Time to Start Thinking about Deposing Fossil Fuel Kings and Establishing a Global Climate Emergency Protocol

Gigatons Carbon in Fossil Fuel Reserves

(Gigatons of Carbon in various fossil fuel reserves vs amount of carbon already released into the atmosphere. Figure based on 2007 estimates. Wealth for fossil fuel companies, a terrible liability, or a vast threat to life on Earth? Image source: Atmospheric Chemistry, 2007.)

We live in a kind of sad age. An age of constraint by a kind of ideology that seems to believe there’s something wrong with the highest levels of human cooperation. Perhaps, we are justifiably suspicious, as the long history of humankind is filled with a broad wreckage of what could be termed the abuse of nations. But I think it’s fair to say we’ve gotten the calculus somewhat wrong and what we really should be suspicious of is the great accumulation of power by individuals without check or question and not the democratically elected public entities that form our representative government bodies.

For, in short, if the governments are warped, they are by a kind of endemic set of proxy powers, by bullies with big money bags, and by profit-seeking special interest groups. You know, the kind of corporate persons the conservative half of the US Supreme Court is so disturbingly cozy with these days.

If we were to take a classic example, we could look at Stalin. Here we have a man who, on the face of it, claimed to be dedicated to a benevolent equality. But he used that ideology to develop a kind of cult of personality in which he was made an absolute ruler. This was not the egalitarian ideal many envisioned and hoped for. It was, instead, simply a more intense form of the manipulation of political and idea-based systems for personal gain. In the case of Stalin, it resulted in a kind of kingship. A kingship where Stalin effectively twisted the ideals of the day into a kind of justification for his own elevation to the status of a Randian hyper-individual and the development of a kind of monopoly corporate superstate that was mother Russia.

In the case of Soviet Communism, the ideals served the man rather than the man serving the ideal. It is an ugly pattern we see on the large and small scale time and time again throughout human history. And, from a systems sustainability perspective, this is a huge problem. In particular, the problem arises when individualism all too readily teeters into an irresponsible narcissism that generates personal gain through the infliction of harm.

Modern Oligarchies, Dictators and Kings

In the current age, we suffer no less from our dictators. In the west, we have our oligarchs — the Koch Brothers, Rupert Murdoch, various fossil fuel company CEOs and boards of directors along with a long list of narcissistic and destructive billionaires — whose endless search for ever-increasing personal power causes vast social upheaval and environmental destruction. Around the world, we can see a similar array of destructively self-interested characters from the leaders of increasingly rogue globalized corporations to various dictators who have finagled autocratic or dictatorial rule over entire nations.

Factory Billows Carcinogenic Smoke

(An image all-too familiar in our age: massive aerosol, toxin, and CO2e smokestack emission.)

In essence, it boils down to the old problem of kings the American and French revolutionaries were so passionate to expunge. The problem, now, is that the kings have different names and titles. They masquerade as things other than kings. But kings, in essence, they remain and their terms are often life-long investitures.

This is not to say that the good queen or king doesn’t pop up now and then. But the king that uses a phenomenal accumulation of wealth and power not in the service of his narrow personal interests, but in the pursuit of a broader good is a rare, rare kind of person. The kind of person who has already given up a share of their power to something other than themselves. Who understand that power is only worthwhile when it is not taken in service of the self, but of others. And today that definition could well be expanded to the service both of other, less fortunate humans, and of other life on this world.

The problem is that, all too often, waiting for these kinds of kings to emerge is a futile endeavor. Does the broader human population pin its hopes on the good king or queen? The one who will recognize problems and expend resources to solve them? Or does broader human population, having suffered a long series of insults and, now being pushed over the brink of environmental catastrophe, depose the bad kings and put in place cooperation-based laws and leadership that ensure a just progress and provide some hope of confronting what is, perhaps, the most enormous difficulty humans and life on this world has ever experienced?

What I am suggesting is a kind of democratic and legally justified overthrow of the greed-driven personal profit motive as it relates to the current and coming environmental harm. A setting in place of a new system of values that may (and this may is a very qualified may) save us from the catastrophe we can most certainly lay at the feet of our entirely irresponsible corporate and dictatorial kings…

The Climate Emergency Protocol — Legal Justification For Holding Fossil Fuel Companies, Corporate or National, as Liable for Large-Scale Harms Inflicted

At issue here is the niggling problem of combined profit motive, total global fossil fuel reserves, property rights and the strange notion that is limited liability.

For under Friedman we assume that the only moral value of a corporation is to pursue profit. In such a case, a corporation is morally justified in dumping poisons into rivers, oceans and atmospheres for the temporary benefit that is profit for share holders.

For in the understanding that is our current observation of proven, possible, and unproven fossil fuel reserves, and given that we’ve already dumped enough carbon into the atmosphere to set off catastrophic events, we know that the vast volume of these reserves if unleashed into the atmosphere would multiply our current catastrophe manifold. In such a case, most of these reserves need to remain in the ground if we are to have any hope of a livable climate.

For under property rights, we understand that these corporations and shareholders, who by their own twisted morality are bound to seek short-term individual profit by wrecking our climate, claim as legitimate their ownership and pursuit of the means of our destruction. In such a case, corporations claim moral rights to profit from a vast and ever-expanding harm that they inflict, unwittingly or cynically, upon themselves and the rest of us. Such a blatant twisting of morality is, possibly, without precedent in all of human history, especially when its end results are the impoverishment and extinction of individuals, groups, and entire species together with a kind of amplifying and wholesale global destruction.

