Playing Chicken With Hothouse Extinction — Obama’s Shameful Shell Drilling Approval

Earlier this week President Obama made one of the worst decisions of his presidency. He decided to ignore the concerns of thousands of protesters and more than 60 percent of the American public over the issue of climate change. He decided to approve a dangerous plunging of new wells into unstable, clathrate-laden seabeds in the Arctic. Effectively, he’s deciding to play a dangerous game of chicken with a natural world that’s been riled and wounded by climate change. And in this game he puts us all at risk.

It’s a bad move that sends all the wrong signals. It demonstrates an attachment to the old, limited resource dominance based, policies that cause so many problems and that keep us dependent on fossil fuels for far too long.

Shell Drilling approved for Arctic

(Shell is now approved to poke holes into the Arctic seabed in a mad, climate-destroying, quest for oil. The Arctic, overall, is a terribly risky place for drilling. Ice, storms, and drilling regions laden with explosive and warming clathrate all result in increased risks for blow outs, destruction of equipment, loss of life and related oil spills. But the worst threat of all comes from the resource itself. The future of a life-sustaining world and the future of continued fossil fuel burning are completely incompatible. Image source: Greenpeace/Mark Meyer.)

To this point, each new productive well, each new coal plant, each new gas fired plant, each new internal combustion engine extends the lifespan of fossil fuel burning. And that’s something we shouldn’t be investing in at the moment. We are pushing well past the dangerous 400 parts per million CO2 threshold. Adding all other greenhouse gasses together, the gross heat trapping is now equivalent to nearly 485 parts per million CO2e. Even maintaining these thresholds will raise the world’s temperatures by as much as 3.8 C over 500 years (and possibly break the 2 C threshold this Century). And that’s if the world’s carbons stores, long buried in ice beneath glaciers, permafrost and cooler seas, long kept safe within healthy forests, do not release through the warming and burning that will come under such a major jump in temperatures.

We have a window now. A brief window where we can draw down carbon emissions fast enough to allow some of that excess of heat trapping gasses to fall out. To give our ailing oceans and biosphere the chance to take up some of that carbon and prevent this very high risk scenario. But taking advantage of that window involves saying farewell to the age of fossil fuel burning.

So it’s the height of shame and short-sightedness for Obama to have approved the Shell project, especially after so many worked so hard to put his feet to the fire. So many people — who put their necks on the line in acts of noble, nonviolent protest to protect their children and loved ones from more carbon spewing oil wells sunk into the warming Arctic seabed — just got the message loud and clear from Obama: ‘we’re not really too concerned about our future.’

Portland Protest

(During late July and early August, protesters in Portland managed to briefly delay Shell’s drilling expedition. It was a loud and clear signal from the public to Obama — we don’t want the future climate wreckage Shell is attempting to help lock in. It was a noble plea Obama has now blithely ignored. Image source: Greenpeace/Tim Aubrey.)

Playing Dangerous Games of Climate Chicken

Obama has done many good things with regards to climate change. Many things madcatter, drill, baby, drill republicans would have never done. He’s using the EPA to regulate carbon, he’s committed to cutting overall carbon emissions by more than 30 percent through 2030 (which is, I have to say a good move, but not fast enough), he’s pushed CAFE standards through the roof, and he’s helped to drive solar energy prices lower even faster than they would have been lowered otherwise. He’s at least helped to delay the Keystone Pipeline.

But, sometimes, as with fracking, as with other new pipeline construction, and as with the Shell Arctic drilling expedition, his policies cut against the grain of a necessarily rapid reduction in carbon emissions. Such backsliding is shameful and there is, at this time when human caused climate change is displacing people, on average at the rate of 8,000 each day, when heatwaves are now killers that stretch hospitals to the breaking point, when we have crossed or are crossing the Eemian boundary which implies a 20-25 feet of sea level rise for our cities and islands, when James Hansen’s storms are brewing in the North Atlantic, and when a monster El Nino is cracking wide the Pacific to ooze out yet more heat, there is absolutely no excuse for it.

Obama is not like republicans. He, unlike that mad beyond nightmares political set, is at least influenceable, at least somewhat sensitive to the great dangers we’ve stoked to new life. For his support relies, in large part, on those of us who are very concerned about climate change. And for the backward action of the Shell approval our appropriate response is shaming. We need a leader who’s a climate hawk — not someone who’s going to risk our future and our children’s future in a dangerously irresponsible game of climate chicken.

