Gaius Publius: Climate Scientist Michael Mann – If We Don’t Stop Now, We’ll Surpass 2°C Global Warming

Yves here. I suggest skeptics listen to the video at the end of this post and ponder the implication of Mann’s discussion of plankton.

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and contributing editor at AmericaBlog. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook. Cross posted from AmericaBlog

When will the global warming process, and all the damage it does, get out of control? This question is obviously the focus of considerable debate.

Lately the writing and thought of Guy McPherson is causing some controversy among climate thinkers and writers. McPherson’s predictions are at the extreme edge of cataclysm. For some of what McPherson is saying, scroll to the bottom of this piece and listen to the interview. The interviewer is Thom Hartmann, on his nightly TV show “The Big Picture”.

McPherson sees runaway global warming in this century due to a massive methane emission from the Arctic, especially Siberia, with warming even greater and faster (both degree and speed) far beyond what even I’ve been talking about. (For some background on methane as a greenhouse gas, go here.)

What do More Mainstream Climate Scientists, Like Dr. Michael Mann, Predict?

As I said, there has been some discussion of McPherson among climate writers thanks to the Hartmann interview. Which has led many of us to consider a recent piece, published in the mainstream Scientific American, by Dr. Michael Mann. Mann is famous, against his will, for first having produced the Hockey Stick diagram, and then for being attacked verbally by deniers, and legally by Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli, for his climate views.

This piece is adapted from something I contributed to one of those climate discussions. After it was noted that other climate scientists thought McPherson may be wrong on some of the science, the discussion turned to Mann’s article. (The issue with McPherson’s hypothesis, in part, involves the temperature and pressure conditions under which deep-underwater methane “ice” could convert to a gas in large enough quantities to cause the runaway effect, though other objections are raised as well. [Update: Do I disagree with McPherson? Too early to say. I haven’t yet given it the study it deserves.])

Mann’s article itself is here, and it’s very well-written — not at all science-speak. Key to his piece is this diagram and its text. I’m including it below in a small version. If you click, a much larger and very readable version will open in a new tab.


The various colored lines model various “sensitivities” of global surface temperature to increased carbon emissions. The Orange line, for example, says that if we double carbon emissions (in ppm of CO2) from pre-Industrial times, the surface will warm +3°C before it stabilizes — i.e., the climate is +3°C “sensitive” to doubling of CO2 ppm. But the climate might be less sensitive (responsive), or more. Other scenarios in the chart show a “sensitivity” of as little as +1.5°C to ppm doubling (pale Ivory line), through other sensitivities to as much as +4.5°C (Red line).

The chart and article then discuss which “sensitivity” is the most likely one, and what the timing implications of that are. (Hint: Mann says the data supports the Orange line, a 3°C sensitivity, but with some caveats as expressed in the article. I’ll address those shortly.) Obviously, if climate sensitivity turns out to be higher than that, warming happens faster and sooner.

Now note the last sentence on Dr. Mann’s chart (my emphasis):

These data therefore indicate that to reliably avoid two degrees C of warming [above pre-Industrial levels], CO2 levels should be held to 405 ppm (blue [line]) — barely above the 393 to 400 ppm levels observed in the past year.

In other words, if Mann is right — not just McPherson, Mann — we still need a Manhattan Project–style conversion-and-austerity regime now, not sometime the future. I personally don’t see a reason not to be saying that clearly and often. (I’m calling that a voluntary, high-speed “Zero Carbon economy” for ease of reference.)

Bottom line — Whether you agree with McPherson or not, even more mainstream scientists like Dr. Mann think that Stop Now is the only sure way to stay under +2°C (Blue line on the chart), and it will do that only barely. There’s no reason to say anything else.

Global Warming Will Continue for at Least a Century After We Stop Emitting Carbon

One more thing. Though the article itself references the following idea, I’d like to give it more emphasis. It’s important to recognize the “in the pipeline” number as well as the “on the ground” number, since “in the pipeline” implies inevitability.

As a rough estimate, I put the current on-the-ground warming number at +1°C above the pre-Industrial norm (Mann agreed when I put this to him, and the chart shows this, even with the cleverly named “faux pause” factored in). To me, this says that, roughly, there’s another +1°C already “in the pipeline,” for a guaranteed total of +2°C, even under a “stop now” regime. Check the Blue line in the year 2100 on Mann’s chart for confirmation of his thinking.

Now the timing. Mann’s chart puts +2°C “on the ground” in the 2030s in his Orange sensitivity scenario (look for the orange line), or at higher sensitivity, in the early 2020s (Red line). Because I think that things are accelerating (forecasts tend to be “wrong to the slow side“); that the deep ocean will stop holding heat (or burp some of it back during El Niños); and that there will inevitably be surprising surges, discontinuities from the gradual … I’m personally closer to his Red line timescale than his Orange one.

Rate of change aside, though, the problem is the “in the pipeline” number itself. Until the day we do stop — actually stop — the in-the-pipeline number also goes up with the on-the-ground number.

What if we haven’t stopped carbon emissions by 2020 (just a few years away) and we’re on Mann’s Orange timescale? The on-the-ground number in 2020 is roughly +1.5°C, and there’s every reason to think the in-the-pipeline number is at or near +3°C, coming in the 2050s.

And if we’re on the Red timeline, then in-the-pipeline +3°C shows up in the 2030s. Anyone who is 30 today would see that in their 50s. But by either timeline, what’s the in-the-pipeline number when there’s +3°C on the ground? Mann shows his 2100 projections as linear. Odds of that, in a world that’s mostly out of control, socially and politically? I think when +3°C is on the ground, the process runs to conclusion, meaning +7°C or higher.

Again, what’s the only possible solution? It’s not “carbon neutral” dithering. It’s Zero Carbon — just stop now — and saying so clearly and often. David Koch can fend for himself.

What Does Guy McPherson Say?

For completeness and for your consideration, here’s that interview with Guy McPherson done by Thom Hartmann. McPherson is as sincere as the rest of us. Feel free to judge for yourself how right or wrong he may be.

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  1. Podargus

    Whether either Mann or McPherson is correct is academic. Even if we stopped emitting GHGs now (impossible) there is enough excess CO2 and other GHGs in the atmosphere to cause multiple crises in the fragile systems Homo Saps uses to support their numbers in plague proportions.

    To have any hope at all we need to urgently remove coal from electricity generation. This filthy fuel accounts for over 50% of GHG emissions.We have only one viable technology available to do this in the required time frame – nuclear fission.
    We also MUST seriously tackle the population problem. This is going to require education backed by coercion.

    Given the power of human stupidity I am not hopeful for a sanguine outcome.

    1. kimsarah

      Unfortunately, I don’t think nuclear is the way to go. It is — in my humble opinion — just as bad, if not worse, than oil, gas and coal. It is dangerous in a different way.
      We could — but have not been doing — put a massive push for large solar and wind farms. Possibly hydroelectric as well.
      But this administration with all its talk has served as an obstacle to many wind and solar farm proposals. Incentives for wind farms have expired. They, along with new incentives for solar, should be on the front burner. Of course they won’t, because the big utilities and nuclear, oil, coal and gas industries continue to spend millions of dollars opposing clean energy.

      1. ian

        I find it fascinating that 90% of the discussion seems to be on how to better produce electricity, and not on how to reduce our consumption, especially all the hidden ways our usage is increasing. Take, for example, the smart phone – it has a huge infrastructure of cell sites, routers, servers, etc… behind it. Your phone that consumes a watt from its battteries, may have hundreds of infrastructure watts behind it. Same with the internet.

    2. JoeK

      It seems you can’t turn around on the web these days without seeing another ill-informed and ill-advised call for nuclear power. It would take longer to build enough nuclear power plants to replace coal-fired ones, cost more, and of course increase the chances we will catastrophically irradiate the entire paint-thin ecosphere, than to build more solar/wind/wave/geothermal producers.

      The major obstacle to realizing the latter–lack of imagination aside–is that none of them produce material for nuclear weapons, and none of them depend on a self-perpetuating highly-centralized and expensive power structure.

      1. Banger

        the problem is that we have a media that, all most at all levels, is corporate controlled. The actual possibilities of alternative energy are suppressed because, in order to follow through on implementing them would require a dramatic change in the political balance of power. Nuclear is attractive because it tends to re-enforce the current political arrangements.

      2. optimader

        It seems you can’t turn around on the web these days without seeing another ill-informed and ill-advised blah blah blah
        Pot meet kettle?

        …It would take longer to build enough nuclear power plants to replace coal-fired ones, …
        longer than what?

        ….cost more,….
        Cost more than what?

        …..of course increase the chances we will catastrophically irradiate the entire paint-thin ecosphere…
        Does this apply to subcritical fuel cycle/reactor designs?

        …The major obstacle to realizing the latter–lack of imagination aside–is that none of them produce material for nuclear weapons,…
        Are there any nuclear fuel cycles that eliminate the issue of “weapons grade” material?

        It would be very informative if you could present a link that proposes a timeline-energy balance(to construct) and estimate of resources required to produce the power generation technology mix that can replace the global energy production derived from coal (hydrocarbon?) and nuclear power.

        1. Thor's Hammer

          Assuming the current technological assessment of the thorium fueled molten salt reactor is substantially correct here is what the time line you asked for could look like in the USA: (Before you reject this form of nuclear energy out of hand or lump it in with the General Electric Fukushima reactors, take five minutes to watch this:

          1- Immediately de-fund the US imperial military, close overseas bases and cease wars and clandestine operations designed to secure oil supplies. Set the military budget at a level equal to the average of the other 20 leading industrialized nations. Mandate that budget restriction by Constitution if necessary.

          2- Budget 50% of the 750 billion dollars annual savings to a 10 year crash program to produce the best standardized LFTR reactor design- one capable of being built on an assembly line like an aircraft and likely at less cost.

          3- Allocate the remainder to a jobs program to provide full employment by upgrading all the housing stock to maxim standards of energy efficiency, and to an advanced battery program to enable conversion of transportation to electric power.

          On or before the year 2024, select the winner of the LFTR development program as the standard Gen I design, and begin mass production ramping up rapidly to one per day.

          The result:
          *Base load electricity 24/7 at a cost less than current coal or wind.
          *An essentially inexhaustible source of high density energy.
          *Decentralization of powerplant siting.
          *95% reduction in the volume of nuclear waste compared to current technology.
          * The majority of waste production with dangerous half lives under 300 years.
          * The capability to burn up current stocks of long-lived nuclear waste.
          * No proliferation of weapons grade nuclear material.
          * Automatic cold shutdown of reactors with no human intervention and no release of radioactivity.

