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Facing Down Climate Doom — Wallace-Wells’ Appropriate Alarm Earns Michael Mann’s Necessary Critiques

“Fear will NOT save us; however, fear is a prime motivator to promote new thinking and different action; to change an unsustainable status quo.” — unknown source.

“There are many things that motivate us. But the most powerful motivator of all is FEAR. “– Psychology Today.

“Both hope and fear are great motivators, and they both have the capacity to promote growth in us, but hope creates space in the mind and heart. Fear, more often than not, restricts it.” — Joyce McFadden.

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When two parties seeking a good end passionately disagree over a crucial issue it is sometimes the case that one side is flat out right and the other side is dead wrong. But what is more often the case in an honest dialogue is that both sides are expressing a part of the truth and it is the duty of us, as observers, not to take sides, but to open our ears and learn as the necessary conflict unfolds.

Valid Warnings Against a Dark Future

This week, David Wallace Wells painted a scientifically imperfect, but truthful in broad-brush, picture of a bleak potential worst case scenario if human beings continue burning fossil fuels while dumping such massive volumes of carbon into the atmosphere.

Wells’ New York Magazine article was accurate in broad brush in that it depicted a possible worst case climate scenario where the atmosphere becomes choking and poisonous, heat becomes so great that it’s deadly to venture outside even in New York City, disease vectors multiply, breadbaskets are crushed by heat and extreme weather, and wars over dwindling resources escalate. In the larger scope, if missing the mark on a number of details, David Wallace Wells and NYMag get it right. If we don’t stop burning fossil fuels, this is basically what our future looks like. BAU fossil fuel burning ultimately looks so incredibly grim it is difficult to fathom or even talk about.

And this is the gift that Wallace-Wells has given us. The opportunity to talk about something hard and necessary. To learn and understand more both about the potential coming tragedy as well as the hope we now have in avoiding it. In other words, as science-based meta-analysis, speculation, and fiction often do — Wallace-Wells’ work helped to heighten a much-needed public discourse.

Adding the Scientific Process to the Discourse

Such a volcanic article eliciting such a powerful response was bound to draw some pretty strong critiques. And the article, in its more specific scientific failures, begged just such a reaction. Some of the best of these have come from Dr. Michael A Mann — one of the world’s best climate scientists and top advocates for rapid climate change mitigation.

Mann in today’s Washington Post notes:

The New York magazine article paints an overly bleak picture, arguing that climate change could render the Earth uninhabitable by the end of this century. Its opening story about the “flooding” of a seed vault in Norway leaves out that one of the vault’s creators told NPR “there was really no flood.” It exaggerates the near-term threat of climate “feedbacks” involving the release of frozen methane. It mischaracterizes one recent study as demonstrating that the globe is warming “more than twice as fast as scientists had thought,” when in fact the study in question simply showed that one dataset that had tended to show less warming than other datasets has now been brought in line with the others after some problems were corrected for. The warming of the globe is progressing as models predicted. And that is plenty bad enough.

And this criticism was absolutely necessary — pointing out some of the places where the New York magazine article had fallen down with regards to some of its factual basis. Wells mischaracterized the seed vault flood and a recent scientific study that basically matched satellite based temperature measures with land based temperature measures. Mann also claims that Wallace-Wells exaggerates the methane feedback issue — a very touchy subject in the present science and one that researchers have yet to convincingly nail down.

Massive methane burps are not inevitable. But they are certainly possible, and the risk grows the more the Earth warms. Loss of breathable oxygen to the extent that the article suggests is highly unlikely. But fossil fuel burning and anoxic oceans do reduce atmospheric oxygen on a smaller scale which is somewhat disturbing. And though deadly hydrogen sulfide burps from anoxic oceans are certainly possible under worst-case warming scenarios, the characterization of such events was probably a little overplayed to the minds of the more technically inclined. That said, Wallace Wells’ rolling clouds of death-inducing fog are entirely possible according to the scientific explorations of Dr. Peter Ward and Donald Canfield.

In other words, the article probably leans a bit more on the darker studies of paleoclimate as an allegory for potential future harm than is comfortable to the broader scientific community — which then led to assertions that his portrayal was closer to science fiction.  This despite the fact that some of the science does point to these kinds of worst case climate events that may look rather like what Wallace-Wells describes even if, as a technical matter, he’s somewhat off with regards to the present scientific consensus according to the well-informed opinion of Mann.

Wallace-Wells = Climate Change Denier is about Three Steps too Far

But aside from these much-needed critiques, Mann unintentionally does us a bit of a disservice here. By comparing Wallace-Wells with climate change deniers, Mann is creating a false equivalency argument. Moreover, Mann also generates false hope in the public sphere by appearing to down-play climate risks, even though that was clearly not his intention. In truth, Wallace-Wells falls far closer to the mark than any climate change denier. And if any of the consensus science that Mann relies on for his assertions happens to be wrong or too conservative, then a business as usual fossil fuel burning future could look a lot more like the one Wallace Wells describes than present scientific consensus expects.

In other words, Wallace Wells warnings may turn out to be more prophetic than an overly cautious science even if the various details of a climate disaster scenario play out in ways that few of us presently expect. The future is, in other words, murky. And you absolutely don’t want to be prodding the Cthulu that is climate change based mass extinction into full wakefullness by continuing to burn fossil fuels. Nor do you want to beg that potentially very bad future in giving ammo to climate change deniers by comparing a rather rational form of alarm with what amounts to an intentional deception that has been purposefully inflicted upon the public discourse.

Wallace-Wells and Mann Should be on the Same Team

All that unpleasantness aside, Mann’s most accurate and important statement follows a couple of paragraphs down:

It is important to communicate both the threat and the opportunity in the climate challenge. Those paying attention are worried, and should be, but there are also reasons for hope. The active engagement of many cities, states and corporations, and the commitments of virtually every nation (minus one) is a very hopeful sign.

And, ironically, I think it is here where Wallace-Wells and Mann probably agree. Unlike many of the Doomers that Mann rightly criticizes, Wells has recently spoken out as a staunch advocate for exactly the kind of clean energy and policy-based solutions that Mann so rightly and passionately stumps for. In other words, Mann was absolutely right to state that any fearsome climate message should also be tempered by the amazing hope and opportunity now available to us in the form of a renewable energy transition and a shift to less consumptive, more sustainable societies. And Wallace-Wells, while not shining a light on the various escape hatches available to us now in his article has appropriately used the platform given to him to talk about just these issues:

But, you know, there’s great news from green energy, there’s great news from renewables, the cost of wind and solar power is falling, not just dramatically but much more dramatically than even the biggest boosters would have predicted five or 10 years ago. A lot of that has to do with subsidies from the Obama administration and other similar, like-minded countries around the world. But there is really good news there. And there’ve also been some limited progress on what’s called “carbon capture,” which are devices to take carbon out of the atmosphere, which will almost certainly have to be one big part of the equation. With electric cars, etc. there’s a lot of tech innovation that should give people a lot of hope.

My hope is that readers will read the piece and feel motivated to think more about the choices they make, but also to this sort of consumption choices they make. And to agitate politically for policy options that will have a positive impact, and not think of climate change as a third or fourth order political priority, but as probably the most important issue we’re facing the world today, and one that should be at the top of our minds whenever we’re thinking about public policy at all.

Moving Forward with a Shared Vision of Avoiding Climate Catastrophe

In other words, Wallace-Wells is not our enemy here. He may have stepped on a number of his unqualified facts, but he’s gotten the overall message pretty much right. And if he’s gotten a bit carried away in being scared over bad climate outcomes, then he’s in good company ;). Moreover, he’s passionately advocating for exactly the kinds of climate solutions that are absolutely needed and that do provide us all with a good measure of hope — if we pursue them. In other words, Wells has talked about climate doom. But he doesn’t walk the path of doom itself.

Links:

The Uninhabitable Earth

Doomsday Scenarios

Are Humans Doomed?

Hat tip to Suzanne

Hat tip to Rudy Sovinee

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177 Comments

  1. Shawn Redmond

     /  July 13, 2017

    http://churchandstate.org.uk/2016/01/nasa-study-concludes-when-civilization-will-end-and-its-not-looking-good-for-us/
    Civilization was pretty great while it lasted, wasn’t it? Too bad it’s not going to for much longer. According to a new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, we only have a few decades left before everything we know and hold dear collapses.

    This from the article caught my eye:
    And that’s not even counting the spectre of global climate change, which could be a looming “instant planetary emergency.” According to Canadian Wildlife Service biologist Neil Dawe:

    Economic growth is the biggest destroyer of the ecology. Those people who think you can have a growing economy and a healthy environment are wrong. If we don’t reduce our numbers, nature will do it for us … Everything is worse and we’re still doing the same things. Because ecosystems are so resilient, they don’t exact immediate punishment on the stupid

    Reply
    • Shawn Redmond

       /  July 13, 2017

      Well Robert this comment was supposed to be added to the last post. However it landed here, my mistake. Might be a better placement anyway. A bit more of a sense of urgency involved to go along with the theme, I think, as I have yet to read above post!

      Reply
    • No worries. I was trying to fix. But it appears to be stuck. Probably better off here.

      Reply
    • The article is three and a half years old and the study is probably a bit older. Looks like the NASA association is tenuous, also. Much of it seems correct but the timescale is completely unknown. I’m not at all sure that civilisation was great while it lasted. All civilisations degrade the environment, so I’m not a great fan of them despite perhaps having benefited from this one, over the short term.

      Reply
      • Humankind has lived in civilizations for 10,000 years or more. We’re not adapted to living as hunter-gatherers on a mass scale. If you don’t get civilization right — make it survivable, lasting, and in balance with nature — then you end up with a pretty bad future for pretty much everyone. The focus should really be on how we can make civilizations sustainable and beneficial to the Earth. It’s a necessary focus if we are honest about ourselves and our condition and if we truly care about our future and that of those we love.

        In the early 21st Century, the primary challenge will be rapidly transitioning away from fossil fuel use. The impact of fossil fuel burning on sustainability and the level of external harm generated is so tremendous that taking it out not only buys civilization time, it also draws back a considerable blow to the Earth System and nature itself. Furthermore, there’s a link between destructive consumptive behavior and profit-taking from extractive industries due to the very harmful hoarding and short-term individual economic gain associated with cornering a finite resource. In other words, the lessons we will learn as we transition away from fossil fuels can be applied to civilization on a broader level — increasing equality, reducing hoarding and over-accumulation of wealth — in such a way that other destructive consumptive behavior is reduced.

        Moving beyond fossil fuels, there will be further significant challenges, I am certain. But I think this is a goal we should focus on for the time being. We shouldn’t forget the other things. But both the potential opportunity (from switching) and tragedy (from failing to switch) are so great that this is the primary challenge of our generation (or even a number of generations).

        Reply
        • Robert I have posted your reply to Mike Roberts on my Facebook page, it’s very good!

        • I can’t really disagree with any of that, Robert, except that I really can’t see any way of making civilisation sustainable. The human species (or some of the members of that species) has lived in civilisations for 10,000 years but only for the last century or two at the kind of scale we see know. They lived outside civilisations for nearly 200,000 years, before that. Again, at a much smaller scale.

          Nothing I’ve read about as solutions for, or strategies towards, our multiple predicaments (brought about by civilisation) suggests we will find a way to live sustainably. But, you’re right, moving beyond fossil fuels should be a goal, but one of a hundred goals to try to ease the transition to what is coming (for current or future generations). I don’t have much time for doomers but, gosh, sustainability looks as remote as ever.

    • Bill Everett

       /  July 16, 2017

      First, the study (S. Motesharrei, J. Rivas, and E. Kalnay: “Human and nature dynamics (HANDY): Modeling inequality and use of resources in the collapse or sustainability of societies,” Ecological Economics, Vol. 101, May 2014, pp. 90-102; Open access: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800914000615) was NOT a NASA study. Some computer software used in the modeling effort for this paper had previously been a deliverable under a NASA/GSFC grant, and that grant was mentioned in the “Acknowledgments” section of the paper (leading to initial confusion).

      Second, because the paper reports results from a “a 4-variable thought-experiment model for interaction of humans and nature” with no basis in actual data, no conclusions can be drawn about the timing of any near-term collapse of civilization.

      Third, the basis of the model is the Lotka-Volterra predator-prey model (often used as an example of applying a simple system of differential equations to a “real” situation in textbooks; at least, it was in my textbook when I took a course in ordinary and partial differential equations in 1969). This model is not generally used by biologists because it gives a very poor fit to real-world data. The Lotka-Volterra model is well covered in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotka%E2%80%93Volterra_equations, from which I quote: “These graphs illustrate a serious potential problem with this as a biological model: For this specific choice of parameters, in each cycle, the baboon population is reduced to extremely low numbers, yet recovers (while the cheetah population remains sizeable at the lowest baboon density).” The extremely low numbers for the baboon population means a tiny fraction of one baboon.

      I studied this paper a few years ago. The basic ideas although simplistic are somewhat provocative interms of stimulating further thought, but the conclusions of the paper in terms of the mathematical modeling seem to have very little value from my standpoint. In other words, the conclusions are essentially what I would expect from a model using the Lotka-Volterra system as the starting point.

      Reply
  2. Suzanne

     /  July 13, 2017

    Thank you Robert. Balanced and fair as we have all come to expect and appreciate.

    My bottom line….Keep the lines of communication open..and get the word out to the masses as to the dangers of CC. And for God sakes, let’s avoid circular firing squads, which only results with most people not as plugged in as us confused, and turned off…And with the deniers enthusiastically applauding our in fighting.

    Reply
    • I didn’t say it in the article, but I will say that looking at the potential worst case is absolutely needed. It’s the exact opposite of climate change denial. It’s seeing with eyes wide open. Of course, dwelling on it is where you get doomerism. But we should consider why we are responding to climate change. To be very clear, we are trying to avoid the bad outcomes. And we need to talk about bad outcomes in order to make people aware. Climate change denial and scientific reticence have combined to stifle this necessary discourse. But people know something is wrong — which is why the NYMag article got so much attention.

      Reply
      • It’s the exact opposite of climate denial, except that climate denial is massively funded by the Kochs and their allies, who have succeeded in buying a host of politicians who make critical decisions for the U.S. on this issue. Just a slight imbalance.

        Reply
      • Both climate change denial and doomerism tend to ignore the science in favour of opinion, or desire. I’m not sure that the NYT article paints the worst case scenario and that implies there is some chance of its occurring (as laid out). I don’t think any reputable climate scientist would say there is any research to back up that worst case scenario and Mann is right to point this out. So, if a scenario can’t, to all intents and purposes, happen, then it is easy to shoot it down, just as it is easy to shoot down the arguments of deniers. Consequently, such stories are not likely to trigger serious discussion about our predicament.

        Mann swings both ways on climate science. Even though his work shows that there is no time left to avoid catastrophic warming (he calculated, two years ago, that we need to limit atmospheric CO2 to 405ppm, a limit that was likely breached this year, on an annual basis) he still tries to say there’s hope and mischaracterises the Paris agreement as “commitment”, when the only commitment in it is to meet regularly (though not frequently) to reassess individual country’s “intended contributions”.

        So, the situation is plenty bad enough to not have to resort to unlikely “worst case” scenarios and the “hope” seems limited to a wish that significant action can be taken, when it hasn’t for the last 2-3 decades of knowing about the problem. Don’t get me wrong, though, we still need to take action to limit the degradation as much as possible, to give some of us, and future generations, the best chance possible of salvaging a half-decent life but renewable energy and electric cars are not going to keep civilisation going. Many aspects of renewables are rarely, if ever, addressed:

        1. It is still a small fraction of electrical generation and electrical energy is just 20% of energy use. Is it really likely that a rapid uptake of renewable electricity will be rapid enough to get us to zero carbon in the second half of this century?

        2. Whilst there are enough resources, currently, to fuel the rapid growth of renewables, are there enough resources to grow renewables to the level of global energy use there is now?

        3. If there is a rapid uptake of renewables, how will this impact GHG emissions, given the fossil fuels needed to extract, refine and transport materials for such growth?

        4. What would be the environmental impact of renewables, in terms of both the use of toxic materials and the largely unresearched consequences of redirection natural energy flows at that scale (this is sometimes addressed only through the emotional “small fraction” argument, rather that some science based figures)?

        I’d like to be optimistic but it’s very hard to be. We’ve been hearing that significant action needs to be taken “now”, for years, even decades, and we still get the message that there is time. I’m more inclined to believe Kevin Anderson’s view of the likelihood of avoiding even 2C.

        Reply
        • Greg

           /  July 14, 2017

          Mike, you wouldn’t be here if you were not still in the game. In the mean time please look for the roses.

        • There’s a lot here to go on, Mike. I’ll try to address these succinctly given the time I have.

          1. So the 2 C line isn’t a line between doomsday and ‘all is well.’ Its a rough boundary that science has identified as a region of no return for bad climate outcomes. If you hit and exceed 2 C for any considerable length of time, then it becomes more likely that sea level rise, permafrost thaw, harm to forests and ecosystems, harm to reefs and key ocean systems and other damaging effects tip over into levels that seriously negatively impact the nations of the world and the life support systems of our planet. 2 C could be seen as the temperature range where serious damage really starts to kick in. A range in which a number of bad effects will be locked in and become unavoidable. A range that also begs a higher risk of substantial carbon feedbacks over time.
          2. That said, 2 C is considerably better than 3 C, 3 C is considerably better than 4 C and so on. So if you can limit emissions to 2 C ranges, then the future that you’re dealing with is far better than BAU.
          3. The Paris Climate agreement should absolutely be supported. The commitments are there, even if they are non binding. And NDCs presently committed to do limit warming to around 3 C this Century. This backs us off from the 4-7 C range BAU would have given us. It is not, however, in line with Paris’s ultimate stated goal of 2 C or less. This could well be called a commitment gap. But it is one that the climate summit system seems to implicitly recognize in its drive to continue to improve and strengthen emissions reductions coming from various nations. We, as concerned citizens, should absolutely support Paris even as we recognize the need for improving on what was achieved there.

          More in next comment.

        • As for Mann swings both ways… I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily true.

          First you have to understand that the 2 C line isn’t doomsday, it’s just something that we need to try avoid because outcomes get much more difficult at that point, to understand where Mann is coming from. Mann’s science shows that worst case climate sensitivity combined with BAU fossil fuel burning could get us to 2 C by 2036. But his model study also gave a range of various potential outcomes. People latched on to the worst case and took it as gospel.

          The Wallace-Wells piece attempted to look at climate outcomes under a worst case scenario even in 2100 when temperatures were imagined to have exceeded 8 C. To say that such an outcome would be terrible is probably an understatement, even if all the impacts of the Wallace-Wells piece were not envisioned. And it’s worth noting that Wallace-Wells left out more than a few important bits of harm as well (its really tough to catalogue them all).

          Mann’s critique of the Wallace-Wells pieces was twofold. One, Mann hit a number of places where Wallace-Wells went over the mark, in Mann’s very informed view, when it came to both describing the situation and looking at outcomes. Two, Mann critiqued the general tone of the piece — which he saw as leaning too hard on doomerism. The first is a technical critique. The second is a critique of tone and its resulting public impact. Mann is right to say that there is hope and progress when it comes to climate change in this respect. And he is absolutely right to say that we should try to balance the darkness of a potentially very rough future with the various options now at hand for turning away from it. My personal opinion is that I think Mann steps a bit too far over the line in labeling Wallace-Wells a doomer. His piece was certainly very doomful. But Wells intent was to try to spur action, which is outside of the doomer frame.

          This leads us to a further point of contention among those concerned about climate science:

          There appears to be this attempt to censor comment on potential worst case climate outcomes. This reaction stems from a desire not to cause a negative reaction in the public. It is based on the perception, informed in part, by psychological research that indicates that people respond negatively to fearsome potential futures. I’d call it ‘the crisis that must not be named’ syndrome.

          One problem with reacting in this fashion is that discourse is often stifled and the public can receive the opposite impression — that there’s nothing much to be concerned about. True, dealing with tough stuff is hard and does have a psychological impact. But failing to confront the reality of the situation is even worse. There’s a third way to deal with this — which involves both accepting the reality of a potentially bad outcome while also accepting that the outcome is not yet inevitable if we act now. This changes the psychological impact from one that focuses on fear to one the focuses on the imperative to act — in effect replacing paralytic fear with action.

          Mann appears to be struggling with this tough dichotomy. And for good reason. It’s a serious bind.

        • As for renewables —

          What we are capable of presently is pretty amazing.

          1. Consider now that the market cost of renewable energy is competitive with or even less than that of coal and gas. Consider also that the energy return on energy investment for renewables is rising as efficiencies both in the technology and in the production chain increase. Both of these features make renewable energy superior to fossil fuels in electricity generation presently even just from a cost and energy return standpoint. However, what is even more considerable is the fact that renewable energy’s external harmful impacts are an order of magnutide or many orders of magnitude less than fossil fuels. In other words, if you added in the real cost of the harm coming from fossil fuel burning, then the cost of renewables would be even lower. This makes switching to renewables both far easier in the present day and also a kind of rational no-brainer.
          2. Consider also that the primary barriers to renewable energy uptake are now political. Few people thought, in 2008 or 2012 or even just a couple of years ago, that crazy politicians at the federal level would be actively fighting to put in place laws that stifle renewable energy adoption rates in favor of harmful coal, oil, and gas. But this is the political situation we see now. And if we look even deeper we find that there’s a long history of political sand-bagging against renewables that goes way back and that has already delayed renewable energy adoption for some time. Simply removing those barriers would result in a very rapid transition given present economics. However…
          3. .. If we further incetivize renewable energy adoption through seed money to both speed adoption rates and further investment and innovation then the transition would be even more rapid.
          4. … And if we were to add various disincentives to fossil fuel use that added in the cost of the harms that they are already producing and are predicted to produce in the future, then the energy transition would progress with lightning speed.

          Even under current tech it’s more than possible to reduce net carbon emissions by 80 to 90 percent by fully transitioning to renewable energy systems. And just a handful of practices and technological innovations stand in the way of us getting to net negative carbon emissions. So yes, we absolutely could achieve a complete transition away from fossil fuels by or before mid Century. If we really set our minds to it, we could do most of the work by 2035. The real question is do we have the political, individual, and economic will to achieve this? Right now, we are a house divided by fossil fuel special interests.

        • Thanks for the long response, Robert, though I feel you missed some important points. I, too, don’t see 2C as a line between good and bad outcomes. I tend to Jim Hansen’s view that 1C is the limit for manageable outcomes. I doubt he sees that as a realistic goal now. However, 2C is the figure that keeps appearing in the news, even though the science has moved on from supporting the notion that the risks of 2C are manageable. I agree, wholeheartedly, that 2C is better than 3C is better than 4C … But remember that the Paris agreement was to make sincere efforts to limit warming to 1.5C, even though 2C was still the main target. I really don’t see any government trying to limit warming to 1.5C. Hansen doesn’t think the Paris agreement was much more that a reaffirmation of the stated goals of 25 years earlier. The estimate of around 3C warming (I think that was just the middle of the estimate) was based on INDCs actually being implement, being made larger and done in cooperation with negative emissions technologies. I don’t share your optimism that such technologies are close to implementation at a scale that will make any difference.

          Regarding renewables, I mentioned not only some of the points you addressed but also the unknowns of both resource limits (especially if we significantly ramp up capacity to cover all energy uses by mid century) and negative consequences. Also, those pushing for the 100% renewables (in everything we do or, at least, offset by negative emissions) don’t envisage any kind of powering down. They all want everything they have now and more, just powered by renewables. This is, perhaps, one of the main reasons why we can’t get there without further degradation of our environment. We have to power down and live more simply. And, yes, environmental degradation is possibly less with renewables (I say “possibly” because I recall a talk which mentioned the harmful chemicals and gases from some renewables, including very powerful GHGs) but it is still degradation. As I said elsewhere, we can’t have civilisation without degrading our environment. I think that has always been the case and one of the reasons civilisations have always failed.

          Thanks for reading.

  3. Thomas Grizzle

     /  July 13, 2017

    I feel Wallace-Wells has done a great service to humanity in writing this article, and of course robertscribbler, you do the same on a regular basis. These written pieces allows us to occasionally wallow in the worst case scenarios. Maybe he got some stuff wrong; it appears he did. But that does not change the overall message here.

    This is the biggest thing that has ever happened, nothing short, and to minimize or make nice around such a topic as the biggest thing ever, well, to what end? There’s still time. There’s still time. There’s still time. Oh darn it all, it’s too late! Better to fully understand the worst case and be wrong than to minimize and be wrong. The former catalyzes action, the latter catalyzes nothing, BAU.

    Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  July 13, 2017

      Spot on!

      Reply
    • Spike

       /  July 14, 2017

      Scientists of course have an innate tendency to leap on perceived errors in any published work – it’s after all how science works and we regularly witness them tearing into each others work in academic journals, then debating the point to a hopefully largely truthful accurate consensus.

      It works less well in the public sphere when they are attacking a non-scientist and a non-scientific journal being read by a lay audience. I’ve already seen people on social media saying thanks to the scientists for reassuring them it’s going to be OK for example. Well it might be – but as Wallace-Well’s article (correctly IMO) points out BAU probably means it won’t in at least some areas. Joe Romm I think did a great job pointing out the reality, but by then much damage had been done, as shown by UK deniers fulsome praise for the UK climate scientists involved. It feeds into their desire to convince the public that “those climate people are still arguing amongst themselves so they can’t be clear yet as to the dangers”.

      Personally I think the scientists could have phrased it better by simply saying OK this is a worst case scenario with perhaps only a small % risk of happening, there are some errors, and we will probably be able to avoid the worst impacts if we do x y and z. That wouldn’t have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and should have satisfied their desire for accuracy.

      To use a medical analogy nobody will accept arduous medical treatment if they are not first convinced they have a serious illness. The public will not accept flying less, eating less meat or having wind farms in their view unless they understand it’s necessary. So I personally think the rather extreme reaction the article caused is damaging to climate action and agree very strongly with David Roberts that it is somewhat self-indulgent. Personally I think this is a very bad week for the climate community and have felt extremely angry and rather crestfallen, but hey ho we’ve been here before, so lets pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and start right over again.

      Reply
      • redskylite

         /  July 14, 2017

        Well put Spike and I agree with you. The people who are deeply concerned (such as those who regularly read Robert’s postings need to bear in mind the multitude of people who are not very concerned, who do not have time or inclination to spare much time on the subject. This type of internal strife will have a negative effect on them. The rebuff could have been handled better. I’m with Stephen Hawking, the guy with an IQ equaling Einstein on this.

        Reply
      • Thank you for this very informed and considered comment, Spike. I’ve added it to the article. In addition, I’ve updated the article to include a bit more push-back for Mann. In writing the various drafts, I held off on this. But in light of the pubic reaction, I think it’s needed at this point.

        Reply
      • Excellent comment Spike.
        The 7 posts this week (and counting?) by Skeptical Science – including the 7th pointing to this (https://climatefeedback.org/evaluation/scientists-explain-what-new-york-magazine-article-on-the-uninhabitable-earth-gets-wrong-david-wallace-wells/) have certainly done much to “throw the baby out with the bath water.”
        “Climatefeedback” group had far more commentary for discrediting this article than I recall seeing on any article posted by climate denialists. Interesting how many scientists – by dotting the “i”s and crossing the “t”s – are also shooting themselves and the planet in the foot. We will be more likely to stay at or near the BAU track because now there is fuel for future articles by denialists.

        Reply
    • Witchee

       /  July 14, 2017

      +1

      Reply
      • + 2 Reddsky ” In order for humanity to survive the industrial age we will need to acquire a new way of thinking ” Albert Einstein . Many on this forum get this statement , which is why Im here on a regular basis . However, most people I know show no interest, therefore the Canadian Gov. can do things like hand the fossil fuel 3.2 Billion ,no questions asked , The piles of money keep growing for these people ,seems its all they care about . Sad . I watched the newest Chomsky video again …Love that guy , ( My friends got evaced , But are back at home now ) 🙂 CoffeeCheers to all , have a great weekend !!
        J B

        Reply
  4. Suzanne

     /  July 13, 2017

    So, if you think David Wallace-Wells article got a few people a bit piqued…how about this article a the Guardian on July 11th.

    “Want to fight Climate Change” Have fewer children”
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/12/want-to-fight-climate-change-have-fewer-children

    For me, this is an important part of the discussion, but one that can really get people up in arms. Kind of like trying to talk about politics, money, and religion..LOL. My husband and I made the very personal decision to have only one child 35 years ago…and our worries about the environment was the biggest reason why. All these years later we are still convinced we made the right call, and our daughter agrees. However, it is still considered a taboo subject to discuss in many arenas, and I think that is a shame. At this point, I think all options and possible solutions should be on the table for discussion.

    Reply
    • Shawn Redmond

       /  July 13, 2017

      No question, it is the 7.5 billion ton gorilla in the room.

      Reply
    • utoutback

       /  July 14, 2017

      No doubt. My wife & I CHOSE not to reproduce. When we lived in central KY (15 years – OMG!) we were constantly questioned or given votes of sympathy for our loss. Later we moved to UT where a “full quiver” (of children) is considered 6 and is helpful in passage to a better afterlife. Sigh…..

      Reply
    • Spike

       /  July 14, 2017

      Yes Suzanne we only have two kids and stopped there. I think that in the prosperous high emitting countries, this is a critical message. Given the potential of the century ahead I’ve even seen a female climate scientist state she has decided to have NO children, I presume in view of the potential upheavals. She’d better keep quiet about that as it’s a bit alarmist 😉

      Reply
    • Dave Person

       /  July 14, 2017

      Hi Suzanne and other folks,
      Reducing children is an old meme and I believe it needs to be thought through better. Restricting the very strong evolutionary impulse to reproduce is a tough sell and perhaps is morally unfair because it is older people who consume the most resources per capita, not children and young adults. It is old people who require more services, more goods, more convenient transportation, more health care, more energy, and produce less. If we promote controlling reproduction, we should also promote ways to make sure our age structure (age pyramid) does not become too top heavy (like China and Japan for instance). Perhaps we should pass legislation that says people >70 can not receive incredibly expensive, and resource intensive medical care except preventative and palliative care. Perhaps, we should work hard to legalize humane medically assisted suicide for people over 70 so we are not forced by law to support terminally ill people who would rather die. In a world where energy use becomes more restricted and efficient, we are going to need young people to innovate and physically motivate our economies and societies. You cannot focus on one end of the age spectrum without looking at the other.

      dave

      Reply
    • Sorry, but bringing up population is the surest way to derail productive thinking about AGW.

      First of all, population control is at least a 100-year project. We have about a decade window of opportunity for AGW. Secondly, we theoretically could have 10 billion people on planet Earth, but *if* we were using 100% renewable energy, atmospheric CO2 levels would be going down slowly, not up. Thirdly, population increase rates are already heading downward.

      Can we please keep our eyes on the ball? And the ball is quickly replacing all carbon burning with cheap, clean renewable energy.

      Reply
      • +1

        It’s an issue. But the more immediate problem we face comes from AGW. And it’s true that this particular issue has been used to distract concern away from global warming. Sad to see that population has been used as a wedge issue this way. And even more sadly, it does some nasty stuff to people psychologically as noted by Dave above.

        Reply
        • Suzanne

           /  July 14, 2017

          I posted the article…only to open discussion. It doesn’t have to be a priority, and certainly not a distraction, but I don’t think a civil, critical discussion is necessarily a bad idea. Especially, in a forum such as this, where we respect one another, even when we disagree. 🙂

        • I’m not shutting down the discussion just for these reasons. It is helpful, however, to be aware of how the issue has been used as a wedge recently.

        • Spike

           /  July 14, 2017

          It is a favourite tactic of the right to divert all environmental problems into the population issue, but it is part of the Holden Ehrlich equation so does have some impact especially in high prosperity high emitting nations. I assume most people here are discussing it constructively rather than the rather racist way in which the far right frame such issues. There’s no doubt in my mind that the bulk of the heavy lifting has to be done by technology and behavioural changes, as population is hard to change quickly if at all.

        • Suzanne

           /  July 14, 2017

          I know Robert. I thought long and hard about even posting it when I saw it a few days ago..I know it can be a trigger for many..and I respect that it is an emotional issue. There is no “one fit for all” as Umbrios so beautifully expressed in her comment below.
          My husband and I made a choice that worked for us, but I would certainly not “push it” on others. Just something else to think about in terms of possible solutions.

          We also gave up meat…and flying. Have only flown once in 10 years…and you should see the looks we get when that information comes out…LOL. Again, I just keep trying to find solutions that will help and that we can fit and make work in our personal lives. And we continually, make adjustments or add something new that will lower our carbon footprint..There is always room grow, learn and do better.
          All any of us can do is find our own path as we work towards solutions to this crisis.

  5. Josh

     /  July 13, 2017

    While I always cared about the environment and knew the very basics of climate change, what really woke me up was some fairly doom-laden reading over at Radio Ecoshock, along with a few lectures I found on YouTube by Kevin Anderson and others.

    What I had discovered was incredibly worrying, in fact it took me a few days to get over the initial shock. But now I’m not going to let anybody say that climate change isn’t the issue of our time. What kept me reading was the nagging feeling of “if this is true, it’s bad enough that I can’t ignore it”.

    I’ve no idea if this is a typical experience, but I think that “doomy” articles like Wallace-Wells’s have a place. Maybe it would be nice to have potential solutions in the same article but nevertheless, doesn’t being scared of something sometimes motivate people to take action?

    Take all that with a pinch of salt of course. This is an anecdote, not data.

    Thanks for all your hard work, Robert.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Josh. Similar experience here. James Hansen, Peter Ward and the DOD’s climate risks assessment reports were my own gateways. All of these sources were very scientific. None of them pulled any punches.

      Reply
      • Spike

         /  July 14, 2017

        Wallace-Wells spoke to Ward I think – I presume this is where he got the info on hydrogen sulphide.

        Reply
        • It’s pretty clear that he did. I also wonder if he’s lurked on this blog given some of his allusions.

    • My own gateway to start seeing climate change as a really huge problem, instead of “hum… somewhat worring, but nothing too critical, biodiversity loss concerns me far more” was the doomsday scenario in the Artic News Blogspot… after reading it I spent a few weeks trying to research more information on climate change, that suddenly had became an elephant a few steps away instead of a mouse in the other side of the house. With time I realised that Sam Carana’s warnings were scientifish instead of scientific, but it was the initial shock that moved me to look for more info, and to maximize some choices in life that I had already started, trying to lower my carbonfootprint. I was already worried about biodiversity loss and other ecological problems, so I wasn’t starting from zero, but suddenly, the carbon argument gained a lot more weight in the times when the solutions aren’t the same.

      For example, tourism. Ecotourism is a valuable tool in saving biodiversity, but with the carbon argument in, flying is a very BAD choice. I’ve decided on a middle solution: I’ve not flied since 2012, and I don’t intend to fly again until I’ve planted at least 1801 trees in order to compensate me and my husband’s carbon footprint with life and the trips we want to do. We’re almost in the blue… having planted 1430 trees thus far. Old me probably wouldn’t have worried too much, rationalizing that the flow of money to communities doing conservation work that comes with tourism can be more important than any damage an educated tourist causes, but today I still wonder if travelling is a decent thing to do, even after trying to compensate the carbon footprint planting trees.

      That change wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gotten scared by doomsday scenarios. They obviously don’t work for everyone (nothing works for everyone) but they do work for some, adding another anecdote to the count.

      Reply
      • I’m with you. I’m not online every day, in my retirement, tweeting about this issue because I think we can solve it. I’m here because I fear we won’t, thanks to the enormous political power and moral bankruptcy of the fossil fuels industries.

        Reply
        • +1

          I’m right there with you both. My family mostly lives on or near the coast. Many of my friends live there as well. As a more immediate issue, I’m concerned about them. But ultimately, if you see a great deal of suffering coming down the pipe, the only moral and rational thing to do is to work to avoid it and try to get others to do the same. To elicit a positive response to a very nasty potential future situation. You need the clarion call of warning first, though.

          The other point is to say that alarms aren’t helpful is also pretty untrue. A tornado alarm is loud and scary and might not communicate with exact accuracy how bad a coming tornado might be. But it’s a tornado and it could kill you. Climate change alarm serves the same purpose. And alarm is a positive in that it gets people moving in the right direction — toward the solutions that will shelter us from it and help us avoid it.

          The worst thing we could do right now is sit still and do nothing. I think that we should not be overly critical of alarm for just this reason. Alarm serves a very useful purpose when the situation is such that if you don’t change from your present course — bad things are going to happen.

      • Wow , your a gem in a pile of granite Umbrious . I grew up in logging town thats all Ive seen my whole life was trees in trucks . When I was a kid the trees where so big that only one or three would fit in the bad of these , now , logging second and third gen trees theres 20 or so . Mac and Blo. did replant but it tales a long time to become large old growth , this for the most part is gone from here forever , Very few where saved ( Carmanagh valley) .
        I loved reading your post , and Thank you for what you are doing.
        Sincerely J B .

        Reply
      • Thank you for your responses, Umbrios. I sincerely hope more also decide to act in a similar fashion — in doing what they are capable of and in taking every opportunity to reduce carbon consumption, harmful impacts, and switch to clean energy.

        Reply
  6. Greg

     /  July 13, 2017

    It’s that time again.

    Reply
  7. Greg

     /  July 13, 2017

    “Doom” a South African branded insecticide being used on parishners, with good intentions, but better judgement should have been employed!

    Reply
  8. Greg

     /  July 13, 2017

    I just can’t seem to help myself…

    Reply
  9. climatehawk1

     /  July 13, 2017

    Retweeted.

    Reply
  10. Neither the article nor the headline states “2100” or the “end of this century” as the end of human existence. (It mentions 2100 twice, but in different contexts.) Michael Mann and I disagree on the article in NY Mag. Mann, in his rebuttal on subsequent posts, inserts 2100 into that context (possibly because so much of the IPCC Mandate put 2100 as the extent of our time horizon.) But is that the entirety of our requirement for sustainability, to not destroy all life before the end of this century? Will we even have sufficient carbon sequestration in place by that time to get out from the geo-engineering plans embedded in the optimal IPCC scenarios?

    Doing all that we can now IS needed – so as to avoid any series of bad scenarios that do result in mass extinction – very much including humanity. It requires political unity that is sorely lacking in the USA. David Wallace-Wells did all of us a favor by writing so forcefully as to the many “Worst Case Scenarios” to which we are headed – baring a massive redirect of societal priorities and energies. His piece gave purchase for many more people to learn more of and then join into the efforts needed. My posts since the US presidential election are that humans are incapable of unifying sufficiently to do what needs be done. I dare readers to prove me wrong. Suggesting an effort that might attain unity I have suggested http://www.theclimatemobilization.org/blueprint

    Perhaps some scientists try to soft-pedal the risks – so as to follow advice from psychologists. While discussing these ideas elsewhere, a psychologist friend reminded me … “Fear will NOT save us; however, fear is a prime motivator to promote new thinking and different action; to change an unsustainable status quo.” Scientists have that fear in our gut, this article helped spread it quite a bit further.

    Please also note that runaway warming from positive feedback is not needed to cause millions more to die from crop failures, then civil disruption. For many crops in many places, we are already above optimal growing temperatures for viable yields. We could get to enough migrations due to food and financial inequity to lead to mankind’s usual “solution’ of war. That easily accelerates the path to extinction, so give David Wallace-Wells full credit on getting published his excellent piece. Time for political debates and firings of scientists reporting the bad news – it does not exist.

    Reply
    • utoutback

       /  July 14, 2017

      “But is that the entirety of our requirement for sustainability, not to destroy all life by the end of the century?”
      Great line. As we know the knock on effects are going to last well past 2100.

      Reply
    • Spike

       /  July 14, 2017

      Quite so – an impact doesn’t need to be total to have huge welfare implications. One UK climate scientist said something along the lines of “all Bangladesh is not going to be flooded”. Well he is probably right, but I was tempted to say that not all of Syria’s territory is currently a war zone and that has caused problems, refugees, and suffering enough.

      Reply
    • Thank you for this very informed comment, Rudy. I’ll add it above and revise as appropriate.

      Reply
    • Rudy —

      What’s your psychologist friend’s name and title, I’d like to quote him.

      Reply
      • Steven Earl Salmony
        He retired last year – this was his professional link
        https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100013698468508

        Reply
        • I used to see lots of posts from Steven Earl Salmony re over populations,,when others were not speaking up about the issue

        • Jean, Steven STILL posts repeatedly on the topic of population, though he has added Climate Change to the top priorities he posts about.

          I thought Robert would have updated the top quote by now – the one attributed as “unknown”

          ““Fear will NOT save us; however, fear is a prime motivator to promote new thinking and different action; to change an unsustainable status quo.””
          … it is one that Steven wrote – discussing this same article by David Wallace-Wells.

  11. Shawn Redmond

     /  July 14, 2017

    This piss’ me off more than anything else. Sorry for my french but having the message that capitalism is the best way to run civilization promoted by the corporate world and then when the chips are down for one of them socialism seems to be best.
    https://apnews.com/3e6d28558a914112b1208b005eac14e6/Coal-ash-neighbors:-Don't-raise-rates-as-pollution-lingers
    RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The nation’s largest electric company wants regulators in North Carolina to force consumers to pay nearly $200 million a year to clean up the toxic byproducts of burning coal to generate power. That doesn’t sit well with neighbors of the power plants who have been living on bottled water since toxic chemicals appeared in some of their wells.

    “They want to pass their mistakes on to the land owner. This is not fair,” wrote Nancy Gurley, who lives near the utility’s plant in Goldsboro.
    She was responding to a request filed with state utility regulators last month that marks the first time Duke Energy Corp. has sought permission to have North Carolina consumers pay part of its costs of cleaning up the waste, which are estimated to total $5.1 billion in North and South Carolina alone.

    Duke Energy Progress would raise electricity bills of 1.3 million North Carolina customers by an average 15 percent, generating an extra $477 million a year, with an 11 percent return on a measure commonly described as potential profit margin. The bulk of that would cover ongoing costs of replacing coal-burning plants with natural gas and storm repairs. But it also includes $66 million already spent to deal with coal ash, and $129 million more in future clean-up costs.

    Duke Energy Carolinas — the holding company’s other North Carolina subsidiary — is expected to request a rate hike for its 2.5 million customers for similar reasons in the coming months.
    —————————————————————————————————————————The way I feel about it is; companies that find themselves in these spots should be stripped of any and all assets and folded up. Just as any individual would be, should they find themselves the proud owner of a leaky oil tank and no insurance to cover the clean up.
    Sorry for the rant but this sort of thing just boils me down and I’m not even close to being one of the affected.

    Reply
    • Our future under further Corporate Rule thanks for the article

      Reply
    • Thanks for this. It’s a good example of how fossil fuel burning both engenders corruption in corporate and political systems as well as resulting in harmful outcomes. The resource curse, in other words.

      Reply
  12. Shawn Redmond

     /  July 14, 2017

    http://richardheinberg.com/museletter-301-coal-dinosaur-growth-economy
    It’s easy to be cynically dismissive of Trump’s just-announced exit from the 2015 Paris climate accord: the agreement wasn’t strong enough to actually achieve its goals, and Trump will likely be booted from office one way or another before the agreement withdrawal can take practical effect. However, the symbolism is damning not just of him but of a huge swath of American political culture. Sad.

    The one good thing that might emerge from this dreary development is a reinvigorated effort on the part of other nations—plus U.S. state and local governments—to engage in the necessary and inevitable transition away from fossil fuels. Just as Donald Trump often makes policy decisions simply by noting what Barack Obama did, and then doing the opposite, untold millions worldwide are increasingly adopting a similar attitude toward Trump and his merry band of co-conspirators. If Trump hates climate action so much, there must be something good about it.

    The best success stories about climate action never emerged from Washington; they came instead from places like northern California, where citizens are creating their own nonprofit electric utility companies committed to expanding renewable energy; from Amsterdam and Copenhagen, which have spent decades minimizing the role of the automobile; and from countless villages throughout the Global South where cheap solar cells and LEDs are reducing the burning of biomass for light.

    Read between the lines. “Make America Great Again” roughly translates to: “Don’t look to Washington for examples, guidance, inspiration, or help—especially now. It’s up to you. Get to work!” Thanks for upping our dedication and zeal, Mr. President.

    Reply
    • It also shows how much influence fossil fuels has had over the Republican party in general. But that influence is showing signs of cracking a little. Ironically, Trump may be such bad press for opposition to Paris that the climate summit benefits as a result. That certainly appears to be the impact around the world and in many states within the U.S.. Of course, we would have rather had responsible action. But the fact that the republican party seems incapable of electing good leadership is actually a benefit to those of us pushing for climate action. The curse of corruption is bad leadership. If we’re astute, we can take advantage of this.

      Reply
  13. Spike

     /  July 14, 2017

    Some sobering thoughts about Asia here, reported by Bloomberg. A good incentive to Asia to act on climate I’d have thought.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-14/asia-at-risk-of-deeper-poverty-due-to-climate-change-adb-says

    Reply
  14. Greg

     /  July 14, 2017

    A footnote in the climate story which I particularly enjoyed reading this a.m.:

    Old Hummer Plant To Become New SF Motors Electric Car Factory
    http://insideevs.com/hummer-plant-transition-sf-motors-electric-car-factory/

    Reply
  15. Spike

     /  July 14, 2017

    Very interesting read on the challenges of climate change to conventional Earth sciences

    https://eos.org/opinions/climate-change-indicators-are-not-enough

    Reply
  16. Dave Roberts has words of what I believe to be wisdom about the piece:

    https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/7/11/15950966/climate-change-doom-journalism

    Reply
    • DJ

       /  July 14, 2017

      From his article:

      I’ve already run into about a dozen tweets, Facebook comments, and emails to the effect of, “Michael Mann debunked that piece.” Except he didn’t, not really.

      Great, thanks Michael, you’ve defended the cause of rigorous scientific accuracy in climate change journalism and all it cost was the creation of any sense of urgency in the broader public, and the credibility of anybody who might dare to say that things could get far worse, far sooner, than many believe. Golf clap.

      Reply
      • DJ

         /  July 14, 2017

        Edit

        ‘I’ve already run into about a dozen tweets, Facebook comments, and emails to the effect of, “Michael Mann debunked that piece.” Except he didn’t, not really.’ was from the article. The rest is me angrily venting.

        Reply
    • A good response by David here.

      Reply
  17. Dan Taylor

     /  July 14, 2017

    Three years ago I sat in on a group (carbon tax lobby) phone call with a climate scientist. I asked this person if I was mentally deficient for thinking we should be in crisis mode. He told us that we should be in crisis mode and that when people wake up they will be very angry. Then he said, “Maybe we should all be running for the hills”. After he left the call, the members discussed the call. They were all happy with the way the call went. And I sat there silent thinking about ” running for the hills”. That is a powerful message and they missed it.
    When people talk about climate effects 30, 50, 100 years out, the message dies. I prefer talking to people about the here and now. The re-insurance industry is good at that. They remind us of what the cost is now (eg 26,000,000 people fall into poverty each year due to it). For me, I gave up cross country skiing (I live in Canada) in the 90’s because the snow was inconsistent…..it is harder to grow my veggies because weather flips all over the place…I can not go outside today as the mosquitoes are too thick because of the abnormal amount of rain in June …..and more.
    I look at the heat maps in the USA and shake my head. Go to El Dorado world extreme weather and notice that parts of the Middle East have had temperatures of 45c to 50c for a month now. How do the refuges produced by the Bush War stay alive in that heat? Or what about the top 15 wet spots where 4 inches or more of rain occurs in 24 hours or less.

    I lost hope along time ago. Does not mean I have given up. I have watched this issue for over 30 years and have acted on it. As a result I live surrounded by 30 plus year old trees where birds and other creatures come to breed. Yes we can change things but sometimes I think we need to hit people over the head to wake them up. The reality is out there and it is local and it is visible but people in my zone have been severely blinded by the toxic lies of the fossil fuel industry. I was okay with this man’s article but it still projected too far out. In Canada we were censored if we spoke about the Fort Mac fire and climate change in the same sentence. We can not see if we do not look. We need people to open the eyes of the willfully blind.
    Scientist are cautious about drawing conclusions as they should be. So it is up to others to point out the obvious.
    Just my opinion.

    Reply
  18. DJ

     /  July 14, 2017

    So, if I’m one of the well-known climate-change deniers or luke-warmers, unfettered by the need for scientific accuracy, accuracy in quotation, sensitivity to context, or intellectual honesty, what I do here is say something to the effect that ‘even Michael Mann doesn’t think climate change is that bad. The warmistas (or pick your favorite) can’t even agree among themselves that there’s a problem, just more evidence that they’re full of it, just a bunch of money-grubbing communists. Yay Trump, we’re out of the Paris accord’.

    Wallace-Wells painted an appropriate picture of the worst-case scenario as a call to action for the general public, and the best-known names in the climate-change community dissed him for it – very sad.

    Reply
    • My two cents: a better option for scientists who did not like the tone of the piece might have been to just stay mum until asked, and when asked, to specify places where they disagree with the science, as portrayed by Wallace-Wells. In my dreams, they would add, “although I have some reservations about the science, he deserves credit for portraying the immensity and urgency of the problem.”

      I personally think that would have been a far more constructive approach than all-out attack, writing op-eds, getting Climate Feedback involved, etc.

      Reply
      • +1

        That would be an excellent way to manage the issue. I think sometimes the impetus is to attempt direct issue control rather than provide informed discussion. My advice would be to try to avoid being gatekeepers in this way. Though I like and respect Mann, Realclimate, and the Washington Post capital weather gang, among others, there is a tendency here to react more than is necessary. Playing whack a mole in this way ends up resulting in attacks against people who would otherwise be your supporters.

        Reply
        • Suzanne

           /  July 14, 2017

          I absolutely agree with Roger. The Climate Scientist community need to ban together and hire a PR firm, and get lessons on how to promote the message. I also thought Dr. Mann should have just stayed mum, for at least a week or so…and then found a more positive way to respond to the article. “Time and a place, time and a place”.

        • Responding rather than reacting is always helpful. It’s tough to do sometimes.

      • You should be running the scientists PR agency, they so very obviously need one. Massive own goal to the deniers, will also tend to constrain other journalists in the future.

        Reply
        • Spike

           /  July 14, 2017

          Yes the effect on other journos writing about climate concerned me – it would be a shame if they began routinely erring on the side of least drama like IPCC, for fear of a pasting. Here’s one on Twitter, with a rather sobering reaction:

        • Thanks! I’m a retired communications pro, so … Scientists do communications very differently, and I’d have to say I don’t think their method is working too well. The strong negative response on articles viewed as too alarmist, IMHO, has the unintentional effect of undercutting the central message that urgent action is needed.

  19. Back to yesterdays topic .Wild fires worldwide : http://fires.globalforestwatch.org/map/#activeLayers=viirsFires%2CactiveFires&activeBasemap=topo&x=36&y=61&z=3 . I am unsure if this is an unusual amount of fires or not but it sure looks like a lot .

    Reply
  20. Leland Palmer

     /  July 14, 2017

    What is the conservative scientific approach when you’re living inside the test tube being experimented on?

    Caution, I think. An over-reaction urging caution, in my opinion. The precautionary principle needs to be applied. We shouldn’t have any excessive hubris about our ability to predict the behavior of such a complex system as the earth and its climate, I think.

    Great article, Robert.

    Reply
    • +1

      Thanks for the thoughts and perspective, Leland. I think some had a bit of a knee jerk reaction over this one. But there is a real need to talk about the worst case so that enough people are aware of what’s at stake here.

      Reply
      • +1. A couple of data points to remember:

        1) Almost 90% of Americans don’t know there is a scientific consensus on global warming: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/7/6/15924444/global-warming-consensus-survey

        2) The President’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, recently opined that it’s appropriate for President Trump to be more focused on terrorism than on the Paris climate agreement because it’s much worse to have your head cut off than to get a little sunburn (http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/huckabee-on-trump-possibly-leaving-paris-deal-a-beheading-is-still-worse-than-a-sunburn/article/2624382). Ms. Sanders has a far bigger megaphone than any of the scientists involved in this discussion, and so it’s necessary to use some discipline to find ways to counter her innate advantage.

        Reply
      • I shouldn’t post about this because I have not even checked this for basic scientific plausibility yet. But this is scaring the snot out of me, so I might as well let it out, regarding worst case scenarios. Hopefully, an atmospheric chemist will set me straight, and tell me why this is not possible.

        If hydrogen sulfide chemocline breakthrough to the ocean surface occurs from anoxic oceans and we get a 1000 times current flux of H2S to the atmosphere, hydroxyl radical concentrations would drop by a factor of maybe a million times, according to Lee Kump, et al.

        The hydroxyl radical oxidizes a lot of stuff in the atmosphere, including methane, but also including gases like ammonia. Has anyone calculated ammonia lifetime in the atmosphere under such low hydroxyl radical conditions?

        Ammonia is a greenhouse gas, and is one of the candidate gases for the solution to the faint young sun paradox, and it does have absorption bands in the infrared in the hole in the water spectrum at around 10 microns wavelength. So, it could lead to even more warming than a wet stratosphere, maybe.

        So, this is scaring me, with regard to worst case scenarios and the Venus Syndrome. Somebody please tell me this is not possible.

        Methane lifetime would be increased if hydroxyl radical concentration crashes…but what about ammonia lifetime? What would happen to many chemical species currently oxidized by the hydroxyl radical (the “detergent of the atmosphere”), and what would such a crippled
        oxidizing atmosphere look like?

        Somebody needs to plug all this into a general atmospheric chemistry model, I think, and calculate the resulting infrared absorption spectra using spectra simulator software like spectralcalc, IMO.

        I hope that we are not being endangered as a species by a simple lack of imagination.

        Reply
        • wili

           /  July 15, 2017

          Link?

        • wili

           /  July 15, 2017

          Is it this? http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2006GL028384/full

          “Role of hydrogen sulfide in a Permian-Triassic boundary ozone collapse”

        • Oh, Hi wili-

          Here’s the link:
          http://geology.geoscienceworld.org/content/geology/33/5/397.full.pdf

          Massive release of hydrogen sulfide to the surface ocean and atmosphere during intervals of oceanic anoxia

          Lee R. Kump* Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, 535 Deike Building, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA
          Alexander Pavlov* Center for Astrobiology, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, C.B. 392, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0392, USA
          Michael A. Arthur* Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, 538 Deike Building, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA

        • Apparently ammonia has not been favored as the solution of the faint young sun paradox because it tends to be subject to UV photolysis to N2 and is very soluble in water, tending to rain out of the atmosphere and end up in the oceans. The other question is where it would come from – what would be the source?

          https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/23696/0000667.pdf%3Bjsessionid%3D28184682B0195460BA49755712DD77D8?sequence%3D1

          Ammonia Photolysis and the Greenhouse Effect in the Primordial Atmosphere of the Earth

          Assuming that we would still have oceans in this worst case scenario. Assuming that higher temperatures would not drive the ammonia out of the oceans. Assuming that all the water in the atmosphere would not shield the ammonia from UV photolysis.

          I think that there is a lot we don’t know about the early atmosphere, and a lot we don’t know about a future atmosphere after a hydrogen sulfide chemocline upward excursion to the surface. If hydroxyl radical concentrations drop by a million times in a worst case scenario, this would be a vastly different atmosphere than we have today, it seems.

        • wili

           /  July 16, 2017

          Thanks, Leland.

        • Hi wili-

          Your link is very interesting, suggesting that Kump et al. might have overestimated the effect of H2S alone on hydroxyl radical and stratospheric ozone concentration, due to Kump not using a 3D atmospheric model.

          Your link suggests that causing the ozone and hydroxyl radical collapse modeled by Kump would require high concentrations of both methane and hydrogen sulfide simultaneously.

          http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2006GL028384/full

          On the other hand, in a worst case high methane hydrate global inventory scenario, with subsequent oceanic anoxa, high concentrations of both H2S and methane are possible, I guess.

          Thanks for the link.

  21. Suzanne

     /  July 14, 2017

    Dr. Bob Henson at the WeatherUnderground posted this today:
    “First Half of 2017 Hottest on Record for Parts of U.S. Sun Belt”
    https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/first-half-2017-hottest-record-parts-us-sunbelt

    Reply
  22. wili

     /  July 14, 2017

    Eric Holthaus: After critiques by climate scientists, @NYMag just added 149 footnotes to this week’s climate cover story.
    Good for them.

    Reply
  23. wili

     /  July 14, 2017

    Skeptical Science chose not to include the Wells-Wallace piece in their weekly roundup because of what Mann said about it, which I find rather disappointing.

    Reply
  24. wili

     /  July 14, 2017

    There hasn’t been a leveling of oil or gas use; there has been a continued increase. Also the downturn in coal may be far smaller than that reported because, as I suspected, China has been under reporting.

    http://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/07/13/analysis/these-missing-charts-may-change-way-you-think-about-fossil-fuel-addiction

    Reply
    • Will wait for confirmation from other sources on oil and gas. But that data would not surprise. The article’s coal speculation rather lacks strong support, however. Indicators are that China has substantially reduced coal use in recent years due to tightening regs and plant closures. It’s likely that the net fossil fuel data showing an overall plateau (IEA) is correct.

      As mentioned before, we’d need strong year on year declines in carbon emissions from the human sources for multiple years before we’d see any indicator in the atmosphere.

      Reply
  25. Spike

     /  July 14, 2017

    Wallace-Wells has now produced an annotated version of his article with references. He quotes a prescient comment by Peter Ward, uncannily accurate given the reaction:

    My full interview with Ward ends with his saying, “Go get ’em, man. We need people out there like you. I mean it. Though you’re not going to get thanked for it, you know.”

    Reply
  26. coloradobob

     /  July 14, 2017

    Why aren’t politicians doing more on climate change?

    Maybe because they’re so old.
    I’m a teenager. Unlike the average member of Congress, I’ll have to live with the devastation of climate change.

    I’m a 16-year-old from Cincinnati. “Climate change” was always a term I heard people toss around, but I didn’t think much of it until freshman year when my debate team was assigned the topic of carbon taxes. I was practically forced into doing hours of research on climate change, and as I became aware of the devastating consequences that are just on the horizon, I became passionate about protecting future generations from the mess we created. And I got really angry at our politicians for their consistent inaction.
    https://www.vox.com/first-person/2017/7/14/15959968/climate-change-teenager

    Reply
    • Politicians may deny climate change, but they understand it as well as anyone, having access to the best minds.

      Reply
  27. Keith Antonysen

     /  July 14, 2017

    Scientists are in a bind as to how they communicate climate change; it is almost as though there is a cognitive dissonance about their professional communication and their individual thoughts and feelings. When the first methane explosions occurred on the Yamal Peninsula; Jason Box commented “we are ….”

    Just lately there have been reports in relation to how scientists feel about about what they are researching; some scientists are said to be feeling very negative, others felt to be in denial. Denial in relation to down playing some of the ill effects of climate change.

    Something that is not helpful is anticipating when particular events might happen; for example, after the huge loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean in 2012. Some were suggesting that the Arctic could be ice free in 2013.
    Though, taking into account trend lines and mathematics, the loss of sea ice volume in the Arctic Ocean it is likely to be ice free for a short period by 2030. Once that happens temperature is likely to significantly increase.

    Guy McPherson argues that we have very few years before extinction of the human race happens through climate change based on rapid discharge of methane and methane clathrates. It is not a widely held view. His views lead to not taking action as it is seen to be pointless.

    It is very clear that unseasonal weather conditions are happening around Earth having an impact on agriculture causing some foods to increase in price through scarcity. The loss of crops and pricing of food is likely to be the cause of many deaths in poorer countries as extreme events happen more frequently. That to me is bleak enough, without suggesting human extinction is not far off, already too many people are being killed through climate change.

    Reply
    • Beyond mere “unseasonal weather” the growing seasons for crops are being distorted along trend patterns detailed in a video lecture by Prof David Battisti. As the planet warms the range of temperatures and timing of precipitation will shift away from what had been the optimal growing conditions for current crops. Especially in tropical and sub-tropical regions, the fertility of plants will RAPIDLY fall off, yielding smaller harvests. Regions that are below the optimal temperature conditions now will briefly enjoy the warmer, optimal conditions. The projections remain grim. By the end of the century, even temperate zones will experience declining harvests.

      I’ve posted several of his slides and a cued-up link to his video on my blog
      http://1wow.org/blog/climate-change-food-security/

      Reply
  28. Shawn Redmond

     /  July 15, 2017

    We have to change the way we think and teach!

    “We found there are four actions that could result in substantial decreases in an individual’s carbon footprint: eating a plant-based diet, avoiding air travel, living car free, and having smaller families. For example, living car-free saves about 2.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, while eating a plant-based diet saves 0.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year.
    “These actions, therefore, have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling (which is 4 times less effective than a plant-based diet) or changing household lightbulbs (8 times less effective).”
    The researchers also found that neither Canadian school textbooks nor government resources from the EU, USA, Canada and Australia highlight these actions, instead focussing on incremental changes with much smaller potential to reduce emissions.

    Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-07-effective-individual-tackle-climate-discussed.html#jCp

    Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  July 15, 2017

      Articles like this need to be seen more. I had an interesting conversation just the other day with a intelligent, wildlife activist friend of mine…who didn’t know how much flying increased her carbon footprint. She actually challenged me on the fact. And again, this is someone who pays attention, but who was ignorant of some basic facts.

      Reply
  29. Suzanne

     /  July 15, 2017

    OT…Just saw that the same group that did the documentary “Chasing Ice” has now released “Chasing Coral”. It can now be found on Netflix.

    Reply
  30. Suzanne

     /  July 15, 2017

    On youtube…Climate and Extreme Weather News for July 10th to July 14th….The rather long video starts with the Larsen iceberg…India floods…and at 11 minutes the wildfires in BC….flooding in parts of the U.S…and more..

    Reply
    • Shawn Redmond

       /  July 15, 2017

      Well I for one am glad to know that extreme climate disruption is still off in the distant future!! (sarc).

      Reply
  31. Shawn Redmond

     /  July 15, 2017

    Interesting read, while perusing it I thought hmmm if you changed the tobacco references to fossil fuel references this article would probably still be applicable. The subversion at the corporate level? mind numbing can’t find the words. At least none longer than four letters!
    http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/pmi-who-fctc/
    NEW DELHI/LAUSANNE, Switzerland – A group of cigarette company executives stood in the lobby of a drab convention center near New Delhi last November. They were waiting for credentials to enter the World Health Organization’s global tobacco treaty conference, one designed to curb smoking and combat the influence of the cigarette industry.

    Treaty officials didn’t want them there. But still, among those lined up hoping to get in were executives from Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco Plc.

    There was a big name missing from the group: Philip Morris International Inc. A Philip Morris representative later told Reuters its employees didn’t turn up because the company knew it wasn’t welcome.

    In fact, executives from the largest publicly traded tobacco firm had flown in from around the world to New Delhi for the anti-tobacco meeting. Unknown to treaty organizers, they were staying at a hotel an hour from the convention center, working from an operations room there. Philip Morris International would soon be holding secret meetings with delegates from the government of Vietnam and other treaty members.

    The object of these clandestine activities: the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or FCTC, a treaty aimed at reducing smoking globally. Reuters has found that Philip Morris International is running a secretive campaign to block or weaken treaty provisions that save millions of lives by curbing tobacco use.

    Reply
    • Shawn Redmond

       /  July 15, 2017

      A long article, further down this:
      Asked by Reuters about the interaction between Ky and the Vietnam representatives, Philip Morris executive Andrew Cave thumped on the table in a bar at the hotel where company representatives were staying. Reuters should focus, he said, on efforts by the industry to develop so-called reduced-risk products – those that deliver nicotine without the burning of tobacco and which the company says reduce harm.

      When pressed about the meetings with Vietnam, Cave thumped the table again: “I’m angry that you’re focusing on that, rather than the real issues that matter to real people.”

      OUT OF SIGHT: Tobacco executives from companies including British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International are among a group of people standing near the entrance to the FCTC conference on the outskirts of New Delhi last November. Philip Morris executives stayed away. REUTERS/Paritosh Bansal
      In a subsequent email, Cave said: “Representatives from Philip Morris International met with delegates from Vietnam” during the Delhi conference “to discuss policy issues and this complied fully with PMI’s internal procedures and the laws and regulations of Vietnam.”

      Delegates, Cave said in separate interviews, are reluctant to meet openly with Philip Morris because they are afraid of being “named and shamed” by anti-smoking groups.
      ————————————————————————————————————————–
      J.C. these people are rewriting the play book for FF again, maybe the anti-tobacco lobby have some good defensive/offensive plays in their play book that could be brought to bare. This whole ACD thing has gone from an academic discussion to “it’s happening now” if you look up and around from the paper work. When looking holistically at it, (globally), the scale and number of weather extremes that are happening simultaneously on any given day, well.
      A bit meandering I know but the efforts of those that are poisoning the biosphere for profit while simultaneously down playing the consequences or actively seeking to distance themselves from them, all seem to be using the same playbook. This is it folks, can geo engineering and global conflict (war) be far off? After all these things are great for business, loads of coin to be made and you thin the herd at the same time! We’re all just cannon fodder anyway, after we’ve be bled dry by all other means.

      Reply
      • utoutback

         /  July 15, 2017

        The way to avoid being bled dry or becoming cannon fodder is to live consciously and not play the game by the rules that are set by the power system and corporate commercial interests.
        We can choose not to be consumers. No, I don’t need that, or have to have that new thing or go on that vacation. No, we don’t need to “grow the economy”. What we do need is social justice and to move on from this Capitalistic system that sees everything only in terms of market value.
        Every weekend I see numerous yard/garage sales. Almost everything we need is in someone else’s storage building. Let’s try to use what we already have. Let’s try to learn how to share.
        We can’t save the world with the system that is eating it.

        Reply
    • June

       /  July 15, 2017

      The Guardian has an interesting, though disturbing, article on the Trump administration’s ties to the tobacco industry. This includes Pence and Tom Price, the Dept of Human Services Secretary. And the lobbying and donations are increasing.

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/13/tobacco-industry-trump-administration-ties

      Reply
  32. Abel Adamski

     /  July 15, 2017

    Completely and utterly OT except for our Avian friend top right.
    https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/07/more-evidence-that-ravens-are-ridiculously-intelligent-birds/

    New research shows that ravens can plan ahead for different types of events, and even resist the urge to take an immediate reward in favour of getting a better one in the future. These capacities are often considered the exclusive domain of humans and great apes, so their presence in birds comes as a surprise.

    They can learn to use tools, use tokens to barter, understand delayed gratification and make logical decisions.

    Well chosen Robert

    Reply
    • Shawn Redmond

       /  July 15, 2017

      “Animals that can’t plan ahead live in the moment, and act in accordance to immediate needs. Their lives are a flow of action and reaction, making it difficult, if not impossible, to think complex scenarios through.”
      Not so O/T sounds a lot like present day governments.

      Reply
  33. markodochartaigh

     /  July 15, 2017

    Since no one has posted this yet; at about 51 minutes into the video Colin Powell’s Cheif of Staff, Col. Larry Wilkerson says that a NASA scientist told him that under “static” conditions under the worst case scenario by 2100 there will be enough arable land on the planet for 400 MILLION people.
    https://egbertowillies.com/2015/09/25/lawrence-wilkerson-the-travails-of-empire-lone-star-college-kingwood-video/

    Reply
  34. PlazaRed

     /  July 15, 2017

    I have copied the opening lines from the first comment on this blog entry which was written by Shawn Redmond. Below:-

    “Civilization was pretty great while it lasted, wasn’t it? Too bad it’s not going to for much longer. According to a new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, we only have a few decades left before everything we know and hold dear collapses.”

    I sort of live or exist on the front line with this climate change thing.
    2 days ago the temps in Montoro near Cordoba Spain, as short distance from my village, were officially recorded at 47.3/C
    A new record for Spain.
    We also had a new record for my thermometer in total shade on the north facing wall of my house of +41/C, (old record was +38/C). A mere +3/C of warming?
    Now as an ageing pensioner with a life of working on building sites, this temp was a bit of a pain but about bearable. For the locals in the streets around me they looked like death with the heat.

    My point is that things at 47.3/C or even 41/c are getting towards the limit of human tolerance and as Shawn wrote, “Civilization was pretty great while it lasted, wasn’t it?”
    How many of the posters here have actually experienced +47/C? Its an interesting expiriance, bad enough with low humidity, fatal with high humidity.
    This could be becoming the new norm.
    Enter the droughts, forest and bush fires, famines and plagues. 4000 African refugees rescued in the last few days from small inflatable boats the Mediterranean!

    Yes civilisation was great while it was lasting, Now its paying the price for some of its greatness and the bottom end of the human wealth class are going to get hit very hard first.

    Respite today, only about +42/c for a few days to come.

    Reply
  35. PlazaRed

     /  July 15, 2017

    Thinking about it?
    What’s good or an advantage of this rising temp thing and the effects its having on the World?
    Simply a matter of time before the gains of “power” are outweighed by the losses of human plight!
    There has to be a slowdown on this “progress” very soon before the Progress becomes the reader of the testament or will of humanity.

    I think its becoming time for hardship tourism, where people go on vacation to expiriance what things might become or are becoming. I’m up for a shot at this and then a write up about it all later! If I survive to tell the tale.

    Reply
    • Shawn Redmond

       /  July 16, 2017

      I think this speaks a little towards your sense of things Plaza. Good thing extremes are a ways off!
      http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-farming-drought-idUSKBN19Z1XW
      ROME/MADRID (Reuters) – Italian durum wheat and dairy farmer Attilio Tocchi saw warning signs during the winter of the dramatic drought to come at his holding a mile away from the Tuscan coast.

      “When it still hadn’t rained at the beginning of spring we realized it was already irreparable,” he said, adding that he had installed fans to try and cool his cows that were suffering in the heat.

      Drought in southern Europe threatens to reduce cereal production in Italy and parts of Spain to its lowest level in at least 20 years, and hit other regional crops including olives and almonds.

      Castile and Leon, the largest cereal growing region in Spain, has been particularly badly affected, with crop losses estimated at around 60 to 70 percent.

      “This year was not bad, it was catastrophic. I can’t remember a year like this since 1992 when I was a little child,” said Joaquin Antonio Pino, a cereal farmer in Sinlabajos, Avila.

      Reply
      • Shawn Redmond

         /  July 16, 2017

        Aaand the flip side:
        http://globalnews.ca/news/3597578/weather-pushes-ontario-farmers-to-brink-of-disaster/
        After last year’s dry, hot summer — one of the driest and hottest on record — farmers were hoping for a reprieve. The stunted crops last year led to a shortage of feed. Many local farmers, Whittington included, had to cull up to half their herds of cattle because they couldn’t feed them.

        Now this year, the weather is dealing up the opposite — so much rain that the hay is soggy.

        “No matter how old you are, we haven’t seen weather like this,” Whittington added. “Last year, we had the driest summer in a hundred years and now we have the wettest in 150 years.”
        Be careful what you wish for! and this:
        http://www.reuters.com/article/us-illinois-floods-idUSKBN1A00PA
        Reuters) – Flooding north of Chicago could worsen on Saturday as rivers keep rising after a deluge earlier this week that damaged thousands of homes and sent water cascading into streets and basements, officials said.

        Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on Friday issued a disaster proclamation for Lake, McHenry and Kane counties and pledged the support of the state government to people whose properties were damaged or destroyed.

        Thousands of homes were affected by flooding after storms dumped more than 7 inches (18 cm) of rain in the area on Tuesday and Wednesday, said Patti Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

        Reply
      • Scheduling tweet on this, thanks.

        Reply
  36. What about the role that clifi novels and movies can play in sounding the alarm in a literary way? See the CLI fi report I curate at cli-fi.net and RSVP scribbler sir. Dan

    Reply
  37. Bob

     /  July 16, 2017

    Sorry if this has been noted above, I have not read all of them.
    Once again my favourite writer on carbon (Barry Saxifrage), has done a brilliant job at analyzing the numbers and presented a compelling picture of our lack of progress in consumption of all forms of fossil fuels. A very bleak and honest report, written with great restraint and veracity. Congratulations to Barry. i wish some major news sources would finally use his reports. His insights on China and coal are stunning.
    http://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/07/13/analysis/these-missing-charts-may-change-way-you-think-about-fossil-fuel-addiction

    Reply
    • Bob.
      Many thanks for the article. I have noticed much missing critical information on climate related issues, but have rarely seen them directly addressed. I keep hoping someone will tackle methane, grain supplies (the current shelf life of flour is 18-24 months, which is insane), etc.

      Reply
    • Scheduling tweet on this, thanks.

      Reply
  38. Robert in New Orleans

     /  July 16, 2017

    Anything is possible, the real question is how probable will it be?

    Reply
    • And the other question is, how does that probability compare with, say, the probability that your house will catch fire and burn down? 1% seems quite low, but if it’s an uninhabitable planet we’re talking about, an insurance policy may be a wise idea.

      Reply
  39. Robert in New Orleans

     /  July 16, 2017

    An oldie, but a goodie.

    Reply
  40. david

     /  July 16, 2017

    Headline for NZ newspaper =
    “Apocalypse soon? A disturbing doomsday article has divided scientists”
    And much supportive comment for the Wallace Wells essay……….including that the article is “alarming but not alarmist” and
    “It’s not at all too big a stretch to say society could collapse.”
    We have alarms for emergencies where I work. This article is like a siren.

    Reply
  41. Keith Antonysen

     /  July 16, 2017

    Commentary from a scientist who is virtually the grandfather of coral reef science in Australia. He says what he thinks, and his thoughts dovetail into much of what David Wallace Wells writes about.

    http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/charlie-veron-the-dire-environmental-prognosis-we-cannot-ignore-20170711-gx8tqr.html

    Reply
  42. david

     /  July 16, 2017

    Wow. What an article, Keith.
    Massive points….
    1/ Criminality of pollitians. Neglect.
    “A few years ago I talked to [Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull] for two hours about climate change, and he had a great grasp of it. Then he turns around and does nothing. To me, that is truly criminal.”
    2/ Anxiety, depression and a feeling of suicide can be a result of empathic connection with climate change disaster.
    “Veron has borne the brunt of what the American Psychological Association calls “eco-anxiety”: a despair at the future of the planet so deep it can cause depression, grief, stress, even suicide. Stafford-Smith, Veron’s wife, says, “There is a quite high rate of depression among scientists. We see it ourselves. We have been trying to get the message out for 30 years. We are going over a precipice, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

    In a strange way I find it uplifting , because it helps me understand my anger, fear and despair , all in one paragraph.

    Reply
  43. Shawn Redmond

     /  July 16, 2017

    I think this shows off some of the disconnect that researchers have between disciplines.
    The silver ling includes pumping more water for irrigation, from where? Aquifers are in peril globally so bringing more of their contents to the surface is going to do what in the medium to long term? This amounts to shooting ones self in the foot or maybe face. A stitch in time saves nine, get out the sewing kits people the sails are in tatters!
    “Irrigation could be used in water-limited regions to counter the drying effects, but spring frost may be harder to manage after sowing, and may impose heavy losses,” Ana Bastos, a researcher at the Climate and Environment Sciences Laboratory near Paris, said in a comment, also in Nature Geoscience.
    The negative impact of Arctic weather did have a silver lining, she added.
    “The results may allow farmers to anticipate spring weather and manage their crops accordingly.”
    https://phys.org/news/2017-07-warmer-arctic-crops-canada.html

    Reply
  44. Abel Adamski

     /  July 16, 2017

    Just for interest
    https://www.ft.com/content/ba3bb744-688a-11e7-9a66-93fb352ba1fe

    Schroders issues climate change warning
    UK’s largest listed asset manager fears temperatures will rise faster than expected

    Schroders, the UK’s largest-listed asset manager, has issued a stark warning about climate change, cautioning that global temperatures are on course to rise faster than expected, potentially putting trillions of pounds of investors’ cash at risk.

    The fund house, which manages $520bn for investors across the world, said its analysis of the biggest drivers of climate change, including oil and gas production and political action, suggested global temperatures are poised to rise by 4 degrees above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

    This is twice the level agreed by global leaders in Paris in 2015, when more than 190 countries decided to limit global temperature rises to 2 degrees.

    On Monday, Schroders will launch a tool to track climate change progress, based on 12 indicators. These include coal production, carbon prices, corporate planning, renewable capacity, oil and gas investment, and political ambition. The investment house said the climate progress dashboard, which will provide a snapshot of likely temperature rises based on the indicators, would help its fund managers to “evaluate the challenges ahead”.

    Schroders is the latest big investor to voice its concerns about the impact of climate change on returns. Asset managers including BlackRock and Legal & General Investment Management have previously warned that investors should act to protect their portfolios from global warming.

    Reply
    • Abel Adamski

       /  July 16, 2017

      With that perspective from Big Money investors, the GOP and the orange baboon have some challenges to face in fund raising

      Reply
  45. Carole

     /  July 16, 2017

    Check out the temperature forecast (48-53C) for the next 14 days for Ahwaz, Iran (population > 1M) : https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/iran/ahvaz.

    This seems unreal.

    Reply
  46. oldhippie

     /  July 16, 2017

    Scientists don’t much do scenarios. They don’t like to speculate unless it will lead to testable hypotheses and repeatable experiments. Noted there have recently been a small number of exceptions to the general paradigm.

    Since scientists mostly won’t and there are seven billion of us with an interest in the subject, someone else will supply scenarios. The only tests for a scenario are is it well written? and did it find readers? Anyone, scientist or not, can poke holes in any scenario.

    Science-based is a fuzzy term. Science fiction is science-based. There is only one opportunity to run this global experiment. It is all very difficult and unavoidably so.

    Reply
  47. wili

     /  July 16, 2017

    Most of the the replies by scientists seem to miss that he is talking about worst case scenarios, and he lays that out quite clearly. Headlines, by the way, are not generally written by the author of an article, so criticisms of the wording of the title should probably not be directed at Wells-Wallace.

    As to fear/panic…my analogy is that we collectively have been couch potatoes lounging around while an ever-worsening fire is blazing in the kitchen. We probably do indeed need at least a moment of panic/fear to get our darn butts off the darn couch and into the kitchen to take whatever heroic measures are necessary to save our home and our family.

    Reply
    • wili

       /  July 16, 2017

      That’s not to say we should mis-represent the facts to do so, but many of the critiques are faulting him for not being artificially optimistic…basically for not lying about the facts.

      Reply
  48. wili

     /  July 16, 2017

    This just out from Carbon Brief: https://www.carbonbrief.org/seven-charts-show-why-the-iea-thinks-coal-investment-has-already-peaked

    “Seven charts show why the IEA thinks coal investment has already peaked”

    Reply
  49. On the question of whether alarmism is effective, it’s hard to say, but I note that it is definitely one of the tactics being used to combat tobacco use. Check this very short video:

    Reply
  50. wili

     /  July 16, 2017

    “Don’t pull that fire alarm, because fear and alarmism never works. I don’t care if there is a fire raging in a school filled with children…”

    That’s basically the argument put for by some of the detractors of the Wells-Wallace article, as I read them, anyway.

    Reply
  51. wili

     /  July 16, 2017

    Neven’s predictions for the next few days for Arctic Sea Ice (at his forum ASIF):

    “…high pressure over Beaufort, Chukchi, ESS, Laptev and Kara is going to mean bye-bye for a lot of ice.”

    Reply
  52. Just became aware of a fairly recent very thorough examination of the potential for a runaway greenhouse state for the earth. This study indicates that a runaway greenhouse state for the earth may be a stable state. It claims that fossil fuels are probably insufficient to reach that stable runaway greenhouse state, however.

    http://www.uvic.ca/assets2012/docs/pdfs/hidden/ngeo1892-aop.pdf

    Low simulated radiation limit for runaway greenhouse climates
    Colin Goldblatt1, Tyler D. Robinson2, Kevin J. Zahnle3 and David Crisp4

    “Here we model the solar and thermal radiative transfer in incipient and complete runaway greenhouse atmospheres at line-by-line spectral resolution using a modern spectral database. We find a thermal radiation limit of 282 W m−2 (lower than previously reported) and that 294 W m−2 of solar radiation is absorbed (higher than previously reported). Therefore, a steam atmosphere induced by such a runaway greenhouse may be a stable state for a planet receiving a similar amount of solar radiation as Earth today. Avoiding a runaway greenhouse on Earth requires that the atmosphere is subsaturated with water, and that the albedo effect of clouds exceeds their greenhouse effect. A runaway greenhouse could in theory be triggered by increased greenhouse forcing, but anthropogenic emissions are probably insufficient.”

    OK, so outgoing radiation of 282 W/m2 would be overpowered by incoming solar radiation of 294 W/m2, in an atmosphere where the oceans end up in the atmosphere. This could be a stable runaway greenhouse state. These numbers compare with previous estimates of 310 W/m2 for outgoing infrared radiation and 222 W/m2 for incoming solar radiation – a tremendous shift.

    So, can we get to this state? The highest methane concentrations they model are 10 ppm. One recent paper claiming to measure methane concentrations during the End Permian by direct crushing of fossil shells and rocks calculated more than 200 ppm of methane, and something more than 2000 ppm of CO2.

    We may or may not be able to access this stable runaway greenhouse state. But this fairly recent very thorough calculation that includes line by line spectra indicates that this state may certainly exist.

    This calculation could be affected by clouds…making such a stable runaway greenhouse state either more or less likely.

    Reply
    • A NASA post-doc (Chris Colose) did some quick, interesting calcs on this issue recently:

      Reply
      • Leland Palmer

         /  July 18, 2017

        What I’d like to see is a true worst case scenario. This would essentially be the End Permian conditions with a sun that is maybe 2% hotter now than it was back then. This would mean a couple hundred ppm of methane, 2000 or more ppm of CO2, a realistic amount of tropospheric hydrogen sulfide from anoxic oceans, and the full suite of atmospheric chemistry changes modeled by Isaksen et al.

        https://atmos.washington.edu/academics/classes/2011Q2/558/IsaksenGB2011.pdf

        Strong Atmospheric Chemistry Feedback to Climate Warming from Arctic Methane Emissions.

        “Here we apply a “state of the art” atmospheric chemistry transport model to show that large emissions of CH4 would likely have an unexpectedly large impact on the chemical composition of the atmosphere and on radiative forcing (RF). The indirect contribution to RF of additional methane emission is particularly important. It is shown that if global methane emissions were to increase by factors of 2.5 and 5.2 above current emissions, the indirect contributions to RF would be about 250% and 400%, respectively, of the RF that can be attributed to directly emitted methane alone. Assuming several hypothetical scenarios of CH4 release associated with permafrost thaw, shallow marine hydrate degassing, and submarine landslides, we find a strong positive feedback on RF through atmospheric chemistry. In particular, the impact of CH4 is enhanced through increase of its lifetime,and of atmospheric abundances of ozone, stratospheric water vapor, and CO2 as a
        result of atmospheric chemical processes.”:

        In particular a worst case scenario would include effects from high methane hydrate dissociation and hydroxyl radical exhaustion from hydrogen sulfide and methane oxidation.

        If Goldblatt is right, a runaway greenhouse state might be accessible from conditions similar to those proposed for the End Permian mass extinction, I think.

        Reply
      • Leland Palmer

         /  July 19, 2017

        Colose references Goldblatt in his tweets, very interesting.

        The incoming/outgoing radiation estimates changing from 222/310 W/m2 by previous calculations to 294/282 W/m2 by Goldblatt et al. is a really good argument for not betting the fate of the planet on somebody’s calculation. So instead of an 88 W/m2 cushion preventing a stable greenhouse state, we now have a 12 W/m2 surplus of incoming over outgoing radiation allowing a stable greenhouse state, for an atmosphere with the oceans evaporated.

        I really wish Goldblatt would plug the numbers from this paper into his calculation:

        Methane Hydrate – Killer cause of the Earth’s greatest mass extinction – Brand et al.

        https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Karem_Azmy/publication/304780351_Methane_Hydrate_Killer_cause_of_Earth's_greatest_mass_extinction/links/5835f69208ae74bb3aa260e0/Methane-Hydrate-Killer-cause-of-Earths-greatest-mass-extinction.pdf

        That would be an estimated peak atmospheric concentration of 3500 ppm of CO2 and 245 ppm of methane. Throw in stratospheric water vapor from methane oxidation, tropospheric ozone from Isaksen’s atmospheric chemistry modeling, and tropospheric hydrogen sulfide from Canfield oceans. Throw in a hydroxyl radical crash, from the stratospheric water vapor and the tropospheric hydrogen sulfide.

        The sun is 2% or so hotter now, and we have the ice/albedo feedback to give us added impetus, maybe. We’re coming out of a series of ice ages, so we could have more methane hydrate, maybe. We’re burning a shitload of fossil fuels every year, so our triggering event is faster and less random than past triggering events, almost certainly.

        It’s not looking very good for the home team, here in the third inning. We need to get our best scientists to manage the team and our heavy hitters up to the plate, I think.

        Reply
  53. Ronald

     /  July 17, 2017

    About coral bleaching and the dying of the Great Barrier Reef, largely as a result of global warming and ocean acidification.
    http://www.theage.com.au/good-weekend/charlie-veron-the-dire-environmental-prognosis-we-cannot-ignore-20170711-gx8tqr.html

    Reply
  54. hatrack

     /  July 17, 2017

    As many have noted above, there’s a fair amount of discussion out there on this article – too much? Too assetive? Too doomy? Could be. I’d be the first to concede that there are a lot of mechanisms out there, particularly regarding large-scale methane venting, Canfield Oceans, hydrogen sulfide, etc., where we don’t know all that much. This makes 2100 very possibly a premature deadline in the context of the piece.

    But on balance, I can’t really see all that much that promises an ending other that what the article portrays, though timescales will be debatable until the cows come home. I’m not talking about a novelistic sketching out (a la John Michael Greer) of how things might unfold. I’m talking about data points and events that are happening right here and now, none of which offer “hope” of a climate-stabilized, sustainable world. Even setting aside this summer’s record-smashing temperatures and extreme fire behavior, consider the following:

    1. Atmospheric CO2 – For there to be any hope of stabilization, or at least a blunting of worst-case impacts, this number must fall. It hasn’t fallen. And even as press release after press release herald the declining carbon intensity of this nation’s economy or the fuel savings of that company’s fleet, atmospheric carbon just keeps on rising (407.14 on Saturday, compared to 404.00 precisely one year earlier). It’s possible, naturally, that some nations are lying about their carbon output, just as nations have been known to lie about their economic output. It’s also possible that there are natural processes we have set into motion that we can’t yet account for. Whatever the case, the numbers keep increasing.

    2. Reef Bleaching & Death – We’re now at the end of an unprecedented 3-year global bleaching cycle. In Australia, where tracking and reef imaging are probably the most consistent and valuable, experts estimate that (conservatively) between 20% and 25% of the GBR is now dead. Not bleached, not in recovery, but dead, largely in the northern sectors. Results from other areas, particularly in the Central Pacific, are substantially worse, and it wouldn’t take much more than another year or two of warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures to put paid to much of what remains. We are now confronting the very real possibility of most, if not all, of the most biodiverse and bio-productive portions of the ocean becoming algae farms, possibly within a few years or (at most) decades, depending on ocean temps and water transport.

    3. Atmospheric Methane – Atmospheric methane content has increased about 13% in less than 30 years – https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends_ch4/ – and while much remains unknown about the possible mobilization of methane trapped in soils or marine sediment, reports of at least two explosive crater formations in the Yamal area, one in January and one in June, aren’t encouraging, though more reporting and data in these cases would be welcome. http://www.iflscience.com/environment/two-massive-new-holes-have-exploded-open-in-siberia/ Will Siberia blow up and melt down in our lifetimes? Not likely, but the quantities of methane contained in marine and land formations demand concentrated, continuing research.

    4. Absolute American Political System Failure – Recent elections in France and the Netherlands seem to display nothing so much as an appalled European reaction to the possibility of a Trump on their side of the pond, and as such are encouraging. But the elevation of a narcissistic, stupid and venal sociopath to the most powerful office in America , and the fact that between one-quarter and one-third of this country’s citizens really, truly WANT to be lied to does not bode well for a future that’s only going to get more complicated. The media failed, the education system failed and even the Electoral College, which was purportedly designed to prevent the rise of people like Genghis Con-man, failed. Now we watch in stupefaction as any remnants of objectivity, science and integrity in the federal government are trampled in favor of emotionally pleasing tribal rituals, because said trampling pisses off liberals.

    If this is where we now stand, 120 years post-Arhennius, nearly 30 years after Hansen, and in spite of all the scientific skills deployed since 1988, what, pray tell, will deflect the horrors Wallace-Wells outlines in his article, though his calendar be wrong?

    Reply
  55. david

     /  July 19, 2017

    An eye opening video by climate scientists in Australia. The changes will be “drastic” and “nowhere will be safe” and their own actions: seek a climate retreat….their own measured responses to leave harm behind.Should we , too….?

    Reply
  1. You're Scaring the Crap Out of Me - And it Isn't Helpful | Around the World in Eighty Years

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