We’re Past the Point of No Return for Climate Change

Yves here. Readers will no doubt perceive the disconnect in the article. It argues that the world has passed an event horizon as far as climate change is concerned, yet posits that there are still things that can be done to prevent the inevitable.

I am not arguing for complacency, in that we all should be taking steps to slow and ideally halt the rate of increase in the levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. But this article places undue faith in technology magic bullets. Not only do they take time we don’t have to deploy on a large scale basis, they take energy, and often the use of scarce or environmentally costly natural resources, to implement.

The biggest near-term priority needs to be radical reduction in the use of energy. And there is a lot that could be done that does not involve great changes in lifestyle; in fact, as far as businesses are concerned, the big barrier is inertia (compounded by the “don’t tell me what to do” reflex). As the Guardian described in 2007, BP in 1997 decided to lower its carbon emissions below the 1990 level by 2010. It achieved the goal in 3 years rather than 13 at a cost of $20 million. Oh, and it happened to save $650 million. With that sort of calculus, you’d think that every big corporation would be on the emissions-reduction bandwagon.

One of my new pet issues is private jets, which have become a pervasively-used, unjustified perk for private equity fund managers. As we discussed in How Pension Funds, Universities and Endowments Pay for Private Equity Private Jet:

One of the class markers of the private equity industry is that its members routinely fly on private jets. That’s often because the larger and even some of the smaller firms charge their private jet travel to private equity portfolio companies. That means that the cost is borne first and foremost by investors in private equity like public pension funds, private pension funds, universities like Harvard and Yale, and other foundations and endowments.

The enormous costs of private jets, while they are borne by the investors, are almost entirely hidden from them. PE firms keep investors in the dark by having the portfolio companies they’ve bought on behalf of their investors pay these jet bills. Amazingly, investors have been fooled by this simple ruse for decades – it’s as if your stockbroker deducts his fee from your account, and you regard his services as free because you never see a bill.

Now admittedly, there are cases, if you are taking a team of people from one not-well-air-serviced location to another, when private jet travel is cheaper than flying commercial. But those instances are rare.

It does not appear that private equity firms have obtained authorization to travel at a more luxurious standard than is the norm for the investors themselves or Corporate America generally. We searched through our stash of private equity limited partnership agreements and found no disclosure regarding the use of private jets.

Flying first and business class is more environmentally costly than flying coach. And by private jet? Fuggedaboudit. While it’s hard to make solid estimates given how many different types of private planes there are plus the fact that they often don”t fly fully loaded (raising the question of how passengers to assume are on board), a rough and ready estimate is that flying by private jet emits ten times as much in greenhouse gases as flying commercial on the same route.

Now it’s easy to say in terms of total emissions that this doesn’t add up to all that much. But that’s the wrong attitude. We need somehow to instill a sense of societal urgency, along with the Japanese attitude of kaizen, which is continuous small improvements. And having seen kaizen work in a Japanese company, it was not nice, spontaneous, bubble up from the bottom process. In our bank (everyone in the Japanese hierarchy called Sumitomo “our bank”), each section during every kaizen exercise to come up with at least one kaizen suggestion. Many were implemented, and the best ones were touted in the branch as a mini badge of honor for the team that had recommended it. But the message was clear: improving efficiency was everyone’s duty. We need the same attitude about carbon change. And we need visible changes in habits at the top, like draconian taxes or serious legal restrictions on private jet use on routes where there is regular commercial service. We need to see far more focus on things that can be done now, or in short order, with no or minimal investment, dumb stuff like weatherproofing your home, using fans in the summer more and air conditioners less and planning your car trips so as to make fewer on your weekly rounds, as opposed to relying on “green energy will save us.” That vein of magical thinking both kicks the can down the road and conveniently makes addressing climate change someone else’s responsibility.

By Thom Hartmann,an author and nationally syndicated daily talk show host. His newest book is “The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America — and What We Can Do to Stop It.” Originally published at Alternet

If you watched cable news at all this weekend, you probably heard a lot about Donald Trump’s bad week and how it was a turning point in the presidential campaign. But you probably didn’t hear anything about another big turning point, one that demonstrates how little time we really have left to stop climate change.