And, finally, for understanding and assuming a limited liability, corporations deign that they have little or no responsibility to the broader national or global public, to creatures that are not human, or to the life systems of this planet for the broad and expanding harm inflicted upon them through the current and heinously vicious application of self-justified profit motive.


(A 2013 graphic by Climate Action Tracker estimating action needed to keep ECS (fast feedback) warming below 2 C. The right side of the graph shows total annual CO2e emissions. Note that, according to this analysis, emissions need to fall to near zero by 2050 to have much hope of preventing a 2 C ECS warming. It is also worth noting that Michael Mann has provided a rational global climate model assessment showing that we will likely lock in 2 C ECS warming in the next couple of years and see that level of added heat by 2036.)

Here we identify the flimsy legal basis for continued destructive action. An institution that enables vast and expanding climate and environmental harm without any accountability. An institution whose subjective profit morality is vastly amoral in the broader context of human and overall life systems welfare. And since this institution has no true moral basis upon which these publics could view it as useful or just, it must be considered amoral overall and without any viable grounds for a continued assumption of legitimacy. And since these corporations have made little to no action to effectively combat the harms which they have set in place, instead actively seeking to erode and call doubt on the massive volume of scientific evidence pointing to amplifying harm, or in personally attacking the scientists themselves, they must be viewed as rogue entities operating under a state of self-declared anarchy and beholden to no motive other than their short-term profit seeking.

In this understanding, nations and communities of nations, therefore, would be entirely justified to act on behalf of their peoples and on behalf of the life-systems they, themselves, are obligated by inherent natural law to protect and to husband. In such an understanding, corporate assets may be declared forfeit and resources may be re-directed in pursuit of removing the harms generated and in preventing further harms over longer time-frames.

A Climate Emergency Protocol in Action

Based on this understanding of an illegitimate authority and rights by rogue profit-seeking entities engaging in acts of wholesale harm, a set of national and international frameworks may well be envisioned in the context of what is a rising global climate emergency.

Nations, recognizing their peril, may be forced to act in their own interest and in the interest of the various publics, both natural and human, to which they are morally obliged to protect. And in this recognition, nations would be provided with a legitimate authority to nationalize fossil fuel resources for the purpose of removing it from destructive and rapid exploitation through market driven profit motive, for enacting a rapid reduction in overall use and emissions, and in ultimately achieving a permanent sequestration.


(Marshall Islands battered by high tides, huge waves related to global sea level rise. Image source: Pacific Island Nation Conference on Climate Change.)

National action could unfold in a manner similar to which the United States nationalized assets for the conduct of World War II. Fossil fuel reserves would be declared national holdings, corporate apparatus would remain, for the most part, in tact. But the profit generating organs would be subsumed by the state and re-directed toward turning fossil fuel ventures into alternative energy and carbon capture and sequestration ventures. In this way, all profits from the sales of fossil fuels and, for a time, new energy would be aimed at a direct transition away from such a destructive set of resources. This structure would also allow for both the retention and retraining of skilled, hard-working individuals who, through no fault of their own, became engaged in the fossil fuel trade. Such a wealth of talent could, in this way, be shifted to direct problem solving.

In the end, once transition of fossil fuel companies was achieved, they could then again be released for public investment and ownership under more stringent rules of operation similar to that of public utility companies and with absolute bars against a return to fossil energy exploitation and atmospheric carbon release.

Nations already holding a wealth of fossil fuel resources as public assets could readily shift to a similar footing by redirecting profits into direct alternative energy investment and carbon sequestration. In such cases, however, these nations may require additional assistance from more diverse economies.

Importing nations would also be justified in adding a series of tariffs at the point of import that feed directly in to energy transition infrastructure deployment. Broad-based utility buy-in could be achieved by adding funds for distributed solar, wind, and other new renewable leasing programs in which utilities maintained ownership of generating assets but provided services for a reasonable price. Meanwhile, a market for various carbon sequestration services could be established and expanded.

For these reasons and others, nations would be well advised to form legal and financial pacts and treaties with other, similarly acting, nations so as to protect themselves from action by less responsible governments and by corporate entities seeking an unjust recourse for mitigating actions. Such a framework would also provide set rules by which overall global fossil fuel emissions would be reduced, provisions of aid and assistance would be distributed to speed the process, and by setting up a means to hold honest the various signatory powers. In addition, a large and powerful enough pact of nations could provide commercial leverage against bad-actor countries through financial and import-export sanctions while providing aid to those countries most in need of direct assistance for rapid transition away from fossil fuel use.


(The official government seal of Samoa, one of the many nations now facing an existential crisis due to human-caused climate change. It is worth noting that fully 1/3 of all residents in Samoa live within 10 feet of current sea level, that 5% of the island’s GDP is lost each year, currently, due to climate impacts, and that the island’s fresh water supply would be almost entirely disrupted by just a 3 foot rise in sea level. But Samoa’s mountainous interior provides it with some defense. Other island states are not so fortunate.)

A strong block of climate emergency protocol (CEP) nations could also set up structures by which new technology and practices could be exchanged more freely, creating a large and well funded incubator for solutions based research and action.

Since rapidly mitigating the current climate catastrophe is just one imperative of nations seeking to provide for the futures of their populaces, CEP nations would also work to standardize frameworks by which populations and consumption are rationally restrained. In such cases, a broad and multilateral re-invigoration of institutions supporting women’s reproductive liberty and health together with a broad and expanding access to all forms of birth control will be essential. Further incentive through national policy to provide tangible rewards for individuals who decide to have few or no children or for those in same-sex relations may also need to be put in place.

