This is james cobban's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following james cobban's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
james cobban
Recent Activity
Daniel, I'm surprised at your vitriol. I've been visiting this site daily for more than five years now, and I've never found that anything Bill (not Bob) Fothergill has written has reflected poorly on him. To the contrary, I think he embodies the best of this community, both in his demeanor and in the quality of his comments. To suggest that Bill is uninterested in learning about Arctic science is absurd - he is surely one of the best informed of us all. But it is obvious that you too have much to contribute, so I hope that we can all carry on like the gentle folk that we are on this blog.
@Hans "Anyone with a link or theory would be..." Last October Alex Smith over at Radio Ecoshock interviewed Dr. James Curran, formerly the head of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. In a nutshell, Curran claims that plants reached the peak of their ability to absorb CO2 in 2006, well ahead of the 2075 estimate of the IPCC, and have been absorbing less ever since, for various reasons (outlined below). Alex writes that Curran "has published new science that shakes our planning for climate change to the core. The plants it seems are soaking up less and less of the carbon dioxide we pump into the sky. Peak carbon is not later in this century, as predicted, but behind us. It’s stunning news that makes climate action so much more urgent than you’ve been told." Here's the link to the interview: http://www.ecoshock.org/2016/10/life-under-a-damaged-sky.html Here's some additional information Alex published at the link above: "Most of the land on Earth is in the Northern Hemisphere. What if all the plants there started to capture less and less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? Surely that couldn’t happen. "James Curran is co-author of a new study published in the journal “Weather” on September 1, 2016. The title is: “An estimate of the climate change significance of the decline in the Northern Hemisphere’s uptake of carbon dioxide in biomass.” It’s not good news. Here’s the big worry. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) calculated that around 2075, the plant world would start to take up less and less carbon. Maybe we’d see the start of that process by 2035? Meanwhile, the idea of plants as a sink which will thrive with more CO2 and warmth is built into every carbon budget ever released. The catch is: actual measurements of CO2 at Maunu Loa show that tipping point is already in the rear view mirror. It happened in 2006, Curran tells us, and he explains how we know that. WHY ARE PLANTS SOAKING UP LESS CO2? Although various mechanisms causing a reduction in carbon dioxide uptake by plants appear in our broadcast interview, I asked Professor Curran to outline why. This is what he wrote (an addition to our audio interview): "The decline in the ability of the biosphere to absorb and lock up, or sequester, carbon may be due to a number of reasons: Rapidly increasing temperatures, to which plants cannot accommodate themselves quickly enough (after all trees can’t uproot and move polewards to keep cool), may mean they’re just not growing as well, as fast or as healthily as they used to. Remember that this is on average – across all plant species across the whole of the N. hemisphere. Increasing spells of drought in certain parts of the world (the USA has suffered lengthy droughts, as has the Middle East and the Amazon rainforest, for example) could be seriously damaging both natural vegetation and human crops in their ability to thrive and absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Extreme wind events, predicted under climate change, could be resulting in significant forest damage through wind-throw and imposing another negative impact. Wildfires, on an extensive scale including Indonesia, Russia, Alaska, and mainland USA, could be destroying vegetative cover and, as you rightly say, also burning the soils which store large amounts of carbon. This process turns naturally sequestering ecosystems into huge emitters of carbon dioxide. Drought, as I mentioned, could also be turning peat deposits into carbon emitters rather than carbon absorbers due to drying out, cracking, losing structural cohesion, collapse and either direct oxidation into CO2 or erosion, in later heavy rainfall events, and washing out into rivers – which are certainly exhibiting rising dissolved organic carbon levels in many parts of the world. There seem to be many Scottish examples of this, sadly. On the other extreme, flooding can kill off vegetation and crops by root saturation. Or it can wash out soils, and wash out vegetation itself. Finally, very recently, a published paper indicated that melting permafrost, again in the N Hemisphere predominantly, might be beginning to emit CO2 during the summer months (equivalent clearly to a reduction in sequestration) . The paper suggests this is not yet significant but must be monitored as it is likely to worsen in years to come. Yet another positive feedback mechanism that is very worrying….”
