A world warmed by 2 or 4 degrees Celsius poses many challenges

Nov 29, 2010
Oxford research suggests that river basins in Bangladesh will get wetter. Credit: Afzal Hossain

Oxford scientists have contributed to a series of research papers about the impacts of global warming to coincide with the opening of the Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico.

One study, led by Niel Bowerman of the Oxford University’s Department of Physics, warns that the conference will fail to meet its objectives unless it addresses not just how much the planet warms, but also how fast it warms. Potentially dangerous rates of could outpace the ability of ecosystems and manmade infrastructure to adapt, it argues.

The papers are in a special report ‘Four degrees and beyond: the potential for a global temperature increase of four degrees and its implications’ published today in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A.

Bowerman’s study shows that to achieve their aims, negotiators must limit the maximum global emission rate as well as the total amount of carbon emitted through to 2200. He explains: ‘Many people think that the reason why emissions need to peak soon is to save the climate of the 22nd century, but our research highlights a more immediate reason. We need to start cutting emissions soon to avoid potentially dangerous rates of warming within our lifetimes, and to avoid committing ourselves to potentially unfeasible rates of emission reduction in a couple of decade’s time.’

‘Peak warming is determined by the total amount of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere, not the rate we release it in any given year,’ said Dr. Myles Allen of Oxford University’s Department of Physics and a co-author of the study.

At the Cancun conference, politicians will be discussing emission targets for 2020 and 2050 with the aim of limiting global warming to not more than two degrees Celsius. The new study found that setting targets for the peak rate of emission and total cumulative emissions to 2200 would be a much better way of framing an evidence-based policy for carbon dioxide emissions.

In an introduction to the special report, lead author Dr. Mark New from the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford University wrote: ‘The 2009 Copenhagen Accord recognised the scientific view “that the increase in global temperatures should be below two degrees Celsius“ despite growing views that this might be too high. At the same time, the continued rise in greenhouse gas emissions in the last decade, and the delays in a comprehensive global emissions reduction agreement, has made achieving this target extremely difficult, arguably impossible, raising the likelihood of global temperature rises of three or four degrees Celsius within this century. Yet there are few studies that assess the potential impacts and consequences of a warming of four degrees Celsius or greater in a systematic manner.’

Another study, led by Dr. Fai Fung from the School of Geography and the Environment, has analysed the extent of water scarcity in some of the world’s largest river basins in the next 50 years, if global mean temperatures rise by two or four degrees Celsius.

Even if global warming is limited to two degrees Celsius, the study suggests water supplies will dwindle in most river basins because of the increased demands for water from the world’s growing populations. In a four degree Celsius world, impacts of would become the biggest threat. Projections suggest that in a world that is two degrees warmer, river basins will become drier and some wetter. An increase of four degrees will amplify the changes even more.

The study also points out that the problem of water scarcity in most river basins will be made worse if warming proceeds more rapidly and large climate impacts coincide with a peak in world population.

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jscroft
3.2 / 5 (11) Nov 29, 2010
A world warmed by 2 or 4 degrees Celsius poses many challenges.


Yah. So does a world where the lips of Science are hermetically sealed against the anus of Politics... yet still we manage to soldier on.
GSwift7
3.3 / 5 (7) Nov 29, 2010
More hype and spin than cable tv news, every time we have one of these climate talks. People are getting numb to the alarmism. It's hard to care about this stuff when unemployment is so high, and even those who are working are vastly underemployed in many cases. Cost of living keeps rising, inflation too, while wages and home values fall. Jobs are shipped overseas by the thousands because it's too expensive to do business here. And with all of that going on, we need to make some kind of crazy deal to send billions of US dollars to third world countries so they can build wind mills? I don't think so. Do you really think that if you send millions of dollars to Mexico they are going to use it to reduce pollution? Don't be stupid.
DickWilhelm
3 / 5 (10) Nov 29, 2010
@GSwift7
How can a research paper about one of humanity's greatest hurdles be considered hype? And how can you justify calling evidence based research spin?

