Stop The War to Silence Science, End Egregious Cuts To Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Now

Here we stand at the cusp. At the brink. At the precipice of the crisis that will certainly define this century. An extraordinarily dangerous human alteration of the climate that, at its end, could be far more destructive and deadly than any war. A growing and emerging monstrosity created by us. One which, should we continue to feed it, would plunge us into the heart of one of the blackest climatological eras ever experienced on this planet.

We know there is danger. And we have known it for some time due to the clarity and accuracy of our vision. A vision provided to us by a scientific understanding of our world that is the pinnacle of human progress. For if there is one thing that we should be proud of, that we could all share in as a great victory for our race, it would be the knowledge and understanding that we have gained in our long and tempestuous rise from darkness.

Global CO2 levels since 1700

Global temperatures since 1880

(Upper graph: Global CO2 concentrations since 1700. Lower graph: Global temperatures since 1880 as measured at the world’s meteorological stations. Image sources: The Keeling Curve and NASA GISS.)

And yet now, at the brink of crisis, we are at risk of having the new senses provided to us by science, senses we depend upon so much for that knowledge, that vision we need most desperately, begin to fade, to dim, to wink out. For the monitors we use to track the crisis are steadily being de-funded and are at risk of going dark.

Just this past Christmas Eve, Dr. Ralph Keeling, son of the renowned Dr. Charles David Keeling, made a public appeal for increased funding of the critical Mauna Loa Observatory’s CO2 Monitor. The funds, you see, after more than 40 years of cuts to critical scientific research, research often labeled by political opponents to be ‘wasteful government spending,’ were at risk of short-fall. So Dr. Keeling, a scientist in the crucial and much-needed field of atmospheric monitoring, was forced, by the most greedy and heartless among us, who only see the gift beyond price that is human science as a tax burden equivalent to ‘wasteful government spending,’ to pan handle for the continued funding of his, all-too-necessary and growing ever more important with each passing day, mission.

Dr Keeling’s appeal was the very modicum of dignity and candor. And it contained hardly a jot of the outrage which he, and the rest of us, should justifiably feel. Instead, he simply and candidly reminded us of the importance of his ongoing mission:

Friends,

I am writing as the director of the Scripps CO2 and O2 programs, which keep track of how these vital gases are changing in the atmosphere over time.  The CO2 measurements include the iconic Mauna Loa record, now commonly known as the “Keeling Curve”, which was started by my father in the late 1950s.

The O2 measurements, carried out on samples from Mauna Loa and many other stations, also provide critical information about how the planet is changing.  The measurements show that the world’s O2 supply is slowly decreasing, and have helped prove that the CO2 increase is caused by fossil fuel burning, but offset by natural sinks of CO2 in the land and oceans.

The need to continue these measurements has not diminished. The planet is undergoing dramatic changes, unprecedented for millions of years.  This past year, our group reported that CO2 topped 400 parts per million at Mauna Loa for the first time…

The Scripps CO2 and O2 measurements now face severe funding challenges.  The situation is most urgent for the O2 measurements.  These measurements have been supported for decades through proposals submitted every few years to the federal agencies.  The value of these measurements is not questioned, but federal funding for these programs has never been so tenuous.  This is the basis for this unusual to the public at large…

I have struggled throughout my career to cope with [funding challenges], and I will continue the struggle.  The quest for continued federal support will not end.

For now, I ask for your support so that we can keep up these activities and sustain our watch on the planet in this time of unprecedented global change.

Sincerely,

Ralph F. Keeling

(I’ve abbreviated Dr. Keeling’s appeal for this post. That said, I fully urge you to read the entire appeal at his blog The Keeling Curve, to help spread word of his appeal far and wide, and to donate generously.)

Now, as Dr. Keeling knows all too well, 400 ppm CO2 is a big deal. If the world were to remain at this level for an extended period, global temperatures would eventually stabilize between 2-3 degrees hotter than the 20th Century Average. Analysis of the dramatic changes, including a 15-75 foot sea level rise, massive expansion of deserts, a reduced productivity of lands and oceans, and dangerous changes to the world’s weather as it undergoes this temperature transition would put most if not all human civilizations at risk of collapse. Failure to heed this warning and rapidly stabilize and then reduce CO2 levels would risk these and far worse consequences. Yet despite this danger, we are rapidly heading on toward 450, 550, 650 ppm CO2 or more.

NASA has rightly labeled atmospheric CO2 concentration ‘the global thermostat’ and if you want to get a good idea of where the temperature is heading, you need to keep an eye on the thermostat needle. Dr. Keeling’s research gives us that needle. And without the measure his research provides, we are flying blindly into a world of worsening and ever more dangerous weather.

Methane Monitoring Cut as Well

Sadly, Dr. Keeling’s essential monitoring is not the only measure at risk of funding cuts. According to a recent report in Live Science, monitoring of another essential greenhouse gas, methane, has fallen by 25% due to ongoing cuts and is now at serious risk of collapsing. Ed Dlugokencky, an atmospheric chemist with NOAA’s Earth Sciences Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado noted:

“We’ve had about a 25 percent decrease in the number of air samples measured from the global cooperative network. If we want to understand what is happening [with methane], we’re going in the wrong direction to do that.”

While CO2 is the primary driver of current warming, methane is, increasingly, an indicator of one of the worst amplifying feedbacks due to human caused change. Massive volumes of methane lay stored in tundra and on the sea bed. Should these stores, which are sensitive to heating, be released into the atmosphere, they could add substantial additional warming on top of the warming already set in play by CO2 increases.

methane-concentration

(Global Methane Distribution Indicative of Large Arctic Emissions. Image source: NASA)

Recent reports and studies have found evidence of an increasing Arctic emission of methane, one that has possibly exceeded 90 megatons annually. Though not yet catastrophic, this increasing emission is a serious concern and we would be very unwise to stop taking measures of this very volatile and potentially dangerous atmospheric gas.

As is the case with Dr. Keeling, cuts in funding to scientific monitoring of these gases are as egregious as they are short sighted. The scientists and the research efforts they provide go to benefit us all. They work diligently to serve our interest and to give us the best information along with the means to make sound decisions, should we choose to. They are not wealthy and could have probably earned far more using their considerable intellects to game the stock market, for example, or to aid CEOs in determining how best to off shore US jobs to cheap, easily exploitable foreign labor.

There is no tax cut for the top 1 percent, no foreign oil war, no subsidy to the fossil fuel industry that is more important than funding this scientific effort and these selfless public servants who work so diligently on our behalf. So we should do everything necessary — increase taxes on the wealthy, stop fighting wasteful wars, and stop subsidizing dirty and dangerous industries — in order to provide the support needed to continue this vital service to humankind.

And as for those dark political and social forces that, as they did in Canada with the dismemberment, looting, and dissolution of scientific libraries, seek to suppress the accumulation of knowledge about how our world operates and, yes, responds to the harm we’ve inflicted upon it — they should be banished back to the dark ages from which they arose. They have no place here. Not at this time of clear and present danger. They are traitors to human progress, to our civilizations and, ultimately, to the vitality of life on this world. And they should be swept aside lest, one by one, we all, and not just the scientists, be silenced.