          If the US were to follow this schedule and allocation of resources, by 2030 it would have a society capable of generating far more wealth with only a fraction of the environmental and climatic impact.

          The probability that we will follow this path or a similar one? So close to zero that it can’t even be calculated. After all, as social beings we are lemmings with minds totally programed to follow the tail of the one running in front of us.

          1. Eeyores enigma

            LFTR is still just theoretical even after decades of work on perfecting the concept they estimate another decade or more before a working unit is designed. Sounds great though.

            I love how you just toss out there that we should focus on “…an advanced battery program…”. There has been billions spent over the last 50+ years by government and private sector chasing that conundrum and we still are no better off than the batteries of 50 to 75 years ago..

            You sir are a technocopian praying to an unseen, unreal god and it is exactly that kind of attitude that will ensure we do not effectively address the real problems.

            1. optimader

              Before Edison’s applied research, the lightbulb was purely theoretical. It’s a matter of Will and resource allocation. what has been spent of LFTR is absurdly paltry when compared to any of a number of incredibly stupid black holes for public funds.
              I generally have problems when the “they says” enter a critique.

              “we still are no better off than the batteries of 50 to 75 years ago..
              That is incredibly inaccurate.

          2. metamars

            Non-credit courses on cold fusion at MIT go into the factors for making it robust and reproducible. See Great Intro to MIT 2014 Cold Fusion Course (CO2 haters – REJOICE!)

            A small and underfunded (thank-you, green veal pen) inventor in NJ has beat the big, hot fusion projects in a couple of important parameters, using plasmas. See dailykos article In the race for fusion, a dark horse takes the lead. I’ve met Eric Lerner, and have hung out with his friend, and former roomate, and I can tell you with surety that Eric has to waste time and energy procuring funds to continue his research. (As per about a year ago.)

            Note that crowdfunding allows citizens to bypass governments, who are embedded with the fossil fuel crowd. And yet, can you name me ANY prominent green group that is looking to fund these much smaller $$ fusion efforts, at least as a plan B? There’s something very, very wrong about CO2 climate catastrophists, as a group, who won’t lift a finger to help a technology would stands an excellent chance to actually solve what they SAYis the pre-eminent societal problem of our day. I repeat: Not even as a plan B.

            What could possibly be wrong with that picture?

    3. Paul Boisvert

      Podargus is certainly right that coal is the main problem right now. Kimsarah and JoeK are certainly right to be skeptical of nuclear. There are 3 main solutions to GW: lowering consumption drastically and living rational lifestyles (which won’t happen under capitalism…); renewables; and nuclear. I strongly prefer the first two, and think nukes should be a last resort, but it is not clear that that last resort may not be needed quite soon, or that a combination of the three isn’t the only real solution, at least in the short to medium run.

      For a very cogent discussion of the real benefits and risks of nuclear power (vs. coal, which kills far more people silently via air pollution) and of the problems (largely those of political will and aims) with both renewables and nukes, google around for “Will Boisvert nuclear power” or go to Slackwire, where he has written a lot of stuff. He is my brother, but is pretty bright nonetheless, and very assiduous about (and capable of) doing the detailed research and math on power production and risk factors. I was initially very skeptical of his (pro-nuclear) analysis, but his critique is an excellent and lucid one, and fairly convincing to me.

      While no one can predict whether unknown innovations in renewables might make them a wonderful magic solution, so far there is little evidence that nuclear couldn’t be a far more practical, achievable (given political will, but the others need that too) and, yes, safe modality to avoid catastrophic GW. Politically Will is a social democrat, and not opposed in principle to conservation and renewables–he just doesn’t think they are likely, given current political realities, to solve the carbon problem in time to avoid catastrophe. He marshals a lot of evidence for that position, and even if you end up disagreeing with his analysis, you will learn a lot if you read it. Plus you will make him extremely happy if you exchange views with him and tell him his brother is finally coming around… :)

      1. Paul Boisvert

        re nuclear power, also see

        by David Walters at Climate and Capitalism for a socialist take on the value of nuclear energy as a solution. Again, one may disagree, but the discussion is valuable.

        I will also say that I’m pretty pessimistic about any chance of avoiding major global harm from GW. All of the three main solutions, (lowering consumption, renewables, and nuclear), have obstacles to success, and even a combo of the three may not be sufficiently implemented in time to work. Any obstacles could be overcome by political willpower, but that requires organizing against entrenched (capitalist) interests, which of course is itself a huge obstacle. As Mann points out time is very rapidly running out…

        Also, in the long run, I see only the first solution as a real one for the planet. Even renewable energy won’t stop us from destroying the planet in other ways if used to fuel unchecked consumption of other resources (it’s not just heat that harms and pollutes the planet.) Changing to a rational, non-exploitative political economy is the only real hope in the long term…and if that were achieved, the actual source of energy, renewable or nuclear, would be a relatively simple one to evaluate and decide upon, given whatever technology is actually available at a given point in time.

      2. optimader

        “…There are 3 main solutions to GW: lowering consumption drastically and living rational lifestyles (which won’t happen under capitalism…)…”
        Which economic system will it happen under, or are you just making a distinction without a difference?
        What is a rational lifestyle?

        “There are 3 main solutions to GW…”
        How about improved efficiency? That seems to be the most obvious low hanging fruit IMO. I would suggest that by building in more cost externalities into consumption, this could, for example allow “rational” migration from commuter vehicles to electric light rail.
        I know –for example in the Chicago area –there exists city center to outlaying suburban rail-lines (diesel electric) that fan our more or less E to SW, E to W and E to NW. All of these could be connected into a circulator transportation system if the Will (and cost rationalization existed) And it could all be converted to electrified motive stock. There exists a light electric commuter “el” line that parallels an expressway form Chicago to Oak Park, a near west suburb. That made sense in 1940, but certainly could now be extended anther 30 mile or so.

        As well what made sense was electric streetcars and buses until Sloan (GM) acquired those transportation operation entities killed them off and replaced the fleets w/ diesel buses. Time to rewind that tape and template it into, pick a number, say the top 50 metro areas of the US.

        1. Paul Boisvert

          Hi, Optimader,
          You raise good points, and I was inevitably overly concise in my description. Let me expand just a bit. First, increased efficiency is certainly part of leading a rational lifestyle. Wasting things is irrational. Also, efficiency itself usually reduces consumption (at least of the resource now being used more efficiently.) So in general I certainly endorse more efficiency, along the lines you describe.

          But if efficiency w.r.t. one resource is simply used to free up the ability to consume other resources, I believe it will ultimately catastrophically harm the planet. If you read Jared Diamond’s Collapse, there are a dozen ways in which basic planetary resources are already being stretched to the breaking point, with GW only one of them. And the book is old, things are worse now.

          Even more importantly, defining what is waste and what is valuable, deciding what we are best off consuming vs. conserving, deciding what real human needs are met by what level of consumption, are all societal imperatives that must be part of political interaction, and should be done democratically. But that can’t happen under capitalism, where one dollar one vote distorts democratic (majority) decision-making in favor of the (few) rich who control decisions about the means of production. Moreover, capitalism has an inherent “endlessly increasing accumulation” ideology, which (since profit only comes when people buy economic production) requires endlessly increasing consumption. Overall reduction (per capita, and probably even in absolute terms, too) of resource consumption, necessary to save the planet from GW and other catastrophes, simply can’t happen in a capitalist political economy, I believe. I know others disagree… :)

          What’s the alternative (where a rational process of democratically deciding how we can live sustainably MIGHT happen, though I’m not guaranteeing it)? The only one I see is democratic socialism, built on public and cooperative ownership of the means of production, with major decisions on political economy made democratically. I believe this can be achieved, at some point (don’t know when), and that it’s the only real hope for a decent future for the planet and it’s inhabitants.

          But we almost certainly will face catastrophic GW before we achieve a democratic, rational (socialist) society. If nuclear power, even under capitalist auspices, will avoid that, it will free up time to avert even more catastrophes… All I’m saying is that may be the only real solution in the short to medium run to avert GW. And if it just happens to be true that other solutions can’t or won’t avert GW in time, it would be crazy not to thoroughly explore and implement, if needed, the nuclear solution. I’m urging NC readers to explore it thoroughly…and, of course, decide for themselves what should be advocated.

          1. optimader

            I notionally agree w/ you but the only example of an enlightened: “democratic socialism, built on public and cooperative ownership of the means of production, with major decisions on political economy made democratically”

            I can think of was a product of Ray Bradbury’s imagination (Star Trek).

            The problem w/ us humans as a species is we time and time again demonstrate that we are almost entirely irrational.

            An interesting take on the unintended consequences from the darkside of our irrationality unfortunately is related to “efficiency”:

            One chance I hold out for Capitalism is if it can migrate to a model more along a metric of true “net profitability” driven by a focus on efficient wealth creation (minimizing energy content) rather than the traditional focus of y-on-y scale growth w/a constant emphasis on legislated economic advantage over competitive alternatives.. (eg. when was the last time you read an analysis of .the true cost of a barrel of middle eastern Crude landed in the US in MSM?). ANY critical analysis of this nature is kept out of the public consciousness and indeed is difficult to source at all.

            Part of the dilemma of this current economic model that we incorrectly call Capitalism, is that the true energy (cost) content of goods and services is kept so incredibly opaque. Government intervention and subsidization, purposefully promotes “irrational” behavior.
            I don’t think Capitalism in it’s pure sense and resource conservation are contradictory.
            Ironically the most heroic wastes of resources that I’ve ever seen first hand were in the frmr SU and in China. The situations were so bad that they simply couldnt scale it up further.

            1. Paul Boisvert

              Hi, Optimader,
              Thanks, I appreciate your thoughtful reply. And your general take on the possibility of “reforming” capitalism into a just, sustainable model is widely shared by most intelligent people who sincerely care about sustainability and social justice. Yet I think it is wrong.

              Socialists like myself believe capitalism cannot be reformed into a system of political economy that is sufficiently just and sustainable to satisfy the desires of the majority of people. You touch on the reason why in your phrase ” Capitalism in its pure sense”… As we see it, there is no such distinction to be made between a “pure” and an “impure” capitalism. Capitalism is a system of power. It is largely a system of economic power, and there are other, complementary or alternative systems that exert power in other forms, but power in any system cannot be exerted over others in a “pure” or “impure” sense. It is simply exerted, period.

              So the question is not about “purity”, but rather, are there any systems in which power (of any type) can be legitimately exercised over others? Socialists today believe that only one type of power can be legitimate: that exerted by the democratic majority will of the people. Such power is not “pure” or “impure”–it is merely legitimate, and all other exercises of power (society-wide, possibly excepting that of parents over children, though even that is deserving of a thoughtful critique) are illegitimate.

