The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Future

Here's my decennial prediction of the future, per Keith's inquiry. By 2030:

1) New sources of fossil fuels and the defeat of carbon pricing in any form will put the economy more or less "back on track" to its overheated consume-at-any-price every-Christmas-bigger-than-the-last frenzy. Canada and Texas will thrive. Possibly this will happen in time to rescue Obama, since enough people vote their wallet to make US elections completely predictable and not about anything.

2) Congress will have its climate science theater but probably won't press the point, the Republicans having "won" the game for the foreseeable future. This will actually work to the Democrats' advantage ion the short run. A modest gesture in the direction of the Breakthrough Institute's massive investment in energy will prop up the economy a bit and salve people's consciences a bit, and will largely vanish without a trace into the vast money pit of DOE.

3) The relative position of the US with respect to the rest of the world will continue to decline slowly. The holders of American currency seem to have the discipline to let the air out very slowly. In America this will be perceived as substantial inflation. A low interest mortgage will be like free money.

4) There will never be high speed rail in Texas along the I-35 corridor. Never ever ever. We will have a hispanic Democrat governor, but we will never get in a passenger locomotive again anywhere in Texas. There still will be no sidewalks, either.

5) The suggestion that anybody has any spare wealth or attention to care about the future will be treated with cynicism here and overseas; neither biodiversity nor the future climate will matter much. Sustainability will be a complete joke every day until the day it's not a joking matter anymore.

6) The west and southwest US will continue to dry out but this won't be of much concern outside agriculture. Snow cover will continue to retreat, but nobody in America besides ski resorts will care much. Occasional bizarre seasons leading to crop failures will become more common, causing failures of low-capital operations. This will concentrate agriculture production in agribusinesses (except for high-value-add boutique farms for the wealthy and high end restaurants, a much smaller market).

7) There will be no such thing as wild caught seafood.

8) The influence of the university will decline sharply and perhaps vanish altogether outside the hard sciences and engineering. Even there, the universities as we know them will lose control of undergraduate education.

9) As climate deterioration continues, the initial impact will fall, unfortunately but inevitably, largely on less-developed subtropical regions. This year's events in Pakistan will be marked as the harbinger. This will greatly exacerbate the already absurd tensions between the Islamic world and everybody else. The west will not be able to motivate any useful intervention. Low-grade guerilla war will persist. We will find ourselves turning into Israelis.

10) There will be demands for geoengineering, which will keep the field of physical climatology afloat, even though somehow we will end up vaguely blamed for all the problems. However, the geopolitical constraints that made carbon pricing treaties impossible will continue to apply, and implementation will prove politically impossible.

11) Carbon concentrations will not only continue to rise, the rise will continue to accelerate. Still, the problems probably won't seriously hit the fan for a generation.

12) Nature conservation will be a hobby for the wealthy. National Parks will be priced out of most people's budgets. Most remnants of nature will be replaced by landscaping or blight. It will be recognized that once climate change kicks in in earnest, wildlife preservation will essentially be abandoned.

13) Most people will live even more frantic, distracted, entertained, worried lives with even further declining capacity for aesthetic, spiritual or intellectual development. The capacity to devote spare attention to deal with collective problems will continue to decline. Civilization will continue to be replaced by commerce. When real problems arise, we will not have the capacity to deal with them. Collapse may be abrupt, but probably can be put off a good while.


40 comments:

Neven said...

Michael Tobis, you are an optimist. ;-)


word verif: bigme

David B. Benson said...

This is very alarming because if the drying is anything resembling Figure 11, a very large population will be severely affected in the coming decades over the whole United States, southern Europe, Southeast Asia, Brazil, Chile, Australia, and most of Africa.
from
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wcc.81/full
so I agree with Neven.

Michael Tobis said...

Well, yes, something along the lines of figure 11d is about what I expect.

Drought and severe storms/localized flooding will be the dominant impacts for a while. I don't expect the sea level to matter by 2030, but I think we're starting to see climate impacts.