Toggle Commented Feb 13, 2017 on PIOMAS February 2017 at Arctic Sea Ice
Zebra, Okay, I think I see where you are coming from. What the Huffpost article describes could more correctly be called laissez-faire capitalism, which calls for total deregulation and no government intervention in markets. I found this sentence in Wikipedia's entry for 'laissez-faire': "In Third Millennium Capitalism (2000), Wyatt M. Rogers, Jr. notes a trend whereby recently "conservative politicians and economists have chosen the term 'free-market capitalism' in lieu of laissez-faire"" Is this the kind of thing you're referring to when you say that the right-wing has co-opted the term 'free-market', and reversed its meaning? But I suppose one could argue that laissez-faire capitalism does itself call for free-markets, but in the special sense of being free of government regulations. Adam Smith promoted the laissez-faire idea, and he picked it up from French businessmen who objected to what they saw as government interference in their business. They wanted a free market in the sense of freedom from government regulations - 'laissez-faire', of course, meaning 'let it be' or 'let us do [it]' But I think you are using the term 'free-market' in a Keynesian sense. Keynes' central tenet is that government intervention can stabilize the economy. Keynes thought that free-markets had no self-balancing mechanisms, and therefore required regulation by the government. So Keynes takes a diametrically opposed view to the nature of free markets than the laissez-faire camp, who think a free market will always self-regulate naturally, like an organic eco-system. Both camps seem to use the concept of a free market, but in different ways, which makes discussion difficult. I think your point is that the right-wing laissez-faire types are trying to cast aspersions on the Keynesian idea of government-regulated free-markets, by assigning to it all of the terribly destructive outcomes of laissez-faire capitalism itself, in a kind of switch-and-bait sleight-of-hand trick to hoodwink the populace into accepting even more corporate-friendly legislation. Perhaps you are right. But is there any such thing as a free market anyway, in the sense you describe of equally empowered buyers and sellers? I think it is an ideal, but not a reality. Advertising by corporations skews what a buyer thinks he needs or wants, for instance,thereby altering that balance of power, and corporate lobbying of governments perverts government-imposed regulations so that they benefit corporations, not society,and all at the expense of our environment. So when you advocate for a free-market as you define it, can you point to a place and time where that actually existed, and to which we might return, or is it an ideal in the Platonic sense, to be striven for but never achieved? Either way, you have succeeded in convincing me to use the term 'laissez-faire capitalism' instead of 'free-market capitalism' from now on, as it does seem to avoid the pitfall you mentioned. Apologies to Neven for straying so far off topic. Back to lurking now.
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2017 on PIOMAS February 2017 at Arctic Sea Ice
Zebra, I was using the term 'free-market' in the sense used, for example, in this Huffington Post article, and which may differ from the sense in which you use 'free-market': http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-alternative-banking-group-of-ows/free-markets-ideology_b_8399954.html The article describes the 'free market ideology' as a "disease that has infected our societies": "Whatever the problem might be (it reads) - climate change, poverty, educational reform - free markets are promoted as an answer... Don’t worry, we are told, innovation will solve global warming if only we give entrepreneurs the right incentives... Free market ideology asserts that markets are always good and government regulation - or even government in general - is always bad.Several tenets underlie what we call Free Market Ideology: Markets create a meritocracy where everyone has an equal opportunity. It’s good to promote business and growth because “a rising tide lifts all boats” Selfishness is glorified, and companies are naturally expected to maximize profits. As appealing as they may seem, these tenets are based on logical fallacies or misinterpretations of history..."