Controlling and reducing consumption may require a broad range of features that include both incentives and rationing when needed. To this point, meat-based agriculture may need to be greatly reduced to both rapidly bring down global methane emissions as well as reduce the total land burden of human agriculture, thus freeing more lands for forests and wetlands.

Lastly, CEP nations could join together to form new and more effective sustainability practices by improving sustainable farming, land use, cooperation with nature technologies and practices, establishing systems of kindness economics, and by husbanding and developing species sanctuaries and seed banks as the current climate catastrophe continues to push greater and greater numbers of life-forms toward extinction.

In this call, I join with a broad number of agencies and organizations already active in dealing with the current climate emergency and invite dissemination and improvement of the above, humbly submitted, proposal:


The Climate Emergency Institute

Climate Change Emergency Declaration

The Arctic Methane Emergency Group



Michael Mann, Our Terrifying Greenhouse Gas Overburden, and Heating the World by +2 C by 2036

Responding to Climate Change

Pacific Island Nation Conference on Climate Change

Atmospheric Chemistry, 2007


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  1. Reblogged this on The Secular Jurist and commented:
    The Secular Jurist recommends this post as a MUST READ.

    See also: http://thesecularjurist.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/rogue-corporate-entities-and-the-collapse-of-human-civilization/

  2. John Eric Smith

     /  March 26, 2014

    Look to the founding fathers. They were upstarts to be sure but yet their aim was true.
    If Europe had been less vain it would have been different and better. That is why Franklin originally opposed the Revolution.
    Thanks for your amazing work- I can’t imagine how you find the strength.
    Best Regards,
    J.Eric Smith

  3. ” Figure based on 2007 estimates.”

    Given the fracking revolution , which enables us to reach hydrocarbon molecules in almost any rock formation , these numbers may be low.

    I haven’t read the post yet, but I am struck by the great seal of Samoa. How the hell did they pick a Polish eagle as the symbol of their country ?

    • Good question!

      And I couldn’t agree more about these estimates being low. I’ll go digging to see if I can find a more recent set.

      • Having chased these numbers for years , you probably have found the “current” estimates.

        Having read the post , probably the best you’ve ever written.

        The idea of free trade was ok when we were hauling pepper corns out of the Spice Islands.
        But it’s a different thing when Exxon signs the largest oil deal in history , with the Russian gangsters to drill where you and I are sweating out the big thaw of the Yedoma.

      • Yeah. $500 billion to poke holes in the ESAS and the Gakkel Ridge is the height of greed-driven stupidity in my view.

        Thx for the kind words. My view is we don’t have a chance in hell without large-scale action.

      • The well , the French kings never saw the revolution , the British kings never saw the revolution , the Czars never saw the revolution , Muammar Gaddafi never saw the revolution .

        That’s the great thing, about great change. The People at the top , never see it coming.

    • Jay M

       /  March 27, 2014

      Samoa was a German protectorate for a few years until 1914. Probably from that period.

      • Makes sense. A good number of those islands fell under the domain of one nation or another during the colonial period.

  4. And then there’s this – “An important message from Coal, Oil and Fracking companies”:

  5. Andy

     /  March 27, 2014

    And now we have “El Nino Denial” complete with a helping of conspiracy theory.


    • james cole

       /  March 27, 2014

      Good find Andy. I have also seen the first tactics of denial about the looming El Nino. I found some very, very clever denial and diversion stories being spread across economic blogs just today! The professional deniers are going to be out with a whole raft of diversion stories as El Nino seems set to dominate the coming months.

    • Wow. All I can say is that I hope, for India’s sake this thing does not emerge fully. Prospects not looking too great, at the moment.

  6. Phil

     /  March 27, 2014

    I know in the past that James Hansen has pushed the potential role for legal proceedings as a way of addressing the inter-generational injustice associated with the great future harm that is being done now to the propsects of future generations, let alone impact of different types of species. Do you know if there have been any developments in this area? Are the interests of future generations also included in the US constitution or some Bill of Rights or is this a murky area. Persumably, both corporations and their Government sponsors could be targetted.

    I wonder if there is also international laws and legal redress that threatened countries like Somoa could also use?

  7. james cole

     /  March 27, 2014

    I tend to spend more time in the world of the economics blogs and climate science is more of a passionate, but side interest. Dealing with the economics of the modern age we have the world or corporate power and an ideology that underpins and supports the present Banker, Wall-Street, Corporate and Federal Reserve system. Worse still is the globalization of the system. The few nations that dare not to adopt the Chicago School of Economics approach or reject the dollar as world reserve currency, tend to end up having military force applied to them. I see the ideology that drives Profit as the only consideration and the many who wholly buy into the present crony capitalism and manipulated markets approach.
    The forces that rule 21st century economics run counter to the long term health of the planet and all us who live upon it. To even mention this provable truth is the be outcast as a socialist, a communist or an environmental lunatic. The present power structure is not interested in change, they are not interested in even a hint of reform. No matter how many times I present climate science facts on the economics front, it is roundly rejected out of hand, and I am labeled a lunatic. That is how blind the economics world is to what is happening.
    We need to go into crisis mode, I totally agree. We need to break through the wall of denial or just lies that industry throws up and their corporate news black out of climate science and global warming in the main stream media. Example, CNN has run 20 days of 24/7 coverage is a lost aircraft, while hardly a word of the recent evidence of the looming El Nino event, even as over a hundred have died in Washington rain induced landslides.
    The reason nothing seems to be done is the incredible power of the corporate and fossil fuel world in Washington. A system where bribes in the hundreds of millions of dollars a year are spread across all parties and all congress members and the President. No wonder fossil fuel makes the rules of the game.
    I have to assume the leaders of these corporate entities love money more than mankind, more than their kids and grand kids. The climate monster is a the door, but nobody with half a brain seems to see it out there about to kick the door in.

