How Accurate Are Climate Change Predictions, Really?

Updated on March 23, 2017

Conversation and Challenge

"What would it take,” I asked fellow writer and climate skeptic jackclee, “to convince you that we have a climate problem?”

We’d been having an extended discussion in the comments of my article, Climate Change: How Much Time Do We Have? Jack responded:

Doc, the one evidence I need is for the various climate models to agree with reality. There projections has consistently over estimated the temperature rise. I just don't trust them considering how the models have such variables which are based on assumptions and the small tweak can cause large changes in the model outputs. In a few short years, we will see if these models are for real or they are contrived. Please revisit this in a few years. Take care.

Though marked by Jack’s customary civility, it was a frustrating response for me, as the article in which the conversation was occurring had gone to considerable lengths to examine how much time remains to us to take action on climate, concluding that in certain respects it is already too late. The least misleading answer to the question “How much time do we have?” was, I wrote:

None, really. We are late, and we just need to work not to get any later.

That was true, I had said:

  • Because it’s already too late for the victims of climate change to date.
  • Because climate change is insidious--as with tobacco smoking, the damage is often done before symptoms are evident.
  • Because global carbon emissions still seem to be increasing.
  • Because we are running out of time to avoid what is generally considered ‘dangerous’ warming.

So I tried to address Jack’s concern directly, citing data and discussions that show that, in fact, the observations are consistent with IPCC projections of temperature, as linked in the sidebar below.

Original Model-Observation Comparison Graphs


Updated Comparison Graph, August 2016

Updated observation-model comparison, August 2016.  Graphs courtesy of RealClimate.
Updated observation-model comparison, August 2016. Graphs courtesy of RealClimate.

BEST update, to February 2017

Updated model-observation comparison, courtesy of Dr. Zeke Hausfeather of BEST.
Updated model-observation comparison, courtesy of Dr. Zeke Hausfeather of BEST. | Source

Although temperatures had been running lower than the central estimate of IPCC projections in recent years, they were, and are, still within the projected ‘envelope,’ as shown in the figure above and discussed at length in the linked articles.

Moreover, I added, there was and is a long track record in the scientific literature of successful predictions by climate models. It was collected and documented by Barton Paul Levenson (also linked in sidebar.)

I quoted Barton as follows below:

Global Climate Models have successfully predicted:

  • That the globe would warm, and about how fast, and about how much.
  • That the troposphere would warm and the stratosphere would cool.
  • That nighttime temperatures would increase more than daytime temperatures.
  • That winter temperatures would increase more than summer temperatures.
  • Polar amplification (greater temperature increase as you move toward the poles).
  • That the Arctic would warm faster than the Antarctic.
  • The magnitude (0.3 K) and duration (two years) of the cooling from the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.
  • They made a retrodiction for Last Glacial Maximum sea surface temperatures which was inconsistent with the paleo evidence, and better paleo evidence showed the models were right.
  • They predicted a trend significantly different and differently signed from UAH satellite temperatures, and then a bug was found in the satellite data.
  • The amount of water vapor feedback due to ENSO.
  • The response of southern ocean winds to the ozone hole.
  • The expansion of the Hadley cells.
  • The poleward movement of storm tracks.
  • The rising of the tropopause and the effective radiating altitude.
  • The clear sky super greenhouse effect from increased water vapor in the tropics.
  • The near constancy of relative humidity on global average.
  • That coastal upwelling of ocean water would increase.

Seventeen correct predictions? Looks like a pretty good track record to me.

Jack's response to that was indirect:

Doc, I came across this web site recently and would like you to comment -

(Jack's site is linked in a second sidebar.)

I will make a pledge to you.

You ask me what it would take to be convinced.

If the items in the forecast for 2015 and 2020 comes true as they projected, I will be convinced.

There were problems with that. The worst for me is that there is simply no point in convincing Jack (or anyone else, for that matter) sometime in 2020 or 2021. We need decisive action on climate, and we need it now.

But there are other issues, too. Some of the ‘predictions’ involve things that are really not all that relevant—global air conditioner sales, for instance. And what would the criteria for predictive success be? Surely it would be unrealistic to expect each and every point to come true precisely? For that matter, some of the projections are not couched very precisely. How could we decide whether or not they should be considered ‘successful’?

Noting all these problems—and, frankly, hoping to split up what looked like a daunting workload—I made a suggestion to Jack:

So, how about this: you and I make a project. We'll sort the predictions for this year (ie., predictions on the 2015 page of the site) that we want to assess--other than what I've done here, no looking ahead! (Full disclosure: I already looked at the case of Lagos, Nigeria, a bit.) Then we'll research them and compare what we find. We each write an article about it.

What do you say?

Jack accepted, and so the present article was born.

Sorting The "Predictions"

My first task was to read and sort the predictions on the 2015 ‘predictions’ page. Readers can find it on the site page linked above, but for convenience, here is the specific page relating to 2015-relevant predictions (sidebar, right--or above, on mobile devices.)

Cutting to the chase, a tedious process of listing, winnowing, consolidation and tabulation eventually produced a more-or-less manageable list of 28 items. Fourteen of them were then eliminated ‘for cause.’ These items (with their original list positions and ‘cause for dismissal’) are listed in Table 1:

Table 1: Rejected 'Predictions'

Item Description
Original list #
Reason for rejection
Global air conditioner sales increase
Silly proxy. Sales can be affected by too many things besides climate. (But the projection did apparently come true, FWIW.)
Global emissions projections
Not actually a prediction, and a driver of climate, not a consequence of it.
Lake Mead dry by 2014, 10% chance
Too low a chance to count as a ‘prediction.’
Suna’a, Yemen, to run dry by 2017
Water situation serious, but civil war renders clear outcome relative to prediction impossible.
Various population projections
Not climate predictions, though growing populations do tend to use more energy.
Climate-driven migration in Nigeria
Civil conflict and weak governance make this impossible to assess.
Loss of climate measurement/observation capability
Not a climate prediction, though it makes climate study harder (and has occurred).
Rare earths shortages by 2015
Not a climate prediction.
Worldwide oil supply shortage of 10M barrels/day by 2015
Obviously a bad miss, but still not a climate prediction.
No ‘demand challenge’ to global energy supply in 2015
One more time—not a climate prediction.
Global energy prices to be unstable during 2000-2015.
Certainly, but no, not a climate prediction.
Solar energy predicted to be the least expensive source of electricity by 2016.
Not a climate prediction, but will comment briefly as ‘appendix.’
China to mine 25% more coal; consumption to reach 2.3 billion tons by 2015.
Not a climate prediction, but will comment briefly as ‘appendix.’
US agriculture suffers due to lack of pollinators, leading China to supply up to 40% of US vegetables
CCD—the epidemic of bee deaths—is still quite a problem, but hasn’t undermined US ag quite that badly. And the Chinese economy has grown in ways not well anticipated in 2006.
Table 1: Rejected 'Predictions'

The Rubric

That leaves 14 predictions to assess. But how to assess them? Not all were precisely quantified, and even when they were, available data aren’t necessarily sorted in such a way that direct comparisons can be made.

I fell back on classroom teaching experience to create a rubric to enable ‘grading’ of each prediction. Here’s what it looked like:

Predictions rubric


  • 4—Prediction within 10%
  • 3—Prediction within 25%
  • 2—Prediction within 50%
  • 1—Correct sign
  • 0—Wrong sign


  • 4—Outcome closely resembles prediction
  • 3—Outcome reasonably resembles prediction
  • 2—Outcome somewhat resembles prediction
  • 1—Outcome points toward possibility of prediction being realized, given enough time
  • 0—No resemblance between outcome and prediction

(1 additional point may be awarded in cases where outcome exceeds prediction--that is, where climate change is worse than predicted.)

With that in hand, I attacked the list of remaining predictions. Here are the results, item by item, and with a discussion of what I see as important points relating to each.

Assessing The Predictions

In all cases, the supporting web links for the prediction and outcomes will be found in sidebar capsules (right--or above for mobiles).

1. The prediction:

Stanford computer models project a dramatic spike in extreme seasonal temperatures during the period 2010 - 2019. "The Stanford team also forecast a dramatic spike in extreme seasonal temperatures during the current decade [2010 – 2019]. Temperatures equaling the hottest season on record from 1951 to 1999 could occur four times between now [2010] and 2019 over much of the U.S., according to the researchers. The 2020s and 2030s could be even hotter, particularly in the American West."

The reality:

The US experienced significant heat waves in 2011 (“On a national basis, the heat wave was the hottest in 75 years”), 2012 (March brought “a remarkably prolonged period of record setting temperatures”), 2013 (regionally, in the Southwest “46 monthly record high temperatures were reached or broken, and 21 records for the highest overnight temperatures were reached or broken”), and 2015 (“triple-digit heat indices across a large swath of the U.S...”)

Interestingly, consideration of one obscure but telling statistic—the tally of ‘cooling degree days’—the top three hottest US summers occurred during the prediction period so far. In order, they are: 2011, 2010 and 2012.

Given that the prediction period ran from 2010 through 2019, and is thus only about half over, it is tempting to rate this prediction as a ‘5’—that is, the number of observed events matches the predicted number of events, for a ‘4’ on the quantitative rubric, plus a bonus point since there are still several years to run in the prediction period.

However, considering that there are serious definitional issues about just how geographically widespread and how long-lasting a heatwave needs to be to count, and considering my own biases, I reduced that to a ‘3’—“outcome reasonably resembles prediction.”

March 2012 heatwave.  Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory & Wikimedia Commons.
March 2012 heatwave. Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory & Wikimedia Commons. | Source

2. The prediction:

Britain’s Met Office projects 2014 temperature likely to be 0.3 degrees Celsius warmer than 2004. “Here is the climate forecast for the next decade [2007-2014]; although global warming will be held in check for a few years, it will come roaring back to send the mercury rising before 2014."

The reality:

Once again, definitional issues cloud the picture a bit. Using the data set associated with Britain’s Meteorology Office, HADCRUT 4, one finds that 2014 temperatures were not 0.3 C warmer than 2004, but rather 0.117 C. (NASA’s data would have made that figure 0.20 C.) Clearly, less warming than forecast. On the other hand, the shape of the temperature curve does match the description given: “ warming will be held in check for a few years [but will] come roaring back.”

Overall, I rate that as a ‘2’—“outcome somewhat matches prediction.”

It’s worth noting, though, that this is more a test of ‘the Met’s’ experimental long-term forecasting ability than of climate modeling; though the 10-year is very long for weather, it is very short for climate. According to Santer et al., the shortest period for which one might expect to see a statistically-significant warming trend is 17 years.

3. The prediction:

By 2015 10 million acres of national forests may be at high risk of uncontrollable, catastrophic wildfires... as much as $12 billion, or about $725 million a year, may be needed to treat the 39 million acres at high risk of uncontrollable wildfire by the end of fiscal year 2015.

The reality:

By September 25 of this year, over 9 million acres had in fact burned. By the end of October (the conventional end of the ‘fire season’, the number had reached 9,407,571 acres. Clearly that is well within the 10% envelope for a ‘4’. There aren’t yet comprehensive numbers on the cost of those fires, but on August 5, a Forest Service Report informed us that “For the first time in its 110-year history, the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is spending more than 50 percent of its budget to suppress the nation's wildfires.” That was not a result of one exceptional year, but rather a consistent trend in fire-fighting costs. The Service called for a change in the funding mechanism to reflect this reality, as ever-increasing proportions of the Service budget were being absorbed by fire-fighting costs, to the detriment of other functions. (The full report link is in the sidebar.)

Rating: 4 “Prediction within 10%.”

Washington State wildfires, 2015.  Image courtesy NASA & Wikimedia Commons.
Washington State wildfires, 2015. Image courtesy NASA & Wikimedia Commons.

4. The prediction:

Water shortages projected for 36 states by 2013. Water managers in most states expect shortages of freshwater in the next decade [2003 – 2013]

The reality:

Unclear. Although the General Accounting Office publishes periodic surveys of state water manager expectations, they do not examine the actual outcomes. And among the responses of the water managers are survey responses that raise real questions about response quality. Apart from answers that were unresponsive—in 2014, the most recent such survey, Indiana and Ohio were both listed as ‘no response or uncertain’—there were instances that were simply not credible.

A notable example is provided by the states of Alabama and Georgia, which both report no concerns about freshwater availability despite the fact that they are, along with Florida, embroiled in a legal and political wrangle over the apportionment of freshwater flowing out of Lake Lanier, the sole source of most of Atlanta’s drinking water. The ‘tri-state water war’ has been before courts since 1990, and was the subject of a closed-doors meeting of all three governors as recently as June 2015.

In my view, if that is not cause for ‘concern’, then something is wrong with the definition of ‘concern’ in use. (To be completely clear, though, water problems in the Southeast are not a climate change issue—regional modeling does not project drought problems to be likely, as overall the region seems likely to become slightly wetter—but a policy and resource versus population issue.)

However, despite such concerns, the 2014 report has the number of ‘concerned’ water managers up by 4 to 40. And in the general media there were very serious water shortages reported for 7 states in 2015. (Of course, the current serious water shortages in California are too well-known to require a citation.)

Considering the information available, the outcome seemed ‘somewhat’ to resemble the prediction, for a rating of ‘2’.

5. The prediction:

Lake Mead’s water levels could drop below its water intake pipes by 2013. "Southern Nevada Water Authority chief Pat Mulroy . . . said the authority is in a race against time to complete a new [third intake] system [or third straw] to draw water from deep in Lake Mead [Hoover Dam]."

The reality:

The Water Authority won their race, but not by much. The ‘third straw’ project is now complete, at an announced cost of $817 million, with another $650 million for a new pumping station. The level didn’t quite reach crisis levels: problems start at a level of 1062 feet, and the system as it was would have been shut down at 1050. This summer saw levels of a little over 1075. That margin of less than 14 feet may not seem small to some, but for context, consider the ‘old normal’: in 1983 Lake Mead stood at 1225 feet.

The outcome reasonably resembles the prediction, for a rating of ‘3’.