Last week, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography announced that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has stayed above 400 parts per million throughout the entire year up to this point.

We’ve crossed the 400 parts per million (or PPM) threshold before — sometimes for weeks at a time, sometimes for months — but the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere usually dips at the beginning of autumn, something that just hasn’t happened this year.

As a result, scientists now think that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will stay above 400 parts per million permanently.

That’s right — permanently, as in forever, at least in human terms.

This is, to paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden, a big “effing” deal.

The last time there was this much carbon in the atmosphere, human beings didn’t even exist, at least not in our current form. And just for some perspective, 400 parts per million is already about 50 parts per million more than what most scientists consider “safe” levels of CO2 concentration.

So yeah, things don’t look good at all for planet Earth.

Couple this with vanishing Arctic sea ice, rising sea levels and the fact that 2016 has already been the hottest year on record, and things look even worse. As if it wasn’t already obvious before, it should be now: We are rapidly running out of time to stop climate change. We’re already in the danger zone, and every single day we keep pumping fossil fuels into the atmosphere just pushes us closer towards total climate devastation.

The situation may even be worse than most people realize.

James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, now argues that the 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels threshold — that most international institutions say is the baseline of how much warming we can take — is “nonsense” and “a prescription for disaster.”

Hansen now argues that we need to lower the limit of “acceptable” warming by a whole degree to 1 degree Celsius — a number we’re already eight-tenths of the way to reaching globally, and that we passed years ago in the Arctic.

So that’s the situation we’re in. It’s very obviously a dire one. Which raises the question: what do we do about it?

With global climate change rapidly reaching the point of massive worldwide destruction of the environment that sustains our lives, how do we stop it in its tracks and maybe, just maybe, reverse some of the damage we’ve already done?

Well, first we keep the carbon in the ground by ending all subsidies and imposing a worldwide carbon tax on the production, emission and use of all greenhouse gasses.

Then we do what we should have done decades of years ago — we leave fossil fuels behind once and for all.

This is more possible now than at any time in our history. As the Department of Energy recently concluded, the cost of the five leading clean energy technologies has fallen between 40 and 94 percent since 2008 alone.

As dark and gloomy as the situation is, we have an opportunity here to create a much better future that is very well within our grasp.

Let’s get to work before it’s too late.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. kimyo

    you can’t evaluate the accuracy of computer models without measured data. according to wikipedia, ocean temperature measurements at depth began ~ 16 years ago.

    there are solar cycles ranging from 11 to ~10,000 years. 16 years of data does not suffice to validate models of ocean temps. if such a claim were posted here, regarding economic modeling, it would be shot down in 2 seconds.

    anyone who imagines that the war on carbon will be any more successful than the wars on drugs/terrorism/guns/poverty is deluding themselves.

    1. Binky

      The war on carbon will be successful because at some point the surface temperature of the earth will become sufficient to prevent humans from living. At this point presumably the carbon will be re-sequestered from the atmosphere to the deep ocean sediments, organic layers of the soil, and ultimately back to coal and oil and gas.

      Wikipedia is poor sourcing and for controversial issues is one of the worst places to get your baseline data. You can look at realclimate.org or https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/paleoclimatology-data/datasets to get a handle on the facts of the matter. Or you can placidly recline with Fox News and Watts Up With That in an Onanistic orgy of agnatological bliss. Climate reconstruction is performed with multiple competing data sets derived from proxy data sources as well as direct measurement (e.g. https://epic.awi.de/32422/1/Thesis_HO_library.pdf) . There is currently a project to digitize sea temperature data going back to the 18th century from ship logs in historic archives, which far exceeds whatever factoid data point gave you 16 years of data.

