Climate, paleoclimate, huevos rancheros, and general asymmetry

‘Systemic and Interrelated’

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Via Michael Tobis, it is surprising to see Keith Kloor sail right past the point of David Roberts’ response to this recent statement by Sir Richard Branson:

If we could come up with a geoengineering answer to this problem, then Copenhagen wouldn’t be necessary. We could carry on flying our planes and driving our cars.

For some reason, any online statements by David Roberts or Joe Romm seems to send a certain segment of the internet into mild, but in most cases brief, apoplexy. Roberts’ blog post is mostly of well-sourced graphs demonstrating, as I think Michael Tobis rightly points out, that:

… when I see a global aggregate quantity that does NOT show a “hockey stick” pattern (specifically, on the earth’s surface, on a several hundred year time scale) I am surprised. My intuition is now to the point where I expect that natural processes are swamped by anthropogenic processes.

Roberts’ statement at the end of his post seems to me to be trivially (but no less importantly) true:

Lesson: the problems humanity faces are systemic and interrelated. The idea that sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere will save us is akin to the hope that a math equation can be solved by erasing one of the numbers.

One of the figures Roberts includes is from the recent feature in Nature on ‘Planetary Boundaries‘.  In light of a paper just a few weeks prior, a review of ‘Early-warning signals for critical transitions‘ [subscription required, related Nature blog here, Wired covers it here], it is more than worthwhile to think about the consequences should we pass any more of these ‘planetary boundaries’ and to what extent mitigation is necessary should we wish to avoid critical transitions.  As Stephen Carpenter, University of Wisconsin ecologist, quoted in the Wired piece, says:

There’s still a great deal of basic research going on to understand the indicators better. We’re still in the early days. But why not try? The alternative is to get repeatedly blindsided. The alternative is not appealing.


Written by delayedoscillator

October 17, 2009 at 7:49 pm

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