%E2%80%9D_%20Reply%20to%20Andrew%20Revkin%20@%20Clive%20Hamilton.html#sthash.zbjDOsCe.dpuf
In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”
Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.
- See more at: http://clivehamilton.com/the-delusion-of-the-good-anthropocene-reply-to-andrew-revkin/#sthash.elSdryoA.dpuf
In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”
Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.
- See more at: http://clivehamilton.com/the-delusion-of-the-good-anthropocene-reply-to-andrew-revkin/#sthash.elSdryoA.dpuf
Why not say the word "bad" a few more times, Clive, then I'm sure we'll get it.

The irony of this is that Revkin's "Smile more" argument cuts very little ice with me or, really, anyone, but if you wanted to drive the point home that the rhetoric of "Woe is me, shame on you" is dominating the climate discourse to an unhealthy extent, you could not do better than to point to Clive's demand that we all unite behind a vision of the 21st century as an unending hell of pain and despair in which the living will envy the dead.

I think Revkin underestimates the power of shaming and blaming in the process of achieving social change, as I've argued before. But that doesn't excuse Hamilton. Look, one of the fundamental principles of rhetoric is that you vary your approach. From Lincoln to King to Kennedy, you can see this principle in action. Long sentences and short sentences. More formal language and more colloquial language. Conciliation and righteous anger. Anything which is unvarying and repetitive becomes wearying and, ultimately, background noise.

So what if Revkin wants to spin things a little happier and Hamilton wants to play the role of a discount Hebrew prophet? Can that variety not also be a source of strength and persuasiveness? Has Hamilton never heard of Good cop/Bad cop?
In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”
Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.
- See more at: http://clivehamilton.com/the-delusion-of-the-good-anthropocene-reply-to-andrew-revkin/#sthash.pOAOt3bb.dpuf
In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”
Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.
- See more at: http://clivehamilton.com/the-delusion-of-the-good-anthropocene-reply-to-andrew-revkin/#sthash.pOAOt3bb.dpuf
In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”
Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.
- See more at: http://clivehamilton.com/the-delusion-of-the-good-anthropocene-reply-to-andrew-revkin/#sthash.pOAOt3bb.dpuf
In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”
Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.
- See more at: http://clivehamilton.com/the-delusion-of-the-good-anthropocene-reply-to-andrew-revkin/#sthash.pOAOt3bb.dpuf

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Chart from the Wikipedia

Source
So a few interesting things here that we maybe all know, but are worth reviewing. Fossil fuels are dominating the energy mix in every sense. They are the largest component of the energy mix, and they are growing the fastest. We would need between five and six times the amount of low-carbon energy currently in existence to phase out fossil fuels, assuming demand remained static. And demand is not going to remain static.

Renewables produce twice the energy provided by nuclear power plants. An inconvenient truth for climate-conscious white individualist hierarchist males who whilst crying up nuclear power delight in dismissing renewables as pie-in-the-sky hippie moondust, but the truth, nonetheless.

And the excuse that this is mostly hydropower, and hydropower can't be scaled up, won't wash here, because we can see renewable energy as a category is rapidly growing -- if only the hydro resources matter, where is the growth coming from?

When I look at the share of fossil fuels, though, and the tiny shares of its rivals, I'm reminded of how guerrila organizations like the IRA or Fatah and Hamas, faced with an overwhelmingly powerful and dominant force, turn on each other and their own people in sheer frustration, fighting over turf like rival gangs, murdering informants, acting like criminals.

It's stupid and self-destructive, but sometimes when you're tired of losing you ache for a fight you can win. For environmentalists, nuclear is an easy target, because it's unpopular, expensive, and people are just plain afraid of it. All things we wish could be said about fossil fuels. The environmental movement, aided by public mistrust and fear and lack of corporate investment, are within striking distance of shutting down an entire industry. It's just that it's the wrong one.

What the hippie-punching nuke-boosters want is a little more complex. I don't think it's really about the climate for them. They want to fight the cultural wars, bash greens, promote big and manly and heterosexual things -- but they are smart enough not to go down the road of denying the science.

And the beauty of it is, they don't have to! By lining up with James Hansen and other smart greens behind a policy of more clean nuclear energy, they have found the one part of the argument between environmentalists and conservatives that they can actually win. For once they have (a part of the) real solutions, and the other side is sticking their heads in the sand.

Meanwhile the first column keeps growing.

UPDATE:



 H/t blueshift, via the Rabett, from BP.

What this chart adds to our understanding is that, as far as the last decade is concerned, anti-nuclear environmentalists are winning the aforementioned pointless catfight. And what they have won is a total stagnation in the proportional of non-fossil-fuel energy. And make no mistake, the blue line is what history will judge us on.