Links:

The Keeling Curve

NASA GISS

NASA’s Earth Observatory

NASA: CO2 Acts as Global Thermostat

Live Science

In Book-buring Like Episode, Conservatives in Canada Destroy Scientific Libraries

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

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123 Comments

  1. Thanks again. I reblogged, pinned, tweeted, and scooped your post. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. james cole

     /  February 1, 2014

    In my opinion, monitoring of CO2 and Methane should be taken out of the hands of government, especially the US government. The corporate control of the US government is why these cuts are being made, the huge fossil fuel lobby and money is bribing congress to shut down science in the interest of corporate profits. This means we, I include myself, must find a way to go private, to fund privately the absolutely necessary monitoring of global greenhouse gases. I have to ask scientists to step up and make a business plan for taking the most vital monitoring private. Create an organization headed by several top scientists and bring on board some concerned business people with experience in finance and in non-profits. It might require a foundation that takes contributions from the public. Given a chance to help fund honest and free science, I would give, as would many others.
    I have lost faith in the US Government as an agent of the public good, we all know what games they are playing nowadays, like Obama’s failed attempt to take the country to war in Syria. American is looking for war, not for science. I hope smarter minds than mine see the need to free some science related to global warming from government money and government power. That power is being used to suppress reality. These are just my thoughts, but we have to put up our own money too, if we claim concern for climate disaster. If I knew where to send my check, I would write it tonight, I would pay to keep monitoring going, many people together contributing could thumb their noses at the insane US government, and they are insane, and move ahead. Hopefully we are not so dependent on government that we will all roll over for more conservative republican science trashing! Also, Obama talks a good game, and plays another behind our backs. His capture by fossil fuel industry is nearly complete, fracking is a disaster, yet Obama brags of it.

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    • I’m sorry to say I couldn’t agree less. Hand more power to already bloated and corrupt corporations… I’m thinking it would be much better to get corporations out of government altogether. That and shrink their size and influence.

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    • Governments should fund the science to keep a country safe and indeed the safety of the whole planet as a whole, it should never be a thing for private corporations. What we need is to get private lobbyists out of government and throw out all corrupt politicians who refuse to listen to reason and scientific facts.

      Reply
  3. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil…

    This problem of funding science, like most problems facing mankind, will only get worse. The interests opposed to progress are too strong. They have the resources, infrastructure, and organization to overwhelm any singular movement. Environmentalists will never mitigate global warming by themselves. Labor unions will never reverse the plight of workers on their own. Civil rights advocates will never end bigotry and racism without help. The global war between money and people is coming to an end, and there’s no doubt Gang Green is winning.

    The political left has reached an impasse, and can no longer afford to be so fragmented. If the specter of climate change is to be averted in time, it will be done so through a unified populist movement of opposition. That’s the only way to impel an entrenched status quo, and the clock is ticking…

    Reply
    • mikkel

       /  February 1, 2014

      Basic science research has hit a stand still and will soon rapidly regress. It used to be that NIH grants (which are the most ubiquitous so are about the best case scenario) would have 6-8 recipients out of 40-60 applicants. When I was working it fell to 4-5 out of 80-100. Last I heard, it was 1-2 out of 120+. Many people are wondering why they even both to put in the application any more.

      While entrenched PIs can still eventually get funding even now, new investigators and especially those in the prime of their career are getting shut out almost completely. Since almost all new ideas come from young blood who then spend the rest of their career attempting to work out the details, this means that the fields are rapidly becoming stagnant.

      Like you, I suspect the problem will get much worse. While funding problems in many fields aren’t made on a deliberate external political level (institutional politicism is an issue as well as status quo supportive goals) I can’t see anything but politics in the decision to cut funding to Keeling and similar projects. They are the epitome of institutionality that would get automatic funding otherwise.

      I also agree with you about the way forward. A huge percentage of the planet’s brightest and most ethical people are caught inside the dying machine of the Science Industry. They are only allowed to work on problems that are either intractable or are actively making things worse, and only allowed to do so in very narrow ways. Even after following the rules, they are increasingly finding their life’s work destroyed in an instant due to a bureaucratic stroke of a pen.

      I strongly believe that most Scientists should quit and work on contributing their insight to populist causes. History shows that populism requires scientists and engineers to join in order to move from fringe theory into a concrete alternative.

      Jason Box seems like he may be pushed in this direction. I hope that Keeling speaks with him about how he crowd sourced his project.

      Reply
      • Burgundy

         /  February 1, 2014

        “I strongly believe that most Scientists should quit and work on contributing their insight to populist causes.”

        Yes, the game is over. The 20th Century has passed and the civilisation it spawned is dying, its institutions decaying, its nation states crumbling and its society dispersed into a myriad of cults. It surprises me how many still believe that there is the will, a way, the money and the energy to repair and make it all work again as before. When it cannot even maintain and keep functioning what is left.

        Our Global Civilisation is exhausted, weakened by unsustainable growth, struggling with resource constraints and over population. The political system has become corrupt and psychotic, obsessed with ghosts and phantoms, unable to make contact with reality and the financial system has become a cargo cult. So there’s no point looking to the rudderless ship with its catatonic crew to save us from the growing storm of climate change.

        There is no “Deus ex Machina” going to suddenly pluck us from a fate which has now become predetermined by a 30 year lag between emissions and climate reaction. We cannot do absolutely nothing as individuals and still expect “Something” to intercede on our behalf and save our skin. We have to take action ourselves, as individuals and as communities of like minded individuals. Although we cannot save the World, we can at least have the opportunity to save that which is within our control to save. Scientists would be of tremendous help in such a scenario.

        The infrastructure of civilisation is going to be battered and pummelled by climate change until it fails catastrophically and everything else will come down with it. There is no global plan B, so as individuals we had better have our own plan B in place when it happens.

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      • mikkel and Burgundy, thank you so much for those insights. I am relieved to see that others appreciate the gravity of the situation which confronts us, and understand what’s required to address it. Maybe there’s a ray of sunshine on the horizon.

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      • @Burgundy,
        As much as I agree with you, I don’t think individual survivalism will work, especially in the long run. If humanity can’t get it’s act together and work collectively, then we all die. It’s as simple as that.

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      • Burgundy

         /  February 1, 2014

        @xray
        I’m level five on the Kübler-Ross model (ie. acceptance). Humanity isn’t going to get its act together, there’s nothing to even hint it is trying. Even if we reduced our emissions to zero tomorrow, the climate would continue warming for 30 or 40 years to plus 2-3°c. And that doesn’t allow for any positive feedbacks like methane. But near term we’ve got even bigger problems as the Arctic warms and destabilises our local climate and weather systems. We don’t even have 30 years before most of us will face severe impacts, possibly existential, more like 7 to 15 years if we’re lucky.

        Individual survivalism will obviously fail, it hardly even works in minor catastrophes let alone a global one. No, I doubt we can even live in harmony with nature as it will be trying to kill us at every turn. I was thinking more along the lines of making our own choices of how we live instead of civilisation making them for us. Doing what we think is right and makes us happy without conforming to some economic model that disassociates us from our own humanity. Do things as they should have been done to start with. What is there to lose? Most of humanity isn’t even going to make to retirement.

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        • Now this is thinking I like. With the added caveat of pointing out what’s making the problem worse and calling for responsible action from our fellows and even the failing system. It’s worth noting that the system hasn’t even responded cohesively yet. Bickering and petty rivalries still hold sway. Maybe humans are incapable of working together well on such a large scale and in the face of such broad challenges. But I think we would be remiss if we didn’t try, especially those of us who are sensitive to the problem.

      • @Burgundy
        We’re on the same page. Strike up the Geoengineering schemes.

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      • Failure to public ally support scientists and critical science is yet on more great leap backward we can lay at the feet of our conservative ‘friends.’

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      • Burgundy

         /  February 1, 2014

        @xray
        What, no smiley🙂

        As we’ve already passed a threshold into a climate phase transition, I’m not sure adding to the chaos with geoengineering will actually help. Even small changes made to a system under such circumstances could cause wildly differing and unpredictable outcomes.

        Reply
        • If we stop emissions, there may be a way out of an impossible situation. The bad situation is now probably a given.

          Geoengineering now is a false hope as it doesn’t address the root problem and results in more of the kinds of harmful externalities we don’t want.

      • Burgundy

         /  February 1, 2014

        Robert, if we have triggered systemic positive feedbacks, then what happens to the climate may no longer be in our hands. Removing the catalyst at this stage may just slow down the reaction temporarily, but given the lag in CO2 forcing, we are still going to take the full initial impact.