      If you want the real skinny the place to start is here: https://grist.org/series/skeptics/ The climate denial/lobbyist movement is a centralized propaganda effort by known actors whose payment structure is very well known. They use the same techniques developed for the same businesses that have specialized in selling suicide products (cigarettes, meth, triclosan, antibiotic animal feed) to the same rubes and marks who fell for their scam every previous occasion.

      The real issue is momentum. We have put a lot of energy into a giant system and the consequences are only barely apparent and universally bad. Quibbles about computer models or data sets are minor in comparison to the observable effects in the Arctic at present, now happening. Happy Friday!

  2. Svante Arrhenius

    The real heart breaker here, is the cascading inevitability and strident malevolence of our ruling class. That we have no say, whatsoever in what’s about to become an exponential increase in slick-water fracking, off shore, deep-water, scores-of-thousands more wells, as methane percolates from where the tundra used to be. And THIS is if Hillary wins… with down-ticket “choices” like API favorite McGinty! After DNC’s Philly stomp-down, we have no say, no vote in these matters. Obama’s approved ~1,500 offshore plays in the Gulf, fracking simply to be green-washed and specious, toxic geo-engineering schemes to be speculated-up (as proven methods of carbon sequestration, such as regenerative agriculture get stomped-down by three conglomerate agricultural bio-technology monopolies, poisoning our food, water & destroying bio-diversity… soon by government decree?) Sorry for the rant, but virtually all of the lefty blogs are now basically David Brock’s K Street trolls or Ketchum, Burson-Marsteller echo chambers, and with our choice of a Plutocratic reactionary corporatist administration…or an up-front, ravening fascist, all of our silly dissent will soon be SEO’d down Google’s memory hole any old way?

    1. Knot Galt

      I cannot disagree with your justifiable rant. It is the path we are all on, like it or not. It appears that this will be a much different world that will mostly play out as a slow degenerative disease with bouts of cataclysmic flavors happening in increasing episodes of reoccurring frequency. I think Kunstler has a firm grasp on what is most likely to happen . . . . if we are lucky. Here are two other scenarios. One, cities and towns will collectively circle the wagons and condense into higher density cores. And probably because birth control goes against the grain of evolution, attrition will take a darker side through future events and the happenstance of location and chance. Those areas that develop a socially consciousness kaizen that is derived organically, according to the region, may survive but without the advantage of technology simply because they will lack the needed resources and “enlightenment” required. However, we all know that our civilization’s history has almost always been one of total collapse. Think of what life must of been like back in the 1700’s. And then add ever increasing temperatures that start to kick in as the carbon in the air “matures”. Think of “Matthew” type events happening including ‘things’ man caused like the Dust Bowl. (Indeed, studying the DustBowl is a good abject lesson.) Two, we band together and stop using fossil fuels and switch immediately. For example, we could begin an orderly transition towards resiliency instead of creating WAR. If we are lucky, doing a 180 might diminish the disastrous impacts that will occur. Of course, that means controlling greed, avarice, and, the main culprit, our collective “slothiness”. One definition that may be given to sloth is habitual disinclination to exertion. Whatever happens, Life is about to change again. Get set. And seat belts won’t help!

      1. Svante Arrhenius

        Nah… the same segments of society (probably scions of the same families) who fueled our concrete encrusted suburban, white flight Jetson ‘Merikin Dream would welcome the abyss? It will terrorize the serfs into ever more debt. We’re rolling 19 new YOOJE pipelines (at all the various, horrible new Indian & OLD Russian owned, reopened mills) to send Marcellus gas to hundreds of new power stations down south, to power the soon to be unemployable, indentured peon’s leaky old air conditioners (god’s roasting them over gay marriage, miscegenation or some damn Yankee plot). I’m trying to picture rich folks in autonomous CNG micro-turbine hybrids, trying to outrun F450s or Rams, running on algae diesel, stolen from hacked robot tankers, rescued by gig-economy drones? Obviously, there will be a few bugs to iron out in the interim; until the fission abattoirs get built? One thing’s certain: whomever loses will blame US, and whomever wins will have to shut us up for good!