Links:

Obama Gives Shell Final OK to Drill in the Arctic

Portland Activists Force Shell to Turn Around

Greenpeace

Mark Meyer

Tim Aubrey

Hat Tip to Caroline

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58 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on GarryRogers Nature Conservation and Science Fiction (#EcoSciFi) and commented:
    It has seemed all along that Obama lacks background in the natural sciences. He often appears to lack the understanding that would let him fully accept the real dangers of global warming. Instead, he believes the topic is important because of the concerns of his advisers and voters. Thus, it is something that he can use politically for bargaining and negotiations.

    Reply
    • wili

       /  August 18, 2015

      I don’t know. He appointed people like Chu who certainly knows all the relevant science. It’s just like economists like Summers seem to be able to constantly over-rule pretty much any other consideration. I guess politicians still live by Clinton’s old dictum: “It’s the economy, stupid!” That should be changed to “It’s the ecology, stupid!”

      Reply
      • There’s a lot of conflicting influences right now. The old economic model was based on dominating these resources and ensuring their availability. That’s a tough model to break out of. But we really need to do just that.

        Reply
      • rustj2015

         /  August 19, 2015

        Yes, but that might make rich people poorer.

        Reply
      • Abel Adamski

         /  August 20, 2015

        ‘Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.’ – Albert Einstein

        Reply
    • If there’s bargaining involved, then what did Obama get for Shell’s drilling rights? EPA regulating carbon? More CAFE standards? Pushing the net carbon cuts up by 2 percent.

      It’s true that Shell is putting assets at risk in a venture that may result in a loss for them. But the question to my mind is — can the world afford to access another large pool of carbon. One that will put more potential stranded assets on the table for the spurring of the fossil fuel lobby to extend the lifetime of emissions.

      If the President has the ability to shut down new drilling. Then he needs to wield that influence now. Not later. Later may be never.

      Reply
      • Andy in YKD

         /  August 19, 2015

        The chip the big oil bargained away was allowing the nixing of the keystone pipeline. That got plenty of media coverage and fooled a few people that Obama was acting tough for the people, environment and climate. (hahaha)

        Reply
  2. Ouse M.D.

     /  August 18, 2015

    I guess this video showing what potentially awaits them should be distributed as widespread as possible among those Shell workers and their families, bosses, CEOs:

    These people are just plain psychotic suicidal and ecocidal.
    And I was polite, then.

    Reply
    • rustj2015

       /  August 19, 2015

      “I can’t seem to face up to the facts
      I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax
      I can’t sleep ’cause my bed’s on fire
      Don’t touch me I’m a real live wire”

      Read more: Talking Heads – Psycho Killer Lyrics | MetroLyrics

      Reply
  3. Feeling pretty concerned about Bob. I’ve sent him a message through his Facebook page here:

    https://www.facebook.com/colorado.bob.3

    He hasn’t been too responsive through facebook in the past but I don’t have any other more direct means of contacting him. That said, I’d encourage everyone to send him a message to see how he’s doing. Or, if someone has a more direct contact, to go ahead and see how he’s doing.

    His more recent posts are certainly cause for some worry.

    Reply
  4. I’m a vampire, babe
    Sucking blood from the earth…

    Reply
  5. It may very well be that the impact of natural gas, due to fugitive emissions, is equal to coal. Obama’s shift towards gas/fracking only makes the problem worse. Outsourcing emissions to China is not an answer as it is a less than zero sum game. It would be nice if Obama got the NSF involved in a comprehensive study of these fugitive emissions and got economists at the US Dept of Labor to study the rise in US virtual CO2 and CH4 emissions abroad. Europe and the USA and Canada with their high legacy carbon dumping need to be at the extreme forefront of current greenhouse gas reductions.

    Reply
  6. – Language and meaningful terminology to describe a current reality such as climate change.