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2017 on PIOMAS February 2017 at Arctic Sea Ice
And don't forget the Easter Islanders, who at some point, in full cognizance of what they were doing, cut down the last tree on their island. It is now believed that the island was divided into competing clans, who wanted to outdo rival clans in the construction of the giant heads, and trees were needed as rollers to move the stones. These groups of people consciously chose the destruction of their environment, and themselves, over the reining in of their appetite for resources, and the flaunting of their wealth. How is neo-liberal free-market capitalism any different?
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2017 on PIOMAS February 2017 at Arctic Sea Ice
Elisee said: ...if the poles serve to help regulate planetary weather, then their extreme sensitivity even to minor changes in average temperature would imply that as a purely regulatory mechanism they are not very effective. A flywheel that flies apart at the slightest increase in RPM is not a very effective long-term smoothing influence on a motor. Rather than being subject to forces that keep it stable, the global climate should be oscillating erratically on very short time scales. And it is, on very short geological timescales. I recall reading in one of James Lovelock's books on the Gaia hypothesis that the planetary system entered a period of chaotic instability two million years ago, when the ice ages began. He discussed this in terms of a complex system entering a chaotic state (or leaving a stable attractor), and says that the ice ages represent the wild oscillations of a complex system seeking a new attractor that will continue indefinitely unless and until the system settles around a new attractor. The ice ages and interglacial periods are symptoms of this chaotic behaviour, and in no way can be interpreted as regulators promoting a stable state; they are the very definition of an unstable state. He thinks that it is unlikely that a new stable state will be reached, because the sun itself has aged and changed enough over the Earth's history to usher in the beginnings of an old age for the Earth system itself. He thinks this will last for a billion years or so, while the sun gradually expands, and that this period will be characterized by continued chaotic instability, which will find the Earth becoming increasingly less resilient to shocks than it was during the previous five mass extinctions. If correct, this bodes ill for a robust or rapid (on the order of two million years)recovery after the sixth mass extinction plays out. Elisee: We subconsciously seem to be operating on the notion that the icecaps serve as a regulatory mechanism that smooths out minor variations in planetary temperature, helping to maintain the entire system relatively stable. On Lovelock's theory, then, the icecaps, far from being a regulatory mechanism, are a symptom of a complex system already behaving chaotically and unstably.
Toggle Commented Feb 8, 2017 on A new Arctic feedback (?) at Arctic Sea Ice
Bill F, let me add my thanks to you for sending that email to Pieter Tans, David Archer, and Ralph Keeling. I think it speaks volumes to your character that all three scientists replied to you so quickly, and in such detail. It also speaks volumes of Neven's blog that such communication can take place between concerned citizens and the scientific community, and at a level that doesn't require the scientists to dumb it down. Where else but this blog can that happen?
Toggle Commented Jan 20, 2017 on Global warming 2016: Arctic spin at Arctic Sea Ice
Thank you all for putting so much time and effort into explaining your various positions. I've certainly learned a lot about the flux of CO2 across the air/sea surface boundary. But I'm still confused on the main point. D_C_S seems to be quite adamant that surface-to-deep-ocean mixing is a very slow process, contributing very little to a short-term reduction in atmospheric CO2. If he's right then if we stopped emitting CO2 today, then after a year or so CO2 would remain near 403ppm, with the ocean contributing to only a very slight yearly reduction - practically none at all. But if Rob Dekker is right, then the transport of CO2 from surface-to-deep-ocean is much quicker, the equivalent of removing about 2ppm CO2 from the atmosphere each year. If we stopped emitting today, then, in simple terms, the oceans would continue to remove about 2ppm CO2 from the atmosphere for many years, presumably until some new (pre-industrial?) equilibrium was reached. This is what I had always understood to be the case, but both sides seem to point to strong supporting evidence. Perhaps Bill will clear this up if/when he hears back from his scientist friends. It's an important point since it would seem to add more than a touch of hopelessness to our situation if we cannot count on the oceans to quickly draw down the atmospheric CO2 after we stop emitting. Is it possible that what's adding to the confusion is the difference between ocean-bottom sediment formation, which removes only an insignificant amount of CO2 each year, and surface-to-deep-ocean mixing, which perhaps transports relatively large amounts of CO2 to the deep ocean layers each year?
