Arctic ice at record low

As expected, several measures of Arctic ice cover have hit record lows already, and others are likely to do so soon. What’s unexpected is how early this has happened. Melting usually continues until mid-September, so it seems likely that this year’s minimum will be far below the previous record, set in 2007. Those who prefer observational evidence to models will doubtless be pleased to note that the rate of melting far exceeds that predicted by most models. Predictions of when the Arctic might be entirely ice-free at the summer minimum are being revised sharply.

One prediction that seems safe to make is that few if any “sceptics” will treat this unequivocal evidence of warming as a reason to apply scepticism towards the authorities on whom they rely, all of whom have got this wrong. At most they will temporarily shift their ground from “warming has stopped” to “we don’t know what causes it”. However, I’d be glad to be proved wrong on this, so if you see any examples, please let me know. As previously advised, I don’t plan to engage in polemics on this, so if you want to provide confirming evidence for my prediction, feel free, but don’t expect a response from me.

44 thoughts on “Arctic ice at record low

  1. I don’t agree with the conclusions Mr Lenton I have to say. He happily whisks past the issue of the Arctic permafrost melt with a “these gasses will be well mixed and have no significant impact” comment. Not thorough enough. Last week I saw a Russian scientist claiming that the frozen peat bogs of the Russian Steppes contain 25% of the Earth’s atmospheric carbon. Now whether this is accurate or not there is a massive amount of carbonaceaous material that will release huge amounts of CO2 and CH3 once that thawed material decomposes, and the amount of methane in the clathrates (methyl hydrates) I recall was estimated to be 13 trillion tonnes. The fact is that this thaw is well underway and another factor may very well accelerate that process exponentially. That is that the heat of decomposition may very well accelerate that thaw well above that possible through climate factors alone.

    If that happens then that is indeed an irreversible tipping point. Which along with many others does not appear as a consideration in Mr Lenton’s study. I think that it is naive in the extreme to claim at this point that all is known and under control at this very early point in our runaway climate change experience.

  2. I see Jack Strocchi has reached number 5 on my list (“It’s all the fault of the latte-sipping left”).

    It is, of course, the most reality-denyng stance of them all.

  3. Two skeptical responses that I have heard:

    1) God is punishing us by making the world hotter because we insist on believing the world is getting hotter…

    2) [This time, true, from an 6 year old] If the world is getting hotter, then all we need is more cold mining…

  4. FYI: the outright denial continues without pause for some.

    Marc Morano, Climate Depot outright denies:

    As does Anthony Watts of WUWT who states there is nothing to worry about, given people are “quibbling” over a mere 30 years of satellite images:

    The other high profile dissemblers silent so far:

    Steve McIntyre: silent on issue
    Jo Nova: silent so far…
    Bishop Hill: silent so far…
    Andrew Bolt: silent so far….

    Summary of responses:

  5. @derrida derider

    I see Jack Strocchi has reached number 5 on my list (“It’s all the fault of the latte-sipping left”).

    Of course if you redefine the term “latte-sipping left” to mean “privileged holders of assets that might be prejudiced by action on climate” — a group JS seems to acknowledge as key –then his claim becomes less objectionable. Greens didn’t block robust action on climate. We declined to support “action” that would have invoted ridicule on all future attempts at action. Ultimately, the ALP abandoned the idea of serious action on climate change as a policy priority in favour of non-serious action on climate change as an opportunity to wedge those to their right and to their left in an exercise in political posturing. Their CPRS was calculated to ensure that we Greens would not vote for it. We granted their wish. It wasn’t our fault that the Libs chose to dump their wedged leader and put in someone who could unite the party around the interests of the polluters and use our votes to sink the ALP ploy.

    That’s why this stupidity backfired when the people who were opposed to explicitly pricing emissions saw an opportunity to turn the tables. Since then the ALP-leaning folks have been trying to blame those to their left for failing to play the role of suicidal fall guys in their political manoeuvering.

