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

Methane is leaking from permafrost offshore Siberia

There’s a lot of methane sequestered in the permafrost.  The permafrost in the north is in danger of melting and releasing that methane.  That permafrost includes a lot of it on the ocean floor.

Here‘s a recent report in Phys.org that says that the methane is now being released from the permafrost as it melts.

The thawing of permafrost on the  is an ongoing process, likely to be exaggerated by the global warming of the world´s oceans.” says PhD Alexey Portnov at Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment (CAGE) at UiT, The Arctic University of Norway.

Portnov and his colleagues have recently published two papers about permafrost offshore West Yamal, in the Kara Sea. Papers look into the extent of permafrost on the ocean floor and how it is connected to the significant release of the greenhouse gas methane.

The thawing of permafrost on the  is an ongoing process, likely to be exaggerated by the global warming of the world´s oceans.” says PhD Alexey Portnov at Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment (CAGE) at UiT, The Arctic University of Norway.

Portnov and his colleagues have recently published two papers about permafrost offshore West Yamal, in the Kara Sea. Papers look into the extent of permafrost on the ocean floor and how it is connected to the significant release of the greenhouse gas methane.

Where Does Sea-Level Rise Come From?

One of the unsolved problems of climate change over the last 25 years has been matching up the actual sea-level rise to the expected sea level rise, based on observations and projections of melting in Greenland and Antarctica.

This article in Nature purports to match up the ice melt and sea rise levels much more accurately than previous attempts.  The news is not good.

 

 the IPCC has decided that researchers finally have a good enough handle on ice behaviour in Greenland and — to a lesser extent — Antarctica to forecast how ice sheets will respond, at least provisionally, says Don Chambers, a sea-level researcher at the University of Texas at Austin. The latest estimates add between 3 and 21 centimetres to the predicted sea-level rise by 2100, although tens of centimetres more are possible, according to the most recent IPCC report draft.

The end result is set to be a much higher forecast for sea-level rise than in 2007. Direct comparisons are difficult because the latest report uses different time frames and emission scenarios, but the leaked draft puts the range of estimates between 28 and 97 centimetres of rise by 2100. That is still not as high as semi-empirical estimates, but process-based results are edging upwards — and the difference is narrowing. “I consider it something of a vindication,” says Rahmstorf.