    – The Guardian – Ellie Mae O’Hagan

    ‘Mass migration is no ‘crisis’: it’s the new normal as the climate changes’

    What’s the common factor between the tragic deaths of refugees in the Mediterranean and the Arab spring? Food shortages driven by global warming

    I’ve been interested in the way the migrant crisis is being debated in politics and the media. It’s that word – crisis – that is particularly striking. It suggests that what we’re seeing in across Europe is an aberration, a temporary disaster to be “solved” by politicians. Even the sight of ramshackle tents in Calais suggests a phenomenon that could be cleared away at any given moment

    there has been so little uproar over supposedly civilised societies using terminology like “marauding” and “swarms”, and making policy decisions that result in hundreds of people drowning in the Mediterranean or languishing in detention centres. These things, we think, don’t reflect who we are as people. They are just necessary responses to this current crisis.

    There is only one problem with calling this phenomenon of migration a crisis, and that is that it’s not temporary: it’s permanent. Thanks to global climate change, mass migration could be the new normal.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/18/mass-migration-crisis-refugees-climate-change

    Reply
    • Mass migration is usually one of the first upshots of mass extinction.

      Reply
      • Spike

         /  August 18, 2015

        Trolls swarming over that Guardian article on migration dissing what is actually a good piece. Guess they may be concerned at people linking an issue of great concern in Europe to the climate issue, which must remain portrayed as a distant nebulous threat.

        Reply
        • In any kind of mass extinction event intense migration as resources and habitats shrink is a leading indicator. Europe, it could be said, is suffering the early impacts of a hothouse extinction.

    • rustj2015

       /  August 19, 2015

      I’m not trolling. I think this is a more important view of what’s causing tens of thousands to leave their homelands for the treachery of escape paths.
      http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/08/war-begets-war-refugees/
      And there’s a ginormous elephant in the room.

      Reply
      • Spike

         /  August 19, 2015

        Not disagreeing that wars are important and the most proximate cause – but wars have causes, which are in my experience often hard for lay people to comprehend, and are often obscured by propaganda. The trolls on that site are simply baldly rejecting any explanations that lie beyond the neoliberal consensus on what matters.

        Reply
      • War is absolutely a major cause of displacement. And for much of the 20th Century it was the primary cause. But, these days, extreme weather and effects related to climate change result in higher numbers of displaced persons. In addition, the wars following the Arab Spring cannot entirely be divorced from a climate change related increase in food prices. This, of course, is outside of any bad actor influence or related exploitation of destabilized states — which only exacerbates the problem.

        So your comment is incorrect. War is absolutely an elephant in the room when it comes to displacement. Unfortunately, these days, climate change happens to be a bigger elephant.

        Reply
  7. – Hey Robert. Check this out about sci-trolls.
    – Ps I value your vigilance at RS.

    ‘Trolls Edit Wikipedia’s Politically Controversial Science Pages’

    Gene E. Likens, president emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and a distinguished research professor at the Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs, is warning against the accuracy of the site’s entries on politically controversial topics, such as acid rain and global warming.

    “In the scientific community, acid rain is not a controversial topic. Its mechanics have been well understood for decades. Yet, despite having ‘semi-protected’ status to prevent anonymous changes, Wikipedia’s acid rain entry receives near-daily edits, some of which result in egregious errors and a distortion of consensus science,” said Likens, who co-discovered acid rain and is a recipient of the National Medal of Science.
    http://www.rdmag.com/articles/2015/08/trolls-edit-wikipedias-politically-controversial-science-pages

    Reply
    • You would not believe the volume of this kind of crap. A huge campaign that appears directly aimed at controlling the conversation on global warming and climate change. The conversation as well as the kinds of ideas that are developed.

      The aim is to remove awareness of the problem and failing that to remove a desire to respond. So accurately identifying the issue is responded to with nihilism even as the issue is generally clouded at every possible level. The overall appeal is to skepticism. But the skepticism is manipulated in a way to cover up actual facts rather than to enhance the process of accuracy refinement.

      It really is ugly. Something deeper than just a PR campaign. Thought policing does come to mind. A money and profit seeking form of thought policing.

      Reply
      • I’m amazed at how entrenched it has become. At many levels it has become a socially and intellectually acceptable response. I hear it all the time whether solicited or not.
        Thanks again for your vigilance.

        Reply
        • DT, it’s tough to express what your appreciation means to me. Usually it’s the case of no good deed goes unpunished. So thanks for your back-up on this one.

      • You bet, Robert.🙂

        We do have to cover each others backs.

