Martin Khor: No Solution Yet As Climate Threshold Crossed

By Martin Khor, Executive Director of the South Centre, Geneva. Cross-posted from Triple Crisis.

A key threshold measuring the march of global warming was crossed recently, when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere topped 400 parts per million.

On 10 May scientists announced that 400.03ppm had been measured at a climate-observing station in Hawaii that is often used as a benchmark. The global average is expected to cross the 400ppm mark in the next year.

This means that there in for every one million molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere, there are 400 molecules of carbon dioxide.

CO2 concentration in the air is linked to the Earth’s temperature. The widely believed relationship is that the 450ppm level should not be crossed if global warming is to be below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial revolution level of around 1750.

In fact more recently, some prominent scientists like James Hansen have found that crossing 350ppm is already dangerous. In line with this, the existing CO2 in the atmosphere should be reduced – though how this can be done is really unclear.

Already the impacts of climate change are being felt in dramatic ways in the increase in extreme weather events, ranging from higher rainfall and extensive flooding in Pakistan, China, Southeast Asia and United Kingdom, drought in parts of Africa and the United States, raging fires in Australia and Russia, and big storms or hurricanes in the Philippines, Central America and the United States.

How far worse will the situation be when more climate change is induced when the CO2 concentration increases from 400ppm to 450ppm and beyond?

The increase in concentration has been dramatic. In 1958, it was 315ppm, and this rose to about 375ppm in 2000 before jumping to 400ppm now.

At this rate, we are on track not for a 2 degree but for a 3 to 5 degree increase in temperature by the end of the century – a catastrophe.

The present temperature is 0.8 degrees above the pre-industrial level and we are already seeing the major adverse effects. Imagine a 2 degree and worse a 4 degree world that our children and grandchildren will inherit.

What needs to be done? Most importantly, the level of emissions has to be cut significantly.

The UN Environment Programme’s 2012 report on “emissions gap”, written by 55 scientists, shows that the total global emission in 2011 was 50 billion or giga tonnes (gton) of CO2 equivalent (meaning CO2 plus other greenhouse gases like methane but expressed in terms of CO2).

The CO2 equivalent emission level has been rising rapidly; it was 40gton in 2000 before climbing to 50.1gton in 2011. This means that the annual global emission has risen by10gton or by 25% in just a decade.

The UNEP report estimates that if we are to keep the world’s temperature to 2 degrees below the pre-industrial level, the annual global emissions must be brought down to 44gton by 2020 and then continue to decrease.

However, if there are no policy changes (a business as usual scenario), the emissions are projected to rise to 58gton in 2020.

The good news is that governments of many countries have pledged to take actions to cut their emissions.

The bad news is that these pledges are not enough. In the best scenario (if governments succeed in keeping their best pledges and in the best conditions), the 2020 emission level will be 52gton.

That is way higher than the 44gton limit required to keep temperatures below the 2 degree level, though lower than business-as-usual.

And in the worst scenario (governments take actions but in the lower end of the range in their pledge, and with bad conditions), the 2020 emission level will be 57gton, which is almost the same as the business-as-usual level of 58gton.

In any case, the projected emissions in 2020 will miss the 2 degree boat. They are in line with boats going towards 3 to 5 degrees, in other words towards a climate disaster.

How to bring the emissions by 2020 down to 44gton?

The technical solutions are not that difficult to conceptualise. The UNEP report provides suggestions on cutting emissions through changes in buildings, transport and forestry practices and policies. To that can be added policies in energy, industry and agriculture.

The problem is the politics and costs of change. A global climate agreement is difficult to achieve because of differing perspectives on what is a fair distribution of effort and who will bear the costs.

Developing countries believe that the rich countries have a historical responsibility to take the lead in emissions cutting, and to pay (at least significantly) for the expenses incurred by developing countries in switching to low-carbon technologies and policies.

This historical responsibility is due to the fact that the developed countries are responsible for putting most of the CO2 in the atmosphere so far. They have grown rich partly because of their economies grew on the basis of cheap fossil fuels. And they have richer economies.

The developing countries fear that if they are to take on the full burden of changes, their economic growth will be affected and their development efforts will be diverted from food and health care and from economic development towards climate measures.

They thus want the rich countries to transfer funds and technology to support their switch to a climate-friendly growth path.

Developed countries on the other hand are reluctant to accept “historical responsibility”, arguing that they cannot be held responsible for what their forefathers, in ignorance, did.

They are willing in theory to provide funds and technology. But in practice little funds and very little (if any) technology have been transferred to the developing countries.

The developed countries also want all countries (not only themselves) to sign on to the same type of obligations in emission cuts.

This is seen by developing countries to be contrary to the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities that are central to the UN Climate Change Convention.

Thus the battle of principles and words have continued in the past few years, and the prospect that a comprehensive agreement will be signed by 2015 (the current deadline) is not bright.

While the science of what is happening to our climate is getting clearer, and the technical solutions as to how to curb emissions in various sectors are being developed, it is the politics of climate change that needs to be resolved.

There are no easy solutions even as the 400ppm threshold is being broken and as the world sprints towards the next threshold of 450ppm.