As most people like to forget, things get worse for some time after deciding to take action.

My guess is we will take no substantial action until 2030 at the earliest, and that we will find new supplies of fossil fuel recoverable at the $100/bbl level with new technologies.

This means that the people who think we should not think far into the future win. So ethics be damned, I suppose. Party on.

Aaron said...

The ensemble-mean got sea ice wrong, and I expect that everything else is wrong as a result, i.e., MORE drought and MORE flooding. However, the big miss for the ensemble-mean is near surface heat transport by water vapor from sea surface to ice. The 2d big miss is heat transport by ocean current to the base of ice sheets. Ice sheets melt from the bottom in, then the ice on top falls down.

I would estimate 1 or 2 meters of sea level rise by 2030 in some locations. (Most sea level estimates do not reflect local gravity and changes in Earth's center of rotation.)

Anyway, by 2030, sea level rise will take out enough infrastructure that loss of ag chemical production will combine with odd weather to disrupt everyone's food and supply. Likewise, production of synthetic fiber will be disrupted.

Lots, and lots, of people will be whining, "Why didn't you warn us?".

rustneversleeps said...

In Clive Hamilton's "Requiem for a Species" - which is very difficult to read emotionally - he talks about how you really need to come to grips with how stark our dilemma is.

But I must say that although the scenario in your main post seems oddly relatively benign, when you say in your comment "My guess is we will take no substantial action until 2030 at the earliest" it's as though I am denial. "No way is that going to happen. No way. We'll come to our senses before then." It's like I just can't go there.

Because if you look at Figure 22 in the Copenhagen Diagnosis, the implications of that kind of delay for the future responses is bleak.

Implicit in those decline rates is the ability of low-carbon industries to scale up, but if you look at Figure 1 in this report (and the related logic and conclusions) you reach a point where the industries have to grow so fast for so long that they can't possibly do so. The requirements for skilled personnel and capital and supply chains etc. just buckles under the weight of too fast growth...

The real-world constraints to industrial growth include access to skilled people, access to resources, access to plant and machinery for manufacturing,
installation and operation, and access to capital for both manufacturing and projects.

Rapid growth can be just as hazardous for a company and industry as inadequate growth. Therefore, it is important when modelling the growth of low-carbon industries to establish a plausible upper limit of growth for companies and industries participating in a very rapid low-carbon re-industrialisation. This upper limit reflects the point at which companies are likely to either fail due to excessive growth or turn away opportunities in order to maintain stability.

In this report, 30% annual average growth is considered to be the upper limit of sustained industry growth in a free market. Beyond this limit, the delivery of consistent growth is not plausible.


So, I don't know exactly what my point is, but it's just dismal reading your assessment given that it will essentially foreclose so much of what is feasible in terms of our options...

Gareth said...

You assume that as the US goes, so goes the world. Forgivable from your perspective, but from the outside world it looks a tad myopic.

A climate event sometime within the next decade (possibly rapid Arctic sea ice loss, with knock-on NH climate change) will be enough to kick start aggressive international action. The EU and China will lead, the US will bitch and moan but get with the program(mme) eventually. By then, of course, it will be too late to hit 450 ppm, so the "target" becomes 500-550. By 2030 all hell will be breaking loose, principally in places with low adaptive capacity: SE Asia, Africa etc. But the knock-on effect of that will not be pretty.

Michael Tobis said...

The US as it is configured these days will not take kindly to being influenced by outsiders.

There are real risks in pressuring white middle Americans, as the Mexicans will attest and the Comanche, Kiowa, Tonkawa, Karankawa and Wichita peoples would if there were any left to do so, just to mention the major former populations of Texas.

Unlike many Americans I do not discount what happens elsewhere. But I find it hard to imagine that the influence and pressure technique will work.