        Reply
      • Apneaman

         /  August 18, 2015

        Thought policing? How about criminal negligence leading to the harm and death of others? Me I think civilization is toast, but I can definitely imagine others who don’t start invoking a self defense clause mentality and taking matters into their own hands. I’m not advocating, just predicting based on my knowledge of human behaviour and history. I never had children, but I imagine those who have young ones and are aware of the ongoing consequences and the non responses after decades of warnings must be going through a living hell.

        Reply
      • Abel Adamski

         /  August 19, 2015

        At the risk of entering conspiracy land, I have noted the appearance of a link to a movie length “Documentary” The Gloved Hand, Alien influence, abduction, creation of hybrid offspring etc appearing at the base of quite a few Murdoch Media articles.
        One wonders why. ?
        Plus I don’t know if you have noticed, but articles re astronauts stating aliens will exist, plus articles re craft over nuclear facilities during the height of the cold war etc
        Trying to create an impression that a superior species will save us, so we can go ahead regardless.
        They have tried the God will not let it happen.

        However in that theory they have not addressed why hybrids need to be created, our replacement. ?

        Reply
      • rustj2015

         /  August 19, 2015

        Yes, a Herculean task that you have undertaken, and for which you are to be commended often.

        Reply
    • Spike

       /  August 19, 2015

      Goebbels would have understood

      “the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy”

      Sites like this one, which is pre-eminent amongst truth tellers anywhere on climate, thus become a treasured resource for all who value truth telling. I point anyone I know with an interest in the world in its direction.

      Reply
  8. mfranklin

     /  August 18, 2015

    Obama’s in a tough spot concerning the arctic. He has to do something to assert the West’s rights in the area or see Russia lay claim to most of it.
    Dealing with the likes of Vlad(The Impaler) Putin , former KGB chief, must be difficult. Especially when a Republican controlled, fossil fuel owned Congress is essentially sided with the Soviets in the insane desire to break the (7?) frozen seals of whatever the hell is under all that undersea permafrost.
    Russia is a petro state just like Saudi Arabia ,except minus the history of occasional cooperation with the US.
    Anything we can do to assert ourselves in the region to expand our sphere of influence and to limit the scope of Soviet depradation might be the lesser of two evils.
    I’m just trying to say that a future administration might have a chance to lessen damage to the arctic if it has claims there, but if we fail to assert our rights (which
    unfortunately seems to mean oil exporation) then we’ll just have to live ( or not live) with whatever the dictator Putin “achieves”. He doesn’t have to answer to anybody.

    Reply
    • Now that’s an angle to consider. And a tough tightrope to walk if that’s the realpolitik of the situation. It would certainly be ironic justice if Shell was played in this way.

      All that said, I do have to point out that Soviet Russia is a relic of the 20th Century. The current Russia is an oil oligarchy. Sad to see that considering their people have so much to lose from climate change.

      Reply
    • Abel Adamski

       /  August 19, 2015

      I read an article where the US was complaining that Russia’s Oil and Gas conglomerates were not open to foreign investment, then we have the US getting involved in Ukraine and Crimea (Russia’s deep water Naval port), there has been a ongoing “war” for control of the rich resources of the Arctic and Siberia. Russia is building militarily and upgrading and building new bases in the Arctic circle.

      The battle for control of the wealth of F.F is actually warming up, this I see as an ambit claim that unfortunately is more about control of wealth and resources and putting the planet last.
      A logical extension of the Chicago economic theory that is dominant in the world today.
      I did provide a link to an Oz article pointing out that influence that commenced in the 80’s and led to the GFC, invasion of Iraq , 9/11 etc etc.
      Money/Power and the economy takes precedence over all else even if it kills us all

      http://www.desmogblog.com/2015/08/17/veteran-climate-scientist-advised-three-australian-prime-ministers-what-would-he-say-tony-abbott
      “Pearman’s time within CSIRO overlaps entirely with the period studied by journalist Maria Taylor in her new book Global Warming and Climate Change: What Australia Knew and Buried … Then Framed a New Reality for the Public.”

      In the 80’s Bob Hawke (then P.M) was setting about implementing policies, Keating a right wing follower of the Chicago school dumped that due to a GFC at the time (credit Crunch), Howard toyed with it, but bowed to the economic dries. The same thing happened world wide at the time.

      Thanks Chicago

      Reply
  9. I have three words concerning drilling in the Arctic: Deepwater Horizon redux.