    Of course, the ALP might even then have called a double dissolution and won in a canter. They didn’t. They might have said that they thought they should reconfirm the mandate in the 2010 election. They didn’t. Instead the leader hinted that he’d had enough of the idea and that he had a new big idea and then got rolled by his own party, who then equivocated some more and made it seem that it really was all too hard and that perhaps we neeeded a consensus on the matter. That very nearly killed it.

    Fast forward to February 2011 — did the party get back on message? Of course nopt. Instead they suffered others to pretend that the new pricing mechanism would not be what was described pre-election as a market-based mechanism, but “a carbon tax” — so that they could be trolled about covering up the fact — lying no less — that people would be paying the government every time someone opened the fridge door.

    Again, that has nothing to do with us. Craven? Yes. Inept? Absolutely. Green latte-sipping faithlessness? Get out of here!

  6. derrida derider @ #29

    I see Jack Strocchi has reached number 5 on my list (“It’s all the fault of the latte-sipping left”). It is, of course, the most reality-denyng stance of them all.

    Can you point to where I blamed the “latte-sipping Left” for the failure of climate change mitigation policies? I thought not. In controversy a reputation for honesty is earned by faithful quotation rather than fabricating out of whole cloth.

    I am not a climate change “denier” or “delayer”. It would be more accurate to call me a climate change “despairer”, of the evolutionary conservative kind. I don’t think mitigation will come in time to avoid climate change tipping point. Although, FWIW, I do favour a hefty carbon tax to finance solar power and possibly fusion.

    Evolutionary conservatism is a world-view built to last. Evolutionists generally look to adaptations to change. And conservatives have gotten used to living with chronic despair. So my intellectual conclusion on climate policy neatly fits my general ideological position.

    In fact for the failure of carbon mitigation I mostly blame climate-knowledgeable “elites”, specifically “greedy” economic elites and “partisan” political elites. For a change I did not blame cultural elites, who have done a fair and reasonable job in spreading the word, especially the nerds. (Although the dishonest and delusional views that most cultural elites have on anthropological matters – such as race, religion or gender – do not do much to enhance their credibility.)

    Elites are critical in framing and enforcing ecological policy, the general populus relies on them for consensus leadership mainly owing to the complexity and long-term nature of the problem. (Likewise in financial policy.) Although in the case of the US the populus are inclined to cultivate delusion for its own sake, at least going by the current fashion for “reality TV”.

    Liberal democratic elites are failing their states in the matter of long term survival threats, whether they be ecological or anthropological. It seems because of inherent flaws in the constitution of utilitarian liberal democracy, which tends to only respond reactively to the imminent or apparent pain of long-term survival threats. Also (post-)modern liberal elites are heavily invested in the fashion for a self-serving individual rights, rather than the tradition of self-sacrificing communal duties.

    Perhaps this is why philosophers have suggested that states should evolve “guardian” elders (the WASP patriarchs or Oriental sages) to pro-actively deal with such threats. More primitive societies simply rely on taboos. Of course we don’t have much time for the wisdom of elders these days. Indeed the problem with aging people is that they do not act their age.

    I hold out a slim hope that the CCP may emerge into world leadership with a plan to save the climate. Perhaps they can crack the climate change policy whip when they have the complete upper-hand over the US through the threat of bond vigilantism in the US debt market.

    Either that or we have to put our faith in the robots.

    “When philosophy paints its gloomy picture then a form of life has grown old. It cannot be rejuvenated by the gloomy picture, but only understood. Only when the dusk starts to fall does the owl of Minerva spread its wings and fly.”


  7. Latte sipping left, great phrase. Three crimes, drinking lattes, not manly enough, as beverages go; sipping, again not manly for any beverage, certainly not manly enough for that beverage; and ‘left’, well ’nuff said.