              Capitalism is the private ownership and control of the means of production. It is an extremely well-defined and delineated ideology that explicitly and unfailingly insists that such private control is just, desirable, and, indeed, the ONLY CONCEIVABLE just and desirable form of political economy. Thus, a few capitalist owners and their managers are able to exert vast, private, undemocratic power over the vast majority of people. Socialists believe that is prima facie illegitimate. The system is simply wrong, from start to finish. It enables the few to unjustly use their power to enrich themselves by exploiting the many.

              People who hope to reform (rather than eliminate) capitalism generally fall into two categories, with diametrically opposed views on what constitutes “pure” capitalism (neither of which socialists find cogent.) One camp thinks that “pure” capitalism would involve no (significant, unwarranted) “power” relations–hence their reforms would be towards “purifying” capitalism by removing constraints and public interference with capitalists. The opposite camp feels that “pure” capitalism has way too much unwarranted private power, but that we can reform it to make it “less (purely)” capitalist, subjecting its private power to public constraints to make it “more democratic” (and hence less capitalist, as public control is by definition not private control.)

              Socialists believe that the evidence shows that capitalists will use their power to resist attempts to constrain or purify them. As long as the political economy itself both depends on and empowers them, they will inevitably succeed (more or less, but effectively, and in the long run) in that resistance. Only changing the entire system (no easy task, but at least not a contradictory and self-defeating one) will eliminate their power.

              Which, unfortunately, is where I have to leave you, since a limited exchange in a blog can’t possibly do justice to the debate about the truth of my claim above. I will make one final point, which you might see as a glib “zinger”, but I assure you I don’t intend it as that–its point is deadly serious. You say you’ve never seen democratic socialism anywhere but on Star Trek–but earlier in the comments, you said “Before Edison’s applied research, the lightbulb was purely theoretical. It’s a matter of Will and resource allocation.” Precisely. Yes, truly democratic socialism has not yet been achieved, and will remain purely theoretical–until it is achieved. That will take a tremendous amount of will and resources (human, intellectual, political), but the fact it hasn’t been achieved so far constitutes precisely zero evidence that it can’t be achieved.

              Apologies if the above seems haranguing–I respect your and other opposing viewpoints, but hope in the long run to change them. Thanks again for your engagement in the issues.

      3. different clue

        There’s a fourth partial solution too. Increase the rate of biological carbon aquisition/fixation/sequestration in the 30 or so millions of square miles of soilbearing land where that process has currently been reduced, and from which much soil-carbon has been bio-oxidised and skydumped over the last 150 years or so.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Could have been an answer if we had gotten serious 20 years ago. Lead time to large scale industrial use is too far away.

        1. Antifa

          Thorium fission will be a key tool for small, distributed pods of human survivors who respond to the loss of all food crops on the surface by establishing controlled environments underground where algaes and fungi can be grown as foodstuff.

          The humans who survive on the new uninhabitable earth will treat it as a spaceship, and make do day by day. Their chief concern, beyond mere survival, will be to maintain genetic diversity between widely separated human colonies. Beyond that, the goal will be to terraform the planet into something like what it once was, a job made tens of millions of times harder for those survivors than it is for the many of us right now.

          Storing the genetic blueprints of the current crops and species extant is probably the single most important thing we can do right now. Plants made this planet inhabitable for us. Without them, we aren’t.

        2. Optimader

          No , it remains the most promising scalable energy generation alternative whether pursued 50 years ago 20 years ago today or 5 years in the future.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            You are missing the point of the post. We need to cut the use of dirty energy sources NOW. Thorium won’t be in production any time remotely soon enough.

            1. optimader

              No, I get the premise. The practical execution of NOW is a decades long transition.
              The lowest barrier (practical) short term strategy is applying currently available technology toward conservation, even if the generation mix remains unchanged, while rejiggering our transportation model, (big bang for the effort here).

              All w/ the longer term solution of installing nonGHG emitting generation capacity to gradually replace at least a portion of the hydrocarbon/coal global energy production. Sure I’m all in for developing carbon neutral biofuels, Wind, Solar even hydro where it makes sense, but the most likely SCALABLE power generation to supplant GHG emitters is nuclear.
              The most likely viable technology to do that w/o killing ourselves is using a subcritical reactor design with a fuel that requires a minimum of refining. Ding ->Thorium

              The LLNL Energy flow Sankey Diagram updates
              similar Sankey showing transportation sector resolution

              A good Sankey for the Global picture, w/ CO2 emitter contributions
              RE: Implementation of commercial thorium generation capacity, not sure what any time remotely soon enough actually means.

              1. Joe100

                China established a major molten salt (cooled and also fueld) nuclear reactor R&D program two years ago. It is very well funded and has about 400 engineers/scientists working on developing (eventually) commercial reactors. his program is being conducted at the Chinese Academy of Scinces SINAP research center in Shanghai. this program began by visiting Oak Ridge lab (where the molten salt reactor was developed) and vacuuming up everything Oak Ridge learned. This process included interviewing retired Oak Ridge scientists and engineers, all of which were recorded by a pressingly film crew.

                The SINAP program initially planned to proceed over a twenty-five year time frame (more of an R&D program vs. a commercialization program). About six weeks ago, China’s senior leadership dict CAS to produce a commercial reactor withing ten years and this project has been elevated to the five highest priority scince research centers in China.

                Severel US companies are pursuing creative approach to MSRs, but it remains almost impossible to develop advanced (beyond light water) technology in the US and also nearly I possible to collaborate with non-US partners.

                Any practical MSR is likely to be largely manufacturable, which would be critical to serious, large scale deployment.

  2. kimsarah

    The bottom line is the earth is warming. From melting ice caps to rising sea levels and more extreme weather events, the evidence of climate change is real.
    The debate then is how much are we accelerating warming through carbon emissions. And how much can we curb warming by ending carbon emissions.
    The global warming deniers pay their own scientists to give them their results (like Chris Christie’s whitewashed Bridgegate report). They are unfazed about the consequences of global warming (or “climate change” for the cowardly politically correct crowd). Many deniers actually believe the warmer the planet, the better.
    Independent scientists who aren’t on the oil and gas payroll are warning us that the consequences will be far more dire than any benefits of warming.
    Thus, we should take a Manhattan Project approach and halt or sharply curb carbon emissions now, while we can still do something about it. The worst that can happen is that it won’t make much of a difference. But the alternative will be far more catastrophic.
    Deniers have turned into a leftie vs. rightie issue, but I think most of us care and respect one another and the earth enough to want to do the right thing.

  3. Working Class Nero

    The people who are truly in denial are those who preach about the dangers of global warming but then do everything in their power to advocate policies that only exacerbate the problem. It is so easy to use global warming to attack enemies such as oil companies and right wing propagandists. It is much harder to have to look your own cherished progressive beliefs in the mirror and find them wanting on the environmental front.

    First of all the reality is through neoliberal globalization the West has lost its ability to control this problem, if the will to do so every actually existed. The Rest of World produce the majority of greenhouse gases and their share is only growing.

    Proponents of global warming almost to a person deny the connection between First World consumption and the masses of Third World immigrants the West has taken in over the past forty years. If the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 had never passed, there might easily be 100 million fewer Americans today. But no major environmental groups are against immigration, in fact most actively support efforts to bring in even more immigrants. But it is obviously the case that when a low consuming Third-worlder is converted into an over-consuming First- worlder (actually they normally only obtain Second-world status but whatever) this is a net gain for greenhouses gasses and a net loss for the global environment.

    Third World immigration could be used as a tool against global warming by First World countries but they would have to be a bit more honest about what they are actually up to. If high-consuming First World proles were ethnically cleansed by low-consuming Third World proles; in other words working class suburbs replaced by shanty towns heated by burning turf or cow dung, then this might indeed lower greenhouse gases. Tough sell though to the indigenous working classes and the offspring of the immigrants so it is better to achieve this result through stealth.

    Off-shoring obviously also increases global warming but in this case some environmentalists do face the truth. Each time a relatively clean First World factory is shipped off to the Third World the environmental standards decline and the earth suffers. Here progressives are more mixed but most global warming proponents are not eager to point out that the energy used in shipping products and the lower environmental standards in the Third World means that repatriating industry into the First World would be a major step in retaking control of the global warming problem. On the other hand it could be argued that the decrease in the standard of living for the native working classes associated with globalization is eco-friendly.

    But limiting immigration and ending globalization are considered “nationalist” solutions which despite the fact that Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez were both nationalists, typically nationalism is considered “right wing” and therefore it is better to increase greenhouse gases than to risk a heterodox political thought.

    Austerity is paradoxically also one tool in the fight against global warming. Deflation, recession, unemployment, pay-cuts, genocide, etc are all eco-friendly. Growth, full employment, increasing standards of living, infants surviving, etc are relatively all eco-destructive. So it could be argued that neoliberal globalization is in some ways helping fight global warming but that ignores the issue of control.

    Because as each year goes by, with the relative economic decline of the West, the Rest of World (RoW) becomes a larger majority of the global warming problem. But the attitude of the RoW is that the global warming problem was brought on by 200 years of industrialization by the rich West and so the emerging South is not going to lift a finger to help resolve it now that they are ever-so-slightly raising their standard of living. In fact every barrel of oil not consumed by an austerity-wracked Europe ends up getting burned in Asia. There is no global order, only anarchy on the international level. Only through eco-colonialism, where the temporarily still militarily dominate West invaded and set up a Leviathan to control the environmental policies of each RoW country, could any progress by made on global warming.

    Just as neo-conservatives have recently jumped on the “hetero-fascism” of Russia to recruit a new group of fellow-travelers progressive interventionists, it will not be too long before global warming becomes a new “mission civilisatrice” for global dominance that progressives can get behind. But are there really any alternatives? Is there really going to be cooperation between the Third and First Worlds on limiting their energy consumption and therefore their populations and/or standards of living in the fight against global warming?

    Humanity has a well-worn institution for dealing with limited resource distribution and it is called war.

    1. Banger

      At one level, I follow your argument, but even should “the West” suddenly get religion about global warming it would not fundamentally change anything. First, there is no sense of common purpose. The West and its Asian copiers have embraced the culture of hedonism and narcissism as the ultimate meaning of life. This is most advance in the U.S. where we see not just a government but an entire culture locked into self-indulgence. Even those that accept that we live in society and ought to have some kind of collective consciousness that works towards the good of all at the expense of the individual are unable to do more than glance in the direction they want to go. This can be shown by the career of the left in the U.S. Where are the collectives, the mass movements? Where are the organizations going into militant action? The usual answer that we have a repressive state just don’t hold up. While the mechanism of repression is in the process of being set up, the left has barely tested the waters.