        Agreed that reducing emissions drastically now may save the planet from a Venus like future to something where some life supporting ecosystem may still be possible. But to do that would take a David Holmgren style financial crash to essentially bring civilisation to an abrupt stop. That kind of leaves us between a rock and a hard place. Either way, I think the only viable choice for the individual is to go with plan B and make plans that don’t depend upon the powers that be saving us. If they somehow do, all the better.

        Reply
        • The peak in systemic positive feedbacks is based on the initial forcing (total human emissions). So if we reduce that forcing, we reduce the intensity of what’s coming down the pipe.

          There is a difference between amplifying feedbacks (and related) that peak long term and a runaway. We are in a situation where the amplifying feedbacks are starting and will, likely, result in continued warming for decades to centuries in the range of 2-3 C additional long-term if CO2 emissions are cut to zero soon (without other mitigation — atmospheric carbon capture etc). It is worth noting that lower climate sensitivity models only show about 1 C of additional warming under a cold-turkey emissions scenario (these are the models that the 2 C limit is based on). My opinion is that the feedbacks in place probably put us at 2-3 C long term rather than what those more optimistic models are showing. That said, it’s not pre-determined climate doomsday yet.

          There is no evidence that we have yet triggered a runaway. That’s an entirely different ball of wax. There is risk of a mini runaway starting at around 550 ppm initial forcing (low to medium and resulting from high climate sensitivity) and ramping up through 1000 ppm (certain). And that brings us into the range of PETM, Permian and other hothouse warming events.

          The 2-3 C warming that is probably already locked in now is a bad consequence, but it is not an unsurvivable consequence. And if we were really serious about reducing that warming we would begin changing land use practices, begin long term planning for atmospheric carbon capture, and begin long term planning for surface albedo management AFTER we got GHG to zero emissions. So it is still possible, IF we work together, and if we have a plan and if we manage to remove the destructive fossil fuel related technologies, and if we change the way we do agriculture, and if we reduce our global meat consumption … (among a number of other things) see Growth Shock…
          to pass through the crisis and survive with civilizations in tact.

          Now does this mean that we will have civilizations that operate as they do now? Absolutely not.

      • Burgundy

         /  February 1, 2014

        Agreed, but there is that 30 to 40 year lag in the forcing, sufficient to amplify the feedbacks if they have in fact been triggered. We’re in the dark until sufficient data is available to indicate whether the feedbacks are growing exponentially or not.

        Trouble is that once we cross the climate change threshold we’re essentially flying blind in a world that’s become predictably unpredictable. It doesn’t help matters when our own governments blind us further by actually removing the sensors we depend upon to fly.

        Reply
        • We have good model data that cannot entirely be discounted. It’s just that the models tend to miss a bit now and then. My view is they’ve probably captured the broad picture very well, but, as with sea ice, are a bit under the overall sensitivity mark.

          Looking at paleoclimate, past large pulses in ghg to the levels we currently have did not result in a mini runaway (the exponential increases you’re talking about). So using that oracle, I think, we get a clearer picture.

          We can, therefore, make predictions with some accuracy. Not perfect accuracy, but ball-park accuracy. And I am completely uncomfortable with making the prediction that we’ve consigned ourselves to inevitable human demise now.

          That said, we are beginning to see very disturbing evidence that a very bad climate scenario is now beginning. Whether we survive it, in my view, will depend wholly on our ability to rapidly reduce ghg emissions, and to work together afterward to maintain stable civilizations, to reduce populations and certain forms of consumption rationally (sustainability), and to provide further mitigations (beyond ghg reduction to near zero) that do not create harmful externalities (strat ozone depletion etc).

          So yes, there is a hard, real hope (not hopium), should we choose to grasp it.

      • “… we are beginning to see very disturbing evidence that a very bad climate scenario is now beginning. Whether we survive it, in my view, will depend wholly on our ability to rapidly reduce ghg emissions, and to work together afterward to maintain stable civilizations, to reduce populations and certain forms of consumption rationally (sustainability), and to provide further mitigations (beyond ghg reduction to near zero) that do not create harmful externalities (strat ozone depletion etc).”

        That answers the question of WHAT to do. The question of HOW to do that remains unanswered. Given the current socioeconomic environment where political power rests primarily with self-serving corporate interests, those committed to solving the climate problem must start thinking outside the box.

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        • I am thinking overthrow…

        • Direct nonviolent overthrow of existing order. These political and economic systems, though they are powerful, possess a number of growing weaknesses. As climate change ramps up and as more people become impacted and/or jettisoned from the existing system there will be numerous opportunities for positive action. We must take these actions and not see our plight as hopeless. For there really is no rational alternative other than giving up altogether and doing nothing. Mikkel has made a number of broad based suggestions for organizing and funding a counter civilization. This suggestion has merit and I’m not closed to it. But in and of itself it does not provide the kind of visibility that would draw a high degree of support or even make itself broadly known. Direct action creates it’s own visibility while inviting people to make a choice. Direct action goes directly to those capable of making these decisions and provides them with options to do so.

          So, yes, nonviolent direct action that confronts failing systems head on and at the same time provides it’s proponents with multiple levels of means to solve the crisis: individual, economic, political, confrontational, social.

          The bones of effective revolution, as it were. A cadre of GOtG.

      • mikkel

         /  February 2, 2014

        I agree with Robert. 2-3C is baked in but the worst impacts will still be primarily social instead of nature making it impossible. That changes with another 40 years of BAU of course.

        Geoengineering is a terrible idea because almost all the methods have very short effective times with unknown saturation. I’m about 20% into writing a realistic fantasy (written as fantasy but all ‘magic’ and other aspects are completely plausible using scientific principles and appropriate technology) about life after civilization crash and in that I hypothesize about the effects of mass atmospheric sulfur injection. Basically it creates regional years without summer as the sulfur condenses due to trade winds, violent storms brew from immense insolation differences and then whipsaw into huge heat waves as the sulfur precipitates back out of the atmosphere. Of course that sulfur falls as acid rain and kills plant life.

        These conjectures arise from historical accounts of large volcanic eruptions.

        From a control perspective, trying to create a massive negative feedback is asking for trouble. This is captured in Donella Meadows guidelines about system leverage points (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_leverage_points)

        “A positive feedback loop speeds up a process. Meadows indicates that in most cases, it is preferable to slow down a positive loop, rather than speeding up a negative one.”

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        • Ah. Great link there and a good read. Love Meadows.

          Your work sounds excellent. Please let me know when you’re through so I can read and write a review.

          Just one more thing RE sulfur dioxide — it takes down the ozone layer as well.

      • mikkel

         /  February 2, 2014

        “Mikkel has made a number of broad based suggestions for organizing and funding a counter civilization. This suggestion has merit and I’m not closed to it. But in and of itself it does not provide the kind of visibility that would draw a high degree of support or even make itself broadly known. Direct action creates it’s own visibility while inviting people to make a choice. ”

        To be fair, I am explicitly advocating that the organizing and funding occur within the context of action and solution providing. It is not a traditional revolution in the sense of needing to get system decision power before acting at all, but is a process of evolution centered around every day life.

        Per the leverage point link above, it’s solidly #1 in intent, by recognizing value in multiple paradigms and synthesizing them around the goal of collective organization but fractal implementation. Then the rest of the points evolve into place through action.

        This is significantly different than the typical paradigm shift that occurs after immense argument about mapping out every single detail of the new paradigm, which is often accompanied by internal power struggle.

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      • Just for the record, I was being facetious when I mentioned firing up the geoengineering schemes. I’ve written numerous blog posts on the insanity of applying manmade technological fixes to global systems of nature. Nonetheless, this is exactly what industrial civilization will do and has done.