    • The climate monster is a the door, but nobody with half a brain seems to see it out there about to kick the door in.

      Thursday, September 07, 2006


      I know….you think this is about Dick Cheney and his presidential hand puppet George Bush. We’ll your wrong, it’s a phrase I caught a few weeks back from the Tom Brokaw special on Global Warming.

      Tom plowed a lot of the same ground that’s been in the news for the past few years, but the show was notable for the above phrase, and what it describes. Dr. Hanson from The Goddard Space Flight Center used it. And like the 50’s SiFi movies it’s the things we don’t know that scare him about Global Warming. One of those doors is beginning to open now, and behind it is the thawing of the permafrost. An emerging subject that’s going to get a lot more attention, and the permafrost in Siberia in particular. The ground is frozen deep and it’s “Bigger than Dallas” there.

      What we’re talking about is the release of billions of tons of Methane, and CO2 gas that has been stored in the ground for hundreds of thousands of years. Well, boys and girls the door just swung open a little more and there seems to be one of those monsters there……..

      Scientists Find New Global Warming ‘Time Bomb’ _ Methane Bubbling Up From Permafrost

      The monster is in the house , and stealing all our goods.

    • How would you suggest countering this meme?

      And you’re right. The money/finance guys are clueless. I’ve met a few economists who seem to get it, though.

      • james cole

         /  March 27, 2014

        It’s a good question. I have tried moderated reason, scientific arguments, the laws of physics, lessons on the carbon cycle. Nothing has broken through. I assume it will take a much better man than me to make a dent in the economics majority opinion of today.

      • ‘Events, dear boy, events’ have put climate change back on the agenda


        I would add one more word ,”observed” events . And that is science. , When some small party of people, in some far corner of the world. take notes for years, or for decades.
        Then they sit down and write what they “observed” , then and only then does science emerge .

      • And the slow plod of realization continues.

      • Burgundy

         /  March 27, 2014

        I think the problem is even greater than people realise… it’s systemic. Meaning there is no one person or group of people really in charge, the whole system is on autopilot. Anything or anyone that tries to interfere with the System is regarded as a threat and either removed or neutralised. Reducing emissions to zero would kill the System and it will therefore not be allowed to happen.

        We think we live in an anthropocentric world and it’s all about us humans. Well actually that isn’t quite correct. In reality we’re just technicians in a technological system that we created but no longer control. Our choices are limited to maintaining or advancing the System and that is basically it. But that is not to say that the System will not respond to climate change, it is a threat to the System as well, so it is in fact responding (eg. solar technology, bio-fuels, geoengineering, etc.). The thing to understand is that the response is about the System, not about humans, so its actions aren’t necessarily about saving us or the things we care about.

        The System is antithetical to the natural world and Nature, it destroys it and replaces it with the artificial. This is humanity’s fate too, if we survive the climate change bottleneck, we will be denatured and synthesized (already happening with artificial replacements and enhancements). Biological evolution and technological evolution cannot coexist in the same space, one replaces the other. So the System’s response to climate change will not be about saving the biological world.

        The only way we’re going to save ourselves and the world we care about is to invent new technologies and techniques which enhance the System as well. Technologies and techniques that both destroy and replace the existing industrial, economic and political structures. For example re-localising industrial production (3d printing, etc.), food production (permaculture, etc.), economy (bitcoin, etc.) and breaking up the nation states or make them irrelevant. These things both advance the System and allow greater control over saving our ecosystem and are therefore doable. Trying to simply close down the System with an an emergency protocol, not doable.

        And just to add that I’m not a technophile looking for some kind of techno utopia. I’m actually an organic farmer (or at least trying to be one) and spend my time in the natural world which I love. But I’m also a pragmatist and see the way things really are.

      • It’s about bringing systems response to a revolutionary and international level. A new brand of international relations theory. Eco-realism.

      • Burgundy

         /  March 28, 2014

        Robert, well the System (aka. technological evolution) loves centralisation and new techniques so no problem there. Technological advancement as an end in its self rather than a means to an end is what it does. But it also needs energy, which it cannot get in the same way as biological systems, and the amount of energy it needs is increasing. So to remove fossil fuels from the equation will require new forms of energy collection that not only replace that gained from fossil fuels, but, also exceed the growth in demand. What we have today is alternate energies being simply added to the mix and not diminishing fossil fuel use. It’s not going to work.

        The problem we have with oligarchs, dictators, billionaires, corporations, etc. is that they successfully promote the System’s advancement (as do secret intelligence agencies and global finance which are being allowed to rampage across the planet unchecked). Remember this is about evolution, they have to be replaced by something evolutionary superior or made extinct to remove their influence. You have to remove their raison d’etre in the technological ecosystem, change the forest into savannah to remove their habitat. The insurgents successfully achieved this in Iraq by changing the battlefield into one that they could survive and excel in (the techniques they advanced are now being adopted throughout the world).

        How do we change the forest into savannah? Decentralisation, relocalisation, peer to peer networking and the introduction of new technologies to build a new economy that makes the old economy and its social structures irrelevant. There is the revolution that will do the job, it both advances the System (de rigueur for success) and meets our own criteria. We do not control the System, nobody does (as with biological evolution), but we can influence it, albeit in one direction only… forward.

      • It’s an interesting point of view. But at this point, I’m not really focused on separating human life from civilization or attributing survival function, self awareness, and autonomy to global technology/industry.