      2. PhilU

        I don’t think you understand what they meant by 2C not being safe anymore…. That means that at somewhere around 2C we hit runaway greenhouse, As in good bye all water because we are now Venus.

      3. Gaylord

        Just for the hell of it one might study extinction events, not dustbowl events because this is far more catastrophic. Think firestorms that can’t be put out, extreme storms and extensive flooding, oceans dead and emitting hydrogen sulfide gas, earthquakes, desertification and therefore no food grows, no fresh water, no animals, and don’t forget the meltdown of all those nuclear reactors and spent fuel storage. MASS EXTINCTION is arriving and soon.

        Now try talking about it with friends and colleagues and relatives — you become known as a doomer crank. I mean, everybody knows that life goes on in a linear fashion, and humans can always adapt and overcome, especially with our powerful technology, right? Sure, future generations will come up with solutions to most of our problems. No, it is too late. Human hubris and self obsession are our fatal faults.

        We are done. The only remaining reason to do anything is the slim possibility of minimizing the destabilization of earth’s climate moderating system in order to save some habitat for other species.

    2. Ignacio

      I was sickened to read that some Trump advisor said that there is no point to reduce emissions while China is emitting more. Race to the bottom.

      1. Svante Arrhenius

        It do kinda make us olds feel like we’re in one of those slow-mo… ever escalating horror science fiction flix from our ill spent youth? Being a 64 yr old wishy-washy Keynesian Democrat, working in the gas/ oil industry however, I’m personally more offended to see pretty damn obvious CTR trolls crossing-over to lecture us “basement-dwelling, tree-hugger, millennial parasites” about our silly-ass hysterical entitlement, in not seeing how deep-water TLP high volume, slick water fracking will create jobs & fight-off all them evil Jihadists & Rooskis? I’m awaiting Wonkette, C&L, MotherJones, The Atlantic, Slate, Kos… to open with Energy in Depth ads; as though the Correct the Record trolls are already double-dipping, trying to greenwash offshore fracking? http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v538/n7623/full/nature19797.html

      2. witters

        This has been the US position pretty much since Rio. Do not blame Trump when it is you in the mirror.

    3. Tyler

      Millions of Americans should occupy Washington, D.C., shut it down, and say to Congress, “Pass legislation to radically slash carbon and methane emissions or we don’t leave.”

      1. Gaylord

        Haven’t we seen this picture before? They would be corralled into an exclusion zone, tear gassed, pepper sprayed, sound bombed and stunned, and hauled away to jail. This is FASCISM we are living in, baby.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    The more I read the current science, the more despairing I am, and the more content I am with my decision not to have children. The ‘disaster’ window has gone from ‘maybe the end of this century’ to ‘within a couple of decades at most’. The latest research on ocean warming, glacial melt in Greenland and the Antarctic and on shifting weather patterns is frankly terrifying. Its like getting a cancer diagnosis, but one that extends to all of humanity and other species. And yet its still considered a ‘niche’ concern. We are truly the frogs sitting in a saucepan wondering if its getting a little warm.

    The problem of course is that the elites are making the move from ‘there isn’t a need to do anything’ to ‘its too late anyway, lets just protect ourselves’. Its vital that this narrative is constantly challenged. We can’t stop serious climate change. But we can at least hope to mitigate some of it, and make our systems more resilient so the next generation has some chance of a normal life.

    I once fell into the camp of ‘bottom up’ change, trying to minimise my personal pollution outputs. But that option has failed and was probably futile anyway. The problem is so huge only large scale political and economic change driven from above (with pressure from below) can make a difference. Its politics, basically. The only glimmer of hope is that it is slowly getting through to the elites that even the rich can’t avoid the impacts, and that the massive progress in the last decade on energy technologies means that a rapid transition to a low carbon economy is not just possible, but may well be economically the best option.

    The great problem is that while we know our elites are venal and corrupt, there is plenty of evidence that they are pretty stupid too.

    1. aab

      The great problem is that while we know our elites are venal and corrupt, there is plenty of evidence that they are pretty stupid too.