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  4. I can’t believe that of all things to cut funding on, they’re cutting science research meant to monitor and save this planet!

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  5. According to the world’s longest-running weather station, the Radcliffe Meteorological Station at Oxford University, more rain fell there in January than during any winter month since daily recording started in 1767. Total rainfall last month was around 5.8 inches, more than three times the average.
    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/02/01/3237251/flooding-severe-alert/

    I post this because nothing says science , like people measuring rainfall for 247 years.

    Reply
  6. Back to starfish –
    Thousands of starfish beached on South Padre

    http://www.ksla.com/story/24609188/thousands-of-starfish-beached-on-south-padre

    Reply
  7. This was recorded this week –
    A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke, 1963

    Reply
  8. Exactly!

    You must have been listening to the same NPR program.

    As I when to buy more beer. . On my car radio.

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    • Now that sounds like a good plan on a Saturday night, my friend.

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      • I know lots of deep thinkers. You might take the cake. I’m a deep thinker too. Anything I can do to help.

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        • You’ve already helped loads. Your posts here and keen insight have given me the opportunity to write and respond more rapidly. So I’m very, very appreciative.

          We come from a world where it is expected not to ask much of people. So it is hard for me to ask. But there will come a time, soon, when both you and I and anyone who can see what is happening will have to make the hard demands, of themselves and others. I am preparing myself for that time.

          In the meantime, I feel it is entirely rational and compassionate for us to ask the best off among us to give up their wealth to help the poor, the homeless, and those who have fallen into the path of the ravages of climate change. To ask them to spend it to heal this world and to prevent as much of the harm as is possible. To ask them to open their hearts to the creatures of this world and to hear their plight.

          To ask the companies that cause the harm to shutter their doors. To learn new ways of doing business that do no harm.

          To ask the meat eaters to stop. To ask the gas and oil consumers to stop. To ask the coal consumers to stop. To find food and fuel in plants and in the wind and the sun. To love thy neighbor, yes, but also to love thy Earth. To, if you see someone in trouble, help. To, if you see a creature in trouble, help. To if you see a living thing in trouble, help.

          To, if you are a leader, be a leader for the interests of people and of living things and of our Earth, not a leader for the interests of deadly money. To fight the hard battles that you know in your heart are the right ones and not be seduced to the easier path. The one that leads to ruin. To sacrifice the sacred cows of the special interests and not to worry about the future. For if you do not, there will be no future. To listen to and elevate the voices of the lowly, the needy and the voiceless. To consider yourself a representative for birds and beasts and plants. To listen to the lobby of the emperors seas and of the steadily dying seasons.

          To live your life out of love for others and for our precious world. To give up all other things, all wealth, all power, all gold, all comfort to do this.

          This should be our new morality. For it is necessary to preserve the precious life of our world. This I ask of myself and of anyone who would hear it.

          But you already knew this, I think.

      • Find a nice place to hide . Kiss your family on the forehead. Say goodbye.

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      • Burgundy

         /  February 2, 2014

        Robert, I think this cartoon at Seemorerocks sums up the problem succinctly: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-tCFIh2lpmXI/Uu1iPSieeNI/AAAAAAABJMI/bIcnmwqxneU/s1600/lies.jpg

        Reply
  9. There is no place to hide . If the history of the Earth teaches one thing …………… There is no place to hide.

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    • Exactly. There is no good place to hide.

      Those who are able to move and act have the best chances. So we should move and act now, while there is still opportunity.

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    • Temperature anomaly for the entire Arctic today is +13 F. Been watching for the past few days, just keeps going higher.

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      • Arctic ice extent is actually in decline right now, although I am sure its just a bump in its last month of refreeze. Would have been rather disastrous if this marked the end of the freeze season – 1 month too early. Watching that extent daily now to see how this year turns out. No doubt the current heat anomaly is taking its toll on the extent right now, priming the ice for a rapid decline when the melting starts again in full.

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    • But there may well be places to stand and fight, for those who dare to try – that single criteria alone sufficient to rule out the vast majority of westerners I ever knew.

      What I will say though is – it is not good enough to try to survive. It is not good enough to try to save your family and look after them. Those impulses motivated people to this point – and while seemingly superficially noble – they got us into this mess – this short term outlook.

      What must be done (my view) is that you consider the very long term as a key factor. Do not just consider how many years of baked beans you can store in your bunker, or how many bullets you need to defend yourself – but ask yourself – how will your great-great-great-grandchildren grandchildren live? What legacy are you leaving them? What will they be doing when all your bullets are fired, your cans empty – and your knives, hammers and equipment broken, rusted or worn out?

      Trying to plan for the collapse of civilisation is not anywhere near the same as trying to plan for a limited duration catastrophe (even a nuclear winter). It demands a very different outlook on things – while one cannot ignore the short term needs of survival, those things must be borne in mind for the sake of your descendents and for the sake of humanity. Far too many who think they prepare do not comprehend the demands the situation makes and squander their efforts on themselves, as our parents did in leading us to this impasse.

      Reply
      • ccgwebmaster: what I keep getting back to is that everyone in a position to do so should tend to natural communities, including ones we shape ourselves in order to eat. It’s better than nothing at all, and it would help in a variety of ways.

        Fuel is more complicated.

        Reply
        • Just complicated by political/business resistance and the human impulse to burn things.

        • “Just complicated by political/business resistance and the human impulse to burn things.”

          I live in this huge karst region. The first time I got into an interesting cave, I thought “I could live here.”

      • Burgundy

         /  February 2, 2014

        My own view is that we must act as individuals to create a new type of economy, that not only provides for our survival, but also removes as much of the damage the existing economy produces. This cannot be done by convincing everyone to act in unison as one single mass body, its never worked before and won’t now.

        Those of us who see what is happening are the ones that need to act, not the stubborn asses who refuse to change. It really is useless appealing to them to save us. It is us that need to find a new way to live (not protest our dire circumstances), one that will increasingly become acceptable and appealing to the wider populace. It must provide a way to survive that is both appealing and practical to the point that it becomes a better alternative to continuing on in the failing global economic system.

        The downside is that we need a critical mass to kick start the new economy. I believe that critical mass is there, but it’s widely disbursed around the globe. So the first step is connecting these people together in some form of economy that allows them to survive and prosper. A new form of trade. Obviously passing physical goods around using an agreed upon transaction system isn’t a practical answer, we would need something a lot more sophisticated. And I believe everything that is needed to do it is available to us today, the knowledge, the tools, the technology, it just needs to be organised into a cohesive decentralised economic system.

        Reply
  10. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 2, 2014

    Colorado Bob is right.
    Guy McPherson’s site has been blank all day.
    Moving away from concentrated population centers may give some temporary protection.
    We are doomed, & there is no way out.
    We are all in hospice now.

    Reply
  11. Jonathan Richards

     /  February 2, 2014

    “brink of crisis”? Really? It’s it very obvious that we are far past the brink already? And that there is zero possibility of any kind that we will avoid catastrophic climate change? And that the entire human race will actually soon go extinct, along with nearly all other lifeforms in the biosphere? How can there actually even be any doubt to the above points? It’s not like we can replace all the missing ice by geoengineering, or restore the jet stream to it’s formally “normal” patterns. Human civilization will now decline, catastrophically as we struggle to feed ourselves in a world incompatible with agriculture.

    We’re going to starve long before other effects kill us, but as this site and others have documented, we cannot survive the wet-bulb temperatures heading our way, nor can any other mammal.

    “here is no evidence that we have yet triggered a runaway.” Do you really believe that?

    Escalating methane release is ample evidence, and that’s just one trigger. Constantly rising temperatures, dramatic declines in Arctic ice (over 50% loss) are other triggers. Amazon forests now releasing more carbon they they can absorb, rising acidity in the world’s oceans and inability to absorb more carbon, rising sea level – how many triggers would convince you that your claim is simply false?

    We’re never going ot put this genie back into the bottle – despite the constant claims of hopium being endlessly submitted to the world’s media.

    Meanwhile, we’re still being force-fed the bogus “2C” limit – which was selected by an economist! The real rate of warming already experienced is 1.5C and rising (versus the claimed .85C), but even if the latter were factually true, the damage this is causing worldwide is evidence that we have failed, and we cannot recover by any means now. You cannot replace all the missing ice, period. End of story.

    We are “locked in” to a far higher warming then you realize (4C – 6C minimum) with even higher tempertures likely as escalating positive feedbacks continue to warm the planet. We cannot survive even 2C – go back and read ALL the evidence on this point (it causes widespread crop failures – civilization still collapses and oceans continue to overheat, food then becomes quite iffy for 7 billion).

    If we shut down ALL of global civilization now, and I mean ALL of it (no industry, no business, no travel, no carbon burned) – we’re STILL cooked. Aerosols are preventing at least another 2C from happening right now – so stopping civilization will actually make it worse in mere weeks. So we continue – with 100% absolute certainty that all we’re doing now is buying humanity just a little time (maybe ten years) with our civilization while spinning the facts about how unstoppable and irreversible this all is now.

    We’re dead. Every last single one of us. You and I may not die of starvation, but our children certainly will. No underground city will be able to produce enough food long enough to prevent human extinction. This, like every other technofix – is a pipe dream. Read up on the biosphere projects and you will begin to understand why.

    We are now (January 2014 – so there can be no mistake) on the verge of experience truly catastrophic changes – some of which will occur this year. Once the sea ice is gone (12 – 24 months) expect stupendous climatic effects to ruin all of our “plans” to mitigate, “escape” or survive.

    Everyone needs to understand just how misled we are by those who have not done the research and investigation into these topics.

    Reply
    • You’re confusing amplifying feedbacks with a runaway. And we’re in the feedback stage now.

      The methane release we are seeing now is enough to add some extra warming, not push the climate into immediate runaway. Even when added to the other feedbacks, it appears the result in about to 2-3 C warming long term.

      The loss of carbon sinks we are beginning to see means CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere faster as we release it. So it makes our situation worse. But that, in itself,
      is not a runaway.

      The Climate bodies recommend staying below 2 C because that’s the threshold for hard to manage change. The threshold at which civilizations probably couldn’t survive without extraordinary action is probably closer to 4 C.

      The summer sea ice COULD be gone in 6 to 18 months. But I’m putting that as a low probability event: 15 percent this year, 20 percent next (subject to revision as conditions arise.

      Even so, it will take decades for all the ice to go as the Arctic continues to warm and various other feedbacks kick in.

      Food production will face serious challenges. But there’s quite a bit if fight still in the system and numerous very creative practices that appear to be emerging. So saying with certainty that all of ag is going down so soon is a stretch. Will there be major shocks? And is there a potential for shortages? Absolutely. But is it a foregone conclusion that we all starve at 2 C? No.

      Is the weather bad now? Yes. Is the weather getting worse? Yes. Does this mean very stark difficulties for human societies? Absolutely. And will a cold turkey ghg cessation still probably see the worst weather since the end of the last ice age? Probably. But humans survived that and we could, probably, with difficulty, survive that too.

      So yes, there are those like you who use my analysis to say there is no hope now and there is nothing that can be done. And those, like you, who jump to this conclusion have misread my work and twisted it to their own devices. The work, instead, is meant as a warning that if there is no action now, then within a decade or two’s time there may well be little hope for human civilizations and if the damage continues for very long past mid century extinction may well be in the cards.

      These are my views and analysis based on my knowledge and methodology as an emerging threats expert. It is my role to identify threats that may be existential and to guide civilizations to effectively confront them.

      Now, is it possible that I am wrong? That the world will warm by 5 C in one decade. That all the ice will be gone by 2015 and all the humans dead by 2050? I suppose that’s possible in the absolute worst if worlds. But I have yet to see any science that supports such a rapidly accelerated scenario.

      Does this mean everything is fine? Absolutely not. But there is no more urgent call to action than now.

      Reply
      • Robert: if weather is going to be random, agriculture will have to be random too. Meaning a lot less centralized and more accepting of it being a gamble.

        And yes, a lot more creative. We fool around with a lot of inedible greenery, that will change. One of the best parts will be seeing all the lawns and golf courses converted into something more interesting. I expect food prices to drive this.

        Reply
        • Oh absolutely. People will probably try to farm in yards and on rooftops. Indoors and underground too. It will make the oil industry’s maneuvering to master peak conventional oil look tame by comparison. By contrast, these will probably be positive innovations, not regressive ones.

        • Robert: I think a lot of farmers who are laughed at by many are going to find themselves in big demand relatively soon.

          It’s striking that chickens cost about a buck fifty a pound and much produce twice that, of late.

          I have grocery store management experience, on a small scale, so I have a sense of how things go with spoilage. But these numbers are still really interesting. And it’s not like a lot of meat doesn’t get tossed.

          At least with produce you have a better idea of what you’re eating. And if it starts running $10 a pound, homegrown will be looking mighty attractive.

          Also I think humans are going to become increasingly migratory in this sense. It would be good if there was enough for them to eat when they showed up.

          The way to handle this via government would be universal crop insurance and universal upscale horticultural instruction. The big metropolises, I dunno.

          I left Los Angeles in 1995, finally, because of exactly the sort of thing that’s coming down the pike. Though I was thinking earthquakes at the time. Imagine, they could have a huge drought *and* a huge earthquake in SF, and 30 million people or so in SoCal. Way too fragile. Just nuts.

        • I think if any place is well equipped to deal with crisis, it’s Cali. The location is rough, but the people there are imaginative, inventive, and forward looking. They will come up with some crazy adaptations through all this, I bet.

          The big metros will probably go rooftop and hydroponic if things get really rough. Those landscapers will be food service folk too. I bet you’d end up with much greater varieties of plants. And big ag would have huge troubles with its traditional business model.

        • Robert: agreed about Californians, but they’re going to have to knock off this business of storing water aboveground.

        • They don’t have underground storage yet? They’re slacking.

        • Oh, they have underground storage. I think they just kind of forgot about that part.

        • So they’re not using it? Definitely slacking.

      • I think the probability of an ice free summer in the Arctic rises a lot more than 5% from this year to next – assuming you place any credibility with the PIOMAS extrapolations. This year might well only be 15-25% – but I’d put next year at 45-55%. You could probably work it out properly if you took the PIOMAS data and the Wipneus graph error bars (or your own, for that matter)…

        I also think people (especially those with no direct experience of growing food) are oddly optimistic about the ability of agriculture to function in a world running conditions not seen for over 30 million years (per recent research using sediment deposition from ice)? We’re flying into a black hole in terms of what we know and understand – we can be optimistic – but the last few years suggest one should expect to be disappointed.

        I often do a little simple mental exercise. I think back to when I started to pay real attention – and ask myself – how many things have become known or changed since then? This helps me to avoid normalising the current state of play and to remind myself how fast things are moving and how much has already changed. In slightly over 6 years I have moved from being a young man in his 20s starting a career and wondering how to afford a house to a lunatic in my 30s not really expecting to live to see 50… strange to envy your parents the simple fact of their existence at an age older than you expect to see.

        Reply
        • ccgwebmaster: being someone who is especially sophisticated about growing food is going to be a very good idea during whatever this transition turns into. Because otherwise you get to be the food. So to speak.

          Also, the cognitive dissonance of envying the old and pitying the young is truly crazy-making. I’m 56. I’ve been watching this play out all my life, since I was around seven and my father told me about the dangers of human overpopulation.

          His advice was that smart people should have lots of kids, because otherwise stupid people would take over.

          I wince at that, but I get his point. He died recently.