Your argument that the current political and economic troubles in the world somehow negate the need to be concerned with climate change is ridiculous. The world is not going to collapse because of greedy bankers and a mismanaged economy. Humanity may, however, take an incredible beating if climate change isn't addressed in a serious manner.
ormondotvos
2.3 / 5 (6) Nov 29, 2010
Actually, both banker greed and climate change can work together to exacerbate the others' effects.

Greed is the reason behind the failure to limit both pollution and CO2 production, since corporate thinking, which is essentially the only legislative influence, stops intelligent and rational behavior in its tracks.

Witness here the brainwashed products of the corporate campaign to cleverly discredit even the most technical and scientifically sound research by automatically lumping it with propaganda. You gotta respect the whore psychologists who work for the corporations. They sure have their finger on the American buttons.
marjon
2.5 / 5 (8) Nov 29, 2010
The same can be said if the world cooled 2 to 4 K.
deatopmg
2.3 / 5 (6) Nov 29, 2010
Well said Marjon! When that happens, and it will as it has in the past, we will be up S*#@'s creek w/o a paddle.
maxcypher
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 29, 2010
"Yah. So does a world where the lips of Science are hermetically sealed against the anus of Politics... yet still we manage to soldier on."

I mostly disagree with your conclusion, but how you said it was pretty evocative of a fear so many, well-wishing folk share: How can we trust the scientists? I recently read -- in this site -- about the claim that the U.S. has the highest rate of scientific fraud in the world. I was a bit shaken by that. The lack of moral fiber seems to be some sort of Achilles' Heel for modern science.
tigger
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 29, 2010
"a world where the lips of Science are hermetically sealed against the anus of Politics"

OMG that's funny.

I suspect you think climate change is bollocks... and I don't... but hey, that comment is bloody funny :-)

ekim
1 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2010
omatumr
2.1 / 5 (11) Nov 29, 2010
The first post here correctly identified the problem:

. . . the lips of Science are hermetically sealed against the anus of Politics....


This is further explained in a new book,

"Slaying the Sky Dragon - Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory."

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo

marjon
2.3 / 5 (9) Nov 29, 2010
I suspect you think climate change is bollocks

Climate changes. 10,000 years ago, ice covered much of the north. There are theories some from Europe followed the glacial front to North America.
It is good the climate changed from glaciers to forests, and no SUVs required.
omatumr
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 30, 2010
"a world where the lips of Science are hermetically sealed against the anus of Politics"

OMG that's funny.


Not for Oxford dons!

One of these days your sense of humor will get you into trouble.

With tongue in cheek,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
Birger
3 / 5 (4) Nov 30, 2010
"Climate changes. 10,000 years ago, ice covered much of the north"

Will not happen again. The modest carbon dioxide release that accompanied the spread of agriculture during the iron age possibly delayed the next ice age enough to let us develop modern technology, but the giant carbon dioxide emissions since the beginning of industrialism pretty much rules out the return of glaciations, regardless of orbital forcing.

We are stuck in a post-glaciation age,
and now the temperature is rising even further, beyond what vegetation and fauna has been adapted to for the last 10.000 years.
"water supplies will dwindle in most river basins" ...good luck trying to find a positive spin on that. But I suppose all the peer-reviewed science that supports warming is just part of the giant conspiracy (sarcasm).
GSwift7
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 30, 2010
How can a research paper about one of humanity's greatest hurdles be considered hype? And how can you justify calling evidence based research spin?


First, Bowerman's study isn't new. You should pay attention to what journal it's being published in too: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. That's not a peer reviewed research journal like Nature.

Second, The study by Fung proposes a temp increase of 4 deg in 50 years. That isn't realistic by any account. They also ignore the positive effects of warming in some regions.