      The latter element is what takes me from mere fury to the edge of madness, particularly because they are justifying their lurid luxury and obscene power on the basis of their “merit.”

      1. Svante Arrhenius

        As our betters abandon their tight-gas/ oil Ponzi scheme, they’ll have need a pointy new pyramid to keep their heads above the seething maelstrom they’ve dumped on Trump’s casket of disposables. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/19/science/methane-leaks-in-natural-gas-supply-chain-far-exceed-estimates-study-says.html http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/10/04/fracking-industrys-new-plan-prosecute-those-who-push-drilling-bans http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/data/Ingraffea_et_al_2014_EPAwebinar.pdf I’m amazed geo-engineering BS ain’t all over CNN?

      2. jrs

        Yes they do come across as really dumb when you get down to it regardless of what intelligence and education “signifiers” they may throw in their talk. They lack the survival sense even a deer in the headlights might have.

        They are neither smart nor qualified but they play one on t.v.

    2. Skip Intro

      I think you underestimate the beneficial effects of massive economic collapse and a touch of nuclear war.

    3. casino implosion

      I just had a kid and I’m happy about it. The way I look at it is, someone has to be left to rule the ruins.

    4. DJG

      PlutoniumKun: Maybe “stupefied” is the word. The recent interview at the Intercept with Obama, in which he claimed to not want to be dropping drones on people and wanting to avert other presidents from doing so, was a portrait of a man who is stupefied. The question is whether Obama, who seems to have a limited intellectual range, for all the ballyhoo, was stupefied before or after his arrival at the presidency.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, its one of the biggest revelations to me of the past few years – the strong evidence that Obama, among other things, actually isn’t all that bright is one of them. To use Isiah Berlins typology, as intellectuals go he is very much a hedgehog at best, not a fox, the latter of which is what you undoubtedly need in a leader. His hedghoginess seems to lie in arcane aspects of the law and the use of rhetoric.

      2. Ignacio

        I would say after and during the electoral process. If during the process and the term, presidents were institutionally shielded against stupefaction democracies would improve.

    5. steelhead23

      Examples matter. Yves is onto something when she suggests our fat cats fly commercial – in the cheap seats. I suppose our presidents have given up on being examples for conservation after Carter was ridiculed for wearing sweaters and Reagan took the solar panels off the WH roof. Obama would rise in my book if in his last months in office he ordered a new Air Force one – a new plane designed to be as energy efficient and lowest carbon emitter possible. That’s how you lead, Mr. President, by example.

      1. Cry Shop

        Until recently, and I expect it may resume anytime, for over 2 years Obama flew Air Force One nearly every weekend to Sunnyland, CA (Otherwise known as The Western White House). Purpose, to play a round of golf and probably get away from his wife and kids, who never accompanied him on these weekend jaunts. For security reasons a second duplicate 747-400 would fly the same route. That’s how committed Obama is to personally reducing green house gas emissions.

  4. Cry Shop

    It’s going to take a power source that doesn’t exist, like dirt cheap, plentiful nuclear fusion, to power processes to extract carbon dioxide and methane and bury it back at rates 10 – 100 times faster than we extracted it now. We’ll have to overcome the massive releases from perma-frost that have been catalyzed by human emissions.

    What extreme measures can do is buy a little bit more time to come up with than technology, but it does look grim for humans and much of the bio-sphere.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Nuclear fusion was 40 years away when I was first reading about it in the 1980’s, and its still 40 away at least. Its a huge boondoggle. Even fission has been a failure – the only economically viable reactors now are still essentially the same as the first ones (light water cooled) developed in the 1950’s – none of the alternative designs have proven viable, for all the hype, and the costs keep going up and up.

      The only known and viable way to start extracting carbon from the atmosphere (which is something I think will be vital) is via those high tech start-ups known as trees. There is enormous scope for planting and harvesting for the specific purpose of taking in carbon and locking it up – preferably in a stable and non-polluting form, such as biochar. I believe its only through such relatively low tech, robust systems, that we can begin to mitigate the problem. The problem is that there is no funding mechanism out there to achieve it in the massive scale necessary.