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About David Dayen

David is a contributing writer to He has been writing about politics since 2004. He spent three years writing for the FireDogLake News Desk; he’s also written for The New Republic, The American Prospect, The Guardian (UK), The Huffington Post, The Washington Monthly, Alternet, Democracy Journal and Pacific Standard, as well as multiple well-trafficked progressive blogs and websites. His has been a guest on MSNBC, CNN, Aljazeera, Russia Today, NPR, Pacifica Radio and Air America Radio. He has contributed to two anthology books, one about the Wisconsin labor uprising and another on the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act in Congress. Prior to writing about politics he worked for two decades as a television producer and editor. You can follow him on Twitter at @ddayen.


    1. efemurl

      Its not just the republicans….As long as major main stream politicians continue to support a capital system that is are not linked to sustainability we will continue on our path to destruction.

  1. Hugh

    We live in a world of kleptocracy. It is the mindset of the kleptocrats and their servant elites, not to avoid disaster, but to loot to disaster and then loot the disaster. We have already seen this in the run up to the 2008 meltdown and history since.

    Overpopulation is also an incredibly large part of the climate change dynamic. Discussion of overpopulation is treated as taboo. Population control is equated with genocide. But the truth is that climate change is a consequence of overpopulation. It is a sign that we have exceeded the planet’s carrying capacity. The biosphere can not absorb the contaminants from our activities. Our climate problems would be a lot less if instead of the current 7 billion, world population was half that at 3 1/2 billion. Worse, world population is set to peak at 9 billion around 2040. This will overtax the biosphere even further: water, climate change, agriculture, species loss, and pollution, and lead in my view to a 90% die off of humanity from war, disease, and starvation between 2050 and 2100.

    This is why I maintain the problems of kleptocracy, wealth inequality, and class war must be dealt with now. We have only a 5 to 15 year window to completely change the trajectory we are on. Math and the natural physical processes of our planet will not wait for us. If we do not act, they will take their inevitable course, a self-inflicted genocide the like of which humanity has never seen and one it may not survive.

    1. Max424

      Agree, an overtaxed biosphere could lead to a near culling of the human herd by as early as the year 2050.

      Or much sooner, of course. We should always keep in mind when making calculations, the extinction of all living things and an eternally dead planet is just a matter of if or when do the nukes* start flying.

      (Do the fly next year. Do they fly this hour? Does anyone know? Who is in charge, here? Is it the insane who put their blind faith in … it-can-never-happen?**)

      (I ask rhetorically)

      Disagree on the 5 to 15 year window, unfortunately. My conclusion, at least at those times when I’m thinking with proper, Spock-like detachment, is that the miracle window is actually long closed –humans blew their chance way back around the year 1980, I reckon.

      *In this nuclear tipped era, when considering long term human survival, I gotta say war easily trumps pestilence and famine –and the other horsey of the apocalypse as well, old what’s-his-name– combined.

      Not that things like uber-international-DNA-level poisoning, soil collapse, climate change and other unholy terrors –like stretched and fragile supply chains– can’t get us too. They can and will, in the unlikely event that war doesn’t.

      **Or worse. They could be the insane who don’t give sh-t, who are basically looking forward to the “exchange,” or, most dangerous of all, they could be trigger happy Pentagon men who no longer think an “exchange” will be necessary.

      In other words, they now believe in victory.

    2. Thor's Hammer

      I prefer to divide this question into two parts:

      What will be done about our species charge toward the climate cliff?

      Absolutely nothing. Humans will behave exactly like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot. Our psychological characteristics and social institutions form a straightjacket that will prevent effective action while the physics of the real world determine outcomes and pay no attention to our species self destructive impulses.

      What could be done if the human species were capable of rational action?

      1- Population reduction through planning rather than collapse into starvation. Single child families for a generation would radically decrease the stress on water, food and energy planetary resources. If wolves can engage in social planning to match their family size to available prey resources why can’t we?
      2- Pull the plug on fossil fuels. Liquid Fluoride Thorium reactors can be built on an assembly line like aircraft and produce base load electric power with levels of safety thousands of times better than current LWR uranium nuclear reactors. Their fuel source is virtually unlimited, waste volume and toxicity a fraction as high, and capital cost per KW far lower.

      Supplement the LFTR base load capability with massive build-out of decentralized solar, incorporating the rapidly advancing efficiency gains offered by nano-structured materials. Use this decentralized power source to fuel much of the private sector transportation system vehicle fleet.

      Of course managing a LFTR based energy system would still require a species capable of responsible decisions,and replacing fossil fuels with decentralized solar would require the overthrow of political power owned by the old technology regime.

    3. toxymoron

      Overpopulation is not really an issue. A billion Bangladeshis use less resources than a million Americans (or West-Europeans).
      Our fossil-fuel use equates to using about one million earths. So reducing this to a sustainable level requires dividing the world population by more than a million, which means less than 7000 survivors. Even paradise is usually larger than that.

      1. Larry Barber

        So you want to reduce everybody to the level of your typical Bangladeshi? Makes me want to sign up. Population is certainly part of the problem, since it is people who are consuming the resources and generating the pollution, true not all people contribute equally, relative wealth and technology level also play roles. But to consign the whole planet to poverty is monstrous. We need to be getting people out of poverty, not increasing the number of impoverished.

      2. Massinissa

        I would be willing to lower my standard of living, maybe to a south american standard of living or something, but I dont really envy Bangladeshi’s…

      3. Thor's Hammer

        Interesting that commentators focused totally upon my contention that population growth is part of the problem, but ignored the controversial idea that there might be technical solutions to energy and pollution if only human efforts and social systems were organized to implement them.