In fact, the Chinese already have the power to exert very strong pressure on an ordinary society. But Americans are not accustomed to compromise with aliens. Among whom many of them would include Mr. Obama, please note.

America matters too much to the whole picture, even in decline. Without America, no deal. And politicians elsewhere are happy to duck the blame.

Also note that Canada and Australia are increasingly aligning with red-state America, which is unsurprising in the end. Demographically and geographically, they are pretty much like large, underpopulated US states, i.e., red states. Alone these countries don't have much influence, but they do have resources, they do have natural affinities for the US, and the US is inclined to encourage them to dig those resources up.

Francis said...

There may be a couple of jokers in the deck.

1. The Colorado River could drop well below 15 million acre-feet per year (MAFY). Las Vegas is lowest on the totem pole. The fight between Las Vegas and California farmers in Imperial County might get people to pay some attention.

2. Drought in South America and Africa could cause worldwide food shortages in a hurry. And once governments are dealing with hungry people, guessing on the future gets tough. If a fascist regime comes to power someplace and the US still won't sign onto the global carbon reduction accord, anything could happen. Terrorism in the US. Getting nuked. Who knows.

Michael Tobis said...

Let's not dwell on the disasters that might come quickly. The scenario I sketched out is about the best we can hope for now.

rjnagle said...

What about Galveston and Corpus Christi?

What about Houston as a world headquarters for energy?

What about water supply of cities in Texas ?

Those are the things that really scare me.

What about the energy portfolios for state utilities? Even given Rick Perry, it seems likely that energy portfolios will have continued its greening trend.

Gareth said...

The US as it is configured these days will not take kindly to being influenced by outsiders.

That is self-evident, but it doesn't mean that the US has to be central to action as it is taken. "Influence and pressure" may not work, but self-interest might -- if the US voters can be made aware what it is. Which begs a whole other question about the health of a democracy where billionaires can buy tea parties.

No, if successive US administrations can't be brought to the international table, then I suspect (hope) that the rest of the world will just get on and do what it needs to. That will mean carbon tariffs for US products, and that might just send a signal that can't be ignored by the people paying the pipers...

Mind you, I'd be the first to admit that given current performance, assuming that the rest of the world will do anything meaningful involves heroic levels of optimism. Which is why I predicate any action on a "climate disaster" of some scale, with luck one that doesn't pass any tipping points...

cagw_skeptic99 said...

Actually this is the most pragmatic and realistic post I have seen from MT. Since it is about predictions, here are some of mine:

1) Natural variation will cycle to the cold side for at least the next 20 years.

2) Declining temperatures year after year will cause increasing frustration among the CAGW true believers who inhabit this and similar blogs.

3) Those who insulted me for saying this in previous comments will be finding reasons why their passionate beliefs were almost correct. Probably the new CAGW meme will be that the missing heat is hidden deep in the oceans and will arise like a Phoenix.

4) CAGW true believers are mostly irrelevant now, and will become more so each year as their predictions about temperature change have the wrong arithmetic sign.

5) Conflict between actual measurements and models will require ever more imaginative reasoning as efforts intensify to hide the decline.

6) The transition from CAGW to 'climate change' and disruption will be especially timely. A cooling world will see actual suffering that should give rise to meaningful mitigation efforts. Since you have replaced warming with change, most of the grant applications can be reused with only minor changes.

Cheers

Marlowe Johnson said...

I think where this scenario is overly pessimistic is in its assumption that renewables won't reach parity within the next 20 years.

The learning curves from the past 5 10 years or so wrt to solar and batteries suggest otherwise, so it's hard to see how coal and oil will be used in any great quantity by 2030.

Michael Tobis said...

rjnagle, as I understand it Galveston is in big trouble even before sea level rise kicks in. But we're talking the relatively near future here. And although we are really shy here in Texas on the type of traditional urban fabric that Galveston provides, it's really not a major feature of life for Texans.

I haven't been to Galveston since Ike. I wonder how it is doing.

