Another trail of twaddle

Sea ice again.

I was reading Gareth who had been reading Monbiot. And so I did too. After I’d waded through the goo and the dribble about Bush, the first item of substance was A new summary of the science published since last year’s Intergovernmental Panel report suggests that – almost a century ahead of schedule – the critical climate processes might have begun. Just a year ago the Intergovernmental Panel warned that the Arctic’s “late-summer sea ice is projected to disappear almost completely towards the end of the 21st century … in some models.” But, as the new report by the Public Interest Research Centre (Pirc) shows, climate scientists are now predicting the end of late-summer sea ice within three to seven years. The trajectory of current melting plummets through the graphs like a meteorite falling to earth.

This being journalism, Monbiot is obliged not to cite his source (I’ve said that before, haven’t I? Ah well), but the answer appears to be here. But its not a report; its not a summary of the science since IPCC, its a blog posting. And it is not true that The trajectory of current melting plummets through the graphs like a meteorite falling to earth – as we all know, there was marginally more ice this year than last – and if Monbiot, PIRC, or anyone from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, or indeed anyone else is stupid enough to believe that all the late-summer ice will be gone by 2013 (or within “within three to seven years”), I’ve got money that says otherwise: wanna bet?

Forgive me for being outraged by the Monbiot writing or the Grauniad printing junk; we don’t actually get it as a daily paper any more (I read very little of it, and only ever did the kakuro) but my wife gets it on saturday largely for the review section. Oh, and Daniel likes the comic.

So, Monbiot has misrepresented PIRC. Following the chain of twaddle, we find that PIRC has misrepresented its sources, too. The assertion that Scientists are now predicting an ice-free Arctic by the summer of 2013, a full 80 years ahead of IPCC predictions is sourced to that well-known scientific journal, IHT: Retreating Ice: A blue Arctic Ocean in summers by 2013?. To be fair, the IHT piece isn’t particularly bad, just badly abused by the PIRC. It contains some stuff shown to be wrong by subsequent events – Experts say that next summer is quite likely to see an even bigger ice retreat because this winter’s freeze is starting from such a huge ice deficit. – well it didn’t. The IHT didn’t know that at the time, of course, but Monbiot should know it by now. And whoever was the unnamed source of At least one researcher, of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, projects a blue Arctic Ocean in summers by 2013 is presumably now keeping their head down. The article even quotes some of the folks at the time who were quite well aware of what might happen: Natural variations could turn around and counteract the greenhouse-gas-forced change, perhaps stabilizing the ice for a bit.

[Update: Thanks to Baz, who points out that my jibes against Monbiot are unjust. If you read his original column, rather than the grauniad reprint, you do get something closer to a source: “Public Interest Research Centre, 25th November 2008. Climate Safety.”. Its still a bit vague, but a lot better. Following that, I get to, then to, then to, which I presume is the URL Monbiot meant to cite.

The language is slightly saner (Given the unprecedented changes seen in recent years, many Arctic scientists are now predicting an ice-free summer Arctic by somewhere between 2011 and 2015.15,16,17) but then veers off into stupidity again (Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate College in California predicts an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice by the
summer of 2013, but notes that on the basis of data from 2007 and 2005, this prediction could already be seen as too conservative. Louis Fortier, scientific director of the Canadian research network ArcticNet, believes that the ocean could be ice-free in summertime as soon as 2010,19
while NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally suggests 2012.20
) Why is a report published in Nov 2008 not taking into account the 2008 ice extent. Could it be… inconvenient? Having had a quick browse, none of 15-20 look like reliable sources, so I suspect most of those “could”‘s have had their caveats stripped away.

So I’m obliged to retract my complains about his journalism: he has represented the PIRC report quite fairly. The PIRC report still looks like nonsense, though, and I would have hoped Monbiot would have been aware enough to know that.

Oh, and (see comments) the unnamed is Maslowski, who isn’t keeping his head down, but has retreated to vagueness Our findings imply that sea ice might be melting faster than predicted by both climate models and estimated from satellite observations. This implies that the Arctic not only might, but is likely to be ice-free during the summer in the near future.


Whats going to kill us all?

[2017: obviously incomplete, but interesting (to me) as an archive of my thinking. Unmodified from the draft below this line.]

I wasn’t very convinced by Joe Romms list. So what, global-warming-wise, is likely to kill us all?