        1. will nadauld

          would that I could lower my standard of living to consume less. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be a Boston commuter. Everyday I am surprised to find my self in the car for two hours going nowhere just to survive a bare bones no frills lifestyle. Give me a job close to home that allows me to survive and I will gladly give you my few remaining creature comforts.

        2. optimader

          actually I did, and it vaporized, I wont bother w/ reassembling it.. google Rhodes and ergobalance and thorium..

          heroic scale project you contemplate, but why not try?


          1. optimader

            Lambert Strether says:

            May 24, 2013 at 1:50 am

            Re vaporized: The internet is a hostile computing environment. Consider composing offline, or get in the habit of Select All + Copy before you press Submit Comment.

            yes indeed lambert, always a wise procedure, unfortunately it seems the ergobalance blog link is like a Dolphin in the Tuna net. Unfortunate, a great goto site..some excellent insights by Dr. Rhodes.

    4. Chauncey Gardiner

      Thank you, Hugh. The policy decisions, disinformation and obfuscation are baffling, even if one considers them within the framework you described.

      I naively thought Sandy might provide the political catalyst, but have been wrong.

      Perhaps they all believe their safe havens will be sufficient… or, more likely, it’s a “Somebody else’s problem, live in the present” world view.

    5. Brooklin Bridge

      This is why I maintain the problems of kleptocracy, wealth inequality, and class war must be dealt with now. We have only a 5 to 15 year window to completely change the trajectory we are on. Math and the natural physical processes of our planet will not wait for us. If we do not act, they will take their inevitable course, a self-inflicted genocide the like of which humanity has never seen and one it may not survive. -Hugh

      I think Hugh’s assessment is accurate and perhaps one of the bleakest. This is why I maintain the problems of kleptocracy, wealth inequality, and class war must be dealt with now. Seriously? What is there in the last 6000 years that suggests an over-populated earth that is already stressed way beyond it’s ability to make rational decisions will abolish kleptocracy, wealth inequality, and class war in the next 15? To succeed, such a metamorphosis can’t just be a wee shift in that direction, society – on a global scale – must completely shift it’s ideology, it’s selfishness, it’s fear, and it’s generational built in practices in the next 15 years just to be in a mental framework to then solve practical real world problems of absolutely breath taking complexity.

      One would be within reason to not, as the saying goes, be cautiously optimistic.

    6. Expat

      I hope you are right that we have that 10- to 15-year window to address our political and planetary crisis. The way I see it, at a time when all of the life support systems on the planet are collapsing, we have destroyed every institution capable of dealing with the challenge. It’s as though we of the post-WWII generation have been partying all night. If they want to live here, our children will have to clean it up.

  2. Stelios Theoharidis

    Welcome climate change denial trolls. 1) Wattsupwiththat is not a legitimate source of scientific information, which is created through a peer review process. Most of the writers on there have clearly received money from oil industry connected ‘think tanks’ who formerly shilled for the Tobacco industry 2) Sun activity has shown an opposite trend of the global warming. 3) There is consensus amongst scientists in relation to anthropogenic global warming, 97% is pretty much as consensus as you are going to get. At this point the science is settled and they are just trying to get the details right 4) ‘Climategate’ was thoroughly investigated and no wrong doing was identified. 5) the last decade was the hottest on record. 6) warming trends are not related to urban heat island effect, see BEST project which mirrors other studies 7) ice loss is occurring at both the north and south poles and accelerating 8)the hockey stick has been reproduced and is accurate 9) cosmic rays show no trend 10) your local weather anecdotes don’t count as science 11) sea level rise has been confirmed 12) IPCC predictions are likely to underestimate warming, due to not integrating permafrost methane 13) potential extinction events are real and most animal life will not be able to adapt on such a short time frame 14) el nino and pacific decadal oscillation don’t show any trend 15) ocean acidification is a serious threat to ocean life 16) but water vapor… is not a legitimate argument 17) I don’t know how the oil industry convinced you that it was the underdog in this matter, poor poor poor oil industry, with its record profits, and government subsidies 18) but try to be that person that recognizes hey I might have been wrong here, just like Richard Muller, and a wide variety of real scientist skeptics that have been convinced. Thanks

    1. Jackrabbit

      Great comment. But you might consider better formatting. (each new point on a new line?)

    2. MRW

      About your #3:

      Cook, et al, write in their abstract:

      We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.

      Here’s their math:
      32.6% pro + 0.7% against + 0.3% uncertain = 33.6%
      32.6/33.6 = 0.9702

      Cook, et al, just threw out the 66.4% that expressed no opinion in abstracts that matched the the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’.

      Therefore, from their paper:
      32.6% endorsed human-caused global warming.
      67.4% did not endorse human-caused global waming, or stated no position.

      What Cook, et al, did was the equivalent of what Reisenthal and Rogoff did with theirs: manipulate and fudge.

      If you think this is honest, be my guest, knock yourself out. I don’t.

    3. gepay

      The science used to say increases in CO2 cause increases in global tempertures say that a doubling of CO2 causes a 1C increase in global average tempertures. There has not been a doubling of preindurstrial levels and there has not been an increase of the still questionable global average temperatures of 1C.
      IPCC – The total temperature increase from 1850-1899 to 2001-2005 is 0.76°C ± 0.19°C. YOu might notice the uncertainty of around 20%. In some studies I have seen uncertainties up to 80%.

      Most of the projected increases are coming from feedback mechanisms. Essential mechanisms such as the effects of cloud and aerosols are agreed not to be completely understood. they are used in computer modeling to predict increases that would cause problems anyway.