Is anyone really saying that global mean temperatures are going to rise by four degrees in the next fifty years (except the extremists)? I call that spin designed to generate fear. It's a fictional or hypothetical case being presented to policy-makers in a way that makes it sound plausible and factual rather than hypothetical. The data and models do not bear out this scenario.
GSwift7
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 30, 2010
@Birger:

That's wrong. We are not stuck. The temp and CO2 levels were higher than they are today when the last ice age began. Ice core records undeniably show this. The ice age and interglacial cycle will continue to be driven by the sun and our orbit as they always have. There are many factors besides CO2 at work here. You need to look at the big picture, not just CO2.
wwqq
3 / 5 (2) Nov 30, 2010
The temp and CO2 levels were higher than they are today when the last ice age began. Ice core records undeniably show this.


No; there are ~800 000 years of good ice core data and the highest CO2 concentration was a few brief peaks up to ~300 ppm. The last time CO2 levels were this high was ~15 million years ago.
Cosmic_Ray
3 / 5 (2) Nov 30, 2010
The temp and CO2 levels were higher than they are today when the last ice age began. Ice core records undeniably show this.


No; there are ~800 000 years of good ice core data and the highest CO2 concentration was a few brief peaks up to ~300 ppm. The last time CO2 levels were this high was ~15 million years ago.


There's evidence that CO2 levels beyond 800k years was much much higher than today AND there's isn't much evidence that these much higher CO2 levels caused any warming.

And those 800K years worth of ice core data (of temp and CO2) don't make the case that CO2 is a GHG even though temp tracks CO2.

AGW is more about conceiving a way to appropriate the wealth and technology of the 'North' for use by the 'South' than it is about stopping AGW and it's consequences.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2010
"No; there are ~800 000 years of good ice core data and the highest CO2 concentration was a few brief peaks up to ~300 ppm."

You are right. Here's a link from Oak Ridge National Lab to prove your point: http://cdiac.ornl...tok.html

I need to be more carefull. However, my point that ice ages began in spite of high CO2 levels still stands, and is supported by the ice cores. I was wrong about levels being this high, but I was only off by 50 parts per million. That's .005%, which I think isn't too bad (if you will indulge me and let me save my bruised ego a little bit). :)

This graph show historical estimates of CO2 quite well: http://en.wikiped...xide.png

It shows CO2 levels as high as 5000 PPM, yet we did not get "stuck" in eternal warming. We have not seen the end of the ice ages by any means.

Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (5) Nov 30, 2010
I hate to say it, but Dennis Miller accurately summed up why this will forever be a debate rather than something acted upon.

One man's End of the World is another's "It's nice out."
Shootist
2 / 5 (4) Dec 04, 2010
@GSwift7
How can a research paper about one of humanity's greatest hurdles be considered hype? And how can you justify calling evidence based research spin?



'cause it is spin. And the weather ain't a "great hurtle". Warm weather, whether Medieval or Roman, is better for Man than cooler weather, whether Little Ice Age or Wisconsin.

The rest is politics and people wanting money.
jsa09
3 / 5 (2) Dec 06, 2010
"Climate changes. 10,000 years ago, ice covered much of the north"

Will not happen again. The modest carbon dioxide release that accompanied the spread of agriculture during the iron age possibly delayed the next ice age enough to let us develop modern technology, but the giant carbon dioxide emissions since the beginning of industrialism pretty much rules out the return of glaciations, regardless of orbital forcing.

We are stuck in a post-glaciation age,
and now the temperature is rising even further, beyond what vegetation and fauna has been adapted to for the last 10.000 years.
"water supplies will dwindle in most river basins" ...good luck trying to find a positive spin on that. But I suppose all the peer-reviewed science that supports warming is just part of the giant conspiracy (sarcasm).


The excess heat would dry up the rivers if you don't take into account melting poles which raises sea levels and increases precipitation.
Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (1) Dec 06, 2010
'cause it is spin. And the weather ain't a "great hurtle". Warm weather, whether Medieval or Roman, is better for Man than cooler weather, whether Little Ice Age or Wisconsin.

