The Climate Crisis in Three Easy Charts

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Yves here. This post is the first in a series by Gaius. It starts by looking at the larger climate picture over larger swathes of time and showing what level of temperature changes led to mass extinction events.

By Gaius Publius, who you can follow at Twitter @Gaius_Publius. Cross posted from AmericaBlog

I’m preparing to pivot back to climate crisis, starting with some reformatting of the earlier Climate Series posts — the transition to WordPress wasn’t kind to them — and the organization of this material into book form. (There’s also a climate-themed novel in the works; thriller fans, stay tuned.)

As a result, I’m doing serious study to refine both the concepts (or rather, the explanation of them) and the dating of coming events (the crisis in its various stages).

The first part of that pivot includes two media appearances this week. I’ll be on Virtually Speaking With Jay Ackroyd this Thursday (May 2) at 9 pm ET to discuss climate crisis for a full hour, followed by a Sunday appearance with Avedon Carol as part of the Virtually Speaking Sundays weekly media panel.

It’s the climate discussion I want to focus on here, and I’d like to do it by focusing on three diagrams and a few references back to my earlier climate pieces.

Climate catastrophe will usher in a new geologic era

Long-scale earth history is divided into Eons, then Eras, then Periods. But in fact, prior to the Cambrian Period, when life on earth exploded in number and variety, earth history is the story of non-life or small single- or multi-celled life. And starting with the Cambrian period, there’s just one “eon” anyway. It’s eras and periods we care about.

So let’s start there, with the Cambrian Period and the flourishing of life on earth. Consider the chart below:


The divisions across the top are geologic periods, starting with the Cambrian (“Cm”), the period of “visible life”‘ — meaning a proliferation of hardshelled species. It’s the big explosion of life on earth. The numbers across the bottom are millions of years ago. The spikes show extinction events, with the percentage of marine species going extinct expressed on the vertical or Y axis.

The chart doesn’t call them out, but starting with the Cambrian period, we’ve had three geologic eras (the larger divisions):

Paleozoic Era — “old life”
Mesozoic Era — “middle life” or the Age of Reptiles (dino days)
Cenozoic Era — “new life” or the Age of Mammals (including us)

The Paleozoic Era runs from the start of the graph to the big spike at 250 million years ago on the X axis. It encompasses six geologic periods and ended in the greatest mass extinction event on the planet — geologists call it the “Great Dying”.

The Mesozoic Era runs from the Great Dying at 250 million years ago to the big spike at 65 million years ago, the event that wiped out the dinosaurs — and every other large species. That cleared the way for mammals to grow big and thrive.

We’re now in the Cenozoic Era. Keep those transitions in mind — when mass extinctions change which groups of species can evolve and rule, it’s the end of an era and the start of another. Now look at the chart again. The whole chart shows 540 million years, and just three geologic eras. The next extinction event on the scale of the one at 250 million years ago, or the one at 65 million years ago, will change the shape of life on earth and usher in a new era. Ready for that?

[Update: For a chart that shows geologic eras, periods and their subdivisions in one place, click here. Opens in a new tab.]

Where does man fit in?

Great question — where does man fit in? Answer: We come in very late.

First, notice the last three geologic “periods” at the top-right in the chart above. The period marked “K” is the Cretaceous, the period at the end of the Mesozoic Era. The next period (“Pg”) is the Paleogene, the one that marks the start of the Cenozoic (new life) Era. The period after that (“N”) is the Neogene, which ended just 2 million years ago. The period after that, not shown, is the Quarternary Period, our current one.

The Neogene-Quarternary boundary is the start of the time of great glaciers, and the best way to show that is with the chart below, showing earth temperatures mapped across the geologic periods (at the left end) and geologic epochs (the rest of the chart).


Click here to open the full version in another tab. It’s a big, interesting chart. (Source here.)

First, get oriented. On the Y axis is global temperature using change — in °C — from global temperature in the year 1800 as the norm or zero mark. (The global pre–Industrial Revolution temperature is generally the mark from which other global temperatures are measured, unless otherwise noted. To convert from °C to °F, just double the number; you’ll be pretty close.)

On the X axis, the first big division — from 542 million years ago to 65 million years ago — represents the first two geologic eras, the Paleozoic and Mezozoic (which unfortunately aren’t called out on this chart). “K” at the top and bottom is still the Cretaceous Period, and the end of the Cretaceous Period is also the end of the dinos and the end of the Mesozoic Era.

In this respect, both charts are the same. Man hasn’t showed up yet — our mammal ancestors were the equivalent of field mice in that world, small prey with soft shells and hiding skills.

But before we look at the rest of the X axis, notice that in the left-most part of the chart, the Y axis shows a huge change in global temperature relative to pre-Industrial norms. Looks like a monster spike, especially the first one, doesn’t it?

The Cambrian temperature spike is 6–8°C (about 11–14°F) higher than pre-Industrial levels.

It’s also the temperature we’re headed for by 2100.

But let’s not get distracted. Let’s set some markers in this chart in the horizontal (time) dimension. The whole rest of the chart — the part after the period called “K” — shows the Cenozoic Era (“new life” or Age of Mammals). From here to the right, the chart’s subdivisions show Epochs, which are sub-parts of Periods.

[Update: For a chart that shows the relationship between eras, periods and epochs, click here. it will help you stay oriented.]

Jump through the next five divisions — the epochs marked “Pal” through “Pliocene”. That takes you through the Neogene Period (“N” in the first chart) and to the start of the modern Quarternary Period, the one we’re in, and the one we’re interested in.

The epoch of the Pleistocene, which starts the Quarternary Period (again, see the chart), is the great age of glaciers. Homo habilis evolves at this time, a little over 2 million years ago. Homo erectus evolves shortly afterward. Each starts in Africa — now you can probably guess why — and each leaves Africa and spreads across the globe. (Homo erectus, by the way, lasts a long time on this earth. Longer than us by a lot.)

Homo sapiens evolved much later, in the Pleistocene — the age of glaciers, remember — just 250 thousand years ago, almost died out in Africa, but rebuilt our numbers, then spread out of Africa like our cousins. Because that was the glacier age, we’re still hunter-gatherers like the the rest of our cousins. The big beasts of the earth are creatures like woolly mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers, and we’re all alive on a fairly frozen planet with glaciers coming and going.

At the end of the Pleistocene is another extinction event. At the same time that the last glaciers recede (see chart), the big mammoths and tigers (et al) die off. Simultaneous with a noticeable change in climate, what we call “human civilization” begins. You can see that above, around 12–10 million years ago as the planetary temperature stabilizes. From then until almost now, planetary temperature is pretty stable. Notice it doesn’t take much of a wobble to mark the “Little Ice Age”.

Just two more points to make in this piece and I’m done.

First the bad news

Folks, that little climb in temperature you see near the right end of the graph above is just the beginning. Remember the Cambrian spike at the left end of the graph? Take another look and note the increase — about 7°C. Now here’s Figure 21 from the Copenhagen Diagnosis, a report prepared by … oh … every single one of the world’s top climate scientists for the benefit of our world’s “leaders,” who met in 2009 to discuss how to pass the climate buck one more time:


What you see is temperatures from 500 AD to about 2000, with a number of prediction scenarios going forward. See the scenario called “A1FI”? It’s the one in red. That’s the one we’re on if we don’t stop spewing carbon. I call it the “do nothing” scenario — otherwise known as the “Keep David Koch Happy” scenario.

All you need to know? We’re on track for about +7°C — the peak temperature in the big Cambrian spike — by the year 2100.

Now the good news

Despite all this doom-and-gloom, it’s not over yet. Truly. By my calculation, we have a 5–10 year window to avoid the catastrophe. It won’t be easy — we’re past the point where any transition will be smooth — but we can make the transition and survive as a civilized species, humans in a recognizable world.

But two things are needed:

  1. This has to be our top priority, which means you and everyone you know has to be fully aware and in full battle gear. (For reference, it’s called “hugging the monster.”)
  2. It’s us vs. David Koch and all of his friends and enablers. Tackling any other enemy is tackling a dummy while the game is being played.

Educate your friends, and put a wrench into the Koch machine. How’s that not a plus?

If the Koch Bros keep getting rich, we move backward. If Barack “Hope & Change” Obama approves Keystone, we move backward. If the U.S. develops “domestic oil” resources, we move backward. For every new car (“carbon-delivery system”) sold, we move backward. People need to know this and think like this. We can stop the crisis, but only if we stop carbon. It’s that simple; and that stark.

But it’s also doable, and we’re the species that’s most equiped for “doable.” It’s what our big brains are for.

I’ll have more in the weeks and months ahead. I haven’t given up, not by a long shot. But you can’t pull out of a tail spin if you don’t admit you’re in one. Me, I think we can pull out.

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  1. SDB

    I support moving toward a clean and renewable energy future, preferably sooner than later, but I don’t bow at the alter of the climate change fearmongering.

    I have a question for those of you that think climate change is an immediate crisis…

    Suppose the Earth were to warm significantly solely because of an anomely in sun cycles, or Earth cycles, or whatever, for any natural reason, (after all we know the Earth has been much hotter, and colder, in the past), we would then HAVE TO deal with the same supposed problems associated with anthropogenic global warming. Ok, it’s a problem we’re gonna have to deal with. We’ll deal with it (or we won’t).