      1. Stan Musical

        So what if there’s uncertainty? I take the same position as with nuclear power and other high-risk activities: if the consequences are dire–and oh, they are dire indeed–then the risk approaches infinity (the infinity of not just death, but the death of death, i.e. extinction), so even a tiny chance is too much.

        Those who are unwilling or unable to recognize this are not just, or primarily, practicing willing ignorace; their tragic flaw is that they do not, or can not, care. The epiphany that a few years working in the trenches with a group of incredibly integrous and courageous people trying mostly in vain to save our few remaining native forests served up to me was that it’s not how much we know, it’s how much we care, that counts. It’s why a mother who’s driven for 20 years without so much as a fender-bender would never not fully strap her baby into its kiddy seat.

        Unfortunately, I’m not at all sanguine about the vast majority of humans caring enough about such intangibles as future generations, or even their future selves, much less other species, to do what needs to be done to just be cautious about messing with our earth’s atmosphere.

        And the really sad thing is it’s mostly, if not absolutely, unnecessary: we can be happy burning much less oil and coal, with no clean subsitutes, and we can, if we choose to, come up with non-nuclear (spare me the hard-sell on “safe” nuclear power, it’s all relative) power sources, maintain our so-called “standard of living” (how’s that for a propagandistic phrase, i.e. one that makes all kinds of assumptions about what’s good).

        I spend time in Cambodia, which is really, incredibly broken and poor by our standards, and the US, with time in Germany and Japan. So three “rich” countries and one very, very “poor” one. The amazing thing is that the biggest smiles, the warmest hearts, and the strongest minds, are far and away to be found in Cambodia. Those above who can’t imagine living like Bangledeshis, why don’t you sell your gadgets and your oil-burners and take a trip to the so-called third world, you may be surprised at what you find there, and what it does to, and for, you. That alone might speed up change we (and the rest of the life on earth) can live with.

        Just my 100 riel’s worth.

    4. Chris

      1) Thanks for the ad-hominem. That’s how we know you’re serious.
      2) False. See e.g.
      3) Argument from concensus? That’s how we know you’re -super- serious.
      4) Sure
      5) The last decade showed no warming. Is this less relevant than your fact?
      6) Okay
      7) Nonsense. Here’s a little NASA for you:
      – “You might also wonder how Antarctic sea ice could be increasing, even a little bit, while global warming from greenhouse gases is raising the planet’s average surface temperature. It’s a question scientists are asking, too.”
      8) The only reproduction I know is the Boulton one, which is equally full of crap.
      9) Can’t really speak on cosmic rays, the science is very new though
      10) -your- local weather anecdotes don’t count as science either. “OMG Sandy is the proof!”
      11) Sea level rise has been constant since we started recording it, with no detectable effect from climate change.
      12) IPCC predictions DO overestimate warming. The most recent IPCC prediction had a minimum warming prediction (and this was the ‘halt all CO2 increases’ prediction) that is significantly higher than observed temperature. On the other hand, skeptical predictions have been essentially acccurate:
      13) Which extinctions do you mean? If you say polar bears I will slap you.
      14) Who’s blaming el nino? I’m denying your essential facts here, not skirting around them.
      15) Okay
      16) I think you’re missing the point, in a big way. Catastrophic global warming REQUIRES a positive feedback. If CO2 doesn’t provide that, your argument is kaput. That’s why clouds and vapor are a big deal – they are increasingly thought to provide negative feedback, pretty much as any sane person would expect.
      17) I really shouldn’t respond to crap like this, but oil is the last industry that will be hurt by things like cap & trade. Oil already has one of the lowest margins of any industry, period. They can’t lower prices, never mind won’t. The people who will pay for these regulations are EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY.
      18) So please, try to be that person that recognizes hey I might have been wrong here, just like Freeman Dyson, and a wide variety of real scientists that have become skeptical. Thanks.
      And next time, bring some data of your own? It’s hard to refute arguments from nowhere.

      1. Nealo

        I suggest you read (some science) here for a FEW MONTHS(!):
        and here for a more broad treatmemnt of climate/energy/policy:

        You are are clearly a smart guy but are thoroughly misguided on w.r.t AGW/climate change.
        The science supporting the CO2 connections to climate change, SLR, extreme weather and drought gets better and increasingly useful while folks like seem (quite irrationally) to dig in heels.

        Immerse yourself in the science! There actually is a consensus, as there are in many areas of science, because the data and research are solid. But until you let yourself absorb that information and reasoning, how can you judge who’s arguments are better?
        (You can’t!)

  3. Stelios Theoharidis

    I tend to agree with Lawrence Lessig on all elements of policy reform. The 1st issue is political reform, if you don’t have significant political reform in this country no real policy reform is going to come to fruition.

  4. MRW

    The author is obviously unaware of the peer-reviewed paper written as a letter to Nature GeoScience (and available for free to everyone for a short time) and published last Sunday, May 19, 2013.

    it is called “Energy budget constraints on climate response.”

    It was written by 14 climate scientists, well known in their fields, who are lead authors of the upcoming IPCC AR5 WG1 chapters that are relevant to estimating climate sensitivity.

    The Supplemental Data is here:

    Two of the authors, importantly, are lead authors for Chapter 10, which deals with estimates of equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) and the transient climate response (TCR) constrained by observational evidence.