There do seem to be comparable problems in Corpus. "coastal land in this area is slowly sinking due to geologic forces and oil extraction, and this "subsidence" combines with global sea-level rise to produce more "relative" sea-level rise here than in places where the coastline is stable or rising according to this article. I have speculated about the loss of the massive Texas energy and chemical industry infrastructure, probably the healthiest heavy industry in America right now. But I don't think any of these things will cut in by 2030. If they do, so much for Texas as the unappreciated economic engine of America.

Michael Tobis said...

cagw_skeptic, since I'm speculating on this thread I guess you get to also. In general I don't welcome slef-important SWAG postings of the sort that are Watts's bread and butter. You are just guessing and hoping.

(I think all of this twenty year natural cooling business is based on a single Tsonis paper, and Tsonis is not really an earth scientist at all, just an applied mathematician. His speculations bring back Hubert Lamb's. They are essentially pre-scientific in that they are based on extrapolation of observations. Essentially they beg the question of whether what we are already seeing is forced. Which "very likely" it is, you know.)

But let's take the lid off here. Anybody else care to venture any guesses?

byron smith said...

Thanks for going out on a limb with predictions here, and in many cases, I think yours are quite insightful. While in one sense you are "optimistic" about the "party" continuing more or less unchallenged (seriously) until 2030, in another sense, this makes you a deeper pessimist than others in the long term, since we have twenty more years of damage before we start decelerating.

I assume your claim about alternative fossil fuels is intended to sidestep worries about peak oil? Do you think that the capacity exists to avoid the serious liquid shortfalls predicted by the Pentagon by 2014-15? These predictions include (as I understand it) non-conventional fuels.

Also, no word on nuclear or CCS in your predictions? I predict they will each get plenty of money pumped into them (the former making any collapse far more dangerous).

Another wildcard likely to come into play prior to 2030 is the global debt economy, which has already had one shock in the 2008-09 GFC, and which could well face more (of a similar scale or larger) within the next five years. A period of serious deflation (or perhaps hyperinflation, or deflation followed by hyperinflation) leading into a global greater depression could actually be something of a godsend for climate mitigation through an aggressive shutdown of industries (despite causing untold misery along the way). Yet such a scenario could make peak oil worse by removing incentives to invest in infrastructure.

Another wildcard is the domestic response to this: The relative position of the US with respect to the rest of the world will continue to decline slowly. One can imagine the feeling of losing power, influence and security making certain very hawkish figures more attractive to large parts of the populace and increasing the chances of further military confrontations (vs Iran, or vs Russia or China through proxies). Once underway, such conflicts have significant unforeseen unforeseeable consequences that could lead geopolitics in numerous directions.

There will be no such thing as wild caught seafood.
By 2050, yes; by 2030, no.

Collapse may be abrupt, but probably can be put off a good while.
Good while = 2021? 2040? 2080? 2200? 3000?

Personally, I don't think we can make it to 2050 without significant global disruption of the present political and social order (likely involving widespread violence).

Artifex said...

Could you further explain your reasoning behind #8 ? I can't follow your train of thought.

Michael Tobis said...

Just extrapolating trends on #8: faculty who don't care about undergrads, undergrads who don't care about faculty, degrees that convey no useful skills or marketability, pointless attachment to the lecture format, emergence of niche education, less career attachment... Basically, the internet destroys the already archaic model of the liberal education.

Much is lost as a side effect, but the point is, everything that was gained was a side effect in the first place.

I could put the disappearance of newspapers in the same category. You can add that in.

Michael Tobis said...

betting on collapse is an odd but interesting idea.

Defining it roughly: a rapid increase in mortality globally. To be specific, say a 10% or larger decline in world population that is not driven by voluntary birth control. How this will end once it starts is anybody's guess but it won't be pretty.

I'd say I'm about 80% sure it will happen in this century. This is much more pessimistic than I was ten years and a couple of months ago when it seemed likely that Mr. Gore would be president.

