The key message is that climate, health, and other big messy problems don’t have purely technical fixes. Therefore Manhattan Project approaches to solving them won’t work. Creating and deploying solutions to these problems requires public involvement and widespread change with distributed leadership. The challenge is to get public understanding of climate to carry the same sense of urgency that drove the civil rights movement. From a series at the IBM Almaden Institute conference.
Joeri Rogelj and others argue that Copenhagen Accord pledges are paltry in a Nature Opinion,
Current national emissions targets can’t limit global warming to 2 °C, calculate Joeri Rogelj, Malte Meinshausen and colleagues — they might even lock the world into exceeding 3 °C warming.
- Nations will probably meet only the lower ends of their emissions pledges in the absence of a binding international agreement
- Nations can bank an estimated 12 gigatonnes of Co2 equivalents surplus allowances for use after 2012
- Land-use rules are likely to result in further allowance increases of 0.5 GtCO2-eq per year
- Global emissions in 2020 could thus be up to 20% higher than today
- Current pledges mean a greater than 50% chance that warming will exceed 3°C by 2100
- If nations agree to halve emissions by 2050, there is still a 50% chance that warming will exceed 2°C and will almost certainly exceed 1.5°C
Via Nature’s Climate Feedback, Copenhagen Accord – missing the mark.
Read all about it at Climate Interactive.
A selection of data and projections on past and future climate in Montana:
Pederson et al. (2010) A century of climate and ecosystem change in Western Montana: what do temperature trends portend? Climatic Change 98:133-154. It’s hard to read precisely off the graph, but there have been significant increases in maximum and minimum temperatures, with the greatest increases in the minimums and in winter – exactly what you’d expect from a change in radiative properties. As a result the daily temperature range has shrunk slightly and there are fewer below freezing and below zero days. That last metric is critical, because it’s the severe cold that controls many forest pests. There’s much more on this in a poster.
Not every station shows a trend – the figure above contrasts Bozeman (purple, strong trend) with West Yellowstone (orange, flat). The Bozeman trend is probably not an urban heat island effect – surfacestations.org thinks it’s a good site, and White Sulphur (a nice sleepy town up the road a piece) is about the same. The red line is an ensemble of simulations (GISS, CCSM & ECHAM5) from climexp.knmi.nl, projected into the future with A1B forcings (i.e., a fairly high emissions trajectory). I interpolated the data to latitude 47.6, longitude -110.9 (roughly my house, near Bozeman). Simulated temperature rises about 4C, while precipitation (green) is almost unmoved. If that came true, Montana’s future climate might be a lot like current central Utah.
The figure above – from John W. Williams, Stephen T. Jackson, and John E. Kutzbach. Projected distributions of novel and disappearing climates by 2100 AD. PNAS, vol. 104 no. 14 – shows global grid points that have no neighbors within 500km that now have a climate like what the future might bring. In panel C (disappearing climates with the high emissions A2 scenario), there’s a hotspot right over Montana. Presumably that’s loss of today’s high altitude ecosystems. As it warms up, climate zones move uphill, but at the top of mountains there’s nowhere to go. That’s why pikas may be in trouble.
Replicated by: Tom Fiddaman
Citation: Hatlebakk, Magnus, & Moxnes, Erling (1992). Misperceptions and Mismanagement of the Greenhouse Effect? The Simulation Model . Report # CMR-92-A30009, December). Christian Michelsen Research.
This is a climate-economy model, of about the same scale and vintage as Nordhaus’ original DICE model. It’s more interesting in some respects, because it includes path-dependent reversible and irreversible emissions reductions. As I recall, the original also had some stochastic elements, not active here. This version has no units; hopefully I can get an improved version online at some point.
Citations: Rahmstorf 2007, “A semi-empirical approach to projecting future sea level rise.” Science 315. Grinsted, Moore & Jevrejeva 2009. “Reconstructing sea level from paleo and projected temperatures 200 to 2100 AD.” Climate Dynamics 
Source: Replicated by Tom Fiddaman based on an earlier replication of Rahmstorf provided by John Sterman
Units balance: Yes
Format: Vensim; requires Model Reader or an advanced version
Notes: See discussion at metasd.
Grinsted_v3b – first model; default calibration replicates Rahmstorf, and optimization is set up to adjust constant terms to fit Rahmstorf slope to data
Model Name: Good Enough Tools
Source: Replicated by Tom Fiddaman from the paper
Units balance: Yes
They raise the ante – where Utah cherry-picked twelve years of data, South Dakotans are happy with only 8. Even better, their pattern matching heuristic violates bathtub dynamics:
WHEREAS, the earth has been cooling for the last eight years despite small increases in anthropogenic carbon dioxide
They have taken the skeptic claim, that there’s little warming in the tropical troposphere, and bumped it up a notch:
WHEREAS, there is no evidence of atmospheric warming in the troposphere where the majority of warming would be taking place
Nope, no trend here:
The Utah House has declared that CO2 is harmless. The essence of the argument in HJR 12: temperature’s going down, climategate shows that scientists are nefarious twits, whose only interest is in riding the federal funding gravy train, and emissions controls hurt the poor. While it’s reassuring that global poverty is a big concern of Utah Republicans, the scientific observations are egregiously bad:
29 WHEREAS, global temperatures have been level and declining in some areas over the
30 past 12 years;
31 WHEREAS, the “hockey stick” global warming assertion has been discredited and
32 climate alarmists’ carbon dioxide-related global warming hypothesis is unable to account for
33 the current downturn in global temperatures;
34 WHEREAS, there is a statistically more direct correlation between twentieth century
35 temperature rise and Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the atmosphere than CO2;
36 WHEREAS, outlawed and largely phased out by 1978, in the year 2000 CFC’s began to
37 decline at approximately the same time as global temperatures began to decline;
49 WHEREAS, Earth’s climate is constantly changing with recent warming potentially an
50 indication of a return to more normal temperatures following a prolonged cooling period from
51 1250 to 1860 called the “Little Ice Age”;
The list cherry-picks skeptic arguments that rely on a few papers (if that), nearly all thoroughly discredited. There are so many things wrong here that it’s not worth the electrons to refute them one by one. The quality of their argument calls to mind to the 1897 attempt in Indiana to legislate that pi = 3.2. It’s sad that this resolution’s supporters are too scientifically illiterate to notice, or too dishonest to care. There are real uncertainties about climate; it would be nice to see a legislative body really grapple with the hard questions, rather than chasing red herrings.