Toggle Commented Jan 19, 2017 on Global warming 2016: Arctic spin at Arctic Sea Ice
Navegante et al, I think D_C_S and D-Penguin are arguing that the surface of the ocean is already in equilibrium with an atmosphere containing about 400 ppm CO2, with a time lag of about a year. So the ocean cannot absorb any more CO2 unless the atmospheric concentration were to rise. Of course, it did rise in the course of the last year, to about 403ppm, so the ocean can continue to absorb CO2, at least for another year. If we emit more CO2 in that time, then the ocean will continue to absorb that new CO2, and so on. If we stopped emitting all CO2 today, then in about a year the oceans would attain equilibrium a year from now with an atmospheric CO2 of about 403ppm, moving from their current equilibruim with an atmosphere of 400ppm. This, at least, is how I understand their position. I don't have the knowledge to comment on the validity of their argument, but D_C_S provides a link that states, as he says, that "SURFACE SEA WATER REACHES CHEMICAL EQUILIBRIUM WITH THE ATMOSPHERIC CO2 CONCENTRATION WITHIN A YEAR" (bold added). The surprise to me, if this is correct, is that the surface ocean basically does not provide any short-term CO2 absorption potential at all (after a one-year lag), because it is already nearly at equilibrium with the atmosphere. In your scenario, then, humans would stop emitting CO2 and it would stay at 403ppm. The oceans are already in equilibrium with a 400ppm atmosphere, and so would continue to absorb CO2 until they came into equilibrium with the 403ppm atmosphere, which would take about a year, at which point they would stop absorbing any further CO2. Is this about right, D_C_S and D-Penguin?
Toggle Commented Jan 18, 2017 on Global warming 2016: Arctic spin at Arctic Sea Ice
Alone among major media outlets, AFAIK, the Guardian has seen fit to classify the recent crossing of the 2C threshold as front page news. Commenting on February's temp anomaly: "Regions of the Arctic were were more than 16C warmer than normal – whatever constitutes normal now. But what is really making people stand up and notice is that the surface of the Earth north of the equator was 2C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures. This was meant to be a line that must not be crossed... But what’s even scarier is the political, economic and social reaction to these landmarks in climate change... Have you heard any political speeches referring to these recent climate change records?... How was the stock market this morning? It appears febrile enough to lurch from euphoric boom to catastrophic bust on the basis of bland statements from central bankers but proves remarkably deaf to evidence that the entire industrial and financial system is headed for disaster... Know what’s trending on Twitter as I write? A photoshopped giant dog, the latest Game of Thrones trailer and Kim Kardashian’s naked body." full story: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/15/record-global-temperatures-are-shocking-and-yet-we-dont-respond-seriously
Toggle Commented Mar 15, 2016 on PIOMAS March 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Thank you for the replies Rob, David and Bill. David said: "you will find that the Northern Hemisphere anomaly was 1.9 dC which puts it about 2.15 dC above pre-industrial levels." So if I understand this correctly then it can truthfully be said that we are already living in a climate regime that has exceeded the 2C limit over pre-industrial times, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, during winter, and while in the midst of a large el Nino. Yet even with those caveats, shouldn't this be front page news? It's rather like Miami being flooded. At first the water only makes new inroads deeper into previously unflooded areas during king tides, which are the harbinger of things to come, just as a NH February during el Nino is a foretaste of the not-too-distant future climate. To go even more off-topic, el Nino-related weather patterns caused it to snow here in the central Mexican Sierra Madres (around 21 North lat.)two days ago for only the second time since 1978. Killed about 11 million monarch butterflies.