Hoover Dam, 2012, with the 'bathtub ring' showing low water level.  Image by Tony Webster, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Hoover Dam, 2012, with the 'bathtub ring' showing low water level. Image by Tony Webster, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

6. A related prediction:

Hydroelectric turbines at Hoover Dam could cease generating electricity by 2013. “After 75 years of steadily cranking out electricity for California, Arizona and Nevada, the mighty turbines of the Hoover Dam could cease turning as soon as 2013, if water levels in the lake that feeds the dam don't start to recover, say water and dam experts. Under pressure from the region's growing population and years of drought, Lake Mead was down to 1,087 feet, a 54-year low, as of Wednesday [September 8, 2010]. If the lake loses 10 feet a year, as it has recently, it will soon reach 1,050 feet, the level below which the turbines can no longer run.”

The reality:

Fortunately, the loss rate since 2010 did not continue uniformly, and although there is a small net loss, the turbines still turn—albeit with a 25% power loss. It’s worth noting, though, that hydropower in California is seriously affected by the ongoing drought and water shortage, with reductions of around 60%. As a linked story puts it:

California’s drought is just four years old. But the drop in the state’s hydroelectric production has been precipitous. Hydroelectric sources are projected to contribute just 7 percent of the state’s power this year, down from 23 percent in 2011.

Overall, the outcome was judged as pointing toward a later possibility of realizing prediction, for a rating of ‘1’.

7. The prediction:

Nearly half the world’s population will live in water-stressed countries by 2015. “By 2015 nearly half the world's population — more than 3 billion people — will live in countries that are "water-stressed" — have less than 1,700 cubic meters of water per capita per year, mostly in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and northern China."

Note the wording: this does not say that half the world’s total population will be water-stressed; it says that countries accounting for half the world’s population will experience significant water stress.

The reality:

This appears to be a solid ‘hit.’ Though definitive numbers for 2015 are not available, India and China are indeed both experiencing water stress at very significant levels, as has been the case for some time, and together account for close to 50% of global population. The story in the UK's Guardian newspaper, linked, tells the wider tale.

Rating: ‘4’.

Ladakh, India, 2014.  Image by Christopher Michel, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Ladakh, India, 2014. Image by Christopher Michel, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

8. A related prediction:

By 2015 a number of developing countries will be unable to maintain their levels of irrigated agriculture. “In the developing world, 80 percent of water usage goes into agriculture, a proportion that is not sustainable; and in 2015 a number of developing countries will be unable to maintain their levels of irrigated agriculture...”

(This comes from the same 2000 report as item #7, and is not linked again.)

The reality:

The situation for irrigation is bad and getting worse in both India and China. Additionally, Africa has serious problems, though these arise from a whole network of reasons, from climate change to population growth to poor policy and migration.

Rating: ‘4’.

9. The prediction:

Mt. Kilimanjaro’s remaining ice fields likely to disappear between 2015 and 2020... if current climatological conditions persist, the remaining ice fields are likely to disappear between 2015 and 2020.

The reality:

Thankfully, ‘the snows of Kilimanjaro’ currently seem unlikely to disappear any time soon. This prediction would receive a clear zero, except for one thing: attention to the issue, prompted by the possibility that the prediction could come true, may have been crucial.

Initially, the observed loss of ice mass on Kilimanjaro’s summit was ascribed more or less directly to global warming. But further analysis showed that the loss was probably due to less precipitation falling at the summit, and that in turn this was not so much due to global changes, but to more local ones: deforestation on Kilimanjaro’s massive slopes had altered the local water cycle. Replanting those slopes seems to have helped increase precipitation, slowing (though not halting) ice loss:

...the massive tree planting around the mount Kilimanjaro could have been mitigated the ripple effects of the global warming.

Alarmed by the...Thompson study, way back in 2006, Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete imposed a total ban on tree harvesting in Kilimanjaro region in a move aimed to halt catastrophic environmental degradation, including melting of ice on Mount Kilimanjaro.

As a result of the measures, the forest cover on the mount Kilimanjaro is slowly, but surely becoming thick.

Experts say the forests on Kilimanjaro's lower slopes absorb moisture from the cloud hovering near the peak, and in turn nourish flora and fauna below...

Given that ice loss has not been completely arrested and that warming continues, the outcome points toward a possibility that the prediction may become true in time, which rates a ‘1’.

Aerial view of Kilimanjaro, showing ice fields on Kibo peak.  Image by clem23, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Aerial view of Kilimanjaro, showing ice fields on Kibo peak. Image by clem23, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

10. The prediction:

Computer model forecasts taking into account sea ice thinning and albedo effects project an ice-free summer Arctic Ocean between 2010-2015. “The Arctic Ocean could be free of ice in the summer as soon as 2010 or 2015 -- something that hasn't happened for more than a million years, according to a leading polar researcher. Louis Fortier, scientific director of ArcticNet, a Canadian research network, said the sea ice is melting faster than predicted by models created by international teams of scientists, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They had forecast the Arctic Ocean could be free of summer ice as early as 2050.”

But this 'prediction' needs more context. Note what is said in this story—(so-called) ‘IPCC models’ at that point (November, 2007) had been estimating that the Arctic sea ice would likely be gone at the annual minimum in September ‘as early as 2050’, but a new regional model by Dr. Maslowski, of the US Naval Observatory, had projected that a much earlier outcome was possible.

Note, too, that the 2007 minimum thoroughly shocked experts; they had been concerned by the record low of 5.6 million square kilometers (mean value for the month of September). Prior to 1990, only once had that value dropped below 7 million square kilometers, and never had it broken through 6 million square kilometers. But in 2007, the disturbing record clocked in 2005 was obliterated by a stunning 4.3 million square kilometer mean September extent--a full 1.3 million kilometers less than the 2005 record (roughly 23% lower). Dr. Fortier’s comment that ‘'s probably going to happen even faster than that” should be read in the context of the shock the 2007 minimum provided.

Graph courtesy Dr. Larry Hamilton.
Graph courtesy Dr. Larry Hamilton.

It should also be noted that the newspaper story is almost certainly wrong in one respect. Though the identity of the ‘computer models’ referred to is never given in the story, it is undoubtedly the regional modeling of Dr. Wieslaw Maslowski, of the US Naval Observatory, as reported in the BBC story linked above.

Dr. Maslowski is directly quoted in another story from the same time:

Given the estimated trend and the volume estimate for October–November of 2007 at less than 9,000 km3, one can project that at this rate it would take only 9 more years or until 2016 ± 3 years to reach a nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean in summer. Regardless of high uncertainty associated with such an estimate, it does provide a lower bound of the time range for projections of seasonal sea ice cover.

So the projection, according to the scientist who made it, should be regarded as a “lower bound”, and the time frame is not 2010-2015, as the story had it, but 2013-2019.

The reality:

Dr. Fortier was wrong.

But consider the continuing decline of the sea ice—after 2007, the September mean has never again risen above 2005 levels. And in 2012 the September mean extent crashed to just 3.6 million square kilometers. (September of this month saw the fourth-lowest value in the record, with a mean of just 4.6 million.)

In that context, it is not so clear that Dr. Maslowski was wrong. The window for his ‘lower bound’ estimate runs until 2019.

The IPCC was wrong, too, or so it appears at this juncture. In 2007, they thought that we had until 2050 or so before the first ice-free Arctic summer. The sea ice crash we have seen since then makes that scenario highly unlikely; currently observers such as the National Snow and Ice Center’s Dr. Walt Serreze now think the likely year is sometime around 2030.

Dr. Fortier gets a ‘1’, even though the mainstream science would do better.

Eko-Atlantic City under construction, Lagos, Nigeria, 2011.  Image by omar 180, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Eko-Atlantic City under construction, Lagos, Nigeria, 2011. Image by omar 180, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

11. The prediction:

Lagos, Nigeria projected to be at risk from sea level rise. "Nigeria will suffer from climate-induced drought, desertification, and sea level rise... Lagos, the capital, is one of the West African coastal megacities [along with Alexandria, Egypt] that the IPCC identifies as at risk from sea level rise by 2015.”

The reality:

Again, solid, comparable information is hard to come by, and the prediction itself is not very specific. But it is clear that Lagos is facing increased flooding, forming a serious threat to its infrastructure:

An increasingly important threat to the high population and large concentration of residential, industrial, commercial and urban infrastructure systems in Africa’s coastal megacity of Lagos is flooding. Over the past decade, flooding in Lagos has increased significantly, drawing increasing attention to the need for flood risk management.

It’s not as clear what proportion of this risk proceeds from sea level rise, as identified in the prediction, and what proportion from extreme precipitation and increasing storm surge (both expected consequences of climate change, in general) or from other causes, such as land subsidence (which can be either natural or man-made, and which results in localized ‘relative sea level rise.’)

However, it is noteworthy that the there’s a mega-project, underway since 2003 and now said to be nearing completion, intended to protect the city from sea-level rise—an 8-kilometer barrier dubbed the ‘Great Wall of Lagos.’ Not only that, an artificial island will be the site of a glittering new city center, financed entirely by private investment, and intended to become the “Hong Kong of Africa”. As usual, that is linked right, together with a less enthusiastic take. Not yet reality, but perhaps worth noting in passing, is that serious, widespread issues with both desertification and sea level rise continue to be projected for Africa.

Overall rating: ‘3’.

Adelie penguins.  Image by Jerzy Strzelecki, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Adelie penguins. Image by Jerzy Strzelecki, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

12. The prediction:

Projected extinction of Adélie penguin population around Palmer Station, Antarctica. “A small residual population [Adélie penguins] on Humble Island [near Palmer Station, Antarctica] may survive the climatic shift down the peninsula, [seabird ecologist Bill Fraser of the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research (PAL LTER) project] guessed, but the overall prognosis is that in the next decade the Adélies around Palmer will be gone. ‘Their numbers are in catastrophic decline,’ Fraser said.”

(Unfortunately, the original link appears to be dead, and so is not linked.)

The reality:

The Adelies are not gone yet, though the decline in population continues. Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins, which tolerate warmer temperature better, have been moving in in large numbers.’s been a shock to see how drastically Adelie penguins have declined while gentoos have increased in the last 20 years.

I have linked some of the baseline research, from 1998, and including as one author Dr. Bill Fraser, who was mentioned in the prediction.

It would be great to see some hard numbers on the Adelie population of Palmer Station, to get a better feeling for how the trends are playing out. But it appears that the prediction is somewhere in the midrange: 2018 is probably too aggressive, but all sources discussing the population agree that the species is in trouble in the Palmer Station area.

Rating: ‘3’, “Outcome reasonably resembles prediction.”

Update on Adelie penguins, 7/2/16

A recent article on the prognosis for Adelie penguins, not just around Palmer Station, but around the whole Antarctic continent, stated that, as of 2013, the Palmer Station population had been reduced by about 80%.

The outlook for the species generally is not great:

by 2099, our projections suggest 78% to 51% (mean 58%) of colonies could experience declines, containing 64% to 39% (mean 46%) of the current abundance.

Luckily, while Adelies look to be vulnerable to decline, there are areas projected to serve as 'refugia', so complete extinction doesn't appear to be a risk--over the course of this century, at least. Of course, under any 'business as usual' scenario, warming will not stop magically when the 22nd century arrives.

13. The prediction:

Antarctic ozone hole will continue to expand through 2015. “Some existing agreements, even when implemented, will not be able by 2015 to reverse the targeted environmental damage they were designed to address. The Montreal Protocol is on track to restore the stratospheric ozone layer over the next 50 years. Nevertheless, the seasonal Antarctic ozone hole will expand for the next two decades [2000-2020] — increasing the risk of skin cancer in countries like Australia, Argentina, and Chile—because of the long lag time between emission reductions and atmospheric effects.”

(The source for this prediction is the same as #11, above, and is not re-linked.)

This is not really a climate prediction, either, but I consider it nevertheless because it bears in several ways on the current topic, aside from the fact that it was included on the website. Essentially, it’s an important environmental issue involving science, global policy, and numerical modeling of atmospheric processes, and one in which we can observe the outcome of an international treaty intended to mitigate human-induced damage to the atmosphere.

The reality:

Essentially, ozone loss has gradually stabilized since implementation of the Montreal Protocol. The lowest 30-day extent occurred in 2006, but this year saw the single largest one-day ozone hole on the record. Despite that, some thickening of the ozone layer has been observed, and scientific observers believe that recovery of the layer may have begun.

Rating: ‘4’.

Israeli corals near Eilat, at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba.  Image by Ludwig14, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Israeli corals near Eilat, at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. Image by Ludwig14, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

14. The prediction:

By 2015 the cost in lost income of degraded coral reefs is projected to reach several hundred million dollars annually.

The reality:

Again, one might wish for better numbers. But the worldwide decline of coral reefs is so serious as to merit an entire chapter in Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer-winning book, The Sixth Extinction, and NOAA officials warned last month of a third-ever global-scale coral-bleaching event:

This bleaching event, which began in the north Pacific in summer 2014 and expanded to the south Pacific and Indian oceans in 2015, is hitting U.S. coral reefs disproportionately hard. NOAA estimates that by the end of 2015, almost 95 percent of U.S. coral reefs will have been exposed to ocean conditions that can cause corals to bleach.

The biggest risk right now is to the Hawaiian Islands, where bleaching is intensifying and is expected to continue for at least another month. Areas at risk in the Caribbean in coming weeks include Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and from the U.S. Virgin Islands south into the Leeward and Windward islands.

The next concern is the further impact of the strong El Niño, which climate models indicates will cause bleaching in the Indian and southeastern Pacific Oceans after the new year. This may cause bleaching to spread globally again in 2016.

Earlier, reported estimates put the annual value at risk at about $30 billion, and stated that the Caribbean might have lost 80% of its coral. This estimate dates from 2002, however, and so does not ‘confirm’ the scale of contemporary losses.

Considering the available information, while the value at risk remains uncertain, the estimates of total value imply that the prediction’s losses would amount to a few per cent of the total value. Given that loss rates are very high, it would seem to follow that the outcomes we see are ‘closely resembling the prediction,’ which would merit a rating of ‘4’.

Update, 3/19/17

The "third coral bleaching event" mentioned did indeed continue in 2016, and indeed intensified as the world saw a record-warm year on the strength of the ongoing anthropogenic warming trend in combination with an El Nino nearly as strong as that of 1997-98. Unfortunately, it appears to be continuing in 2017, as global temperatures have remained quite warm even after the El Nino ended.