      The answer, at any rate, cannot come from some kind of realization that we are in trouble. Action won’t come as a result of fear. War requires intense hatred and that will not bring people together at least not at this point in history when loyalties in multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies dominate the West. The only path is through the opening of our spirituality, i.e., our understanding that we are all connected not just to each other but to the earth and its creatures. This sense of connection is not intellectual but physical and emotional as well. From this space miracles can happen, the laws of physics can be suspended.

      1. TheCatSaid

        “our understanding that we are all connected not just to each other but to the earth and its creatures. This sense of connection is not intellectual but physical and emotional as well. From this space miracles can happen, the laws of physics can be suspended.”


        Or, the laws of physics (as we know them) can be expanded. When we are willing to work in conscious partnership with nature’s knowledge of balance, there is no limit to what is possible. This includes cleaning up not just the toxic physical waste of our so-called “civilized” society, but also our accumulated emotional / mental toxic waste–energies which impact our planet’s balance more than we realize.

    2. Glen Osterhout

      Why would the ptb resort to measures as crude as war when there are much more efficient ways to cull the herd? I predict an increase in new virulent diseases, especially in developing countries

      1. Working Class Nero

        From the earth’s point of view, humans are an infectious disease. There are two variables, the number of humans and the amount each human consumes (extracts) from the earth. The earth has no trouble adapting to say a billion people with around 20% of these high consumers. At these levels humans are analogous to childhood diseases, like chicken pox or mumps. But when the numbers start passing 7 billion and more and more of these become high consumers then humans start acting more like pathogenic bacteria from the earth’s point of view with global warming being but a feverous symptom of the underlying disease. If the PtB ever get serious about solving global warming then the obvious answer is to drastically reduce the number of bacteria and the cleanest way to do this is by unleashing the white blood cells of war. And it is more efficient to kill off as many as possible high-consuming westerners instead of low-consuming Third-worlders.

        1. optimader

          “And it is more efficient to kill off as many as possible high-consuming westerners instead of low-consuming Third-worlders.”

          Yes, interesting concept, are you the first volunteer for the gas chamber?

          1. BondsOfSteel

            I’m not sure we need to go to those extremes. I suspect the horsemen will do their job naturally.

            The problem is that Famine, War, and natural Death will mostly kill the low carbon emitting humans. Our best hope might lie in Pestilence. Maybe we (humans) just need a good pandemic ala 1348.

        2. Susan the other

          Your comment is on point. All your points are on point. I think we in the “first” world need the humility to take advice from the third world on how to live with less. Conservation is going to be the biggest remediation factor in the next few decades and we need to learn how to do it all over again. Our inability to understand the exponential function? Scary. I tell myself that if Little George Bush was the secret environmentalist, the improbable green ideologu -, analogous to LBJ’s own goal for a “great society” – LG’s was a Green Earth, etc., then I take back all the shit I’ve said about him, pretzels and all. But only if.

            1. allcoppedout

              Strip all the ‘e’s out of George and you get Gorg. I think you may be on to something here Susan.

          1. Glen Osterhout

            I wish that would be enough, difficult as that change would be to sell, but the first world has already been decreasing greenhouse gas emissions while overall emissions have continued to grow exponentially. Some of that should rightfully be attributed to the first world (factories outsourced to make goods consumed by the first world) but I think most of the increase is the result of very large numbers of extremely poor people using fossil fuels to survive, or maybe slightly improve their standard of living (by having indoor lighting, etc). It is unrealistic to expect people who are barely subsisting to cut down their fossil fuel use to the extent that would be necessary – that is the grim reality so many seem unable to accept

  4. The Dork of Cork

    We this we that…………..always with the we.
    I don’t buy it – I simply don’t buy it.
    “We” must kill billions to save billions.

    This is the greatest scam of all time.
    You Industrialize a country and then you tax it for introducing industry
    But “we” did not Industrialize.
    The EU entrepot was forced on us.

    Lets just step back a second here.
    The EU has been at the heart of scaling up of global trade and energy systems and now wishes to reduce its vassal people to abject poverty.
    Its a grab for ultimate power.

    Lets look back into history
    A conversation with small rather then great minds.

    Dingle town was outside the English tax net up to the 1500s.
    It burned coal (probably shipped from Scotland) to heat its houses as its people were then too rich to dig for turf.
    The English objective of that time was to destroy the beef for wine trade via the absorbtion of the town into the English tax net.
    So Dingles standard of living collpased but the coal was burned regardless – it was burned in London.
    That is the simple objective of this modern scam.
    Big science and banking have always been close.
    They rather then we are using scientific dogma against us.

    They rather then we have picked a diffuse scientific debate that can never be truely pinned down.
    Its not a hard scientific problem such as the Longtitide problem.
    My Bullshit meter is screaming scam scam scam.
    In the end we will have (alive) carbon people and (dead) non carbon people.

    Just to add any paper which talks about zero carbon techology is a scam.
    For example France could not engage in its current electrical tram and rail programme without a hinterland larger then French borders,
    At best it could only reuse the previous rail lines retired from the 1930s onwards using diesel traction.

    1. allcoppedout

      The universe itself is not carbon free technology. I think the trick here is not living in our own excrement. The economics from the science would entail building green energy capacity everywhere. Frankly, this would be a better life for most of us than living under the current terror.

  5. sadness

    i like the way he doesn’t come out and actually say each one of us should minimise carbon use…or did i miss it….anyhow, below are some (far too many) words from a silly old fool –

    ….it may be too late, but some few of us have been retelling ‘what-is’ for decades now….and still nothing happens….so what to do….again….for each and everyone of us….no exceptions….

    ….me? –
    1. i put solar panels on the roof that make more carbon-free power than i use –
    2. i minimise gas guzzling car use, 10-12km max a week – never drive unnecessary kms, leave that for essential services only –
    3. take the train don’t drive, don’t fly – meeting, business, info. entertainment via the web, if you must – live locally please –
    4. holidays? well if you hadn’t destroyed your own environment you’d find that home is just as pretty as that carbon spewing flight to someplace half way around the world –
    5. vote green, omg you mean build solar farms wind farms etc out in our hundreds of miles of sun filled desert – shock horror there is another way?
    6. forget forever more, take no more that you need to stay alive, i.e.. make out like nature does – you will enjoy your one life so much more –
    7. cooperate rather than compete – omg(again) you mean you don’t always try to do your best at all times as a natural way of life, you have to compete to do so? – what a bummer, our ‘education’ has fooled us again –
    8. so we’re supposed to be smarter than nature because our ‘brain’ – huh? – you must be joking – our minds are set in the concrete of ‘belief’ – we’re christians, jews, muslims, capitalists, communists, neo’s, yanks, russians, poms, krauts, arabs et al, we’re this or we’re that, we must compete – what fools, you must know we all want the same things – but our minds can’t see beyond all this rubbish to something new – give me more i say, nothing else matters – it’s the economy you know –

    ….damn, i talk too much – i’m off to be entertained, educated, by the youth of the web who share and know nothing….so sorry to have bored you….enough again….

    1. crow

      sadness: You didn’t mention one of the biggest impacts you could have on CC and that’s growing your own food. If you had the space and the right growing conditions you could have a very big impact on your personal carbon load, even more than the admirable effort you’ve made so far. I know, it’s hard work and for most Americans, the concept of getting down into the dirt in the hot sun seems so 19th century. Or a third world nightmare.

  6. PaulW

    I don’t know if it is the baby boomer generation or all humans but we are very good at kicking cans down the road. Anyone who votes for a government that runs deficits is basically piling that debt onto the shoulders of their children and grandchildren. Perhaps the idea is that they can also pass the debt on endlessly? That’s assuming voters in pseudo-democracies actually have ideas.

    At least there is a tangible aspect to financial debt – though people still refuse to change their lives one iota to reduce that debt. What hope do we have for something as intangible as global warming? For decades now we’ve made it clear we will not change. End of story. let the history making begin!

    Nuclear energy – Holy Fukishima! It is a prime example of painless change which will magically make everything right, without individual sacrifices being necessary. Nuclear waste still has to go somewhere. There’s no immediate impact, like with burning coal, but there has to be an impact eventually. Future generations can deal with it. Another can kicked down another road.

    1. MRW

      Anyone who votes for a government that runs deficits is basically piling that debt onto the shoulders of their children and grandchildren.

      That’s BS when talking about the US and Canadian (& UK, AU, and JP) governments. Doesn’t happen with governments that issue their own currency, like ours; how could it?. You don’t understand how the federal monetary system works.

  7. Banger

    The strange part of the whole climate change issue is that it is clear that even if models and predictions were seriously flawed some kind of fairly intense activity was in order to make sure that disaster could be avoided. The time to do that was, at the latest, in the early 90s and, indeed, there was a lot of interest in the subject that resulted in the Kyoto protocols which I would describe as a start. The protocols were rejected by the U.S. because the distracted public was largely not interested in any subject that might limit their relentless plunge into radical hedonism and narcissism that had been the U.S. response to the challenge of the sixties.

    Then came 9/11 and a brief period of elation that now Americans had a mission, to rid the world of evil through its super-powers. And after that any interest in real threats, i.e., Wall Street plutocrats and climate change largely vanished except in small pockets on the the career of which,is the chief tragedy of this play.

    I look out today on my society which is the model of all societies in the world and want to weep. I see a culture that is primarily narcissistic and, at the same time, unable to understand reality. The modern narrative as reflected in all of the media even the so-called “alternative” media is largely wrong and the tragic part is that this “wrongness” is easily proven. In order to preserve this illogical, immoral narcissistic culture we have to be in denial and we are.

    The challenge of the sixties was that those of us who saw that the authorities were full of shit and the American Way of Life was destructive threw a mirror up to the culture and produced a profound shock in the populace and the ruling elites. By 1980, the normal world returned by taking the worst aspects of hippy culture, mindless hedonism, and embracing it without the spirituality, psychedelics, and communal instincts that were the chief animating properties of that brief movement. Truth has been replaced by Reagan’s comforting myths about American Exceptionalism–the trauma has been covered up by entertaining ourselves to death as Neil Postman elegantly said (he is essential reading).

