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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Climate Denial Machine strikes out, again!!! Joseph Romm: DA, Portland police clear Al Gore of charges

DA, Portland police clear Al Gore of charges

[The Climate Denial Machine strikes out, again!!!]

by Joseph Romm, Climate Progress, July 31, 2010

Joe Romm: I am happy to pass on any comments you have to the Nobel-Peace-prize-winning former VP. (do this at the link at the bottom of this post)

I wouldn’t normally blog on this sort of thing, but you have no idea how many nasty comments (and emails) I have had to delete on this topic.

Portland’s local TV station KOIN reports:

Portland Police and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office have cleared Al Gore of criminal wrongdoing in the sex assault case filed by masseuse Molly Hagerty.
“After evaluating the materials submitted by PPB I have concluded that I agree with the assessment that a sustainable criminal case does not exist,” said District Attorney Michael D. Schrunk, in a statement.
As HuffPost reports:
Gore has vehemently denied the charges of sexual misconduct that recently came to light when the Portland Police Bureau signaled it was opening an investigation into the case.
After news broke that the probe would be dropped, Gore spokesman Kalee Kreider said in a statement:
“Mr. Gore unequivocally and emphatically denied this accusation when he first learned of its existence three years ago. He respects and appreciates the thorough and professional work of the Portland authorities and is pleased that this matter has now been put to rest.”
TPM, which has been following this, reposts a memo from the DA’s office, in which prosecutor Don Rees explains “a number of deficiencies” in the case that led to the decision not to prosecute:
1. Ms. Hagerty, who has red hair, states she called Mr. Gore immediately following the alleged incident and told him to “dream of redheaded women” seemingly in contradiction to her assertions that she was terrified of Mr. Gore. Two days after the alleged incident Ms. Hagerty also sent an email to the Hotel Lucia stating that she appreciated the business referrals she received from the hotel. She did not mention any problem with Mr. Gore;
2. Witnesses at the hotel where the alleged incident occurred state they do not remember seeing or hearing anything unusual—directly contradicting Ms. Hagerty’s published claim in the July 12, 2010 of the National Enquirer that she was “shaking and in shock” and “rushed down the hall and to the lobby where the front desk clerk noticed she was upset was asked if she was OK”;
3. Forensic testing of pants retained by Ms. Hagerty as possible evidence are negative for the presence of seminal fluid;
4. Ms. Hagerty has not provided as repeatedly requested medical records she claims are related to the case;
5. Ms. Hagerty has also failed to provide other records related to the case;
6. Ms. Hagerty failed a polygraph examination;
7. It appears Ms. Hagerty was paid by the National Enquirer for her story; and
8. Mr. Gore voluntarily met with detectives and denied all of the allegations.
On the polygraph, Senior Deputy DA Rees explains:
In meeting with Ms. Hagerty and her attorney Ms. Snyder, detectives learned Ms. Hagerty took a polygraph regarding her allegations and failed. Ms. Snyder asked the detectives not to document that failure in their reports. The detectives requested copies of the polygraph so that the questions, answers and associated polygrams could be reviewed, but Ms. Hagerty and her attorney have not provided those materials.
The results of polygraphs are not admissible in trial and Oregon law prohibits the state from requiring victims of sex crimes to take polygraphs as a prerequisite to filing an accusatory pleading (ORS 163.705). In this case however, where the complaining witness voluntarily submitted to a polygraph and failed, it is a highly relevant fact to consider when weighing whether this case is prosecutable. Polygraph results are commonly relied upon by the police, courts and attorneys. Ms. Hagerty’s failure to release the detailed polygraph results to police makes it impossible to review the quality and nature of this particular examination.
Case closed.


History of the Greenland Ice Sheet: Paleoclimatic insights, Quatern. Sci. Rev., 29 (July 2010), Richard B. Alley et al.

Quaternary Science Reviews, 29(15-16) pp. 1728-1756 (July 2010); doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.02.007

History of the Greenland Ice Sheet: Paleoclimatic insights

Richard B. Alleya, Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author, J.T. Andrewsb, J. Brigham-Grettec, G.K.C. Clarked, K.M. Cuffeye, J.J. Fitzpatrickf, S. Funderg, S.J. Marshallh, G.H. Millerb, J.X. Mitrovicai, D.R. Muhsf, B.L. Otto-Bliesnerj, L. Polyakk and J.W.C. Whiteb


Paleoclimatic records show that the Greenland Ice Sheet consistently has lost mass in response to warming, and grown in response to cooling. Such changes have occurred even at times of slow or zero sea-level change, so changing sea level cannot have been the cause of at least some of the ice-sheet changes. In contrast, there are no documented major ice-sheet changes that occurred independent of temperature changes. Moreover, snowfall has increased when the climate warmed, but the ice sheet lost mass nonetheless; increased accumulation in the ice sheet's center has not been sufficient to counteract increased melting and flow near the edges. Most documented forcings and ice-sheet responses spanned periods of several thousand years, but limited data also show rapid response to rapid forcings. In particular, regions near the ice margin have responded within decades. However, major changes of central regions of the ice sheet are thought to require centuries to millennia. The paleoclimatic record does not yet strongly constrain how rapidly a major shrinkage or nearly complete loss of the ice sheet could occur. The evidence suggests nearly total ice-sheet loss may result from warming of more than a few degrees above mean 20th century values, but this threshold is poorly defined (perhaps as little as 2 °C or more than 7 °C). Paleoclimatic records are sufficiently sketchy that the ice sheet may have grown temporarily in response to warming, or changes may have been induced by factors other than temperature, without having been recorded.