        It’s a kind of techno-fatalism. Tends to lean toward moral relativism. And, worst yet, removes the key issue of choice on the part of human beings.

        The emissions from fossil fuels have to go. Fin.

      • Burgundy

         /  March 29, 2014

        Robert, the System is not self-aware its simply a self organising system that advances through reiteration and adaption to real world feedback the same as biological evolution. Our choices are limited to those allowed by the two systems, the technological system and the natural system of Nature. Appealing to the System to cease emissions is akin to appealing to Nature to not increase global temperatures. There is no higher authority to appeal to, neither systems can hear such appeals, only physical action counts.

        Luckily there are plenty of people taking physical action, creating new technologies and techniques that are laying the foundation for a new social and economic system. But it is in its infancy and I’m not sure it can gain sufficient traction to enact change before climate change destroys everything. It is however the only chance we have, trying to change or work within the existing sclerotic system is totally futile. I mean, how do you propose running the existing economy without fossil fuels or zero emissions? Even attempting it would induce collapse and war on a scale we’ve never witnessed before.

    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 27, 2014

      James, great post. A lot of understanding there.

    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 27, 2014

      If we stop growing, we destroy the economy, if we keep growing, we destroy the ecology – and ourselves.

      I like the ideas of those pushing for a steady-state economy, such as Herman Daly and Rob Dietz. Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill have a book called “Enough is Enough” that fleshes out some of the details of how such an economy would work.

      Someone said “Until you change the way money works, you change nothing”. Any economy that REQUIRES continual growth to be healthy is unsustainable..

      There’s got to be a way to break through to the mainstream – and this coming El Nino may be it.

  8. mikkel

     /  March 27, 2014

    Hey Robert, even though this isn’t nearly as comprehensive as what you’re talking about, it’s an interesting way that Delaware is moving to have a community owned energy service group that makes all the finance work.


    • SEU is a good program. That said, the pace of overall scaling in broader terms is nowhere near fast enough. We need to strengthen, expand, and more rapidly deploy these kinds of initiatives. And the scale needs to be global.

      • mikkel

         /  March 27, 2014

        I learned about this from meeting an American energy economist who is visiting NZ. We are going to push for it to be adopted in Dunedin and open it up for general investment. This should allow it to expand quickly here.

    • All corporations are just a pile of papers lying on shelf in Delaware.

  9. james cole-
    Everyone in the money world believes the Earth will keep expanding .

  10. Nature does not watch Fox News –
    Chickadee move hints at climate change

    15-year study in Pennsylvania has shown bird range push northward

    • I’m pretty sure anything reality-based has long since given up in Fox.

    • The Cornell researchers realized that the warming temperatures and the Carolina chickadees were moving north in sync — at an average of 0.7 miles a year.

      The pace was so fast that in 2006, Curry added another site, Tuscarora State Forest in Schuylkill County, Pa., to keep ahead of the Carolinas’ push north.

      “A lot of the time, climate change doesn’t really seem tangible,” said Scott Taylor of the Cornell Lab, the lead author on the group’s recent paper in the journal Current Biology. “But here are these common little backyard birds we all grew up with, and we’re seeing them moving northward on relatively short timescales.”

      Curry was struck by “how strong the climate signal was,” he said. “I didn’t think we’d be able to show it as quickly and clearly as we did.”

      Keith Russell, outreach coordinator for Pennsylvania Audubon, said that Audubon research also has shown how winter distributions of many North American birds were shifting and that the chickadee research was another important piece of evidence.

  11. Life as out stripped there their lies.

  12. No lies ? Then we have to watch science.

  13. With regards to the will of the people (what you write in the beginning), what you’re proposing requires creating a democracy of the world, since this is a global problem and must be confronted globally. In our current pragmatic world, this is the UN but with the Internet, we could change that and have it be anyone with some sort of a secure ID for voting (issued by their local governments) which they then use for reporting their opinions on global problems. Eventually this could have the same power to elect representatives and work together on global issues and could co-exist with existing power structures. If one’s passion is creating such a democracy of the world, such as the US founding fathers did, it could be done. I believe a Declaration of Independence for the Internet has already been published. It could be a truly voluntary Internet society that could arise that is governed by its own constitution and set of (voluntary) laws. If you could get a bloc of a billion or more people to move as one on particular issues, I’m sure the world would take notice.

    However, I am a bit of a misanthrope in that I believe the average person, though well meaning, doesn’t really care about this problem (yet) and don’t care about humanity’s future in that sense talked about here. Most people are concerned with their day to day lives and far more worried about the next set of bills than, say, the Arctic methane monster. So then I think there’s reason for an ethical debate about what is the right action to take. If the vast majority of the people in the world (at least 66%) wanted to burn up all the fossil fuels and didn’t care about the future of the remaining people (maximum 34%) then what is the right? Agreeing to the scientifically ignorant wishes of the 66% or the 34%?

    To get the elite in the world to do something on behalf of billions (which they don’t want, even if it is for their own good) is also imposing some sort of dictatorial control. While an argument can be made for this particular scenario (AGW), I think ultimately it devolves to the same kind of argument about power corrupting.

    Then we’re left with the scenario of most of humanity dying out and a few surviving and who is among those and what should be done then to preserve the species, if anything.

    I don’t endorse any of these scenarios personally BTW. I’m just pointing to possibilities.

    • This is a bit too morally relativistic for my blood. That said, the possibilities are interesting to explore.