The world has lost roughly half its coral reefs in the last 30 years. Scientists are now scrambling to ensure that at least a fraction of these unique ecosystems survives beyond the next three decades. The health of the planet depends on it: Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine species, as well as half a billion people around the world.

"This isn't something that's going to happen 100 years from now. We're losing them right now," said marine biologist Julia Baum of Canada's University of Victoria. "We're losing them really quickly, much more quickly than I think any of us ever could have imagined."

Even if the world could halt global warming now, scientists still expect that more than 90 per cent of corals will die by 2050. Without drastic intervention, we risk losing them all.

Item Description
US heat weaves, 2010-2019
Rating reduced due to definitional questions.
UK 2014 temperature
Underpredicted; technically weather, not climate
US Wildfire
US water shortages
Poor information on outcomes
Lake Mead water levels
$1.4 billion spent on remediation
Hoover Dam hydro generation
Global water stress
Definitive numbers not yet available
Agricultural irrigation at risk
Snows of Kilimanjaro
Human response to trend altered outcome
Louis Fortier over predicts ice-free Arctic
Mainstream climate science would do much better than Fortier
Lagos at risk for sea level rise
Large expenditures on mitigation of risk
Palmer Station Adelies extinct
Antarctic ozone hole extent
Model predictions appear to be accurate
Coral bleaching costs
Economic costs hard to document, but extent of coral loss is clear
Total points

How do you interpret those numbers? In school, that would likely be a D, or perhaps a C-; a pass, to be sure, but nothing to brag about.

But those numbers aren't grades. Consider that:

  • The most frequent rating was 4, the highest possible;
  • The least frequent rating was 0, which was never awarded;
  • The highest rating was given the same number of times (5) as the two lowest ratings combined.

Jack picked his predictions on this basis:

Doc, you missed my point about the far reaching projections of this site. The point is they are meant to scare and not based on anything real.

I think this exercise shows that however they may have been meant, they are indeed based on reality.

Times awarded
Points resulting

Jack's "Big Three" Predictions

I'm going to take the privilege of the tardy--for Jack published his Hub roughly six weeks before I wrote these words--and comment briefly on the three predictions that he addresses there.

1. Temperature increase. In part, I've already addressed this issue above when I cited the various model-observation comparisons that have been made. But let's get to the nitty-gritty.

Jack quotes Jim Hansen (not Michael Mann and Jim Hansen; in 1988, the former was still a humble physics undergrad at Yale):

If the current pace of the buildup of these gases continues, the effect is likely to be a warming of 3 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit from the year 2025 to 2050, according to these projections. This rise in temperature is not expected to be uniform around the globe but to be greater in the higher latitudes, reaching as much as 20 degrees, and lower at the Equator.

How does this stack up against reality? Jack doesn't really examine that, citing only a Daily Caller report on a single study which concluded that observed warming so far did not exceed natural variability over the last 8,000 years. But that says nothing about the prediction that was made.

But it's not a difficult question to answer: since 1988, the GISTEMP temperature record shows a total warming of 0.45 degrees Celsius, according to a standard 'least-squares' regression, or about 0.16 degrees C per decade. If we presume that warming continues at that same rate until 2025, then we would see 0.56 C; for 2050, that would be 0.96 C. What's that in Fahrenheit? Well, rounding up to 1 C for simplicity, that would be 1.67 degrees F, or a little more than half the 1988 estimate.

But before we conclude that climate science and global warming are nothing but bunk, perhaps we should look at what more recent science has to say? After all, 1988 was a long time ago in terms of scientific progress. And what more recent work has to say, too, is not difficult to answer, for the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put forward estimates of future warming in each of its Assessment Reports to date.

The first came in 1990, and in line with the 1988 quote estimated a warming rate of 0.25 C per decade. Multiplying by the six decades to 2050, one reaches 1.5 C total warming, or 2.7 F, reasonably close to Hansen's lower bound. But by the Second AR, in 1995, new work had reduced that number to just 0.14 degrees per decade. Since that is 2.7 decades, we'd expect to see roughly 0.38 C--quite close to the 0.45 we've actually observed. By the time of TAR (2000) the warming rate had crept up to 0.16 C, and by AR4 in 2007, the best estimate had become 0.18 C. Clearly, work that is no more than 2 decades old is pretty close to reality in estimating global mean surface temperature.

GISTEMP record with trend.  Graph by author, using online tool.
GISTEMP record with trend. Graph by author, using online tool.


2015, powered by a strong El Nino, continues to set temperature records. With October data now in for several of the major datasets, the year is almost certain to set new records for warmest on record. As the Washington Post reports:

Earlier this month, Britain’s weather service, the Met Office, and NASA both stated that the Earth’s average temperature is likely to rise 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels for the first time by the end of this year. This milestone is significant since it marks the halfway point to two degrees Celsius, the internationally accepted limit for avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.

More specifically, GISTEMP reported an October anomaly value of 1.04 C, the warmest monthly anomaly in their record, and the first to exceed a degree Celsius. (HADCRUT4 has not yet released their October value; September clocked in at 1.03 C, though their baseline is slightly different from GISTEMP and thus the numbers are not directly comparable.) The Japanese Met Office also reported a record-warm October. Even the UAH satellite record reported their warmest October ever, as reported by the 'skeptic' website Watt's Up With That.

Though there was never any statistical evidence that a true 'pause' in warming was taking place, the slowdown in warming rate seen through much of the 00s has definitively come to an end.

2. Sea Level Rise (SLR). Jack quotes a 1988 report from the World Conservation Union, which states:

With the B-a-U [Business as Usual] Scenario, the best-estimate is that MSL [Mean Sea Level] will be 18 cm higher than today by the year 2030, with an uncertainty of 8-29 cm.

Jack doesn't examine that prediction, instead offering a graph showing SLR to date, together with the IPCC prediction with 3 unattributed 'expert' opinions. The IPCC prediction is for 12 inches of SLR, while the extrapolated present-day trend gives an estimate of 10.5 inches at that time. That's actually a pretty good fit; there is some suggestion of an acceleration in the record, though it is not statistically conclusive, and it wouldn't take much acceleration of SLR to reach the IPCC estimate. The other opinions are much higher--suspiciously located at 2 feet, 3 feet, and 4 feet, respectively.

One could look at the record to try and decipher who predicted what, and what the assumptions and margins of error associated with those projections might have been. However, I promised to be brief, so I'll simply compare the prediction quoted above with the record since 1988. And, as is turns out, SLR during the satellite period (1993-present) amounts to about 8 centimeters. Allowing for the 5 years previous to 1993 and the 15 years until 2030, that trend, extrapolated, would give approximately 16 cm of SLR--in good agreement with the 18 cm in the Conservation Union estimate.

U. of Colorado Sea Level Rise satellite data time series.
U. of Colorado Sea Level Rise satellite data time series. | Source

3. Hurricane frequency & intensity. Jack doesn't cite a specific source here, simply asserting that:

Another projection is that global warming will lead to drastic increases in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes.

Against this, he poses a reality in which:

1) "In the last 10 years, there has not been a category 3 or greater hurricane making land fall in the US", and

2) 'Category 5 storms happened in 1938 and 1960, before any global warming awareness.' (The latter is paraphrased, not an exact quote. Compare Jack's Hub.)

As it turns out, he is half right--cyclone intensity is expected to increase. The IPCC says almost nothing substantive about hurricanes until AR4 in 2007. Prior to that, the Third Assessment Report just says that one study:

…suggested that only small changes in the tropical cyclone frequencies would occur...

It goes on to offer estimates of a 10% increase for the Northern Hemisphere, and a 5% decrease in the Southern Hemisphere.

AR4, however, had much more to say, due to the improvement of numerical modeling capabilities:

...for a future warmer climate, coarse-resolution models show few consistent changes in tropical cyclones, with results dependent on the model, although those models do show a consistent increase in precipitation intensity in future storms. Higher-resolution models that more credibly simulate tropical cyclones project some consistent increase in peak wind intensities, but a more consistent projected increase in mean and peak precipitation intensities in future tropical cyclones. There is also a less certain possibility of a decrease in the number of relatively weak tropical cyclones, increased numbers of intense tropical cyclones and a global decrease in total numbers of tropical cyclones. [Emphasis mine.]

Yes, you read that right. Insofar as Jack's reality tests mean anything at all, they agree with the AR4 projection of fewer cyclones overall. Cyclone intensity will increase, according to climate projections, but frequency will probably decrease.

It's pretty doubtful that Jack's tests do mean much, though; why compare the category of 'global hurricanes/typhoons/cyclones' to 'Category 3 storms making US landfall?' Most cyclones do not make landfall, even in the Atlantic basin, where storm tracks make landfall more likely than in the Pacific or Indian basins. Obviously, there will be far, far fewer Cat 3 storms making US landfalls, rendering statistical comparisons meaningless. And the projections are mostly referenced to 2100, meaning that changes up to 2015 are unlikely to be noticeable, anyway. We wouldn't expect to see much, if any, difference just yet.

So, let's sum up.

1) Regarding Jack's 'big three':

  • Observed temperature rises are in good agreement with models, and there is no evidence for the supposed 'pause' because its timespan is such that one would not expect to see statistically significant warming anyway.
  • Sea level rise is quite in line with the prediction Jack offered.
  • Jack was mistaken about what the IPCC actually predicted about tropical cyclones, leading his only evidence 'disproving' the IPCC claim actually to support it!

2) Regarding the more granular predictions Jack linked from the climate predictions site, they proved a more mixed bag. But as my detailed examination above shows, they are much more right than wrong overall.

3) Regarding Barton Paul Levenson's successful model predictions, the seventeen instances he cites and documents on his site stand unchallenged.

But the biggest picture 'prediction' remains that implicitly made by Roger Revelle and Hans Suess in 1957:

Where do you stand on the evidence about successful climate change predictions?

See results


Solar power: In 2008 Rhone Resch, of the Solar Energy Industries Association, predicted that "... by 2016, we expect solar energy to be the least expensive source of electricity for consumers." It hasn't, quite, but has come much closer than most people realize. Solar energy is now about 70% cheaper than at the time of the prediction, and is roughly 1% of what it was in the 1970s. Around the world, solar energy projects are being bid in at prices comparable to fossil fuel generation such as coal and gas. For instance, in the summer of 2015, Nevada Power sought approval for two new solar parks. If approved,

The utility will be paying USD 46.00 per MWh for the output of SunPower’s Boulder Solar park and just USD 38.70/MWh for power from First Solar Inc’s Playa Solar 2 farm.

That's compared with average US residential electricity prices of 121/MWh.

Wind is already cheaper on average than new coal generation capacity, and like solar does not impose external costs associated with air pollution. These costs come in the form of increased incidences of respiratory diseases, including asthma, bringing economic losses for medical treatment and lost productivity.

Concerns expressed by Jack and others about 'expensive' renewable energy are quite simply outdated.

Chinese coal: In 1995, China's coal consumption was projected to reach 2.3 billion tons by 2015. By 2010, that projection had increased to 3.6 billion tons. The reality?

The 1995 projection missed badly, and even the 2010 projection was on the low side: actual consumption in 2014 was given as 3.87 billion tons--and at that, the number was down 2.5% from 2013. And more recently, it has been shown that those numbers were too low; as reported by the New York Times, the actual number for 2013 was 4.2 billion tons.

The good news, however, is that China has committed to ending the growth of carbon emissions, and has already taken dramatic steps to do so, from building the world's foremost solar manufacturing capability, and the world's largest renewable energy capacity, to creating a national carbon market to appropriately price the true costs of carbon emissions.

One is reminded of the meme--correct or not, I do not know--that the Chinese character for 'crisis' combines the characters 'danger' and 'opportunity.'


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    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 8 days ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Yes, but they found a quadratic fit matched observations better than the linear fit you assume--hence the higher resultant value. (An accelerating term is also consistent with what we know of the physical processes involved.)

      As to what AR5 projected, the discrepancy between our recollections prompted me to look it up. I found this summary quickly on RC:

      "For high emissions IPCC now predicts a global rise by 52-98 cm by the year 2100, which would threaten the survival of coastal cities and entire island nations. But even with aggressive emissions reductions, a rise by 28-61 cm is predicted."

      So, we're both right, sort of. Your 'half' would be about 28 cm. But if I'm not mistaken, that's for the lowest emissions scenario, RCP 2.6; the high-emission scenario matches what I said (well, taking the lower bounds number, at least.)

      Currently, we're still matching the high-emissions numbers more closely, but I'm hopeful that in the next couple of years that will change, between the rapid progress of cleaner electrical generation around the world and the various mitigation measures pledged in Paris NDCs.

      Somewhat ironically, taking the 'wait and see' approach to emissions mitigation that you've advocated would pretty much guarantee that the global emissions trajectory would continue to match RCP 8.5 for the foreseeable future. That, in turn, would 'lock in' the 52-98 cm scenario.

      There's an independent discussion of the Nerem et al. paper here:

      The "money quote," though, is this:

      "The average rate (from satellite data) is 3.1 mm/y, but the present rate is closer to 4.8 mm/y. That’s a substantial increase — a 50% increase.

      "My estimates are based on the raw data, and do not remove the estimated influence of ENSO/PDO or the Mt. Pinatubo volcano. That’s why the rate seems to “level off” at the end, a behavior which is due to the 2015/2016 el Niño. With that influence removed, sea level rise is still accelerating.

      "Another possible source of uncertainty in their estimated rate of sea level rise is that they use a quadratic function to estimate its changes. It’s clear to me that the pattern is more complicated; a quadratic (fit to the raw data) estimates the rate of sea level rise now at 4.3 mm/y, but a more realistic fit gives a higher rate.

      "Extrapolating the quadratic to the end of the century is fraught with uncertainty and shouldn’t be taken as a realistic forecast, but it does provide a reasonable lower bound on this century’s imminent sea level rise."

      That is, a 'reasonable lower bound' *in the absence of what the IPCC called "aggressive" action.*

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 8 days ago from Yorktown NY

      This 61 cm projection is double of what the IPCC projected and over twice of current measurements.