    Sign on and read it. This was written by real scientists, which Mr. Khor, while highly accomplished is not, and it contradicts what he claims.

    1. Ben Johannson

      Yes, let’s look at the results of that study, particularly the bolded portion:

      Author Dr Alexander Otto, of the University of Oxford said “The most extreme projections are looking less likely than before”. Short-term rises are likely to be less than predicted, although long term rises are expected to follow predictions.

      The decrease in the rate of warming has been a subject of study for some time now. This paper is the result of an international team of researchers looking at how the past decade might impact the long-term temperatures and shorter-term climate response.

      In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that short-term temperature rise would likely be 1-3C. However, this new study predicts between 0.9-2C, a figure that arises from only including the last decade’s temperatures.

      “The hottest of the models in the medium-term, they are actually looking less likely or inconsistent with the data from the last decade alone,” added Dr Otto.

      According to the paper, global average temperatures are predicted to rise about 20% more slowly than expected over the coming decades, but in the longer term, the authors say their work agrees with previous estimates, such as the IPCC’s, that climate sensitivity is in the range of 2-4.5C

  5. MRW

    Deutsche Bank’s CO2 offset portfolio for sale: sources
    22 May 2013 17:53 Last updated: 22 May 2013 18:59

    LONDON, May 22 (Reuters Point Carbon) – Deutsche Bank is hunting for a buyer for its U.N. carbon offset portfolio, once worth hundreds of millions of dollars, two sources said on Wednesday, as the German bank seeks to sell one of the last pieces of its shuttered global carbon trading business.

    1. Ben Johannson

      Your link quotes two “sources”, with no evidence given nor is anyone else reporting this. Furthermore who gives a damn? Germany is the world leader in deployment of clean energy and that process is going to continue no matter what blogglings type.

  6. roots

    Climate train wreck approaching.

    In a related matter, my money is on Obama approving the climate busting XL pipeline.

    1. Kermit

      “Climate train wreck approaching.”

      Actually, more like “Climate Modelers train wreck approaching.” Remember Trenberth’s use of the word “travesty” in referring to the lack of current warming? It’s worse now, several years later. To anyone who has worked at all to represent a non-linear, coupled, chaotic system with non-linear models, the current absolute failure of climate models should be no surprise. Why would any serious scientist even entertain the thought that the models would be useful when the multiplier (fudge) factor they use for sensitivity to CO2 is pulled out of thin air to match the models performance to (poor quality) historical data? The hubris simply boggles the imagination. And, the models are ALL THEY HAVE implicating CO2 as a significant cause of any current warming.

      I’ve always loved science. Over the past two decades, I have worked at building models of non-linear, coupled, chaotic systems – because it is fun. What bothers me most about these climate scientists is that they are prostituting science to politics. The work of these climate modelers can in no way be considered a part of the “hard” sciences. IMHO, they are doing significant damage to real science.

      1. Banger

        I don’t see that climate scientist are primarily motivated by political considerations. Are you saying that they are part of some vast socialist conspiracy? What would their motivation be?

        Complex systems are by definition impossible to model accurately. All we can do is create probability matrices. My argument against those who say they are “skeptics” is to be skeptical of your own speculations. Yet most I’ve argued with essentially say that there is virtually no chance of any kind of catastrophe and human excrete meant of carbon in the atmosphere in particular an industrial pollution in general makes no difference to us. It may cause species to die off but those in your cohort believe human life is sacred and other life is just as important as the life of a rock. I’m exaggerating for effect, mind you.

        My own view is that we ought to make sane risk assessments. I know that there is a potential for major planetary catastrophe and chaos in the systems since positive feedback loops could happen creating a true chaotic system with a possibly dramatic new equilibrium state. My question is why do you want to take that risk when technolgy exists to seriously limit carbon emissions?

        1. Lexington

          Please don’t feed the trolls.

          “Kermit” is obviously regurgitating stock talking points he picked up at some boot camp for hardboiled ideological warriors. The tells are the name dropping (“Remember Trenberth’s use of the word ‘travesty’…”), the use of pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo to obfuscate (“To anyone who has worked at all to represent a non-linear, coupled, chaotic system with non-linear models…”), and the implicit claim to authority (“I’ve always loved science. Over the past two decades, I have worked at building models of non-linear, coupled, chaotic systems – because it is fun”) uncorroborated by any specific (and hence contestable) assertion of credentials.

          Once you know the field marks you can spot the genus a country mile away.

          1. Stan Musical

            Banger you put it so much more readably than I did, but that was essentially my point: common sense says why mess with the atmosphere if there’s a chance the consequences could be extremely, extremely dire? Especially since there are clean alternatives? Just take $100bn off the defense budget for a couple of years and invest it in R&D on clean energy for gawds sake!

            We have a surfeit of talent, brains, and education in the US, all that’s lacking is the will.

            I’ve yet to see any conversation around the point that atmosphereic co2 levels and avg. global temps have moved up and down together for as far back as they can measure. Without resorting to FUD, can any of the climate-change skeptics refute the relevance of that corraboration?

            And Lexington thanks for teaching me how to better spot trolls, I had a sense Kermit’s post was fishy but couldn’t pin down the specifics. One thing I have noticed is once debunked such folks seem to disappear (only to reappear in a different guise perhaps).

