NSIDC interactive graph of arctic sea ice coverage

Go to the National Snow and Ice Data Center for a nice interactive graphic on the extent of arctic sea ice. Click on 2013 and compare it to recent years. Discuss.


Der Spiegel interviews Hans von Storch on AGW

A nice (English language) interview with Dr. Hans von Storch at Der Spiegel is well worth a read. It is nice to see climate scientists valuing the observational record, even if it is inconsistent with the predictions of climate models. Speaking of which, he seems to agree that we are well outside a 95% confidence level that the various climate models are wrong. That doesn’t mean we don’t have warming, or that there isn’t an anthropogenic component, or even that the earlier predictions of significant warming are mistaken. But it does lower the confidence rational people should have in the accuracy of the current climate models.

I also completely agree with this:

Unfortunately, some scientists behave like preachers, delivering sermons to people. What this approach ignores is the fact that there are many threats in our world that must be weighed against one another.

Anthropogenic Global Warming is “the global threat of our time,” as President Obama recently said, only until we detect an Earth intersecting asteroid, or a supervolcano goes off, or we get a 1918-style global pandemic, or a Carrington Event occurs, or a thousand other scary scenarios that could happen. We shouldn’t close our eyes to the very real dangers that could come our way.

Historical Climate Catastrophe in the 17th Century

The evidence for major climate change in the 17th century is both copious and unambiguous. Consider the year 1675. In July, the Paris socialite Madame de Sévigné complained to her daughter, who lived close to the Mediterranean: “It is horribly cold: We have the fires lit, just like you, which is very remarkable.” She added: “We think the behavior of the sun and of the seasons has changed.”

Judith Curry points us to a study of the 17th century climate in in The Inevitable Climate Catastrophe. She has extensive quotes from Geoffrey Parker’s new book “Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century.” It is well worth a read, for this lesson if nothing else:

Nevertheless, it took human stupidity to turn crisis into catastrophe.

The historical record is also a great cautionary tale that cooling is much, much worse than warming. And, since a static climate is as unrealistic as a static universe…

“Recycling is always cheaper, no matter how much it costs!”

Curious, I phoned the public relations officers with the recycling departments in several small cities in the Northeast.  I asked one extremely cheerful and energetic young woman how her city could justify asking people to put their garbage in the dishwasher.  Isn’t that pretty expensive, in terms of human time, and the energy to heat the water, compared to the value of the garbage?

Using the same tone of voice one would use to talk to a five year old—she clearly thought I was not the sharpest can lid in the recycle bin—she gave me the most concise explanation I have encountered in the whole genre.  She said, “Oh, you have to understand, sir.  Recycling is always cheaper, no matter how much it costs!”  For her, and for millions of people like her, recycling is not an economic activity at all, but a moral duty, without limits and for which cost is irrelevant.

This is a brilliant article on the topic of “Why We Recycle.” Read the whole thing. I have stood at the sink, rinsing out a glass bottle or can, and wondering if the cost in energy to purify and pump the water, dispose of the dirty rinse water, drive trucks to pick up the recycled bin separately from the trash bin, sort it, then ship it to a plant which reuses the material is really worth it in net terms to the environment. But I still do it, because if feels so virtuous!

No one had ever said, “Recycle because it’s cheaper”; instead, they had been told “Don’t throw anything into the landfill, because it’s wrong!”  By that logic, the protesters had a point:  moral imperatives shouldn’t respond to relative scarcity.  If it’s wrong to throw things into the landfill, it’s not an excuse to say “it’s expensive.”  Using moral suasion to solve the problem of charging a low price for landfill is actually dangerous, because people confuse sensible frugality, contingent on prices, with morality, which is only contingent on the good or bad character of the citizen.