Article Outline

1. The Greenland Ice Sheet
1.1. Overview
1.2. Ice-sheet behavior
2. Paleoclimatic indicators bearing on ice-sheet history

2.1. Marine indicators
2.2. Terrestrial indicators
2.2.1. Geomorphic indicators
2.2.2. Biological indicators and related features
2.2.3. Glacial-isostatic adjustment and relative sea-level indicators near the ice sheet
2.2.4. Far-field indicators of relative sea-level high-stands
2.2.5. Geodetic indicators
2.2.6. Ice cores
3. History of the Greenland Ice Sheet

3.1. Ice-sheet onset and early fluctuations
3.2. The most recent million years
3.2.1. Far-field sea-level indications
3.2.2. Ice-sheet indications
3.3. Marine isotope stage 5e

3.3.1. Far-field sea-level indications
3.3.2. Conditions in Greenland
3.3.3. Ice-sheet changes
3.4. Post-MIS 5e cooling to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, or MIS 2)

3.4.1. Climate forcing
3.4.2. Ice-sheet changes
3.5. Ice-Sheet retreat from the Last Glacial Maximum (MIS 2)

3.5.1. Climatic history and forcing
3.5.2. Ice-sheet changes
4. Discussion

Related Articles
Provenance of Quaternary glacial and glacimarine sedime...
Earth and Planetary Science Letters

Link:   doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.02.007

Greenland Ice Sheet, July 30, 2009, and July 31, 2010

Greenland, July 30, 2009, and July 31, 2010

The Past and Future of the Greenland Ice Sheet from Skeptical Science guest post by Ned

The Past and Future of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Dear Readers,

This is one of the best discussions of the future of the Greenland Ice Sheet that I have read, although I believe the numbers on GrIS mass balance loss from melt are dated (the study is from 2008). There are newer figures that show that the portion of loss due to melt is more like 50% these days.

Guest post by Ned, Skeptical Science, July 31, 2010

The Greenland ice sheet has a negative mass balance, meaning that it is losing ice (Velicogna 2009, Jiang 2010).  This loss occurs because the gain of new ice (in the form of snowfall within the ice sheet's interior zone of accumulation) cannot keep up with the rapid loss of ice through melting and the discharge of ice by marine terminating outlet glaciers (van den Broeke 2009).  Figure 1 shows the overall downward trend in the ice sheet's mass:

Figure 1. Greenland ice mass anomaly (black). Orange line is quadratic fit (John Wahr, 2010).

As recently as the 1980s Greenland's ice was probably more or less in equilibrium (Rignot 2008, Jiang 2010). But by the late 1990s and early 2000s this ice began to retreat, and the rate of retreat may be accelerating (Velicogna 2009, van den Broeke 2009).  Some claim that there's no need to worry about this, since only a tiny fraction of the total ice mass is being lost each year.  Others point out that the accelerating rate of loss means that there may be trouble ahead

Who is right, and how can we tell?  There are two ways of answering this question – we can look at the history of the Greenland ice sheet to see whether past episodes of warmth have led to extensive loss of ice, and we can use physical ice sheet models to predict the future behavior of Greenland's ice in a warming climate.

Pleistocene history of the Greenland ice sheet

 A new paper published this month in Quaternary Science Reviews (Alley et al. 2010) provides a very comprehensive overview of the history of the Greenland ice sheet over the past half-million years.  In general, the further back we look in time, the less certainty there is about the condition and extent of Greenland's ice.
Paleoclimate scientists divide the Quaternary cycles of glacial cooling and interglacial warmth into a series of Marine Isotope Stages (MIS).  The Holocene, the current warm stage in which our civilization has arisen and flourished, is MIS-1.  The most recent glacial episode (from approximately 110,000 to 14,000 years ago) is divided into MIS-2, -3, and -4.  The last previous interglacial, from 130,000 to 110,000 years ago, is referred to as MIS-5e.  Looking back further in time, glacial and interglacial episodes alternate, with MIS-6, -8, and -10 being glacial and MIS-7, -9, and -11 being interglacial. 

Note that the earliest of these interglacial episodes (MIS-11, around 400,000 years before present) is believed to be the best analog to our current MIS-1 interglacial climate, based on the geometry of the Earth's orbit (Berger & Loutre, 1991).

History of the Greenland ice sheet prior to the last interglacial:  Greenland's ice is believed to have shrunk during warm interglacial episodes MIS-11, -9, and -7.  During MIS-11, the most similar to our current interglacial, sea levels were much higher, probably enough to necessitate the near-total loss of Greenland's ice (Alley 2010), and ancient DNA found at the bottom of ice cores likewise suggests an ice-free Greenland at this time (Willerslev 2010).  Likewise, during glacial advances MIS-10, -8, and -6, Greenland's ice expanded and global sea levels dropped.  The greatest expansion of ice may have occurred during MIS-6, just prior to the last interglacial (Alley 2010).

Greenland during the last interglacial (120,000 years before present):   The Greenland ice sheet did not entirely disappear during MIS-5e, though it was smaller and steeper.  There is no ice predating MIS-5e at the bottom of cores from south, northwest, and east Greenland, but older ice is present in central and north-central Greenland ice cores, where (based on the gas content of bubbles in the ice) it appears to have been close to or slightly thinner than today's ice sheet (Alley 2010).  Figure 2 shows a model comparison of today's ice sheet with the ice sheet during MIS-5e. 