            My posts usually if not always land with a thud; my salient point above was that most of us in the third world think we need a lot more creature comforts and things to distract us than we do. Life ain’t easy in the “third world” (horrible term) but there’s a warmth and humanity that somehow has been squeezed out of life, and many of the people living it, in the so-called “rich” countries. I see a lot of tourists here in SE Asia, many if not most EuroAmericans (and Chinese) look so stressed-out and unhappy, even though they’re bedecked with many months’ salary worth of clothes, gear, and gadgets, zooming around on motorbikes from temple to temple to take photos to upload to FB to engender envy in their “friends;” while the Thais and Cambodians and Laotians look on with quizzical yet understanding faces.

            Were Euroamericans to have to “regress” to the lifestyle over here, would it be easy for them? No. Would they adjust? Sure. Would they perhaps be happier once they adjusted (as many expats do)? Likely. Would the planet benefit? Definitely.

        2. Kermit

          Motivation? Simply the same as anyone’s motivation might be. They want to feel like, and be appreciated for, their work being important. I’m guessing that it is not that they are consciously dishonest. They, like most of us, have selective perception about things that are important to them.

          I’m glad to hear you say that complex systems are by definition impossible to model accurately. I have had this discussion with climate scientists, and it is almost impossible to get them to acknowledge the uncertainty of the models. The fact is that the science depends “almost entirely” (the late Dr. Joanne Simpson’s words) on computer simulations. (She went on to comment on “the frailty of the models” and how we all know this.) One climate scientist actually said to me in a forum that it had to be CO2 because nothing else would account for the rise in temperature. This is not science (like physics, biology, or chemistry).

          As far as taking risks with CO2, I would really like to see *some* real science that links human caused CO2 in the atmosphere to any significant current warming. Something other than what is normally called a fudge factor in the simulations to multiply the effect of the CO2. This would seem to be even more important since CO2 levels have been steadily increasing for the last 16 or so years with no temperature increase. We know what the beneficial aspects of increased CO2 might be for increased food production, but it is now abundantly clear that what we have been told about CO2 being the driver of temperature has been shown to be at least very questionable. I used Kevin Trenberth’s words about the lack of warming for a reason. It is difficult to simply lump him into the “denier” category that is so popular with the true believers of catastrophic climate change. Of course there is the possibility that “positive feedback loops could happen creating a true chaotic system with a possibly dramatic new equilibrium state.” If we are talking about possibilities, can’t we also say that there is a *possibility* of a new ice age, and any warming due to extra CO2 in the atmosphere *might* help to mitigate the mass starvation if the cold returns?

          I’m simply saying that, if politicians are going to pass laws that have the potential to greatly affect how we live our lives, the least we should expect is some *real science* backing the claim of man-made CO2 being a significant cause of any current warming. The idea that we cannot predict weather more than a few days in advance (NAS says in a recent study that the window has not increased), but we can predict a thirty year average of it accurately is the height of hubris. I would say that anyone who has any real time experience in modeling non-linear chaotic systems – where the models were short term enough that the modeler had to live with actual vs. predicted results – would readily acknowledge the limitations of the modeling.

          I won’t respond to ‘Lexington” – as there is nothing really there to respond to. This is typical, and ad hom arguments get really boring. As for Stan Musical, I understand the desire to force your views on everyone else. The idea that everyone else would just be so much happier if they lived like you thought they “should” live is something I find repellent. This is the essence of religious thinking.

          1. Kermit

            I didn’t see a reply key under “Kevin Trenberth” so I’ll reply here.

            Thanks for that link – it did give me a chuckle at how much thought went into trying to muddy the waters about what Trenberth actually said. The problem, however, is that it points out just how little is currently known about the earth’s temperature. Roger Pielke, Sr. says in


            “Until we understand how this fundamental shift in the climate system occurred, and if this change in vertical heat transfer really happened, and is not just due to the different areal coverage and data quality in the earlier years, we have a large gap in our understanding of the climate system.”

          2. Stan Musical

            “As for Stan Musical, I understand the desire to force your views on everyone else. The idea that everyone else would just be so much happier if they lived like you thought they “should” live is something I find repellent. This is the essence of religious thinking.”

            Kermit, one can’t force ones views on someone else without resorting to force. Perhaps I express myself forcefully; perhaps I believe strongly in what I say. Perhaps I’m quite sure that the pill I’m offering is a really hard one to swallow, and that therefore I have to be forceful in expressing my point.

            Perhaps you’re projecting your own implicit religious-like weltanshauung onto me.

  7. igor

    It’s sad that this blog pushes the Global Warming Catastrophe propaganda.

    If you do this BS, how can I trust your other (economic) articles?

    And why is that the liberals/lefties feel obliged to spread AGW Catastrophe narrative? What’s with that lame groupthink?

    You people are not better than rightwingers who deny the warming out of hand…

    1. Fred

      I agree Beavis, let’s position another fleet in the Persian Gulf, reinforce goons and take what’s rightfully ours. Lefty loosey, righty tighty – ya’ morons.

    2. AbyNormal

      i understand igor. if these top ‘conservative’ sites informed on economics & finance…light wouldn’t bend around you.
      #1 site…
      Why Won’t Obama Acknowledge Islamist Reality? | Nile Gardiner
      In Search of Swivel-Eyed Loons | Speccie
      EU Tries to Ban Conker Trading | Telegraph
      Coked-Up Celebs and Vengeful Politicians | Press Gazette
      What We Don’t Know About the Woolwich Attack | Dan Hodges
      Woolwich Terrorists Were Al-Qaeda’s Children | Jeremy Havardi
      Is Interpol Helping the Villains? | Peter Oborne
      Transcript of Terrorist’s Speech | Times
      Dave Should Promote Sarah Wollaston to Inner Circle | Staggers
      MPs Hate Chuka | Total Politics
      This Was Out of Al-Qaeda’s Terror Manual | Con Coughlin

    3. Massinissa

      How about you DONT trust it and go to, I dont know, the von mises institute for your economic information or something?