        • Curve fitting isn’t the only variable…

      • mikkel

         /  February 2, 2014

        People of course talk about how much more energy open water absorbs than ice, but it’s often presented as an albedo change. I recently decided to look up the heat of fusion for water and was astonished to find it was 80 calories/gram…meaning that the same amount of energy needed to melt 1 gram of ice will warm the water from 0C to 80C.

        This is truly mind boggling. Do you know of any papers that have begun to look at what will happen when the ice has melted completely (or nearly)?

        Reply
    • @Jonathon – You know, I broadly agree with your analysis, though I would quibble about the degree to which you ascribe the aerosol effect – it’s significant, but not to my knowledge good for as much as 2C alone (another rapid 1C, certainly).

      What I do not agree with is defeatism. People who assume upon defeat assure it. There is no faster way to lose a fight than to assume it cannot be won. I grew up on the margins of a western society and I had to fight (in some manner) for virtually every damn thing I ever had in life. To me – this is just more of the same – another fight, but this time I can fight for more – I can fight for the future instead of just myself.

      If you truly believe such catastrophic things are coming in the pipeline (and I think it is possible, while we cannot know precisely what the future holds), then you have identified the problem. The next step is simple – work on an answer to the problem… and that is a better message than defeatism, isn’t it?

      Reply
  12. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 2, 2014

    This simple wisdom helped me.

    A palliative nurse has recorded the top five regrets of the dying.
    There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps.

    A palliative nurse who has counseled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.

    Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives.

    She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

    Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

    Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

    1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
    “This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

    2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
    “This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

    3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
    “Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

    4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
    “Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

    5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
    “This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

    What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?

    Reply
    • mikkel

       /  February 4, 2014

      When I talk about recognizing that we’re already dead, this is exactly what I mean. I came to understand that letting go of attachment about the future would allow me to accept these thoughts and live differently.

      That said, it is difficult to figure out how to actually go about it.

      Reply
  13. Robert –
    We lost this battle 50 years ago when the beach boys released ” I get Around” …………

    Reply
    • Colorado Bob: I tried to befriend one of my neighbors awhile back. One of the things she wanted to do was go to Roswell, apparently entirely for the sake of having a captive audience for three hours.

      While I have in the past appreciated the appeal of aimlessly driving around in pickup trucks, it’s kind of a deal-breaker for me these days.

      Reply
      • Miep –
        Robert H. Goddard’s rocket experiments are in there. ( Roswell) He paved the way to Moon . And Hitler’s attack on London. It’s one of the most important spots in human history.

        And they have a great museum to support it.

        Reply
        • CB: New Mexico is full of fascinating stuff. It is also full of people who want to drive around aimlessly.

        • Someone should do a strange indie film with Bill Murray in it with just such a plot.

        • Robert: well, it’s more a Texas thing, but Texas is just so USAian.

          Driving to Roswell to check out the museum isn’t aimless. Driving out into the mountains to traipse around in the wilderness isn’t aimless.

          But humans around here have made an entire culture based around aimlessness. And not in a good way.

        • Is that what big sky does to some people? Have to admit. I do enjoy a bit of star gazing.

        • Robert: Big Sky is Montana. The air quality is usually good in Carlsbad, except sometimes one can inhale the smell of money in the morning…ick.

          It’s only sixteen square miles proper, so it doesn’t take too long to get out. And there is tons of public land to the west.

        • So why the aimless driving? Nothing to do? No one to see? Not a care in the world?

          Or just looking for they don’t know what?

          Sounds like nice land, though. Bet the sky is bigger than Maryland at least😉

        • “So why the aimless driving? Nothing to do? No one to see? Not a care in the world?

          Or just looking for they don’t know what?

          Sounds like nice land, though. Bet the sky is bigger than Maryland at least ;)?”

          Looking for love in all the wrong places. The light is famous and the sky full of interesting-looking weather formations. I never lived anywhere I could see it rain from a distance, or see verga, before.

          Now if all these miners would just go away we’d be in business.

        • Ah. Wandering stalkers. That’s worse than annoying.

    • There is no song about dead, and dying star fish.

      Reply
    • Back before I was born?

      Wow. No reason to hate my parents, I suppose. They didn’t know😉

      My sis and I used to dance to this song when we were kinds. Had a blast.

      In any case, the damn iPhone turns all my ofs into ifs.

      Reply
  14. If we want to change the world , we have to overcome a 50 year old song. They are still making TV shows based on this song.

    Reply
    • CB: If we want to change the world, we have to popularize a different way to increase social status than driving around aimlessly in cars? Yes.

      Reply
    • Well, you could try the dead starfish song.

      I did like your Titanic/2008 crash song. Brilliant. That was you, wasn’t it?

      Reply
      • Haiku For Starfish

        Well here we all are
        Decomposing suddenly
        What did you expect?

        Drifting up beaches
        “How odd!” you tell our corpses
        Then back to business.

        All things considered
        This is a dreadful way to
        Get to know neighbors.

        Reply
        • I’m wondering if they crawled up out of the ocean to find their final resting place ashore or if they simply washed up there?

        • Robert: that was my immediate thought. Like the octopi.

          All this talk about radiation from Fukushima is unfortunately masking issues about anoxia.

        • I’ve read many of these articles and not one has nailed down cause. I’m thinking about calling some of the west coast universities to see if they have a decent theory at least. Getting some good info with my h2s digging. Not easy, though.

        • My mom lives in coastal north WA state and is very interested in the die-offs. I’ve sent her links I got to via you and CB and she appreciated and reblogged one of them.

          I really appreciate your and CB’s work.

        • Thanks. I know a lot of Marine biology and oceanography types. So getting in touch with people for sources is pretty natural. And Bob has a talent for staying on the ball.

  15. Miep –
    Go to Roswell , and visit their museum . they have Robert H. Goddhard’s rocket junk.
    No Robert Goddard., no Nazi attacks on London, no trip to the Moon , no trip to Mars.

    Reply
    • CB: I never learned to drive, and my helicopter is in the shop.

      Reply
      • Hello badass.

        Went on quite a few rides with the doors off in an old Huey back in FL when I still served. The seats were so small it looked and felt like you were floating.

        Reply
        • Robert: I’ve been in a helicopter, but not flown one. That’s kind of an internal stock answer I’ve worked up for when people ask me why I don’t go places. Which neither of you did, of course. I just couldn’t resist.

        • Well, I was just having too much fun going along with.

          So, since the hint, so obvious even a man would notice, has been dropped, why not?

        • lol. I’m a little social cue challenged. It doesn’t have to do with your being a man.

          I never learned to drive because I like bicycling, I’m very good at it – “Cars are coffins!” and because cars are mobile money pits and I think we should have ten people to one car and share the expenses, but people think we should everybody have their own, which is nuts. So I’m on car strike for life, likely.

          Unfortunately this keeps me from living in the forest. Which I would prefer.

          Thanks for asking.

        • Ah. That’s a good bit of morality to have. 10 people to a car would definitely buy us some time.

          I’m at the one car per household phase. The hybrid/electric and the solar panels.

          My swear off is meat. Definitely healthy. But if I added the bike it would be even better.

        • You’re doing good! And leaving me feeling embarrassed about my electricity source. We’re mostly coal here.

          If you’re not used to bicycles, be careful. A bicycle is like an extension of my body. But I’m thinking I should maybe get a three-wheeler, becaus one’s balance starts to go with age.

          Bicycling is a complex art, especially when dealing with traffic. I have road paths I follow and timing constraints, because they won’t see you. Even if you’re lit up, you never know. Driving is apparently hypnotic.

    • My bet is… No sustainable human civilization, no trip to Mars.

      Reply
  16. Also, civilization is overrated. We could dump the whole thing and create a bio-centric culture and knock off all this mining. Eventually.