I still think it is within human capacity to avoid the crunch, but honestly I am having a hard time envisioning the scenario at this point.

byron smith said...

degrees that convey no useful skills or marketability
If this is intended as a comment on all degrees outside of "the hard sciences and engineering", then I fear you're simply revealing your prejudices here. I don't dispute the likely decline of the university, but valuable human knowledge goes well beyond this narrow field.

I'd say I'm about 80% sure it will happen in this century.
If we get to 2101 with more than six billion people still alive (6.6 billion -10%), we'll be doing remarkably well.

manuel "moe" g said...

What Artifex said: "Could you further explain your reasoning behind #8 ? I can't follow your train of thought." Me too.

On the ability of the US to perpetually frustrate rational carbon taxes:

There are market mechanisms for forcing the US to have rational carbon taxes. All we need is a significant block of the global market, acting in self-interest, to raise the price of inputs to the US, and tax the outputs coming out of the US. Since it will be less efficient to tax indirectly, it will over-burden the US, and then it there will be a real benefit for the US just to document that rational carbon taxes were applied, and then rational carbon taxes become the cheapest route.

At least 5 nations have nuclear sub fleets with intercontinental ballistic missiles with multiple warheads and modern countermeasures from missile defense. These bring the pain directly to the decision makers, by destroying *everything* that is associated with their maintenance of quality of life, if not their life itself. No longer is the pain to be exclusive to the percentage of the population that would usually be volunteered into being cannon fodder. No amount of petulant exceptionism by the ruling elites can overcome having the most expensive real estate ignited into blobs of black glass.

If I speak with uncharacteristic optimism, I would say that countries are not *actually* disregarding sound climate policy, although the vagaries of daily politics make it seem so. Already sound climate policy is influencing military defense decisions and very high level international treaties. What we are seeing are the "manufactured populism" that allows rational jockeying for economic position, before the sh*t hits the fan, and trillions of dollars worth of shipping infrastructure is damaged by rising sea levels and by more heat energy being available for extreme destructive weather events. That, and not drowning polar bears, is the price the people who count cannot dream to bare.

The trillions of dollars worth of shipping infrastructure is exactly the thing worth protecting with extreme military measures. So a posture of damaging exceptionism can be compelled by others to be dropped.

Michael Tobis said...

Byron, I did say much would be lost with the decline of the university.

(Almost every Northwestern graduate of my generation took English lit from Bergen Evans. It was a privilege even though it was a chore. I got a great deal out of several other liberal arts classes at NU. But in today's short attention span world I wonder if there is the patience to even deliver this kind of education, much less the interest in receiving it. Most of us also took intro to Astronomy with Alan Hynek, coiner of the pseudo-scientific expression "close encounters of the Nth kind"; even though nominally a science course it was much easier going. Hynek was more a creature of the modern university. Evans was a throwback.)

Much has been lost with the decline of the newspaper as well. But some traditions eventually go away, the good with the bad.

Artifex said...

MT,

I would contest "the decline of the university". The same core values of the university are there and will probably continue to be there for some time to come. These core values are just mask to a certain extent by a very recent phenomena of everybody going to collage (or even high school). Will this continue ? Maybe not, but it is a very, very recent phenomena. Places will always exist that provide the type of education you describe, just not everybody will have access to them.

I also think the effects of the university on culture are overstated. To make a quick point: Consider the last 50 physics Nobels awarded. How many of them were to university faculty ? Now consider your personal list of 50 most important novels of the 20th century or 50 most influential art objects. How many of those are the works of academics ? The objective math driven world of engineering and science has always been a fundamentally different creature than the humanities.

I also think you are missing one of the understated points of a classical education. This to a large extent distinguished the children of privilege from their peers. (i.e. saying that you can't have the CEO job unless you have a specific education and know the right people causes less consternation than claiming you can't have the CEO job unless you are related to specific bloodlines). I don't see this dynamic going away anytime soon. In fact I see it becoming more intense as competition grows fiercer.