      Because thats TOTALLY more trustworthy.

    4. jrs

      Yea, don’t trust it, if you pay no attention to what most leading scientists say, who really cares about what the witchdoctors in the economic departments are doing.

  8. steelhead23

    Not to be too impolite, but the root cause of the paucity of political will to “do the right thing” is the lack of global moral leadership. Arguably, global climate change is the greatest risk facing mankind. Yet, the issue is page 2, below the fold among global moral debates. Far more moral energy is devoted to issues like gay rights, abortion, and even state-sponsored murder than climate change. In part, I blame this loss of global moral leadership on the parade of self-interested U.S. leaders since Jimmy Carter donned the sweater. That is, at its core, the loss of political will to deal with this issue is caused by, or at least made worse by the loss of the moral leadership of the U.S. I might also blame religious leaders, caught in scandals and internecine battles that they have abandoned the future.

      1. steelhead23

        You’re right. Poor choice of examples – state sponsored murder is immoral, however, it does not materially damage the future habitability of the planet. Good catch.

        1. jrs

          Well the way I see it the police state is immoral in and of itself, but it will also prevent activism on any number of other issues like oh say climate. Now they aren’t droning climate change activists … YET!

  9. Massinissa

    Solution: Tighten your seatbelts and prepare for a bumpy ride, because this train CANNOT stop. As much as yall try and push the brakes, its jammed shut.

    Prevention is good and all, but I sort of wish more effort was spent planning on how to live in a warming world.

    Just in case…

    1. gozounlimited

      BS…… Global warming debunked: NASA report verifies carbon dioxide actually cools atmosphere

      Practically everything you have been told by the mainstream scientific community and the media about the alleged detriments of greenhouse gases, and particularly carbon dioxide, appears to be false, according to new data compiled by NASA’s Langley Research Center. As it turns out, all those atmospheric greenhouse gases that Al Gore and all the other global warming hoaxers have long claimed are overheating and destroying our planet are actually cooling it, based on the latest evidence.

      1. AbyNormal

        Climate study, funded in part by conservative group, confirms global warming…

        Money for the new study, dubbed the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, came from five foundations, including one established by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and another from the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, widely seen as a source of money for conservative organizations and initiatives that have fought efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.
        With minor differences, trends in all four independent study groups’ temperature records match up well from about 1900 on, with the Berkeley and NOAA analyses showing a slightly higher level for the mid-2000s than the NASA and Hadley analyses.

        The team’s independence and its willingness to devise its own analytical methods to provide a reality check on the three other groups’ results sold the Koch foundation on the project, Muller adds.

        gozo/bright as alaska in dec.

      2. Larry Barber

        Sites like “NaturalNews” hope that no one will click through to their supposed sources. The referenced NASA paper bears almost no resemblence to the article. In fact that NASA article makes clear that the phenomena in question has no bearing on the question of climate change. The phenoma being studied here involves material from a coronal mass ejection fromt he sun, and how it this high energy matter interacts with the upper atmosphere in converting its kinetic energy to thermal energy. The question in the climate disruption debate is how the atmosphere (and hydrosphere and cryosphere) deal with radiative energy from the sun. Not at all the same thing.

        Here’s a couple of questions for the denialists: 1) What would it take to convince you of the truth of anthropogenic climate change? and 2) Since the absorption spectra of CO2 and other greenhouse gases have been know for well over a century, why _isn’t_ the increase of these gases in the atmosphere causing rising temperatures?

        1. JGordon

          I have a question for you, as someone who accepts that climate change is real: how do scientists incorporate peak oil into their fancy models? Because you know, when industrial civilization collapses (soonish) there’ll be an unparralled period of reforestation that will largely deplete the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, in conjuction with an end to additional human-generated carbon being pumped out. We might have a little ice age, beginning right at the end of the collapse of industrial civilization, right when (most) people will be least able to handle it.

          I used to be really bummed out by climate change too, but when you think systemically it begins to seem like not such a big deal. I am far more worried about nuclear reactors than coal plants.

        2. Kermit

          1. What would it take? That’s easy. How about some real science and not merely some people sitting in front of computers playing SimEarth playing with the sensitivity factor for CO2 to optimize their computer simulations with the poor quality historical data?

          2. It is! I know of no one who would say otherwise. The trouble is that CO2 is a very inefficient greenhouse gas. Years ago I tried to calculate how much of our atmosphere consisted of human caused CO2 (total accumulated over history), and as I remember it came to about 0.00005. (I could be off a decimal point – it was a long time ago – but the amount is tiny.) Yes, it does exhibit a greenhouse effect, but to make the models “work”, a fudge factor needs to be introduced to amplify the effect. Climate modelers are giving science a really bad name.

          In conclusion, the earth has been warming since the last little ice age. The data is poor – other than the last 30 years or so when the satellite data starts. Some of this warming can be attributed to human caused CO2, but not all that much without introducing a multipier to the models. The science consists “almost entirely” of these computer simulations. As shown in the link above, we know very little about what has actually caused the warming. If we are going to base pretty momentous political decisions on computer simulations, at least we should expect better simulations than what we have seen. Actual vs. predicted results over the last (almost) two decades are dismal.