    We as a human species can’t even collectively act together to prevent war and make peace + water and food security a global priority for everyone, and those problems are very real in the here and now. What makes any of you think we can collectively act to prevent a hypothetical-supposed-potential-unknowably defined problem caused by using fossil fuels?

    I suggest we focus on our crisis-response preparations.

    1. skippy

      “What makes any of you think we can collectively act to prevent a hypothetical-supposed-potential-unknowably defined problem caused by using fossil fuels?” – SDB

      Skippy…. you and those like you… easy, see.

    2. EX-SA

      Fear not, the coming global economic depression will do wonders for the climate outlook as it crushes global consumption back to more sutainable levels.

      The response to that economic crisis will promote investment in renewable technologies.

      It will be ugly but much better for our kids.

      1. Vernon

        EX-SA says:
        Fear not, the coming global economic depression will do wonders for the climate outlook as it crushes global consumption back to more sutainable levels.

        It has already happened. Due to the economic collapse, the USA is projected to meet the Kyoto protocol even though it never ratified the treaty.

        EX-SA says:
        The response to that economic crisis will promote investment in renewable technologies. It will be ugly but much better for our kids.

        I don’t have any children but you feel that economic collapse will be better for your kids? I wonder how many of the destitute share your outlook.

        1. tts

          The US has greatly reduced C02 output due to the recession, that is certainly true.

          But that isn’t enough.

          Other countries, like the BRIC’s, are polluting more than enough to make up the difference. To be fair they aren’t doing it be assholes. They’re just trying to improve their respective countrie’s and the quality of life for their citizens, which BTW they should be able to, they just have to go about doing it in a better way.

          Unfortunately its too expensive, both from a ecological pollution perspective (ie. throw away consumer society, cars everywhere) and from a food source (ie. meat) perspective, to give everyone in the world a standard of living on par or even close to what most Americans have had post WWII. Hell even Americans can’t really afford it anymore.

          Of course try telling that to a BRIC citizen as a current resident of a 1st world country, much less the US, and you’ll be scoffed at as a hippocrite. Which is understandable given the history of said 1st world nations with regard to pollution and economic growth, but still not at all a helpful or even correct path to take.

          It is unfortunately the path many of those BRIC citizens and countries’ will take and they will not change until a major crisis related to global warming occurs to them. By then it’ll be too late of course.

          Earth’s CO2 cycle is the ultimate in slow motion train wrecks. It takes around 100yr for it to stop moving and start to reverse the trend so even if we totally stopped polluting tomorrow we’d still get at least some significant global warming for quite a while.

          If you wait for the crises to occur before doing anything then you’re headed for catastrophe.

    3. scott

      We can go back to using animals to plow our fields and, I guess, whale oil to light our houses, but North America can only support about 30 million people that way. Al Gore is looking for volunteers.

      1. skippy

        Non sequitur gibberish, provide data.

        skippy… Sorry I didn’t see Al Gore on the graph provided, so whats your point?

        1. scott

          If you want carbon emissions back to 1800 levels, we need a world population of under a billion and a petroleum-free economy. Starvation is the best way to get there, I guess.

          1. Binky Bear

            Solar power, wind power, hydrothermal power, increasing efficiency, insulation, yada yada.

            Or keep being willfully obtuse on the internet. I hear it pays well.

          2. skippy

            Fact free gibberish and yet no data to support… skeptic should read… scientific skeptic. That’s what it really denotes, like – truth – in advertising.

            Skippy…. ” Al Gore is looking for volunteers.” – scott

            That’s the big problem… eh, volunteers. Now if he was paying… well… that’s your MO.

      2. steelhead23

        It is this perspective – that if we are to tackle global warming we would need to harness horses, burn whale oil, or wash our clothes down by the river – that feeds the Koch propaganda machine. Electricity would not go away. We could produce as much electricity as we wanted were we to change the technology we so frequently use. Yes, I mean nukes (thorium reactors would be best) – but not just nukes, hydro, wind, geothermal, even space-based solar collectors with microwave transmission are all feasible. Nor would we need to retire the passenger car – we would simply use more electrical cars. And nobody with any sense is talking about going cold turkey on burning fossil fuels. I think the first step would be large federal subsidies for electric cars and plug-in hybrids to make them more attractive. Then all utilities should be obligated to provide demand-based power pricing to residential customers such that recharging one’s car overnight would be dirt cheap. What I am saying is that not only is this war on global warming necessary, it would be less of a burden on the average citizen than the rationing that occurred during WWII.

        1. tts

          LFTR’s would indeed be the way to go but R&D much less actual reactor building is dead in the water in the US.

          1)NIMBY’s/the public/Greens fear the atomzzzzz, especially after Fukushima, even though LFTR’s are a whole lot safter than nuclear reactor.
          2)Nuclear industry has lots of political clout to protect their gravy train.
          3)Nuclear weapon industry has lots of political clout to protect their nukes/gravy train.

      3. tts

        No we can’t.

        Not without letting a large number of people in the US much less world wide starve to death. And they won’t do it quietly or peacefully either. You’d be looking at a global resource war that’d make WWII look like a joke. Billions would be —required— to die world wide, certainly over 100 million in the US.

        Without modern farming techniqes, eqiupment, and fertilizers our modern society can’t exist. Also there is no easy or predictable way to gradually transistion society either so long as a large percentage of that society as well as its leadership continues to be in denial about the situation.

        It should be noted too that the US would be one of the hardest hit by global warming. The Great Plains would turn into a massive desert essentially and the aquifers there are already at critical levels. Even at current usage rates they’ll probably run dry in less than 40 years. What took multiple millenia to collect underground will have been drained in around 100-150 years.

      1. SDB

        @ Mexico

        I’m not purposely running interference or carrying water for Kock et al.

        I try to be pratical and realistic. When I look at the situation without rose-colored glasses, I see 1) a world very dependent on fossiul fuels, and 2) a world that can’t even act collectively for problems in the ‘here and now’

        From that, I think to myself, ‘Ok, the Earth could warm even without our doing, and if it did… WHAT WOULD WE DO?’

        I think anyone that is interested in the well-beng of people ought to be seriously considering crisis-response preparations to global warming, anthropogenic or otherwise.

        Be honest with yourself. Do you really see us stopping fossil fuel usage any time soon? Really, be honest about the reality of the situation. Set aside for a moment what you wish to be true, and assess what in all likelihood is actually true.

        So where should people who are concerned about climate change focus their energy? … on trying to stop what’s probably unstoppable (though I do wholly support efforts to transition to clean renewables), or should we focus on how we’re going to accomodate the changes?

        You call that interference and carrying water, I call it being honest about the situation.

        As a relevant aside, if we ever are going to terra-form and climatize a foreign planet to make it suitable for human existence, we’re probably going to first need to know how to prepare, react, and manipulate our own weather here on Earth. Maybe instead of resisting change, we should try to take advantage of it? – > Learn from it.

        1. Lambert Strether

          I’m interested to see this second line of defense emerge. I suppose “it’s not possible to do anything” (apparently the subject of forthcoming work from the poster) is preferable to American Tobacco Institute-like public relations efforts disguised as studies, but the net effect is the same, isn’t it?

          This line of defense reminds me very much of what career “progressives” said during the health insurance debate that culminated in ObamaCare: “Oh, we all love single payer. It’s just not politically feasible.” They would then proceed to do absolutely nothing to change the calculus of what is politically feasible (see under abolitionism, votes for women, gay marriage for movements that changed what is politically feasible).

          1. SDB

            @ Lambert

            I 100% support effort to push for renewables. If I was control of the budget, I’d be flushing universties and the private sector with tons of deficit spending for R&D on renewables. I think transitioning to renewables should be near #1 priority worldwide, not only for climate change, but also to stave off a future water crisis. Abundant, cheap, renewable energy + ocean water = basically unlimited fresh water.

            As for single payer was difficult, we didn’t get because Obama is a faux-progressive; he’s a third way neo-liberal.

            Getting single-payer ought to be a cake-walk compared to getting off fossil fuels.

    4. banger

      This is ultimately a moral issue. Those of us who are civilized (in the U.S. this might be a minority) more or less rationality and science as the guiding light of our secular culture–even though, for me, spirituality is central, I accept that secular culture, where we can all meet whether we are believers, agnostics, atheists or narcissists, is and should be the central organizing principle of our lives. As such we are given a scientific view, that could be very wrong, but that is what we have–if we accept that view then not directly dealing with the issue of climate crisis now, today, means we are willing to play Russian roulette with our future and that of our progeny. At minimum there is. Any risk-analysis matrix would show you that central truth—whether the chances are even or one in ten we would still be obligated to do something about it with varying degrees of urgency. This is, sorry, bloody-f—ing obvious.

      Morally, for those who believe morality is something valid (I have to say that since so many in our culture believe that there is no such thing as morality), you cannot stand on the sidelines on this. At the minimum you should favor heroic efforts at coming up with more science and research to refine the very complex science.

      1. Mark P.

        You could not be more wrong. It is _not_ a moral issue, ultimately.

        It is ultimately a physics problem.

        Here and now. With tipping points emerging if we let the ice shelves melt.

    5. K Ackermann

      Not only that, Skippy, but what if there are self-regulating factors involved that haven’t yet been studied. For instance, does the radius of the atmosphere change with temperature. If so, the surface area (area of thermal escape) increases with the radius SQUARED.

      We should be putting just as much effort into finding positive second order effects as negative effects.

      It’s just possible we are worrying about nothing. We need to do ALL the science.

      1. skippy

        Its a compounding problem with some wild time factors.

        I think you need to study thermodynamics, especially wrt heat sinks, and feed back loops.

    6. tiebie66

      Granted, similar temperature deltas could occur naturally. But what troubles me most is that (i) we have so interfered with the earth’s natural systems that normal feedback loops may no longer function properly making this time quite different from previous ones with perhaps rather surprising and distressing outcomes and (ii) that mitigation efforts may involve further undesirable disruptions of natural systems. I’d rather the atmosphere not get salted with reflective particles, nuclear energy be promoted, huge parasols be erected in space, etc.

      I’m afeared of both the “prevent” and “prepare” paths because both offer ample opportunity for unfortunate choices. I’d rather we stop, think, and act very carefully, but we may be way past the point where we can do so without a great deal of pain.

  2. Ran

    The last graph, commonly known as the hockey stick, was proven bogus years ago, and silently disappeared from the UN’s IPCC documentation. Now, as the world cools, it seems to return with a vengence, grasping at soon-to-disappear government largess.

    A. W. Montford documented this well his book, “The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science,” but a recent post for a short read is available as “The Logical Case Against Climate Panic.”

    1. skippy

      Early life

      Montford graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in chemistry.[2] then became a chartered accountant.[5] In 2004 he worked with the foundation of Anglosphere, which provides editing services to publishers and other business. His focus at the company is to develop their approach to the publication of scientific literature.[6]

      skippy… Yep as qualified as Hubert Spencer was working for the economist thingy.

      1. skippy

        In an interview with Bruce Robbins in The Courier Montford said, “I believe that CO2, other things being equal, will make the planet warmer. The six million dollar question is how much warmer. I’m less of a sceptic than people think. My gut feeling is still sceptical but I don’t believe it’s beyond the realms of possibility that the AGW hypothesis might be correct. It’s more the case that we don’t know and I haven’t seen anything credible to persuade me there’s a problem.”[19]

    2. mikkel

      Whenever a denier makes a claim that is completely untrue (hockstick being debunked) I’ve just started linking this extremely interesting overview of the history of thought behind rapid climate change

      Not only does it come from a completely empirical data standpoint, but it demonstrates the sociology of science. It also blows the “oh there can’t be strong feedbacks” BS in that link above.

      “At high gain, the geological record would show violent oscillations between extremes of warming and cooling. Yet for 64 million years the Earth’s surface temperature has fluctuated by only 3%, or 8 Cº, either side of the long- run mean.”

      Only 8C! That is a mind boggling amount of energy, particularly since solar variation is a fraction of a percent.

      1. from Mexico

        mikkel says:

        Whenever a denier makes a claim that is completely untrue…

        There’s actually a name for the rhetorical strategy Ran employs. Andrew M. Lobaczewski calls it “reversive blockade”:

        Reversive blockade: Emphatically insisting upon something which is the opposite of the truth blocks the average person’s mind from perceiving the truth. In accordance with the dictates of healthy common sense, he starts searching for meaning in the “golden mean” between the truth and its opposite, winding up with some satisfactory counterfit. People who think like this do not realize that this effect is precisely the intent of the person who subjects them to this method…

        We rarely see this method being used by normal people… Use of this method can be included within the above-mentioned special psychological knowledge developed by psychopaths concerning the weaknesses of human nature and the art of leading others into error. Where they are in rule, this method is used with virtuosity, and to an extent conterminous with their power.

        –ANDREW M. LOBACZEWSKI, Political Ponerology

        1. Gaius Publius

          Thanks, from Mexico. I haven’t seen this, but will take a look. Ms. Oreskes does a great job on Virtually Speaking, tying the denialist culture and mentodology of the pro-tobacco “scientists” — most of whom were rabid-right nuclear scientists, not biologists — to climate denialist methods and culture.

          In her view, the one begat the other.


          1. from Mexico

            That’s an amazing interview.

            Oreskes research reveals that the religious-like belief in the myth of the free market is what is at the root of both pseudo-sciences: the global warming deniers and the deniers of smoking’s harmful effects.

            The interview is just as germane to Nathan Tankus’ post today as it is to yours.


      1. Massinissa

        No, its caused by Mermaids, clearly. The sun is magically causing large pearls to hatch into Mermaids, which secrete chemicals from their tails, that is creating the acidification.

        /snark off

      2. aidee

        Nope, water + atmospheric carbon dioxide = carbonic acid; the less the capacity to buffer this (carbonate rocks, other..) the more acidic the oceans become.

      1. Vernon

        Lambert Strether says:
        Montford’s one of the gang who who compared hockey stick scientist Mann to a child molester.

        Excellent ad-hominem attack. You don’t actually say that Montford compared Mann to a child molester but you say he is part of the gang that did – whatever that means.

        Lambert Strether says:
        So inaddition to being a credentialist-free denialist, he’s a sleazeball.

        Appeal to authority is not a particularly strong argument. It would be nice if these threads stick to the data and the validity of the data instead of degenerating into name calling and “he said/she said” tirades.

        1. Lambert Strether

          What part of credential-free denialist do you not understand? Adding… I’m not the one who put the child molester comparison icing on that particular cake.

          1. Vernon

            Lambert Strether says:
            What part of credential-free denialist do you not understand? Adding… I’m not the one who put the child molester comparison icing on that particular cake.

            What I am trying to understand is why you seem to think your ad-hominem attacks aid your arguments. Please explain what what you think is incorrect in Mockton’s post or Monford’s book without resorting to ad-hominem or other logical fallicies.

            1. Lambert Strether

              Yes, I’m aware of the definition of an ad hominem argument. I take it you have a problem with climate change denialist Montford associating climate scientist Mann with child molesters, then?

          2. Ben Johannson

            Besides, there has been no global warming for 18 years

            Yes there has.

            . . . sea level has risen for eight years at just 1.3 in/century

            Makes no point. The whole “no net warming since yesterday” meme is really, really old.

            . . . notwithstanding Sandy, hurricane activity is at its least in the 33-year satellite record

            By what criteria? What measurement?

            . . . ocean heat content is rising four and a half times more slowly than predicted

            No it isn’t. Three of his points so far are based entirely on what’s happening in the first 700m of ocean while ignoring the other 2000+.

            global sea-ice extent has changed little

            So? Ice volume is the proper measure, and it has dropped by 80% since 1980.

            Himalayan glaciers have not lost ice

            Have too.

            . . . .and the U.N.’s 2005 prediction of 50 million “climate refugees” by 2010 was absurd.

            An opinion. Gee, nobody else has those.

            Anything else?

          3. Banned?

            Thanks for your reply.

            Ben Johannson says:
            Besides, there has been no global warming for 18 years
            Yes there has.

            Please state the global warming in the past 18 years.

            Has Vernon been banned?

      2. sarastro92

        Montford’s work is a good reference point… he’s writing as a science journalist and skillfully assembles data from published scientific journals. Highly recommended

    3. banger

      So, you are willing to bet the life and future of the planet, against overwhelming evidence from the overwhelming number of scientists on one book or the findings of a small minority of the scientists studying this problem (obviously an ignorant bunch of communists plotting whatever). How is that rational? And how is that remotely moral. You and other deniers believe there is 0% chance that anything very serious will happen in a field where certainty is next to impossible? Those of us in the real world who have dealt with real projects create risk-analysis matrices, in my case very simple ones, but in big projects they use very sophisticated ones–we measure the amount of risk and benefit and analyze the consequence of all the possible scenarios usually using percentages. Is that hard to understand?

      Remember, with someone my age the likelihood of major catastrophic positive feedback loops leading to a chaotic state which then finding a new equilibrium point at who knows what temperature point is less than for my children and grandchildren. I actually care what happens to my children. If you actually care for those who live in the future then you would insist on a dramatic increase in spending on research on this matter to give us better data–but since I’ve heard little from the “so what?” community about that I have to assume they really don’t give a f–k.

    4. Binky Bear

      Montford is a well remunerated propagandist and swindler. You are a rube. Who gets the better part of this deal?

    5. sarastro92

      Correct Ran… I’m very disappointed with Yves … not surprised, but disappointed with the quality of her work here.

      Few quick points for undecided readers:

      1- The climate models have failed badly… the nearly two decade stasis in global warming was not anticipated even though CO2 levels continue to rise slowly. Technically recent global temperatures are at the very low end of their error bars… but soon to crash out of prediction region.

      There’s a fairly desperate attempt to explain the pause in temperatures … the current favor is a claim that “the deep ocean ate my global warming”… so far not very convincing… but who knows?

      2- As a result of the disconnect between CO2 and warming, many in the inner circle of catastrophic warmists are climbing down from earlier predictions… climate sensitivity estimates are now being lowered, with something like a 1.5 degree C increase predicted for every doubling of CO2… down quite a bit from earlier estimates

    6. Ben Johannson

      Sixteen independent papers have confirmed the hockey stick. Zero papers have debunked it.

  3. anon

    You can see that above, around 12–10 million thousand years ago as the planetary temperature stabilizes.

  4. Richard Kline

    A1F1 + “Suck Koch’s Cock” alternative. It had to be said, so I said it. : )

  5. allcoppedout

    I can’t declare myself a believer in CO2 driven climate change, though the evidence often seems compelling. There are plenty of alternatives thrown in the pot – clouds seeded by cosmic rays is a fairly current one –

    I’m not a climate scientist and don’t meet many. I know enough science to spot that what is put in front of me on television is rot. The important thing is that climate change is real whatever causes it. We have a reserve army of unemployed and graduates serving coffee or swindling us in banks by selling ppi and interest rate swaps. Our politics and economics is too dumb (or “smart”)to redeploy people into building decent homes, making land more efficient and sustainable, building sea, solar, wind and renewable power (petrol from air – not grown in order to put food prices up) – maybe even fusion.
    Science could guide our actions – even if CO2 isn’t going to burn the planet we may want to control it. The problem couldn’t be the financial neurosis that allows a few to dominate decisions on what we can do through accumulated money, could it?
    One might think that the technical revolution that has moved most of us off back breaking work on the land is about more than creating a few filthy rich and might be about helping us to make clinging to this rock more pleasant and secure. The problem with climate science is not that it can’t deliver certainty on CO2. Economics makes us too dumb to see what it is telling us and too scared to do anything about it.

    1. banger

      What if you’re wrong about CO2–the physics and chemistry is fairly clear as to what its attributes. Wouldn’t you want to find out–remember if those of us who have studied this (in my case as a non-scientist but with a general science education) over the years do believe there is a strong chance that climate science is a valid science. We also believe, most of us, that there is a lot of uncertainty in any science studying a system as complex as climate. We require a massive investment in this science to establish more accurate risk paramaters. What strikes me about climate-skeptics is the extraordinary ignorance of how we measure risk in all kinds of ways whether we are in the corporate world or anywhere else we create some kind of risk assessment matrix–sometimes it’s back of the envelope but often its a quite sophisticated process. We measure what the likely (rarely certain) consequences of likely actions, scenarios and so on–the fact that I have to explain this over and over again as many of you have blank faces is embarrassing sometimes–why is that so hard to understand? Essentially you and people like you are willing to casually dismiss possible catastrophic outcomes how the f do you do that? Are you really unable to think it true. Is wasting energy so important to you that you are willing to risk even, say a 10% chance that your grandchildren could live in a world that has an average temperature of 6 degrees C? Is that a moral position? Are we so addicted to carbon? I mean I’ve been around junkies and that’s how they act–they avoid thinking about the consequences and focus on this high right now.

        1. banger

          So you don’t think they exist? You want to pay me a consultant’s fee? Here’s a simple one for starters and you need no data–just use your own opinion. What is your opinion (using the “truthiness” principle) the likelihood that climate science is right on this question? 0%? 1%? and what are the risks associated with being wrong vs. the risks associated with you being right? That’s the principle. You will then probably come to the conclusion that more information would be good and then you can do a systematic study of the science–not just the outlier studies–I think I will, if I have time, put the info I have on it in a comment later.

          1. citizendave

            Various people have adapted Pascal’s Wager (about the existence of God) to climate science. The two subjects have something in common: both make it difficult to persuade skeptics with tangible proof.

            There are four logical possibilities.
            1. Proposition A exists, we correctly believe it exists.

            2. Proposition A exists, we incorrectly believe it does not exist.

            3. Proposition A doesn’t exist, we correctly believe it doesn’t exist.

            4. Proposition A doesn’t exist, but we incorrectly believe it does exist.

            Blaise Pascal reasoned that he had nothing to lose by choosing to believe that God exists — and further, that it would be prudent to do so.

            If we stay on our present economic course, but guess wrong about the future outcome, by the time the tangible evidence is sufficient to convince the skeptics about the physical reality, it will be too late to fix it.

            The case for prudence seems obvious.

            As for what we have to lose by addressing human-caused climate change, it appears to be a question of economic winners and losers. Incumbent corporations and financial institutions believe they will lose money on their investments if we undertake a new industrial revolution. But leaving aside the issues of morality and ethics about the long-term viability of Earth, surely a massive transformation of our global economies could provide economic opportunities for everyone.

            And when we consider that most of the wealth is in so few hands, most of us have little to lose, and much to gain, by believing that we humans are causing climate change, and that we can do something about it.

          2. banger


            I always found Pascal’s wager offensive–probably because my Dad always brought it up when I was an adolescent and I became agnostic. But anyway, good points.

        2. banger

          Okay–really do a google search on risk analysis matrix or risk analysis template and pick images and that’ll give you a quick look.

          We had to use them when evaluating projects–some of our PMs were MBAs and they live by spreadsheet. The real analysis occurs in discussions on the various scenarios and then we would put a number or rating in the matrix. You have to do that kind of things when screwing up can be really, really costly.

  6. William

    There seems to be a kind of political correctness in these discussions, that one has to hold out some “hope” or be labeled a cynic and ignored. Well I’m a realist, and looking around, I think we’re going the red line route. The level of ignorance is way too deep and the control over people’s minds to keep them that way is way too strong, and is only getting stronger as the powers get more scared and clamp down all the more. Only a complete revolution in thinking and behavior will turn things around. Something BIG has to happen to throw out the current corporate-political nexus and replace it with sensibility. I don’t see it happening. Sorry.

    1. Recreational sex for the whales

      Realistically, homo sapiens’ best shot at continued existence is a precipitous decline in fertility. As terperatures rise, that will take care of itself. But it might be too late. So if you really don’t want to get blamed for the mass extinction, it’s not enough to drive a prius. You gotta not have kids.

      Hey, they’re boring anyway, all those soccer games. You don’t hang around with people who have a mental age of eight, but you patiently answer inane questions from an eight-year who’s equally dumb. Why do that to yourself?

      1. William

        I agree. If humans can’t see that the world their future kids are going to inherit will be a death zone, yet they go ahead and have kids anyway, I can’t think of a better example of human stupidity. We’re not going to pull out of this. I read an article not long ago which suggested we have a death wish, that we are trying to commit suicide by destroying everything.

    2. sd

      Unfortunately, I agree William.

      We are in the middle of an unemployment crisis. Seems like a perfect moment to develop national planning with a public works program of mass transit with an emphasis on linking regional industry hubs. Essentially rethinking sprawl by moving towards compact community hubs.

      Alas. It requires socialism and a sharing of resources. Just not going to happen outside of small independent community efforts. Which at this point are our best hope for change.

  7. Massinissa

    Im not a climate denier.

    But I do deny, that humanity will get off its ass to do anything about this problem.

    Instead of trying to ‘stop’ global warming, which would entail , at the very least, RADICAL changes to capitalism if not getting rid of it entirely (As much as I would love that, it aint happening), we should come to the conclusion that stopping it is ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE and we should make plans to survive with a rapidly warming world.

    Im sorry, but the cats out of the bag. Theres no stopping this train. We cant do much but hold on to it for dear life.

    1. skippy

      I think you mean… the people in – charge of – manufacturing consent – have other plans.

      skippy… sad thing is… its a mental wasteland…

    2. banger

      Only when we can make a credible argument that we are all better off if we get on another track will people accept climate-science. Denial is a stunningly powerful human trait that I’ve seen displayed in large and small matters.

      This is why I favor many of the ideas of people around the Zeitgeist movement–who many find overly utopian but as someone who worked in IT I know we have the technology to do much of what they say can be done–and I am amazed by the wealth of talent available in this culture to carry it out–think of what we could do if we focused on human well-being than the BS we are into now–this is no way to live and most of us know it.

  8. Jim Haygood

    ‘At the end of the Pleistocene is another extinction event. At the same time that the last glaciers recede (see chart), the big mammoths and tigers (et al) die off.’

    The author skates past the fact that this and other extinction events were caused by cold, not heat. Look at the portion of his chart to the right of the 500,000 years B.C. mark. Five distinct plunges in temperature are visible, interrupted by warm spikes (like the one we’re in now) that lasted about 10,000 years.

    Where are warm spike dieoffs? There aren’t any.

    Has this 100,000-year ice age cycle ended? Most likely, the science and the models are not yet good enough to tell us. ‘Climate crisis’ alarmists are the Reinharts and Rogoffs of geology. Some of them have been caught in flagrant delicto with fake and tampered data.

    Another degree C higher in average temperature is like crossing the 90% public debt/GDP limit: Doom! DOOM, I say! Doomed, all of ye sinners!

    Purely on a contrary opinion basis, the hysteria of the climate crisis claque has to be faded. Long term, humanity dies by ice, not by fire.

    Meanwhile, this is the second coldest spring in a hundred years. I defy anyone to fit an upward-sloping trendline to the chart in this article:

    1. lolcar

      Looking for global warming in the temperature records of a tiny part of the Earth’s surface during the period of the year with the maximum temperature variability – snark on/ that’s some high quality
      climate science right there /snark off.

    2. vlade

      Permian-Triassic die-off killed most of the life on the planet, with about 8C temperature increases. I believe the die off was something like 96% marine life, 70% terrestrial vertebrae, and is about the only die-off which had an almost-wipe-off for insect (who otherwise survive just about anything.. ). It was the event that killed off trilobites.

    3. patricia

      Jim says:
      1. Cold killed therefore heat won’t.
      2. There’s Reinhart/Rogoff fraud therefore climate science is fraud.
      3. Unless everyone involved is perfect, anything anyone says about the subject is all wrong.
      4. It’s cold right now therefore climate change is wrong.
      5. Sounding alarms is always hysteria by claques.
      You make no sense. All is meaningless.

    4. Steve

      One spring does not a climate make. Take a look at the previous spring and combine them.

    5. Binky Bear

      Absence of fact from start to finish with a slathering of peanut buttery ignorance and fancy piled on.