The rest is politics and people wanting money.
Depends on where you live, doesn't it. If you increase the temp around the equator by a few degrees you'll see a multitude of die offs as the precipitation won't fuel the water ways.

That's the most threatening part of AGCC. A reduction in rainfall, which AGCC predicts, and we're seeing observationally over the past 40 years, results in less fresh water to be exploited for drinking, agricultural etc.

The lack of maintenance and destruction of the water supply by the Goths helped to do Rome in, and they'd be the ones who you say received a net benefit. Medieval famines occured in many places during the MWP while Europe benefitted.

It does have an impact, it simply isn't fully calculable. Our infrastructure is rigid and as such cannot adapt.
Ratfish
not rated yet Dec 06, 2010
I'm of the opinion that our CO2 obsession is silly, but a nice side effect is that most of the CO2-reducing measures also happen to decrease air pollution, which I think we can all agree is a good thing. Even if the gears of warmism-alarmism continue to turn, it's not all worthless.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2010
but a nice side effect is that most of the CO2-reducing measures also happen to decrease air pollution


Most of those things have been in place, as part of the Clean Air Act in the US, since before the CO2 debate began. The biggest polluters, like China, Mexico, Brazil and India don't have anything similar though.

Clean air is good, I agree, and if they find a way to make electricity cheaper for consumers, then that would be a win as well. However, for now it looks to me like the cons outweigh the pros. The expense of running huge government agencies and the added cost of everything from corn to automobiles seems a little self-defeating to me. Imagine how much less pollution would be created, for example, if manufacturing had not been driven out of the united states over the past few decades. If those industries had remained here, they would be under US pollution standards, but they have moved to countries where they can make a larger profit, and with no pollution controls.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
Most of those things have been in place, as part of the Clean Air Act in the US, since before the CO2 debate began. The biggest polluters, like China, Mexico, Brazil and India don't have anything similar though.
That's incorrect. The CAA included CO2 from the onset in 1970. In 72 the head of the EPA suspended the restriction of CO2 on automakers. It didn't make it's way back in until 92, overridden again in 94 and it's attempting to make it's way back in again.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2010
Skeptic, my point is that we had catalytic converters, unleaded gas, and sulfur emission controls before AGW became a buzz word, and the clean air act precedes the current global warming debate. People back then were more afraid of ozone depletion and acid rain. Nobody was talking about sea level rise and melting glaciers back then. Some of the measures have come and gone and returned, but the reasons have changed over time. That doesn't change the fact that the EPA has been pushing for increased air quality standards ever since it was formed. The manmade global warming debate is a new fad in comparison to air pollution control. It's just the latest method they are using to push their agenda, but the agenda remains the same.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
Skeptic, my point is that we had catalytic converters, unleaded gas, and sulfur emission controls before AGW became a buzz word, and the clean air act precedes the current global warming debate.
Global warming debate started back in the 1800's with Arrhenius Svante. It's been a focus since the 50's in science. You can still pull the Sagan clips from interviews on the subject from the 60's. It's not a fad, and it isn't new science.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2010
Yes, but that was quite a different debate than what we are having now. This modern round of climate politics can't be compared to the discussions from 50+ years ago. Once the rich and powerful people got a taste of the money they made from HCFC cap and trade, they have been hell-bent to get another cap and trade gold rush started. Look what happened to the cost of refridgerants as a result of HCFC regulation. The cost increase far exceded estimates from proponents beforehand. CO2 regulation would make CFC regulation look like a joke in comparison. The amounts of money involved are staggering. Some people would do unthinkable things to get that kind of money, and they already are. If you don't think so, then you are an idealist and a dreamer.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
Once the rich and powerful people got a taste of the money they made from HCFC cap and trade, they have been hell-bent to get another cap and trade gold rush started.
The rich and powerful didn't get the taste. The rich and powerful (CFC producers) went out of business or adapted. The most adaptable businesses survived. Isn't that the whole philosophy of the free market?
Look what happened to the cost of refridgerants as a result of HCFC regulation. The cost increase far exceded estimates from proponents beforehand.
That depends on who you were listening to prior. Again you didn't see the price of ac or refrige units skyrocket, but our chemical fabrication technology evolved incredibly. If you want to look at the energy industry as a similacrum you're probably going to see energy technology advance by the same relative measure. The unadaptable producers will go out of business and the new efficient systems will replace them. It's exactly what you want, free market solution
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2010
The unadaptable producers will go out of business and the new efficient systems will replace them. It's exactly what you want, free market solution