      1. Cry Shop

        It’s going to take a power source that doesn’t exist, like dirt cheap, plentiful nuclear fusion

        There isn’t even enough land (for biochar, etc) or even ocean surface (for iron fertilizing, etc) to work now — too late. BTW these processes only suck up carbon dioxide, and methane is going to be the bigger factor very soon. Such could help buy time, but as you noted require too much commitment and in the case of the ocean will have a very extreme cost to the enviroment. it’s grim, it’s going to take a true miracle/stroke of luck in research, all one can do is try to buy time to improve the probability that the miracle occurs.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Hi, yes, sorry, I wasn’t trying to contradict you, just reinforce what you said.

          Methane will be a hugely expensive issue to deal with – numerous leaking wells and coal mines, all of which are hideously expensive to plug. In the shorter term, its probably the lesser problem, in that it has a short environmental life.

          I don’t know the figures for biochar, but there is an enormous amount of secondary forest, in the America’s in particular, that could be systematically harvested (not necessarily cut, old fashioned methods such as coppicing can also work). I don’t believe there is any known limit to how much biochar soil can take (in can be ploughed into cultivated soil at every crop cycle, helping improve soil structure each time), but I could stand corrected on this. But its only one small element of what is needed.

          1. Steve H.

            PK, biochar is not the answer, as it improves local soil quality, but at the expense of the energy used to heat it up.

            However, grasslands with mycorrhizal symbiosis are wonderful for storing carbon. iirc, there are carbon-storing soils up to 120 meters thick in the Mississippi River valley. (I can’t find the primary source, so I could also stand corrected on this.)

            Coppicing is excellent as very efficient local heating supply, and wood is a superb material in terms of mechanical properties of tension and compression. Yay Lignin!

            Long-term, selection favors energy users, and we’ve got millions of years of energy available from geothermal. However, that favors certain areas like Greenland, and still dumps heat into the atmosphere. I’m putting a couple of links below about radiative cooling that I’m interested in your take on, I have much appreciated insights you’ve given in the past.



            1. PlutoniumKun

              Steve, I’m not sure what you mean by ‘the energy used to heat it up’. Charcoaling is a self sustaining process (albeit a very polluting one). It is essentially burning the wood in the absence of oxygen – methane is given off, but this can be collected as fuel.

              My understanding is that the latest research indicates that the ability of soils to absorb carbon has been exaggerated.

              That research on cooling looks very interesting, but I’ve no idea if its practical in the long term. The increased demand for cooling in recently prosperous countries is a major driver of peak time electricity use. As traditionally hot countries become even hotter, any breakthrough would be invaluable.

              1. JohnnyGL

                Eric Toensmeier has just written a book on carbon farming. He’s made the scary point that good techniques can put carbon back in the soil, but if the climate models are correct about the changes, then droughts and localized drying may throw the process into reverse where soils start giving off more than they absorb (think about the western US, say around the Rockies). That’s a real nightmare scenario. The only PROVEN way to take carbon OUT of the atmosphere is to put it into the soil.

                So if we lose that one card to play because climate change is too far advanced, well, then we’re really in trouble.


            2. JohnnyGL

              Biochar is most useful in the tropics, with their nutrient-poor soils that get throughly beaten by heavy rainfall washing away the nutrients. A number of Amazonian tribes used it to greatly increase the productivity of their agroforestry systems.

              If you’re going to do a large-scale reforestation in the tropics that have been abused and cleared for, say, palm-oil plantations, bio-char would be a great way to make it economically viable, and do so faster, for the local residents.

            3. Steve H.

              Thanks PK and JGL. I can see biochar as a way to create soil where there is none. In itself it can’t be net carbon-negative, and the soils can turn methanogenic in the ways the steppes are becoming. So the soil can’t be considered permanent sequestering, but the products of the soil (like wood) can be.