Figure 2. Modeled configuration of the Greenland Ice Sheet today (left) and in MIS 5e (right), from Otto-Bliesner (2006).
Alley (2010) conclude that it is probable that the loss of ice from Greenland during this time period contributed approximately 3–4 m to global sea levels, in response to a local warming of around 3–4 °C in Greenland.  This nicely fits with our understanding that sea levels were at least 6 m higher that today;  the remainder of that rise would have come from the loss of ice in West Antarctica, mountain glaciers, and thermal expansion of seawater.

The last 100,000 years:   The Greenland ice sheet expanded during the final Pleistocene glacial advance (MIS-4, -3, and -2), until around 24,000 years before present, when it covered an area 40% larger than its current extent.  With the end of this last glacial episode the world warmed, the other large continental ice sheets in North America and Eurasia retreated, sea levels rose by tens of meters, and Greenland's ice sheet shrunk significantly. However, superimposed on this broad pattern of expansion and contraction were a large number of shorter-duration (millennial-scale) increases and decreases in ice mass, generally associated with changes in North Atlantic circulation and other regional climate transitions. 

The future of the Greenland ice sheet

Stone (2010) have used models to simulate the likely future loss of ice from Greenland in response to anticipated future warming.  The loss of most of the ice sheet would likely occur at atmospheric CO2 concentrations somewhere between 400 and 560 ppm, a rather disturbing finding given that we are currently at 392 ppm and will probably exceed 560 ppm later this century, as shown in Figure 3. 

Figure 3. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations as observed at Mauna Loa from 1958 to 2008 (black dashed line) and projected under the 6 SRES marker and illustrative scenarios.  From IPCC.

This loss of ice from Greenland alone would be enough to raise sea levels by roughly six meters.   This process would probably take centuries or millennia.  The fact that Greenland was largely free of ice during the previous interglacial episode MIS-11 (Alley 2010) confirms that this is not an unrealistic scenario.

Some people find the subject of post-2100 climate changes rather abstract.  In contrast, 2100 itself is not that distant – based on life expectancy data, the average girl born in Japan in 2015 will still be living in 2100.  So what are the likely outcomes for Greenland (and global sea level) over the remainder of this century? 

An accurate answer to this question requires consideration of the physical constraints on the discharge of ice from Greenland into the surrounding ocean.  Figure 4 shows some of these constraints, including the locations of marine terminating glaciers and the fraction of Greenland's bed that is below sea level.  Realistic modeling of the kinetics of glaciers suggests that a total increase in sea level of 0.8 m from all sources is likely by 2100, with increases of up to 2 m possible but increasingly unlikely (Pfeffer 2008).  This matches closely the results of another semi-empirical study (Vermeer & Rahmstorf 2009) of the relationship between temperature and sea level. 

The uncertainty in this range mostly relates to the rate at which ice is lost through calving by Greenland's marine-terminating outlet glaciers; the surface mass balance (between precipitation and melting/runoff) is much more predictable.  The 0.8–2 m range of global sea level rise by 2100 would imply 7.1 cm of sea level rise from Greenland's surface mass balance, plus 9.3–46.7 cm from ice discharged into the ocean by Greenland's outlet glaciers (Pfeffer 2008). 

Figure 4. Map showing Greenland and outlet glacier gates; marine-based gates are shown as dark green and nonmarine as black. Regions below sea level are colored blue. Ice velocities at ~2000 m elevation shown by red dots (Pfeffer 2008). 
In conclusion, a pessimistic but reasonable scenario would produce the melting of somewhere around 5% of the Greenland ice sheet by 2100, contributing 1654 cm to global sea level rise (which in turn would then total 0.82 m from all sources).  However, at that point the collapse of Greenland's ice sheet would just be getting started – failure to constrain CO2 concentrations below 400–560 ppm would almost certainly lead to the near-total loss of the ice sheet, as we have seen from both model results and comparison to the MIS-11 interglacial climate of 400,000 years ago.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Assault on America: A Decade of Petroleum Company Disaster, Pollution, and Profit New report shows how today’s oil and gas industry threatens Americans in countless ways

Assault on America: A Decade of Petroleum Company Disaster, Pollution, and Profit

New report shows how today’s oil and gas industry threatens Americans in countless ways

by Tim Warman, Jack Doyle and Miguel Mejia, National Wildlife Federation, July 28, 2010

The BP catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, with its tragic loss of life and devastating impact on the Gulf Coast economy, has brought the risk and high cost of oil development to the public’s attention. Predictably a round of oil industry executives have testified before Congress offering countless apologies and empty assurances that such an incident will never happen again. But this is the fourth major oil spill in 33 years on North America.

Download the full report: Assault on America                   (pdf)

Major oil spills are really only a small part of the real story. From 2000 to 2010, the oil and gas industry accounted for hundreds of deaths, explosions, fires, seeps, and spills as well as habitat and wildlife destruction in the United States. These disasters demonstrate a pattern of feeding the addiction to oil leaving in their wake sacrifice zones that affect communities, local economies, and our landscapes.

The BP Deepwater Horizon event is the largest and potentially most devastating environmental disaster the oil and gas industry has yet to foist on Americans. However, the frequency and recurrence of these events bears closer scrutiny. Incidents occur on a monthly and, sometimes, daily basis across the country but sadly only a portion of these make the front page or evening news.

This report provides a sampling of the oil and gas industry’s performance over the past 10 years —– the first decade of the new millennium. These ‘lowlights’ and examples from each year shed light on how the oil and gas industry has continued to show negligence and experience accidents all over the country. While not exhaustive, the listing offers a cross-section of spills, leaks, fires, explosions, toxic emissions, water pollution, and more that have not occurred in the last decade —– the post- Exxon Valdez era, the post- Oil Pollution Act of 1990 era, when the industry said “we’ve got it under control.”
Endangering America

This was supposed to be the era of “never again,” the refrain often heard following a major tanker spill, refinery explosion, or pipeline leak. We were told that spill prevention plans, better safety procedures, and improved technology, would help eliminate spills, fires, explosions, leaks and seeps. Yes, this was supposed to be the era of no more leaky river barges, no more oil refinery smog, no more worker deaths and injuries, no more well blow-outs, and no more underground tank farm plumes or gas station oil seepage into groundwater or beneath neighboring communities. Yet we have had all of that and more in the last decade.

The stories that follow show that today’s oil and gas industry threatens Americans in countless ways. This industry continues to knowingly endanger its own workers, the environment, wildlife, and our communities in states across the nation. (Click map at right to download a high res map of Fossil Energy Company Accidents from 2000-2009).

The total cost of the status quo —– in lives lost and health risks as well as social and environmental degradation —– is far too high. The sooner we move in the direction of meeting our energy needs through cleaner, safer sources.

The negative consequences for our health, our land, our climate and our children’s future are too great to continue to depend on oil to power our economy. Now is the time to put enact laws that favor and encourage safe and clean energy development and remove federal subsidies and tax advantages for oil and gas development. Now is the time to increase mitigation fees. Now is the time to create an oil and gas disaster fund paid for by industry. Now is the time to draw lines around environmentally sensitive areas that are made permanently off limits to oil and gas development.

And now is the time to cap global warming pollution from all oil and gas production —– including every aspect of the uncontrolled extraction and refining processes where methane, carbon dioxide, and other global warming gases are released into the air every day.

The BP Deepwater Horizon spill is truly a tragedy of our time. It should be used to take a closer and more comprehensive look at the full and continuing costs that the oil and gas industry continues to impose on society with its pollution, environmental degradation, habitat destruction, wildlife loss, worker and community endangerment, health effects consequences, and loss of life.


James Hansen: Message from Sophie Prize Winner

Message from Sophie Prize Winner
by James Hansen

I am grateful to Jostein Gaarder and the Sophie Foundation for the opportunity to discuss the state of Earth's climate, the implications for people and nature, and action that is needed.

Our planet today is close to climate tipping points. Ice is melting in the Arctic, on Greenland and Antarctica, and on mountain glaciers worldwide. Many species are stressed by environmental destruction and climate change. Continuing fossil fuel emissions, if unabated, will cause sea level rise and species extinction accelerating out of humanity's control. Increasing atmospheric water vapor is already magnifying climate extremes, increasing overall precipitation, causing greater floods and stronger storms.

Stabilizing climate requires restoring our planet's energy balance. The physics is straightforward. The effect of increasing carbon dioxide on Earth's energy imbalance is confirmed by precise measurements of ocean heat gain. The principal implication is defined by the geophysics, by the size of fossil fuel reservoirs. Simply put, there is a limit on how much carbon dioxide we can pour into the atmosphere. We cannot burn all fossil fuels. Specifically, we must (1) phase out coal use rapidly, (2) leave tar sands in the ground, and (3) not go after the last drops of oil.

Actions needed so that the world can move on to the clean energies of the future are possible and practical. The actions would restore clean air and water globally, assuring intergenerational equity by preserving creation – the natural world – thus also helping achieve north-south justice. But the needed actions will happen only if the public becomes forcefully involved.

Citizens can help by blocking coal plants, tar sands, and mining the last drops of fossil fuels from public and pristine lands and the deep ocean. However, fossil fuel addiction can be solved only when we recognize an economic law as certain as the law of gravity: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy they will be used.
Solution therefore requires a rising fee on oil, gas and coal – a carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies at the domestic mine or port of entry. All funds collected should be distributed to the public on a per capita basis to allow lifestyle adjustments and spur clean energy innovations. As the fee rises, fossil fuels will be phased out, replaced by carbon-free energy and efficiency.

Governments today, instead, talk of "cap-and-trade-with-offsets," a system rigged by big banks and fossil fuel interests. Cap-and-trade invites corruption. Worse, it is ineffectual, assuring continued fossil fuel addiction to the last drop and environmental catastrophe.

We need a simple honest flat rising carbon fee across the board. It should be revenue neutral – all funds distributed to the public – "100 percent or fight." It is the only realistic path to global action. China and India will not accept caps, but they need a carbon fee to spur clean energy and avoid fossil fuel addiction.

But our governments have no intention of solving the fossil fuel and climate problem, as is easy to prove: the United States, Canadian and Norwegian governments are going right ahead developing the tar sands, which, if it is not halted, will make it impossible to stabilize climate.

Our governments knowingly abdicate responsibility for young people and future generations. I have been disappointed in interactions with more than half a dozen nations. In the end, they offer only soothing words, "goals" for emission reductions at far off dates, while their actual deeds prevent stabilization of climate.

The Sophie Prize provides a new opportunity to draw attention to the actions that are needed to stabilize climate. Norway may be the best place, with its history of environmentalism. I can imagine Norway standing tall among nations, taking real action to address climate change, drawing attention to the hypocrisy in the words and pseudo-actions of other nations.

So I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister suggesting that the government, as the majority owner of Statoil, should intervene in planned tar sands development. I appreciate the polite response, by letter, from the Deputy Minister of Petroleum and Energy. The government position is that the tar sands investment is "a commercial decision," that the government should not interfere, and that a "vast majority in the Norwegian parliament" agree that this constitutes "good corporate governance." The Deputy Minister concluded his letter "I can however assure you that we will continue our offensive stance on climate change issues both at home and abroad."

A Norwegian grandfather, upon reading the Deputy Minister's letter, quoted Saint Augustine: "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue."

The Norwegian government's position is a staggering reaffirmation of the global situation: even the greenest governments find it too inconvenient to address the implication of scientific facts. Perhaps our governments are in the hip pocket of the fossil fuel industry – but that is not for science to say.

What I can say from the science is this: the plans that governments, including Norway, are adopting spell disaster for young people and future generations. And we are running out of time.

Stabilizing climate is a moral issue, a matter of intergenerational justice. Young people, and older people who support the young and the other species on the planet, must unite in demanding an effective approach that preserves our planet.

Because the executive and legislative branches of our governments are turning a deaf ear to the science, the judicial branch may provide the best opportunity for redressing the situation. Our governments have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the rights of young people and future generations. I look forward to working with young people and their supporters in developing the legal case for young people and the planet.

To the young people I say: Stand up for your rights, for your future. Demand that the government be honest, admit and face the consequences for you from their policies.

To the old people I say: we are not too old to fight. Let us gird up our loins and prepare to fight on the side of young people for protection of the world they will inherit.

I look forward to standing with the youth of the world as they demand their proper due and fight for nature and their future.


James Hansen: Experience in Norway

Dr. Hansen's experience in Norway, including a letter to the Prime Minister, the government response, and chance encounter with a war hero have been posted to Dr. Hansen's website.

Prior experience with national leaders purported to be of the "greenest" variety, including Tony Blair and Angela Merkel, revealed their greenness to be greenwash¹.

But hope springs eternal. Given Norway's strong environmental bent, a trip to Norway provided an opportunity to draw attention to the enormity of tar sands development. The Norwegian government is two-thirds owner of Statoil, which is developing the Canadian tar sands.

Our "Target CO2" paper² concluded that atmospheric CO2 (389 ppm in 2010) is already in the dangerous zone. Stabilization of climate requires, other things being unchanged, that CO2 be reduced to some value less than 350 ppm. Recent suggestions of specific lower targets are not helpful, smudging the clarity of the "<350 ppm" message that Bill McKibben's group has spread around the world³

(1) coal emissions must be phased out rapidly, . "<350 ppm" is sufficient to define essential policy requirements, specifically:
(2) unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground,
(3) we should not pursue every last drop of oil and gas, especially in pristine regions.

These requirements imply that we must move rapidly to the clean energy post-fossil fuel era. Failure to halt these fossil fuel extractions will force today's young people to either find a way to suck CO2 out of the air, at an estimated cost² of $40 trillion for 100 ppm of CO2, or suffer a deteriorating climate out of their control.

We need one nation to stand tall, to speak truth to world leaders. Could that nation be Norway? If Norway foreswore the tar sands, it might be a catalyst to global action to stabilize climate. Norway would need another way to maintain a vital economy, but that is plausible (see below).

So I wrote a letter[4] to the Prime Minister suggesting that the government, as the majority owner of Statoil, should intervene in planned tar sands development. I appreciate the polite response[5], by letter, from the Deputy Minister of Petroleum and Energy. The government position is that the tar sands investment is "a commercial decision," that the government should not interfere, and that a "vast majority in the Norwegian parliament" agree that this constitutes "good corporate governance." The Deputy Minister concluded his letter "I can however assure you that we will continue our offensive stance on climate change issues both at home and abroad."

A Norwegian grandfather, upon reading the Deputy Minister's letter, quoted Saint Augustine: "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue."

In my statement6 in Oslo at the Sophie Prize ceremony I noted that the Norwegian government's position reaffirms the global situation: even the greenest governments find it too inconvenient to address the implication of scientific facts. I also noted that stabilizing climate is a moral issue, a matter of intergenerational justice. We grandparents must support the young and other species in demanding an effective approach that preserves our planet.

Fossil fuel addiction can be solved only when we recognize an economic law as certain as the law of gravity: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy they will be used. Fossil fuels are cheapest partly because of subsidies but mostly because they do not have to pay for their huge cost to society – the damage to human health, the environment, and the future of young people.

Solution requires a steadily rising fee on oil, gas and coal – a carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies at the domestic mine or port of entry. All funds collected should be distributed to the public on a per capita basis to allow lifestyle adjustments and spur clean energy innovations. As the fee rises, fossil fuels will be phased out, replaced by carbon-free energy and efficiency.

Governments today, instead, talk of "cap-and-trade-with-offsets," a system rigged by big banks and fossil fuel interests. Cap-and-trade invites corruption. Worse, it is ineffectual, assuring continued fossil fuel addiction to the last drop and environmental catastrophe.