    • If by saying that you mean that it’s clear to you what’s right and what’s wrong, and presumably from your writing that AGW leading to human disaster for everyone (including those who want it) would be wrong (which I agree isn’t that hard a position to defend; we could say those who want to choke themselves to death on CO2 should find another planet to do it in), my point really is where will you draw the line before action can be taken? At what point does a dictatorship of the minority become justified in saving the majority when it comes to AGW (how much CO2 should be tolerated)? And how that does relate to the size of the minority – is a dictatorship of one or a dictatorship of a billion (1/7th) required to take action?

      This is actually relevant because right now we’re being held hostage by a majority who seems either ignorant or hell bent on self-destruction. And actually now I think about it, there’s a mathematically calculable answer.

  14. Another new piece from today on this same general subject written by Daniel Garrett, a former US State Department foreign service officer and today a senior analyst at the Asia Institute.


    • james cole

       /  March 27, 2014

      That was a good piece. Modern 21st century capitalism can not survive the global climate crisis, nor can it survive any attempt to confront CO2 emissions now in 2014. Confronted with a no win situation, main stream economics has gone blind to reality and fights to maintain and expand today’s failed finance capitalism, short term bottom line thinking and belief in never ending economic growth in a limited closed system. Hopelessly deluded they march on in lock step to their models.

    • Fantastic to see more calls of this kind! Garret is a good man.

      OT: my regrets for my minor absence today. I am on travel for a family member’s wedding and will do my best to keep up with the research, comments and posts.

      Best regards to all!

  15. Andy

     /  March 27, 2014

    Old Navajo Saying: We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children.

    We’ll need to innovate our way out of this, and I am certain that it is possible. I also believe it is improbable at this time.

    • Possible but improbable. That’s about as honest and succinct as one can get.

      I had a brief conversation about this with my parents tonight. My mother was sounding quite doomerish and seemed surprised when I told her that many,many people felt the same way.

      I think it’s pretty fair to say that the bulk of human ingenuity is now aimed at a fast order replication of the Permian extinction with added insult and compressed into a 1-3 century timeframe. Fossil fuel based economic growth in a world of 7 billion humans is a mass extinction machine that is possibly without parallel.

      • Mark Archambault

         /  March 28, 2014

        “Fossil fuel based economic growth in a world of 7 billion humans is a mass extinction machine that is possibly without parallel.” – another great quote of yours to save!

  16. leftymathprof

     /  March 27, 2014

    Let’s stop repeating the 2 degrees celsius myth. By now we know that to avoid catastrophically unstable climate, we need to stay well under 1 degree celsius.

    • The artificial boundary levels are a bit misleading. We may be at .8 C warming now, but there’s enough ghg forcing to get us to 1.9 C ECS and about 3.8 C ESS. When you look at it in a geological context, that’s already catastrophic.

    • Unfortunately we’ve already locked in well over 1 degree C variance and within a decade (a few years even), we’d have locked in 2 degrees. By 2020 if nothing else is done, we’ll have locked in enough emissions to take us to 2 degrees. So we’re way past the 1 degree mark and well on our way to 2 degrees.

      I think the policymakers would agree that 2 degrees C would be catastrophic. But if we agree to it and curb emissions to not go beyond that, then we could think of ways of getting the ECS/ESS down by carbon capture.

  17. Gerald Spezio

     /  March 27, 2014

    Lawyer/Lobbyists just adoin their thang for big bucks & guaranteed death for all.
    Who is deposing whom here?


    • Not lawyers, Gerald… Oil companies… ie… The ones pushing these hearings in the first place.

      In other words, how do you expect oil company cronies to behave?

      As for the blog, if you think I’m expecting the call to affect the already bling and deaf, you clearly missed the point. These are exactly the groups who need to lose power.

  18. Tom

     /  March 28, 2014

    leftymathprof: There’s no way to keep temperature rise from occurring at this point, since the effect of CO2 emissions on climate runs about 40 years behind. In other words the CO2 industrial civilization pumped into the atmosphere in 1974 is what’s effecting the climate so drastically now. Every year since then there have been increased quantities of CO2 emitted (not to mention other gases even more potent than CO2), and now we’ve triggered unstoppable methane release as a result. It’s only going to get worse.

  19. Gerald Spezio

     /  March 28, 2014

    Robert, your sincere efforts are always commendable.
    BUT clarion calls for behavior change from the powerful are pure wind.
    Behavior change by the proles, also, is more than UNlikely.

    A retired history professor friend with Ph D is flying to Europe for the summer with his lady.
    Their round trip CO2 debt from San Francisco for two is in excess of 25 TONS of CO2.
    They both love art.

  20. james cole

     /  March 28, 2014

    I happened upon a program Nation Geographic Channel will run tonight. Called “The Worst Weather Ever”. Supposedly a look at global warming and possible weather effects. Will be interesting to see their approach to this and who, among the scientists, end up giving evidence. Worth a look to see how far Main Stream Media will be willing to go. Especially interested if they will speak of a looming El Nino and this year’s Jet Stream waves.

    • So what did they come up with?

      • james cole

         /  March 29, 2014

        It was mostly a summing up of the last decade’s extreme weather events. In that sense it was interesting and it did lay blame on the human induced warming of the last century. It also exposed the fact that the future weather events, by say 2050, would be earth shattering compared to today’s. All in all a weather lesson, with the background of global warming as a driver of worse to come. It was not at all a lesson on the climate science of global warming, which would have been nice. Good overall for the general public. The one thing deniers can’t hide are these huge weather events that people are being exposed to.