    In order to return to reality we must embrace our real history and understand what the evidence directly shows. I will give one simple example which no one ever comments on–an example that everyone, particularly the so-called left, is frightened to even think about, i.e., the existence of a Deep State and its ability to create and alternate reality through a network of what we can call conspiracies. This example is as follows: Thomas Noguchi, the LA Cornoner at the time Robert Kennedy was assassinated wrote an autopsy report that showed the fatal shot(s) entered Kennedy’s skull at a steep angle from below at virtually point-blank range. Sirhan was never closer than a couple of feet and fired straight on at Kennedy from two to four feet away; also, no fewer than 14 shots were fired according to acoustical evidence when Sirhan’s revolver only had 8 shots; also, eyewitnesses described the sound of “firecrackers” going off meaning extremely rapid fire that was impossible with the .22 revolver Sirhan fired. This is prima faice evidence that there was a second shooter and I challenge anyone here to deny that. But it isn’t only the RFK assassination that was a conspiracy–both JFK and MLK assassination show similar evidence against the official story. There is no way, if you are reasonable person, that you can accept the official stories on these assassinations. So who are these people killing the most important politicians of the time? And, just as important, why has the left ignored and hounded anyone who dares to bring up this subject?

    How does this apply to climate change? If the country is in denial over official findings that are clearly false, if you bothered to look into it, then how the hell is anyone going to do anything about climate change? Here we have, at this point, clear evidence that we are headed for some serious collective hurt yet Americans are increasingly “skeptical” of climate science. This indicates a very “sick” public that is truly insane. We are literally wandering around in a stupor on railroad tracks as the train is heading straight at us. What do we do? We worry about our investments, our retirement, our income and whether we can afford a vacation.

    A people completely lacking virtue deserve to die. A people completely unable to lift a finger to change the rule of oligarchs who are, perhaps, more closely approach pure evil as it is possible to approach and we do nothing. We don’t pledge our wealth, our lives, or do anything about it.

    What can we do? The first thing is to eliminate the culture of denial. The second thing is to understand that no political action (and yes we need a radical revolutionary movement) can occur unless we join together, give up our pointless and childish toys and amusements, and rediscover virtue (in the old sense of the word meaning “power”) and establish community. In order to do all this we have to have more than an intellectual sense of connection to the Earth. We must feel it physically and emotionally on the level of Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” at least and, yes, each of us can feel that level of connection even if we lack the ease with words.

    Frankly, spirituality is our only way forward.

    1. Fair Economist

      Yes, one of the really strange things about the climate debate is that people want absolute proof that human civilization will be destroyed before they do anything. How can anybody hold that as a standard? Even a 1% or 2% chance of that justifies a near-immediate switch to a zero carbon economy. Almost *any* risk of releasing the polar methane hydrates is totally unacceptable.

      1. Jackrabbit

        . . . people want absolute proof . . .

        No. Too many are falling into this ‘blame the victim’ trap. Tens of millions have been spent to promote climate denial/suspicion. People are concerned about climate change. But this concern is being mis-directed (baffle with bulls!t), minimized, sidelined (hey look over there!), co-opted with fear (you’ll lose your job!), etc.

    2. Jackrabbit

      Spirituality? Be careful what you wish for. You’ve spoken about neo-feudalism – well the middle ages were a very spiritual time when everyone was told to look to the next life.

      And the anti-intellectual, “Culture of denial” didn’t just happen. It was nurtured. It is important to understand this reality or you make the mistake of blaming the victim and falling into self-defeating despair (we are all at fault – people are selfish – nothing will ever change).

      The fundamental problem is agency. Complex societies rely on agency but democracy can’t work when agents can be systematically corrupted.

      1. Banger

        You don’t know what I mean by spirituality or, I suspect the Middle Ages which were a good deal more pleasant than what is generally understood. The type of spirituality has little to do with the spiritual imperialism of the Roman Church of those days. It is about living the most authentic part of ourselves that is clearly taught in all esoteric traditions of all the major religions including an underground current in Christianity.

        1. Jackrabbit

          I view your reply as non-responsive.

          ‘Spirituality’ and ‘spiritual communities’ generally imply turning away from ‘the real world’. If you mean something other than what is generally understood, then you need to explain that rather than expecting us to be mind readers.

          The middle ages may have been swell but that is besides the point. “Spirituality” at that time was a means of control by the oligarchs of the time (the aristocracy).

          You ignored my point about blaming the victim and knowing your enemy.

          I think the focus should be on humanity, not spiritualism. We need to rediscover our humanity, build communities that value humanity, and which produce agents that will be true to those humanistic values. Spirituality is an important part of being human. It can help people to appreciate others and develop moral fiber but it can also divide people, create or serve hierarchy, and/or increase apathy.

          The mechanics of governance is a practical matter that is best addressed in a practical way. I really don’t think spiritual tree-huggers (having “more than an intellectual connection to the Earth”) would make much impact.

          1. Banger

            “Real world”? The spiritual world is real to me and most human beings today and throughout human history. We differ in what we define as real.

    3. JTFaraday

      Maybe the 1960s were not determinative. Maybe the 60s were just a blip and we’re still on the trajectory that, say, Henry Ford and Hugh Hefner already put us on.

      That actually makes a lot more sense to me.

  8. mf

    Michael Mann is not a climate scientist. He is a wholly discredited tree ring counter. He is a walking and talking example of what is wrong with contemporary science. A scientific careerist who tortured data until data confessed to what he thought was the path to the greatest splash, aka there is no such thing as a bad publicity. His splash was bigger than he dared to dream because of a confluence of political factors. By the same token, his splash then was subjected to the intense scrutiny and thoroughly discredited as dilettante at best, fraud at worst. So now, he turned himself into a victim/litigator in defamation cases.

    The hypothesis of strong positive coupling between carbon dioxide and water vapor has been now disproven by data. Nothing unusual is happening in the weather. Left, please stop this nonsense. You are not helping, least of all science.

    1. Dave of Maryland

      I might mention in passing a report I heard that East Anglia (which seems to be the source of the global warming story) “normalized” old temperature records by setting them all to a consistent standard.

      Don’t know if that’s true or not, but I fell out of my chair when I read it.

      In Europe – and elsewhere – there are two parallel 24 hour clocks in use.

      There is the 24 hour clock that starts at midnight, which was first mooted at the big Washington DC time convention of, let me see, 1881, but not actually put into effect. Much later, at some point in the mid-20th century everyone “knew” the day began and ended at midnight, though, in fact, there is no law or treaty or moment that can be pointed to.

      On the other hand, since the invention of mechanical clocks about 500 years ago, the legal day has begun and ended at noon. Which it still does. (See Julian Day, which has nothing to do with the old Julian calendar.) This is because noon can be accurately determined by means of cast shadows (sundials). You will find endless references. One rather cute one is in the first act of the Pirates of Penzance, where “everyone knows.”

      Midnight, on the other hand, cannot be known unless one has electricity and radio, at least. Which, given US rural electrification and the devastation of WWII, means a midnight standard was not physically possible much before 1960. If then.

      So what the East Anglia boys may have done, quite by accident, was shift times by twelve hours, in favor of a colder past and warmer future. If that’s right, then the whole global warming matter needs to be re-examined from the ground up, as old thermometers may not be reliable.

      1. different clue

        And yet the Arctic/subarctic has been warming up, polar ice thinning, permafrost thawing, glaciers/icefields shrinking over most of the earth. Which would seem to indicate rising heat-loads dumped into changing ice to water regardless of when we decide a day starts.

    2. Banger

      Basically you are willing to risk your children’s future on the possibility that 97 per cent of published climate scientists in peer reviewed journals are 100 per cent wrong. You probably also believe that the oceans are basically just fine and as they were a century ago. What sort of human being are you that you are so certain?

      1. allcoppedout

        Mann is a climate scientist. A fair example of his work is here : – – in a paper not connected with carbon dioxide.

        Science is used to lie to us. We should ignore people who who can’t explain the science itself. What’s generally wrong in science is the 95% of people not equipped or to idle to be able to learn to do any, and a few turds typical of professional bureaucracies who sell out any ethics they have for money. Mann clearly ain’t either.

        We could do with some simple experiments t decide. Tamiflu, for instance, is useless crap in my opinion (as biologist-biochem trained). I’d chuck those who have done ‘clinical research demonstrating otherwise’ and spokespeople for the makers in a room full of people with deadly flu if they persisted with the opinion it works. I can’t be so sure on climate science as I know a lot less.

        What should concern those of us outside the expertise is how ghost cities get built from Ireland to China that no one lives in and that we can’t get any international agreement (with 20% unemployment and loads of crap jobs no one wants) to build large green energy capacity instead.

      2. MRW


        Basically you are willing to risk your children’s future on the possibility that 97 per cent of published climate scientists in peer reviewed journals are 100 per cent wrong.

        The 97% consensus of climate scientists first appeared in 2009 in the now famous Peter Doran and Maggie Zimmerman article published in EOS, Volume 90 Number 3, 20 January 2009 detailing their survey.

        The facts are: Margaret Zimmerman asked two questions of 10,257 Earth Scientists at academic and government institutions. 3146 of them responded. According to Zimmerman in the EOS report, all but 79 of the respondents were excluded.

        “In our survey, the most specialized and knowledgeable respondents (with regard to climate change) are those who listed climate science as their area of expertise and who also have published more than 50% of their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change (79 individuals in total). Of these specialists, 96.2% (76 of 79) answered “risen” to question 1 and 97.4%(75 of 77) answered yes to question 2.”

        97% of 79 climate scientists.

        The survey questions are not in the Doran/Zimmerman article in EOS (linked above). But you can buy the Zimmerman Report separately to read what those survey questions were, the questions that solidified the 97% in everyone’s minds. Here it is: the basis for the consensus.

        Q1. When compared with pre-1800’s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?
        1. Risen
        2. Fallen
        3. Remained relatively constant
        4. No opinion/Don’t know

        Q2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures? [This question wasn’t asked if they answered “remained relatively constant” to Q1]
        1. Yes
        2. No
        3. I’m not sure

        Q3. What do you consider to be the most compelling argument that supports your previous answer (or, for those who were unsure, why were they unsure)? [This question wasn’t asked if they answered “remained relatively constant” to Q1]

        Q4. Please estimate the percentage of your fellow geoscientists who think human activity is a contributing factor to global climate change.

        Q5. Which percentage of your papers published in peer-reviewed journals in the last 5 years have been on the subject of climate change?

        Q6. Age

        Q7. Gender

        Q8. What is the highest level of education you have attained?

        Q9. Which category best describes your area of expertise?

      3. MRW


        You probably also believe that the oceans are basically just fine and as they were a century ago. What sort of human being are you that you are so certain?

        Do you ever read source material? Or is SkepticalScience your speed for climate info?

        One century ago, the pH of the oceans was 8.2. Right now, it’s 8.1. One hundred years later. Check the acidity/alkalinity tables for what that means vis-a-vis the oceans. Google it.

        And as for the health of the oceans? Here ya go: the IPCC AR5 WGII Final Draft released March 31, 2014. You want to read Ch 6 — Ocean systems. (Yes, I’m slogging through this monster document; I read these things in the original in order to know when I am being lied to, and when climate bloggers and journalist activists bullshit me.)
        Here are some quickie highlights in response to what sort of human being could be so certain:

        pg 7 “ Temperature and Salinity
        Over the last 39 years, oceans have warmed at average rates of >0.1 °C per decade in the upper 75 m and 0.015 °C/ decade at 700 m depth (WGI, Ch. 3.2.2, Figure 3.1). Trends differ regionally, seasonally, and interannually (WGI, Ch. 2.7, for ocean regions see 30.5). Temperature changes are particularly large at ENSO (El Nino-Southern Oscillation) with high (3 to 4 year) and low (5 to 7 year) frequencies, and on multidecadal scales (>25 years, Figure 6-1). The strongest warming trends are found at high latitudes where most of the interdecadal variability occurs, while tropical oceans are dominated by interannual frequencies. Global climate models have explored changes in different frequency domains, but their spatial resolution is poor (WGI, Ch. 11.3.3, WGI, Ch. 12.4.7).”

        pg 10” [INSERT FIGURE 6-3 HERE]–(MRW: actually it’s at the end of the chapter)

        Figure 6-3: Environmental changes (bottom) and associated biological responses (top) for the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, left) and the industrial era (right). The PETM represents the best geological analogue for the future ocean in terms of biological responses. Episodes of largest environmental change are indicated with yellow bars. Note the different time scale between the two columns. Both time intervals are characterized by rapid warming both on land and in the ocean and increases in CO2. Atmospheric CO2 and temperature are described with direct measurements (black), proxy reconstructions (grey) and model results (light grey). For the recent anthropocenic record, the AMO is shown to highlight high frequency natural temperature fluctuations (Enfield et al., 2001) and their influence on marine biota. Biological responses to the environmental forcing are divided into calcification, extinction and migration. Note the highly group-specific responses to the environmental change, especially with regards to calcification with decreases, increases and high variability. While there was extinction during the PETM, there is currently no evidence for climate-related extinction in the marine record.”

        pg 53 “At the moment, the uncertainties in modeling and complexities of the ocean system even prevent any quantification of how much of the present changes in the oceans is being caused by anthropogenic climate change or natural climate variability, and how much by other human activities such as fishing, pollution, etc.

        1. MRW

          @Banger, Contd.

          pg 63 “Modeling studies have subsequently revealed that the [less than]15 year archive of satellite-derived NPP is insufficient to distinguish climate- change mediated shifts in NPP from those driven by natural climate variability (Henson et al., 2010; Beaulieu et al., 2013). Although multidecadal, the available time-series of oceanic NPP measurements are also not of sufficient duration relative to the timescales of climate variability modes (up to 60-70 years for AMO, for example, Figure 6- 1). Recent attempts to synthesize longer (i.e. centennial) records of chlorophyll as a proxy for phytoplankton stocks (e.g., Boyce et al., 2010) have been criticized for relying on questionable linkages between different proxies for chlorophyll over a century of records (e.g., Rykaczewski and Dunne, 2011).”

          The IPCC AR5 WGII Ocean chapter is full of explanations, figures, and research cites.

          1. Fiver

            You certainly enjoy dishing it out, but please, tell us what you think re the facts, the threat level, the context, and your notion of solution(s) if any. Take as much time as you need, I’ll be looking for your version of reality.

          2. different clue

            If you take a piece of ice at 32 degrees and add heat to it until it is all water at 32 degrees, it is still 32 degrees. But it contains more heat than it did.

          3. Fiver

            So, MRW, I’m waiting. Here’s the thing.

            Very few people are climate scientists. A larger group, but still relatively small number of people know enough, and are agile enough, to follow the various technical arguments in detail, in the language of physics, atmospheric chemistry, etc.

            Now, it’s evident that NC is not a specialty site in the subject science area. It follows that you are not likely to find many people at NC able to engage at the level you just did. And since they cannot, what you’ve said is no more meaningful than just saying “Piss on you idiots”.

            Now, I , for one, object to that. Not least because you did not, and do not, give us non-specialist idiots any reason to believe you are a something, or a nothing (I am a nothing, obviously). Who of us not able to read minds can know, for example, whether you are on a National Panel? Or a known expert? Or someone in another field who has an opinion? How might we know whether you believe none, some, or all of what the IPCC says? Or if you care? How would we know you’re not a denier altogether? But most important, you leave out why someone might want to pay more attention to you by not laying out your own take on the subject, and how your position on said subject may relate to all the other ‘yous’ and views that make up your own world-view and that collection’s interaction with the world. Are you a paid scientist, a government scientist, a scientist at all?

            For my part, I know for certain (as in I know) that national, international and geopolitical politics have seriously intruded on the whole IPCC process, as a combination of interests of big emitting nations, big fossil fuel producing nations and big consuming nations – and the various private and State corporations involved – overwhelm the process at all levels, yielding the least controversial report possible. Worse, the entire debate has gone off the rails completely with the attempt do a cost/benefit analysis as if this was a RFP. We’ve known we can make the conversion for many decades via efficiencies,renewables and most important, an end to mindless industrial consumerism. All this exercise aims to do is tell everyone not to worry, we can have our cake and eat it, too. Well, fat chance of that. The economic projections and many of the recommendations are pure fantasy – if for no other reason but that they’ve left out entirely the rest of the ecological catastrophe we’re inflicting on the planet, and which will without doubt occur for the same reasons of blind self-denial.

            So, do you believe we’re going to have our cake, and it eat too? Or not?

        2. myshkin

          As far as ocean acidification this is from NOAA.
          “Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the pH of surface ocean waters has fallen by 0.1 pH units. Since the pH scale, like the Richter scale, is logarithmic, this change represents approximately a 30% increase in acidity. Future predictions indicate that the oceans will continue to absorb carbon dioxide and become even more acidic. Estimates of future carbon dioxide levels, based on business as usual emission scenarios, indicate that by the end of this century the surface waters of the ocean could be nearly 150 percent more acidic, resulting in a pH that the oceans haven’t experienced for more than 20 million years.”

          For what it’s worth, my opinion is that people like you are guilty of crimes against humanity.

  9. John B

    How much impact would another global financial crisis have? The last one reduced economic activity, international trade, and pollution to some extent. This certainly isn’t something to seek out. But it may happen anyway, particularly if climate change has some extreme effects that markets fail to anticipate.

  10. Eureka Springs

    So many good points raised in such a short thread. I rather doubt we the human race have any ability or willingness to stave off our inevitable self-demise.

    Vasectomy at birth – Globally. Until population 2.5 to 3 billion or less. Until or unless this happens quickly aren’t all other fine suggestions moot?

    1. Banger

      There are all kinds of suggestions but no authority to impose them. We have very, very, very, very bad rulers and, at all costs, they must be resisted in every way possible.

  11. Thor's Hammer

    Do lemmings running toward the cliff suddenly halt and become enlightened beings? The only question is what sort of beings the remnant of the human species that survive become. And whether their mastery of technology enables them to physically survive on a planet populated primarily by rapidly evolved bacteria and insects.

    To elaborate on a point eluded to during McPherson’s closing remarks on his last video, the oceans have been the great carbon sink that has moderated the impact of the amount of Co2 humans have poured into the atmosphere in the age of industrial civilization. But the result of absorbing that Co2 is that oceans have rapidly become more acidic in composition. This in turn destroys the ability of most species of plankton to form the rudimentary skeletons that allow them to exist. We are already at a tipping point for the survival of plankton at 400ppm atmospheric Co2, and the built in momentum will likely send it over the edge. Plankton are the foundation of the oceanic food chain pyramid: Without them the oceans will become a biological desert and all the fish that help feed a substantial part of the human race will no longer exist.

  12. allcoppedout

    I have strong empathy with the spirituality thing. Odd as a scientist, atheist and the long history of spiritual failure. No snark intended Bangor – I think you’re right.

    I can’t comment on the actual climate science, other than to say I want to hear from climate scientists directly without MSM moderation (nothing to see here folks, believe this guy from the City wearing red braces).

    We have severe problems with argument. You can see this when we debate minor dross like the Uber-taxi phenomenon and can’t see the general madness on our roads, restricting our argument to trivia in the spiritual mess of the dominant economic control fraud domain. The Uber issue becomes just another way of whistling up a single passenger (expensive) trip home. We just can’t get nether regions in gear on the big environmental questions of reliable taxi-bus and shared journeys. The virtuous circle here would be fewer cars on the road (so faster journeys), no parking problems, fewer cars needed, less fuel spewed into the atmosphere, perhaps far less expensive traditional public transport – the list goes on and means less production that also spews fuel into the environment.

    We have become very small-minded and will be seen from a future we are hardly part of as bone-heads that chattered. Currently, we are being exploited by niche-chatter on the environment and economics. Our economics-politics prevents us developing spiritually and we can’t see it.

    I need a car to travel to work, despite living 2 minutes’ walk from a railway station (two changes, tram to one mile from work – 2 hours). Car is 5 minutes from at least one hour of motorway crawl and 1 hr 40 minutes overall to car park half-a-mile from work. Total miles to work 12. Hours a week travelling to work more than an extra day. I could do 95% at home. Journey time in school holidays by car 25 minutes. A taxi-bus could take me door-to-door. If we were all doing this the traffic would be minimal.

    Just how stupid are we? And it’s actually much worse than this.Climate debate? We don’t have one.

    1. Banger

      The science is rather solid. Even if it wasn’t that solid what is the point of playing Russian Roulette with our children’s and grandchildren’s future because we crave comfort and pleasure above all things? In fact those pleasures and comfort don’t match being in a loved one’s arms or being part of a caring and compassionate community who will grab you when you fall and celebrate your success. Why this obsession with childish toys and amusements? I include myself in this critique which makes it all the more painful.

      1. allcoppedout

        I agree on the science. I’d just like it straight from the horse’s mouth. This old video sums it up –

        I’d suggest we are more or less at the end of a massive world war and need to rebuild. We could clearly go modular on a green economy and financing it. People just can’t grasp we can have a great deal more because of the toys fixation and ‘affluence in privacy’. Our society is neurotic in the sense that 80% of the energy we use, including our own work, is wasted effort.

      2. MRW

        Even if it wasn’t that solid what is the point of playing Russian Roulette with our children’s and grandchildren’s future because we crave comfort and pleasure above all things?

        Oh, Lord. The Precautionary Principle. I have the same attitude towards it as Adam Curtis does in the Pt 3 of The Power of Nightmares. I think it’s bullshit, and I won’t have my universe defined by the fear factor and lack of intelligence of others. Curtis is a hoot with The Precautionary Principle; start around 47:45 min.