Michael Tobis said...

An interesting argument, Artifex, but more applicable to Harvard and Yale than to the schools that house most of the work in meteorology and oceanography.

Yes, a scientific career not caught up in all the complexity of university life is likely to be more productive. If you can't get a job at a national lab, shoot for the University of Chicago, where undergrads are as rare as hen's teeth. I don't think U of C is going anywhere, nor MIT, nor Stanford. Northwestern, although they keep foolishly asking me for money, can do just fine on its real estate portfolio and its endowment.

But state universities (Illinois, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan, Florida State, TAMU, Oklahoma) of the sort that lead the charge in meteorology are threatened. Go down a notch to where a school can't afford a football presence, and I don't have any idea how they expect to stay in business.

Similarly, something called the New York Times will persist. Not so sure about the Austin Statesman or the Wisconsin State Journal.


I would not be so sure about

Ric said...

I would love you to give more support and detail for #1, fossil fuel abundance. Quite apart from the wisdom of burning more, I have doubts about the possibility.

Obviously, you can't use the last half decade of oil production to support predictions of thriving consumption. What will happen that hasn't so far?

Michael Tobis said...

OK, non-authoritative opinion here. Please don't quote as "noted scientist says", OK? Strictly half-informed speculation follows.

We are running out of liquid fuel, not out of carbon based fuel.

If we take climate into account, the best solution is switching to an electric car infrastructure, and running the power on nuclear facilities, with a proper waste disposal process in place, supplemented wherever possible with renewables. (Air traffic would use biofuels.) If we axe nuclear, we need a huge push for solar thermal; countries which have a substantial highway dependency without access to a hot sunny desert would seem to be pretty much hosed.

If we don't take climate into account, the best solution is new extraction from shales and tars plus coal-to-liquids. Normal market mechanisms will probably make this happen in a timely way.

It is exactly this prospect that makes a price on carbon necessary very soon, to steer the market away from this disastrous choice.

I don't doubt that there will be costs and stresses associated with the transition either way. Nor do I question the idea that the low carbon way is more difficult and expensive.

The idea that we will be eating locally grown food or nothing because of a truck fuel shortage is totally unconvincing to me.

Other interactions between agriculture and fossil fuels may well turn out to be very important, but the natural gas shortage that would drive it appears to be a ways off, again because we in Texas are happy to destroy our aquifers for your benefit.

Some friends of mine just had a successful fracking operation come in on a ranch where they have some residual mineral rights. They are good decent educated people and the Democrats in the family will wring their hands a bit, but I promise they are happy about the royalties and will forego the water well.

The operation is producing almost pure kerosene.

Adam said...

But let's take the lid off here. Anybody else care to venture any guesses?

I'm guessing there's a disaster flick-worthy weather event in the cards between now and 2030. I'm betting on a mega-heat wave in northern Europe or a heavily populated part of the U. S., with a death toll in five figures.

This will raise climate change awareness for a while, but not enough for serious action. While the dead are being buried and the editorials are being written, the mining of coal and tar sands will continue unabated.

David B. Benson said...

Adam --- Already happened in France in the summer of 2003 CE.

Luddite said...

MT: "But let's take the lid off here. Anybody else care to venture any guesses?"

The sort of catastrophic totally out-of-control wildfires (bushfire Down Here) the US, southern Europe, Russia and Oz have seen recently will become much more common (if not commonplace). I'll dig up some references when I get a roun tuit, but some of the stuff fire ecology scientists from Oz, the US and elsewhere have written recently scares sevral types of crap out of me.

Michael Tobis said...

I'll buy Luddite's prediction. Adam's isn't even a stretch.

Lou Grinzo said...

MT is both brave and annoyingly accurate, but let me chime in with a few tweaks.