              The radiative cooling links are to try to figure a way of reducing global heating through and beyond a carbon-based economic system. The thermodynamic relations presuppose increased atmospheric heating in any productive system.

              1. Gabe

                I might be able to unshed a little light on this – I’m currently analyzing a few thousand respiration samples from soil microbial community microcosms along a moisture gradient in Texas in an effort to understand whether soils will emit or absorb carbon in the future. Right now, no one knows for sure, full stop. In some scenarios where moisture increases along with heat, soil microbes could store a lot more carbon than they currently do. In other scenarios, they start ‘burning’ carbon by changing their balance of respiration to biomass in favor of the former.

                some research on iron fertilization of the ocean is promising, but we’ve found that a significant portion of the blooms don’t sink to the bottom of the ocean, but are broken up by bacteriophages and keep the carbon to the ‘active’ portion of the upper ocean where it easily cycles back into the atmosphere.

                The other potential solution, massive reforestation, is probably going to be undone by two factors – in areas where climate is great for plants, expanding human populations will necessitate expanded agriculture, which will exacerbate transfers of carbon from biota to atmosphere. Secondly, a lot of the marginal lands are modelled to be under significant drought stress (current semi-arid landscapes – think Texas), which won’t be conducive to lush forests sucking up carbon.

                Furthermore, we are burning wayyy more carbon than we have the political will for a solution. As an ecologist I wish there was another way, but I think the only feasible solution to avoid massive global change is Fusion or similarly miraculous energy source + effective carbon capture technology. Not ‘cost-effective’ but eco-effective

  5. leo

    There was a pretty (gallows) humorous clip from the newsroom about this topic. For a while now I’ve been thinking about climate policy in terms of damage control instead of prevention or true solution, but I feel like that has the wrong connotation of either sounding doomsayer-esque or like we’re in any kind of controlled (to whatever extent it’s controllable) situation, or even of just resigning to defeat. The closest fit I can make to what this damage control could look like, based on my own incredibly limited understanding, would be something akin to responding to perpetual natural disasters, only I think most of us (or rather the areas where most of us live) will get the New Orleans treatment instead of the save the ruling class at any cost treatment both in preparation and response. On a global scale at that.

    I really have no idea what a best-case scenario would look like, but I don’t think we have any shot at it as long as the discussion continues to be framed as Yves noted it was framed in the article. It strikes me as similar to discussions about overpopulation where someone replies that we’re growing enough food and have enough empty space. At least in the US I’m not sure if the bottom 80% or 99% are in a place financially or even mentally to do things like install solar panels or proper insulation. And if the crapification of everything results in solar panels that use more resources to make, don’t work as well, and don’t last as long as they should then damage control becomes even harder.

    I should probably start bringing my towel with me everywhere, not that I have high hopes for that way out either.

    We need to see far more focus on things that can be done now, or in short order, with no or minimal investment, dumb stuff like weatherproofing your home, using fans in the summer more and air conditioners less and planning your car trips so as to make fewer on your weekly rounds…

    Do changes like this add up to be significant on their own, or is it all about changing the mentality of people so that the more significant changes can be fought for (or both)? I haven’t seen any research about either the sum effects of little changes, or about what the realities of outcomes from least bad to most bad could look like, although I’ll certainly start looking now.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Do changes like this add up to be significant on their own, or is it all about changing the mentality of people so that the more significant changes can be fought for (or both)? I haven’t seen any research about either the sum effects of little changes, or about what the realities of outcomes from least bad to most bad could look like, although I’ll certainly start looking now.

      To start addressing the problem, you have to get at the low hanging fruit first, and the vast waste of energy in the US in particular, is very low hanging fruit. The average American emits about 17 tonnes per annum, compared to around 10 tonnes per annum for a European. The US is directly responsible for about 15% of global CO2 emissions, so simply bringing it down to European levels would have a significant impact. So simply adopting more efficient cars and making houses more efficient in addition to fairly modest lifestyle changes would be both highly cost effective for most people and would have significant impacts.