      61 cm =610 mm /82 = 7.4 mm per year (assuming 82 more years till 2100 and linear progression.) The current mesurement is only 3 mm rise per year.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 8 days ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      A new study in "Nature" estimates the observed acceleration in sea level rise, finding that a lower bound for SLR in 2100 is 61 centimeters (2 feet). SLR isn't, IMO, the most dire threat from climate change, but it is certainly severe enough. A 2-foot rise would cause enormous damages, and force very large numbers of people to relocate.

      If I recall correctly, the last official IPCC estimate was 59 centimeters, so very close--but I'm not sure off the top of my head whether that was a 'best guess,' or, as in the current study, a minimum estimated value.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      There's a lot of research on that, though I think it hasn't been as active recently--perhaps because many feel the question has been adequately addressed?

      For instance, this paper from 1983:

      It talks about Milankovitch cycles and the albedo feedback. (The CO2 feedback and water vapor feedback are two other important ones.) This paper also discusses sea level as an important link in the causal chain.

      It cites this:

      CO2 is explored here:

      And this may be a bit more mainstream, documenting physical evidence of CO2 abundances:

      You could spend an awful lot of time looking at abstracts...

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 3 weeks ago from Yorktown NY

      Interesting study. I wish it address the why of climate change. Why did the ice age end? There are obviously many components to climate and we only have a small part to play. The magnitude of the earth is great. In physics, it is called inertia. To change direction in global scales takes a tremendous effort. I am just not sure we have what it takes to do it.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      An interesting article on temperature reconstructions for the entire Holocene period (as opposed to the old 'hockey stick' work, which only reconstructed the most recent portion of the Holocene).

      I like the author's comment that it is still in the early stages of this work, and that our picture of the period will still probably change. Of interest will be the question of whether we are already warmer than at any time in the present interglacial--this study says 'yes'. There had already been some evidence that that was the case, but the previous two 'whole-Holocene' reconstructions failed to confirm the idea.

      For completeness, here's the link to the original paper:

      (Only the abstract is available there.)

      It's also interesting that the newer work supports modeled hindcasts of the period--one of the earlier reconstructions showed significant divergences.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 4 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      No, he doesn't specify time frame, because climate sensitivity is defined in terms of response to *a doubling of CO2*. As it says in the story:

      "Climate sensitivity is the amount of warming that will occur after CO2 concentrations become twice as high as they were in pre-industrial times. Pre-industrial CO2 concentration levels were about 280 parts per million (ppm) and levels are currently at around 404ppm.

      "This means that, if humans stopped releasing CO2 today, the world should expect to experience more than half of the warming dictated by the ECS."

      So, the research is not couched in terms of a specific time frame, but a specific *condition* being achieved.

      Of course, we can make some estimates. Doubling from preindustrial CO2 concentrations occurs at 560 ppm, 156 ppm higher than present. At current growth rates--say, 2.5 ppm per year--we'd hit doubling in roughly 62 years. (Call it 2079.)

      That's probably too conservative, though; CO2 emissions rates had been increasing, and perhaps still are. And there are some worrying signs that natural CO2 sinks may be 'saturating.'

      And, of course, we'd be way past any hope of holding warming to 2C at that point.

      I've given best estimates on that several times already, but here's an explanation of the 'carbon budget' and how it relates to how much time we have:

      "The remaining net amount of CO2 that can still be released to the atmosphere in order to keep temperatures rise below 1.5C is close to zero. Even in the most optimistic case, it will not take longer than five years to exhaust the remaining carbon budget at current rates of CO2 emissions. It will be, on the other hand, about 10-25 years before the world crosses the budget line for 2C."

      Simple enough?

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 4 weeks ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, thanks for the link. I read it and no where does it mention the time frame this estimates are suppose to happen.

      I am a simple guy. Why is it so difficult for climate scientists to estimate how fast the temperature will rise, or how long it will take the oceans to rise?

      As I mentioned in past comments, the time frame is the key to our response. If is is short, we must act immediately. It is long, then perhaps, it doesn’t matter much...

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 4 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Here's a story on a theoretical result that bears directly on several points we've previously discussed: a team of researchers claims to have refined the estimation of possible 'Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity'. It's been difficult to achieve, despite many, many efforts over the years, with a range of estimates stubbornly stuck at something like 1.5-4.5 C.

      Their new estimate:

      "...refines this estimate to 2.8C, with a corresponding range of 2.2 to 3.4C. If correct, the new estimates could reduce the uncertainty surrounding climate sensitivity by 60%."

      That's a good-news/bad-news story, because while extremely high sensitivities would mean that we are already toast based on emissions to date, extremely low ones--equally ruled out according to this paper--would have meant that we would be better placed to hold warming to 1.5C (the aspirational goal of the Paris Accord.)

      "The narrower range suggests that global temperature rise is “going to shoot over 1.5C” above pre-industrial levels, the lead author tells Carbon Brief, but “we might be able to avoid 2C”. Meeting either limit will likely require negative emissions technologies that can remove CO2 from the atmosphere, he says."

      Interesting in the context of our discussions is the methodology they used: very basically, they studied sensitivity by (if I've got this right) adjusting the temperature record to *eliminate* the human forcing, then looking at climate response to natural drivers. They showed that models with medium sensitivities matched the record best.

      This isn't the last word on the topic, but it's an interesting and potentially important one.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 6 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      A little more rise than that, I think; in the '10-year retrospective' metric, we've got about 0.7 C total rise, which divides out over 4.1 decades.

      So that should be ~0.17 C over the decade, if things run to present form.

      I would think that the human influence during the Maunder Minimum could be ignored, on 2 grounds. 1) It would have been pretty small, and more importantly, 2) it wouldn't have changed much during the period, since any human effect then would have been largely due to land use (relatively stable, one would think), not fossil fuel burning. (The Industrial Revolution is conventionally dated to 1760.)

      Your question about the Maunder Minimum is interesting. A little searching on Google Scholar found this:

      "The GISS model results and empirical reconstructions both suggest that solar-forced regional climate changes during the Maunder Minimum appeared predominantly as a shift toward the low AO/NAO index. Although global average temperature changes were small, modeled regional cooling over the continents during winter was up to five times greater...

      "These results provide evidence that relatively small solar forcing may play a significant role in century-scale NH winter climate change. This suggests that colder winter temperatures over the NH continents during portions of the 15th through the 17th centuries (sometimes called the Little Ice Age) and warmer temperatures during the 12th through 14th centuries (the putative Medieval Warm Period) may have been influenced by long-term solar variations."

      So there you have it; Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann saying "It was the sun." ;-)

      Here's the search I ran, in case you want to look at other papers on the topic:


      There's also this paper, from 2004, which paints a similar picture overall. But you might be interested in their Fig. 1, which lays out the (reconstructed) solar and CO2 forcings for the whole study period. (For the Maunder Minimum, the CO2 forcing is indeed pretty flat, as I had guessed above.)

      Have fun!

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 6 weeks ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, very interesting plot. Assuming the data are correct, let’s see what happened over next 5-10 years. If trend continues, you expect a rise of .1 degree C.

      I still would be interested in what happened during the 1700s when the Maunder minimum occurred. It is clear the sun spots had a profound influence on our climate. What is the statistical variation calculation? What part is due to natural variability and what part due to human activity? The numbers are small enough that the noise may be hard to separate...

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 7 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Jack, I have followed through on the intention I expressed on the thread on your Hub--that is, I've taken the first 50 years of annual temperature data from HadCRUT4 (roughly 1850 to 1900), applied the 'retrospective 10-year mean' methodology I described there to smooth the curve and examine decadal trends, and graphed the result, just as I did for the GISTEMP data. For good measure, I did the same for HadCRUT4 data for 1966-2016 to have an homogenous comparison curve on the same graph.

      It was all a bit 'quick and dirty', and done mostly last night when I was *really* tired, so there are a few rough edges, but it should be good enough for our purposes. Here 'tis:

      As you can see, the curves are quite different. Whereas the 'modern' curve shows a marked linear trend--made more linear by the averaging I did, which (I think) emphasizes the anthropogenic trend as compared with the natural (quasi-random) variability--covering roughly 0.7 degrees C, the 'early' curve does pretty much what you said, wandering up and down but going nowhere much, with only a tiny linear warming trend.

      (Disclosure: if you plot the data up to 1920, you get a different picture, as the years from 1900-1920 show a *cooling* trend sufficiently large to bias the whole period toward cooling. As far as I know, researchers are still fighting over possible causes for that cooling. I say let's leave it aside; it doesn't seem to favor one 'side' over the other for present purposes.)

      Second, the 'early' curve seems, as I said, to show more variability. There are three relatively large deviations from the linear trendline, and all of them are perceptibly larger than the largest deviation in the 'modern' curve.

      Third, in the 'modern' curve there are no sustained downward fluctuations: the longest is a 3-year span from Year 33 to Year 36. By contrast, in the 'early' curve you can spot several--for instance, the marked cooling from Year 28 to Year 35, or the cooling at the beginning of the record (Years 2-6).

      Put those observations together, and it suggests that we *may* be able to distinguish which way temps are going in as little as 4-5 years.

      --If there were to be a sustained cooling for that period, it would suggest the behavior of the 'early' period. (Remember, 'sustained cooling' using the averaging method, not raw annual anomaly!)

      --If there were to be a warming trend close to the historical rate of the 'modern' curve--which appears to be about 0.1 degrees C--over the next 4-5 years, that would *suggest* the reverse. (I emphasize 'suggest' because there are two comparably steep spans in the 'early' record, Years 7-14 (~0.1 C warming) and Years 28-35 (~0.14 C cooling).) So it wouldn't be definitive.

      (Disclosure: that is even more the case, because some warming is 'baked in' to the next few years due to the methodology. I ran a check to see what would happen if temps were completely stagnant at 2015 levels for the next 5 years--and the result is a warming trend of nearly 0.5 C over the complete span. That's due to the relatively cool years of 2007-8 'dropping out', and to the warming trend following them.)

      --For intermediate cases, I'd think we'd need to wait--and even then, the results would probably be 'strongly suggestive' rather than 'definitive.' And I would expect that in ten years, we will be seeing a very different *political and social* climate--one that might have *us* assessing things quite differently.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 7 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Yes, absolutely.

      Don't get me wrong, though; China still burns a lot of coal. But in 2016 it was down more than 10% from the peak in 2012, according to this link:

      It'll be very interesting to see if the decline will be sustained again when the 2017 figures come out. Obviously, I hope that will be the case.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 7 weeks ago from Yorktown NY

      That is great news. when I was in China in 2016, they were still a heavy depend on coal. I support any way to clean the environment. Their air pollution is worst than ours back in the 1970s.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 7 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      And for the New Year, some good news: Shenzhen, China, has announced the completion of the conversion of their 16,000-strong bus fleet--3 times larger than that of New York city--from diesel to electric vehicles. They'll be saving 345,000 *tons* of diesel fuel annually, and avoiding 1.35 million tons of CO2 emissions--though, to be fair, I don't know whether or not that figure is net of the emissions caused by generating the electricity the buses use. We do know, though, that China's famously dirty power grid is getting greener all the time, due to adoption of wind and solar power generation and earlier retirements of the dirtiest coal plants in the fleet.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 7 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      As an afterthought--you know how fond I am of afterthoughts--here's a site that has great visualizations of weather analyses, as well as much climate data:

      It's quite fun to play with--I've linked the 2-meter temperature anomaly display, but you can also look at wind fields, precipitable water, and much else.

      By the way, a fact that my local forecaster remarked on last night is currently evident as well: while most of North American freezes, most of the rest of the Northern hemisphere is above normal: the anomaly for the hemisphere is 0.9 C--pretty toasty on the scale of things--and the Arctic is nearly 3 degrees warmer than normal.

      That poses some questions--ones to which I don't expect an answer, but which you may ponder if you wish. Why pick out the exceptional cold, rather than the exceptional warmth? Is it just because we are both physically experiencing the cold bit just now? Or is there another reason?

      Stay warm, my friend!

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 7 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Of course not, Jack. We've talked about this before, as you say, but by all means let's go over it again. I'll try to come at it a little differently this time.

      The current cold snap--which, by the way, is affecting not just the Northeast but most of the US and Canada--is *weather.* That is, it is the result of very specific atmospheric (and oceanic) conditions at a particular time. The weather can be described by an 'analysis', which is a model of the actual conditions at a particular time. There's much more about that here:

      The analysis is the basis for weather forecasting. Of course, today most forecasting is largely 'numerical'--that is, the analysis consists of a *numerical* model, and the forecast is accomplished computationally by applying the analysis as input to models incorporating the known physics driving weather.

      Here is a really excellent book which gives a very readable, yet in-depth overview of the development and characteristics of numerical forecasting, including the issues affecting both weather and climate forecasting:

      I think you'd enjoy it, even though it would challenge some of your perspectives. With your background in computation, I think there would be much that would touch a chord for you.

      Anyway, the current cold snap was very much *not* missed by weather forecasters. I can say that with some confidence as we are living in our 3-season lakeside cabin as we search for a contractor to implement the building plans we have for the site, and as a 3-season cabin, it features a water system that is open to the air underneath the cabin, and completely uninsulated. Therefore, prolonged periods of subfreezing weather are of considerable interest to us, as I'm sure you can imagine! So we've been watching the progress of this freeze with considerable interest--and sure enough, when last night's forecast called for an overnight low of 25 degrees, I shut down the pump and emptied the pipes to preserve them from bursting. But the main point is that we've been seeing this coming in the forecast for days now.

      Not perfectly--the details have been shifting a bit each day. The problem, as I'm pretty sure you are aware, is that the mathematics are chaotic, which means "highly sensitive to small differences in input data." And while the data assimilated into the analysis model is pretty good, it is far from perfect. ("A Vast Machine" looks at this issue in detail, so I'll say no more about it here.)

      The result is divergence between model and forecast, increasingly severe as the forecast time increases. With better data, vastly greater computational power, and better modeling forecasts have improved dramatically, as I well remember. But everything more than 10 days out--it used to be 5--is pretty much experimental, as far as I'm aware.

      So--given the fact that the numerical modeling techniques used in climate models are basically the same as those in operational weather models--does that mean that climate modeling is hopeless?