    Reply
  17. Hi Robert et al,

    Please forgive that I have not yet finished reading the post before posting here, and have barely had time to scan comments. I’m extremely busy with the above professional endeavors – required to pay rent and buy food – and am prepping for my next move in the midst of a major renovation of the house I’m living in, causing massive disruption to my efforts. I’m also giving an important public lecture about abrupt climate change on Thursday evening in Rockland, ME (library), sponsored by the Camden Conference, and I have some prep work to do for it. But, I’ll finish the blog post later today, and do the best I can with the comments, but I cannot promise I’ll read all thoroughly.

    This is my first post on your blog, so please allow a brief introduction.

    This is not my first visit to your blog. I’ve read your articles periodically for the last year or so, and always appreciate them very much. We are very much on the same page. It’s refreshing to see such on-the-table writing by a person who clearly knows what he’s talking about, grounded in good science. Thank you for all you do.

    I’ve been meaning to subscribe and read more deeply. But I’ve been caught in a professional vortex for quite a while involving evolution of my educational program – see below – punctuated by a series of moves within and between cities: 12 in 3.5 years, all but one within the state of Maine; #13 is eminent, and I’m quite excited by it. I think of myself as quasi-nomadic, though not entirely by choice.

    Why so much movement? I’m a former college biology and mathematics teacher that has been a free-lance community educator for 13 years. My program is my passion and life project, but to say it’s been an uphill battle is a strong understatement. Try teaching college-level classes – seminars from a weekend to 10 weeks long – to the general public outside of an institution – a purposeful decision – and you’ll see what I mean.

    One challenge – my biggest – has been that about 1/5 of my curriculum focuses on abrupt climate change of the variety that you write about. As one might imagine, it’s hard to sell courses about bad news, especially when so many don’t even believe in climate change, and most of those that do think we can still stop it with carbon taxes and hybrid cars. So even though 4/5 of my curriculum is cool, positive, awe-inspiring, life-changing ideas that helps us see life, Earth and Nature in radical new ways, the climate stuff is what sticks in people’s minds. Darkness has a way of doing that.

    So, I often get called ‘Dr. Doom’, a label that I vociferously reject. As one of my favorite writers on climate change – Dianne Dumanoski (The End of the Long Summer, one of my texts) writes, “The first step is to recognize that we have entered a period of deep change. Of course, simply suggesting that our civilization may be hitting a dead end is considered a message of ‘doom and gloom’. But this judgment is a matter of perspective. Acknowledging that we’re at the end of something means we’re at the start of something else.” She also wisely counsels that we do not have time for fear, despair and denial, and that we must turn and face the future head on. But that’s a hard sell amongst people who are not ready to unplug from the matrix.

    So, I’ve been in Maine since 2010, and sampled six city/towns with the intention of exploring them before committing to it for the long term. I almost made it in two of those, but none have been quite right for me. They all lacked at least one important element. But I think my next two destinations may work; I’m going to try both at one time, sort of. Both are college towns with small independent colleges with strong environmental focus; one is Bar Harbor.

    For the last 12 months, I’ve been focused on developing my new Earth Studies Program. At its core is Earth 101, a set of six seminars about – in order – system sciences (aka complexity, including nonlinear dynamics, non-equilibrium thermodynamics and emergence theory); biosciences (from a systems perspective); geophysiology; abrupt, extreme, chaotic climate change; adaptability (v adaptation; see Dumanoski); and intelligence from an evolutionary perspective. (I’m an evolutionary ecologist by training.)

    Understanding the topics in each requires principles from the former – hence the sequence. I’ve said for ten years that one _cannot_ fully understand what’s happening to our planet from outside of the perspective of system sciences and geophysiology, and that the latter will play crucial roles in what we ‘do about’ this challenge, including whether we survive as a species. For example, global heating and climate change are not an environmental problem, but symptoms of a MUCH deeper and more intractable problem: disruption of Earth’s metabolism and homeostasis.

    From that core of six seminars, there are more advanced seminars on each of those topics for a total of about 25 courses. It’s evolved over 13 years and is equivalent to a college undergraduate science curriculum for the 21st century. At least, that’s how I’m explaining it to potential students and clients, including colleges when I put on my consultant hat. I’m developing a set of presentations now – Prezis, about an hour’s worth – that will lay out the basics of ESP. If you’re interested, I’ll let you know when it’s ready for primetime. (It’s currently under review by colleagues.)

    ESP plus DVD production (seminars on disk) are the focus of a new ‘business’ that I’m founding called Ermah Ge, an educational collective that is a CSE (community supported education) initiative trying to become an institute. The easiest portal to my site is ErmahGe.com. That will take you to a page on my site/blog, a place holder for the Ermah Ge site to be developed … when I get stable in my next city.
    ___

    So, Robert, to your site and why I’m posting this. Over the last few days, I’ve been reading, re-reading, studying and praising (among friends, students and colleagues) several of your articles that I found on Facebook. The one that got my attention most was about the Arctic Heat Wave.

    https://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/arctic-heat-wave-sets-off-hottest-ever-winter-time-temperatures-major-melt-disasters-for-coastal-and-interior-alaska/

    And from there, this morning, I found this one. I’ve only read about the first few paragraphs, but I can tell its spot on, and hugely important. I’ll offer a few more thoughts here after I finish reading it, link it on Facebook, and will (as soon as possible) write a blog post about it with a link. I’ll let you know when that’s up.

    But for now just this: I can tell your thesis in this post is very important to my own work, in helping me find the right home base – my base camp, as I call it, and in identifying 30 – 50 students for my Earth Studies Program. I also intend to try to help your work by adding some principles from systems, nonlinear dynamics and geophysiology.

    Thank you sincerely. I’ll be visiting more often now, as time allows, and hope to make some useful contributions to your important work.

    Alder

    Reply
  18. Quick mid-afternoon update … I’ve just read more of the comments above, and now want to read all of them. There are some real gems, and I want to join the conversation informed. {I just reread my first post – sorry for the length (and a couple of errors; e.g., “the above” in the second line). I intended to be brief, but brief is not necessarily one of my strong suits with writing.

    Just one more point for now. I labeled my lecture this week as “important”, but realize that could be construed differently than I meant it. It is important to me, because Rockland is one of a half dozen cities I’d like to teach in this year, and I want to have my ducks in a row. I’ve offered some version of that lecture numerous dozens of times on two coasts, but with change accelerating, it’s a constant effort to keep up — as you know well.

    Ok, off to read this page from top to bottom with a bowl of hot chicken soup at 4 pm on a Sunday February 2 afternoon with 34F (4C) and light rain. Yes, rain in Maine in early February. There is now more bare ground here than snow cover. Back in mid-January, we hit 50F … at night. Something must be wonky with the polar jet, or the vortex hick up’ed, or something.

    Reply
  19. OK, third and final post for today. I just read Robert’s OP thoroughly, then all the comments. (While eating soup.) Four comments for now.

    One: very thought provoking discussion. It’s great to see many of the ideas that I’ve wrestled with for years being discussed here among intelligent and articulate people. There’s a nice cross section of views here (and no deniers! :D) It feels a fine place for respectful discussion of substantive issues grounded in science and critical thinking. Excellent. And the addition of humorous, slightly OT banter is a plus; we have to laugh while discussing such dark, heavy topics.

    Two: I agree with Robert’s assertion about the distinction between positive (accelerating) feedbacks and ‘runaway’ (aka Venus) is important. That leads to a necessity to discuss a related topic, system ‘attractor’ states that are emergent and quantitatively unpredictable in the system. That is, we know they’re there (qualitatively certain), but we don’t know what they are. So are we going to pop 2-3C or 5-8C? We can’t say for certain, because we don’t know where the next hotter attractor is, we just know that it’s there. Based on new models that work out the important role of high v low clouds, published recently in a very reputable journal (I’ll find a link later), it’s looking like climate is way more sensitive to CO2 forcing than we thought last year, and that the lower range is now very unlikely. If so, 5C here we come, even in a greatly reduced emissions scenario.