  21. robertscribbler – I agree that the fossil fuel companies are an evil force and that their power and influence must be reduced. I am in favor of nationalizing these companies for the reasons you allude to. And all that stuff needed to be done yesterday. However, the fossil fuel companies are providing a product that we all use in every aspect of our lives and the social norm in our society is to produce things for profit; not necessarily for the social good. The belief of course is that when agents work for their own selfish ends, the wider society benefits. We, meaning all of us in the modern society, are the descendents of those who came to North America and destroyed the native peoples, purposely almost wiped out the bison and mostly destroyed the once very abundant west coast salmon runs. The rapaciousness of our society is a dominant force and we have built an economic system based on this rapaciousness. The monster that we see in the climate is a reflection of the monster that is in our collective consciousness – that is the real monster. Until we see that the enemy is us (a la Pogo) we really cannot get a grip on this – because we need to awake to something other than what we believe we are. This society is rooted in beliefs from which this rapaciousness arises – beliefs that must be abandoned – can we be filled by something other than acquisition, can we move beyond property? Is there something more to a person than power and position. For me, these are existential questions. We will see as society comes closer to the destruction at hand an increase in craving, in using violence to hold position and property. One has to be dispassionate, be able to witness and to act when things can be acted upon. I am for political action, However, I am aware of how pernicious and systemic the disease is and how it permeates throughout the society and directs society at every level. Peace – Bill

    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 29, 2014

      Well said Bill. Deep Ecologists / anarchists like Derrick Jensen write about the dysfunction of our social and economic arrangements. He co-wrote a book called “Deep Green Resistance” that has some very provocative essays on these very issues.

      I think that a type of socially engaged Buddhism without the religious trappings is perhaps a good philosophy by which to guide society. David Loy writes about this in his several books on how a socially engaged ‘dharmic’ outlook could serve as the basis of an ecological society. Unfortunately, such alternatives are unlikely to be pursued until the current economic system creates such a mess that it is given up willingly, and by then the damage will be great.

      • Yes, thank you. I am more prone to Taoism as a practice since it is more firmly based in nature and body (although Chan Buddhism followed Taoism and seems to be somewhat divorced from religious trappings). One thing that comes to mind is an old film from the 50s called ‘the Forbidden Planet’. Have you seen it? On this planet are remnants of an advanced civilization including an immense machine which can manifest anything that exists in the users mind. From use of this machine came forward what the film called ‘monsters of the ID’ (this was the 50s, after all!). These invisible monsters destroyed the society, but left in place the machine. Certainly it seems like our machines are simply going to destroy us. .

      • Mark Archambault

         /  March 30, 2014

        Bill, In reply to your question below, no, I haven’t seen “The Forbidden Planet”, but it sounds like a film to look up. Yes, our well ‘oiled’ machines look like they could take us down. We’ll certainly need to give up the most polluting of our technologies if we’re going to stand a chance.

      • Burgundy

         /  March 30, 2014

        Mark, regarding giving up our most polluting technologies. The way I see, that would be like getting a Lion to give up meat, but that’s a choice the Lion doesn’t have. Evolution has shaped the development of the Lion around it’s energy source and equipped it with the physiology to acquire and survive on meat. To make it eat grass lets say, it would have to be redesigned into something more like a wilder beast.

        The same applies to our civilisation, the energy source that it is designed to use cannot simply be exchanged for a different source without radical changes. We cannot use electricity instead of fossil fuels in our current structural format without major and radical alterations to both our technological infrastructure and more importantly the way we use it. The physiology of our civilisation would need to change as drastically as the Lion’s transformation into a wilder beast would be.

        I think what we are going to see in the future is our global civilisation split into two parts; the Core and the Periphery. The Core having access to energy, technology and resources to maintain itself and keep advancing rapidly, whilst the Periphery is essentially abandoned to make its own way with little access to energy and resources. The split between Core and Periphery isn’t geographical, it’s a division within populations.

      • Mark Archambault

         /  March 30, 2014

        In reply to Burgundy,

        For a fantastic fictional treatment of how what you describe could look like as a science fiction dystopia, I highly recommend Margaret Atwood’s series starting with ‘Oryx and Crake’, then ‘Year of the Flood’, and the latest ‘MaddAdam’. I’ve read the first two and will get around to the last in the trilogy soon.

      • Mark Archambault

         /  March 30, 2014

        Burgundy wrote: “I think what we are going to see in the future is our global civilisation split into two parts; the Core and the Periphery. The Core having access to energy, technology and resources to maintain itself and keep advancing rapidly, whilst the Periphery is essentially abandoned to make its own way with little access to energy and resources. The split between Core and Periphery isn’t geographical, it’s a division within populations.”

        It starts off with gated communities, and when the going gets real rough, perhaps the global economic and military elite will retreat into the vast underground facilities that no doubt exist in the US and elsewhere; thinking they can wait out the superstorms that will accompany our transition to a new hot world.

        Why doesn’t someone write a realistic science fiction screenplay about just such a thing, one that’s believable? Though the Margaret Atwood novels I reference are great, and include global warming as an ever present background, there’s enough that’s fanciful to perhaps dull their impact as a literary warning.

      • In reply to Burgundy,

        Burgundy wrote: “I think what we are going to see in the future is our global civilization split into two parts; the Core and the Periphery. The Core having access to energy, technology and resources to maintain itself and keep advancing rapidly, whilst the Periphery is essentially abandoned to make its own way with little access to energy and resources. The split between Core and Periphery isn’t geographical, it’s a division within populations.”

