Far Worse than Being Beaten with a Hockey Stick: Michael Mann, Our Terrifying Greenhouse Gas Overburden and Heating the Earth by + 2 C by 2036

I’m going to say something that will probably seem completely outrageous. But I want you to think about it, because it’s true.

You, where-ever you are now, are living through the first stages of a disaster in which there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no safe place on Earth for you to go to avoid it. The disaster you are now living through is a greenhouse emergency and with each ounce of CO2, methane and other greenhouse gasses you, I, or the rest of us, pump into the air, that emergency grows in the vast potential of damage and harm that it will inflict over the coming years, decades and centuries. The emergency is now unavoidable and the only thing we can hope to do through rational action is to reduce the degree of harm both short and long term, to rapidly stop making the problem worse, and to put human ingenuity toward solving the problem rather than continuing to intensify it.

But damage, severe, deadly and terrifying is unleashed, in effect and already happening, with more on the way.

*    *    *    *    *

Manns-hockey-stick

(Michael Mann’s famous Hockey Stick graph showing Northern Hemisphere temperatures over the past 1,000 years. The influences of human warming become readily apparent from the late 19th to early 21rst centuries. But human greenhouse gas forcing has much greater degrees of warming in store.)

This week, Michael Mann wrote an excellent piece describing the immediacy of our current emergency in the Scientific American. In typical, just the facts, fashion, he laid out a series of truths relevant to the current greenhouse catastrophe. These facts were told in a plain manner and, yet, in a way that laid out the problem but didn’t even begin to open the book on what that problem meant in broader context.

Michael Mann is an amazing scientist who has his hand on the pulse of human-caused climate change. He is a kind of modern Galileo of climate science in that he has born the brunt of some of the most severe and asinine attacks for simply telling the truth and for revealing the nature of our world as it stands. But though Mann’s facts are both brutal and hard-hitting for those of us who constantly read the climate science, who wade through the literature and analyze each new report. By simply stating the facts and not telling us what they mean he is hitting us with a somewhat nerfed version of his ground-breaking Hockey Stick. A pounding that may seem brutal when compared to the comfortable nonsense put out by climate change deniers and fossil fuel apologists but one that is still not yet a full revelation.

I will caveat what is a passionate interjection by simply saying that Michael Mann is one of my most beloved heroes. And so I will do my best to help him out by attempting to lend more potency to his already powerful message.

2 C by 2036 — Digging through the Ugly Guts of it

All that said, Michael Mann laid out some brutal, brutal facts in his Scientific American piece. Ones, that if you only take a few moments to think about are simply terrifying. For the simple truth is that the world has only a very, very slim hope of preventing a rapid warming to at least 2 C above 1880s levels in the near future and almost zero hope altogether of stopping such warming in the longer term.

The first set of figures Mann provides involves the current greenhouse gas forcing. Current CO2 levels are now at the very dangerous 400 parts per million threshold. Long term, and all by itself, this forcing is enough to raise global temperatures by between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius. But hold that thought you were just about to have, because we haven’t yet included all the other greenhouse gasses in that forcing.

Mann, in the supplemental material to his Scientific American paper, notes that the total forcing of all other greenhouse gasses currently in the atmosphere is about 20% of the total CO2 forcing. This gives us a total CO2 equivalent forcing of 480 ppm CO2e, which uncannily mirrors my own analysis here (the science may have under-counted a bit on the methane forcing, but this value is likely quite close to current reality for both the short and long term).

480 ppm CO2e is one hell of a forcing. It is nearly a 75% greater forcing than 1880s values and, all by itself, is enough to raise temperatures long-term by between 3.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius.

And it is at this point that it becomes worthwhile talking a bit about different climate sensitivity measures. The measure I am using to determine this number is what is called the Earth Systems Sensitivity measure (ESS). It is the measure that describes long term warming once all the so called slow feedbacks like ice sheet response (think the giant glaciers of Greenland and West Antarctica) and environmental carbon release (think methane release from thawing tundra and sea bed clathrates) come into the equation. Mann, uses a shorter term estimate called Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS). It’s a measure that tracks the fast warming response time once the fast feedbacks such as water vapor response and sea ice response are taken into account. ECS warming, therefore, is about half of ESS warming. But the catch is that ECS hits you much sooner.

At 480 ppm CO2e, we can expect between 1.75 and 2.25 degrees C of warming from ECS. In essence, we’ve locked about 2 C worth of short term warming in now. And this is kind of a big deal. I’d call it a BFD, but that would be swearing. And if there is ever an occasion for swearing then it would be now. So deal with it.

Mann, in his article, takes note of the immediacy of the problem by simply stating that we hit 2 C of shorter term ECS warming once we hit 405 ppm CO2 (485 CO2e), in about two to three years. And it’s important for us to know that this is the kind of heat forcing that is now hanging over our heads. That there’s enough greenhouse gas loading in the atmosphere to push warming 2 C higher almost immediately and 4 C higher long term. And that, all by itself, is a disaster unlike anything humans have ever encountered.

Global Fossil Fuel Emission

(Global annual fossil fuel emission is currently tracking faster than the worst-case IPCC scenario. Aerosols mask some of the heating effect of this enormous emission, what James Hansen calls ‘a Faustian Bargain.’ Image source: Hansen Paper.)

But there is a wrinkle to this equation. One that Dr. James Hansen likes to call the Faustian Bargain. And that wrinkle involves human produced aerosols. For by burning coal, humans pump fine particles into the atmosphere that reflect sunlight thereby masking the total effect of the greenhouse gasses we have already put into the atmosphere. The nasty little trick here is that if you stop burning coal, the aerosols fall out in only a few years and you then end up with the full heat forcing. Even worse, continuing to burn coal produces prodigious volumes of CO2 while mining coal pumps volatile methane into the atmosphere. It’s like taking a kind of poison that will eventually kill you but makes you feel better as you’re taking it. Kind of like the greenhouse gas version of heroin.

So the ghg heroin/coal has injected particles into the air that mask the total warming. And as a result we end up with a delayed effect with an extraordinarily severe hit at the end when we finally stop burning coal. Never stop burning coal and you end up reaching the same place eventually anyway. So it’s a rigged game that you either lose now or you lose in a far worse way later.

Mann wraps coal and other human aerosol emissions into his equation and, under business as usual, finds that we hit 2 C of ECS warming by 2036 as global CO2 levels approach 450 ppmv and global CO2e values approach 540 ppmv. At that point, were the aerosols to fall out we end up with an actual short term warming (ECS) response of 2.5 to 3 C and a long term response (ESS) of about 5 to 6 C. (Don’t believe me? Plug in the numbers for yourself in Mann’s climate model here.)

So ripping the bandaid off and looking at the nasty thing underneath, we find that even my earlier estimates were probably a bit too conservative and Mann, though we didn’t quite realize it at first, is hitting us very hard with his hockey stick.

What does a World That Warms So Rapidly to 2 C Look Like?

OK. That was rough. But what I am about to do is much worse. I’m going to take a look at actual effects of what, to this point, has simply been a clinical analysis of the numbers. I’m going to do my best to answer the question — what does a world rapidly warming by 2 C over the next 22 years look like?

Ugly. Even more ugly than the numbers, in fact.