The water situation in the CO river basin will deteriorate considerably. It's perilously close to shutting down the Hoover turbines right now, and not far from reducing water flows to Las Vegas.

Similarly, the problems of a couple of years ago with Atlanta and Lake Lanier will return with a vengeance, resulting in (again) thermo electric plants being shut down for weeks to months. (Already happened in 2007 and 2010.)

In short, the energy-water nexus will kick in at a much higher level than we've seen to date.

A sleeper issue is the successful global efforts to reduce SO2 emissions. China has been inconveniently cooperative in this respect, which will unleash a new level of forcing. (Check the IPCC graphs showing the effects of various anthro emissions; reducing sulfates dramatically over a decade, and they already peaked a few years ago, will subtract considerable cooling.)

Big hunks of ice will fall off Antarctica and Greenland, and no one will give a flying fig.

David B. Benson said...

We can hope that new solar-powered process removes CO2 from the air and stores it as solid carbon actually will scale up.

cagw_skeptic99 said...

Temperatures have cycled up and down throughout the period when we had thermometers to measure them, in roughly 30 year cycles. This continued during the last century without any obvious relationship to CO2 increase, and there is no real evidence that these cycles will not continue for the next century.

Sea level increases and loss of island habitat have been repeatedly forecast for many years now. The rate of sea level rise has actually been decreasing for a few years, and it would not surprise me if sea levels actually fall between now and 2030.

Carbon based fuel consumption will increase sharply between now and 2030, and will continue to increase rapidly unless a cheaper alternative becomes available. Roughly half of global electricity is produced by coal, and that isn't likely to change much.

Droughts happened in the 1930's in the US, and probably were not caused by CO2. Likely they will happen again and will be attributed to CO2 by those who believe that CO2 is harmful.

Fisheries will collapse or not based on global willingness to control commercial fishing fleets, without regard to CO2 and global temperatures.

Heat events like France in 03 and Moscow this last summer were not attributable to CO2, have happened before, and likely will happen again.

Natural variation in climate has been going on since the beginning of time and will continue long after the current fantasies about the importance of CO2 are only amusing footnotes in history books. The historical topic will be wondering how so many seemingly well educated people could deceive themselves into believing that CO2 levels, whose effect is a decreasing log function, have more than a minimal effect on climate when increasing from current levels.

Cheers.

Luddite said...

A quick link on effects on fire regimes in Oz:

This by Williams et al for the CSIRO in 2009, abstract at: http://ecite.utas.edu.au/62117

"Examination of weather data from south-eastern Australia over the period 1973-2007 shows that fire danger (as measured by the annual sum of the commonly-used Forest Fire Danger Index) rose by 10-40% at many sites from 2001-2007 relative to 1980-2000... Climate change projections are for warming and drying over much of Australia, and hence an increased risk of severe fire weather, especially in south-eastern Australia. Modeling suggests an increase of 5 to 65 per cent in the incidence of extreme fire danger days by 2020 in this region... Simulation modeling of climate change impacts on fire regimes in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) predicted that a 2ÂșC increase in mean annual temperature would increase the landscape measure of fire intensity by 25%, increase the area burnt, and reduce intervals between fires..."

etc. etc.

David B. Benson said...

cagw_skeptic99 --- You are wrong about temperatures going up and down. Here is a simple zero demensional, zero reservoir study with an actual prediction:
Global Warming, Decade by Decade
Do attempt to understand it this time, wmar.

ourchangingclimate said...

Lou,

Global SO2 emissions will not be drastially reduced over the course of a decade.

Though in Europe aerosol pollution is decreasing, over Asia it is still increasing while being more or less stabel over North America (according to Wang et al 2009 based on satellite derived aerosol optical depth)

AR4 quotes a study as saying "The burdens of sulfate, nitrate, black carbon, and organic carbon are predicted respectively to be 0.32. 0.18, 0.01, 0.33 Tg in preindustrial time, 1.40, 0.48, 0.23, 1.60 Tg in present-day, and 1.37, 1.97, 0.54, 3.31 Tg in year 2100. " based on a model simulation (GISS II) based on SRES A2.