        In the states we have massive and far-flung transportation, water and power infrastructure. This infrastructure needs constant maintenance. The society is dependent on resources outside of its borders and this requires banking systems, a robust container freight system, and a dominant currency. The system has been resilient given how much of human society is invested in it (that is my thought regarding). If events undermine and possibly destroy pieces of this unitary system it will become highly vulnerable to systemic failure because it lacks flexibility in the local arena. Since resources are remote to the end user, such failure will probably impact all players depending on the circumstances.

        The core is dependent on the periphery – the core has become more consumptive. One can argue then that the core will become more aggressive in pursuit of hegemony, but it will be more vulnerable due to an overreach and a hollowing out of the center (I think that is what happened in Rome). With overreach comes rigidity and exposure.

        The massiveness of our systems has protected the US, I think, but it is also a source of vulnerability. If pieces of the overall system fail, the failure may be catastrophic and will impact society at all levels since the physical systems are massive and unitary.

        Anyway, that is my take – Bill

      • Burgundy

         /  April 1, 2014

        Bill, the Core, which lets say is represented by the top 10% (wealth/power wise) of the population, is quickly reaching a point where it can bypass the Periphery. The reason it can do this is the rapid advancement of technology, particularly in the field of automation. Technological progress is advancing exponentially along the lines of Moore’s law, doubling what can be achieved by implementing automation and having profound effects. Essentially making the other 90%, if not redundant, then of less importance to the Core. This can be seen in the spread of part-time working, zero hour contracts and wealth imbalances, the Core’s reliance on the Periphery is waning fast.

        I believe the Core will maintain its technological advancement (which will be electrically based) at the cost of withdrawing resources and support from the Periphery, which will be allowed to fail and collapse. This is how the massive changes are eventually made to head off the existential threat from climate change. The Periphery will be sacrificed in an emergency response to save what can be saved of the Core.

  22. Andy

     /  March 31, 2014

    A fun site I found this morning. I do not agree with their geopolitical future speculation, but a fun jog around some wiki pages where folks are attempting to divine the future.


  23. Mark Archambault

     /  April 2, 2014


    Welcome back from your family wedding. Eagerly awaiting your next articles.

    I have a Kelvin Wave question – how does a Tsunami affect such an underwater wave? Since the kelvin wave is moving east, and the Chilean Tsunami wave is moving in all directions, including west, will the Tsunami dampen the amplitude of the kelvin wave? This may be a stupid question, but given what just happened, I’m wondering.

    • Mark Archambault

       /  April 2, 2014

      To clarify, could a tsunami change any characteristics of the eastward moving Kelvin wave? Could it slow its forward motion? Could it delay its emergence to the surface? Could it weaken it by mixing in cooler waters?

      The kelvin wave is in relatively deep water, and I’m not sure how deep tsunami waves are when they traverse wide expenses of open ocean.

      If anyone has an idea, it might be interesting to consider. Of course, my question reflects my very meager understanding of the physics involved.

      • The Tsunami is a small displacement of the entire water column above the zone of disruption. Usually only about a few feet worth. The wave propagate very rapidly from the initial disruption, reaching speeds of hundreds of miles per hour. The wave is long, covering many miles or tens of miles of width. As the wave approaches shallow water, its front face slows down, allowing wave energy to pile up adding wave height at the approach of shore.

        Because the wave involves much of the water column and because it is a very long wave form, a great degree of churning of shallow waters can be expected to occur along continental shelf zones. The result would be upwelling of bottom water from these zones.

        It is worth noting that there is little research available on how such forces would interact with El Nino or if they would. My opinion is that such interaction would likely be a minimal effect due to the fact that the bulk of the Kelvin wave is far off shore and in waters well removed from coastal zones most affected by a Tsunami.

      • Reports show this particular tsunami was also rather mild…

      • Eastern Equatorial Pacific looking more and more like El Nino.

      • As of the most recent weekly update, March 24, the current Kelvin Wave propagation looked even stronger than that seen on March 19. It looks like we really do have a monster event on our hands right now.

    • Good question…

      My opinion is that the wave would push through without much of a broad impact on overall climate considerations. That said, depending on the origin and depth of the quake, a degree of upwelling from the initial thrust would be expected. In such a case, if such upwelling forces were to emerge, we might see a bit of a surface-ward nudge for the current Kelvin wave.

      That said, the larger forces involved remain weakening and reversing trade wind patterns along with the formation of numerous surface low pressure systems along the equator across the Pacific. We see that now…

      • Mark Archambault

         /  April 2, 2014

        Thanks Robert. And of course today’s political news regarding the 5-4 vote of the Supremes in the McCutcheon v. FEC case: money = speech, meaning more money, more speech; no money, no speech! – a decision which, in my opinion, will make any effective action on behalf of mitigating global warming WITHIN THE SYSTEM all the more difficult, if not impossible. It looks like it’s up to us proles to lead the peaceful revolution to a post-carbon society.

        Sometimes I think’d be a heck of a lot simpler if we just let millionaires, billionaires and large corporations vote. Think of the billions that could be saved in those horrible TV and print ads. Now a bunch of fat cats can meet for an hour in a CO2 filled room and pick the next Emperor, I mean President. Since that’s basically what we have now, how bad can it get? (pretty bad…)

      • Elections in the US are becoming a world war III of high stakes campaign money sloshing around. That said, I’m not sure how effective the shift toward big donors has been for corporate interests. Perhaps they have more influence over the process. But they seem to keep losing when it comes to their babies — the republicans.

        This high profile stuff just hurts them in my view, as it becomes ever-more obvious that the system is heading in the wrong direction that money, in general, needs to be taken out of politics, and that it is conservatives who are driving this change for the worse.

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