Gaius Publius: Obama’s New Climate Plan: Less Coal, More Fracking

By Gaius Pubius, a professional writer living on the West Coast. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius. Cross posted from AmericaBlog

On June 25, President Obama gave a “major” climate speech, and John Aravosis posted the video and full text here.

John focused on one element of that speech, the part about the Keystone pipeline:

“I do want to be clear. Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so will be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

The speech was promoted by, among others, Huffington Post, as saying that the President would promise that Keystone must be carbon neutral:

President Barack Obama will ask the State Department not to approve the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline unless it can first determine that it will not lead to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, a senior administration official told The Huffington Post.

No “net increase” is not what Obama said. He said “does not significantly exacerbate,” which is a much lower standard for letting the Keystone Pipeline proceed. Did the “senior administration official” misrepresent the position, or did s/he just not know? You decide; I have my own guess.

There’s speculation on whether we are being prepped for a Yes to Keystone, and I’m seeing commentary both ways. (By the way, “I want to be clear” is starting to be identified as an Obama “tell” for a promise he doesn’t intend to keep. Word on the street.)

Me? I think we’re being set up for a Yes, but I’ve thought that since the subject came up. If the baby keeps grabbing for the candy, you have to conclude s/he wants it. Same with this.

What About the Rest of the Speech? Looks Like Less Coal, More Fracking

There’s much to like in Obama’s energy plan (pdf), but one piece stuck out very much — if you listened to the speech, you have to know the fracking industry must be delighted. If “natural gas” = “fracking” (and it does), the poison-your-ground-water-for-profit industry will see a big boost in income. Will there be a finder’s fee?

Here are relevant sections from the first part of Obama’s speech. Remember, “fracking” is one of our replacement phrases. Every time you see “natural gas” say “fracking,” as described here. Obama (my emphasis and [bracketed comments]:

… It was important for me to speak directly to your generation, because the decisions that we make now and in the years ahead will have a profound impact on the world that all of you inherit. …

[A]round the same time we began exploring space, scientists were studying changes taking place in the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, scientists had known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air. That wasn’t news. But in the late 1950s, the National Weather Service began measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, with the worry that rising levels might someday disrupt the fragile balance that makes our planet so hospitable. And what they’ve found, year after year, is that the levels of carbon pollution in our atmosphere have increased dramatically. …

The 12 warmest years in recorded history have all come in the last 15 years. Last year, temperatures in some areas of the ocean reached record highs, and ice in the Arctic shrank to its smallest size on record — faster than most models had predicted it would. These are facts. …

And we know that the costs of these events can be measured in lost lives and lost livelihoods, lost homes, lost businesses, hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency services and disaster relief. In fact, those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don’t have time to deny it — they’re busy dealing with it. Firefighters are braving longer wildfire seasons, and states and federal governments have to figure out how to budget for that. I had to sit on a meeting with the Department of Interior and Agriculture and some of the rest of my team just to figure out how we’re going to pay for more and more expensive fire seasons. …

[T]he question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements — has put all that to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest. They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.

So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren.

As a President, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act. (Applause.)

I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing. And that’s why, today, I’m announcing a new national climate action plan, and I’m here to enlist your generation’s help in keeping the United States of America a leader — a global leader — in the fight against climate change. …


Setting tap water on fire in a region of
heavy fracking

Here at Georgetown, I unveiled my strategy for a secure energy future. And thanks to the ingenuity of our businesses, we’re starting to produce much more of our own energy. We’re building the first nuclear power plants in more than three decades — in Georgia and South Carolina. For the first time in 18 years, America is poised to produce more of our own oil than we buy from other nations. And today, we produce more natural gas [aka fracking] than anybody else. So we’re producing energy. …

In my State of the Union address, I urged Congress to come up with a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one that Republican and Democratic senators worked on together a few years ago. And I still want to see that happen. I’m willing to work with anyone to make that happen. …

[My] plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy — using less dirty energy, using more clean energy [aka fracking], wasting less energy throughout our economy. …

So today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. (Applause.)

I’m also directing the EPA to develop these standards in an open and transparent way, to provide flexibility to different states with different needs, and build on the leadership that many states, and cities, and companies have already shown. In fact, many power companies have already begun modernizing their plants, and creating new jobs in the process. Others have shifted to burning cleaner natural gas [aka fracking] instead of dirtier fuel sources [coal].

So, some preliminary comments. More will follow — we’re all digesting this as I write.

First, Obama gets it about climate change. He knows that carbonated air holds heat. He knows we’re the prime source of the carbon. He knows we’re “disrupting the fragile balance” that make human civilization possible.