    Three: there’s another factor involved that I didn’t see mentioned in the comments (maybe elsewhere on the blog? I’d love to read more). That is, atmospheric CO2 residence time (RT). That is, once excess gets up there, how long does it take to get back down. As we all know, it won’t just wash out like SO2. It has to be actively pumped down by biological processes (especially coccolithophores like Ehux) that take rock weathering to the next level (of precipitation of CaCO3). The current RT is measured in centuries. The range varies from three to eight centuries.

    Four: on the question of survivability. Some of you argue for global action (Robert’s direct action to force non-violent overthrow), some of you argue for individual plan B’s. I tend to take a multi-leveled approach. Work toward the overthrown with direct action, learn knowledge and skills (with acquisition of appropriate tools) for individual survival (it’s the backpacker/mountaineer/bushcraft student in me), but spend as much time on community level work. That is, when push comes to shove, when the SHTF and TEOTWAWKI is upon us, whether next year or three decades from now, as civ crumbles into a pile, community will be everything. No community, no survival.

    OK, that’s it for now. I’m taking Sunday night off to celebrate Imbolc (we’re half way to spring, which here in Maine means something), and work a bit more on a CSE description.

    Thanks to you all for a good discussion. I look forward to more.😉

    Reply
    • BAU certainly brings us to 5-8 C (5-9 C or more, IMO). The new climate sensitivity additions due to understanding clouds puts most warming in line with what we observe in paleoclimate.

      Long term CO2 at 400 ppm leads to around 2-3 C increases in this understanding. So, in the hypothetical cold turkey scenario above, we could, at the best case end up with that. Unfortunately, there’s no likely path to cold turkey emissions within the next couple of years. So the discussion is just hypothetical.

      Residence time… Currently a degree of excess CO2 ends up in the ocean. This is due to overburden in atmosphere vs ocean. But the shallow ocean is increasingly saturated and it takes centuries for the surface ocean to transfer CO2 to the deep ocean.

      Under a hypothetical cold turkey scenario, the oceans would probably continue to absorb CO2 until levels dropped to around 390-380, at which point a sort of equilibrium is likely to be reached and the ocean may even bleed excess CO2 back to the atmosphere.

      Biological process provides sequestration in biomass. But biomass is an increasingly unstable sink. In any case, we could expect sequestration in some regions and emission in others. The net result is probably still a draw down in atmospheric CO2 under a cold turkey scenario (400 ppm) so the biosphere isn’t very helpful under current conditions (drought, fires, changing Arctic etc).

      Long term sequestration via weathering — very slow and may take thousands of years.

      Now for the feedbacks — thawing tundra release of CO2, thawing tundra release of methane, reduced albedo, methane release in the Arctic ocean, Jet Stream changes, methane release in the world ocean, loss of low clouds over ocean environs, increase of heat trapping high clouds, ocean stratification, other related positive feedbacks, ice melt, fresh water outflow, albedo change due to desertification, sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere due sulfur cycle changes, other related negative feedbacks…

      It appears that these feedbacks are currently strong enough to cancel out natural CO2 sequestration and keep CO2 in a range of 390 and 410 ppm. Methane, on the other hand, should slowly fall unless (under cold turkey) we hit a series of rather significant outbursts (possible due to current state of polar amplification).

      For these reasons and due to strong evidence for a 2-3 C temperature increase at current CO2 levels in the paleoclimate data, it appears that this is the most likely, but not the most dangerous scenario under cold turkey.

      Now, you mention attractor states, which I don’t usually breach as it adds yet one more term that is outside of the vernacular, adding another barrier to broader understanding. I’ve instead used the, I believe, more accessible term ‘acceleration.’ My opinion, is that we start to hit acceleration, meaning the environment emits enough ghg and hits a number of amplifying feedbacks to the point that an overwhelming of sequestration and negative feedbacks for a given period is achieved, in the range of 450 ppm CO2 (current atmosphere) or 550+ CO2 equivalent forcing from all ghg (which happens when we hit 430 to 470 ppm depending on methane and other ghg content).

      This is the reason for my two decade response time figure. Meaning we have a reasonable possibility of avoiding major acceleration with a rapid response now, potentially keeping warming below 3 or 4 C (2.5 to 3.9 C). That, my opinion, is in the realm of the possible (after difficult human nature issues are addressed). And that is a very rough road, nonetheless.

      Is this an easy world? No it’s pretty extraordinarily bad. But it is a hell of a lot better than what BAU gets us — 5 to 9 C by the end of this century and far worse at equilibrium centuries later.

      Reply
  20. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 3, 2014

    In fact, one of the grim wonders of climate change has been the ability of Big Energy and its lobbyists to politicize an issue that wouldn’t normally have a “left” or “right,” and to make bad science into an ongoing news story. In other words, an achievement that couldn’t be more criminal in nature has also been their great coup de théâtre.

    In a world heading toward the brink, here’s the strange thing: most of the time that brink is nowhere in sight. And how can you get people together to solve a human-caused problem when it’s so seldom meaningfully in the news (and so regularly challenged by energy interests when it is)?

    This is the road to hell and it has not been paved with good intentions. If we stay on it, we won’t even be able to say that future historians considered us both a wonder (for our ability to create world-ending scenarios and put them into effect) and a disgrace (for our inability to face what we had done). By then, humanity might have arrived at the end of history, and so of historians.

    http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175801/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_the_end_of_history/#more

    Reply
  21. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 3, 2014

    Robert, I tried hard to answer you directly & honestly.
    It is the most honest answer that I can give.

    Reply
  22. Pakistan Has A Month’s Worth Of Water Left — And 5 Percent Of Its Tree Cover

    Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change due to its location, population and environmental degradation. According to a 2013 report from the Asian Development Bank, Pakistan has one month of water supply on hand. The recommended amount is 1,000 days. 80 percent of Pakistan’s agriculture relies on irrigation from the overstressed water system.

    Pakistan’s average temperature is expected to increase around 3 degrees Celsius within the next 50 years — this will make food and water challenges even more taxing. A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change concludes that people are already migrating out of the Pakistan for just these reasons.
    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/02/03/3238781/deforestation-water-energy-pakistan/

    Reply
    • Sabesp, as Brazil’s biggest water utility is known, is offering business and residential clients in the greater Sao Paulo area a 30 percent discount through August if they cut their monthly usage 20 percent below their average between February 2013 and January 2014, the Sao Paulo-based company said in a statement on its website. ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, The water utility said it announced the measures after the region’s lowest rainfall in the past two months since measurements began in 1930. Sabesp’s Cantareira water system, which supplies water to almost 10 million people, is at a “critical level,” according to the statement. The system is at 21.9 percent of capacity, its lowest level ever.

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-03/sabesp-offers-30-discount-if-sao-paulo-curbs-water-use.html

      Reply
  23. Jay M

     /  February 3, 2014

    Quick boots on the ground from SF: I witnessed the first raindrops of the rainy season when I picked up the newspaper Sunday morning, though there have been a couple of light rains previously at night. The teevee prediction is for not very much more rain for another 10 days, so that brings us to mid-Feb. The rainy season is mostly over by the end of March. The hills are completely brown in January and large trees that aren’t accessing the water table look quite distressed. This will have huge Ag impact as the state discontinues water allocation, as well to city systems. This is becoming a “big deal”.

    Reply
    • Yeah, the blocking pattern weakness may bring you guys some showers. As you say, the ‘rainy’ season ends in March. So unless March is highly anomalous, then this summer will probably be a bear.

      Reply
  1. Another Week in the Ecological Crisis – February 2, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered
  2. Stop The War to Silence Science, End Egregious Cuts To Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Now | robertscribbler | Enjeux énergies

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