Toggle Commented Mar 14, 2016 on PIOMAS March 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Well, I found the answer to my own question in a post by Jeff Masters at Wunderground: "Drawing from NASA’s graph of long-term temperature trends, if we add 0.2°C as a conservative estimate of the amount of human-produced warming that occurred between the late 1800s and 1951-1980, then the February result winds up at 1.55°C above average. If we use 0.4°C as a higher-end estimate, then February sits at 1.75°C above average. Either way, this result is a true shocker, and yet another reminder of the incessant long-term rise in global temperature resulting from human-produced greenhouse gases. Averaged on a yearly basis, global temperatures are now around 1.0°C beyond where they stood in the late 19th century, when industrialization was ramping up." So although February was a 'true shocker', the yearly average global temperatures remain 'only' around 1.0C above 1880 values. Still, that's a pretty fearsome monster of a monthly anomaly. Jeff Masters post is here: http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=3264
Toggle Commented Mar 14, 2016 on PIOMAS March 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Sorry for going OT, but Joe Romm has just posted an entry over at ThinkProgress about February hitting a new peak global temperature anomaly: "It was so hot that February had the single biggest recorded monthly temperature anomaly (deviation from the 1951-1980 average temperature) — a whopping 2.4°F (1.35°C) above the average temperature for the month. The previous record deviation from the average — 2.0°F (1.13°C) — you may recall, was set in January." My question, which I'm sure many people here can answer, is this: If February was 1.35C above the 1951-1980 average, then how much was it above the pre-industrial 1880 average? I seem to remember that we must add an additional .35C or so, which would make February an astounding 1.7C warmer than pre-industrial times. Can this be so? Can we have already blown so far past the 1.5C limit that the world's leaders just agreed to do their best to avoid reaching? And how long before we reach 2.0C - maybe the next big el Nino will blow past that milestone in five or ten years. Joe Romm's article is here: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/03/13/3759569/record-february-warmth-alaska-arctic/
Toggle Commented Mar 14, 2016 on PIOMAS March 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
This is OT, but I know many here will be interested. Today Greenpeace 'landed' six activists on the giant Shell drilling rig Polar Pioneer which is on its way to drill in the Arctic. Their blog is here: https://www.savethearctic.org/en-CA/live/duplicate-of-duplicate-of-map-blog/re-supplying-our-people/ They are actually suspended under the main deck of the rig, 40 meters above the sea, and have made camp on one of the legs of the drilling rig, like mountain climbers. From their blog: This morning six people from onboard the Esperanza are watching first light breaking over the Pacific Ocean from the leg of Shell’s Arctic oil drilling rig, Polar Pioneer. They are up there to send a message from all of us opposed to Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic: this oil rig should not be allowed anywhere near Arctic waters. We cannot avoid dangerous climate change if Shell continues with its plans Andreas, Aliyah, Jens, Zoe, Miriam and Johno left the Esperanza at daybreak today in inflatable boats and have climbed up onto one of the leg of the 97 metre tall oil drilling rig. They have the gear, supplies, and motivation to stay on the oil rig for as long as they are able to shine a light on Shell’s reckless hunt for oil in the Arctic. They will ascend the leg of the Polar Pioneer, as it transits towards imminent drilling off the coast of Alaska, and establish themselves securely there. From that point they will be talking to the world themselves – follow us! - Laura Kenyon on board the Greenpeace Esperanza
Toggle Commented Apr 7, 2015 on PIOMAS April 2015 at Arctic Sea Ice
@Susan Anderson: With some hesitation I'd like to address the Arctic incursions we've been experiencing in parts of the US and Europe. Calgary Alberta just got hit with a very unusual three-day summer snowstorm, which ended yesterday after dumping 35cm of snow and ice, knocking out power to large parts of the city, and downing thousands of trees: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-snow-causes-major-power-outages-during-storm-1.2761664 The temperature was +25C the day before the storm hit.