  8. Insurance is one method of quantifying climate change and this Forbes piece by Ceres shows the way

    The U.S. insurance industry continues to be “surprised” by extreme weather losses. But the truth is that weather extremes are no longer surprising. Back-to-back summers of devastating droughts, record heat waves and raging wildfires are clear evidence of this. Last year’s crazy weather triggered near record underwriting losses and numerous credit rating downgrades among U.S. property and casualty insurers.

    And in the face of a changing climate, such events can be expected to increase in number, and severity.  It’s time for insurance companies to recognize this new normal, and incorporate it into their business planning—for the sake of their shareholders, their industry’s survival, and the stability of the U.S. economy.

  9. I would appreciate JQ’s views on how much future GDP growth (as currently measured) is in fact going to be repair or replacement of assets as climate effects take hold. Heat and severe rain proofing roads, rail and buildings, raising flood defences, relocating infrastructure and so on. As in the addition to NZ GDP due to rebuilding Christchurch after the quake. Could we get to a stage where all “growth” is just running to stay still?

  10. @Peter T

    Very possibly, Peter T but then I am not JQ. I think increases in GDP during reconstruction after disasters do show a couple of things.

    One, it shows that GDP is not an entirely satisfactory measure. Perhaps a measure is required that equates by value formulas in some way and then totals existent fixed capital, liquid capital, natural capital, human capital and GDP. That way loss of national infrastructure, loss of life, loss of natural capital etc. would all be factored in.

    Two, it shows that economies are running below capacity and that the stimulus (via deficits) of reconstruction is beneficial to GDP. Which proves the Keynesian and Functional Finance or MMT point that deficit spending stimulates an economy with un-utilised capacity and does so without igniting inflation. QED I say to all the austerity nuts.

  11. While Jack has a point, I don’t think it’s just elites who are in the frame. Increasing material prosperity has become the major social cause over the last 50 years – replacing The Nation, God, The Social Revolution and so on. Not a bad thing (fewer wars for a start). But the message of climate change and similar limits to growth issues (nitrogen, water, forests, topsoil. oil, fish…) is that increasing prosperity is not possible. In fact, we are in for less material prosperity (if we want to survive as a society). That’s a hard sell.

  12. Although material prosperity has become an overarching goal the progress toward that goal has been exceptional poor. Keynes was right about where we should have been by now. Many post-Keynes innovations have ensured our failure.

    The failure has been a failure of government. Good government would have used heavy handed regulation to strangle or crush the undesirable innovation in its cradle.

    Keynes was simply too optimistic, underestimating humanity’s collective stupidity, a collective stupidity he battled against for most of his life.

  13. Freelander :
    The failure has been a failure of government. Good government would have used heavy handed regulation to strangle or crush the undesirable innovation in its cradle.

    It could be argued that that ultimately implies a failure of democracy more than a failure of government given the way we know it all works in the modern capitalistic society.

  14. Difficult to say it’s a failure of democracy when it’s the nature of the beast, or at least the western versions.

  15. Jack I still put the support for climate science denial from mainstream political parties as top impediment to serious policies to reduce emission. It gives opposition to action as well as popular denial based on ignorance a level mainstream respectability and legitimacy that it shouldn’t have. It’s influence results in policy compromises all around – which are subsequently held up by the same professional persuaders as evidence that climate policy is compromised and should be abandoned rather than strengthened. It uses and exaggerates already potent fears of economic doom whilst assiduously avoiding consideration of the consequences and costs of failure to face the problem head on. Acceptance of reasonable sacrifices involved in decarbonising our economy, towards longer term future prosperity and security is prevented.

    In the presence of ongoing and apparently very successful efforts of LNP supported (and more crucially in the global context, US Republican supported) efforts to avoid face up to the climate problem, liberal elites barely rate as impediments.

    Even the acceptance of nuclear as a potential solution is far more impeded by the unwillingness of the Right to man up to the climate problem than it is by extreme anti-nuclear activism – a major mainstream party is choosing to accept and promote lies about climate for the sake of fossil fuels rather than use the truth about climate to promote the solution they claim is the only viable one and that has far more impact on actual policy than the strong views of a minority.

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