CO2 levels in atmosphere hit record high in 2016

From CNN, though this is widely reported today:

“Concentrations of carbon dioxide surged at a record breaking speed in 2016, according to the annual Greenhouse Gas bulletin compiled by the World Meteorological Organization.”

The most disappointing bit is that the increase was the largest we’ve seen since we we’ve begun careful measurement of CO2.

Its not just that we are going the wrong way — we are going faster and faster the wrong way. First we have to slow down, then we have to turn around, then we need to go the other way. Every year CO2 levels go up is a year we are digging ourselves into a deeper hole.

The Carbon Bubble is Here

Its been clear for more than a decade that in order to stay below 2 degrees C, many assets on fossil fuel companies’ balance sheets must remain stranded, at huge costs to them and ultimately their shareholders–though they’ll reap those benefits too.

 

Now the UN Climate Chief agrees:

“If the 2C target is rigorously applied, then up to 80% of declared reserves owned by the world’s largest listed coal, oil and gas companies and their investors would be subject to impairment as these assets become stranded,” wrote the group in their report Unburnable Carbon.”

The Evolution of the Dog

I’ve  seen several studies over the last few years on the  how and when of canine divergence from wolves.

This study  argues that cooperation and ritual feeding evolved in wolves, before they were  domesticated by humans:

“Based on findings that in intraspecific contexts wolves are at least as socially attentive and tolerant as dogs, the Canine Cooperation Hypothesis postulates that dog-human cooperation evolved on the basis of wolf-wolf cooperation. In contrast to many domestication hypotheses, it suggests that dogs did not need to be selected for a general increase in their social attentiveness and tolerance. ” Continue reading

Properly Pricing the Cost of Carbon

There are many who think that putting a  price on carbon will solve the Earth’s Carbon Dioxide problem.  One  challenge is calculating what the “social cost of carbon dioxide is.  This  article suggests that the social cost is far  higher than the current market rate for  CO2 avoidance.  The current government calculation is that  the social cost is $37/ton, while the  article estimates that the social cost is $220/ton.

The central flaw in current pricing models, researchers say, is that the prediction mechanisms account only for the effects of environmental damages of economic output — not economic growth.

or 20 years now, the models have assumed that climate change can’t affect the basic growth rate of the economy,” Moore said. “But a number of new studies suggest this may not be true. If climate change affects not only a country’s economic output but also its growth, then that has a permanent effect that accumulates over time, leading to a much higher social cost of carbon.”

The study’s authors are quick to point out where their research is lacking. Their prediction models doesn’t account for the economic impact that climate change mitigation efforts might, and it’s not ideal for trying estimate when and how less developed countries — that may be more vulnerable to climate change — should employ mitigation strategies. Per usual, more research is needed to work out such details.

A carbon tax might not work for many reasons, but  its clearly  not  going to  work if  the cost we use is  far lower than  the social  cost.

Gravity is an Emergent Force

I’ve been a big fan of Dr. Juan Maldacena for a long time.  His article in Scientific American is worth reading.  It suggests that gravity is an emergnt property of the universe, not a fundemental force.

Amazingly, some new theories of physics predict that one of the three dimensions of space could be a kind of an illusion—that in actuality all the particles and fields that make up reality are moving about in a two-dimensional realm like the Flatland of Edwin A. Abbott. Gravity, too, would be part of the illusion: a force that is not present in the two-dimensional world but that materializes along with the emergence of the
illusory third dimension.

Or, more precisely, the theories predict that the number of dimensions in reality could be a matter of perspective: physicists could choose to describe reality as obeying one set of laws (including gravity) in three dimensions or, equivalently, as obeying a different set of laws that operates in two dimensions (in the absence of gravity). Despite the radically different descriptions, both theories would describe everything that we see and all the data we could gather about how the universe works. We would have no way to determine which theory was “really” true.

Such a scenario strains the imagination. Yet an analogous phenomenon occurs in everyday life. A hologram is a two-dimensional object, but when viewed under the correct lighting conditions it produces a fully three-dimensional image. All the information describing the three-dimensional image is in essence encoded in the two-dimensional hologram.

Similarly, according to the new physics theories, the entire universe could be a kind of a hologram [see “Information in the Holographic Universe,” by Jacob D. Bekenstein; Scientific American,
August 2003].

Entire article hereThe Illusion of Gravity