Toggle Commented Sep 11, 2014 on PIOMAS September 2014 at Arctic Sea Ice
A ray of hope that the MSM might be thinking of pulling its head out of the (tar) sand, from dailykos: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/07/06/1312021/-BBC-Will-No-Longer-Give-Climate-Change-Deniers-A-Platform?detail=email BBC Will No Longer Give Climate Change Deniers A Platform Finally; the tide appears to be turning against the clowns who think that their 'beliefs' trump science. According to The Daily Telegraph (in a story amusingly headlined 'BBC staff told to stop inviting cranks on to science programmes '): BBC journalists are being sent on courses to stop them inviting so many cranks onto programmes to air ‘marginal views’ The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues. The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed. Some 200 staff have already attended seminars and workshops and more will be invited on courses in the coming months to stop them giving ‘undue attention to marginal opinion.’ “The Trust wishes to emphasise the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,” wrote the report authors.
Toggle Commented Jul 7, 2014 on ASI 2014 update 4: high times at Arctic Sea Ice
philiponfire: "China is already in the process of replacing its public transport buses with ones running on LNG. in my city about half the fleet is running on LNG right now. the same applies to taxis." But LNG might actually be quite a bit worse than coal as far as contributing to GHG buildup - maybe 5 or 6 times worse when everything is taken into account, such as leaks during extraction, storage and shipment, and the energy required to liquify and then gassify it. Watch Years of Living Dangerously if you can. Here's the first episode on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brvhCnYvxQQ&feature=share DavidR: "China has nearly one fifth of the world population. Those of us who live in countries that have three times their emissions percapita, eg Australia, USA, Canada should address our own countries excess emissions not those of a developing country." While true, that doesn't address Hans' point in any way. Of course China is responsible for its own population numbers (like every country), and it is quite aware of the fact, witness the decades-long one-child-policy. That policy led to problems such as a gender imbalance (female infants being allowed to die, as male children were seen as more desirable), but that just means the policy needs to be improved, not scrapped. It may be unpopular to talk about overpopulation, even verging on taboo, but if we, as a species, don't take responsibility for our numbers globally, then we are just like the fruit flies in Malthus's petrie dish, expanding exponentially until we collapse.
Toggle Commented Jun 13, 2014 on The day the ice cap died at Arctic Sea Ice
The Daily Kos article I mentioned above also has an interesting video about methane anomalies, using data from Methane Tracker. Commenter Apocalypse4Real is mentioned around the 8:20 mark. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/05/30/1301299/-Is-it-time-we-start-saying-the-E-word?detail=email "A must see video below, have your medication of choice handy as you will need it Video 1 of 2. This is a short intro to the Unified Methane Layers functionality on methanetracker.org. Basically you're looking at two layers per day (0-12z and 12-24z) that contains only the methane over 1950ppb of all 100 layers from IASI for each (am and pm). Those two layers are shown at 6am (0-12z) and 6pm (12-24z) each day. The visualization using the Google Earth plugin allows you to pick a from and to data range that makes it easier to visualize the actual geographical scope of the venting episode, as well as identify specific geographic locations and dates to run a more detailed analysis using the "Individual Methane Layers" functionality."
Toggle Commented Jun 1, 2014 on Greenland 2013 in review at Arctic Sea Ice
Apologies for being OT, but this is just a quick observation for fun, and there's no open thread. Daily Kos has an article on the Sixth Great Extinction http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/05/30/1301299/-Is-it-time-we-start-saying-the-E-word?detail=email which states: "The Cretaceous Tertiary Impact Event: an asteroid 10-15 km or 6-9 miles in diameter impacted Earth at Chicxulub, in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The explosion would have been a billion times larger than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima." It's interesting to note that according to the bomb counter at the top of Neven's blog we've already accumulated more than twice the energy of the asteroid that caused the last great extinction. It's not a very good comparison because the asteroid event was instantaneous, with plenty of ejecta and particulate matter, whereas this accumulation has been slowly building since 1998. But still. Doesn't look good.