Statoil and other energy companies will continue to pour their investments into fossil fuels, extracting tar sands, coal, and the last drops of oil and gas, as long as that makes most economic sense to them. That is what the Norwegian government meant by "good corporate governance." But investments can change and they would do so if a rising fee is placed on carbon emissions.

Have our democracies sunk to a level where governments knowingly abdicate responsibility for young people and future generations? I have been disappointed in interactions with more than half a dozen nations¹. In the end, each offers only soothing words, "goals" for future emission reductions, while their actual deeds prevent stabilization of climate.

The glib response of Norway's Prime Minister is that we are "future pessimists." Clever engineers, he says, will solve the problem, perhaps with carbon capture. Meanwhile it is o.k. to develop tar sands and go after the last drop of oil in the Arctic. This is nonsense of course. Even if they use nuclear power to squeeze the oil from tar sands, the CO2 will come out of tailpipes. Also, the environmental destruction in Canada would never be allowed by Norwegians in Norway.

Yet some nation, sometime, must stand tall and tell the truth.

Greatness exists, even if not in our present governments. A poignant reminder occurred as two Norwegians and I were on our way to a meeting with the Norwegian Environment Minister in Oslo. A small frail gentleman, neatly dressed in suit and tie, walking with help of a cane, seemingly about 90 years old, suddenly collapsed to the ground. After we went to his side he remained on the ground several moments, but insisted on regaining his feet and continuing. As his companion hurried off to fetch a taxi we learned that he was Gunnar Sonsteby[7], a hero of the Norwegian Resistance during World War II. Sonsteby appears to be about 5½ feet in height, but he had stood tall against a seemingly impregnable Nazi war machine.

1 Hansen, J., Storms of My Grandchildren, Bloomsbury, New York, 304 pp., 2009.
2 Hansen, J., M. Sato, P. Kharecha, D. Beerling, R. Berner, V. Masson-Delmotte, M. Pagani, M. Raymo, D.L. Royer, and J.C. Zachos, 2008: Target atmospheric CO2: Where should humanity aim? Open Atmos. Sci. J., 2, 217-231, doi:10.2174/1874282300802010217.
3 Observed ocean heat storage shows that Earth's energy imbalance is at least ~0.5 W/m². CO2 must be reduced 35-40 ppm to increase heat radiation to space by 0.5 W/m², other factors being unchanged. Although other (non-CO2), smaller, climate forcings may increase in the future, it is realistic to keep their net forcing change near zero via a focus on reducing positive (warming) forcings such as black soot and tropospheric ozone.
4 Available at (Letter to PM)
5 Available at (Response)
6 (Sophie talk)
7 Gunnar Sonsteby was a resistance fighter, leading several spectacular acts of sabotage that hindered the German war effort and even foiled plans to send young Norwegians to fight on the Eastern front.

Letter sent in response to Dr. Hansen:

Dear Mr. Hansen.

Thank you very much for your e-mail to the Prime Minister, which was forwarded to the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy as the governmental body responsible for Statoil ownership issues. Let me first take this opportunity to congratulate you on being awarded the Sophie-prize for 2010. I know a lot of people are looking forward to your visit to Norway, and I hope you will enjoy your stay here.

On behalf of the Government, I am pleased to say that we hold your work on climate change in high esteem, and further, that we appreciate your engagement and your views on Norway’s efforts to find good sustainable solutions to the global climate challenges.

As you now know from the results of the Statoil Annual General Meeting, we see Statoil’s oils sands investment as a commercial decision which is within the Statoil board’s area of responsibility. We are of the opinion that such decisions should not be overturned by the AGM. It is our opinion that this is in line with good corporate governance, a view that is also shared by a vast majority in the Norwegian Parliament. I can however assure you that we will continue our offensive stance on climate change issues both at home and abroad, and we look forward to your continued engagement.

Yours faithfully

Robin Martin Kåss

Statssekretær, Olje- og Energidepartementet
Deputy Minister, Ministry of Petroleum and Energy

Postboks 8148 Dep, 0033 Oslo, Norway

Fra: Jim Hansen
Sendt: 24. mai 2010 14:08
Til: Postmottak SMK
Kopi: Jim Hansen
Emne: Climate Change and the Tar Sands Development Vedlegg: Hansen text for ad and letter in both languages.doc

Dear Prime Minister Stoltenberg,

I understand that you may have missed my open letter to you published in Aftenposten, so for your convenience I have attached it here.

My wife Anniek and I are looking forward to visiting your beautiful country in June.

With kind regards,

James E. Hansen

"If you totally stop CO2 emissions today, the Arctic will still be totally melted,” said Mark Jacobson, Stanford University climate scientist

Controlling Soot Might Quickly Reverse a Century of Global Warming

A massive simulation of soot’s climate effects finds that basic pollution controls could put a brake on global warming, erasing in a decade most of the last century’s temperature change.

Compared to the larger, longer term task of getting greenhouse-gas pollution under control, limiting soot wouldn’t be hard. Unlike new energy technology and profound changes in lifestyle, the tools — exhaust filters, clean-burning stoves — already exist.

“Soot has such a strong climate effect, but it has a lifetime in the atmosphere of just a few weeks. Carbon dioxide has a lifetime of 30 to 50 years. If you totally stop CO2 emissions today, the Arctic will still be totally melted,” said Stanford University climate scientist Mark Jacobson. If soot pollution is immediately curtailed, “the reductions start to occur pretty much right away. Within months, you’ll start seeing temperature differences.”