First, let’s take a look at rates of evaporation and precipitation. We know that, based on past research, the hydrological cycle increases by about 6% for each degree Celsius of temperature increase. So far, with about .8 C worth of warming, we’ve had about a 5% increase in the hydrological cycle. What this means is that evaporation rates increase by 5% and precipitation events, on average, increase by about 5%. But because weather is uneven, what this does is radically increase the frequency and amplitude of extreme weather. Droughts are more frequent and more severe. Deluges are more frequent and more severe.

(Program in which top climate scientists explain how global warming increases the intensity of evaporation and precipitation all while causing dangerous changes to the Jet Stream.)

At 2 C warming we can change this loading from a 5% increase in the hydrological cycle of evaporation and precipitation to a 12% increase. You think the droughts and deluges are bad now? Just imagine what would happen if the driver of that intensity more than doubled. What do you end up with then?

Now let’s look at something that is directly related to extreme weather — sea ice loss. In the current world, about .8 C worth of warming has resulted in about 3.2 C worth of warming in the polar regions. And this warming has resulted in a massive and visible decline of sea ice in which end summer volume values are up to 80% less than those seen during the late 1970s. This loss of sea ice has had severe effects on the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream, both pulling it more toward the pole and resulting in high amplitude Jet Stream waves and local severe intensification of storm tracks. At 2 C worth of global warming, the Arctic heats up by around 7 C and the result is extended periods of ice free conditions during the summer and fall that last for weeks and months.

stroeve-barret-p-10-plus-2012

(Actual rate of sea ice loss vs IPCC model predictions. The most recent record low value achieved in 2012 is indicated by the dot. Image source: Assessment of Arctic Sea Ice/UCAR Report.)

The impacts to the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream are ever more severe as are the impacts to Greenland ice sheet melt. Under such a situation we rapidly get into a weather scenario where screaming temperature differentials between the North Atlantic near Greenland and the warming tropics generate storms the likes of which we have never seen. Add in a 12% boost to the hydrological cycle and we get the potential for what Dr. James Hansen describes as “frontal storms the size of continents with the intensity of hurricanes.”

Greenland melt itself is much faster under 2 C of added heat and the ice sheets are in dangerous and rapid destabilization. It’s possible that the kick will be enough to double, triple, quadruple or more the current pace of sea level rise. Half foot or more per decade sea level rise rapidly becomes possible.

All this severe weather, the intense rain, the powerful wind storms and the intense droughts aren’t kind to crops. IPCC projects a 2% net loss in crop yields each decade going forward. But this is likely to be the lower bound of a more realistic 2-10 percent figure. Modern agriculture is hit very, very hard in the context of a rapidly changing climate, increasing rates of moisture loss from soil and moisture delivery through brief and epically intense storms.

The rapid jump to 2 C is also enough to put at risk a growing list of horrors including rapid ocean stratification and anoxia (essentially initiating a mass die off in the oceans), large methane and additional CO2 release from carbon stores in the Arctic, and the unlocking of dangerous ancient microbes from thawing ice, microbes for which current plants and animals do not have adequate immune defenses.

How do we avoid this?

In short, it might not be possible to avoid some or even all of these effects. But we may as well try. And this is what trying would look like.

First, we would rapidly reduce human greenhouse gas emissions to near zero. As this happens, we would probably want a global fleet of aircraft that spray sulfate particles into the lower atmosphere to make up for the loss of aerosols once produced by coal plants. Finally, we would need an array of atmospheric carbon capture techniques including forest growth and cutting, then sequestration of the carbon stored by wood in lakes or in underground repositories, chemical atmospheric carbon capture, and carbon capture of biomass emissions.

For safety, we would need to eventually reduce CO2 to less than 350 ppm, methane to less than 1,000 ppb, and eliminate emissions from other greenhouse gasses. A very tall order that would require the sharing of resources, heroic sacrifices by every human being on this Earth, and a global coordination and cooperation of nations not yet before seen. Something that is possible in theory but has not yet been witnessed in practice. A test to see if humankind is mature enough to ensure its own survival and the continuation of life and diversity on the only world we know. A tall order, indeed, but one we must at least attempt.

Links:

Earth Will Cross Climate Danger Threshold by 2036

What does a World at 400 Parts per Million CO2 Look Like Long-Term?

One Scientist Argues 2036 Could be Point of No Return for Climate Disaster

A Faustian Bargain on the Short Road to Hell

Doubling Down on our Faustian Bargain

Dr. Jennifer Francis, Top Climate Scientists Explain How Global Warming Aps the Hydrological Cycle and Wrecks the Jet Stream to Unleash Extreme Weather

Assessment of Arctic Sea Ice/UCAR Report

 

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118 Comments

  1. It’s almost like you’re edging into the unavoidable catastrophic results club? No need to sidle, there’s more and more people there lately I find, and those of us who sat there for longer can mostly speak without being labelled delusional, insane, etc now.

    Incidentally – and I’m sure you know this – there are some fairly serious question marks over using sulphates to try to cool things down. Models suggest impact on the Arctic specifically is at best neutral and at worst additionally damaging. I grant it might be worth using them to compensate for the lost aerosols of industrial pollution in the process of cutting out emissions – but one would be obliged to do so for as long as it took to sequester enough carbon dioxide to get the levels of greenhouse gas back down. Good luck with that one.

    Furthermore the ugly truth is that modern civilisation is built on and predicated upon the easy availability of cheap fossil fuel energy. The numbers simply make it somewhere between impossible and rather improbable to act so fast and so fundamentally without still imposing terminal stresses upon civilisation.

    None of that is an argument not to intelligently try (even though I think we won’t), merely a case for my perspective – that collapse is highly likely – and the logical battle line (to me at least) is one that is drawn post collapse.

    It should still be imperative that an effort be made to avoid this and in any case – there is actually quite a lot of overlap between intelligent options to try to resolve this problem and what you should be thinking about if the problem cannot now be resolved (where I’m pitching my efforts). The destination of the journey is essentially the same – merely the route varies.

    Reply
    • I’ve always been in the unavoidable catastrophic results club. I’m just not in the no hope left for putting up a decent fight club. Will chat more about this later. As ever, you lead off an excellent discussion.

      Reply
    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 21, 2014

      Yes, if we ‘don’t grow’, we collapse economically, if we do grow, we collapse ecologically (in addition). What a challenge to prove the worth of a species that calls itself Intelligent.

      Reply
  2. uknowispeaksense

     /  March 21, 2014

    I used to think preppers were just backward paranoid delusionists. These days Im not so sure. I know how to catch and grow my own food. I just hope I live somewhere that is possible.

    Reply
    • My main criticism of the vast majority of preppers – and I should caution that at first glance most people would probably think me a prepper (certainly there is overlap) – is that from what I’ve seen most people doing this are jumping on an increasingly popular bandwagon and in almost all cases either failing to adequately understand the specific threat they should be responding to and the timescales over which they should be thinking. Storing up food and bullets counts for little beyond the short term – and this is a very long term problem. What counts is what happens to your grandchildrens grandchildren and far beyond. The selfish actions of short term hoarders matters not one jot to those future people.

      On top of that most of the American ones (and the prepper movement seems rather strongly expressed in the US) seem to have have no clue what they’re really preparing for – their climate change denial blinding them to reality even though they think things are going to change greatly for the worse. Hence you get all sorts of weird and rather stupid stuff floating around – chemtrails, magnetic pole reversal, solar storms, etc.