        BLAIR : I just think these—these dangers are there, I think that it’s difficult sometimes for people to see how they all come together—I think that it’s my duty to tell it to you if I really believe it, and I do really believe it. I may be wrong in believing it, but I do believe it.


        VO [ADAM CURTIS]: What Blair argued was that faced by the new threat of a global terror network, the politician’s role was now to look into the future and imagine the worst that might happen and then act ahead of time to prevent it. In doing this, Blair was embracing an idea that had actually been developed by the Green movement: it was called the “precautionary principle.” Back in the 1980s, thinkers within the ecology movement believed the world was being threatened by global warming, but at the time there was little scientific evidence to prove this. So they put forward the radical idea that governments had a higher duty: they couldn’t wait for the evidence, because by then it would be too late; they had to act imaginatively, on intuition, in order to save the world from a looming catastrophe.


        DURODIE : In essence, the precautionary principle says that not having the evidence that something might be a problem is not a reason for not taking action as if it were a problem. That’s a very famous triple-negative phrase that effectively says that action without evidence is justified. It requires imagining what the worst might be and applying that imagination upon the worst evidence that currently exists.


        BLAIR : Would Al Qaeda buy weapons of mass destruction if they could? Certainly. Does it have the financial resources? Probably. Would it use such weapons? Definitely.


        DURODIE : But once you start imagining what could happen, then—then there’s no limit. What if they had access to it? What if they could effectively deploy it? What if we weren’t prepared? What it is is a shift from the scientific, “what is” evidence-based decision making to this speculative, imaginary, “what if”-based, worst case scenario.

        [ CUT , EXTERIOR , CAMP X-RAY , Guantánamo Bay, Cuba ]

        VO: And it was this principle that now began to shape government policy in the war on terror. In both America and Britain, individuals were detained in high-security prisons, not for any crimes they had committed, but because the politicians believed—or imagined—that they might commit an atrocity in the future, even though there was no evidence they intended to do this. The American attorney general explained this shift to what he called the “paradigm of prevention.”

        1. different clue

          Applying a Paranoia Principle and calling it precautionary does not make it precautionary. Precautionary meant testing a new chemical/product/process/etc.
          before rolling it out.

  13. Alex Tolley

    Zero carbon energy is not the only solution, although it is likely the cheapest (and sanest). Another option is geoengineering to reduce insolation effects. My guess is that the plutocrats of the C21st will extract a lot of planetary wealth by taking on costly geoengineering projects. The oceans will still acidify as CO2 builds up, but that might be a “small price to pay” for cooling by a desperate world. Thus denialism serves the purpose of exacerbating the problem until such drastic measures must be taken.

    1. allcoppedout

      To be honest Alex, I’m inclined to think those in power in such a desperate world will kill off rival carbon footprints like us.

    2. MRW

      Geoengineering? Wanna’ see one of those projects? Rosalind Peterson of the Agriculture Defense Coalition has done a yeoman’s job of cataloguing what is being done right now without our debate, approval, or vote, and what is being planned for the future. Peterson grew up on a farm, worked for the Dept of Agriculture (doing this from memory) in CA and I think for the Fed one as well, and was involved in assessing crop losses. She is retired and is now sounding the alarm for what we are doing to the sun/atmosphere that must feed our crops.

      Anyway, check out this geoengineering plan:

      I know you won’t have time to read the whole thing, so skim the first 5-6 pages of executive summary. The sick mo-fos that came up with this are presently doing a subset of it in NM.

  14. Luke The Debtor

    Why do climate models seem to discount the role of water vapor (the most abundant GHG and biggest contributor to the GHE) and clouds (which reflect about 1/3 of the sunlight entering the atmosphere)?

    1. Gaius Publius

      “Why do climate models seem to discount the role of water vapor (the most abundant GHG and biggest contributor to the GHE) and clouds (which reflect about 1/3 of the sunlight entering the atmosphere)?”

      Actually, they don’t, Luke. if you read the underlying Mann article, you’ll see how those effects are factored in. What’s not factored in, which Mann admits, is what Hansen identifies as slow feedback processes, like slow albedo and arctic ice melt.

      FWIW, Hansen has said that the “equiblrium” number when taking that into account may be +6°C. That is, if we double ppm CO2, then stop entirely, the planet stabilizes at 6 degrees C warmer than the pre-Industrial (Holocene) norm. I’ll be writing about Hansen’s conclusion in a bit. Thanks for the comment.


      1. MRW

        Actually, they don’t, Luke. if you read the underlying Mann article, you’ll see how those effects are factored in.

        BS they are. And the recent (March 31, 2014) IPCC AR5 WGII report repeated that the models are incapable of rendering what Luke is saying. Until Michael Mann has the scientific cajones to present the data that backs up his hypotheses–widely derided as unacceptable in science– then he remains an anomaly that no one can take seriously.

        That is, if we double ppm CO2, then stop entirely, the planet stabilizes at 6 degrees C warmer than the pre-Industrial (Holocene) norm. I’ll be writing about Hansen’s conclusion in a bit.

        “the planet stabilizes at 6 degrees C warmer” Says who? a model? That does not yet comport with the trajectory of the 1979-2014 OBSERVABLE TEMPERATURE DATA. “I’ll be writing about Hansen’s conclusion” Good. Hope you explain the logarithmic aspect of doubling CO2, and how it evens off, and how it CANNOT double the temp.

        Better yet, let’s see you explain radiative physics/infrared astronomy, which is what people really need to understand if they are going to understand how radiative heat affects greenhouse gases, and in what infrared bands. Start by telling us the temps in Kelvin for the infrared bands, Gaius, for water vapor and CO2, if you even know them. Explain the processes. Explain Wien’s Displacement Law and how that applies in Greenhouse Gas theory. Explain the N-band.

        1. MRW

          Luke, you’re right. Here’s what happens in the infrared when you double the concentration of CO2. From Thermal Physics by Stephen and Katherine Blundell, 2010, Oxford University Press, p. 454

          As you can see, the 15-micron absorption band for CO2 is around 193 Kelvin or -113 F. That’s because only water vapor absorbs in the 220K to 320K temps, which is equal to the 9 micron to 13 micron infrared absorption band. (Maybe 3% of CO2 does, but only at 13 microns or higher where the temp is 222K, or -60F or cooler.) Anyway newsflash the earth only emits radiative heat in the 220K to 320K temperature band. The only greenhouse gas that absorbs in that infrared band is water vapor. Between 9-13 microns. (Ozone absorbs at around 9.6 microns.)

          Check any IPCC report. They leave water vapor out as a greenhouse gas.

  15. Chris Maukonen

    The problem of course is that the climate scientists insist on putting this in degrees Celsius and the people in this country cannot relate to Celsius, only Fahrenheit.

    They would have more luck if they said Michigan will be in 80s in Jan.

    1. optimader

      Is the problem w/ the scientists or the intellectual level the public CHOOSES to operate at in this country (US)?

      I think not the former.
      If there is any chance of an informed opinion in this society doing anything meaningful, will it happen w/ a population that cant convert between degC and degF?

  16. Brooklin Bridge

    On the spiritual side of global warming (begging pardon for assumptions I am not qualified to make).
    That which moves within all things does not suspend spiritual or even physical laws lightly. Spiritual progress with regards to global warming will come in the same way it does for all the other (closely related) issues, such as overpopulation, and that is at least outwardly in the form of secular resolution, or more bluntly, a hard learning experience on a very bumpy road.

    This is like a traffic accident we -alone- got ourselves into and which has negative consequences for the same reasons that the laws of our land should have negative consequences on those who break them. Simply because we fail to uphold laws equally doesn’t mean that nature and/or God suspends them every time we get ourselves into trouble. Moreover, while the act of getting into a fatal accident may serve to awaken spiritual qualities in parts of society, that does not mean we suddenly become super duper fully self realized drivers able to redirect universal energy to stop the accident in mid course. By historical, mythological and allegorical accounts, such spiritual energy and discipline takes lifetime(s?). Note also that the extermination of our species -at our own hands- does not stop evolution or ultimate purpose.

    On this post
    This is another excellent piece in Gaius series on Global Warming and particularly of its imminence which people of all stripes are having a hard time grasping. I have had difficulty in the past with the notion that we as a society (or as a variably developed and undeveloped species) are actually going to do something simply because the point at which this self imposed “accident” escapes our control is so close at hand. Our future, instead, looks to be irrevocably tied up with getting through a period of global corruption before we can do much else. But I no longer think Gaius is simply suggesting Zero Carbon as some pie in the sky goal that flies in the face of credulity, but rather, and considerably more realistically, as a factual piece of information related to escaping the greatest negative consequences possible at this time with the only twist being that he personally will not give up trying. Just as single payer was the solution that everyone should have been insisting on to avoid a complete Trojan horse with the health care debacle, so zero carbon is such a policy description now. Gaius has stated in comments that he remains insistent on a form of positivism until the end, but that is a personal position that corresponds to the way he presents zero carbon, not with the fact that it is a (granted loose) description of a necessary state to avoid global calamity. In effect, we can avoid calamity now (though not all effects) by zero carbon but in the very near future (denoted by the color lines) we will instead be avoiding degrees of calamity.

    A quibble:
    The use of in the pipeline seems inconsistent though it may just be me. It seems to start out being the future part of an addition of temperatures (what’s additionally in store + where we currently are) and ends up referring to present and future temperatures already having been added up and just waiting to be realized.

  17. Garrett Pace

    If the global elite ever starts to feel confident in their ownership of the world, at that point they will start to want to take care of it, and reduce the footprint of the “surplus population” (the rest of us).

  18. backwardsevolution

    I read too many good people who are against the banksters and how the government is aiding and abetting them, yet they call for more growth, an increase to the minimum wage, the “let’s paper this sucker over” and get back to normal (jubilees, student loan bankruptcy, lower mortgage rates, blah, blah, blah).

    It’s called the big suck. If we just do this or that, then it’ll all be okay, and then never stop to think about the ramifications. Whenever something is too easy, whatever seems to benefit us (in the short-term), causes a loss somewhere (the environment, the air we breathe, the stress on families, etc.)

    Financialization, consumerism (can’t get enough) – all of it is just plain stupid!!!!! Stop buying, stop falling for “something for nothing” schemes. All it does is pull demand forward, which causes more pollution, over-population, and on and on.

    If we have anyone to blame, it is ourselves. WE have done it. If anything, we should stop buying, creating falling prices, fewer babies born. If not now, when?

    What an absolutely stupid race!

  19. phichibe

    I agree w/t the sense of GP’s post and the perils of the present trend lines. I work with the same mathematics as are in the climate models (nonlinear parabolic and hyberbolic partial differential eq’s, for those who want details) and the scary thing about these sort of equations is that you can hit a region of the state space where the dynamics change very rapidly and in ways that defy intuition. i haven’t read the articles cited yet but i think the scenario that scares me the most is a diminution or outright cessation of the Atlantic ocean current that carries heat from the west African coast up to Europe. it’s the reason Paris is temperate whereas Winnipeg Canada is sub-arctic, even though the two are at practically the same latitude. if this heat pump stops, Europe will freeze, European agricultural production will plummet, the tropics will boil, and the carrying capacity of the planet will fall from its current estimated maximum of 10 billion humans to something below that – and the closer it gets to the current 7 billion the closer we get to truly apocalyptic scenarios.

    the great Atlantic conveyor is also a major factor in the dynamics of the most important weather cycle on the planet, namely the Indian ocean monsoons. approximately 2.5 billion people (Indian subcontinent, southern China, SE Asia) are dependent on these to grow their crops. one substantial drought could exhaust global grain reserves, while two in consecutive years could bring famines that kill tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of people, almost none of whom have a carbon footprint larger than a first world domestic animal.

    re: nuclear. i’ve been skeptical of anti-nuke types since before jackson browne was arrested for beating up his then girlfriend darryl hannah. i’ve listened to harry shearer’s ‘le show’ for over twenty years (love the YS guest spots, btw!) and he’s been inveighing against ‘at-ty the atom’ (a copyrighted feature of harry’s, i believe ;-) for all that time. then the engineering incompetence that the japanese demonstrated in the design of the backup generator system at fukashima was revealed by what was admittedly a 10-sigma earthquake and tsunami and i have to admit i was shaken in my confidence. the japanese are not noted for slipshod designs, and i can only shudder to think of what faults are latent in other reactor buildings around the world.

    that said, i also follow dr. james hanson and his work, and actually saw his testimony to then senator al gore’s subcommitte in 1986 when the term ‘global warming’ was first used before congress. hansen has in the last five years become a full-throated advocate for nuclear fission because he views the present trajectory of the global ecosystem as so perilous. i’m watching the documentary ‘pandora’s promise’ on the same topic. there are many compelling reasons for fission-phobia, and i don’t know if a fully-loaded profit/loss account (including the ‘too big to privately insure’ benefit that civilian nuclear plants get from the federal government in the US and probably everywhere else and also the costs of our Persian gulf protection for the last 70 years that Big Oil should have on their P&L statements) would indicate that nuclear fission is more affordable than mass deployment of ever-cheaper photovoltaic panels. moore’s law is dangerous to bet against.

    that said, i think that people like tom friedman do the anti-warming movement a great disservice by stating that we can transition to a carbon-reduced/free future painlessly.. people distrust the ‘tastes great/less filling’ promises of madison avenue, and for good reason. get-rich-quick schemes have existed since the stone age, with a conspicuous absence of successful results – the best way to get rich is still the old-fashioned way, to be born to rich parents. the transition to a carbon-reduced/free future is going to be expensive and traumatic, most of all for americans who have since world war two ended become ever more accustomed to/demanding of larger houses, more cars, greater population dispersion to suburbs and now exurbs, etc. telling people that they can have their cake and eat it to when it comes to this transition is both naive and dishonest, and worst of all counter-productive: the masses will instinctively disbelieve such promises.

    for the record, i live in a 1200 sq. ft house that does not have air conditioning (refrigerated air, as it’s quaintly called in new mexico). i have a 19 year old car (admittedly not fuel efficient) that has 29K miles on it. my biggest carbon footprint is my home music studio equipment and computers and networking gear, but some of that is a business necessity and the rest is my psychological balm to keep from going postal on bad-hair days. but almost all the new houses i see being constructed here and elsewhere are 3K+ sq ft mcmansions, most of the new cars i see on the streets are large-ish SUVs or high-performance models. most people want to eat beef or pork 6 days a week and go on vacations every year. all this will have to change, and woe betide the politician who says this.

    i think the only analogy that i can find in american history for both the scope of what will be demanded of us and the circumstances under which we will accede to those demands is WW2. even a casual reader of history must know that in the 1940 presidential campaign wendell wilkie and FDR competed with each as to who could pledge more fervently that the US would not enter the war in europe (where germany had defeated and occupied by that point most of the continent) or the pacific (where japan was already occupying french indochina in addition to its chinese aggressions). my point is that until there was a profound ‘tipping point’ – what it math we’d call a singularity or extreme non-linearity – namely, the attack at pearl harbor, even FDR could not mobilize public opinion to support countering two of the most dangerous, despotic regimes in human history. to employ another metaphor common to this debate, i’m afraid we’re going to need to see a lot of poached frogs floating around us before we summon the will and the effort that the transition away from carbon fuels will require.


  20. Rosario

    With respect to the article. I hope we can all agree that global warming predictions have been far more optimistic than the reality at present. As is true in any system with an enormous number of influencing variables, things will never go as hypothesized, and in this case, unfortunately, the hypothesis has erred on the side of slower, manageable climate change . My true reason for commenting is related to the possible solutions. First and foremost, Capitalism is a no go. Capitalism is a production/consumption (and production always comes first) economic monoculture, and this paradigm will always consume more energy than is necessary for a healthy existence. As far as power production, it is wise to account for total cost of energy. Nuclear appears to have advantages over all energy production methods when one is presented with a completed plant with fuel refined a priori, but this is not how fuel based power is created. A fire cannot be made without collecting wood and striking a few sparks. The same is true for fuel based power production. Uranium mining is incredibly energy intensive, and its refinement is a monster unique amidst all of the fuel refinement processes. I’ll leave researching the process to the reader. The same can be said of all of the other fuels (carbon based) used. Coal uses the least refinement, Uranium the most, but they all require extraction, transportation, and refinement. In terms of lifetime of power generation, cost of development (not in terms of capital but energy), and impact on the environment (beyond CO2 but including methane emissions), hydro power (particularly small-scale hydro) is the best option, followed by wind, then photovoltaic. If deposition for solar cells could be done at room temperature then photovoltaic would be #1 on the latter list. To conclude, it is important to discuss our power production options in terms of the cost of energy in energy rather than capital. This includes: the energy to extract, refine, use, and most importantly (in my view) the energy to clean up the messes that these energy production methods create. Capital has been and always will be an imperfect human construct, energy (kilowatts, Joules, ect.) exist as functions of nature whether we are here to describe them or not.

    1. Optimader

      Defining cost in terms of energy-> yes
      Evaluating the nuclear option as being the current uranium fuel model-> big fail
      Stating that capitalism is a “no go” economic model-> unsupported claim, Historically which is a superior system in which to innovate even in the currently crippled interpretation of capitalism we operate in?

      I read quite a bit of perception of problem, little in the way of practical solution approaches.

      Probably a good place to start is a realistic statement of the “acceptable TW of global energy consumption”, then on the other side of the balanced equation should be an unpacked proposal for a mix of modes energy generation that can be significant. Starting anywhere else is pretty much BS over the cracker barrel.
      A quick analysis reveals the impracticality of strategies like “small scale hydro” as aesthetically appealing they may be for the well intentioned hair shirt crowd

      1. Rosario

        I could have gone into more detail above, but I’ll clarify a few points.

        I’m unsure what other viable nuclear option there is? Uranium as a fuel source is the most widely used. As for other fuel sources for “nuclear” power in general. The same problem is present. Energy in versus energy out. If I see better results, and in short order, I’ll be convinced.

        As for capitalism as a system, maybe I opened the discussion too broadly. From what I have found technology drives innovation (it acts as a positive feedback), not an economic ideology, and often technological development happens very accidentally. The use of coal as an energy source certainly had more to do with the industrialization of the modern world (and the development of capitalist ideology) than Ricardo or Smith. We could even debate its influence in the abolition of slavery. I lean more toward the materialist camp on this one but there can definitely be a healthy debate over how much culture/ideology influences innovation.

        Ultimately, we may need to consider modelling a society where we do not need 600 MW plants (nuclear, coal, natural gas, and hydro) running 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year. In fact, we will be forced into this situation eventually. Technology, however powerful in changing our world, is not a magic bullet. Small hydro, wind farms, ect. may be laughable now, but they will be indispensable in a world of depleted fuel sources (and far less destructive).

  21. Apneaman

    Many market solutions to solve problems created by markets. I notice that for most people stopping industrial civilization is not part of the discussion. Switching from fossil fuels to alternatives to keep industrial civilization going is like switching from injecting heroin to smoking heroin to keep your habit going.

    1. backwardsevolution

      Apneaman – “I notice that for most people stopping industrial civilization is not part of the discussion.” Exactly!

      1. Optimader

        Stopping “industrial civilization” –disengaging from “industrial civilization” is best first pursued by those that are not heroic internet blog comment philosophers tirelessly peck ing away at their keyboard with great angst about their neighbors “overcomsumption” while eating a nicely chilled chicken leg from the frig.

          1. abynormal

            ahhh…did Opti shatter your virtual reality

            “Arrogance is a creature. It does not have senses.
            It has only a sharp tongue and the pointing finger.”
            T. Beta

            1. backwardsevolution

              abynormal – Why you…..

              “Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but STUPID lasts forever.”

              1. optimader

                Wow Backward some pithy reflections there!!. But most impressive, you’re able to do that all with a post-industrial computer you’ve built w/ mud and straw.
                Go for it Tiger, your liv’in the dream!

  22. Fiver

    I am very, very pleased (and of course, dismayed) to see this on NC as it pretty much demolishes any arguments in favour of maintaining the fossil fuel cycle in any form. I’ve argued the crisis was this critical and in this time-frame (circa 2030 for complete conversion) for quite some time, but based on the total negative impacts of human activity and our (likely) bad reactions when we all know we all know. I knew about the potential for methane as a game-changer, but did not know about these particular studies. Only a complete reversal of trend in the Arctic starting this year (a very cold one) would buy us more time now and that is just not a good bet.

    This will not be an ‘if’ for much longer as the public tangibly experiences the pace of change in conditions. First thing out the window is the concept of “growth” for the sake of “growth” with respect to our stupendously wasteful and toxic civilization. Gone. Goodbye. Done. Over.

    An entirely new economy based on an entirely different set of principles – or nothing.

  23. David West

    Solar and wind power is nowhere near good enough, not to mention, faulty, costly to build, and requires 10,000 more space than nuclear per watt. Geothermal has potential, but it is insanely costly and can only be built in certain areas.

    The real problem is not energy creation, but rather transfer. The current grids are woefully under funded and literally lose sometimes as much as 80% through transmission.

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