What planet are you from? How do you see cap and trade as free market? It's government regulation. The only part that's free market is the unregulated trading of carbon certificates. Unregulated trading worth billions per year. Doesn't that sound like a good idea?

The unadaptable, like farmers? Yeah, let's drive those dirty scumbags out of business. They've been polluting the planet for far too long.

Cap and trade is like using a sledge hammer to cure a tooth ache. It'll get that tooth out of there alright, but at what cost?
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
What planet are you from? How do you see cap and trade as free market? It's government regulation.
Which forces what you would call a "free market" solution.
The unadaptable, like farmers? Yeah, let's drive those dirty scumbags out of business.
Oh please, now you're getting ridiculous. We already pay farmers to produce food that we're not going to use. End the farming subsidies and they'd collapse on their own. If we invoked CnT you'd watch farmers get larger subsidies, but now we could actually afford them.

Cap and trade is like using a sledge hammer to cure a tooth ache.
Then what's your solution? Keep in mind, that tooth ache very well could be an absess. If you do nothing, you very well could die.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2010
Then what's your solution?


If they MUST do CnT, then part of the law should state that it's a federal felony to make money from brokering credits, credit futures, credit insurance or any such scheme. They would have to be traded cost-free on a public web service or something. If it's a get rich quick scheme for anyone then it's wasting money.

Any sceme should have an expiration date at which point it would need to be renewed or changed to something else. Limit the size and budget of the new government organization from the start as well.

I would favor a plan that leaves the burden of finding solutions and control of the money in the hands of an organization run by the parties who will be paying the biggest share of the fees. They will be the most motivated parties toward finding good solutions through innovation and alternatives.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2010
certainly don't waste time money and effort by imposing fees on the power companies and then using those fees to help consumers pay the electric bill. You're just playing a shell game that way, and the government and other middlemen take a little piece of the money at every step. That's stupid.

If you take loads of money from everyone and give it to people who have nothing to gain by finding solutions, then you will never get the solutions you want in the time frame you want them in. You'll create a government protected beauracratic monopoly that will only seek to preserve itself, and finding a solution would mean it's own destruction.

You are proposing a stick, but you have forgotten the carrott. What is the goal and how are we best going to reach the goal? Who is best suited to achieve the goal? Who needs the funds to achieve the goal? If anything, we should be granting money to coal plants so they can install scrubbing equipment for free, rather than trying to break them.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
If they MUST do CnT, then part of the law should state that it's a federal felony to make money from brokering credits, credit futures, credit insurance or any such scheme. They would have to be traded cost-free on a public web service or something. If it's a get rich quick scheme for anyone then it's wasting money.
So it couldn't be a free market? Why?

I actually don't have a problem with restrictions of this nature on ALL credit markets.
certainly don't waste time money and effort by imposing fees on the power companies and then using those fees to help consumers pay the electric bill. You're just playing a shell game that way, and the government and other middlemen take a little piece of the money at every step. That's stupid.
But that's exactly what the Bush tax cuts were. Borrow money, from the tax payers, in order to pay the tax payers a $300 check, and you loved those.
You are proposing a stick, but you have forgotten the carrott.
Tax incentivization.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2010
Again, you have me confused with Marjon. I'm not a free market zealot. I have frequently argued against Marjon's position that regulations are ebil.

Yes, I was happy for those checks. I'm not sure they helped the economy, but it was a nice attempt to bribe for votes.