      All that said, I think some of them have the right general idea (notably the ones trying to do things like re-learn lower technology ways of solving problems).

      Reply
      • uknowispeaksense

         /  March 21, 2014

        My retirement plan has always been to go to Tasmania and go off the grid and be self sufficient. Given that will be in 20 years time when the already obvious effects of agw become even more prevalent….

        Reply
      • mikkel

         /  March 21, 2014

        There are a large contingent of religious fundamentalist preppers who believe Armageddon is about to happen and they merely need to survive the collapse of government/society part for a few years until Jesus comes down to save them.

        Another contingent believes they just need to survive long enough that the majority of people are gone and then it will be easy to live off the land.

        But probably the biggest reason is Americans believe guns solve all problems.

        Reply
  3. uknowispeaksense

     /  March 21, 2014

    Reblogged this on uknowispeaksense.

    Reply
  4. Vardarac

     /  March 21, 2014

    Suppose you have a giant, magical magnet. When activated, this magnet, being magical, generates power enough to allow people on Earth a vastly greater standard of living than if they were to be without it.

    The magnet also has the unfortunate disadvantage of attracting invisible asteroids. Really big, potentially Earth-destroying invisible asteroids. Scientists, using instruments that detect invisible asteroids, are able to warn people about the potential of the magnet to destroy the world. They can generate graphs tracking the asteroids’ movements and sketches of the invisible asteroids, but nobody with a plain-Jane telescope is able to see it for themselves.

    Years pass. A number of very large asteroids are slowly, invisibly making their way toward Earth. The implications of Armageddon become clear to anyone who is paying attention. However, at this point in magical-magnet human history, it would be very difficult to argue that the magnet should be shut down; livelihoods, entire industries, everyday life, and policymaking have all been centered around the magnet, rendering the consequences of its shutdown to humanity unthinkable to almost everyone dependent on it.

    And for what, anyway? A problem and its consequences incomprehensible to the population at large, that seem unimportant in the context of what would happen if they were to change their ways. The asteroids are invisible, the science denoting their reality complex and difficult to understand – who knows if they’re even real?

    Climate change is our invisible asteroid. A limited subset of the population is even able to understand the problem, while a smaller set still is willing or able to realistically do anything about it. I think if there are any solutions forthcoming, that they will depend on this tiny subset to pull off a different and unprecedented feat: The creation of two different technologies, the first being sources of energy that people would gladly and freely flock to in lieu of the magnet, and technologies that will avert the asteroids.

    That is, give people cheaper renewable energy, and find ways to sequester GHGs in ways that have never been tried before. There is, in my mind, virtually zero chance that we will see the kind of global cooperative action necessary to avert serious long-term problems without giving some immediate and easy-to-understand incentive for engaging in it.

    Reply
    • Vardarac

       /  March 21, 2014

      For anyone’s consideration…

      China targets new molten salt thorium nuclear reactors by 2024 with war-like pressure to accelerate solution to killer air pollution
      http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/03/china-targets-new-molten-salt-thorium.html

      California drought: Solar desalination plant shows promise
      http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/California-drought-Solar-desalination-plant-5326024.php

      And I’ll be shooting off an e-mail to JCVI to see if any ideas concerning engineered photosynthetic methane or CO2-sequestering organisms have been broached.

      Reply
    • mikkel

       /  March 21, 2014

      “That is, give people cheaper renewable energy, and find ways to sequester GHGs in ways that have never been tried before”

      I once read a physicist who pointed out that if you look at sequestration as an entropic process, it suggests we need as much energy to bind it as it takes to release it. Never thought about it that way before but it is entirely true. Now I am optimistic that we can get a lot of the energy through the sun and photosynthesis, but human created technology seems to be pointless in trying to sequester.

      Reply
      • mikkel

         /  March 21, 2014

        Oh and the time to get to 350 ppm through natural sequestration — if we rapidly change and peak at 440 ppm — is 200 years.

        Reply
      • Mark Archambault

         /  March 21, 2014

        200 years isn’t bad if something as envisioned in the book “The World Without Us” were to occur and mysteriously disappear the human race overnight. Not that I’m advocating that – I’d much rather we smarten up and cooperate!

        Reply
      • Worse, you need considerably more energy to bind it than it usefully released, given the laws of thermodynamics. That said – the incoming solar energy makes manmade energy production rather tiny – it’s just we’ve spent so long dumping such large amounts of the stuff up there, it’s fantasy to think one can take it all back out at short notice.

        Incentivised intelligent biochar and reforestation seem promising to me – the rest is almost certainly best left entirely to nature. Even reforestation, it’s best to do the minimum for nature to take the process forwards – as we cannot restore proper ecosystems, despite our ability to destroy them.

        Reply
      • mikkel

         /  March 21, 2014

        CCG haha right. We actually waste most of the energy released. In actuality, it’d be looking at somewhere around 30X the amount of useful energy once you count efficiency on both ends.

        Reply
    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 21, 2014

      Yep, we’re certainly the asteroid now. I’d like to imagine we would do more in the way of serious mitigation if carbon dioxide weren’t an invisible gas. If it were a deep purple say, we’d have noticed the drop in visibility by now and it would be too apparent to ignore. “Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky…”

      I like your symbol – Barbary Castle 1994, I believe.

      Reply
      • Vardarac

         /  March 22, 2014

        It was really a happy accident. I decided I wanted my own vanity symbol one day, so I just took to Photoshop and out popped five circles, three blue, two white. Sandwiching the white ones just so over the blue ones made the shape you see now.

        Reply
  5. Mark Archambault

     /  March 21, 2014

    Robert,

    This is one of your best and certainly most important articles. I will forward it widely to my environmental and planning community friends.

    Perhaps my previous link from the blog ‘Climate Denial’ is more pertinent here:

    Climate Denial has posted a new item, ‘INTERVIEW – THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CHALLENGES OF COMMUNICATING CLIMATE CHANGE AROUND EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS’

    – in light of Michael Mann’s findings all of us will be doing this more and more…

    http://www.transitionnetwork.org/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/george-marshall-communicating-climate-change-following-extreme-weather-eve

    Reply
    • mikkel

       /  March 22, 2014

      I normally gloss over these things because they all start sounding the same, but this one is great! Thanks.

      Reply
  6. james cole

     /  March 21, 2014

    I go way back as a rabid Scientific American reader. As a non-scientist, this magazine opened the world of all sciences to an educated reader. In the 1980’s Scientific American was Out Front on the new recognition of the CO2 peril and global warming. But, and this is a big but, I notice in the 90’s that the climate science was falling out of the magazine, the stories printed were tepid and very conservative in the extreme. Severe consequences were played down and the very long time frame before they kicked in was emphasized. I began to question this approach, seeking more source material. That showed me Scientific American was not being fully straightforward with the potential warming. So I looked at my issues going back and found a steady rise of fossil fuel corporation advertizing. finally, the issues were chock full of oil, gas, and even coal company adverts. While they still covered climate science, they focused much a potential negative feedback loops and were simply not sounding the alarm anymore.
    Michael Mann may, and I just say may, have known his limits with this publication and hoped to write all the science he could without sounding alarms that would threaten his chance to get the science out on this widely read magazine.
    I have been more than critical in the last decade of the failure of many scientists to scream the alarm. Perhaps their nature is not to do that, and hot heads like me should take the science we can access and do the screaming. I know my screen name is mud on a lot of economic blog comments sections, for I never fail to post the latest I can garner on the subject. This website of Robert’s being my go to place at this point.
    I never thought this would manifest itself so quickly, I tended to accept the models showing arctic meltdowns in the 2050 range. I was wrong. As evidenced by the recent articles here.
    Meanwhile I almost become ill as the gas frackers and tar sands miners are going forward at breakneck speed. To my mind, the Tar Sands operations are proof positive, if ever there was any, that man is now on a death ride. Fighting over gas pipeline routes and dropping environmental regulations for fracking, like in UK.

    Reply
    • Ugly as fracking and tar sands are – I think they’re a desperate last ditch flash in the pan. You can’t run really modern civilisation on high cost marginal return fossil fuel energy – or at least an awful lot of discretionary stuff has to go bye bye to do it (the unmanaged economic fall out of which will still be highly destructive).

      Reply
      • mikkel

         /  March 22, 2014

        I think that the discretionary stuff will go bye bye and there will be widespread rationing. There is plenty of fuel to keep going for quite a long time if energy was reduced 70% which is definitely feasible.

        Reply
        • Given that rationing arguably represents a form of social justice in the context of constrained resources – how many nations can you show me right now that are trending in that direction?

          It seems to me many nations are going the opposite way – taking away social support from the poorest and more vulnerable members of the population – but it’s possible my views are biased from personal experience and knowledge?

      • mikkel

         /  March 22, 2014

        I didn’t say anything about rationing in an equitable way. During WWII there were plenty of connected families going around on pleasure cruises.

        The way I see it, the top 1% (and particularly top 0.1%) consume enormous amounts on a per capita level, but they pale in comparison to the aggregate demand of the 50-99%. The bottom 50% has and will continue to get squeezed, but as systems start failing for the 50-99% the elites will not be able to maintain control unless they do something drastic. At that point I see widespread rationing for the public good and move towards equalization for most. The middle class will stay relatively similar but be more secure, the professional class will lose quite a lot of mobility but adjust and the working poor/poor may see their lives improved.

        The elites will continue to try to consume at the levels they do now.

        This pattern has many historical parallels and on paper it can work; particularly since the bulk of civilization will be towards transitioning and fighting wars, both of which will enable collective effort.

        This is why I lost my fear of peak fossil fuels on a socioeconomic level. It is also why I have an exponentially greater fear in terms of climate change.

        In practice I believe that climate change will destroy the ability for this regime to truly work for very long and lead to secondary collapse.

        Reply
      • mikkel

         /  March 22, 2014

        This is a question which I do not have an answer to: if the above scenario is inevitable then perhaps people worried about climate change/peak fuels should seek to convince the elite of this now and enable the sociopaths to keep power in return for ordering a transitioning. The feeling is that many of them know what’s going on but refuse to change for fear they will lose their place in the pecking order (hearsay conversation supports this feeling) so allowing them the ability to carve out a new space without threat is the way to go.

        Of course transitioning requires localized decision making and production, so many individuals will gain greater agency in their lives, even if it is not any where close to true egalitarianism or social justice.

        I am not convinced but I struggle on a daily basis with the premise. I am deeply disappointed in the lack of willpower by the populace to take control of its own destiny. It is not just a matter of ignorance or even misplaced priorities: I know scores of people who understand the intricacies and yet lift not one finger. When pressed they say the ideas are nice and they know they should, but they don’t really have too much power anyway and it’s not a necessity.

        Reply
        • Most people are bound by the chains in their mind.

          That said – it is not easy to take control of ones destiny or to try to in this matter – perhaps most people really cannot?

          I don’t know – I don’t understand the perspective of most people with respect to this, and I am quite sure most wouldn’t understand mine. At least now one can have such discussions without being roundly attacked as delusional and so on.

  7. Andy

     /  March 22, 2014

    I wonder if we in the industrialized world are actually at some form of disadvantage during a breakdown of civilization.

    In the 3rd world and areas that suffer shortage, the population knows how to exist on little or nothing. Thy have no electricity, computers, eye shadow, central air or other amenities. They know what grows and can be eaten, they live cheap, and know how to make food..

    In our world we have no clue how to do this. To us, food comes in a microwavable container. Or on a plate at a restaurant, complete with a lovely arrangement and garnish. Next time you are at a grocery store, look at the tiny amount of basic items there are. These being flour, sugar, rice (unflavored), basic meats, veggies etc… Now compare that to the aisles of soda, chips, canned tasty things, manufactured breads, frozen foods all ready for the oven or microwave.

    In the underdeveloped world, the food is a market. It has things you make food out of, cassava, maize, rice, veggie, basic meats, fish and the such.

    In our world, life stops without electricity. Try it for a weekend. Friday after work throw the main breaker on your electric panel, shut off the water main to your house. Try to survive just 2 days.

    We forgot how to survive. Just an odd thought I had while buying milk on the ay home from work at the grocery store.

    Reply
    • Longer term, of course we are more vulnerable. Short term though we have more ability to out compete for resources, which is a pity as it will tend to hit the poorer (and more resilient in some respects) nations first. The future belongs to people who are able to survive with next to nothing – though even they will need to squeeze though the bottleneck somehow.

      Reply
  8. Gravity is just a theory

     /  March 22, 2014

    So . . . Robert . . . I’m not sure how to contact you, or if you’d even be interested, but I am a . . . technical professional . . . who in his spare time for the last few years has been working on a way to draw down CO2 permanently. I’m a little hesitant to stick my head up in the increasingly intense firestorm of denialist hostility, but it’s something that I think is physically simple and reliable enough to work, safely. This is not electric trees or pumping a slippery liquid into soon-to-crack rock formations. It’s of sufficient physical scale and would be stable in the geological sense. Undoes the dead plants we’ve dug up and burned. There’s a lot of mass to “untransfer” back to the depths. It would amount to building pyramids, as far as effort required. But when enough people understand we’re living a Garden of Eden story, I think something like this will be done. Contact me if you wish.

    Reply
  9. Mikkel says: The feeling is that many of them know what’s going on but refuse to change for fear they will lose their place in the pecking order (hearsay conversation supports this feeling) so allowing them the ability to carve out a new space without threat is the way to go.

    Remember when criminal bankster Henry Paulson basically gave the American people an ultimatum –“Bail out the big banks or the economy will collapse”. Rather than rein in these corrupt financial corporations and turn banks into something other than Wall Street casinos, Obummer propped them up with taxpayer money. Now I can see a similar perversion happening with climate change, allowing these psychopaths to remain in power if we allow them to remain in place and fix the problem. We see how that worked out with bailing out capitalism and now we would expect different results for climate change?????

    Reply
    • Good point, xraymike.

      Reply
    • mikkel

       /  March 22, 2014

      I wish I could find the post. The gist of it was that the powers that be fall into two groups: those that seek power in order to become rich and those that seek power for its own sake. The idea was to isolate the first group by cultivating the second, with the theory that the second group would not mind ruling over a purposefully diminished consumptive society.

      Similarly, from my own experience there is a huge difference in the military between commanders in charge of operations vs. those in charge of strategy. Those in charge of operations are often very imperialistic and seek to preserve largess, while one branch of the strategists argues that the military should be cut by 60-80% and refocused onto domestic protection. This group is also one of the top believers that climate change and peak energy will be devastating (the reason they want the military to pull out of the world and cut is in order to adapt here). I have no idea how large they are but I will say that most of the satellites used in sensing research (and many of the models) are directly or indirectly controlled by people sympathetic to this view point. It is unclear to me whether climatologists understand it or not, but a lot of their work is actually funded by the US military through backdoor channels.

      The bailout was not used to keep the elites in place for reform, it was meant to protect the system in its current form. There is a huge difference. This idea is closer to truth and reconciliation efforts in areas that have undergone intense warfare in order to preserve order at the sake of forgoing prosecution.

      Reply
      • mikkel

         /  March 22, 2014

        Charles Hugh Smith talked about this recently. http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar14/throw-under-bus3-14.html

        Market democracy has been outrageously successful a leverage of control but it is now waning. It is probably going out regardless of what happens, the question is what replaces it.

        Reply
      • Those making the decisions are the elites. Obummer stacked his admin with Goldman Sachs cronies. Who do you think is blocking real financial regulation?
        So the bailout was essentially their decision to protect their interests. Period. And low and behold what does Henry Paulson say these days:

        Henry Paulson, ‘Mr. Bailout,’ fears a new finance crisis is brewing

        http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/4/mr-bailout-fears-a-new-finance-crisis-is-brewing/?page=all

        Reply
      • mikkel

         /  March 22, 2014

        At the end of the day, power and geopolitics is universal while ideologies come and go. Wall Street is only as powerful as it is because it’s useful in market democracy hegemony. When that changes then it will no longer have the influence it does now.

        The US response to Russia is showing how pathetic the view that financialization is the be all and end all has become. They are doing things that would make the US political/business leaders upset and the Russians don’t even care because they don’t need to rely on financialization.

        I agree with Charles Hugh Smith that the next phase of the crisis has a good chance of seeing Wall Street taken down many pegs by other factions of the elite. Otherwise the Wall Street cronies are going to destroy the US completely.

        A major reason why I left the US is the belief that right-wing populism has a good shot at replacing the Wall Street crowd. It is a classic go to in times of strife and is only flailing now because of its fixation on homosexuality and white male leadership.

        Reply
      • Burgundy

         /  March 22, 2014

        mikkel, I look upon our leadership problems in a very different way. Basically, specialisation and the division of labour has allowed us to be ruled by a type of savantism. People with capacities or abilities far in excess of what would be considered normal thrive in this world of narrow specialisation. So eventually these abnormally gifted people rise to the top positions within their respective specialities, due to their exceptional albeit narrowly focused abilities. Areas of deficiency, normally accompanying the enhanced talent, do not pose a problem as long as it doesn’t impinge upon their capacity to function within their specialist role.

        The major problem arises when we have political savants, who can rise to the top via political means, even though they’re incompetent in all else. They then rely on advisers and experts (more savants) to guide them or take the easy path provided by the lobbyists and corporations (which are… yup, you guessed it, savants). We’ve all seen the person climbing the corporate ladder even though they’re too incompetent to have done it through the quality of their work.

        So here we are with our world governed by people who suffer from a range of mental disorders, from the mild to the extreme. No wonder the world seems so perplexing and crazy to a normal person. And it gets worse, there’s a new type of savant which can slot straight into many of these specialist positions, namely the software bot. Computers are increasingly making the decisions in our world, although the results are often delivered by a human spokesperson (eg. data intelligence and analysis system, strategy development and execution software, speech writing programme, teleprompter, President).

        Reply
      • Mark Archambault

         /  March 22, 2014

        Mikkel,

        Great comments. You write below: “A major reason why I left the US is the belief that right-wing populism has a good shot at replacing the Wall Street crowd.”

        Absolutely. No country is riper for a resurgence of cornpone Fascism (as Kunstler puts it) than the USA. Such a system is not opposed to Wall Street interests, but it adds to that a state religion of fundamentalist ‘Christianity’ (if they got their way), more overt oppression of dissidents and activists internally, a ruthless winner take all capitalism without a social safety net for the poor, and a much more belligerent (if that’s possible!) foreign policy. It’s damn scary to consider.

        Reply
      • mikkel

         /  March 23, 2014

        Burgundy: While I would not use the term savant I agree that hyper specialization is about the biggest threat to democracy/social organization in general. We cannot really communicate to each other what we do nor are we able to critique how decisions are made. There are large bureaucracies in place meant to coordinate the specialities but this is not true understanding.

        Adam Curtis has a great documentary on the absurdity that arose in the Soviet Union from a combination of hyperspecialization and “rational” central planning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3gwyHNo7MI

        I often play devil’s advocate in suggesting perhaps we should aim for ensuring generalized skill sets even if it means the end of some super in depth understanding (that I feel is often distracting to functional understanding anyway).

        Reply
      • Burgundy

         /  March 23, 2014

        mikkel, savant was the nearest I could come to defining the narrowly directed intelligence and above normal ability that allows certain people to get into important positions. Of course it is more complicated than that, people are driven by different motivations, so you also get megalomaniacs, psychopaths, idealists, obsessives, ideologues, delusional, etc. Our overarching economic and social structures embedding the division of labour and specialisation provides the ideal medium for these people to rise to prominent positions in society.

        Not so much that power corrupts, more like the corrupt seek out and obtain power and influence. Normal people quite simply do not see the need or want to “do what it takes” to get into such positions because normality (eg. a simple life meeting basic needs) is self organising among normal people. It takes abnormal people to create abnormality.

        Thanks for the link btw, great documentary. The second program about the cold war really makes the point, essentially where the lunatics takeover the asylum. The neocons seem to be an even crazier reincarnation. Anyway the point I’m making is that we’ve no hope of avoiding the existential disaster of climate change because the people at the wheel are essentially clinically insane.

        Reply
      • mikkel

         /  March 23, 2014

        Yeah all of Adam Curtis’ stuff is great. The most pointed is The Century of the Self which talks about the history/role of advertising as a commercial and then political force.

        Reply
    • Pete Dunkelberg

       /  March 22, 2014

      xraymike79, “…Obummer propped them up with taxpayer money.”
      So you’re one of the people who deleted the previous administration from his memory banks?

      Reply
      • Oh let’s get the particulars correct. As a Senator, Obummer did vote for the bill that created TARP and then as President he administered the funds. Let’s go back in time and see what he said…

        In President Obama’s first State of the Union address, he tried to capture the public’s anger toward Wall Street while defending his decision to bail it out….”A year ago when I took over as president, our financial system was on the verge of collapse. Experts told us that if we did not act, we might face a second Great Depression. So we acted immediately and aggressively.”
        He continued: “One year later, the emergency is past, but the devastation remains. Many people don’t understand why bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded but middle-class hard work isn’t.”
        http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/01/27/obama-bailing-out-the-banks-was-necessary-but-i-hated-it/

        Has anything improved since then? No. By their own admission, another bigger financial crisis is inevitable.

        Reply
      • But xraymike, isn’t this inherent to the flaws of the system from which capitalism is built upon? Its easy to criticize Obama for bailing out the banks, but what would have happened if he didn’t? Of course many would applaud the collapse of industrial civilization, and indeed feel its the only way out of this mess. But hardly anyone is voted into power in order to deliberately crash the economy. So I don’t view him in any worse light than anyone else – he is just playing the rules on capitalism’s terms. Democracy has essentially made any change to the system slow and almost impossible, which would normally be a good thing had it not been for the major problems with regards to unfettered capitalism and its side effects. But with enough people convinced there has to be a change, it is possible to gradually shift the politics towards something that is better. Only problem is that its not happening nearly fast enough and that the big things around the infinite growth impossibility isn’t publicly discussed in politics or media. We still lack politicians talking about the essential problems we have with our current civilization though.

        Reply
        • I believe it was candidate Dr. Jill Stein whose platform included an emergency draw down of all fossil fuel burning. I would have given her a shot.

          Let’s see what happened to her…

        • I think it’s fair enough to say that the democratic party has a tendency to support solutions —

          Renewable energy, more egalitarian monetary policy, more accountability for large corporations, less warfare and overseas adventures, more checks on neo liberal globalization.

          I think it’s also fair enough to say that the current political climate has reduced the power of nations to reign in corporations who appear to be bent on looting cheap labor, the commons, and the environment for short term profit. Their organs and ideology have had a paralytic effect on the institutions of popular government and have generally reduced the impact of popular waves to enact change.

          All that said, I think Obama was a huge, huge improvement over Bush. We got a major hike in CAFE standards, we got multiple pushes for renewable energy in Congress (which, no help from republicans, were mostly blocked), we got a health care system which was an improvement over the loot and pillage system of yore (but arguably wasn’t as good as a single payer system).

          I also think it’s fair to say we’re all invested in current civilization, whether we believe it or not. The current system is the only thing keeping 7 billion people alive and, for all of its ugly faults, were it to collapse, it would do so with very severe repercussions. This is not to say that it is healthy (non renewable energy imputs, usurpation by self-interest driven oligarchs and corporations, etc). But I still believe that if those negative forces could somehow be banished we might have a shot at rational action, saving a huge number of lives, and, eventually, building a kind of civilization that both we and our Earth deserves.

          I don’t believe that ‘natural law’ and authoritarianism has to win every single time. If I did, I wouldn’t be here scribbling away. We all have a choice, and a set of increasingly hard ones they will be. But I still think we can reject the narrow greed of the oligarchs and many corporate powers all while supporting government officials that work to solve problems rather than make them worse.

          Obama was certainly human and with his faults. But a far, far better human than what we’ve had in the past. A hundred more like him, Warren and Sanders would be very, very useful at this point.

  10. Tom

     /  March 22, 2014

    Talking about conserving the little energy we have left to divide up among all the systems that need it (to keep industrial civilization going) isn’t feasible since lack of habitat in the very near future will render it all useless. Of course we’re going to try to extend our stay in every way possible, but the results will be the same – it’s going to end badly.

    Reply
  11. utoutback

     /  March 22, 2014

    Robert –
    I switched to this site after Climate Progress went mostly political and thank you for your in-depth and science oriented coverage of this disaster. Michael Mann is a true hero.
    I have noticed that Yahoo science news has been featuring articles on climate change recently and the comments have been mostly inane and rude. This article:

    http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-03-21/climate-scientists-biggest-challenge-isn-t-scientific?cmpid=yhoo

    points out how deep our trouble is. There is an active group who wish to sow confusion and misinformation about the nature of climate change.
    As my friend says, “we’re screwed”.
    Thanks for your commitment – I frequently forward your post to a list of folks who would otherwise not see this information.

    Reply
    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 22, 2014

      Yes, and given the way voting districts are drawn in the US, AGW deniers have great influence on our national elections and hence idiots like James Inhofe, Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, etc.; not to mention the House republicans, get into office and obstruct and slow down attempts at meaningful action until its too late. And the Democrats, who at least acknowledge the science, can’t propose meaningful action because that would mean a drastic correction in the way the global growth-based capitalistic economy works.

      I’ve come to believe that only a strong shock from Mother Nature has any chance of waking us up in time, and perhaps the coming ‘super El Nino’ of 2014 – 2015 will be that event. Of course, then the risk is people will blame it solely on the El Nino phenomenon, not recognizing it as a taste of things to come under BAU.

      Reply
    • james cole

       /  March 22, 2014

      Indeed! I came here for real science after Climate Progress became a sink hole of politics. We are at a stage where getting real science of climate change out to people is an absolute must. That is why I post around much of the facts I gather here.

      Reply
  12. Robert Callaghan

     /  March 22, 2014

    Green Energy Is Ecologically Unsustainable For 7 Billion People
    ► The manufacture of 5 one-megawatt wind turbines produces 1 ton of radioactive residue and 75 tons of hazardous waste water to process the needed neodynmium. Numerous rare earth and conflict minerals are required for batteries, computers etc.

    ► Each solar panel requires 4 tons of coal to produce because the silicon has to be baked to 3,000 degrees F. Their manufacture produces super strong greenhouse gases. Solar manufacturing plants produce 500 tons of hazardous sludge per year.

    ► Bio-fuels are ecologically unsustainable. The crop mono-cultures are bio-diversity deserts that increase soil erosion. Food supplies are already at risk going forward.

    Even the official predictions intensify.
    ►Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research (2009)……….. +4°C by 2060.
    ►United Nations Environment Programme (2010) up to……+5°C by 2050.
    These predictions do not include feedback data because they are “too difficult” to model. Here is why you don’t have to worry about rising seas and temperatures.

    The Sixth Mass Extinction By The Numbers.
    ► 90% of Lion populations gone in 20 years.
    ► 50% of Great Barrier Reef gone since 1985.
    ► 50% of all Vertebrate Species may disappear before 2040.
    ► 90% of Big Ocean Fish populations gone since 1950.
    ► 50%of Fresh Water Fish populations gone since 1987,
    ► 28% of Land Animal populations gone since 1970.
    ► 30% of Marine Bird populations gone since 1995.
    ► 28% of All Marine Animal populations gone since 1970.
    ► 40% of Plankton populations gone since 1950.
    ► Species extinction is 1000 times faster than normal.
    ► Ocean acidification to double by 2050, triple by 2100.

    Death Wish
    ► At least 5 million dead in the Congo since 1998 because of hi-tech conflict minerals.
    ► 2 million of them were children.
    ► 1 million killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    ► 500,000 Iraqi children died of disease thanks to the 1990s embargo.
    ► Millions of innocent civilians killed by the U.S. since WWII.
    ► 3,000 killed when steel reinforced concrete at free fall speed into a small footprint.

    The Moral Of The Story
    Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He’s not breathing and his eyes are still, so his friend calls 911. “My friend is dead! What should I do?” The operator replies, “Calm down, sir. I can help. First make sure that he’s dead.” There’s a silence, then a loud bang. Back on the phone, the guy says, “Ok, now what?”

    Hydrogen can now be made cheaply anywhere directly from the sun. It is safe.
    Money is the root of all evil, so fix money. See my 2012 post here.
    voodroom.weebly.com

    Reply
  13. Robert Callaghan

     /  March 22, 2014

    Fun
    [audio src="http://www.ecoshock.net/downloads/ES_140319_LoFi.mp3" /]

    Reply
    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 23, 2014

      Yes, Radio Ecoshock is a must listen. Thanks for the link.