Toggle Commented May 31, 2014 on Greenland 2013 in review at Arctic Sea Ice
Here's a good little article about MSM's misbalancing of climate change reportage, posted at ThinkProgress by Joe Romm on May 12, with a very amusing video clip from John Oliver: Some 97 out of 100 actively publishing climate scientists agree with the overwhelming evidence that humans are causing global warming. The challenge for the media is how to accurately reflect that consensus. One way NOT to do it is to give equal time to climate science deniers. Unsurprisingly (yet tragically), that is the preferred strategy of most of the MSM. False balance lives at CNN, Reuters, Bloomberg, and even PBS. Only one cable news show has been brave enough to take on false balance with a “statistically representative climate change debate.” Unfortunately, it’s a fake news show, John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight,” on HBO. Here is the must-see segment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjuGCJJUGsg ThinkProgress article: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/05/12/3436771/john-oliver-climate-change-debate/
Toggle Commented May 22, 2014 on ASI 2014 update 1: melt pond May at Arctic Sea Ice
Reported Aug. 29, 2013, from NASA (sorry if this is old news to everyone): "Hidden for all of human history, a 460 mile long canyon has been discovered below Greenland's ice sheet. Using radar data from NASA's Operation IceBridge, scientists found the canyon runs from near the center of the island northward to the fjord of the Petermann Glacier. The researchers believe the canyon plays an important role in transporting sub-glacial meltwater from the interior of Greenland to the edge of the ice sheet into the ocean. Evidence suggests that before the presence of the ice sheet, as much as 4 million years ago, water flowed in the canyon from the interior to the coast and was a major river system. "It is quite remarkable that a channel the size of the Grand Canyon is discovered in the 21st century below the Greenland ice sheet," said Studinger. "It shows how little we still know about the bedrock below large continental ice sheets." The IceBridge campaign will return to Greenland in March 2014 to continue collecting data on land and sea ice in the Arctic http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/nasa-data-reveals-mega-canyon-under-greenland-ice/#.UpO2gOI0zCp
Toggle Commented Nov 25, 2013 on PIOMAS November 2013 at Arctic Sea Ice
Colorado Bob, Here's a quote I like, to add to your others: “It's the tide. It's the dismal tide. It's not the one thing.” ― Cormac McCarthy
Toggle Commented Nov 7, 2013 on PIOMAS October 2013 at Arctic Sea Ice
@jdallen_wa "Regarding the "100 million" assertion, I've seen a bit of this before, and don't buy it." While you're undoubtedly right that improvements in materials science will be relevant to carrying capacity, I'm not so sure I can agree with your other arguments. You say "It is founded on a number of assumptions which are not dependable. First, that classic capitalism will remain as the driving economic force." I haven't delved deeply into Alpert's publications, but he does not seem to premise his ideas on 'classic capitalism' continuing to operate. He makes it clear that any expansion of consumption must be balanced by a further reduction in carrying capacity; even an increase in average life-span from 85 to 86 years would require a 1% reduction in population for sustainability to be maintained. Capitalism is premised on infinite growth, and would seem to run counter to the spirit of what Alpert is trying to say. "Next it presumes "North American" quality of life cannot be reached sustainably." But he does so presume, though only for 100 million or so people. That's his whole point. "Lastly, it assumes we cannot or will not change our behavior." I think you might be right there. Alpert makes it clear that he thinks those 100 million humans will probably want to continue to improve their quality of life, but that IF that improvement required more material throughput from the environment, then the carrying capacity would have to drop commensurately. OTOH, if people gave up some of the North American habits, like eating so much meat, then the carrying capacity would increase. He's not asking what the absolute number of humans is that the earth could support, but what that number would be at a North American level of comfort (or indulgence). "I do not doubt that humanity is going to suffer a few rather painful reversals; it has happened before." Well, it hasn't really, not like this. Sure, we were down to perhaps 4000 individuals at one point in the distant past, but that did not involve the potential collapse of a global civilization, or the potential death of many billions within just a few