    And now I have some choice words concerning the protestors’ laying themselves on the line in light of Obama’s approval: the gubmint will now regard such people as “terrorists.”

    Reply
    • Doubtful.

      Slightly more than half of Congress, maybe. Obama’s kinda acting like his hand was forced. And much of the public sees these guys and gals as heroes.

      Reply
  10. Spike

     /  August 18, 2015

    Even the former head of BP has said Arctic drilling is a huge risk for Shell. I hope it bites their ass big time, hopefully without a major uncontrollable spill being the mechanism.

    Reply
  11. When Obama was first elected I was hopeful and optimistic, thinking we had turned a corner. Seven years later I’m becoming more and more disappointed. His continued support for suicidal policies is disgraceful.

    More importantly…Colorado Bob, I really hope you’re alright! We all do. You’re an important and valuable contributor, and this place wouldn’t be the same without you!

    Reply
    • Think of it this way. Obama has done far better on climate change than any president that came before. But we are about 3-4 decades behind the 8 ball. So we need more. We’re moving, in large part, in the right direction. The regulation of carbon, the decision to mothball coal, the plans for substantial carbon emissions cuts, the broad support for wind and solar, the ever-rising CAFE standards. All are good policies. It’s just that it’s not enough given the challenges.

      I really shudder to think where we’d be with a republican in office. But what we need is a president and a congress that addresses the issue with due urgency and puts a broad array of additional policies including a carbon tax forward. We need to treat this like the ongoing emergency that it is.

      Reply
      • You’re totally right, Robert. We are in far better shape than if a Republican had been in the White House. But having Republicans control the house (and now Senate), and fighting Obama on everything (they even fight Republican ideas if Obama suggests them) they have done a great job of delaying any kind of action on the scale of what’s required.

        I agree Obama has done some good things, as you point out. I guess my problem is that I pictured an Al Gore type presidency in my head in ’08, an urgent move from fossil fuels to renewables on a scale that this crisis demands. You know, the kind of policies a sane, rational government would support.

        Reply
      • climatehawk1

         /  August 19, 2015

        “I agree Obama has done some good things, as you point out. I guess my problem is that I pictured an Al Gore type presidency in my head in ’08, an urgent move from fossil fuels to renewables on a scale that this crisis demands. You know, the kind of policies a sane, rational government would support.”

        I was hoping for that too. Unfortunately (or, I guess, fortunately, depending on your point of view), he and the Democratic Congress decided to expend their political capital on national health care. At that point, the right-wing smear machine took over, and delaying tough decisions until after elections became the strategy.

        Reply
        • And with elections every two years, this means kicking the can down the road into perpetuity.

          And it wasn’t even a rational health care insurance scheme (ex.: expanded Medicare with an opt-out for private insurance so that everyone is insured) they destroyed their political capital on, but rather “Obamacare.”

  12. PG Antioch

     /  August 19, 2015

    I agree with mfranklin here. This whole thing is an indirect way of addressing Russia’s aggressive claims in the region. The Siberian continental shelf is the largest in the world, & they may have legitimate claims there. (Of course part of the shelf is the North American plate, extending up from Alaska, LOL…) A future American president could offer it as a bargaining chip, to tell the Russians that we’re “giving up something” too.

    Russia is indeed a petro-state like Saudi Arabia (as mfranklin says), but with rather critical differences: among other things, the Saudis (AFAWK) don’t have nuclear weapons. Russia & the US are the only major oil producers that have them.

    Psychotic deniers are always whining that if the US cuts its emissions, the Chinese & Indians will just emit more. Insanely, they imagine we’d have to “invade” them to get them to stick to their commitments to reduce emissions.

    This is absurd, of course: China & India will act on ACC because it’s in their interests to do so. Virtually all of the most vulnerable countries are in Asia.

    The problematic country will be Russia. They’ll still want to sell their hydrocarbons, & they may not mind a warmer climate. They may not miss the large tracts of their country that will be underwater.

    They’re run by a neo-Stalinist bully. And there are those nuclear weapons.

    Reply
  13. Truthout: The Clean Power Plan Is Barely Better Than Kyoto; IPCC Says: We Must Remove CO2 From the Atmosphere

    A new analysis from Truthout of the 2013 Summary for Policymakers, this article from Truthout reveals that it’s not just that we must stop emitting carbon, we must actively remove it from the atmosphere:

    The backup in Chapter 12, Long-term Climate Change Projections, Commitments and Irreversibility, says the same with different words: “A large fraction of climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales, unless net anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions were strongly negative over a sustained period.”

    The wording is complex, and it has taken me a year to understand the science well enough to ask the lead authors appropriate questions. Beyond the irreversible part (which needs no interpretation), “a large net removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over a sustained period” is the most compelling part of this statement. In Chapter 12 of the report the same concept is conveyed using the words “strong negative emissions.”

    What these statements mean is that we must begin to remove some of the accumulated carbon dioxide climate pollution we have emitted all of these years directly from our atmosphere. Emissions reductions alone are no longer enough. A “large net removal” and “strong negative emissions” mean that we must “largely,” or “strongly” remove more carbon dioxide than we emit every year.

    […]

    There is yet another extremely important climate thing that has likely influenced the IPCCs statements on the subject. No discussion of climate policy should be without acknowledgement of abrupt climate change.

    […]

    The models are getting pretty good for steady state warming, and in reality they have always been pretty good. A persistent myth however, that the models are not worth much, has permeated the public’s understanding.

    The myth comes from the ability of models to recreate abrupt changes. And the models truly are quite challenged when it comes to abrupt changes, or at least they were until last year. Researchers from the University of New South Wales and the University of Hawaii have successfully modeled abrupt changes over a portion of the past 100,000 years by simulating fresh water impulses from iceberg armadas in the North Atlantic. Not only do we know from physical evidence that these abrupt changes are real, but now we can model them.

    We also have a great deal of physical evidence about what happened to our environment during natural climate changes of all kinds; impacts to forests, oceans, rainfall, etc. When we back the models up and run them with ancient climate conditions and ocean circulations, the models are accurate for the slow changes. As of last year, the models are even getting toward reliability for abrupt changes.

    When everything is taken into consideration, the professional opinion of the IPCC as stated in its Summary for Policy Makers is that emissions reductions alone are nowhere near what are needed. Strong negative emissions are required. A large, continuous, net removal of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere is required.

    The methods could be agricultural, reforestation and/or industrial and energy smokestack capture, but one thing is certain; all of these things combined will not create a large net removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Direct atmospheric removal of carbon dioxide is required.

    This means that even progressive climate policy that is much more aggressive than the Clean Power Plan just adopted in Austin, Texas, that will strive to meet net-zero (or zero emissions of carbon dioxide) by 2030, are inadequate to say the least.

    Reply
    • There’s a profile by Elizabeth Kolbert of Christina Figueroa in the New Yorker (The Weight of the World) that also touches on the subject:

      Another issue is what’s become known as “the gap.” To hold warming to less than two degrees Celsius, global emissions would have to peak more or less immediately, then drop nearly to zero by the second half of the century. Alternatively, they could be allowed to grow for a decade or so longer, at which point they’d have to drop even more precipitately, along the sort of trajectory a person would follow falling off a cliff. In either case, it’s likely that what are known as “negative emissions” would be needed. This means sucking CO2 out of the air and storing it underground—something no one, at this point, knows how to do. The practical obstacles to realizing any of these scenarios has prompted some experts to observe that, for all intents and purposes, the two-degree limit has already been breached.

      “The goal is effectively unachievable” is how David Victor, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and Charles Kennel, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, put it recently in the journal Nature.

      Even those who, like Figueres, argue that the goal is still achievable acknowledge that the I.N.D.C.s aren’t nearly enough to achieve it. “I’ve already warned people in the press,” she told the gathering at Citigroup. “If anyone comes to Paris and has a eureka moment—‘Oh, my God, the I.N.D.C.s do not take us to two degrees!’—I will chop the head off whoever publishes that. Because I’ve been saying this for a year and a half.”

      Reply
      • OK. So there’s a bit of a misunderstanding here. Negative carbon emissions can be achieved to a degree by land use changes and changes to agriculture. That’s a slow, long term draw-down. But it’s far less intensive than active atmospheric carbon capture — which is a bigger hurdle.

        Reply
      • Leland Palmer

         /  August 21, 2015

        There are a couple of active negative emissions strategies that don’t require direct carbon capture from the atmosphere: BECCS and biochar.

        BECCS takes biomass, burns it and captures the CO2, generating electricity. The CO2 is then deep injected into the earth, for storage or in situ mineral carbonation.

        Biochar uses charcoal from biomass as a soil amendment, storing carbon for decades or centuries.

        So, when the article says that nobody knows how to achieve negative emissions, that’s not quite true. We know how to do it, with BECCS- but we would have to pay slightly more for electricity, maybe. The social barriers to adopting BECCS are large, there is industry resistance (the coal industry wants to do nothing, they don’t really want to do CCS). the environmentalists don’t like it, and there is no political constituency advocating it. But, I think it’s what we have to do to return the climate system to a controlled state.

        If we put too many constraints on solving the problem, the problem is unsolvable. We’re going to have to get a little dirty, and accept solutions that are less than ideal, in my opinion.

        http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/sites/default/files/twp147.pdf

        Reply
    • The Truthout Article opens with:

      The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is 12 percent more stringent than the Kyoto Protocol, yet since 1978, the US has emitted as much carbon dioxide as we emitted in the previous 228 years. Globally, since 1984, our civilization has emitted as much carbon dioxide as in the previous 236 years.

      Reply
    • The models are a good oracle. The problem comes from when they are portrayed as a perfect oracle. My experience is that models tend to accurately describe broader trends but will tend to miss outliers. They’re also lower-accuracy when given less well understood systems (sea ice, glacial melt, carbon store feedback). When it comes to bringing down atmospheric CO2, I’d call them a good oracle.

      Regardless, we need stop carbon emissions as rapidly as possible and then get to work on drawing down that excess carbon as swiftly as possible. There’s not too much flexibility and we’re in the critical timeframe now.

      Reply
    • Leland Palmer

       /  August 20, 2015

      Yes, we must actively remove carbon from the atmosphere, and stop using fossil fuels.

      BECCS (Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage) could help do that. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than destabilizing the climate, I think.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bio-energy_with_carbon_capture_and_storage

      Yes, we need a better place to put the CO2. What we want is carbonate, for long term storage. In situ mineral carbonation could be the answer, especially if the CO2 was injected into fractured basalt strata like those that exist below the Juan de Fuca plate off the Pacific Northwest. Over time, the CO2 would combine with the magnesium, calcium and iron in the basalt and make carbonates. This is an exothermic process, producing heat which could help speed the reaction up.

      Reply
  14. Leland Palmer

     /  August 20, 2015

    I hate it that allowing drilling in the Arctic rewards the oil corporations for their bad behavior in melting the Arctic.

    A just world would revolt against the oil corporations, charge them climate damages, and seize the historical profits they have generated to pay for climate damages.

    Like all other individuals and corporations, they should be held legally liable for the safety of their products and charged damages for the harm their actions create.

    Reply
  15. International Trade Facilitators

     /  August 21, 2015

    Hi Robert,

    An observation on the quote below from your recent post.

    The problem with the quote is that there is an estimated 1 degree C warming in abeyance due to ‘global dimming’. So, if we stop burning fossil fuels in an attempt to maintain these thresholds, the statement should be: Even maintaining these thresholds will raise the world’s temperatures by as much as 4.8 C over 500 years… and will definitely break the 2 degree C threshold early this century.

    As we know that’s way too hot but is now inevitable even if (or even because) we stop fossil fuel burning now. Buggered if you do and buggered if you don’t! Let’s be honest, we are absolutely nowhere near having the global consensus to stop fossil fuel burning any-time soon and, I would suggest, will not do so until we are physically forced to do so one way or another.

    That said I much appreciate your regular climate change updates. The rapidity and extent of the changes happening to the climate are both absolutely fascinating and frightening, but not unexpected when viewed in the context of Chaos Theory. You may recall that Chaos Theory was discussed in the popular media using the somewhat ironic example of a butterfly flapping it’s wings in China causing a Hurricane in the Atlantic (or similar – can’t remember exactly). Ever since I read about Chaos Theory it has seemed that this would apply to climate change above all else as the global system is a complex chaotic system in (or was in) a state of stability within limits. Our actions have pushed ever greater energy into that system and now it is in the process of transitioning to another, different, chaotic but stable state in a short period of time. The transition will take the form of a non-linear step change and will be proportional to the energy input. We are now moving up towards that next step. Do not expect a linear trend-line on any climate data to be representative of reality unless it’s a vertical one!🙂

    Kind regards Brian

    Reply

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