      Reply
  14. Willis Hughes

     /  March 23, 2014

    Name calling like referring to the President as “Obummer” is a bit childish and stupid. Maybe you think we’d be better off if Mitt Romney or John McCain/$arah Palin were president??? How about sticking to the science. Had anyone else won in 2012 other than President Obama, we really would be screwed. No President is perfect but the reality is that local elections, such as who runs for Governor or Senator and wins has a much greater impact on what legislation gets passed. One man can only do so much when you have total gridlock in D.C. It requires an informed populace to create meaningful change.

    Reply
    • You must still be under the delusion that we live in a democracy, but thank you anyway for hinting at the fact that this country’s political system is tied up with corporate money and that Obummer really is just another chameleon politician. Voting for the lesser of two evils is a large reason why we are in this mess. But we never really had a choice did we, given the little known fact that the government-sounding agency called the Commission on Presidential debates is, in reality, a private corporation financed by Anheuser-Busch and other major companies and created by the Republican and Democratic parties to seize control of the presidential debates from The League of Women Voters in 1987. This was simply one more maneuver to effectively keep third party candidates from ever becoming a real threat. The complete corporate control of mainstream news media helps quite a bit to keep the masses misinformed and dumbed down as well. There are other factors as well, but I leave it to the reader to inform themselves. The reality on the ground speaks for itself.

      Reply
      • Oh, I think elections still matter. If they didn’t, then why do republicans keep trying to suppress the vote?

        Reply
      • As Chris Hedge has discussed, the true liberal class is dead. Over the last several decades the Democrats (traditional left leaning) have moved to the right as described here:

        ”Over the last 30 odd years, Democrats have moved to the right and the right has moved into the mental hospital. So what we have is one perfectly good party for hedge fund managers, credit card companies, banks, defense contractors, big agriculture and the pharmaceutical lobby… That’s the Democrats. And they sit across the aisle from a small group of religious lunatics, flat-earthers and civil war re-enactors who mostly communicate by AM radio and call themselves the Republicans and who actually worry that Obama is a socialist. Socialist? He’s not even a liberal.” —Bill Maher

        So I suppose the lesser of two evils can continue to be chosen by the plebs (which it will), but in the end, both parties are under the influence of corporate money.

        Reply
  15. Wonderful post that I shall alert my friends to – but spell check heroin;>)

    Terry

    Reply
  16. Great work Robert, I guess you know David Wasdell and his huge work ESS and feedbacks dynamics, and his critic on IPCC AR5. http://www.apollo-gaia.org/AR5SPM.html

    Reply
  17. I would like to send you a paper of French Astro-physicist François Roddier on the 3rd law of statistical mecanic science (so-called thermodynamic)

    Reply
  18. I was checking the coal market: approx 1 billion tons of thermal and coals are traded yearly. For instance 97% of Poland electricity is produced with coal power plants. How do we shift these economies, without collapsing them as the Ukrainian one?

    Reply
  19. I just got the random survey the Guardian pops up from time to time. Put in the suggestions box at the end that they might like to source environment stories from you. Assuming you’re OK with that, just mentioning it in case anyone else feels like reinforcing it with various news outlets when they get the survey popups etc (maybe someone will take notice eventually?).

    Some of your articles definitely merit a wider audience (some I personally think kinda repeat a bit faster than they need to, but that’s just my view).

    Reply
  20. Andy

     /  March 24, 2014

    I was thinking today….

    For those folks who post here, from California, do you remember some of the events of the 97 El Nino? Specifically the Sacramento River. It almost topped the levies. Tons of houses and farms were in grave danger.

    For those who don’t know the area, farms + housing are under the river level. River is held back by very old levies. The land has receded, river has silted. Now the river is higher.

    Now we goto today. They are putting that “semi dam” in place to keep the salt water from running up the delta due to the depleted river discharge.

    Now add an El Nino, perhaps a 97/98 repeat. I suspect that would not turn out well.

    Reply
  21. Willis Hughes

     /  March 24, 2014

    Which 3rd Party candidate did you have in mind?? Ralph Nader maybe? Show me any viable 3rd party candidate anywhere at any time? While you’re busy throwing away your vote on a 3rd party candidate we’ll end up with someone like Mike Huckabee. great logic there.

    Reply
  22. Andy

     /  March 24, 2014

    In the Modesto area, the price per acre foot of treated water has gone from $10 last year, to 1300 to 2500 today. At least they are sacrificing golf courses.

    That is going to be a heck of a rate hike being passed on.

    http://www.modbee.com/2014/03/21/3251600/diablo-grandes-legends-golf-course.html

    Reply
  23. james cole

     /  March 24, 2014

    The media made great play of the ice conditions on the Great Lakes this winter. Indeed the Lakes did get a , now very rare, ice cover. But as a resident of Lake Superior’s North Shore, I can tell everyone that this ice cover was mostly an illusion. Surface area coverage may have been widespread, but volume, thickness, this was marginal at best. We had a nice wind storm a few days back, and that was all it took to break Lake Superior open and eliminate the illusion of a heavy ice pack. Right outside my window the big Ore Ships have been docking for a week to load Iron Ore for out east. I hear nothing from the media about the now pathetic ice cover. In decades past, Lake Superior shipping was shut down for months on end and the Coast Guard operated many small and one large Ice Breaker to open shipping lanes in April. No more ice breaking needed, just a little wind.
    I suspect, that Arctic Sea ice recoveries are just the same illusion, thin ice? Easily broken up by wind storms and currents? Long term pack ice up there may be mostly history by this point.

    Reply
  24. Elizabeth Kolbert on How Tech Can — And Can’t — Tackle Climate Change and Extinction

    Sherwood Rowland, one of the scientists who discovered ozone depleting chemicals and who recently died, had a couple of great lines, including one I quoted in the book. “The work is going well, but it looks like it might be the end of the world.”

    Another was, and I’m paraphrasing, “What’s the use of having predictive science if you don’t listen to the predictions?”

    (The full quote goes: “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”)
    http://recode.net/2014/03/23/elizabeth-kolbert-on-how-tech-can-and-cant-tackle-climate-change-and-extinction/

    Reply
  25. Willis Hughes

     /  March 24, 2014

    I’m invested in the best viable political choice that has a chance to make a difference and win an election. I’ve yet to see any 3rd party candidate that had a snowball’s chance of winning anything. While I agree that we have to go with the least worst choice, the least worst is always better than the worst. Can you imagine $arah Palin as President or Mitt Romney? Do you seriously think we’d be better off with a John McCain than the President we have now?

    I don’t think anyone is happy with the political system but at least President Obama is addressing Climate Change publicly and he’s doing what he can about it without going through congress. You can claim you’re not invested in the system but I don’t believe it for a minute unless you’ve totally quit voting. You’re IN the system, like it or not, so you might as well make the best of it.

    Again, show me ANY 3rd party candidate with a chance of winning a general election and I’ll take a good look at them and consider giving them my vote. I’m not closed to the idea at all. But I will not waste my vote on a candidate who has absolutely no chance of winning. Had Al Gore won in 2000 we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now. You can thank 3rd party candidate Ralph Nader for that.

    Reply
  26. From the “puny humans file” :

    Humans drive evolution of conch size

    Summary:

    Scientists found that 7,000 years ago, the Caribbean fighting conch contained 66 percent more meat than its descendants do today. Because of persistent harvesting of the largest conchs, it became advantageous for the animal to mature at a smaller size, resulting in evolutionary change.

    Human-driven evolution of wild animals, sometimes referred to as “unnatural selection,” has only previously been documented under scenarios of high-intensity harvesting, like industrialized fishing. “These are the first evidence that low-intensity harvesting has been sufficient to drive evolution,” said lead author Aaron O’Dea of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. ”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140318212252.htm

    Reply
  27. The rain’s arrival snapped the record run of days of 25 degrees or warmer weather. Monday’s maximum was 23.2 degrees just after 1pm. Brett Dutschke from Weatherzone said the 21-day run was the longest ever in autumn in records going back to 1859. It was also the sixth longest for any time of the year.

    Buried with the numbers is this statistic. Before Monday, Sydney had clocked up 19 consecutive days of at least 26 degrees – the longest at that threshold for any month.

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/weather/wild-weather-rocks-sydney-one-dead-two-hit-by-lightning-20140324-35ebb.html#ixzz2wvPdYMRg

    Fall refuses to come to Sydney.

    Reply
  28. “As the system nears a tipping point, it moves to the extremes.”

    Reply
  29. Here’s a killer image for reading what white is , notice that sea ice looks like worms in pasta .
    Snow on land looks like wedding cake, and clouds look like cotton candy . and are greyer than ice and snow. .

    Aqua/MODIS
    2014/079
    03/20/2014
    16:25 UTC

    Sea ice off Newfoundland

    Reply
  30. I’ve thought about this for many years –

    Europe needs an electric bike , with a hydrosatic drive. The world needs an electric bike , with a hydrosatic drive.

    The market for this is in the billions. And Europe needs this first . Because Europeans are the first adopters.

    hydrosatic drive ….. A bicycle without chains and gears. But one that runs on hydraulics,
    Because chains and gears are so 19th century

    Nothing in the human mind is a better test bed/. Wake-up , get out of bed .

    Other wise , I go to the Dutch.

    Reply
  31. So let us fund an electric bicycle that is driven by a hydraulic static drive.

    If we do this , we kill the chain drive that is160 years old.

    Reply
  32. Nothing in nature is more is more perfect than man on a bicycle.

    Reply
  33. We always had it in us…

    3-25-2014
    Destroyer of Worlds

    New research suggests there was no state of grace: for two million years humankind has been the natural world’s nemesis.

    By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 25th March 2014

    You want to know who we are? Really? You think you do, but you will regret it. This article, if you have any love for the world, will inject you with a venom – a soul-scraping sadness – without an obvious antidote.

    The Anthropocene, now a popular term among scientists, is the epoch in which we live: one dominated by human impacts on the living world. Most date it from the beginning of the industrial revolution. But it might have begun much earlier, with a killing spree that commenced two million years ago. What rose onto its hindlegs on the African savannahs was, from the outset, death: the destroyer of worlds….

    Reply
  34. I enjoy reading your articles. But “heroine” != “heroin”. I think the Arctic methane scenario (volcano, bomb, gun, lava flow, whatever) is the most likely one to play out in terms of AGW. Kind of like how certain economies in this country (USA) are the front end and tail end of economic behaviour of the entire country, the Arctic I think is at the front end of the feedbacks that will amplify as we enable more heat to be trapped.

    Reply
  35. xraymike79, but we were also created during the process of natural/biological evolution. Perhaps in any evolutionary process, uberpredators that consume all other predators are simply a probabilistic outcome. Prokayarotes have been evolving on this planet achieving a sort of natural equilibrium (even with us) for billions of years and humans haven’t changed that. There is another class of organism that behaves like the human species depicted in the article, viruses (even The Matrix picks up on this). You could argue these represent two ends of complexity (in terms of cellular/molecular/atomic organisation) of severely aggressive species. But even the benign viruses have “learnt” to not kill off their hosts else they won’t survive. In the same manner, it is the process of evolution that gave rise to us that may ultimately effect our ability to survive. This version of homo sapiens may need to become extinct before a next, wiser version, can be implemented.

    Reply
    • Ram, I haven’t seen you commenting here until just recently. I appreciate your comments and perspective. Thank you for taking the time to write.

      Reply
    • It’s true that any dominant species that does not adopt self-moderation ends up, eventually, spawning ecological crisis. In isolated instances, humans have effectively self-moderated, so it’s not without precedent. The problem comes when, in my view, humans are taken out of their ecological context as animals. We’re super-skilled at adaptation. In a short period, that trait afforded rapid dominance. But it also results in repeated periods of dangerous Growth Shock. So humans are both blessed and cursed. But I don’t think it’s healthy to either raise humans above other animals or to view us with hatred for our gifts/curses. More helpful would be to figure out how humans can learn to do what other forms of life did long ago — create long-term survival strategies that support the web of life rather than break it.

      Reply
    • Better to accept the fact that humans are a dangerous anomaly in nature. There is no adaption for a species in overshoot on a global scale. Do you know of any species that has ever destroyed an entire planet all by itself? And it’s not over. We’re still overstepping planetary boundaries, pushing some 200 species off the planet each day, developing more deadly weapons for killing, jockeying for the last resources, and thinking we’re rulers of the world.

      Reply
  36. Miep, I’m really new here – I just started reading Robert’s writing a few days back. I found this page googling about the Arctic methane situation. Thanks for the welcome. I look forward to constructive discussions/dialectic!

    Reply
    • I think you can fit in well here, Ram. Just don’t be in a hurry. Get to know people. There are a lot of smart humans who post here and we don’t all agree about everything. But what I see here is a bunch of very smart humans and some great discussions.

      Reply
    • The methane issue is a real mess…

      My opinion is we need more eyes on that ball and far more clarity than current science affords.

      Reply
      • I agree, and I believe current funding for research about methane hydrates in the Arctic is limited and it wasn’t helped by the IPCC comment (which I believe was made off the cuff) about the Arctic methane stores not being a problem until 2100. I think the melting ice in the Arctic is telling us something about where all the heat is flowing. And as you’ve observed there are correlations between what we’re seeing and what happened with other major extinctions.

        My point is that to have clarify and eyes on that ball requires money/funding of the sort we get from the NIH for medical research. While both are equally important, one is far more well funded than the other.

        Reply
        • Taxes on the rich/well off are historically low. So they need to go up. This helps both research and income inequality.

  37. Most definitely; I’m in no rush of any kind (though humanity probably needs to be with regards to AGW, I’m kind of dealing with I think are the likely scenarios with a detached/scientific curiousity perspective). I’ve always said that the world would be a boring place if we all agreed.🙂

    Reply
  38. Robert, while I value your ability to express the inexpressible (as always) – some new science disagrees with your analysis of the amount of masking of warming from aerosols. See the new paper from Bjorn Stevens of the Max Planck Institute on this very matter. Or listen to my interview with him on Radio Ecoshock here:
    http://www.ecoshock.info/2015/09/hunting-climate-shift.html
    Stevens analysed historical records to find that heat masking is really a problem of the last century, not this one. The impact of stopping air pollution may be much less than previously thought, and not as high as James Hansen estimates. It’s OK to clean up the air, says Stevens. The real driver now is just carbon dioxide (and associated greenhouse gases) rather than aerosol pollution.
    Just saying.
    Alex
    Radio Ecoshock

    Reply
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