Firstly, I can’t see direct temperature rise doing it. Even an increase by 5 oC won’t make most places uninhabitable or close to it. The 2003 heat wave, that people trot out, merely demonstrates that getting warmer than you are used to is bad. Its not hard to adapt to this; the evidence is obvious, since many countries are already more than 5 oC warmer than 2003 Europe. And it might save people dying of cold in winter.

Other direct climatic changes, most obviously changes in precipitation, could be serious. Mega-droughts, perhaps, (whatever a mega-drought might be) could have fairly serious impacts on crop production. We could survive – we all eat too much anyway – but it would be destabalising. Suppose you gave the average overweight stereotypical US denizen the choice of using half the energy or eating half the food: which might they choose? Well obviously they’d choose someone else to make the sacrifice. PD has some nice comments about water use.

Sea level.


When will they learn?

Is it a Pearl Harbor if it has to happen twice? says Nature, discussing a list of stuff that Joe Romm thinks might lead to the second-world-war scale of effort against climate change.

#1 is Arctic goes ice free before 2020. I have bets out on this. It would be a big, visible global shock. One of his bettee’s is me, so it will come as no surprise to you all that I think this is unlikely. Would I get wildly excited if it did become ice free? The odds on the bet are 1-1, so neither side is sticking its neck out and saying this definitely will/won’t happen.

#2 is Rapid warming over next decade, as recent Nature and Science article suggests is quite possible – well, it will rather depend on what you mean by “rapid” I suppose. 0.4 oC/decade might wake people up. A bit. OTOH the models say it won’t happen.

#3 is Continued (unexpected) surge in methane – maybe. Methane will have to surge an awful lot to get back onto an exponential growth path, though – its been near-flat this past decade.

#4 is A megadrought hitting the SW comparable to what has hit southern Australia. Maybe. I don’t know much about drought. Large scale crop failures would get noticed, true.

#5 The one that wound me up: More superstorms, like Katrina. [[Hurricane Katrina]] wasn’t a superstorm. It was a cat-5 at one point, but only cat-3 at landfall. Nothing exceptional, except its track. All nature can manage on this is a weaselly Leaving aside the question of whether it was a superstorm – clearly disagreement would be too controversial. Good grief, if you can’t get this right, what hope is there?

#6: A heatwave as bad as Europe’s 2003 one. Well, it got hot for a bit, then stopped. Another one won’t be any more exciting.

#7 Something unpredicted but clearly linked to climate, like the bark beetle devastation. Something terrible but unknown… ah yes.

#8 Accelerated mass loss in Greenland and/or Antarctica, perhaps with another huge ice shelf breaking off, but in any case coupled with another measurable rise in the rate of sea level rise. Not at all sure thats right. The satellite record shows faster rate than the tide gauges, but not by a lot, and I’m not sure whether its believed to be real.

#9 The Fifth Assessment Report (2012-2013) really spelling out what we face with no punches pulled. – won’t happen.

Would any of those lead to a WWII-style all-societies-resources concentrated on GW? Probably not, and anyway what you need to combat GW is mostly society using less resources, which we don’t seem to be very good at. Make love for virginity, Make war for peace, and so on.

Polar orbiters and the testing of sci-fi

I’m reading Anathem because Paul told me to. And because I’m enjoying it. And because its good and thick and will sustain lots of time. Read Paul’s review if you’re interested in an overview; I’m not going to do that, if only because I haven’t finished it (I’m about half way through, if you care). Some of the following gives away some details of the plot that Paul is careful not to give away, so don’t read on if you’re intending to read it.
Continue reading “Polar orbiters and the testing of sci-fi”

Divorced – for having an affair in Second Life

And other miscellania. That one is from the Indy: “she had once awoken from an afternoon nap to discover him sitting at his computer watching his online character – whom he had named Dave Barmy – having sex with an on-screen call girl.” Weird or what. Somewhat more spicily (not to say utterly made up) is this from the DailyMash. Which also confirms that running is stupid and that we’re all buying the change bulshytt. But I promised to be less cynical, so I’ll point to you what Sarah pointed me to.

On another plane, Halliburton seeks patent on patent trolling amused. While we’re on amusements, there is a version of life, and less cerebrally bloons 3.

On the work front, as usual I can’t tell you anything interesting, other than it was the Fun Run today (well done us, we won). The Torygraph will tell you something, though. The shakeout may do us long-term good. On which subject, Life Without Wires by Eric Broockman is worth a read.

And lastly, seen in Heffers: