Hundreds of Billions of Dollars in Damages, ‘Toasted, Roasted, and Grilled’ — That’s What Trump’s Refusal to Support the Paris Climate Agreement Gets Us

So far, in the past three months, we’ve had four major U.S. disasters whose impacts we can certainly say were made worse by human caused climate change.

The costs from these disasters to U.S. society and, in the end, to citizens and taxpayers is tremendous. Thousands of people have lost their homes. Irreplaceable lives were forever stripped from us. Many have lost access to work and livelihoods. And in the case of Puerto Rico, hundreds of thousands of people have been thrust back into what amounts to a modern rendition of the dark ages.

(A satellite image of the burn scar left following the North Bay fires. Human-caused climate change is a primary enabler for these kinds of disasters. Image source: NASA.)

As a measure of money alone and leaving aside the untold human misery, hurricane Harvey may ultimately cost the U.S. $180 billion, Irma may cost the U.S. $65 billion, and Maria may ultimately cost the U.S. as much as $100 billion. Adding in the $85 billion dollar damage estimate for the devastating California wildfires which were also made worse by climate change, and the total cost to U.S. society from these four disasters alone may top $430 billion.

Sitting at 1 to 1.2 C warming and staring down the barrel of 2-4 C or greater warming this Century, we can definitely say that these kinds of disasters are going to get worse. That we need to be both aware and prepared. And that we need to do our best to limit future damages to more manageable levels by working as hard as we can to reduce the climate disaster enabling greenhouse gas emissions. The world agreed to such limits at Paris. And yet it is a mark of consequential irrationality amounting to massive and indiscriminate inflicted harm that the Trump Administration has forced us to withdraw from this noble and moral compact.

A basic fact that hasn’t been lost on Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund, who wrote today in The Guardian that if the world fails to take steps to reduce climate change, we will be ‘toasted, roasted, and grilled.’ Lagarde warned of a dark, dystopian future if major nations fail in their moral responsibility to address climate change — citing the fact that the Trump Administration in the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Summit. A global commitment to more rapidly reduce greenhouse gasses that Nicaragua recently joined leaving the U.S. only accompanied by Syria as inauspicious non-signatories.

A federal U.S. policy blind to the impacts of climate change under Trump is far from immune to its slings and arrows, as we’ve found so tragically this summer and fall. And underlying this fact is that an unaffiliated Government Accounting Office (GAO) report from Trump’s own government recently found that climate change related extreme weather and other related damages have topped $350 billion over the past decade. A number likely to significantly increase once recent events are also tallied. A number that will be dwarfed by future events if fossil fuel burning related carbon emissions continue to hit the atmosphere at their geologically unprecedented rate of more than ten billion tons each year.

The report took two years to compile at the bipartisan requests of Susan Collins of Maine (R) and Maria Cantwell of Washington (D). Ms Cantwell noted to the New York Times that the report is:

“basically telling us that this is costing us a lot of money...We need to understand that as stewards of the taxpayer that climate is a fiscal issue, and the fact that it’s having this big a fiscal impact on our federal budget needs to be dealt with.”

The report identified wide-ranging climate change related impacts coming from hurricanes, wildfires, sea level rise and damages to crops. Impacts that do not discriminate between political affiliation or level of income. However, it is notable that the U.S. Southeast, a traditional republican stronghold, is one of the regions the report identifies as likely to experience the some of the most severe and damaging impacts related to climate change.

Failure to provide significant national and international policy to address climate change, in Trump, is not only a failure to recognize basic scientific fact. It is not only putting the U.S. in a less competitive position economically with regards to renewables. And it is not only making the U.S. more vulnerable to the powerful storms and severe weather events such failures contribute to. It is also a dramatic failure of basic fiscal responsibility that will have an equally dramatic and long-last impact on deficits, budgets, taxes and ultimately incomes for years and decades to come.


New York Times — Climate Change Costs

Climate Change is Already Costing the U.S. Taxpayer Billions of Dollars

We Will Be Toasted and Roasted and Grilled


Hat tip to Abel

Hat tip to Suzanne

Leave a comment


  1. Tiny Firm Linked to Trump & Zinke Wins $300M Contract to Restore Puerto Rico’s covering this story today as the fossil fuel vultures move into Puerto Rico..I hope Naomi Kleine will arite about this disaster Capitalism..for now corporations right this minute…Oil/gas company starts new electrical service company just for Puerto Rico..our tax payer money at work..

    • The vultures are starting to roost.

    • Jim

       /  October 26, 2017


      Thanks for the insightful comment. I suspect Ms Kleine is already onto the awful situation in PR.

      Let’s contrast what happened in Florida with what’s happening in PR.

      Florida knew it was going to be hit by a major hurricane and coordinated electricity recovery services with US and foreign suppliers – under an electrical utility mutual aid agreement – just as almost every major coastal city has done for decades. After the hurricane hit, the very next day, Florida had 20,000 people + equipment positioned to re-establish electrical service. As a result their electrical service was restored relatively quickly.

      What happened in PR? No pre-establishment of mutual aid, as far as an ordinary citizen can find in the press, and an embrace of expensive thinly staffed private corporations. Quite different approaches, don’t you think?

      Ms Kleine, where art thou?


  2. These numbers bothered me the first time I read them yesterday.

    The article says:
    “A Government Accountability Office report released Monday said the federal government has spent more than $350 billion over the last decade on disaster assistance programs and losses from flood and crop insurance. That tally does not include the massive toll from this year’s three major hurricanes and wildfires, expected to be among the most costly in the nation’s history.

    The report predicts these costs will only grow in the future, potentially reaching a budget busting $35 billion a year by 2050. The report says the federal government doesn’t effectively plan for these recurring costs, classifying the financial exposure from climate-related costs as “high risk.” ”

    $350 billion divided by a decade says that we are ALREADY spending $35 billion per year, but they say it will ‘potentially’ reach that price by 2015. This year alone Robert shows it may top $430 billion, and I am sure that doesn’t include all of the secondary items like lost productivity, etc.

    I think this is yet another ‘faster and worse than expected’ scenario.

    • Will ‘potentially’ reach that price by 2050, not 2015.

    • I think the tendency is definitely to under-report and under-forecast these figures. We’re already at 35 billion a year if you use basic math. GAO might have gotten some of its communications mixed up in editing. We have no reason to expect that the scale of disasters will level off. They will tend to worsen so long as more carbon keeps hitting the atmosphere.

      This report, despite its flaws, is still useful as a baseline communication. And we should encourage the government to regularly produce reports of this kind and to further refine them.

  3. miles h

     /  October 25, 2017

    insurance companies and gvt’s can’t sustain these losses year on year.
    it makes you wonder where the financial side of things is going to end up, and how long it will take to get there.
    clearly, losses in the US alone at nearly a trillion dollars in just one year is not a viable economic prospect when it happens much more frequently. and that cost is coupled to the losses of productivity in the affected areas. this year, the value of a whole load of californian wines, tourism, recreation is up in smoke.

    (i don’t want to make climate change consequences all about money – extinctions and habitat loss bother me more)

    • I feel the same. But some people only listen with their pocketbooks.

      Worth noting that US GDP is 18.6 Trillion and that U.S. federal budget is 3.8 trillion. 400 billion from storms is more than 10 percent of the federal budget and about 2 percent of the total U.S. economy. It basically eats up most of the growth this year.

      • wili

         /  October 25, 2017

        Bbbbut…it’s too expensive to deal with gw, because we need more jobs _now_…

        /snark [angry face]

    • Suzanne

       /  October 25, 2017

      Down here in S. FL it is the negative economic factors caused by the effects of CC that is already motivating business and government to take action. For instance, there are already rumblings that banks won’t be giving 30 year mortgages to coastal properties. And getting insurance, may become even more expensive, or eventually impossible without more drastic action. We are definitely on the front lines down here..which is why it is so infuriating to have a Governor (soon to be running against our Democrat Senator Bill Nelson in 2018..grr) who is such a CC Denier..

  4. wili

     /  October 25, 2017

    Log in the now-very-large ‘faster than expected’ file, this about Arctic ice disappearance:

  5. Kassy

     /  October 25, 2017

    25%…not like we had that much ice to spare anyway.

    The last few summers were kind on the ice. I wonder how much we would have left if we had another summer as crazy as 2012.

  6. Suzanne

     /  October 25, 2017

    Thank you for the hat tip,Robert. Also, thank you for replying to my question about EVP. I responded to your reply.

    Came across this today. A new, pretty long Chris Hedges interview with James Hansen..

    (Link taken down by moderator. RT is a Russia soft power media outlet that often aims to harmfully manipulate the U.S. political process. This is not a statement on the value of Chris Hedges and James Hansen’s communications. However, such voices should do their homework and consider how their communications might be used or misused in the future.)

    • So with regards to hurricanes, we have had a statistical increase in the number of the strongest storms — such as Cat 5s, for example. Climate change tends to increase the peak intensity of the strongest storms. Worth noting that climate change also enhances the rainfall potential of the most extreme hurricanes over land. In addition, we can and should say that climate change does contribute to the intensity of extreme events. Hansen’s communication stating ‘we can’t prove a single storm was caused by climate change’ comes with a qualification now that attribution studies are beginning to identify percentage influences of climate change to certain events.

      Would be a bit careful with RT — Russia based media source. This particular broadcast appears to be relatively solid, though I’m a bit concerned about some of the political messaging (More generating false hopes of some virtuous third party. I think working on the present parties and getting them moving in the right direction is probably more hopeful.). So mostly a decent job by Chris Hedges on this.

      Also worth noting that I find Hansen’s criticism of democrats to be short-sighted and somewhat unfair. We, as democrats, have long given Hansen a platform and supported his communications and proposed policies while republicans have fought to block them.

      Would be wary of anyone making promises of salvation coming from a third party. Often far more divisive than helpful. Hansen oddly seems to favor the very conservatism that has tended to enable the problems we see now. His mind-set is libertarian. This is ironic since he proposes a major government-based re-ordering of the monetary system. He also appears to have naive views regarding blanket statements about social programs. We’ve lost many of them and we’re in danger of cutting through bone when it comes to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. I kind of find it odd that he mentions these when talking about climate change.

      All this said, we should be very clear that Hansen is absolutely right about many things when it comes to climate and that his legal initiatives RE climate change have been very helpful and positive as have his proposed policy solutions (with the exception of an over-reliance on nuclear). His carbon price arrangement would be very beneficial if enacted as he envisions it. Unfortunately, there are a lot off good policies out there that are very tough to put through the present government these days due to polarization. But part of that is due to the fact that proponents of policies often idealize them and are unwilling to compromise on various details.

      Have to step out. Will get back to the EVP statement ASAP.

    • Taking this link down. Traffic fed into RT has lived longer than is comfortable for me. I would ask in the future that links to RT not be supported on this site regardless of the apparent innocuous nature of content coming from that source. If you wish to post an RT link or picture, please first ask.

  7. X miller

     /  October 26, 2017

    I know that with RT- Russia Today- one must be wary of the source. But isn’t it odd that they are far more informative about climate change than the appalling Fox News, which would never have a one on one interview with Hansen but is always ready to have climate change deniers like Morano or Watts on any day of the week to perversely talk about “ethics questions” concerning climate scientists, when they themselves exhibit no evidence of having any ethics whatsoever.

    • Jim

       /  October 26, 2017


    • There’s a tendency on the part of RT to drop wedge issues into left-wing and climate media. The third party focus of many of these communications is unlikely to be wholly accidental. I find this tendency for subversiveness to be more than a little disturbing.

      To be clear, RT is a soft-power tool used by the Kremlin to shape global perception:

      The tendency of RT has been to undermine western institutions. So we should not at all be surprised at the proliferation of wedge issues under seemingly innocuous and even helpful subject matter. At least from the point of view of RT, Hedges and Hansen must be seen as somewhat divisive. Otherwise, I doubt they would support this communication. This is not to say that Hansen and Hedges views aren’t valid (at least in a given context). But we should consider how those opinions could be weaponized against the U.S. political system going forward.

      Soft power isn’t about lying so much as it is about characterizing the truth in such a way that it supports an agenda. Fox News is an entirely different beast. We could well describe it as a media hard power.

      My policy is to block communications coming from RT due to its subversive nature. Apparently, RT has found a way to nose into the tent, as it were, by supporting the voices of celebrated climate activists. I will continue to take down future communications by RT regardless of apparent innocuous content in the future. This particular communication is worthwhile as a learning point and as a means to discuss the harmful nature of wedge issues in the present U.S. political dialogue.

      We should be very clear whom the Russians attacked in the last election and why. Russia attacked the Hillary Clinton campaign primarily due to pledges on her part to continue to sanction Russian oil and gas oligarchs, to continue to push for a rapid energy transition in the west, and to continue to attempt to contain Russia’s aggressive actions in Europe. Russia has an inherent problem with the democratic party platform in that its fossil fuel based economic interests take a hit the more rapidly and systemically the west addresses climate change. Though a signatory of the Paris Climate Agreement, Russia’s movements toward energy transition could best be described as laughable. RT, during the election, was an outlet for soft power attacks against democrats through the mechanism of supporting third party candidates. RT is also more likely to support ‘doomer’ type views or other forms of soft climate change denial.

      An analysis of social media supports for this blog finds that some of my communications have been manipulated by sources associated with Russia media campaigns. This is a deep concern for me. I do not want rational concern about worst case climate scenarios to be misused.

  8. Erik Frederiksen

     /  October 26, 2017

    “billions in damages” The first village in the US to be moved due to global warming impacts will cost an estimated $180 million for around 600 people.

    The US alone has 1,400 cities threatened by sea level rise.

    From a recent paper: “These systematic and common terraces are interpreted to record punctuated sea-level rise events over timescales of decades to centuries during the last deglaciation”

    “Punctuated sea-level rise events” is a phrase worth chewing over.

    Sea level rise, being very non-linear, can be lulling. At somewhere a little above 4mm per year now (up from 0.8mm per year in the 19th century), that’s a little over a third of a meter in a century, if it continued at that rate.

    Here’s a graph of post glacial sea level rise, showing both how stable the ice sheets have been for 6000 years and what they can do when they “let go”. During Meltwater Pulse 1A sea level rose 4m per century for 4 centuries. There were larger ice sheets then, but that rate indicates that the ice sheets can do dramatic things when they retreat.

    And as the glaciologist Richard Alley noted (see talk below), ice sheet mass loss happens in spurts. As one section of an ice sheet loses its grip on land it slips. So although we know that multi-meter sea level rise is possible in a single century, it’s likely that some decades saw more rise than others.

    Think of ice sheet retreat as a retreating army, moving quickly from one hilltop to the next and then pausing.

    The 120km wide Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica can drain 3.3m of sea level rise equivalent of ice which is holding on to an undersea ledge by its fingernails and debris evidence indicates that in the past a section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet lost its grip on land and slid quickly into the ocean.

When you look at the graph of post glacial sea level rise, think about how we are now warming more than 10 times as fast as when coming out of previous glaciations.

    • Thanks for this, Erik.

      • Erik Frederiksen

         /  October 26, 2017

        You’re welcome, I always like to share Alley’s talks.

    • wili

       /  October 26, 2017

      Here’s more on why sea level rise is likely to see some rather precipitous sudden increases at some point:

      “Evidence of paleoclimate Pine Island Glacier Cliff effect collapse during end of last ice age.”

      “What’s critical about the markings, explains lead study author Matthew Wise of the University of Cambridge, is their maximum depth — 848 meters, or around 2,800 feet. Because ice floats with 10 percent of its mass above the surface and the remaining 90 percent below it, this suggests that when the ice broke from the glacier, close to 100 meters (over 3oo feet) of it was extending above the water surface.

      That’s a key number, because scientists are converging on the belief that ice cliffs of about this height above the water level are no longer sustainable and collapse under their own weight — meaning that when you get a glacier this tall up against the ocean, it tends to crumble and crumble, leading to fast retreat and potentially fast sea level rise.

      “If we think about how thick these icebergs would have needed to be considering these float with 90 percent of their mass and thickness beneath the sea,” Wise said, “we think of an ice cliff that was at the maximum thickness implied by the physics of the ice.”

      The problem is that if it happened then, well, it could happen again. Both Pine Island glacier and its next door neighbor, Thwaites, are known to get thicker as one travels inland away from the sea, which means they are capable of once again generating ice cliffs taller than the critical size detected by the current study.

      “If a cliff even higher than the ~100 m subaerial/900 m submarine cliffs were to form, as might occur with retreat of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, it might [b]break repeatedly with much shorter pauses than now observed, causing very fast grounding line retreat and sea level rise[/b],” explained Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Penn State University, by email after reviewing the current study for the Post.”

  9. Greg

     /  October 26, 2017

    How many standard deviations is it to break the previous record by 11 degrees fahrenheit?

    • Quite considerable movement to the right of the graph.

    • Robert McLachlan

       /  October 27, 2017

      Great question! Daily maxima appear to be roughly normally distributed. Average max for late October is around 76, and with 150 years of data, each day has seen on average a 2.6 sigma event by now, and those days average 96 (for USC). So my guess is sigma = 7 degrees and those sites listed have seen 4-sigma events. Rare, but not unheard of.

  10. Greg

     /  October 26, 2017

    Saudi Arabia’s Grand Plan to move beyond Big oil, unveiled, and includes a $500 billion new city built on renewable energy. Serious change is appearing to be afoot in the Kingdom because the days of oil dominating are ending. “It’s head spinning in its ambition”. (Waiting for that quote to apply to the rest of us in the near future!) (paywall after 10 articles)

  11. Vic

     /  October 26, 2017

    Here’s a Finnish container ship fitted with a small experimental version of Rotor sails. According to its operators, the sails are preventing more than a thousand tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, whilst saving the company US$400 per day in reduced fuel costs.

    Maersk is set to begin trials of a much larger version in early 2018.

    • A positive development. Worth noting that rotor sails have been around since at least the 1980s. So this is a tech that we could have deployed on a mass scale long ago.

      • Jeremy in Wales

         /  October 26, 2017


        • Yep. I stand clarified. Apparently the first rotor sail ships were launched in the 1920s.

          I think that we’ll eventually have battery powered shipping with charging at the port or terminal. That or biofuels. We should probably be pushing this rapidly. Approx 300 million tons of carbon emission come from shipping every year (950 million tons CO2) or about 3 percent of the global total. Adding rotor sails would definitely help to trim this down.

        • Jeremy in Wales

           /  October 26, 2017

          Clever use of the nautical term:
          1. Relationship of ship’s hull to waterline.
          2. Adjustments made to sails to maximize their efficiency.

  12. Bill Goedecke

     /  October 26, 2017

    Climate Reanalyzer hourly forecast maps, using the Global 7-day GFS temperature anomaly layer are showing the buildup of heat along the west coast (initially all the way from Baja into northern Alaska) and the development of a deep trough of cold air in the center of the country. Using the wind speed at 250 hPa, one can see the jet stream pushing into the Arctic, driving heat into the Arctic. The temperature anomaly above baseline for the Arctic region (1979-2000 average, not preindustrial) at the end of the 7 day period is 5 degrees centigrade. I would expect that this will impact the sea ice growth and it makes me wonder how long before we experience a blue ocean event.

    Also note how the jet stream is looking disjointed.

    Suzanne, thanks for the video of the interview of Chris Hedges with James Hansen. Chris Hedges was in one of his more positive moods – he can be very grim and he is extremely critical of the political elites – especially of the Democrats. I don’t think James Hansen was critical of social programs (per Robert’s comments) – he was just saying that the general population needs to benefit directly from any kind of tax on fossil fuel industries – looking to build that necessary political consensus.

    However, James Hansen does focus on the harm to our children – I think the harm is present now and growing – and somewhat unpredictable. The impacts are exponential. One wonders if Mr. Short-term-human-extinction (Guy M) is right, although I would rather listen to Peter Wadhams.

    I am grateful for any portal which will host James Hansen – so thanks to RT for that – given the horrendous disservice our mainstream media does when it does not report on climate disruption involvement with the various disasters that have come forward in the past few months.

    Thanks again Robert for your work on this blog.

    • RT link taken down. Please see comments above.

      I’ve consistently promoted Hansen from this blog and I think that Hedges communication was helpful. However, I don’t see how supporting a known soft media power arm of the Kremlin is helpful at this time. We can thank RT for some of the mess we saw in the last election. For my own part, not going to support that nonsense.

      Hedges and Hansen need to find another outlet. They are certainly capable of that.

      RE Hansen’s comments on social programs — the American people directly benefit from those. That said, I agree with Hansen’s sentiment that his particular proposal is most effective as a direct dividend that is transparent to the American people as a benefit. He could, however, have made that statement without generating a false equivalency between democrats and republicans. The former is certainly more helpful than the latter. And democrats have absolutely fought to help Hansen, which he seems to ignore.

      Guy McPherson is a peddler of harmful communication on scale equivalent to those who peddle the chemtrails theory. Anyone taking his views seriously is pandering to a very harmful dialectic. Asserting the notion of inevitable human extinction injected into the present situation without focusing on solutions is tantamount to encouraging people to commit suicide. In other words, there is a responsible way to talk about the worst case scenario and Guy McPherson does the exact opposite — attempting to spread and profit from despair.

      If you want to see an example of a responsible communication on the issue of worst case climate scenarios please see the recent NY Mag article on future heatwaves. Though not perfect in content, the article was followed up by supports for the necessary renewable energy transition that will prevent the worst case outcomes.

      • wili

         /  October 27, 2017

        Thanks for monitoring sources and for helping us understand the history and behavior of sites like RT. I feel like the level of manipulation of much of the online social networks and much of the media is beyond what Orwell could have imagined.

        • So I think of it more as hungry proxy powers, intentional, and unintentional slant. When multiple proxies coordinate or become monopolized, that’s when things can get really Orwellian.

          If you’re looking at the influence of Russian media today in the U.S., ironically, you’re looking a lot at the far right. Hannity, Limbaugh, Brietbart and the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal are acting in a rather Orwellian way to repeat Russian active measures in the media. This sickens me. But this is the new right or the alt Right as some have come to call it.

          For them, it appears to have even gone beyond ideology. It’s now all about authoritarian dominance by any means necessary. Even coordinating with the agenda of an oligarchical dictator in an increasingly aggressive state. RT does not appear to be as bad as these sources, because it tends to act in a more subtle fashion until the chips are down (election time). The hard power in media for Russia presently comes from an army of bots and agent accounts on social media that act to puff up messages that they want on the airwaves and that suppress messages they don’t support.

          This occurs in two ways. If it’s a message they support, they retweet it, post it, or otherwise spam it. If it’s a message they disagree with, they’re silent or they go into the forums on the post and suck air out of the forums by creating toxic drama. Bot armies are not unique to Russia and many of the various proxies use them. But the number that are able to be supported by a state vs a corporate proxy is considerably greater. And, moreover, we see apparent message coordination with the various fossil fuel interest based media proxy powers like the Kochs, Russia, Saudi, Murdoch and the various think tanks (Heartland, AEI, ALEC, etc). Some of this coordination is probably not entirely intentional. And there are absolutely fractures between these various interest groups. But they do coordinate on basic stuff like climate change message manipulation and anti-renewable energy based messaging and inflating pro-Trump distractions.

          In this way, media provides an amazing route to influence peddling for this group. And you don’t even need an army of bots and social media agents to do it. You just need to figure out what is an infectious idea (true or false) and way of saying it. Increasingly, it appears to have even become about intellectual bullying. Telling people what to think —
          subtly or not so subtly and then acting very aggressively if people don’t comply. Creating psychological barriers for the people who oppose you. That’s where it’s all gone beyond the pale recently. But if you look at climate change denial and the way its been trolled, you get a good sense of how this bullying has panned out.

          If you work in media and communications, or if you publish a book (even an small indie book like some of mine) and promote it, you’ll learn pretty quick how valuable perception generation can become. Promotion, boiled down, is about band wagoning and tribal thought. This is kind of an uneasy topic for me, because, in essence, if you’re promoting something you’re basically propagandizing it a little bit. The repeated well worded phrase does catch on — true or false — and it does get repeated. Often, people rely upon sources to tell the truth and are unable or unwilling to take the time for further analysis. So it’s the moral responsibility of the message source to be as accurate, as honest, and as morally upstanding as possible — both in content and in form. Promotion can certainly serve to educate and enlighten. But as we see here, we confront a storm of bad information and bad sources that operate under various ‘bad intention’ agendas which are solely aimed at preserving or expanding a power base. Focused on capturing power, influence, revenue or all of the above and in these cases and often without thought to the long term consequences or harm to others that such campaigns tend to generate.

          These are very powerful technologies and practices that hit the human animal below the intellectual belt-line. And it is literally capable of determining what the more vulnerable people (those captured by internal biases or unrealized but easily exploited emotional triggers) think and feel. A great power often wielded irresponsibly and dishonestly.

        • wili

           /  October 27, 2017

          Thanks for the further clarifications. It all reminds me of the adage ‘the lie is half way around the world while the truth is still tying its shoelaces.’

          Are there strategies that those on the side of truth should be looking to employ that could hold a candle to this kind of mass manipulation of messages and pinpointed propaganda?

          I’ve heard also that AI programs are working non-stop continually honing messages to target groups based on analysis of their predispositions, swaying people toward ever more extreme positions (especially toward the right). I must admit to some feelings of despair about these developments at times. But would be happy to know techniques for fighting back, besides the obvious, and obviously valuable, work that you do here along with some similar sites.

        • The human brain is not a fixed object. We can develop our own methods for determining fact from fiction. And the methods of manipulation invariably rely on a distortion of some kind or another. The primary strategy is to keep focus on the broader context. To not allow more minor objects to get in the way of the larger objective.

          Of course, it might be helpful if you ran an AI program that was designed to determine how to influence people in such a way that they become more receptive to facts and information, not less so. To trigger positive responses rather than divisive and negative responses.

          AI based information warfare is a very, very harmful beast. And we may well see some terrible social responses arising from this level of manipulation. But, as with everything else, we have to stand up and fight against unprecedented measures during an equally unprecedented time.

          My primary strategy has been to identify bad actor sources and to develop methods for countering their information warfare activities while attempting to generate a mostly safe haven for rational thinkers. As you can, see, it’s a pretty challenging endeavor at this time.

          The other point is that we need to be aware of our own basic human nature and imperfect awareness. We need to do our best to be aware of our own biases and how they can be used to enable divisive strategies. Most of all, we need to cleave to compassion while also not setting aside our will to speak truthfully to others. Since some people react badly to direct talk, this can be a tough road. But there’s really no way to go forward if we ignore any of the various elephants in the room. The elephants eventually turn into dragons otherwise and then set about doing their best to eat us.

        • This is funny. Apparently, I just unintentionally trolled John Delingpole at Breitbart:

          The dig against Breitbart was intentional and, in my view, accurate. I just wasn’t expecting to get a response. Nuts.

      • Suzanne

         /  October 27, 2017

        Robert, I respect your decision to remove the link to RT..and I appreciate you explaining with facts, on why you did so. Honestly, I wasn’t even focused on the fact that it was RT…was focused on what James Hansen had to say…and though I didn’t agree with everything thing he had to say in the interview…I never miss an opportunity to hear the latest on the lawsuit and his insights on CC.
        Unfortunately, since most mainstream media give CC stories virtually no air time, when I saw the story I was like someone starving willing to take food from anyone offering it..
        Bottom line…I get it.

        • Thanks Suzanne. I appreciate it. It was a good video with good topics. So I understand. What I will do is cover some of the more positive points here since the vid was taken down due to source.

          1. Hansen notes that climate change is making the strongest storms more powerful and this continues as warming increases.
          2. Hedges appears to promote veganism and reforestation and changes to agricultural practices which also also positive.
          3. Hansen is very clear in that he notes that the primary source of the crisis is fossil fuel burning which needs to be removed. But Hansen provides some hope for atmospheric carbon capture through reforestation and changes in agriculture in the event that fossil fuel burning ceases.
          4. Hansen responsibly promotes legal action like the children’s climate lawsuit to compell the federal government to more rapidly act on climate change issues.
          5. Hansen promotes his carbon price and dividend policy — a very positive policy that if enacted would absolutely help to serve as an economic lever to rapidly transition away from carbon emissions.

          Please feel free to add more as you see fit. But these, for me, were the basic highlights.

  13. Apparently there is a pathogen that causes a disease called Sudden Oak Death (SOD) that might have had an impact on the California wine country fires.

    Sudden oak death in Sonoma County explodes, thanks to winter rains

    THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | October 18, 2016

    The North Coast’s wet spring was a widespread boon to living things, including the insidious pathogen that has killed more than 3 million trees in the past two decades, and another rainy season could spell doom to many more of the region’s treasured oak trees.

    Four years of drought had slowed the spread of sudden oak death in Sonoma and 14 other counties from Humboldt south to Monterey, but the same rainfall that pumped up reservoirs and turned hillsides green this year also triggered a rebound in the spread of the disease that surprised the experts.”

    So, this is a pathogen that can kill several varieties of oak trees in about 2 years, and generally does – it’s something like 90% lethal. Once the oak trees are dead, they add to the fire danger.

    The California drought killed about 100 million trees in California, is what I read. This pathogen has killed 3 million trees in the past two decades from SOD, and was quite common in Sonoma County.

    “In Sonoma County north of Santa Rosa, the infection rate nearly tripled, to 4.4 percent this year up from 1.5 percent in 2015. The infection rate east of Highway 101, from Santa Rosa south, nearly doubled, from 3.8 percent last year to 7.4 percent this year, while the rate west of the freeway held virtually steady at 12.5 percent.”

    Several percent of the oak trees involved in these fires may have been dead or dying from Sudden Oak Death.

    Is this SOD increase climate change related? It was certainly made worse in 2016 -2017 by the drought / deluge cycle, it seems. Were drought weakened trees especially vulnerable, after being paradoxically protected from the spread of the disease by the drought?

    • Leland
      A mind numbing development. Here, we are losing dogwoods from ‘Dogwood anthracnose’, an incalculable loss to the South, where the sight of dogwoods and azaleas in the spring was one of the wonders of the earth. It was said that when flying over Atlanta in the spring it looked like clouds from all the dogwoods. Also cedars are dying all over from something. What when the oaks are gone, like the elms and the chestnuts?
      I lived in Biloxi, MS for several years before Katrina. The ocean front area, streets and avenues, were lined with hundreds of years old live oaks, with lovely old buildings and antebellum mansions. All of that is gone now, just wiped out with a giant hand, and only a couple of tiny pockets of mature live oak remain. Inconsolable.

      • It’s very difficult to have healthy forests so long as the world is warming and people keep cutting down trees in so many places. Fossil fuel burning, clear cutting, and slash and burn agriculture are synergistic destructive processes.

  14. Bill Goedecke

     /  October 26, 2017

    Thanks Robert for the response. Absolutely, I think the Republicans are horrible, to say the least, and we would be so much better off with Clinton as president that this current disaster. I promoted Clinton to friends who particularly disliked her before the election, specifically in response to climate issues. And I adamantly opposed Trump, for whatever that is worth (I did not change my friends’ minds, however!).

    I don’t read Guy M – I was just saying that the situation is looking dire and preceding rapidly. Excuse me for the hyperbolic reference to him. I guess I agree with you – and would rather listen to and read Peter Wadhams.


    • Fair enough.

      I understood what you said. But I’ve got to say that sitting in my chair it seems that I’ve been targeted by GM and his supporters. It’s a sore spot for me because I feel he’s mischaracterized my work and used it to support a very harmful world view. Soft climate change denial in the form of doomerism is a very harmful response. The source of that particular way of thinking appears to be GM.

      As human beings we have a tendency to fixate on singular thought objects. This vulnerability for distraction can short circuit our ability to discern actual reality as is and to act to solve problems. Characterizing the future as an inevitable extreme — such as inevitable human extinction — is an example of using a shiny object (in this case dark object) in an attempt to strong arm the narrative and people’s responses.

      At this time, it is imperative that everyone act in as effective a manner as possible to prevent the kinds of worst case scenarios that GM falsely claims are inevitable. In understanding this, we should also understand the end goal of climate change denial — to block responsible climate action by any means necessary.

  15. Greg

     /  October 27, 2017

    Worth watching the Easter Seaboard of the U.S. this Sunday and Monday. Likely historic storm building. The jet stream is being pushed to contortions again and the exceptionally warm waters off the coast right now are likely going to bring a lot of rain into the stormy mix..

  16. Kassy

     /  October 27, 2017

    Flaw in ocean temperature models suggests climate change could be worse than predicted

    Rich Haridy

    A newly published study conducted by a collaborative team of French and Swiss researchers is suggesting a flaw in the way past ocean temperatures have been estimated. This discovery claims that oceans may have been much cooler over the past 100 million years than records suggest, meaning that the recent spike in ocean temperatures might be more significant and alarming than we thought.

    “Oceans cover 70 percent of our planet,” explains Anders Meibom, one of the authors of the study from the University of Lausanne. “They play a key role in the earth’s climate. Knowing the extent to which their temperatures have varied over geological time is crucial if we are to gain a fuller understanding of how they behave and to predict the consequences of current climate change more accurately.”

    Over the last few decades, scientists have developed increasingly sophisticated methods to track our ocean’s temperature. From a global network of monitoring stations called Argo floats to newer satellite based technology, every day offers a clearer picture of how climate change is warming our oceans.

    In order to estimate how ocean temperatures have varied over millions of years, scientists traditionally measure the presence of an oxygen isotope (oxygen-18) found in tiny marine fossils called foraminifera. It was generally thought that the oxygen-18 content found in the calcareous shells was fixed and unchanging over time. These measurements suggested that our global ocean temperature was around 15° Celsius (27° F) warmer 100 million years ago than today.

    The new study claims this measurement technique is flawed and shows that the level of oxygen-18 present in foraminifera can in fact change over time. The scientists demonstrated this by exposing the fossils to high temperatures in artificial seawater containing oxygen-18, and through chemical analysis found that it was in fact able to absorb the isotope.

    “What appeared to be perfectly preserved fossils are in fact not,” says Sylvain Bernard, the study’s lead author. “This means that the paleotemperature estimates made up to now are incorrect.”

    The scientists claim the previous 15-degree temperature shift identified in the fossil record can be explained by a process called re-equilibration. This refers to rises in temperature of up to 30° Celsius (54° F) that occur during sedimentation, causing the foraminifera re-equilibrate with the surrounding water.

    “To revisit the ocean’s paleotemperatures now, we need to carefully quantify this re-equilibration, which has been overlooked for too long,” says Meibom. “For that, we have to work on other types of marine organisms so that we clearly understand what took place in the sediment over geological time.”

    After running new computer simulations, the team suggest that current paleotemperature estimations have been overstated and ocean temperatures over the past 100 million years may have actually been much more stable. The striking implication of the study is our currently rising ocean temperatures are much more anomalous that previously thought. If global ocean temperatures were in fact relatively stable over the past 100 million years then our current, more accurate measurements are exponentially more disturbing, suggesting a nearly 1 degree rise over the past century.

    The new research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

    Source: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

    • Was reading about this recently. This is one of those very fuzzy topics that can swiftly spiral out of control in discussion. Will do my best to write some good context for it if I have the opportunity.

  17. Abel Adamski

     /  October 27, 2017

    Thanks Robert for the hat tip,
    Kassy beat me to posting that one. good pick up.
    Once again worse than we thought.

    For Puerto Rico it keeps getting worse
    Whitefish contract states, “In no event shall [government bodies] have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements.” Wow.

    Incredible: Whitefish contract states Puerto Rican govt “waives any claim against Contractor related to delayed completion of work.”
    2:55 PM – Oct 27, 2017

    Leaked copy of the Contract, a few people are more than a little unhappy

    • Suzanne

       /  October 27, 2017

      Thanks Abel…The more I read about how this 2 man Zinke friendly company, that got the contract, the more I realize how the swamp is becoming a cess pool under the Trump Regime.

    • I couldn’t have imagined it or that I would ever say it. But this is far, far worse than even the very harmful garden variety vulture capitalism under Bush/Cheney. Blocks renewables, exploits the harm inflicted on PR, likely to worsen PR debt, no accountability, rising risk that products provided with be substandard due to nepotism and lack of accountability. The very picture of an immoral response to a disaster.

    • Somewhat related to the overall pattern we see now:

      This should serve as a warning to us all. A deregulated Wall Street is one more likely to experience financial collapses like the S&L crisis, the Great Depression, and the Great Recession.

      • Kassy

         /  October 27, 2017

        The so-called “Whitefish contract” was procured for $300 million in order to rebuild Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, according to USA Today. The company that received the contract, Whitefish Energy, was founded in 2015 and only had two full-time employees at the time when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. It is located in Whitefish, Mont, the hometown of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, whose son worked a summer job at one of the construction sites owned by Whitefish Energy Chief Executive Andy Techmanski.

        It has also been cited as troubling that HBC Investments, a private equity backing Whitefish Energy, is led by Joe Colonnetta, who has donated significantly to Trump’s election campaign and political action committee.

        They might be trying to drown the swamp instead of draining it. Should work too. (Insert sarcasm smily here).

  18. Suzanne

     /  October 27, 2017

    Just saw this on front page of NYTimes (online) this morning:
    Nice graphics…a quote from Eric Rignot…but not a meaty article in terms of CC..


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