generations, nor the accompanying loss of biodiversity that is clearly happening now. For that you have to go back 65 million years, before humans existed, and this extinction event might even outdo that one. I too have some criticisms of Alpert, but they are of a different nature than yours. For one thing, he has assumed that 100 percent of the arable land would be used for food production for humans, with none of the most productive land being set aside for other species' exclusive, and perpetual, use. Fields would lie fallow for 15 years, but would not revert to old-growth forests or any other kind of self-sustaining ecosystem, because they would be plowed under again too soon. This would have to have some impact on the rest of Earth's ecosystems, in ways that might not be favourable to humanity's perpetuation, at least not at that level of land-usage. Secondly, he doesn't seem to address the northward shift of the growing belts into regions of poor soil quality. Your idea of growing lyme grass notwithstanding, I don't see how those regions could make up for the loss of productivity of our current agro-belts, especially around the major deltas. How many calories/hectare could lyme grass and the like produce anyway, even if such arctic species were able to survive in their new, sub-arctic or temperate climate? As for a Malthusian collapse not being inevitable, I hope you're right but I fear mightily that you're wrong. A controlled economic contraction of about 9 percent/year is thought to be required this century, IIRC, to avoid intolerable climate change, and Soviet Russia imploded with only a 1 percent/yr contraction. The idea of contraction is repellent to capitalism, and to capitalists who want to see healthy returns, and to a debt-based banking system that requires endless expansion to work, and to politicians who have counted on growing their way out of debt. What are the odds that we can keep a tightly-integrated global economy functioning, with just-in-time delivery (and therefore with little resilience to shock), practically no food reserves, diminishing oil for (food) transportation, a teetering banking system, and many, many other factors that readers of this blog are familiar with, all the while maintaining degrowth at 9%/yr, without descending into conflict and systemic disruption or outright failure? I think its best to expect a massive disruption, and for smart, creative people to start thinking about what it would look like, and what might be done to ameliorate its worst effects. Just in case you're wrong. :^)
Thank you Wal, I think you've found who I was looking for, or at least a prominent member of the same camp. Jack Alpert comes up with the figure of <100 million, assuming that all 100 million will be able to live at current North American levels of consumption indefinitely. Here's a six-minute video for anyone who wants to hear Jack Alpert summarize his ideas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTWduFB_RX0
Colorado Bob, or anyone, I've been trying to remember the source of something I read within the last few months on the topic of the Earth's sustainable carrying capacity for humans. Someone here may have linked to it, but I couldn't locate it with a google search. The author's conclusion was remarkable - that the carrying capacity was a mere 70 million. This is far lower than other estimates, of course, but the reasoning they used seemed quite sound. He or she took more issues into consideration than other writers in this field do, which, IMHO, causes those writers to posit unrealistically high figures for a sustainable human population, on the order of 1.5 billion. He/she points out that in the absence of FF-based nitrogen fertilizers, upon which our current civilization is based, a field will have to lie fallow for 17 years between each crop, with a cover crop of clover or some other nitrogen-fixer, if it is to be truly sustainable indefinitely and not become exhausted in a few years or decades. This requirement alone radically reduces the amount of usable arable land, which, IIRC, comprises a mere 9 percent of the planet's land surface. And this figure will drop very precipitously (does anyone have estimates of how much?) in the fairly near future due to desertification, drought/flood intensification making it more difficult to bring a crop to maturity, salt-water intrusion due to rising sea levels, northward shift of the growing belt (into areas with poor soils, as stated above), and the expected increase of days with daytime highs, in the agricultural belts, hitting a maximum temperature of 112 F. or above, a temperature which instantly kills wheat or corn crops (can't remember which). I would like to re-read that article, so if anyone knows of it, I'd be thankful if they could post a link to it.