What do you mean by tax incentivization? The power companies get a fine. They pass the fine on to the consumer. I pay my bill at the end of the month. I don't feel incentivized.

Besides, who decided that this should cost 100 billion or 10 billion? Would 1 billion be enough? Could you do something meaningful with 100 million? Do you have to make coal more expensive than today's solar panel in order for this to work? Is there another way that doesn't cost so much? Are we going to get our money back in terms of applied technology in the long run? If we pay for the research, does a university own the patent?
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Dec 08, 2010
Tax incentivization for adoption, fining someone for doing what they've been doing without a materials or legal basis is unacceptable. I think we agree on that with minor exceptions.

Beyond that, which do you think has a higher operating cost, an oil fired plant or a solar plant? Which is more suceptible to market forces?

As for making coal more expensive, and it's telling you didn't say oil, you simply drop the subsidy, which is rather large.

Emissions control is not very difficult, it simply has a large upfront expense, which then pays you back. It's like a buddy asking for a 10k loan that he'll pay you back over 10 years but you'll get 20k. You double your money, but it certainly doesn't feel like it.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Dec 08, 2010
which do you think has a higher operating cost


That's not as simple as you make it sound. You can't have solar by itself because of the periodic nature of solar power (day/night/clear/cloudy). You either need to have a battery of some kind, or you need to keep the coal plant in addition to the solar plant. There are a handful of storage/battery methods that work, like pumping water into an elevated lake or compressed underground air, but those are extremely dependent on location. Chemical batteries would be worse than the coal plants in terms of pollution and cost prohibitive as well. So, the question of which is cheaper to operate is moot. The real question is whether it's cost effective, every time you build a coal plant, to also build a solar plant and then pay to operate both.

I'm still going to insist that the fastest solutions are more likely on the consumption end. More efficient use could have a huge impact on power needs in the shortest time.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Dec 08, 2010
That's not as simple as you make it sound. You can't have solar by itself because of the periodic nature of solar power (day/night/clear/cloudy). You either need to have a battery of some kind, or you need to keep the coal plant in addition to the solar plant.
Or wind, or nuclear, unless you're talking about thermal solar in which case you need none of the above.
Chemical batteries would be worse than the coal plants in terms of pollution and cost prohibitive as well.
Not if you're talking hydrogen based batteries.
So, the question of which is cheaper to operate is moot.
Far from it. If you look at the cost, involving all the corrolaries, like military, that are needed to ensure oil infrastructures and coal infrastructures, youo're talking massive fuel costs. The real price of oil per barrel is in the 250-300 range all day long if we didn't subsidize it on the backs of citizens like you and I.

As for efficiency, no argument here.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Dec 08, 2010
Solar is great for offsetting summer air conditioning power demands. You have the most sunlight right when you need the most power. However, in the winter the situation is exactly reversed. You need the most power for heating at night and the daylight hours are scarce. That makes your question of which is cheaper to operate even more complex, because the solar plant really only pays for itself when it's generating power at peak times. In the winter, the coal plant has to operate at nighttime peak. Then in the day, it doesn't pay to reduce the output, so the coal plant is still running at high output and there is surplus power. The solar is wasted at that time.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Dec 08, 2010
Okay, I did some reading. Yes, look what you made me do!!

The liquid salt scheme is promising, but not proven. Dealing with tanks of hot corrosive liquid salt the size of a football field and three or four stories tall, for every 100 Mw, and running the salt through heat exchangers is uncharted territory and expensive from what I can find. And that tank volume only gives you about a one week window of power generation if weather conditions aren't good. There's also the question of how you go about keeping the salt good, since it breaks down over time and must be replaced. There's also the problem of always keeping the salt above its 400+ degree melting point, and the logistics of supply and waste removal. Heaven help you if the salt solidifies in your system. The wiki page about it is okay, but it totally ignores the majority of technical hurdles. Typical enviro-wiki page; stripped of anything that isn't positive