Remember, the climate has been “in equilibrium” — with a plus-or-minus change from the norm of the last 10,000 years of about 0.5°C. That’s the period of human civilization, called the Holocene in geologic time. We’re now outside that range by about twice (a full +1°C, with 1.5°C or more in the pipeline, inevitable.) And we’re headed even further north, as it were, with each day we don’t Stop Now (click to see why that formulation matters).

Second, Obama knows that the science is settled. That “97%” figure comes from a peer-reviewed scientific paper that has studied the literature statistically. Obama or his people obviously have knowledge of that paper.

Third, Obama would prefer a “bipartisan market-based solution” (which ain’t gonna work, by the way), but he knows he must act unilaterally. So he’s using the Clean Air Act (discussed in the part of the speech that I cut out) to regulate carbon emissions, and it’s a serious attempt, as we’ll discuss later. All good so far.

Now the bad part. As the speech shows, he’s leaning hard against coal, trying to eliminate it (good), but he’s substituting, among other things, natural gas (fracking). Last I heard, there was carbon in natural gas as well. So what’s his formula for overall reduction? I haven’t analyzed it yet relative to what’s needed, but I’ll bet he’s not reducing fast enough.

And get ready for tons of more fracking wells, you with property. In most parts of the country, if there’s gas under your property, you don’t have the mineral rights. The government does, and it auctions and sells them. (Check the middle of this post, and the video at the end, for the details; they’re stunning.)

Which leads to four conclusions:

1. You can set fire to tap water in areas of heavy fracking. Get ready for fracking on steriods.

2. Obama is making all fracking-industry companies very happy. I’m sure they’ll find a way to show their appreciation. After he leaves office.

3. The most painful one of all: Because we know that Obama knows the climate truth, he may also know he’s compromising his way out of a real solution. Carbon is carbon, and slow change is slow change. We need to be off of carbon, not slowly but Now. If he does get that he’s doing “what’s possible” — which always means what’s convenient — shame on him. Which leads to number 4.

4. If Obama approves the Keystone Pipeline, he’s Climate Criminal #1 — the first face of the Climate Crisis. More on that if he doesn’t step away from the pipe. And if he denies Keystone, he’s on his way to being the hero he clearly wants to be.

If you want to see Obama’s actual plan, click here and here (both pdf) and read away. I’ll be doing the same in the next few days. There are a lot of good things here, especially the emphasis on renewables. I’m just not sure it will be enough, or even close. And then there’s the fracking.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is (a) there’s good news and bad news; (b) the bad news is deadly; (c) it’s possible Obama will do the right thing on Keystone, but in my opinion, not likely. The good in his plan will likely outshine the bad in most eyes, which is fine. But for those of us in the real world, not enough is not enough, and the stakes are really high for being wrong to the slow side.

Stay tuned. Keystone approval will tell the tale. He may try to nuance an approval, but approval is approval. Just say No, Mr. Obama. It’s legacy time.

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  1. AbyNormal

    the other day a friend and i were discussing the baltic chart run-up. it was suggested Warren Buffet was moving coal but my gut screams Buffets recent China visit was based on moving dry gas for obamashire. (another words obama will frack us for all he can)$BDI&p=D&b=5&g=0&id=p62485976756

    Looming pressure in international markets stemming from the shale bonanza in the U.S. also forced Moscow to make a concession here.

  2. psychohistorian

    While I appreciate your cheer leading for an act of humanity by our bought president, it ain’t going to happen.

    The plutocracy has pulled the pin on their “our way/extinction way” grenades and they will broach no cracks in the social contract.

    The retards would rather fund armageddon for the faith breathers than share any of their selfish gains for social equity.

    Evolve or perish. We do have a choice. All it takes is concerted expression of social will to change the status quo. Unfortunately, the current level of social control precludes movement until collapse occurs….and we are not there yet.

    1. psychohistorian

      Let me be clear that I believe that if President Obama changes direction he will be dead before the end of his term.

      This is the game for all the marbles, right? And history is written temporarily by the winners but ultimately by Mother Nature and the Cosmos.

  3. LucyLulu

    The words of his speech need only be parsed more carefully for the answer on the Keystone pipeline. Obama said he’d build the pipeline if it didn’t exacerbate carbon pollution. The pipeline doesn’t. It’s less carbon polluting than transporting the oil by truck or rail. It’s extracting the oil from the tar sands, then refining and burning it that adds to carbon levels, not the pipeline per se.