      Pleistocene Holocene boundary is warming period. Glaciers melt and recede. Megafauna once common in North America including camels, horses, lions, short faced bears, mammoth, mastodon, etc. die off as their habitats are dramatically and rapidly reduced by changing climate.
      Bang! all that glacial water floods out into the Atlantic and the influx of cold, fresh water is enough to change the currents of the ocean for a stretch of re-cooling.
      This yo yo effect is hard for species to adapt to. This is one of the buggers of our future-say we all move to Canada to avoid the mid American desert’s heat and unpleasantness once Branson becomes Vegas for real, tumbleweeds and sand. Say this expansion of agricultural land use in the Taiga increases moisture transpiration and thus local weather patterns making it locally cooler and wetter for a stretch such that wheat rots. Starving! The conservative fantasy has only persisted for a few decades but it already threatens to destroy us all. That’s progress.

  9. vlade

    I used to say that climate change is like buying (or selling, if you don’t believe it) an option. But recently I saw a better metaphor – Pascal’s wager. If the costs are relatively low, why not do it? We can quantify the costs of stopping CO2 emissions relatively well – as opposed to the costs of climate change (because that is probability driven). So how about we do it anyway if the costs are relatively low (and lots of sources suggests they are low, although I have yet to see a good study – but it could be because I haven’t looked hard enough)?

    That said, ultimately unless we get off the Earth we’re dead anyways (one larger comet/asteroid/volcanic event will do us in, and any of that is just a question of when, not if). Earth, and life will survive (few bn of years, anyways, until the Sun will fry everything), we won’t.

    1. Expat

      Pascal’s Wager for the conservatives, the Precautionary Principle for the forward-thinking. Regardless of whether the climate is getting hotter or colder, and even if it won’t change for a generation or two, it makes good sense to address the pressing concerns of our species, namely reversing the collapse of all of the eco-systems that support us and ending the destruction of the social institutions that give us the ability to address concerns before they become calamities. The emergency light has been flashing for 40 or so years now, yet I don’t see the slightest sign that the powers that be have any inclination to take any action to change direction. Apres moi le deluge, indeed.

    2. banger

      You don’t have to make Pascal’s wager–just do a risk assessment matrix–apparently something most people are completely clueless of. What are the likely outcomes and ther range of possibilities of this or that action–pretty obvious and pretty simple yet deniers refuse, straight out to even engage in this process or ask for such a process.

    1. EmilianoZ

      I believe it’s standard practice to smooth such curves with a moving average. Otherwise it looks too noisy. It’s not doctoring the data. It’s standard, accepted practice.

      I’m not sure it’s a moving average. It could also be a convolution with a Gaussian function.

  10. Lambert Strether

    Since Obama strongly supports both fracking and keystone (or, rather, the corporations that own those systems) it’s doubtful the Democrats can deliver on any solution in time. I’m all for nobbling the Kochs, it’s necessary, but is it sufficient?

    What kind of political economy would we need to move forward?

    1. ambrit

      Dear Lambert;
      Could it be that the Kochs of this world, and their remoras, are planning to be the ‘Last Men Standing’ in purpose built islands of managed ecologies?

      1. Lambert Strether

        I would need evidence that the Kochs are the enemy, rather than the very few billionaires who own most everything, as a class. The Kochs fund the Tobacco Institute-like climate denilialist industry, sure, but they are acting in the interests of others, I am guessing, not just themselves.

        * * *

        So, yes — tinfoil hat time — I think the 0.01% is aware of the problem (or, let’s say, the opportunity). Collapsing the economy is the short term solution: Less economic activity, less use of carbon. I think that a massive die-off is the long term plan. That way, all the existing power curves remain intact. Doing God’s work!

        1. Larry Barber

          I agree that the .1%, as a group, are aware of the problem. They would have to be pretty stupid not to be, and you don’t earn, or retain, billion dollar fortunes by being stupid (this doesn’t mean that they are as smart as they think they are, however). Of course, this means that, instead of being stupid, they are evil, and actively evil at that.

    2. Susan the other

      What sort of political economy do we need to go forward? Functional finance. The adenosinetriphosphate has to circulate into the systems that will be viable. What social systems are compatible with our ecological survival? Not the automobile. Not air conditioning and forced air heating. Not the cattle industry. Not Monsanto. Not big pharma. Not useless or trophy products for fun and profit. Not depleting the oceans. Not using the oceans as our dumping ground. Not taking a business trip when a teleconference will do. Not business as usual. What to do about things like Nascar? Make them all switch to zero carbon engines. Ha. What a great political jump-start. The New Nascar would be the perfect metaphor for the New USA.

    3. William

      Democrats “deliver a solution?” What planet are you on? They can’t even close Gitmo.

  11. ambrit

    For what it’s worth, the deniers and pseudo deniers seem to forget that Homo Sap is famous for being the species which thrives on altering its’ environment to suit itself.
    Rain forests? Turn em into pastureland, and watch it keep going into desert. (Happened in Central America.)
    Happy tooth and fang coral ‘jungles?’ Turn em into dead matter with acidified sea water. (Happens worldwide.)
    Wide expanses of prairie? Turn em into badly managed cropland and watch it all blow away. (Remember the Dust Bowl?)
    I could go on, but you get the point.
    Humans have the ability to plan and cooperate. Add to that technology, which I guess the cetaceans do not posses, and you have the stark difference between this climate ‘event’ and the previous ones.
    I’m with Lambert and skippy on this one. Either we get our act together and cooperate our way out of this mess or we go extinct. (Deservedly so.)

    1. Lambert Strether

      On the Amazon: The Amazon (see the book 1492) was also at one point deliberately designed to be an edible forest (that’s the source of the terra preta that is still there today). It’s the world’s largest horticultural work of art! There is a reason why, even today, you can walk into the forest and eat from the trees.

      I agree that turning the Amazon into land to feed cattle to make MacDonald’s burgers out of is the height of idiocy, but humankind is not always idiotic. Sometimes, we can rise to the occasion.

      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        Lambert, there are a number of books with the title 1492. Who’s the author of the one to which you refer?

  12. Kermit

    We all know that the earth has been warming. The question is – how much? How much, compared to, say, when the Vikings farmed greenland for longer than the United States has existed? The only temperature record that is at all reliable is slightly more than thirty years long. But, even if we simply say that the earth has been warming, the question is – what has been causing the warming? It is a well-known fact (even the late Dr. Joanna Simpson said it) that the science consists “almost entirely” of computer simulations. Computer simulations that require a large fudge factor to increase the sensitivity to CO2. Remember, the IPCC defines the climate as a coupled, non-linear chaotic system. So, what we really have is a few people sitting in front of computers playing SimEarth with a system that can probably never be predictable.

    1. Lambert Strether

      ” The only temperature record that is at all reliable is slightly more than thirty years long.”

      Oh, please. Ice cores? Tree rings? Scientific evidence of all kinds?

    2. banger

      Utter and complete caca, partner. You know nothing of that science or, I suspect, any other science. So you are ready to play Russian roulette with the world? Because we don’t have 100% certainty? I’m not even going to go through the long litany of evidence that we have to indicate serious warming is very likely going on–I actually have it as part of a project I’m working on and could cut and paste it but I won’t–that’s up to you to care enough about the future to look into it. I have children and grandchildren and it is highly immoral to not want to deal with this issue seriously. A bunch of people in front of computer screens–that’s your critique–pa–the-tic.

    3. Binky Bear

      Your ignorance and willful evasion of fact won’t save you.

      See how that “it’s all just computer stuff and not real” excuse works when you are fighting for canned food in an empty WalMart with the other starving rioters because another year of record heat and drought broken by catastrophic flooding and storms beyond Biblical record are tearing up the midwest farm belt where the food comes from. That will work in your favor, right? Click your heels together three times.

  13. villageidiot

    We each add one kilogram of CO2 gas to the atmosphere each day as we exhale a tiny bit of CO2 each time we breath. That adds up to 7 billion kilograms each and every day of CO2 gas contributing to anthropogenic caused climate change and more ppm of CO2 in the air. Those pesky humans never stop, always doing something to make everything worse.

    Every day! Somebody call the cops. Good thing CO2 gets trapped in the chain and not all of it remains as a gas in the atmosphere, we would have been gone a long time ago. All because we were breathing. What worse thing could there possibly be?

    Greenhouses use CO2 generators to increase the CO2 concentrations to enhance the growth of vegetable crops grown inside greenhouses. Greenhouses in Spain occupy an area the size of Rhode Island. Might even be criminal. CO2 gas in higher concentrations in the atmosphere is causing a greening of the earth.

    What were CO2 ppm during the Carboniferous Period? 10 times? 20 times? Something like that. A plethora of flora, world wide, plants galore. Now it’s coal. Millions of years of time make a difference of what the final result will be. Concentrations of hydrogen in old organic content material along with pressures and heat and you have a hydro-carbon system, oil and gases; takes 3 hundred million years, so it is just a matter of time.

    When Lake Agassiz drained into Hudson’s Bay, a high number of mosasaurs were dragged out to sea or left embedded in the mud from Kansas to Lake Winnipeg. The glacier melted and the lake drained which interrupted the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. All that fresh water mixing with the ocean water changed the gulf stream. In turn, the hurricanes in the Atlantic became a nuisance and the destruction caused is well documented. All because the earth warmed and Lake Agassiz drained. It was a climate crisis. Then Eric the Red’s farm was abandoned in Greenland because it became too cold to live and farm there. Then it was the mini-ice age during the 14th century and a village in the French Alps was bowled over by an advancing glacier, the Little Ice Age didn’t end until the end of the 19th century. Climate crises one after another. Life’s a beach.

    It became a new world right to where we are now.

    Now, it is a spring that is Ground Hog Day every day since January and it is still as cold as I have ever seen it for this time of year.

    Economics, finance, politics, Ground Hog Day everyday for that bunch.

    1. Generalfeldmarschall Von Hindenburg

      Mososaurs were extinct in the KT event, though there’s a fascinating theory that they evolved into Komodo Dragons. Lake Agassiz was a part of the most recent round of glaciation.

      1. villageidiot

        I got caught on the mosasaur timeline. I knew I would. I get to be an idiot now and then.

        The glaciation/melting over a 15 to 20 thousand year period happening 5 to 6 thousand times and you have 75 to 120 million years. Somewhere in that time frame, a lot of life forms are going to come and go.

    2. Binky Bear

      Some nice Winnie the Pooh thinking there. Oh bother thinking is hard, so I’ll complain vaguely about something else.

      Meanwhile unit trains of coal are heading to power generators all around the world to be burned and pushed into the rapidly changing atmosphere; rapid changes made possible by technology, capitalism, and techniques of mass production and economies of scale.

      Meanwhile Svante Arrhenius in 1896.

  14. Hal Roberts

    The one thing that chart tells me is the earth has gone in and out of these events regardless if we were here or not. Most of the carbon being released is being done by mother nature her shelf and on a scale that all our internal combustion engines would not make a dent in the end results.

    Maybe we can put a muffler and catalytic converter on places like the ring of fire and our many volcanoes on land and under the sea.Ha. Get real most of these things are a result of the life process of our plant. I think we should keep our fuel sources as clean as we can, but this carbon issue is far larger than us as a species.

    1. Expat

      What the geological record shows is that for the past 200 million years or so, the Earth’s climate has been dominated by 100,000-year ice ages punctuated by 10,000-year warm periods. See Washington State geology professor E. Kirsten Peter’s book, “The Whole Story of Climate Change: What Science Reveals About the Nature of Endless Change,” for a full discussion of what’s natural about climate change. She also explains that the record shows that climate can change very quickly, within a human lifetime.

      Based on the past, we Earthlings are overdue for an ice age; instead we are met by the hockey stick of rising temperatures. We are venturing into new territory on an unprecedented (for us) scale. What terrifies me is that we are entering this new world (Eaarth) having destroyed the political institutions that could help us adapt to changes already in the pipeline and stave off the worst outcomes.

      1. Hal Roberts

        A bit slap shot here but, I like the one where Global Warming melts the ice cap and bring the oceans temperature down a few degrees and kicks off a new ice age. Mother nature may put on a coat of ice to seal up and warm up her interior, while sterilizing the surface from all that pesky excessive co2 and the circle of life goes on with the melt. imho

    2. banger

      Okay, what you say is silly and nonsensical. This is a real problem and you evidently have no clue about science or systems analysis which undergirds climate-science. We don’t know for certain what will happen or how much the human factor is–but here’s the thing–there is a human factor and we can calculate that within broad paramaters most say the factor is very large and very few say that it isn’t that significant but all say that it is a factor. Logically, we create a risk-assessment matrix and establish paramaters based on what we do know and put numbers to it. It’s done every day across a variety of industry yet this process just doesn’t occur to you.

  15. LH

    We may not know with certainty what our future looks like w/r/t climate change. But it seems to me the question to ask is the one posed by the late Peter Bernstein: What happens if we are wrong?

    I don’t expect my house to catch fire during the coming year. I don’t expect to be in a vehicle accident, or to be sued. But I willingly pay insurance premiums against those low-expectation risks, and hope I won’t need to file any claims.

    Responding to the risk of climate change entailing potentially high costs is, or should be, an exercise in risk management. Should we undertake that exercise on a timely basis (alas, I doubt we will), there will be premiums to pay. Get over it.

  16. docG

    “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines–hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” from Paul Erlich, “The Population Bomb,” 1968. For more on the “population explosion” scare, see

    He too had some pretty impressive graphs. And imo he was on the right track, actually. As are you, Yves. The problem is that “saving the world” is much easier said than done, and accepting “the science” can be a huge mistake, because 1. there is more than one science involved in such projections and 2. “the science” of even the best of scientists can often be misguided, outright wrong or simply insensitive to issues outside its own narrow purview.

    As I see it, we stand to create an even worse crisis by responding in the sort of panic mode advocated first by Al Gore and now by so many others. Consider the ongoing food shortages and price spikes created by the rush to promote biofuels — or the endorsement by so many liberals-who-should-know-better of nuclear energy, still widely perceived as a viable source of “clean energy” even after Fukushima.

    Yes, of course, we need much more funding for research on alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, thermal, tidal, etc. and for many good reasons, not only climate change. And we still need to fight pollution (an extremely important issue put on the back burner by concerns over carbon emissions only).

    But “feel good” efforts to turn back the clock on carbon will at best make us “feel better” and at worse only exacerbate a great many of the other problems faced by humanity here and now.

  17. Hal Roberts

    If the life span of earth was 100 years old, then the time of what we call life has been here is how long? 1 sec. or less, we are truly fortunate to be here. Get your sole right.

  18. c1ue

    Several issues with the charts above:

    1) Why aren’t CO2 levels also shown?

    Above there is a comment that “The Cambrian temperature spike is 6–8°C (about 11–14°F) higher than pre-Industrial levels.

    It’s also the temperature we’re headed for by 2100.”

    Cambrian era CO2 levels were, I believe 7000 ppm.

    No one, not even the most nut job alarmists, have said that we’ll be anywhere near 7000 ppm by 2100. CO2 levels are going up a very measured 2 ppm per year. We’ll not even hit 600 ppm.

    2) The 6 to 8 degree projection noted above is based on a series of computer models. The problem, of course, is that the performance of said computer models to date has been very, very poor. Not only is global temperature not increasing, the actual temperature record is now below even the lower edge of the “95%” probable range of temperatures projected.

    Why exactly should the 6 to 8 be believed then?

    3) Dealing with the environment is a societal decision – not a scientific one. Science can describe the various scenarios that can/will occur, but society is the one which decides which scenario is to be worked toward or avoided.

    If we as a society decide that 10 million species going extinct is worth it if we save 10 million babies from dying due to higher energy prices, that is what it is.

    1. banger

      It’s not quite like trading off species for babies–in fact that’s sheer nonsense. This is a SYSTEM and as such we need to see it as a functioning whole. It’s not just species die-offs but the cascading effects of species die-offs. Didn’t anybody here take Biology in college? Or even systems analysis? The worst scenarios would indicate not a few million babies dying but a loss of billions by the end of the century–or don’t you care?

    2. Jackrabbit

      We as a society decide…

      What planet are you on? You think we all have a voice?

      If ordinary people DID have a voice, virtually everyone would side with the thousands of scientists that have studied this over many years?

      Isn’t that why Koch et al. have to spend hundreds of millions on disinformation?


      This notion that “we are all to blame” is hogwash. It continues the great ‘blame-the-victim’ tradition of tobacco, sub-prime, etc.

      1. banger

        It’s not just disinformation. The very fact people readily accept the kind of easily refutable notions about the climate is the stunning ignorance among non-scientists of science–not just the basic principles but how science is done in the trenches. At any rate there seems to be several issues they seem unable to grasp:

        1) natural systems are mainly non-linear–for example, water at 40 degrees F loses one degree and it becomes slightly colder if it is 32 degrees F and it looses a degree it changes from liquid to solid–somehow this concept has not been grasped by most people.

        2) people don’t seem to understand systems theory–I don’t know why but I see little evidence that anyone understands this stuff in comments I see here.

        3) because they don’t understand systems theory they don’t understand ecology and that’s when also knowledge of the non-linear quality of life comes into play. Also, they ignore the cascading effect of how one system breaking down pressures either the larger system it is a part of or a neighboring system such that cascading events can happen, again, as non-linear functions.

        Without an understanding of above no one should comment or critique climate science cause they are clueless without those tools. When they can frame the arguments within those parameters and also, putting what we know within a risk-assessment matrix–i.e., measuring likelihood of various scenarios an calculating risk/benefits of a particular action or scenario playing out then I’ll listen to skeptics–I haven’t seen that happen yet on any blog.

  19. gozounlimited

    Sweathead and Gore stand ready to spray your ASS….. you CO2 breathing roaches. Really! …. clean up your air and forget about it.

  20. tracy coyle

    Let me offer a chart in return: models – what those dire predictions of 8C increase in temp are based on – have failed. Further, a review of weather stations finds more than 70% are placed in such a way as to bias their data, a bias to the warm side, those stations fail basic site requirements.

    The climate changes. The factors involved in that change are still poorly known, but to think that just ONE factor, accounting for .4% of our atmosphere drives it doesn’t pass the smell test.

    1. Larry Barber

      The interpretation that has been put on that oh-so-misleading graph has been debunked many times, although I wouldn’t expect a site like Powerline to recognize it: .

      There have also been legitimate, peer reviewed studies concerning the location of the measuring stations conducted, and no widespread problems have been found. Climate scientists adjust the historical data to allow for things like heat islands and evaluate each station for anomalous behavior, this is one of the things that the denialists like scream about, shouting “data manipulation”, even though these adjustment generally lead to _cooler_ readings than the raw data.

      If the climate models have a problem,and they are far from perfect, it’s that they tend to be too conservative: .

    2. lolcar

      Science has to pass a smell test now? Trust your gut people, no need to involve your brain.

  21. Dr. Pitchfork

    Wow, NC readers, just wow. Sorry, but it doesn’t matter what 9 billion climate “scientists” say about AGW, we just don’t know if the ostensibly anomolous temperatures of the late 20th century are outliers or not. Did you guys even look at the data from the charts you’ve been spewing about? I’m really surprised that Yves herself falls for this crap. How do you explain away this:

    “Because of the limitations of data sampling, each curve in the main plot was smoothed (see methods below) and consequently, this figure can not resolve temperature fluctuations faster than approximately 300 years. Further, while 2004 appears warmer than any other time in the long-term average, and hence might be a sign of global warming, it should also be noted that the 2004 measurement is from a single year (actually the fourth highest on record, see Image:Short Instrumental Temperature Record.png for comparison). It is impossible to know whether similarly large short-term temperature fluctuations may have occurred at other times, but are unresolved by the available resolution. The next 150 years will determine whether the long-term average centered on the present appears anomalous with respect to this plot.”

    Got that? 300 fricking YEARS. And that refers to “known unknowns.” We don’t have any idea about the “unknown unkowns.” (Sorry, Rummy.) Folks, it really doesn’t matter how much evil the Koch brothers are, math doesn’t lie. Come to the light, good people.

    1. banger

      Doesn’t matter what the scientists say? So you trust your “truthiness” do you? I don’t, I give scientists the benefit of the doubt–why? Because I’ve actually known and interacted with scientists and they aren’t all socialists wanting to enslave the world.

      1. Dr. Pitchfork

        Tells what? Telling is the total non-response to the point I raised. Have at it.

        1. skippy

          Temperature is only – one – data point – but, the most energetic, hence the noise in short time lines and it should be observed, that more than one model is at play here… to smooth out said line. Your obfuscating.

          Skippy… Never the less, there is a preponderance of anthropological evidence wrt humans and ecological destruction, of which, is directly related to… population to area ratios and activity’s vs carrying capacity.

          PS. So which which side of the question coin has a better track record… the yeah or the nays[???]

  22. Mr. Jack M. Hoff

    Have a look at Al Gores lifestyle and the house he calls home, then ask yourself if you think he truly beleives his own drivel. I havent noticed his downsizing or using any less hydrocarbons. I have noticed his anxiousness to have a carbon credits system launched. Why, us at the bottom can just go ahead and make do with less, while those at the top can maintain their lifestyles, right?? Thats what it boils down to in the end. I for one know there’s climate change, but taking Al Gore’s advice on the matter would be the epitomy of stupidness.

    1. Jackrabbit

      It is a well known and widely accepted fact that individuals can not ‘save the planet’ by changing their lifestyle. Even a campaign that got millions to do so would not make a real difference in the outcome.

      That is why we have a global process involving dozens of countries and scientists around the world. Tackling global warming requires a governmental response.


      Attacking Al Gore is one ‘tell’ that you have an agenda. Those who do so simply seek to distract from the science by rousing the biases and ignorance of a certain part of our citizenry.

    2. Ben Johannson

      Who gives a flying flatulent fuck what Al Gote thinks about anything? He’s a douchebag politician no one but industry shills give a damn about. I listen to actual climatologists.

  23. The Heretic

    I support making substantial changes to our industry to protect our environment and eco-systems and us, but I object to some of the scare mongering conclusions of climate changers, because they they distract us from the concrete issues of global pollution, limited key resources (oil, phospate, , global eco-system declines and fish stocks, shrinking global freshwater resources that challenge the world community today.

    The predictions of climate science are far from certain and potentially too abstract to be useful for the common person to experience in a tangible and easy to percieve way. What does a 1 deg C to 5 deg C change in average temperature mean to the direct experience of a person living in North America, Europe, or Russia. Hell…people in northern climes may actually like warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons. The year to year variability of temperature will fool many people into disbeleiving the prediction of the climate scientitists, and even into distrusting them for scare-mongering. Furthermore, we do have to concede this fact to the climate change deniers, the earth can support large amounts of life despite warmer temperatures. The period of the dinosaurs is itself strong evidence…gigantic creatures need lots of food to survive.

    But what climate changers must concede to us is that man-made chemical pollution and habitat destruction is a new condition on earth. Life did not evolve in the face of PCB and dioxins in rivers, nor were there rising mercuriy level in the ocean. Growing dead zones in some of our must productive lakes and bays (like Chesapeake Bay of the Gulf or Mexico, or the South China sea) due to to rising industrial and agricultural run-off. The decline of the Salmon runs, which effectively returned nutrients from the sea back on to the forests of the land have declined due to sea pollution and blocked rivers. These are all new things on this Earth which are inimical to life of the eco-systmes which sustain humanity. They need to be addressed.

    And yes, we have many people employed at Walmarts, Starbucks, and big bank finance and speculation, that could be gainfully redeployed.

    1. Lambert Strether

      1. “scare mongering conclusions of climate changers” Do you see any in this post, and if so, what are they? I’m not big on general proffers addressed, as it were, to the air.

      2. “what climate changers must concede to us” Who’s the “us” here?

      1. The Heretic

        1) True dat… there is no allusion to the consequences of climate change in this post. But I believe that in the popular culture, it would not be difficult to find alarmist opinions stating that climate change would result enormous deaths or even extinction of humankind.

        2) True, we are not a we, as in a uniform opinion or stance.

        I still believe that it is better to focus on concrete problems, with easily observable local and global consequences, than to focus predictions for which there is still a wide berth of uncertainty concerning the scale of the consequences. Remember, in the 1990’s the issues of Climate Change had been grouped under the banner of Global Warming, but because experience of weather is local and because people’s memory are short (especially those inclined to be skeptical).

        1. skippy

          Your basic chemistry – physics show heat to be the most powerful catalyst known… that’s why all the hub bub… cough… fear mongering [some imagine].

          skippy… if your not handing out mental happiness lollops to the advertising cortex injected from birth herd… they get all funny… especially the those filling the syringe.

          1. skippy

            I should have said heat controls the rate of reaction, and – we – are the catalyst taking low entropy base elements and converting it into a high entropy state, amount of thermal energy available, and all exacerbated by the complexity and dynamics of the various heat sinks present on this orb.

            skippy… in utilizing catalyst i should have more precisely stated – impetus to rapid change – heat being the most powerful… amends

            PS. Daft Punk – High Life – Burn up


  24. David C Mace

    While, for a number of reasons, i ceratinly want to move away from CO2 energy production,
    this post is ridiculous on its face.

    There is no scientific consensus about what caused the great mass extinctions with the exception of the k-t boundry event (65 million years ago) and that was likely due to one or more massive extra terrestial body impacts.
    Clearly the analogy to the Cambian wam up is complete nonesense. If anything, one should conclude that a 7 deg C Warm Up Might be Very Good for Life on Earth (.e.g, the Cambrain explosion).
    Another commentator points out that cooling off is most likely associated with most of the mass extinctions.
    Moreover, all the great events civilization like the 5.9 (dessicatrion of the Sahara and Levant) and and 4.2 killoyear events (collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt and the Akadian Empire) are also associated with cooling events not warming events!

    1. Lambert Strether

      Great argument, “[A] 7 deg C Warm Up Might be Very Good for Life on Earth.” I’ll just hand over the keys to a giant Pre-Cambrian Tetrapod, then, shall I?

      1. David C Mace

        the point was that the logic in this analysis is utter nonesense
        whether catastophic warming is coming and what its effects will be cannot possibly be understood with this kind of unintelligent discourse

  25. Andrea

    The effects of global warming (not! climate change) are already felt in many places around the globe. Media and the following public attention have brought up much that affect present humans directly in their pocket book or way of life: exceptional drought, not enough rain (or too much), Islands sinking into the sea (say), melting glaciers, permafrost, needed adaptions for agriculture, endless fire storms, lack of water, pests, etc. etc.

    Yet such coverage remains very limited to the here-and-now, and mixes up global warming with other outcomes of human extractive / manipulative activities, such as mining, drilling, over-fishing, building bigger cities, cutting down forests, turning the landscape into concrete, etc.

    The “Elites” – here big Corps and those in cahoots – are not too worried, because they hold power and will, they are certain, survive. Global warming may create millions of starving refugees / immobile peasants surviving on nothing much, but that is not their concern. Cynically, see “useless eaters.”

    Global warming represents opportunities, as well. Such as opening up the N. Pole for energy exploration, or growing veggies and wheat in Siberia.

    The deciders, holders of power, the so-called PTB, rich, Big Corps, will easily adapt and profit, as they are at the top of the ‘food‘ chain. Those below can look forward to unwilling sacrifice, being squeezed out and miserably impoverished or … dying.

    Pov’s on global warming represent a World class war, rumbling underground. That is why the discussions are so virulent, and the Science contested, repressed, denied, or corrupted.

  26. c1ue

    banger said: “It’s not quite like trading off species for babies–in fact that’s sheer nonsense. This is a SYSTEM and as such we need to see it as a functioning whole. It’s not just species die-offs but the cascading effects of species die-offs. Didn’t anybody here take Biology in college? Or even systems analysis? The worst scenarios would indicate not a few million babies dying but a loss of billions by the end of the century–or don’t you care?”

    Sorry, but a 10 million babies dying today due to higher energy and food costs is easily proven, whereas billions lost by the end of the century due to unproven (and unprovable) assumptions – the two aren’t comparable in any way.

    You then said:

    “natural systems are mainly non-linear–for example, water at 40 degrees F loses one degree and it becomes slightly colder if it is 32 degrees F and it looses a degree it changes from liquid to solid–somehow this concept has not been grasped by most people.”

    Apparently the lack of scientific knowledge extends to you as well. A phase change requires far more than just a 1 degree temperature change. Perhaps you should go back and review your scientific knowledge.

    other comments you said (banger):

    “people don’t seem to understand systems theory–I don’t know why but I see little evidence that anyone understands this stuff in comments I see here.”

    So which part of systems theory says that a supposed description of the system which fails at the beginning, will be correct at the end?

    Another comment from you (banger):

    “because they don’t understand systems theory they don’t understand ecology and that’s when also knowledge of the non-linear quality of life comes into play. Also, they ignore the cascading effect of how one system breaking down pressures either the larger system it is a part of or a neighboring system such that cascading events can happen, again, as non-linear functions.”

    So, perhaps you might explain why the “non-linear quality of life” has failed to manifest itself in more than a literal handful of examples in history and prehistory? And of the handful of examples, the vast majority being due to a tremendously short term catastrophic event like a huge meteor strike?

    How does a non-linear system maintain equilibrium over literally millions of years with few if any significant deviations – despite variations ranging from the sun’s intensity, to biomass numbers, to external shocks (see above), to CO2 levels ranging from 7000 ppm to 180 ppm?

    As was once said in a movie: I do not think it means what you think it means.

    1. Lambert Strether

      “A phase change requires far more than just a 1 degree temperature change.” You mean that water doesn’t freeze (all other things being equal) at 32°F after being cooled from 33°F?

      This is a word salad. Try harder.

      Adding… I like the “baby killing” part. Reminds me of something… Anyhow, if you’ve got evidence, it would be useful to submit it.

    2. banger

      Don’t buy the baby killing thing, it’s total BS because it’s no more certain than my disaster scenario which is, probably unlikely–remember I said “worst” scenario.

      As for phase change jeesh–that’s called sophistry where I come from. Ok, you there’s more to that one. However, here’s a better one because it’s organic which is what we’re talking about here. From 97 to 100 degrees in the human body temperature change–not such a big deal–from 104 to 107 = death, a major phase change–we’re talking strictly temperature change here. Do you buy theat?

      Look, I was one of those science nerds that used to be upset when I was eight because the Flinstones showed dinosaurs and people living at the same time. I’m changed my interests later in life but I don know my basics and I studied ecology and systems analysis and its applications in science and busines and, obviously (my field) IT. Just sayin. Again the issue is why do you want to play Russian roulette?

    3. banger

      Answer is equilibrium–in systems analysis non-linear system like the human body remain stable through homeostatic systems. If those systems fail then there is non-linear change. If we die–our body goes into a deeply chaotic state. When eco-systems crash, they crash and a new equilibrium point or state is reached after a series of lurches in one or more directions. Why is this hard to understand?

      Again, just look at cybernetics and SA and you can get your answers. Related areas are chaos and complexity theories if you want to find out the mechanisms dynamics of highly complex systems.

  27. villageidiot

    Lake Nyos in Africa is the prime example of CO2 concentrations that kill.

    A natural disaster, not man made.

    1. banger

      So what–natural processes, as we term them, are always in operation and we study nature in order to learn how it works. Thus the studies of ecology and systems theory. That econsystem crashed–we observe it and we learn about them later in textbooks and create theoretical models. That is what we use in climate science or any science.

  28. c1ue

    You said (Larry Barber):

    “Yes, CO2 levels were higher in the distant past, but the sun was considerable less luminant. ”

    Look up the Faint Sun paradox.

    You then said:

    “You mean that water doesn’t freeze (all other things being equal) at 32°F after being cooled from 33°F?

    This is a word salad. Try harder.”

    Temperature doesn’t denote energy. The energy needed to move temperature up or down 1 degree is not the same at all values of temperature.

    Thus using a temperature point where a phase change occurs is an excellent example of cherry picking.

    1. Larry Barber

      If you’re going to quote me, try to get it right. I said nothing about the thermodynamics of freezing water (and I am quite aware that water can be a liquid at 32F, assuming STP). The faint sun “paradox” is only a paradox if you posit contemporary levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which backs up my contention that historical levels of CO2 can’t be taken as evidence that those levels would somehow be “safe” today. They wouldn’t.

      1. Larry Barber

        Actually, “assuming STP” should say “assuming standard pressure”.

    2. Lambert Strether

      “Look up…” What, not even a “please”? No assignments, please. Demanding that others provide evidence that you should provide is frowned on.

  29. Jim Shannon

    Journalists continue to avoid the REAL issue and sole cause of ALL the World’s problems!
    Everyone refuses to even consider doing what needs to be done to throttle the socially corrupting power of Real Money now ruining the world!
    The “little people” world wide have been taking a TAX CODE beating since the early 60′s! A beating delivered by a bunch of elected “goons” all working for the now legions of CentaMillionaire$ created by the TAX CODE. All Hell bent to find new ways to USE the “little people” for profit!
    NO GOVERNMENT anywhere EVER existed to benefit the “Little People” – the cradle to grave poor! 6.5 Billion people world wide!
    All Money / Wealth is fungible! Money has been allowed to travel the globe in pursuit of the cheap labor provided by “Little people”! Modern day wage slaves!
    Money is clearly the foundation upon which ALL Governments exist!
    Taxing ALL CentaMillionaire$ out of existence will solve ALL the world’s economic problems!
    It is a topic that no society will consider! The ability to make Hundred$ of Million$ even Ten$ of Billion$ now defines Capitalism.
    Capitalism created and now permits all the CentaMillionaire$ to now write and use the TAX CODE to keep the “Little People” poor ! A TAX CODE which clearly destroys opportunity for all but the CentaMillionaire$!
    The nearly TAXED to death “Little people” have no power and all the benefits are simply handed to the CentaMillionaire$!
    There is nothing new about history’s Class Warfare, always caused by the individual attainment of unconscionable wealth literally taken from the poor!
    TAX away all that wealth and cap all wealth at $10,000,000 and the world WILL change!
    What’s the First Rule About “CentaMillionaire$ Club”.
    Don’t talk about TAXING ALL CentaMillionaire$ out of existence!
    What’s the Second Rule About “CentaMillionaire$ Club”.
    Don’t talk about TAXING ALL CentaMillionaire$ out of existence!
    What’s the Third Rule About “CentaMillionaire$ Club”.
    Don’t talk about TAXING ALL CentaMillionaire$ out of existence!

  30. Lambert Strether

    My allergies are acting up real bad today, and one of the things I’ve become highly allergic to is denialist concern trolling.

    People who are “disappointed” in Yves, NC, or the NC commentariat, especially when they don’t bother to provide any evidence to be dragged into the light of day, can go share their feelings in a more congenial environment. It’s a big Internet.

    1. Kermit

      Just some people playing SimEarth. Delete all the posts you want. It still comes down to that. The models’ projections so far have proven to be worthless.

  31. Jim S

    Well, don’t burn yourself out. There’s no lack of controversial topics to be discussed right now…

  32. anonymous a

    What is also fascinating is the regularity of the high peaks and low valleys shown in “temperature of planet earth” chart, and in particular the way the final up ticks rise or drop precipitously–more or less every 10K years. Looks like we are in an uptick all right, but on a vaster scale, it looks like we are a tad overdue for the next ice age. Yikes.

  33. c1ue

    Larry Barber said:

    “If you’re going to quote me, try to get it right. I said nothing about the thermodynamics of freezing water (and I am quite aware that water can be a liquid at 32F, assuming STP).”

    Amusing, all I did what exactly what you asked for: a more detailed followup on my original comment, preceded by what exactly you said.

    Your failure to be clear is not my problem.

    Larry Barber said: “The faint sun “paradox” is only a paradox if you posit contemporary levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which backs up my contention that historical levels of CO2 can’t be taken as evidence that those levels would somehow be “safe” today. They wouldn’t.”

    Interesting – what exactly are you saying then? Are you disagreeing that CO2 levels in the past are unknown? I’d say that temperature is far more difficult to gauge than CO2 – since CO2 is directly measurable in a number of ways whereas temperature is not. That’s why all the various ‘climate scientists’ you refer to always use proxies.

    As for safe – again unclear why higher CO2 levels are unsafe. Are there actual reasons why CO2 levels are unsafe outside of the (very poorly functioning) climate models?

  34. aidee

    Where’s the Edicaran Period? Aaargh… predates the Cambrian and is a recognised albeit fairly new geological period. May have no relevance to the article besides how life evolved from Snowball Earth :)

  35. Patrice Ayme

    The one and only peaceful way out is much more advanced science and technology. Yet, the plutocrats are pushing austerity all over, slashing the science and new techs budgets.

    (By new tech, I don’t mean Dope & Change Obama giving money to his friends and Silicon Valley sponsors, I mean things like infrared solar cells, making electricity at night. Yes, it works, but barely, from dearth of financing for the funadamental research).

    As it happened, I just published an essay on why the call to slash and burn civilization is the deepest thing:

    The point? This is what we are up against. Not just the Koch brothers, but something deeper, and even more sinister… Inside us… But precisely, we should rejoice, as the struggle is worthy!

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