Jacobson’s simulation, currently in press at the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, is the latest in a line of studies showing a powerful climate role for fine soot, also known as black carbon. (That’s a somewhat misleading appellation, since some carbon is brown, and the pollution in soot contains a host of other compounds.)

Soot comes from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, and also from the burning of wood or dung for fuel. Crop residue and forest-burning are another major source. When aloft, the dark particles absorb sunlight, raising local temperatures and causing rain clouds to form, which in turn deprive other areas of moisture. When soot lands on snow or ice, its effects are magnified, because melts reveal fresh patches of heat-absorbing dark ground.

In 2003, a NASA simulation blamed soot for 25 percent of the past century’s observed warming. A study last year suggested that soot was responsible for almost half of a 3.4-degree Fahrenheit rise in average Arctic temperatures since 1890 — a greater rise than anywhere else on Earth.

Soot also appears to be a culprit in drastic melts of Himalayan glaciers which provide water to much of South Asia, and in disrupting the monsoon cycles on which the region’s farmers rely. The United Nations puts the soot-related death toll at 1.5 million people annually.

Jacobson’s simulation, the culmination of 20 years of research on the dynamics of soot and its interaction with local, regional and global climate dynamics, reinforces those findings. It also studies a question implicit in the earlier studies, but not yet modeled: What would happens if soot pollution stopped?

“If you just eliminate soot, you get a significant climate benefit, and you can do it on a short time period, because soot has a life of just a few weeks,” said Jacobson. “You don’t get the full response for a while, as there are deep ocean feedbacks that take a long time, but it’s a lot faster than controlling CO2.”

Jacobson simulated the effects of curtailing soot from fossil-fuel emissions, something that’s already possible with tailpipe and smokestack filters. He simulated the effects of replacing wood- and dung-burning cookfires with clean-burning stoves. And he simulated both advances simultaneously.

If soot disappeared overnight, average global temperatures would drop within 15 years by about 1 degree Fahrenheit, maybe a little more. That’s about half the net warming — total global warming, minus cooling from sun-reflecting aerosols — experienced since the beginning of the industrial age. The effect would be even larger in the Arctic, where sea ice and tundra could rapidly refreeze.

“It will take some decades to phase down fossil-fuel emissions, so reducing dirty aerosols [soot] while we are doing that may help retain Arctic sea ice,” said NASA climatologist James Hansen, one of the first researchers to study soot dynamics. But he emphasized that soot control is only a stopgap measure. “We should reduce soot for several reasons, especially its health effects, but it is only a modest help in controlling global warming,” he said.

Nevertheless, soot could ease the delay between controlling greenhouse gas emissions and cooling. It might also help “avoid tipping points — nonlinear, abrupt and potentially irreversible climate change, especially in the Arctic,” said Erika Rosenthal, a climate policy expert at the progressive nonprofit Earthjustice.

Soot-control policy, however, is scattered. According to Jacobson, climate policymakers have paid little attention to soot. Compared to well-studied greenhouse gases, its climate role is new and unfamiliar. “There are international efforts to limit greenhouse gases, but they completely ignore soot as something to control from a climate perspective,” said Jacobson.

The draft international climate treaty negotiated last year in Copenhagen doesn’t contain soot-specific provisions, but the United Nations Environmental Program is meeting in February to discuss policy options on soot. A relatively little-known U.N. effort called the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution has also established a black-carbon working group.

In the United States, a rare bipartisan environmental bill sponsored in 2009 by climate skeptic James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) and environmentalist Barbara Boxer (D-California) foundered after its inclusion in massive energy legislation that recently died in Congress. It would have required the EPA to study and possibly regulate black-carbon emissions.

In anticipation of these legislative difficulties, the EPA was charged this year with launching a black-carbon study. More immediately, Congress is now debating reauthorization of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, a federal program that pays for putting clean tailpipes on diesel-fuel–burning automobiles, a prime source of black carbon. According to Rosenthal, the program has been fantastically successful, with retrofit requests exceeding available funds by $2 billion.

Controlling crop and forest burns isn’t so easy, but clean stoves could be provided to the developing world for relatively little money. “We have the technology now. It’s a matter of implementing it,” said Rosenthal.

“It’s low-hanging fruit,” said Jacobsen. “It’s straightforward to address, and it can be addressed.”

Images: 1) Rennett Stowe/Flickr. 2) Average global air temperature decline following elimination of fossil-fuel–based soot (dotted line) and fossil-fuel– plus biofuel–based soot (solid line).

Citation: “Short-term effects of Controlling Fossil-Fuel Soot, Biofuel Soot and Gases, and Methane on Climate, Arctic Ice, and Air Pollution Health.” By Mark Jacobson. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, in press.

Read more

Cutting Black Carbon Soot Could Save Arctic (Mark Jacobson, JGR, 2010)

Cutting Black Carbon Soot Could Save Arctic

Washington, DC, July 29, 2010 – Reducing emissions of black carbon, the dark component of soot, could be the best – and perhaps only – way to save the Arctic from warmer temperatures that are melting its snow and ice, according to a study published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research. Dr. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University studied the short-term effects of reducing black carbon and other greenhouse gases, including CO2 and methane, over a 15-year period of time, with black carbon reductions appearing to be the fastest way to avoid further Arctic ice loss and warming.

Jacobson’s study found that aggressive reductions in black carbon emissions produced from both the burning of fossil fuels and burning of biomass, could lower temperatures in the Arctic by 1.7˚ C within the next 15 years. The Arctic has warmed about 2.5 ˚C over the past century – a reduction of this magnitude could help slow ice loss and potentially save it from reaching a tipping point where it would be impossible to recover its snow and ice cover.