      No. Why? Because climate is not weather. Here are definitions of weather and climate:

      Weather: "The state of the atmosphere with respect to wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture, pressure, etc."

      Climate: "The composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness, and winds, throughout the year, averaged over a series of years."

      Simplified, climate is "average weather"--and the usual period over which it is 'averaged' is 30 years. (That's the WMO climatological norm period, than which there is nothing more authoritative.)

      So a climate model is not concerned with predicting specific weather events, such as the cold snap, or Hurricane Harvey, or the latest iteration of California drought. The point of climate forecasting is to project as accurately as possible the 'average weather' of the future. This is done in practice by doing multiple model runs, with the initial conditions being varied slightly. (It's more involved than that, but again I'll just cite "A Vast Machine" as a good source for the details and move on.) Each model run will describe an 'alternate history' for Earth's weather.

      (And in fact, that is one reason for the multiplicity of climate models, which I know bothers you. In validating models, researchers do 'hindcasts', in which they attempt to forecast the past based on the data they have. That lets them see the strengths and weaknesses of each model. This one may do the best job of modeling temperature trends in Europe; that one may best model the evolution of the North American monsoon; and a third may excel at projecting the retreat of the Arctic sea ice.)

      With many model runs, one can derive a pretty good projection of what the long term climate trends will be. It may be that *no* individual model run perfectly corresponds with the observations. But we find that model-observation agreement over time is quite good.

      And it's not surprising, in a way, because there's a parallel phenomenon existing in many disciplines: the so-called 'Law of Large Numbers.' Perhaps the best instance is the insurance industry. While nobody can tell who will die tomorrow, there exists a whole industry--life insurance--which is predicated on the ability to forecast with considerable accuracy just how many of certain types of people will die on average each day. And, tellingly, it's one of the more boringly consistent, conservative industries out there.

      Similarly, climate modeling makes no attempt to predict the specific trajectory of global 'analyses' that *will* occur. That is beyond human ability, now and perhaps forever. In fact, its methodology of multiple models and multiple model runs invokes imaginary but physically realistic 'alternate weather history' which is explicitly NOT going to be duplicated in future weather. (That's since the initial conditions don't match the current analysis.)

      However, the record says that this methodology *does* reproduce pretty well the salient features of the climatic evolution we have been observing over the last several decades.

      Hope that helps.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 7 weeks ago from Yorktown NY


      Just to revisit something from our past discussions. Did the climate model predict the lastest cold wave hitting the Northeast? Or did I miss something? If they project 25 years into our future, with all the uncertainties, yet they can’t tell us we are having a record freeze this winter? What is wrong with this picture?

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 8 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      The Tesla battery bank in South Australia excels as coal generation unexpectedly drops out--twice:

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 8 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      I hate to add to an already lengthy comment, but I should have included what I think the summary statement should have been:

      "70% of all respondents thought that climate change over the past 50 years was ~50% or more due to human activity."

      That's technically just as true as Mr. Steele's summary, and much less misleading.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 8 weeks ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Jack, it is good to hear from you. I hope the holidays have been treating you well.

      However, whether you "bought in" or not, the 97% number occurred in several studies, as summarized here:

      So it is a reality, no matter how inconvenient.

      Turning to the study your WUWT story discusses, I have a couple of comments. First, it is not a survey of climate scientists, but of "weathercasters" who may or may not have scientific training. Even those who do are rarely trained in climate science as well as meteorology, and there is a long-established 'siloing' of the two disciplines, despite the considerable overlap of subject matter. So it's not surprising to find that attitudes among climate scientists are not distributed in the same way as attitudes among meteorologists, still less "weathercasters" (whose primary training may be in journalism or media studies).

      As the survey itself says:

      "Prior surveys (including our own) have shown large discrepancies between the range of views among broadcast meteorologists and the range of views among climate scientists, finding moderate to high rates of climate change skepticism among broadcast meteorologists."

      So we are not talking about an apples-to-apples comparison between the studies of climate scientists and weathercasters.

      Secondly, the story you link to actually distorts the findings of the survey itself. Read the survey results here:

      The survey's own list of findings is as follows (abridged for brevity):

      1) "More than 90% of weathercasters indicated that climate change is happening and approximately 80% indicated that human-caused climate change is happening..."

      2) "A majority of weathercasters (54% in 2016; 62% in 2017) indicated that climate has changed in their communities over the past 50 years..."

      3) "Nearly 60% of weathercasters (in 2017) are at least somewhat interested in reporting on air about projected local climate change impacts and approximately 90% of weathercasters believe their viewers are at least slightly interested in learning about the local impacts of global climate change."

      4) "The majority of weathercasters are interested in reporting on a range of local impacts, including extreme precipitation and flooding (77%), drought and water shortages (75%), extreme heat events (74%), impacts on local wildlife (65%), impacts on air quality (63%), impacts on crops and livestock (62%), impacts on human health (60%), and wildfires (53%)."

      They sum it up thus:

      "In short, a strong majority of weathercasters are now convinced that human-caused climate change is happening, and many feel they are already witnessing harmful impacts in their communities. Moreover, many weathercasters are beginning to explore ways of educating their viewers about these local impacts of global climate change."

      Mr. Steele arrives at a different conclusion:

      "So for ALL meteorologists surveyed only 11% actually claimed humans were mostly responsible for observed climate change: 22%(response) X 49% (attribution)."

      However, that is transparently misleading; he gets that by:

      1) Excluding those respondents who thought that human factors were of 'about equal' importance with natural ones (21% of respondents, and the second-largest group); and

      2) Multiplying the resulting 49% by the participation rate, 22%.

      Now, his verbal formulation of this ridiculous procedure is carefully structured to be arguably true, despite the fact that it is also misleading. It depends on the interpretation of "surveyed"--if one means "all those to whom surveys were sent", then it is technically correct.

      But it is absurd to calculate percentages based on non-responses! To see that, let's complete the exercise:

      Humans mostly responsible: 11%

      Humans about equally responsible: 4.6%

      Natural factors mostly responsible: 2.9%

      Don't know: 1.8%

      Didn't respond: 78%

      Since we have no idea what the opinions of those who didn't respond may be, including them is useless; it provides no useful information to the reader. However, it *does* serve to obfuscate the distribution of opinions among actual respondents.

      That's why normal practice is not to tabulate non-responses when calculating survey results. The only point I can see in departing from normal procedure is to minimize the apparent significance of a result Mr. Steele apparently didn't like.

      But, as they say, YMMV.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 8 weeks ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, merry christmas and a happy new year. Here is an article questioning the 97% agreement on human caused climate change...

      I never bought into that number, not even close.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 2 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Another European offshore wind auction *without subsidies,* the first for the Netherlands. An interesting discussion as to whether the time is quite ripe *yet* for this, or not.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 2 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Worth noting: Tesla's 100 MW battery storage farm is up and delivering power to the grid in South Australia. It took about 60 days to build--well under the 100 that Elon Musk guaranteed. That's pretty impressive, compared to construction times for conventional power plants. (Yes, I know that this isn't directly comparable; it's storage, not production.)

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      Doc Snow 2 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      "Planes are a huge problem just as drones... The safety issue will make any alternative energy source a challenge."

      Again, I don't follow. Electric motors are simpler and need less maintenance than ICE tech, so why would using them create a safety issue? Submarines, for instance, have used them for over a century with a high degree of reliability in quite extreme environments. (And in combat....)

      It's true that thermal management for LI batteries is imperative, so that they don't overheat. Is that what you are concerned about?

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Thanks, we will see if any or all these new technologies will make the cut. True cobalt is not a rare earth element but many parts of the electronics in these new vehicles are. It will be interesting to see how far we can go with this. Planes are a huge problem just as drones... The safety issue will make any alternative energy source a challenge.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 2 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      "The problem we face with rare earth elements is not something a market driven economy can resolve."

      Huh? Why not? You don't explain; the rest of your comment has to do with the market for fossil fuels, not rare earths or cobalt (which isn't a rare earth, but was, I thought, what we were talking about.) I see no reason why increased demand for cobalt will not mean an increase in supply through normal market mechanisms (i.e., increasing prices).

      Here's what the market forces are already doing in the part of the world I grew up in:

      But let's turn to the fossil fuel markets. As far as electrical generation goes, wind is already usually cheaper than fossil fuel options except (in the US) some natgas plants, and solar is already so for the sunniest climes, such as Australia or India. In both cases, prices are continuing to come down.

      I've already supplying links on that, but let me know if you'd like to see them again.

      As far as transportation goes, liquid fuels have advantages, as we both know, in terms of energy density. That often translates into range and/or power. But it's becoming increasingly clear that for some applications, electrification has significant advantages--and again, the price curves are still moving pretty rapidly. The biggest surprise to me is how much commercial interest there seems to be in electric aviation. I didn't really see that coming, but there are now at least 3 projects aiming at commercial airliners using hybrid electric technology, not to mention several pure electric planes in short-haul applications such as trainers and urban mobility. Again, I've got links if you want them, but you can probably Google them up fine on your own if you are interested.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

      The problem we face with rare earth elements is not something a market driven economy can resolve. It has to do with supply and demand. When there is abundant supply such as coal and oil and gas, the price performance is key to their success. Any competitor energy source will have to come up with a better advantage with regard to supplies and performance. So far, none has reached that point. Time will tell if they ever will...

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      Doc Snow 2 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Speaking, as we were, of markets and market failures, here's a report considering the matter at length:

      (So far, I've just scanned the ES, but I hope to dive in a bit more deeply as time allows.)

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 2 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Yes, I've been following the cobalt supply question a bit lately, as there have been some fairly hyperbolic statements made, such as "Tesla is heading for a cobalt supply cliff."

      I will make 2 observations. First, while one may question some of Tesla's strategies, it seems pretty unlikely that they have utterly failed to consider where one of their essential ingredients will come from. (Particularly so, since it's a matter of record that access to cobalt was one of the considerations in locating the Gigafactory.)

      Second, it amazes me that folks who have such complete and utter faith in the ability of the free market to solve complex, policy-dependent questions such as environmental degradation (in which we know to a certainty that not all costs are accounted for in the current market structure), suddenly seem dubious that long-established commodity markets will somehow fail to adjust to a change in demand levels for a particular commodity.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Here is new story about the shortage of Cobalt-

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

      True, but I admire your tenacity even though we disagree on the solution.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 2 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      "I want to see it happen in 2020 before I congratulate you."

      Thanks, but it's not like it's my doing in any way...

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 2 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      I'd heard of it, but it would be an overstatement to say I was 'familiar.' Now I've read the overview you posted, I'm a bit more familiar than I was. Thanks.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 3 months ago from Yorktown NY

      By the way, are you familiar with paredo principle?

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 3 months ago from Yorktown NY

      We will see. The proof is in the pudding. I want to see it happen in 2020 before I congratulate you.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      And on the renewable energy front, California continues its energy transformation, as its utilities are on track to meet the 2030 RE goals by 2020, a full decade ahead:

      (The 2030 target is 33% of energy sales to be renewable; for 2050, the goal is 50%.)

      On cost: "...the price of utility solar contracts between 2008 and 2016 [fell] by 77%, while the price of wind contracts between 2007 and 2015 fell by 47%."

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      On the mass extinction question, I don't know if you are aware of my Hub on that; it's a 'summary review' of Elizabeth Kolbert's "Sixth Extinction". (It's also one of my top-performing Hubs, and by far the best-performing non-DIY one.)

      If you aren't, you can find it here:

      You might be interested, as it goes into a fair bit of detail around the biology, including the history of the science involved, as well as important concepts today. And since you like travel, you'll probably be intrigued by the field research she dropped in on, all around the world.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      My reaction is that that's a pretty selective evaluation of the outcomes, and that there are several quite dubious statements made.

      Moreover, the whole predicate is a false analogy: one group of people was (allegedly) wrong 25 years ago, ergo a quite different group expressing some approximately parallel concerns is wrong today. Obviously, that is a logical fail.

      A few specifics. I'll quote, and then respond to each point:

      "But the 1992 statement was wildly off the mark in its dire predictions.

      "Back then, the world's leading scientists said that, if current trends continued, air pollution would get worse..."

      It has. Not in the US, to be sure, because *people listened to the warning and instituted reforms to avoid that harm*. (Reforms Scott Pruitt's EPA seems intent on rolling back, by the way.)

      However, as you well know from personal experience, streets all around the world (and most notably in Asian cities such as Beijing, New Delhi, or Jakarta, are choking on foul air.) The affected population is many times greater than it was in America decades ago. (And for that matter, while I would agree that here in America the air is better than it was, it's by no means good: we still suffer tens of thousands of pollution-induced illnesses and deaths every year.)

      "...water supplies would run short..."

      Which they have been doing, on a global scale. Nevada didn't add a deeper 'third straw' to Lake Mead at a cost of several billion because water was plentiful. Nor did China do their massive south-to-north water transfer scheme just for the sheer fun of it. Nor do refugees stream out of the Sahel because they enjoy risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean on overloaded rafts and barely-serviceable and grossly overloaded boats.

      "...the world's supply of fish would sharply decline because of dying oceans..."

      And indeed there have been massive crashes in fish populations, perhaps most notably the Atlantic cod fishery, which had to essentially be shut down for decades, and which is only now showing some faint signs of recovery. The result was essential the end of a way of life for Newfoundland, Canada, which has had to adapt to a new reality. It did, but only at the cost of considerable social disruption and personal unhappiness.

      Overall, one report estimated that fish populations may be down by 50%, with some heavily-fished species, such as tuna, down 75%.

      One response is to find new species to exploit. Usually smaller and less attractive ones--or unattractively-named ones:

      The article states that the per-capita supply of fish is up 30% globally. If that is true, I would venture to say that the main reason for that is the explosion of aquaculture. It certainly has nothing to do with the health of wild fish stocks, which is not good, by all accounts.

      " would become less productive..."

      Depends what is meant by 'productive'. Yes, agricultural productivity has risen, by virtue of essentially industrializing agriculture; but it has done so at the expense of soil reserves, which are increasingly depleted of nutrients or eroded away altogether. Some call it 'topsoil mining.' And it can't continue indefinitely--pace your article writer's assumption to the contrary.

      "...vast acres of forests would be "gone in a few years..."

      And they were, even if the article you cite chooses to minimize it by categorizing it as "just 3%." The expansion of second-growth forest in eastern North America is not really compensatory for the drastic losses in tropical rain forest, for multiple reasons.

      "...mass extinctions would limit the ability to develop new medicines..."

      And there's every reason to believe we are indeed in the middle of a new mass extinction event. Luckily, there are other avenues to the development of new medicines, but we probably will now never have some that could have existed, were we less prodigal of natural resources. Unluckily, medical utility is not the only value those disappearing species have.

      "...unchecked population growth would cause more to live in poverty and suffer malnutrition."

      The article counters that by stating that:

      "World hunger and poverty have dropped dramatically. The share of the global population that is undernourished declined more than 40% between 1990 and 2015, U.N. data show."

      Well, that is good as far as it goes. But since world population in 1990 was about 5.3 billion, and is now in the neighborhood of 7.3 billion, population has increased by about 38% during that same time. About 13% of the world is undernourished; that would imply that in 1990, it was about 21.6%, or 1.15 billion. For 2015--'now', for practical purposes--that would be around 0.95 billion. So, an improvement, but far from a drastic improvement.

      And that brings up another interesting point. The article states that:

      "There was no concerted effort to control population, which grew by almost 1.9 billion — a 34% increase in 25 years."

      Duh! Of course there was a 'concerted effort to control population!' China's was of course the most draconian, but it was far from the only one. For example:

      World fertility rates have plummeted, for a variety of reasons, some reflecting policy initiatives, some reflecting social and technological change (notably the empowerment of women, coupled with cheap and effective birth control methods). Had they not done so, the poverty statistics talked about above would have been much grimmer.

      Honestly, that 'population' point in the article is so hopelessly wrong that's it's hard for me to imagine that the writer was even trying.

      "We didn't "move away from fossil fuels" — global consumption climbed nearly 56% since 1992."

      True, and the results are reflected in the spread of air pollution discussed above, as well as in the increase in atmospheric CO2 levels from the low 350s to the low 400s today.

      On that subject, I find this statement characteristic:

      "What's also interesting about the scientists' 1992 warning is that it barely mentions global warming..."

      Again, duh! In 1992 AGW was a concern, but a relatively new one. It was actually in May of that year that the UNFCCC was agreed; it wouldn't be until 1997 that the Kyoto agreement was reached. The IPCC came a little earlier, in 1988, and had issued the first Assessment Report in 1990.

      While the FAR was 'certain' that human activity was increasing atmospheric CO2, and confident that that was causing additional greenhouse warming, it also reported that "The unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect is not likely for a decade or more." (Indeed, it was not until 2007, with AR4, that they asserted that that detection had taken place.)

      There's a 'deniability' in that comment that the relative lack of concern is "interesting." I take it to be intended to convey a scornful implication, but there's no way to know what the author intended (short of asking, if you could gain access to him or her).

      However, I would say that it is not only "interesting", but highly telling, how concern over AGW has grown over the last 27 years of intense scientific and media scrutiny. I would say that the growth of concern is the result of better understanding of the phenomenon, of its scientific basis both among scientists and the general public, and of its implications for human health, wealth, and well-being.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      " power as charging source is unreliable in bad weather. In the northeast, we have a week of cloudy wintery days. What do you do when the power is low? Sit and wait for a sunny day?"

      Of course not. Over shorter time scales, the battery storage mentioned mitigates the problem; over longer ones, the station is still grid-connected.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 3 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, I read the article but it does give me comfort that the problem is addressed adequately. In an emergency, I just want to pull in, gas up, or charge up, in 5 minutes and go...I don't want any excuses or full slots, or vending machines and comfort stations... and solar power as charging source is unreliable in bad weather. In the northeast, we have a week of cloudy wintery days. What do you do when the power is low? Sit and wait for a sunny day?

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Thanks, I'll have a look. In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in this article from EV advocate, user, and enthusiast Zach Shahan. It discusses some of his views around the question of away-from-home vehicle charging, which we discussed a while back, as well as showing how Tesla is approaching this area right now.

      It's directly relevant to several points you raised, validating them as concerns, but also showing how they are addressable.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 3 months ago from Yorktown NY


      Checkout this article on predictions made 25 years ago by scientists -

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      And another data point in the ongoing 'renewables revolution'. The IEA--an agency with deep fossil fuel roots and a history of underestimating renewables--sees them dominating new capacity additions over the coming decades:

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      And, amusingly but perhaps not very definitively one way or the other:

      "The robots won this one.

      "A driverless shuttle bus was involved in a minor collision with a semi-truck less than two hours after it made its debut on Las Vegas streets Wednesday in front of cameras and celebrities.

      "The human behind the wheel of the truck was at fault, police said.

      ' Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided.'

      - City of Las Vegas

      "Las Vegas police officer Aden Ocampo-Gomez said the semi-truck's driver was cited for illegal backing. No injuries were reported."

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Yes, I recall your views on this. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out, I think.

      I wonder how much 'face' would be lost if this project were to prove unsuccessful, or were too drastically delayed? On one hand, the media has a short memory for the most part, and there are certainly past examples of projects that didn't pan out (including the '90's-era GM stab at electric vehicles).

      On the other, stockholders are pretty attentive to what is done with their money, so if these efforts actually receive significant funding within the corporations and that money is then seen to be 'wasted', the consequences for management are potentially pretty severe.

      So--we'll see!

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 3 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Yes, very interesting development. I am skeptical of the autonomous cars. They are doing field testing in some large cities. I would be shocked if they prove viable. So far, most of the test had been on highways and suburbs. The problem with city driving is the congestion and the construction and the pedestrians and the other human drivers who don't always follow the rules. The worst example I've seen is in Beijing, China. If self driving cars can make it there than I will be convinced.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      And another data point from the real world--though this concerns commercial plans, rather than current realities. But I missed this announcement in September, when it came out. Apparently the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance has a common goal to have 600-km battery vehicles on the streets by 2022, and in a related goal, to have 143-km range for a 15-minute charge.

      That's also the time frame for them to release their first fully autonomous vehicle.

      I have no idea if they will make their own schedule, of course. I'm sure there's a lot of development to be done to make these ambitious goals realities. But it's one thing when an obscure start-up makes such claims, and another when a group which qualifies collectively as the world's largest automaker makes them.

      It will be interesting to watch.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Here's an interesting case study: a Missouri coal plant is closing, because the new operator declines to operate existing capacity that is costing $38/MWH when it can *build new wind capacity* to replace it and end up at $24/MWH instead.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Wallace answered the question about his sources and where those costs came from. At a glance, it looks pretty solid:

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      I invited you to ponder the comment I quoted, not the article as a whole. But let me respond.

      1) The 90-day rule is a proposed measure unrelated to any demonstrated need, and certainly does not mean that 12-hour energy storage for CSP plants is 'not viable.' After all, it's being done *now*, most notably at the Gemasolar plant in Spain, which has been operating since 2011, including long stretches of 24/7 operation.

      Cost continues to be a factor, although the picture is showing some improvement, but technical feasibility is not in question.

      2) "There are some days in the northeast where I live, it can be cloudy for a whole week with little sun."

      That's why they don't build CSP plants where you (or I) live.

      3) "Would you put your life or your families lives in jeopardy and switch to all renewable power?

      "Read up on the power blackouts in parts of Australia when they did just that."

      First, there's no reason to think that a 100% renewable grid would be unreliable. It would certainly need to be built differently to reach that goal, but it could be done. However, it's a bit of a straw man to worry about a 100% renewable grid. As I've said before, we are not going to have a 100% renewable grid soon, if ever; nuclear power is not going to go away, and we have in the US a whole boatload of natgas plants that are maybe 10 years old. They'll be operation for a long time to come, in all likelihood. (Unlike all those coal and diesel plants.)

      Second, there's no evidence that renewables were fundamentally to blame in the South Australian blackouts. Some anti-renewable politicians jumped to that conclusion, but the blackout was a complex event, precipitated by "a violent storm reported as being a once-in-50-year event", involving transmission line failures and only secondarily wind power curtailment due to high wind. The biggest wind power issue is apparently due to what sounds like a software fix:

      "AEMO identified software settings in the wind farms that prevented repeated restarts once voltage or frequency events occurred too often. The group of wind turbines that could accept 9 ride-throughs in 120 seconds stayed on line through much of the event before the system went black..."

      But let me re-invite you to consider the logic of the comment I cited. It suggests that market forces are going to be driving a pretty massive restructuring of US generation over the coming decades.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 3 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, The idea of storing solar energy in heated tanks is not viable. The 90 day supply the article mentions as a reserve for any power plant is unattainable by renewable energy.

      As you know, the varablility of daily weather is such that we can't rely on a steady source of wind or sun. There are some days in the northeast where I live, it can be cloudy for a whole week with little sun.

      The bottom line is this. There will always be a need for reliable electric power for mission criticle facilities such as hospitals and the likes...

      Would you put your life or your families lives in jeopardy and switch to all renewable power?

      Read up on the power blackouts in parts of Australia when they did just that.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      On the economics of new energy developments, I think this reader comment from Cleantechnica is well worth pondering:

      The commenter posts a graph showing that as of 2012, the majority of US coal and petroleum-fueled power plants--as well as roughly half of all US nuclear plants--were already older than 30 years. He then comments:

      "The average lifespan of a us coal or nuclear plant is about 40 years. These plants will not be around in 2050.

      "Installed cost of utility solar is now about $1/watt. About $1.50/watt for wind.

      "New nuclear is over $6/watt (Vogtle is running $8/watt). New coal, were we to build any, is also very expensive.

      "By installing renewables we actually spend a lot less money than if we were to continue replacing worn out thermal plants with new thermal plants as we have in the past."

      Don't know what the sources of his data are, but I'll ask.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Turning back to electric vehicles, which we've discussed here and elsewhere, there's an interesting press release about a new battery technology:

      This, if it pans out, would complete address the charging time issue. It's unclear to me from the press release where this battery is in the development process--and one needs to be cautious about the wonders routinely presented in startup press releases. Still, this is a good reminder that we can't take the current state of the art as representing permanent limitations.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      That 'technocracy' story is pretty funny in context. Did you not notice that it's from October of 2015?

      So we can test the predictions of the good Dr. Evans. The story says, in part, that:

      "Dr David Evans, a former climate modeller for the Government’s Australian Greenhouse Office, says global warming predictions have been vastly exaggerated in error.

      "The academic, from Perth, Australia, who has passed six degrees in applied mathematics, has analysed complex mathematical assumptions widely used to predict climate change and is predicting world temperature will stagnate until 2017 before cooling, with a ‘mini ice age’ by 2030."

      Got that? " temperature will stagnate until 2017 before cooling."

      Instead, 2016 proved to be, by far, a record-warm year. And 2017 will likely be 2nd- or 3rd-warmest, depending on the dataset. Here's what Dr. Spencer's UAH data look like, up to last month:

      Permanent link:

      I don't think that's what Dr. Evans meant by "stagnating." As to the 'cooling to a mini-Ice Age', well, we'll soon know.

      But it turns out that he has been wrong before:

      In fact, he's been wrong a LOT more:

      I was curious about his credentials, which I was able to find here:

      No background at all in climate science; his PhD is in electrical engineering. He does have an M.A. in applied mathematics, which is what RealClimate maven Gavin Schmidt's doctorate is in.

      I note that he is married to Joanne Nova, Australia's most prominent climate skeptic blogger, and that he has a standing relationship with the Heartland Institute. So he's certainly enmeshed with the denialist 'usual suspects.'

      An interesting sidelight is that Dr. Evans is party to a bet on global temperatures with Nobel-prize winning astronomer Brian Schmidt, AKA blogger 'Eli Rabbett' (and in his spare time, a prize-winning winemaker.)

      On the bet, the GISS 5-year mean for 2005-9 (which I take to be the reference period, based on the description above) is 0.62 C. The mean for 2015-16 is 0.93 C, with the mean for 2017 to date being ~0.91 C, which would yield a 3-year mean of about 0.92 C (if the 2017 value doesn't change too much based on the last quarter.) That's clearly a difference of a neat 0.3 C, much above the warming thresholds.

      So for Dr. Evans to win his bet, he needs a pretty sharp decline in temperature, fast.

      "Tell that to the people who are seeing snow fall in Octobor..."

      Well, lots of people see snow in October all the time anyway. It sure wasn't unusual for me growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Once again, pretty meaningless.

      But once again, you can find more quantitative and comprehensive information:

      Looks like snow might be *slightly* more widespread than normal this year, mostly due to a belt in southern central Canada and a blob in Central Asia in the general vicinity of Mongolia. (Not surprisingly, those are also the 'cold areas' you can see on the Climate Reanalyzer.) No biggie.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 3 months ago from Yorktown NY

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 3 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Tell that to the people who are seeing snow fall in Octobor...

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      No, Jack, I'm not side stepping the main issue. The main issue is that the article is completely misleading. You ask "Why are we so relying on these projections that are based on models that are so inaccurate?"

      But the article does not show what it claims to show--and as I've shown in this very Hub, there are in fact *many* projections which are quite reasonably accurate. Which is why we are relying on them... to the extent that we actually are.

      You go on:

      "The latest weather indicators are not promising for your side.

      "It is a cooling season and many places are getting early snow. That does not bold well for global warming..."

      Jack, Jack, Jack--"many places" is completely meaningless. Let's look at something that gives a reasonably quantitative and comprehensive picture--the "climate re-analyzer". (Essentially, it's a summary of the current weather model 'analysis'--the assimilated and homogenized data forming the basis for all weather prediction.) The University of Maine puts up this user-friendly graphic presentation as a public service.

      Currently, the temperature anomalies (WRT a 1971-2000 baseline) are:

      World: 0.59 C

      NH: 1.09 C

      Arctic: 4.07 C

      Tropics: 0.25 C

      SH: 0.08 C

      Antarctic: 0.38 C

      So, hardly the poster image for 'global cooling.'

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 3 months ago from Yorktown NY

      I appreciate your response but you are side stepping the main issue here. Why are we so relying on these projections that are based on models that are so inaccurate?

      As I said before, many times, if these models are accurate, and predicts results that are verifiable, then I would have no debate or reason to doubt. It is when they are off the mark and exaggerated to make some political issues out of our environment, that is what I object any anyone with a science background would want to know the truth. If they don't know, they should own up to that as well.

      The latest weather indicators are not promising for your side.

      It is a cooling season and many places are getting early snow. That does not bold well for global warming...

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 3 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      That article only has value as a starting place, because the author is clearly not out to make an even-handed assessment; he's out to make a point. (And his point is wrong.)

      First, look at his conclusion with respect to his method. The conclusion is that 'we don't know anything'; his method is to look at *only* what he alleges to be 'failed predictions.' How can you possibly expect to support that conclusion when you only look at one side of the ledger? Answer: you can't.

      The reality is that if you look at the FAR, back in 1990, you'll be able to find quite a few predictions that worked out just fine. Yes, they overestimated the rate and thus the total warming for their projections to 2100. (But not as badly as he claims, because he ignores the error bars given, and because he is actually incorrect when he claims that observations have tracked FAR BAU scenarios. Specifically, on p. xix Figure 5 shows atmospheric CO2 for 2017 as being somewhere between 435-450 ppm, whereas it is actually at 402-403.)

      For examples of 'good' predictions from FAR, page xxiii has this:

      "Models predict that surface air will warm faster over land than over oceans, and a minimum of warming will occur around Antarctica and in the northern North Atlantic region. There are some continental-scale changes which are consistently predicted by the highest resolution models and for which we understand the physical reasons. The warming is predicted to be 50-100% greater than the global mean in high northern latitudes in winter, and substantially smaller than the global mean in regions of sea-ice in summer. Precipitation is predicted to increase on average in middle and high latitude continents in winter (by some 5 -10% over 35-55°N)."

      (Full disclosure: I'm a bit unsure about the last, but I think that it's true. The others are definitely correct.)

      Second, his examples of 'predictions' and 'outcomes' are riddled with selective quotation, in terms of both the former and the latter. For an example of selective quoting of 'predictions', he cites press reports of outlying 'alarmist' comments on sea-ice loss, but never quotes scholarly projections, which have been uniformly much more conservative. (And even at that, as discussed on this very Hub, several of the comments, such as the Zwally remark, were never intended as predictions, only as illustrative projections of loss rates as observed in 2007.)

      As an example of selective quotation of observations, how about the Northern Hemisphere snow extent? He points out that the annual average extent hasn't changed much, which is true, but doesn't point to a drastic decreasing trend in spring snow cover. And his 'projections' here were actually more like comments, so there's really no way to say just what was intended to be included.

      Another such would be his point about global fires; he compares a comment about US fires--which certainly *do* have a sharply increasing trend, just as predicted--with a story in which *global* fire trends are down 29% *due to a decrease in nomadism in specific areas of the world, primarily sub-Saharan Africa.*

      I don't have the time to go through the whole list point by point; that would end up being another project the size of this Hub, and I don't think it's worth it. But if you are looking for the truth, this article could be treated much the way I treated the source article for this Hub. Then, and only then, would it have much value for the truth-seeker.

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      Jack Lee 3 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Here is latest summary of failed predictions- from WUWT, much more comprehensive than I can produce...

      The conclusion is -

      "There is only one possible conclusion regarding the reliability of climate predictions. Outspoken catastrophic-minded climate scientists and high-ranking officials don’t have a clue about future climate and its consequences, and are inventing catastrophic predictions for their own interest. Government policies should not be based on their future predictions."

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 4 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      I left a comment for you. I think that the question you ask is much too conservative. Norway is already at something like 26% electric, so that's a pretty good proof of concept. I think upwards of 60% of all new vehicle sales there now are electrics. Of course, that's driven by generous subsidies, but other than cost to the Norwegian treasury, I'm not aware of any problems.

      Several other jurisdictions are setting goals for no more ICE vehicles, and the deadlines they are putting in place are surprisingly aggressive--particularly Norway, which plans to phase out ICE cars by 2025. India--which has some of the worst air on the planet--is aiming for 2030, while Britain and France are targetting 2040.

      But I think that there's a real prospect that the Tony Seba 'Rethink Transportation' paradigm, which I've mentioned before, could drive much faster adoption rates and render those regulations moot. I'm not brave enough to say that will definitely happen; but I have yet to see any good reason that it couldn't.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 4 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Funny you mentioned Tesla. I just completed a new hub on electric cars you might want to check out and comment...

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 4 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Speaking, as we were some time back, about the damage to Puerto Rico as a consequence of Hurricane Maria and the need for energy, it's interesting to observe that Tesla is indeed jumping in to help provide power where it is needed.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 4 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Some folks have the impression--probably because many electric cars are relatively small and light--that electric propulsion is somehow unfit for heavy applications. That is emphatically untrue. One illustration of this is the adoption of electric bus technology. Even though the US lags other nations in this respect, there are still upwards of 400 electric buses in service around the country just from the American maker Proterra, with many more on order or otherwise 'in the pipeline'. (Proterra will soon have a production capacity of 400 buses *each year.*) Definitely worth watching:

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 4 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Continuing the conversation on renewable & nuclear energy, and on the need to decarbonize the energy economy, here's an interesting piece from Cleantechnica:

      Bottom line: we are going to have nuclear power for the foreseeable future, particularly in countries like China and Russia, but we are going to have a heck of a lot more wind & solar. It's notable that the graphs they present are based on actual generation, not capacity, as the former takes RE's lower capacity factor out of the picture. (Meaning that concentrating on nameplate capacity would make the apparent imbalance tilt much more toward RE.)

      But the stinger, appropriately, is in the 'tail' of the article, where this statement appears:

      "There is no doubt that green energy is not currently growing fast enough to replace fossil fuels. One of the main findings in IRENA’s REmap 2030 report is that renewables are only growing in line with energy demand and are therefore unable to offset fossil fuel consumption significantly."

      What interested me about this is that it's more or less what you'd expect in a more-or-less free market at this point: with wind cheaper than most traditional forms of new generation, and solar getting cheaper fast, it pays to build new wind and solar capability in a great many cases.

      But it doesn't pay owners to decommission relatively new fossil plants long before they are depreciated, just so said owners can then incur new debt to build replacement RE capacity. (Well, unless the costs of fuel go up further, anyway.)

      Which is a problem for the planet, because we have a very short timeline to get to 'carbon net-neutral.' Had we acted earlier and more decisively on the climate crisis, we'd have been able to take more gradual measures. Now we don't have that luxury, which is why I think that active promotion of clean energy is essential.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 4 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Thanks for the info...

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 4 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      An interesting example of a publicly-held company (ie., 'public' in the sense of 'accountable to shareholders', not held in the sense of 'held by a government') betting on renewable energy--and saying that it's already doing well in a business sense by doing so. (See graph #3, which shows profits.)

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 5 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Putting a cost on externalities is not easy, but it is not impossible, and can certainly be done in an empirical fashion, as much engineering of various sorts has been done historically.

      Here's one approach (interestingly, by a team of Texan researchers):

      Since you are a fan of nuclear, note that they found a few places--400 US counties or so--where nuclear power worked out to be the cheapest of the options.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 5 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Thanks, Jack, I'm glad you enjoyed the discussion.

      Forgive me my frankness here, but when you say that "The rest will take care of themselves over time," that seems to me to be a pure statement of faith--and faith that is flying in the face of many facts which we can see around us right now. (For instance, the externalities we've been discussing, which have now persisted for many decades, and nascent solutions for which have involved public-private partnerships and/or regulation.)

      The problem in a nutshell is the 'tragedy of the commons,' the essence of which is that the rational incentives for individual economic actors inherently lead to sub-optimal outcomes, if they are not balanced by concern for the community, recognition of the long-term value to the individual of preserving the resource, or both.

      There are historical examples of communities both succeeding and failing to meet the management challenge. I refer you to this discussion (it may be best to scan the beginning of the overall article; I'm not sure how familiar you are with the overall concept, and you may want to consider it at more depth than I've given it above):

      The economic models of folks like Milton Friedman tend toward assumptions that don't go well with communal/cooperative management. And there is no way that anyone can own the atmosphere (nor do I think many of us would like it if it *were* somehow possible.)

      Kim Stanley Robinson, the science-fiction author, put it provocatively: "When it comes to the environment, the invisible hand never picks up the check."

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 5 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Very interesting discussion.

      Thanks for the link.

      I am in agreement with the following -

      "it is to Nobel laureate Ronald Coase that we owe the most influential argument for letting externalities solve themselves. In “The Problem of Social Cost” (1960), Coase bypasses the earlier view that it is literally impossible to charge for some benefits."

      This is what I was referring to earlier with how deep are we to go with this?

      Not everything in life can be or should be assessed by value or detriment...

      The hidden hand of the free market as explained by Milton Friedman will take care of kost things. The rest will take of themselves over time.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 5 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      No, this is not carbon credits. Fee-and-dividend sets a price on emission-producing activities, which is collected upfront and then rebated to the population in general. In British Columbia, it is done via an income tax credit; in the GOP proposal I mentioned, it would be done via direct rebate check to all taxpayers.

      "The free market will take care of this."

      The free market cannot 'take care' of problems outside its purview; that's the whole point of 'externalities' such as pollution (be it the traditional 'toxic' variety, or climatic in nature.)

      Certainly, technological change may 'take care' of a given problem, as the dominance of the internal combustion engine took care of the problem of horse droppings in city streets (albeit at the cost of creating smog, particulate pollution, social disruption and climate change.) But that is incidental, and there is no inherent limit to the damage that may be done first.

      That is why economists generally view 'externalities' as market failures, and view measures such as the fee-and-dividend as improving the functioning of the free market.

      Here's a discussion, from a conservative economist's perspective:

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 5 months ago from Yorktown NY

      If you are talking about carbon credits, I am against it. I don't think "paying indulgence" is the way to go. It is just another way for one group to use the law to impose their will on another group using money as the medium.

      My proposal is very simple. The free market will take care of this. It is the most efficient of all. When a new energy source is cheap enough and competitive, it will be adopted over time and the world will be better off. Just as we switched from whale oil to fossil fuel in the 19 th century... we will switch away from fossil fuel to something else - when the time is ripe.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 5 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      "What mechanism do you propose that will make this equitable?"

      A revenue-neutral carbon fee. Such a mechanism has been working well in British Columbia, where it has been in effect since 2008. FWIW, it's worth noting that it was brought in by the conservative party (confusingly, in British Columbia as in Australia, they are called the "Liberals.")

      A specifically American version of this was proposed by a group of Republican grandees last year:

      It's also a focus of the non-partisan group Citizen's Climate Lobby. They have studied the impact on American households. (There is a lot about the approach elsewhere on their site as well.)

      Note that the proposed fee amounts are quite modest in all three cases. It's fairly simple administratively, does seem to work to restrain emissions, and does not do economic harm. Much better, IMO, than ignoring the issue.

      "...there are some risks that comes with being alive and living on our planet."

      Indeed there are. But there are some that only come with burning fossil fuels.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 5 months ago from Yorktown NY

      I am not defining the problem away. It is just too hard to track. What mechanism do you propose that will make this equitable? Health insurance in our country is based on actuary tables. Risks and life expectancy is what determines premiums... Besides, not every harmful substance in our environment is attributed to something. There are things like radiation which leads to skin cancer... for example. Who are we to blame for that?

      What I am suggesting is that there are some risks that comes with being alive and living on our planet. The trade off is do we want progress which fossil fuel give us, and live with some side effects? Alternative is to keep our progress in check.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 5 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      So your answer, then, is that you would define the problem away by labeling it 'secondary'?

      I don't think the families of the dead see it that way.

      Nor do I see why a tangible, measurable outcome--pollutants in the atmosphere, water, or soil--should be considered in any way as less fundamental than tax revenue for selling the products in question.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 5 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, that is a good question. I will try to explain this complex interactions between business and general welfare. Let's use gasoline as one example. The oil company has spent very heavy investments to explore and drill and extract crude oil. They created refineries to convert the crude to gasoline to power all our vehicles and all kinds of other uses derived from fossil fuel. Our mobile public and economy is driven by gasoline and diesel fuel in case of trucks. They are the life blood of our economy, shipping products across our nation. Our government, place a heavy tax on gasoline so that they can build and maintain the highways... and they institute exhaust emission laws to protect our environment so we are not burdened with smog... These are primary effects of a society run on fossil fuel, like it or not. The point is, we need it for human progress at this time.

      The secondary effects you mentioned as far as health related diseases that come about from breathing in these chemicals are surely there. However, they cannot be accounted in any way or should be. Otherwise, where does it end? How many levels can you take this?

      Again, I have no problem with our government through the NSF make grants to help develop some new technology that seem promising. I stop at that stage. The government should not provide additional subsidies to corporations or individuals in trying to push a certain technology such as solar or wind power. The reason is simple. They have no good track record in picking winners and losers. This should be done at the hands of venture capitalists. They are the ones that should take on risks and receive rewards or failures depending on which ones eventually makes it to market. I hope this is clear. Yes to basic science research funding, no to issuing tax credits or goverment loans to private corporations. That is free enterprise doing its work.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 5 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      I understand, but new technologies often require support in order to become established--and the more so today, when the sheer sophistication of the technologies involved often makes up-front capital costs extremely high. As I've shown in several previous comments, wind and solar today are increasingly the cheaper option, compared with new conventional generation capacity and thus enormous economies of scale. So when I say that I expect increasing deployments of both, it is based upon the same faith in the marketplace that you evince.

      But we couldn't have got to this point without the Europeans (principally) artificially creating demand, or without the Chinese manufacturing 'machine' taking up these technologies and achieving global dominance. Both were 'political decisions'--or at least, policy decisions--based on the 'good' that was expected. My point being that the market works--but not in a policy vacuum. (It puts me in mind of all sorts of complex systems, which can have multiple quasi-stable states, but which require an energy input to shift from one to another.)

      Just some thoughts--but let me end with a question. What do you think the response should be to market distortions? Pollution has been such a distortion, in that it imposes costs upon people which are not accounted for by the system. (The thousands of people whose deaths are accounted for in the study I posted below are one example, as are the various economic losses associated.) These costs are real, but unaccounted for in the system--that is, there is no linkage between the costs paid, and the profits made. Thus, fossil fuel usage has effectively been subsidized all the way along, not via cutting them checks (though you can find many examples of that, too, from American 'exploration credits' to Indonesian gasoline subsidies), but through failing to charge them for the full costs of their business model.

      So, what would you advocate as a solution or approach to this problem?

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 5 months ago from Yorktown NY

      My disagreement with renewable energy was never about the goodness it can bring... it was based on cost. If it can be cost effective, the natural business cycle of supply and demand and market efficiency will take care of it on its own without government subsidies and picking winners and losers.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 5 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Nice to agree for a change, then!

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 5 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Very interesting. I have no problem with this study.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 5 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      A new study finds very considerable benefits to the increased deployment of wind and solar in the US. Such studies are always going to be subject to methodological controversy. But we shouldn't ignore a sincere attempt to quantify benefits--particularly in view of frequent emphasis on the more obvious costs.

      "We find cumulative wind and solar air-quality benefits of 2015 US$29.7–112.8 billion mostly from 3,000 to 12,700 avoided premature mortalities, and cumulative climate benefits of 2015 US$5.3–106.8 billion. The ranges span results across a suite of air-quality and health impact models and social cost of carbon estimates. We find that binding cap-and-trade pollutant markets may reduce these cumulative benefits by up to 16%. In 2015, based on central estimates, combined marginal benefits equal 7.3¢/¢ kWh−1 (wind) and 4.0¢/kWh−1 (solar)."

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 5 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Yes, that conclusion is consistent with the IPCC's AR5 verdict, at least as I remember it, and is pretty much what I've said previously in our conversation. Similar numbers of storms, but stronger on average--and since the data are very noisy, trends are not likely to be statistically detectable for quite some time.

      That does not mean, however, that climate change is not affecting hurricane intensity now. As I've also said, the physical mechanisms for hurricanes are known to be related to temperature and to water vapor in the atmosphere. That's a reality independent of what we can discern from statistical study.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 5 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Thanks Doc, I will look into this...

      Here is a summary from NOAA study -

      I quote the summary here:

      "In summary, neither our model projections for the 21st century nor our analyses of trends in Atlantic hurricane and tropical storm counts over the past 120+ yr support the notion that greenhouse gas-induced warming leads to large increases in either tropical storm or overall hurricane numbers in the Atlantic. One modeling study projects a large (~100%) increase in Atlantic category 4-5 hurricanes over the 21st century, but we estimate that this increase may not be detectable until the latter half of the century."

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 5 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, there has been considerable discussion of the role that climate change may have played in the devastation that has rocked Texas. Here's a useful discussion of the wider question of extreme weather and climate change generally:

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 8 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, my latest hub on climate change.

      Obviously you disagree.

      I would be interested in your defense.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 8 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      "You have no answers."

      Oh, yes, I do... ;-)

      "Doc, how is 200 years of weather extreme records by the Farmer's almanac anecdotal?"

      It is neither quantified nor comprehensive, which means it can't be used to construct a model that would allow you to test a hypothesis such as "storms are increasing".

      "How about this -

      Ball isn't a 'climatologist', contrary to his claim, and real climatologist do, in fact, interact with statisticians all the time, again contrary to his claim. That's how the original 'hockey stick' papers came about, actually.

      "How about retired IPCC official who makes the same claim..."

      Who? And what claim do you mean?

      "You are not allowing reality to check your bias."

      That's your opinion. My opinion is that you are not looking at reality squarely.

      "Why is the last 10 years so quiet ?

      We have not had a category 3 storm or higher in 10 years?

      How is this possible in light of record warming?"

      Easy. Hurricane activity is highly variable, both geographically and temporally. It is not unusual in the record to see a relatively quiet period of several years--and especially when only one basin is considered. That is true whether or not mean conditions are slowly changing.

      However, even in terms of the North Atlantic basin, which has had a quiet patch recently, we had Dean in 2007 (a Cat 5) and Igor in 2010 (a Cat 4). You also ignore Sandy, which although its sustained winds were relatively low, nevertheless did enormous damage by virtue of its storm surge and precipitation, not to mention its enormous size. Also, we can't forget Matthew (Cat 5), due to which people in this state are still living in shelters and trying to find ways to fix their homes.

      Elsewhere, the eastern Pacific had Patricia, the second-strongest cyclone ever recorded, in 2015; the western Pacific (more storm-prone) has had 8 cyclones with winds above 200 km/h since 2010; the Northern Indian Ocean has had 7 such cyclones in the last 11 years; the southern Indian Ocean has had 7 such, including the record-tying Fantala just last year; and the South Pacific has had three exceptionally strong storms in recent years, including Pam from 2015, which by some criteria is the strongest ever observed in the Southern Hemisphere.

      As I've said many times before, the consensus projection for hurricanes is "fewer, but stronger on average"--and the timeline for that is "over the present century." So you really can't hope to draw conclusions on whether or not that is playing out over a decade--especially when you only look at a small subcategory, such as "major hurricanes making landfall in the USA".

      And for that matter, what are we only looking at hurricanes in this comment? As I noted above, other things are showing more robust trends--notably, extreme precipitation events and heatwaves.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 8 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, checkout this video from ABC 2008 -

      Just wondering your reaction...

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 8 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, how is 200 years of weather extreme records by the Farmer's almanac anecdotal?

      How about this -

      How about retired IPCC official who makes the same claim...

      You are not allowing reality to check your bias.

      Why is the last 10 years so quiet ?

      We have not had a category 3 storm or higher in 10 years?

      How is this possible in light of record warming?

      You have no answers.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 8 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Jack, forgive me if I missed an update, but barring that, we've already been around the track once before on your Hub on past weather extremes. My reaction is unchanged: you haven't presented anything there that goes beyond the anecdotal, and it's impossible to determine anything based on the basis of anecdote.

      Yes, greater exposure to risk due to greater population, et cetera, is certainly a factor complicating the analysis of rising damage costs. That it a known fact. However, you'll note that there are not more extensive coral reefs to be bleached, nor more ice to be melted. The increase in extreme precipitation events I referred to is measured not in terms of the damage done, but in terms of the rain and snow that fell. Similarly for the heatwaves.

      "Statistically speaking, our climate has not deviated much over the last 300 years."

      I think you may not be saying quite what you mean here, as the climate has certainly "deviated" very dramatically during that time, and especially since 1970.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 8 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, you hit the nail on the head. Are recent climate related disasters due to AGW? Or part of our normal variations in weather? I can only point you to our historical records. Please see the following and tell me what we experience in the 21 century is worst than the 19th or 20th century...?

      Also, some of the cost of modern storms is due to our growing population... the same size storm in 2017 will cost more damage than 1900 because there are more people living in these coastal regions.

      Statistically speaking, our climate has not deviated much over the last 300 years. If anything, the last 10 years have been unusually calm in light of record temperature claims by the NOAA.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 8 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      "Doc, there is a huge differnce between a skeptic and a denier. The denier claim the whole global warming is a hoax. A skeptic like me, believes in the greenhouse effect but question the extent of the influence on the total climate."

      I tend to use the term 'denial' and its nominative form, 'denier', in the psychological sense, not as a term of ideological art. In that perspective, it can apply equally well to those who fail to take notice of evidence at either the level of existence of greenhouse warming, or of its quantitative effect.

      But you'll notice that I didn't use the term at all in my previous comment.

      "The amount and effect on our climate is what is being discussed or debated. If the effect is dire and will appear in a short time in the future, the response will be accordingly."

      That's the point. Effects are being felt *now*: we are now seeing increased heat waves; increased extreme precipitation events (clear in North America, where data is the strongest and longest, but certainly happening elsewhere even though the statistical case can't be made yet); Arctic sea ice decline; persistent near-global coral bleaching; and more.

      Those effects have certainly killed more than 100,000 people (and indeed one estimate, from 2012, estimates that premature deaths due to climate change may number as many as 400,000 annually.) These effects have certainly cost hundreds of billions of dollars. There is every reason to expect that cost in lives and treasure to continue to rise over time.

      "However, if the effect is slow and long range and may not be as dire, then a different solution may be more appropriate."

      Well, it is 'slow' and 'long range', too, because it will not stop happening until we stabilize atmospheric concentrations. That's what the evidence says. And there is very little uncertainty about that fact.

      "Real people are being affected by these policy differences. For example, coal miners who lost their livelihood due to the shutting down of coal mines as a direct result of EPA rulings and regulations."

      Real people died in Katrina, and Sandy, and in the European and Russian heatwaves, and in the Pakistani floods, and in many other disasters which climate change caused, exacerbated, or contributed to. At least those coal miners are still alive (mostly). While I'm on the topic, I must say that I find it a matter of very bad faith that those who moan about lost coal jobs now, when a couple of tens of thousands have been lost to some combination of policy initiative (BAD!) and cheap natgas (GOOD!), never uttered a compassionate peep decades ago when the move to mountain top removal as the dominant paradigm for Eastern coal mining was eliminating jobs by the hundreds of thousands. That was just considered the march of progress.

      And while you are reckoning the lost coal jobs, how about acknowledging the more numerous, well-paid jobs installing and servicing wind turbines and solar panels? They outnumber the coal jobs by a pretty hefty margin, as I recall.

      It's all very well to try to reckon profit and loss, and laudable no doubt to remember that 'real people' are affected. But we need to look at both sides of the ledger, not just the one that lets us bash the political opposition.

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      Jack Lee 8 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, there is a huge differnce between a skeptic and a denier. The denier claim the whole global warming is a hoax. A skeptic like me, believes in the greenhouse effect but question the extent of the influence on the total climate. The amount and effect on our climate is what is being discussed or debated. If the effect is dire and will appear in a short time in the future, the response will be accordingly. However, if the effect is slow and long range and may not be as dire, then a different solution may be more appropriate. Real people are being affected by these policy differences. For example, coal miners who lost their livelihood due to the shutting down of coal mines as a direct result of EPA rulings and regulations.

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      Doc Snow 8 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Speaking of creating jobs while cutting emissions, here's another renewables milestone:

      That's 5x the existing *global* offshore capacity, mind you!

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      Doc Snow 8 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Well, Jack, that is sort of logical, since "skeptics" has become code for "those who refuse, come what may, to recognize the existence of anthropogenic climate change."

      After all, if you don't think there is a problem to be addressed, then any cost (or even potential cost) whatever is too much.

      Unfortunately, there is no evidentiary support worthy of the name for this point of view, and mountains of evidence on the other side.

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      Jack Lee 8 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, To the skeptics, what Trump did was courageous. He went against the rest of the world and tells them to take a pause and offered to renegotiate a better and more equitable deal for America. Meanwhile, we are not punishing american tax payers and energy producers and in fact creating jobs with building the pipeline...

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      Doc Snow 8 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Jack, I think that it remains to be seen what the effects are. America's failure to act on climate change during the Trump presidency is a tragedy. America is recklessly endangering herself, and everybody else by failing to do her part (or, more precisely, by reducing her efforts just when she should be redoubling them.)

      The worst case scenario, though, would be if American dereliction were to prove contagious, in which case global action would be endangered. Luckily, it doesn't seem likely at this point that that is what will happen. It seems that other nations are reacting with increased determination, if anything. (Of course, the verbal is one thing; action is what really matters. Still, India and China are definitely taking some good actions, and so are some others.)

      You have expressed the opinion before that the lack of an enforcement mechanism makes Paris "weak". In that regard I've argued that since the consequences of failure to address climate change effectively are 1) more inevitable than any arbitrary sanction that might be imposed; and 2) more severe than any such sanction as well, then it makes little sense to work out a pointless sanction regime. The nations are acting in large part because they recognize the need; they do not need additional coercion to buy in. (Mutual accountability and transparency remain important, however, and are part of the accord.) I haven't changed my mind in that regard, so if that is your point, then I still disagree with you.

      On the other hand, it is objectively true that the pledged contributions are insufficient to meet the Accord's goals. (One of the few things that the President said in his speech announcing the pullout that was actually correct.) That's referred to as the "ambition gap", and IMO, that is a significant weakness in the Accord, and one that *must* be addressed over time--and not too much time, either.

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      Jack Lee 8 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, now that Trump has pulled out of the Paris accord, what do you think is the effect?

      In my mind, not much. It was such a weak agreement to begin with, I don't think it was a big deal.

      I actually found a silver lining in this. Bloomberg has decided to put up $15 million of his own money to support this...

      Where are the rest of the climate change supporters?

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      Doc Snow 9 months ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Concerns, certainly. Yet the state of the art is light-years past where it was, as you are also aware.

      Given the seriousness, I certainly hope that some of the engineers working on these projects share your skepticism, and keep asking the hard questions and issuing the toughest possible tests for the systems. They need people trying their hardest to 'bust' them. That is how you get to 'ro*bust*', after all!

      Yet, while there will undoubtedly be systems failures of some sort or another, and very likely indeed including some fatal outcomes, it must also be admitted that the record of humanity in this regard is not very good. Just in the US, tens of thousands die every year in human-caused accidents. (Used to be ~50,000 a year, but I believe that tech and education have reduced it significantly--yes, the 2016 number was about 40,000.)

      Suppose those system errors caused 1,000 deaths a year--probably much higher than will occur. If it cuts out the human-caused ones, we'd obviously save 39,000 lives annually. How do you think society would feel about that? I grant you that the scenario of abrupt failure, with you being helpless in your AEV to respond in any reasonable way, is scary. But it's not different in essence than riding on subway, train, or bus. Or plane, for that matter. And people manage their fears without much trouble, for the most part.

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      Jack Lee 9 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Two other points with self driving cars. The technology can be hacked by terrorists and the system is complex enough to be prone to system crash. In both cases, I am not willing, at this point or the near future, to put my life in the hands of these automated systems. We have been here before. In the 1980s, Airbus designed their planes to be auto pilot without any human control. After a catastrophic crash, they decided to put the human conteols back for just in case... I worked in the computer field and I am also a programmer. I know how these systems are put together. Can you imaging driving at 60 mph and a "blue screen" happens like on your Windows PC? Haha