      3. Stan Musical

        BS….”Natural News” debunked, begins with ad-hominem attack on the deniers’ favorite whipping-boy, highlights sliver-thin slice of remediation proposals as strawman, relies on 3-day study of unrelated solar phenomenon, extrapolates to ridiculous lengths….

        Trollboy you’re going to have to bring your game up a lot to make even a tiny dent.

      4. Nealo

        Note that the authors of the NASA report say nothing(!) that would support the inferences drawn in the Natural News piece.

        We call that BS-ing where i come from.

  10. docG

    The likelihood that global warming is caused or made worse by human actions has given rise to the fantasy that since humans created the problem, humans can fix it. This is more than just a fantasy, it is a delusion. Human activity is now such a major part of the planet’s ecology that it can in itself be regarded as equivalent to a force of nature, no more controllable than earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, etc.

    Even if we had some sort of world government, which would of course produce all sorts of other problems, there is literally no way we could turn back the clock and expect 7 billion people to survive on the basis of a nineteenth century economy. GW alarmists often talk as though we’d all be better off if we could simply eliminate 4 or 5 billion of the poorest earthlings and concentrate on the welfare of the privileged classes and their much worried over grandchildren.

    The solution does not lie in an effort to drastically cut carbon output, which is in fact a delusion, as it can’t be done without consequences even more dire than GW. The solution lies in adapting to inevitable change, something the human race has done over and over in its long and successful history.

    1. Massinissa

      It isnt IMPOSSIBLE that humans can fix it…

      But it is so IMPROBABLE that I dont think its even worth considering.

      We should be focusing on plans for adaptation.

      1. Larry Barber

        We might not be able to fix it at this late date, if by “fixing” you mean “make like we never burned that first lump of coal”, that horse left the barn quite some time ago. We still have some control over how much change we are going to have. This in turn means that we have some control over how much adaption we will have to to.

        One good thing: a lot of what we would need to do to adapt to the impact of a warmer climate are the same things we need to do to reduce the total amount of climate change. Things like localization, restrict travel, more efficient use of resources …

    2. Thor's Hammer

      Exactly how will we adapt to inevitable change?

      By dying off in a mass starvation?
      By nuclear conflict over depleted resources?

      By reducing our reproductive rate to bring population down to the carrying capacity of the planet?
      By replacing our fossil fuel energy base with one that is renewable or has low impact upon planetary geophysics?

      All adaptation is not created equal—.
      And upon what basis do you assert that drastically cutting carbon output will inevitably produce consequences more dire than global warming?

      1. docG

        “By dying off in a mass starvation?”

        That’s already happening. In fact the situation for the majority of those now living on the planet is already dire, and for reasons having little or nothing to do with GW.

        “By nuclear conflict over depleted resources?”

        Again, the depletion of these resources has little or nothing to do with GW, and everything to do with inequality, which, if it persists, will be just as destructive as GW if not moreso.

        “By reducing our reproductive rate to bring population down to the carrying capacity of the planet?”

        That’s more like it. Population control IS doable, as China has demonstrated. Not politically popular, but doable. Even if there were no such thing as GW the current rate of pop. expansion would be unsustainable.

        “By replacing our fossil fuel energy base with one that is renewable or has low impact upon planetary geophysics?”

        Yes, of course. But the demand that we do something drastic NOW will do nothing to hasten the development of such measures. Over time, solar, wind, and other sustainable energy sources will inevitably replace fossil fuels. But this will NOT happen overnight, so we need to keep our heads on our shoulders and not panic.

        “And upon what basis do you assert that drastically cutting carbon output will inevitably produce consequences more dire than global warming?”

        Because the world economy is already fragile and any serious attempt to make fossil fuels more costly may well tip it over the edge to complete disaster. For hundreds of millions now struggling to keep their heads above water a significant increase in energy costs may well sink them for good. Many in the West are, let’s face it, extremely spoiled and extremely self absorbed. What would be a relatively minor cost adjustment to affluent Americans could spell disaster for everyone else. The price of food has already spiked disastrously thanks to the biofuels fiasco, which was also prompted by an overreaction to GW.

    3. Nealo

      “The solution lies in adapting to inevitable change.”
      So you’ve decide that part of this effort cannot include CO2 mitigation by the development and implementation of new technology?
      It’s happening now and pace will accelrate dramatically over the coming few years. Solar and wind are already cheaper than new coal or nuke power.

  11. American Slave

    What more evidence does one need than the polar ice caps melting and no, we are not orbiting closer to the sun and the sensors are not picking up increased levels of radiation so why are the ice caps melting?

    1. Kermit

      What evidence does one need – for what? That the arctic has been warming? Does anyone even deny that??

      That we have seen some warming is in no way connected to a statement that significant warming is due to human caused CO2.

      I thought the level of intelligence and the ability to think critically was better here in this forum. If we were told that someone had a computer model of the price of oil based on all the known fundamentals, would we simply expect it to be accurate even a few days into the future, much less a hundred years? And, if that model failed to predict the first few years of price movements, would we continue to have confidence in it going forward? Isn’t it obvious that we should have a similar level of skepticism for climate models – that have failed to be at all predictive over the last 16 or 17 years? Is modeling the earth’s climate any more complex than the price of oil?

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