“The Arctic is a critical defense shield for the Earth’s climate system. Its vast expanse of ice and snow is reflecting significant incoming heat back into space. We cannot afford to lose the Arctic,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Targeting black carbon with aggressive, fast action today is the most important strategy for saving the Arctic.”

Black carbon has a particularly negative impact on the Arctic and other regions with snow and ice, such as the Tibetan Plateau in Asia. After a few days or weeks, the black carbon particles are washed out of the atmosphere and deposited on the ground below, darkening the reflective white surface and leading to greater absorption of solar radiation. This leads to more melting and larger pools of dark water, which then absorb more heat, continuing a dangerous feedback cycle. 

Besides its damaging impact on the Arctic, black carbon emissions have a significant effect on the overall warming of the earth. After studying the different climate forcers’ impacts on Arctic temperatures, as well as clouds and precipitation, Jacobson was able to conclude that black carbon may be the second largest contributor to warming after CO2, echoing the conclusion by several other scientists, including Dr. V. Ramanathan at the Scripps Institution at the University of California, San Diego and Dr. Drew Shindell at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

“On top of all this, black carbon is a killer,” added Zaelke. “Nearly a million and a half people die every year from breathing air polluted by black carbon and contracting deadly respiratory diseases. Black carbon is bad news for development, which depends on a healthy population, and we need to get rid of it now.”

Fortunately, as Jacobson notes in his paper, fairly simple technologies such as diesel particulate filters for vehicles and more efficient cookstoves, are available now and can effectively reduce black carbon emissions.

“We have the technology to solve this problem, and now we need to make it a priority,” said Zaelke.

Jacobson, Mark Z. Short-term effects of controlling fossil-fuel soot, biofuel soot and gases, and methane on climate, Arctic ice, and air pollution health. Journal of Geophysical Research, 2010:

See also:
Reducing abrupt climate change risk using the Montreal Protocol and other regulatory actions to complement cuts in CO2 emissions, by Mario Molina, Durwood Zaelke, K. Madhava Sarma, Stephen O. Andersen, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, and Donald Kaniaru. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009. 

EPA Rejects Claims of Flawed Climate Science

EPA Rejects Claims of Flawed Climate Science

Release date: 07/29/2010

Contact Information: Cathy Milbourn (News Media Only) 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today denied 10 petitions challenging its 2009 determination that climate change is real, is occurring due to emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities, and threatens human health and the environment.

The petitions to reconsider EPA’s Endangerment Finding claim that climate science cannot be trusted, and assert a conspiracy that invalidates the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. After months of serious consideration of the petitions and of the state of climate change science, EPA finds no evidence to support these claims. In contrast, EPA’s review shows that climate science is credible, compelling, and growing stronger.

“The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the U.S. and around the world. These petitions -- based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy -- provide no evidence to undermine our determination. Excess greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and welfare,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Defenders of the status quo will try to slow our efforts to get America running on clean energy. A better solution would be to join the vast majority of the American people who want to see more green jobs, more clean energy innovation and an end to the oil addiction that pollutes our planet and jeopardizes our national security.”

The basic assertions by the petitioners and EPA responses follow.

Claim: Petitioners say that emails disclosed from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit provide evidence of a conspiracy to manipulate global temperature data.
Response: EPA reviewed every e-mail and found this was simply a candid discussion of scientists working through issues that arise in compiling and presenting large complex data sets. Four other independent reviews came to similar conclusions.

Claim: Petitioners say that errors in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report call the entire body of work into question.
Response: Of the alleged errors, EPA confirmed only two in a 3,000 page report. The first pertains to the rate of Himalayan glacier melt and second to the percentage of the Netherlands below sea level. IPCC issued correction statements for both of these errors. The errors have no bearing on Administrator Jackson’s decision. None of the errors undermines the basic facts that the climate is changing in ways that threaten our health and welfare.

Claim: Petitioners say that because certain studies were not included in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, the IPCC itself is biased and cannot be trusted as a source of reliable information.
Response: These claims are incorrect. In fact, the studies in question were included in the IPCC report, which provided a comprehensive and balanced discussion of climate science.

Claim: Petitioners say that new scientific studies refute evidence supporting the Endangerment Finding.
Response: Petitioners misinterpreted the results of these studies. Contrary to their claims, many of the papers they submit as evidence are consistent with EPA’s Finding. Other studies submitted by the petitioners were based on unsound methodologies. Detailed discussion of these issues may be found in volume one of the response to petition documents, on EPA’s website.

Climate change is already happening, and human activity is a contributor. The global warming trend over the past 100 years is confirmed by three separate records of surface temperature, all of which are confirmed by satellite data. Beyond this, evidence of climate change is seen in melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, shifting precipitation patterns, and changing ecosystems and wildlife habitats.

“America’s Climate Choices,” a report from the National Academy of Sciences and the most recent assessment of the full body of scientific literature on climate change, along with the recently released “State of the Climate” report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both fully support the conclusion that climate change is real and poses significant risk to human and natural systems. The consistency among these and previously issued assessments only serves to strengthen EPA’s conclusion.

Information on EPA’s findings and the petitions:

More information on climate change:

Review America’s Climate Choices report:

Review State of the Climate report:

Review information on Indicators of Climate Change: