Michael Tobis

Michael Tobis

Michael Tobis, editor-in-chief of Planet3.0 and site cofounder, has always been interested in the interface between science and public policy. He holds a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences where he developed a 3-D ocean model on a custom computing platform. He has been involved in sustainability conversations on the internet since 1992, has been a web software developer since 2000, and has been posting sustainability articles on the web since 2007.

Recent Articles

Carbon budget arguments

A slightly more complicated graph following up on the previous one showing how much carbon is left to burn, showing that even that one is unreasonably optimistic.

The curve plots a reasonable estimate of the (Bayesian) probability, given available knowledge, of staying within 2 degrees C above the preindustrial global mean surface temperature. Normally, we base our estimates on the 50% line; to have a 50/50 shot of staying under 2 C, we have used up a bit over half of our available emissions.

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 11.06.28 AM

As David Spratt explains, we don’t fly in an airplane with a 1 in 100,000 chance of falling out of the sky. (We have government regulations for that!) But the usual carbon budget is based on a 50% chance of staying within 2 C of warming. If we take a more, ahem, conservative approach, and stick to only a 10% chance of failure, there is no carbon budget left.

I think there are things that mitigate Spratt’s position. But we shouldn’t forget that in the limit of having perfect information about the system, there’s a something on the order of a 10% chance that we may have already passed the 2 C mark by any reasonable definition.

99% of the Ocean’s Plastic is Missing. Did Fish Eat It?

Science reports:

Millions of tons. That’s how much plastic should be floating in the world’s oceans, given our ubiquitous use of the stuff. But a new study finds that 99% of this plastic is missing. One disturbing possibility: Fish are eating it.

If that’s the case, “there is potential for this plastic to enter the global ocean food web,” says Carlos Duarte, an oceanographer at the University of Western Australia, Crawley. [more]

Uh-Oh: Greenland Surface Melting off to a Quick Start

Tom Yulsman in Discover Magazine:

It’s too soon to tell whether this is just a flash in the pan or the start of a really big melt year. There are examples in the past when “brief spikes of 30 and 40 percent occurred even though the year turned out to be fairly normal,” [NSIDC lead scientist] Scambos told me…greenland_melt_area_plot2

That said, “Persistence at this level would get my attention,” Scambos says.

The Current El Nino Picture

via Kevin Trenberth


It’s early days and it may not pan out, but we’re still on track for a Super-ENSO.

The image (Slide 43 in this briefing) shows the evolution of the equatorial temperature anomaly through time in the two super-El-Ninos in the observational record, and the evolution to date of the current likely El Nino.

UPDATE: Peter Sinclair has more