    Yes, burning natural gas is less carbon intensive. That may help postpone the apocalypse assuming we can replace our source of clean drinking water. Ask Nigeria and Ecuador how oil extraction has worked out for them. And we won’t be satisfied with just extracting what we need while we learn to conserve and switch to renewables. We’ll have to extract every last drop so we can keep driving all those SUV’s and fill our fleets of tankers to send it overseas to Beijing and emerging markets who have no environmental controls in place. We can sell it dirt cheap to them so they can continue to kick our butt on costs in the marketplace. The details are probably being worked out now in the TPP negotiations. Perhaps we should ask Ecuador to share their experience with international tribunals for settling disputes with multinational corporations.

    “I’m also directing the EPA to develop these standards in an open and transparent way”

    Does anybody still buy these promises to be open and transparent?

    1. taunger

      Thank you. I figured this would be obvious to all those who are aware of Obama’s mealy-mouthed lawyerisms in the past. But yours is the first comment I have seen to propose this parsing.

    2. Susan the other

      +100. I’m with you on all these points. The Chinese will create solutions long before our politicians will. Since fracking deals with gas and oil under the surface, we can see a great capitalist opportunity: Invest in rain water collection on a vast scale – surface water.

    3. charles sereno

      “And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” (Hopebama)

      How do I parse thee? Let me count the ways.
      I trust thee to the depth and breadth and height
      My soul can reach..
      Disclosure: I’m a contrarian.

  4. Middle Seaman

    The former commenters have corraled the arguments pretty well. Obama has reached the point where his presidency “will live in infamy.”

  5. Hugh

    My memory is something like this. The Bush Administration dithered but its EPA eventually finalized rules on power plant emissions as it was going out of office. In 2009, the Obama Administration came in and rather than adopting these, it decided to restart the process from zero, which wasted another two years. In 2011, the EPA had its new regulations ready to go and Cass Sunstein torpedoed them and sent them back for more review. This wasted another couple of years. So this process has been going on for at least 6 1/2 years and probably longer and the Obama Administration has been instrumental in dragging it out as long as possible.

  6. asubbotin

    What I don’t understand is why the increase of 5-7C means extinction of human civilisation. Sure, there would be disruptions in agriculture, and we have to Do Something with coastal cities due to rising sea levels, but extinction?? Why?

    Same for 50% of species – horses, dogs and butterflies would not be affected. Most of those endangered species are weird bugs living in jungle that we are unlikely to visit, and if we did we’ll hate the experience. Pretty soon we’ll be able to design new species anyway, so we can replace the extinct poisonous cockroaches with something more useful.

    I do understand the economic problems – and maybe we should compare the cost of reducing CO2 output vs the disruption caused by climate and sealevel changes. But the end of civilisation? Why?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      OMG, go read about the mass extinctions and then we might have an intelligent conversation. Gaius discussed that in an earlier post:

      Hansen recently published a paper called Perceptions of Climate Change: The New Climate Dice (pdf), then authored several op-ed columns based on its conclusions. He has the temperature number we’re looking for, the global warming increase that leads to a sizable mass extinction event. In his conclusion, he says (my emphasis and paragraphing):

      Although species migrate to stay within climate zones in which they can survive, continued climate shift at the rate of the past three decades is expected to take an enormous toll on planetary life.

      If global warming approaches 3°C by the end of the century, it is estimated that 21-52% of the species on Earth will be committed to extinction (3). Fortunately, scenarios are also possible in which such large warming is avoided by placing a rising price on carbon emissions that moves the world to a clean energy future fast enough to limit further global warming to several tenths of a degree Celsius (29). Such a scenario is needed if we are to preserve life as we know it.

      See the paper itself for the references. Footnote (3) refers to Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, volume 1 of the IPCC Assessment Report 4, the most recent. You can read sections or download the PDF here.

      On top of that, we are already getting some permafrost melt. That means more methane is released. That means more temperature increases. And if ocean temps rise, we can also get ocean floor methane releases.

      Methane is about 40X as potent C02 as a greenhouse gas. So it’s also expected that rising temperatures will be self-reinforcing (at least to a serious degree…and ice melting has a similar effect. The white polar ice reflects heat, while the dark ocean absorbs it, so loss of polar ice is also a synergistic process).

      So the odds are that if we get 3 degrees Centigrade (about 7 Farenheit) we are on our way to double that.

      And even before we get to that….temperature rises mean more species die, changes in where crops will grow (as in just because some areas that are now too cold to make for breadbaskets get warmer does NOT mean they have rich enough soil or the right sort of water supplies to make for decent growing regions…and even if so how do we change our farming practices fast enough for 7 billion people? And we are seeing a lot of losers without a lot of gainers, like increases in droughts.

      Humans were already consuming 20% to 40% of world food energy in the 1990s as estimated by E.O. Wilson. You get much reduction in food supplies or in underlying resources (arable land, water) and you’ll see more and more resource based conflicts.

      Modern civilization is based on extended supply chains and fragile, complex economic, technological, and political infrastructure. The US Army already anticipates a big increase in regional conflicts as a result of climate change. Most analysts see the Arab Spring outbreaks as the direct result of increases in food and cooking fuel prices. How much “civilization” do you think we will have if the inflation-adjusted cost of food doubles or triples AND we get climate-change induced mass migrations?

      1. skippy

        Pssst…. don’t tell them about infectious illness and temperatures increases…. across the species spectrum…

        skippy… energy = energetic… eh.

      2. Thorstein

        Thanks for bringing up methane, Yves. On Wednesday’s Daily Show Josh Fox, Director of Gasland II, claimed methane is 105X more potent than CO2. But 40x or 105x, the scary claim was that natural gas wells spew up to 17 of their methane into the atmosphere. So “methane is dirtier than coal”.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I’ve seen 40X to 72X, so I used the lower #. I think it depends on the ambient temperature…..but yeah, any # in the ranges scientists use is a bad #.

        2. Susan the other

          So how can we mine methane like the Japanese are doing, and then deposit it at an ocean depth and pressure that keeps it solid. Like an energy pantry.

      3. MRW


        Hansen’s paper “ Perceptions of Climate Change: The New Climate Dice” was not peer-reviewed; it was an advocacy screed. This PNAS 2000 Hansen paper was
        peer-reviewed. You need to read the abstract, at least: Global warming in the twenty-first century: An alternative scenario.

        Gaius Publius is not a scientist, nor even trained in science. He is a political writer at Americablog, as John introduced him to us when Gaius first signed on there around 2005/2006. He has as much truck to make predictions as you or I, and they are just as reliable as yours or mine. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a dog in this hunt. I just want to know the truth: are we going to fry or freeze. Initially, I bought all the hype. Now, I read scientific papers until my eyes glaze over. I don’t read advocates. The only basis I have for reading scientific papers passably is my high school interest in science, sufficient to get me accepted at MIT (Physics) in my penultimate year of high school. But we all get stupid when we’re not on it 24/7. So I defer to any accusation that stupidity represents the level of my current research capability. Nonetheless, I read the all the shit in the original because it’s as easy for me as the economic stuff is for you (where I do need your translations and analyses).

        Gaius and Hansen are talking about models, Yves. Not observable data. Models. In the scientific method, observable data trumps models; in fact, it decimates it. Every time. Always. No ifs, ands, or buts. As Richard Feynman said on the topic

        Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. That is all there is to it.

        So I would draw your attention to the observable data in the upcoming IPCC AR5 leaked in December 2012. It is the Second Order Draft, which means that no new info can be included. Take a look. Page 39

        Here’s the legend so that you can understand it:
        FAR = First Assessment Report prediction (1990)
        SAR = Second Assessment Report prediction (1995)
        TAR = Third Assessment Report prediction (2001)
        AR4 = 4th Assessment Report Prediction (2007)
        = Actual observations with error bars (AR5)

        1. MRW

          And neither did the proper element for “Actual observations with error bars (AR5)”

          It should be something like this: •

        2. Gaius Publius


          Not sure how you know my background, but yes, I’m trained in science. I bailed from physics to have a more varied life, but I’ve been involved in science and technology writing for some years. I can read the science, get it, and translate.

          Just FYI.


          1. MRW

            My apologies. Not what Avarosis said at the time. He said you were educated in political science.

            1. Gaius Publius

              No problem, MRW. Just thought you should know. I’ve got a varied background, and the profile doesn’t tell it all. I’m fairly uniquely positioned to translate science-related stuff because I can actually read the tech papers and write plain English (mostly).


          2. s

            MRW is exactly right.

            I doubt Gaius’s claim that he can “read the science, get it, and translate”, esp. if his formal training is a minor in physics and math, as his bio states. I have a PhD in pure math and not only I can’t read a serious physics paper, but even math papers outside my area of expertise would take an inordinate amount of effort to decipher and understand. Science is hard, and with regards to experimental physics, if you have no access to reliable data, everything you say is moot.

      4. optimader

        Start with Coral;
        Then the critters that spawn in Coral reefs;
        Then the critters that eat the critters spawned in the Coal reefs

        QED… Yes? yes? Anyone?

        BTW.. coastal cities? mmm. rent don’t buy

      1. Susan the other

        Must thank you again for Dr. Strangelove. Peter Sellers went down in history for this one role: His interpretation (I always thought) of Edward Strontium Teller. Right down to the quasi Nazi accent. And a rationalization for everything in his brain. And new twist received. It didn’t take a nuclear holocaust to destroy us – just a CO2 holocaust. And some hyper-capitalism promoting it wildly. Ban all CO2 car engines. Now.

  7. The Dork of Cork.

    This is rubbish.

    This is about exporting surplus American coal to Europe and especially the UK.
    I watch a good lot of current BBC 2 science programmes – now sadly not so much for the science but to get the political smell of current policy.
    There has been a major change recently.

    Less with the co2 thingy and much more with the sun thingy.

    Check out the recent March UK energy trends publication.

    The LNG market has imploded with American coal filling the gap.

  8. The Dork of Cork.

    The coal will be burned regardless.

    Uk energy trends March 2013

    “Steam coal imports originating from the USA in

    quarter 1 2013 more than doubled in comparison to

    the same quarter in 2012 to 2.9 million tonnes”

    LNG imports have imploded on a massive scale.

    LNG imports

    Y2011 : 270,733

    Y2012 :147,879

    Y2011 Q1 : 78,370

    Y2012 Q1 : 38,645

    Y2013 Q1 : 15,986

    This after the coldest UK March in 50 years !!!

    So much for the LNG Mirage…………..its back to coal (external coal now)

    Because Gas is too expensive to export and far too valuable (a higher quality fuel with less transformation loss ) not to burn at home.

    Get real lads.

  9. The Dork of Cork.

    The South of England is about to screw the North of England once again.

    It simply refuses to engage in state backed nuclear and its coal mines continue to be shut down.
    Why ?
    This industries are far more labour intensive.
    A checking of labour rather then capital holders accounts would destroy the south of England economy.

    The final phase of globaization post 1970 /80 must be seen through a UK perspective as the financial complex only benefited the south of England
    Back in 1970 /80 internal goods were cheap , external goods expensive relative to cash flow.
    This of course changed over time.
    Internal goods & energy became expensive relative to cash flow and external goods & energy cheap.
    Now both internal and external goods are expensive relative to cash flow………a breakdown event follows.

    remember up to 1970 the UK did not import any however.

    Provisional UK energy trends June 2013 covering Q1 2013.

    “Provisional figures for the first quarter of 2013 show
    that coal production (including an estimate for slurry)
    at 3.9 million tonnes was 6.9 per cent lower than the
    first quarter 2012. The decrease was a result of the
    mothballing of Maltby Colliery and the closure of Daw
    Mill Colliery as a result of a fire during February 2013,
    forcing the mine to close the following month.
    Imports of coal in the first quarter of 2013 were 15.0
    per cent higher than in the first quarter of 2012 at 12.1
    million tonnes”

    The domestic production decline continues to this day as England cannot afford to pay people in Sterling to do real work…….only to recycle a external surplus via “services”

    UK Coal Indigenous production
    Y2011 : 18,627 Thousand tonnes
    Y2012 : 16,788p

    Y2011 Q1 : 4,773
    Y2012 Q1 : 4,155
    Y2013 Q1 : 3,869

    The UK black hole is now not only affecting European physical primary industry but the US also.

    The UK objective is to plug into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the rest of the eastern Sea board so as to save itself from its own now giant anti production engine.

  10. The Dork of Cork.

    ‘Unusual geological conditions’

    Nah – I bet they could not afford to pay the workers.

    Almost all excess ( derived from extraction of labour value) energy in the UK is used to spin around in circles by the loads of money crowd.

    Its hard to imagine the implosion of the UK is moving the US energy complex but it is…….
    This is a fucking fantastic turn around of pretty much all rational economic thought.

  11. JC

    The IPCC claims that there has been no global warming for 17 years.

    James Hanson began his career by arguing for global cooling (a new ice age apparently).

    Based on these facts alone I’ve gone from a global warming (climate change, now, whatever) believer to being agnostic.

    Unfortunately, climate change theory proponents are just as guilty as the Bush administration of putting politics before science. Actually, for the Bush adm. it was about politics for environmentalists it is more of a religious fervor.

    While I am not saying that global warming/climate change is not correct, whenever I express any reservations on it usually someone in the room jumps down my throat. All, I can say is that my science background taught me to be objective and consistenly reexamine my position weighing in all evidence and changing my theories accordingly.

    Instead, the “debate” has become Sean Hannity scoffing at global warming anytime snow falls and proponents of the theory saying I told you so anytime there is a hurricane or tornado (it’s not like they didn’t occur before man ever existed).

    Let’s be realistic and understand that of all the sciences, climatology is one of mankind’s weakest in terms of comprehension (well maybe psychology is worse).

    All I am saying is since almost everyone mocks 5 and 10 day weather forecasts for their lack of accuracy, let’s be careful about reshaping the entire global economy based on 100 year forecasts.

      1. charles sereno

        I take it you’re agreeing to the final summary paragraph. Me too. If 5 and 10 day weather forecasts are laughable, a 100 year forecast, by gum, is HILARIOUS.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t know if you are victims of propaganda or propagandists, but the result is the same. Go read the chapter in the book Agnotology on how the tobacco industry successfully muddied the debate about the relationship between tobacco and lung cancer for nearly 30 years. The methods they used are exactly the same as are now being used by oil companies (Exxon was famously offering scientists money to write against climate change in 2007, for instance). I note how the people in this thread who are voicing doubt are all non-scientists yet somehow deem themselves competent to opine….based on reading news reports. Do you also do your own surgeries?

      There is a scientific consensus on this issue. No scientific body disputes that we are undergoing climate change and that human activity is a major contributor. Even the Bush Administration OFFICIALLY took that position.

      The scientific opinion on climate change is that the Earth’s climate system is unequivocally warming, and it is more than 90% certain that humans are causing most of it through activities that increase concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels. In addition, it is likely that some potential further greenhouse gas warming has been offset by increased aerosols.[1][2][3][4] This scientific consensus is expressed in synthesis reports, by scientific bodies of national or international standing, and by surveys of opinion among climate scientists. Individual scientists, universities, and laboratories contribute to the overall scientific opinion via their peer-reviewed publications, and the areas of collective agreement and relative certainty are summarised in these high level reports and surveys.

      National and international science academies and scientific societies have assessed current scientific opinion on climate change. These assessments are generally consistent with the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), summarized below:

      Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as evidenced by increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, the widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.[5]

      Most of the global warming since the mid-20th century is very likely due to human activities.[6]

      “Benefits and costs of climate change for [human] society will vary widely by location and scale.[7] Some of the effects in temperate and polar regions will be positive and others elsewhere will be negative.[7] Overall, net effects are more likely to be strongly negative with larger or more rapid warming.”[7]

      “[…] the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time”[8]
      “The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (e.g. flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification) and other global change drivers (e.g. land-use change, pollution, fragmentation of natural systems, over-exploitation of resources)”[9]

      No scientific body of national or international standing maintains a formal opinion dissenting from any of these main points; the last was the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which in 2007 updated its 1999 statement rejecting the likelihood of human influence on recent climate with its current non-committal position.[10][11] Some other organizations, primarily those focusing on geology, also hold non-committal positions.

      And this is a recent story on the well-funded anti climate change propagandizing:

      The Skeptical Science survey finding 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming has drawn an incredible amount of media attention. Hundreds of media stories documented our survey and results. Lead author John Cook and I participated in a number of interviews to discuss the paper, including on Al Jazeera, CNN, and ABC. President Obama even Tweeted about our results to his 31 million followers.

      The story has been so popular mainly because our results present a simple but critical message. There is a wide gap between the public awareness and the reality of the expert consensus on human-caused global warming….

      Opponents of climate action have been aware of the powerful influence of the scientific consensus for decades. As far back as 1991, Western Fuels Association launched a $510,000 campaign to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact)” in the public perception. A memo from communications strategist Frank Luntz leaked in 2002 advised Republicans “to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”

      Thus although our results were straightforward and consistent with previous research, we were not surprised when they met with resistance from certain groups, and anticipated the critiques with an FAQ. However, in reviewing the various criticisms of our paper, we noticed some common threads amongst them. A 2009 paper published in the European Journal of Public Health by Pascal Diethelm and Martin McKee discussed five characteristics common to scientific denialism:

      1) Cherry picking;
      2) Fake experts;
      3) Misrepresentation and logical fallacies.
      4) Impossible expectations of what research can deliver; and
      5) Conspiracy theories

      1. The Dork of Cork.

        Before the economic crisis I was a devoted to amateur astronomy for much of my life.
        I remember reading popular science books by John Gribbin & other members of the British scientific community back in 1989~ or thereabouts pointing to major warming by the early 2010s….
        I think the book was “Hothouse earth – the greenhouse effect & Gaia.”
        I was convinced back then but now not so much.

        Although of course Western Europe is a very small part of the globe the last 3 winters was the coldest I can remember and the summers very wet.
        The global warmers would argue this is a example of global warming like they do for everything.

        But a movement of the North temperate jet stream in the summer is a sign of global cooling.
        A movement south is a sign of global warming.

        Weather & climate is very complex but sometimes is very simple.

        If we have a mini ice age as a result of slowing solar activity it will be a very funny moment in time.

        However I think all big science is corrupted by corporate power now.
        The recent BBC drive to concentrate on the great glowing orb which rises each morning may be just as political as the change towards man made global dogma in the late 80s.

        The one thing I have learned from the economic / social / cultural crisis of the 21rst century is always remain sceptical of the big church …..whatever its religion.

        Be it in the economic tabernacle of Central banks or the Greenwich observatories which gain funds for non specific purposes.
        Its not a question of simple navigation anymore.
        The role of science has become intensely political.

      2. The Dork of Cork.

        Ideas become famous for a little while and then they disappear.

        Trying to paint the “Trigger” lack of scientific context on the rest of us is a bit lame.

        We may hope for a Harrison clock in the garage to get us out of this lifesupport hole but its not likely to happen anytime soon.

        Science has sadly become a method of control and not liberation.
        Dogma must always be challenged.

      3. The Dork of Cork.

        Sorry – my mistake a movement south of the north tem. jetstream is of course a sign of cooling and vice versa

  12. JGordon

    Apparently Obama is still supporting nuclear energy expansion. And anyone who support more nuclear energy, the most serious and pressing threat we currently have to all life on earth (far more pressing than climate change) is frankly psychotic. So I don’t see how the proven psychotic regime is going to be making rational descisions about pipelines.

  13. The Dork of Cork.

    Well said.

    I think the climate change thingy has become a foreign policy tool for UK & French interests mostly.
    especially during the gas for gas phase post 80s

    Now that the UK needs a vast amount of (external) coal……… this propaganda face slowly change direction.

    Radiation is not the most serious threat to the planet earth !!!
    Get real.
    The earth has faced supernova , asteriods , the sun in its earlier more active phase . perhaps gamma ray bursts…..
    We live in a radioactive universe.
    In Ireland for example we have major Radon hotspots ……

    There is wolfs running around Chernobyl for Christ sake.

    Direct habitat loss from forest clearing etc etc is a bit more serious don’t you think ?

    France has more forest cover then in anytime in the past maybe 5 centuries.
    A return to a agrarian lifestyle at these population densities would mean the end of that pretty quickly.

  14. The Dork of Cork.

    Imagine a future North Sea without oil & and Norway did not invest in Hydro.
    What would happen to its woods ?

    They would rapidly disappear.
    Ditto for France.
    France has maxed out on Hydro.
    If it did not invest in Nuclear back in the day its old people would be dying of the cold as happens in 2nd world GB today.

    No woods = no wolfs = more sheep.

  15. Martin Lack

    I am afraid you are right. In the UK, Secretary of State for Climate Change and Energy, Ed Davey, is taking his job title far-too-literally: As with the POTUS, Davey is dismissive of climate change sceptics and yet simultaneously promoting fracking as the solution to our national demand for electricity.

    The ultimate problem therefore is this: Both men reject the misinformation peddled by conservative think tanks that tell anyone who will listen that environmentalists are all Watermelons. However, both men have uncritically accepted the fossil fuel lobby propaganda that we can burn all the Earth’s shale gas and still meet long-term CO2 reduction targets by developing carbon capture and storage (CCS).

    I therefore have little doubt that CCS will be the get-out-jail-free card the POTUS will use to justify accepting the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    There is just one problem with putting all our eggs in the CCS basket; it is almost certainly going to fail: Unless carbon emissions reduce, CCS will never be able to be scaled-up to the level such that sequestration is greater than emissions (i.e such that atmospheric CO2 level falls), which is what it will have to do to prevent a runaway greenhouse effect.

  16. Yancey Ward

    The market for energy will settle all the controversies. I think the US will get an increasing share of it’s electrical output from gas vs coal under one condition, and one condition only- that the fracking revolution continue to greatly increase the domestic supply of natural gas (or some other method of new natural gas production steps in) and maintain it long enough to cause a long-term decline in the numbers of coal-fired stations. If the fracking revolution eventually peters out (a possibility, in my opinion), then the US will return to coal regardless of the climate implications- the politics of high electrical rates is unforgiving, and even blue state Democrats will run for the hills.

    In any case, unless moratoriums/restrictions are put on US coal production and exports, nothing in the change of US electrical production will actually stall the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Lastly, the Keystone pipeline can be approved under Obama’s restrictions should the analysis actually take into account the fact that Canada will develop the tar sands anyway and ship the product to China/India/Europe. However, I disagree with the main essay- I don’t think Obama will approve the pipeline- the environmental movement must have this trophy from Obama, and he will give it to them.

  17. Hugh

    It never ceases to amaze me how people can look out their windows, see climate disruption at first hand, and yet dismiss it as “just a theory” or maintain that 7 billion people operating with total disregard of their environment can have no effect on the earth’s biosphere.

    1. Yancey Ward


      I am 47 years old, and have lived my entire life in the Eastern United States. The weather has changed almost not at all in that amount of time. It isn’t possible to “look out the window” and see the changes, and that is the political problem for the climate change movement, and it isn’t helped by your unintentional hyperbole. And I acknowledge that the world has warmed a bit during my lifetime, but it hasn’t warmed enough that I would actually have realized it without the temperature data.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        If anything, the Northeast has benefitted (if you like comfort). Milder winters and not hotter summers since I’ve lived in NYC. But “milder winters” means less snow and that has bad effects on water levels over time.

  18. Yancey Ward

    And I will note, that the “good” outcome of Obama declining the approval of Keystone is nothing of the sort- it isn’t like Canada will just throw up her hands and leave the oil in the ground. It is coming out one way or another- oil is just too valuable a product.

  19. ronmac

    I’ve been reading reports these natural gas reserves have been greatly exaggerated and this “fracking revolution” is just another Wall Street bubble that’s inevitably going to burst.

  20. The Dork of Cork.

    Climate change is not like peak oil ……

    It is far more complex then that.

    There are so many factors , how can you be sure unless you are of a religious Persuasion.
    As said above ,its best to be scientifically agnostic rather then go all puritanical in either a Richard Dawkins or Holy Joe manner.

    1. Boomer

      Hi Dork,
      Going a bit off thread, I think the guys at the top of Anglo /Allied/Bank/ ROI government were a greater risk to the country than climate change.

      1. The Dork of Cork.


        Its a dog and pony show now , a political tool that is very tightly managed.
        The Anglo thingy is a major distraction from the real power in and outside the country.

        The real scandal of our time……….

        Consider this exchange between Vincent Browne & the Irish central bank gov 2 years ago now.

        VB: And then of course that- On top of the EU/IMF deal they said to you that in addition to that you cannot default on even the unguaranteed debts of the banks.

        PH: I think that’s the main reason he (Brian L.) was crestfallen.

        [moment of silence]

        VB: And why did that –

        PH: It wasn’t part of the negotiations as such. There was no deal. There was no agreement on that. But there was talk around, about that [gestures circular movement with hands] And eventually the decision was [resolute tone] “No”. I think he was quite discouraged by that.

        VB: Was there no room for us to say “Well sorry, we’re not going to finance the unguaranteed debts”

        PH: It’s not in the agreement. It’s not in the agreement. I mean you know the way the world works. There’s political room. There’s no political room. No political room was offered to him BY THE PEOPLE.

        VB: What political room did he need? The deal was there. The EU/IMF deal was there. You were guaranteed the funds for three years and that was it. And you could have said “No, this isn’t part of the deal, there was no legal or moral or any other obligation, political obligation on us to do this. We won’t do it”

        Vincent Browne the famously legalistic and combative journalist never asked the simple question
        Who are these people ?
        “These People” have therefore unlimited control of politics , of fiat & are beyond critique.

        But who are these people ?

        I have a fair idea.

  21. Hugh

    Fires in the West, 90 degree heat in Alaska, sea ice disappearing in the Arctic, drought and tornadoes in the Midwest and South, and more and larger hurricanes. The ten warmest years on record have all occurred in the last 15 years. Weird and wild weather has become a commonplace. Southern plants, animals, and diseases are migrating northward. Yet somehow we are supposed to remain agnostic in the face of all this.

    I am reminded of physical processes like radioactivity where at the micro level we can not tell whether one atom will decay or not but at the macro level we can measure with great precision the half-lives of isotopes. Or again at the micro level seeing random motion of molecules in a system while at the macro level the laws of thermodynamics describe with great precision the state of the system.

  22. Brooklin Bridge

    That Obama used a conditional in regards to the XL Keystone pipeline says it all. At this point the name “Obama” is synonymous with “Trojan Horse”.

  23. TC

    A couple interesting updates from the 21st century, while captive slaves of an imperial regime argue whether to go with 18th century energy policy, or 12th century…

  24. Patrice Ayme

    The tipping point of self amplifying heating was passed in…1990.
    You can read the facts (revealed there for the first time) in:

    XL Keystone DOES “exarcerbate” global heating, as it would allow expansion of very dirty tar sands, with otherwise no cheap outlet (transporting by trucks is too expensive; by the way fracked Texan oil is transported by trains to California!)Quebec and British Columbia are refusing pipes.

    Obama knows this. It’s therefore very clear that XL will “exacerbate”.

    So Obama is dissembling. Posing as smart super-ecologist, just like the croc poses as super-trunk, peacefully drifting.

    Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser is heavily invested in XL pipeline companies (she has millions in stock). Please do like all the mighty demoncrats, and don’t ask where, after most of her life as a political employee, she got the money:

    You are being played, People!
    Patrice Ayme

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