More broadly on the quesion of the future, I don't think terrible disasters are in the cards before 2030. It's a slow motion disaster if anything, and will therefore not be noticed as being a disaster. I'm not optimistic that we will have changed our trajectory noticeably by 2030. Climate will continue taking the backseat to the economy. Global tensions will increase partly due to regionally varying climate effects (by probably more so due to other geopolitical stresses such as declinging oil and (locally) fresh water reserves, increasing cultural tensions (e.g. the Islamic world versus the West).

Partly as a result of these tensions, and partly because different coutnries have such different short term interests, the focus will be more on local adaptation (e.g. as a result of floods there will be a push for higher dikes) than on global mitigation.

Which will make the climate situation deteriorate even more. Untill at some point, much later in this century, the climate effects become more and more widespread and problematic. Whether at that point it turns into a global disaster or strong global (meaning by everyone; not meaning necessarily by a global kind of government) action to fend off the worst is up to the future generations.

Bart

adelady said...

I'm not so sure, ourchangingclimate. Remember Hansen's prediction that 2012 is likely to be a recordbreaking year. If that means another 2003 across Europe and anything like the worst we've had in Oz, we're staring down the barrel of some really nasty effects fairly soon.

And a big el Nino will certainly push enough superwarm water from the Pacific through to wash away those stubborn remnants of Arctic summer ice.

ourchangingclimate said...

adelady,

The European heatwave of 2003 caused many excess deaths and was an extraordinary meteorological event, but it wasn't catastrophic on a global scale, and nor did it spur a sudden increase in mitigation efforts.

Bart

Ric said...

OK cagw_skeptic99, you are pushing a bunch of tired and dubious pseudo-skeptical points, found all over the web, though seldom bothered with here. You appear to be predicting that temps and sea level will NOT rise over the next 2 or 3 decades.

Let's find out if you really believe that stuff. How about a substantial (5-6 figures, and note I'm a regular ol' middle-class American, not Bill Gates) bet, the more public the better, under our real names. I have lots of ideas about the details if you are willing.

PS I habitually make blog comments under my full name. Here you just see "Ric" derived in some way obscure to me from my signing in to my Google account, which knows my full name.

-- Ric Merritt

Michael Tobis said...

cagw_s predictions, except for sea level, are not too far off mine, but the spin is very wrong.

it would not surprise me if sea levels actually fall between now and 2030. No. We can be very confident of a measurable increase. Will it be widely problematic by 2030? I think not yet, which is why I didn't mention it.

Carbon based fuel consumption will increase sharply between now and 2030, and will continue to increase rapidly unless a cheaper alternative becomes available. Roughly half of global electricity is produced by coal, and that isn't likely to change much. That's what I said. I'd put about 75% confidence in this.

Droughts happened in the 1930's in the US, and probably were not caused by CO2. Likely they will happen again and will be attributed to CO2 by those who believe that CO2 is harmful. Agree. But the attribution will be right, in some degree. Subtropical drought will substantially increase.

Fisheries will collapse or not based on global willingness to control commercial fishing fleets, without regard to CO2 and global temperatures. Agree as to the first order cause, but ocean acidification and coral decline from rapid warming are already factors.

Heat events like France in 03 and Moscow this last summer were not attributable to CO2, have happened before, and likely will happen again. Yes, but these events will become measurably more frequent by 2030. The Moscow event has no precedent.

...how so many seemingly well educated people could deceive themselves into believing that CO2 levels, whose effect is a decreasing log function I think you misunderstand. It's logarithmic in the total CO2, not in the new CO2. The logarithmic aspect doesn't make much difference until the total exceeds the background, and it only helps very gradually. At 4x background, you only get 3x the background forcing from CO2. It doesn't help very much.