      Unfortunately, we need to bring emission levels down to far less than 10 tonnes per person – maybe 1 or 2 tonnes per person at most. The first 50% of that target should be easy and cost effective, it only requires a modest amount of political will. After that it gets expensive and politically difficult. The only good news in all this is that there is evidence that dropping costs in renewables and greater vehicle/plant efficiency is pushing things the right way – but nowhere near fast enough for the radical approach needed.

      1. Bryce

        Due to the infrastructure we already have, getting below 8.5 tons per American will be a feat. “”But the “floor” below which nobody in the U.S. can reach, no matter a person’s energy choices, turned out to be 8.5 tons.””

        So if we have to get our emissions down to less than 2 tons of carbon emitted annually by Americans, how are we to go about it? Scientists think the floor is at 8.5 tons per American, which is over 4x where we need to be. This is a major problem since we need to be much lower than even 8.5 tons per person with no roadmap of how to get there.

        This is quite the pickle we have gotten ourselves in. The analogy I like is, “the world is heating up because it is trying to get rid of a virus, and we are the virus.” We need to drastically change our ways and institute a carbon tax that is over $100 per ton. I think to avoid the worst outcomes it would take a carbon tax of possibly $400 a ton. If we are using about 17 tons per person now, that would be a tax of $6800 per American. That would change a lot of behavior overnight well jarring our economy. However, I am willing to sacrifice our economy so the earth remains hospitable. Too bad the democrats feel differently. Sure they will pander to their base during an election year, but their actions speak louder than their words. Meanwhile, Republicans don’t even believe in climate change and are trying to bring coal back.

      2. Gaylord

        The U.S. Military is the world’s largest single fossil fuel consumer and CO2 emitter. THAT is the low-hanging fruit that can’t be touched.

    2. Moneta

      The way I see it is that, with the way our system currently works, all those cutting their energy consumption end up leaving more slack leading to bad energy policies that let overconsumers heat their pools for cheap in October or do other wasteful activities.

        1. Moneta

          It’s not really Jevons because we are not dealing with technological progress, just the environmentally conscious giving up their share to the energy gluttons.

  6. JLCG

    There was once a pestilence in Thebes and its king wanted to find the cure for it. Eventually he found that he himself was the cause of the pestilence and he blinded himself in a fit of despair.
    That is tragedy, our lives are tragic. It is not the plutocrats or the narcissists or the sociopaths that cause our troubles. It is our nature our tendency towards abuse, towards sloth, towards envy and so on.
    But we all want a comedic end for our tragedy. That some goddess will come down in a paper chariot onto the stage and will free us from our destiny.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      We may be the problem but unlike that Greek we cannot stop the curse of the gods by our own hand alone. Global Warming is large scale problem which requires action on a large scale — which means government action. This is not to say we should not do what we can as individuals. Our actions alone — even the actions of a great many — even a large majority of us — cannot address the manifold problems of Global Warming.

      The machina is broken and the deus has gone missing. We need government action.

  7. TalkingCargo

    Just another “Chicken Little” story on global warming. No, the sky is not falling and the world will not end. The fact is that (to quote Tower of Power) “there’s only so much oil in the ground.” Emissions will start declining in the next decade or two because we’re rapidly approaching the point when producers won’t be able to make a profit from oil drilling.

    We humans are quite adaptable and I doubt if the combination of peak oil and global warming will be enough to eradicate the species. That being said, we’ll all have to learn to get along with a lot less energy, but we’ve managed to do that for most of our existence. The tragedy is that there is no way we can support 7+ billion people without industrialized agriculture, so a lot of people are going to die. Not that we’ve done that great a job of supporting the existing population.

      1. Svante Arrhenius

        I remember as a kid in the very late 50’s, before this was politicized (beyond the military preparing to fight the Rooskis over the remaining gas, once the permafrost was gone), We’d learned what since became known as the clathrate gun hypothesis would be way after we were all dead, no way we’d live to see the Gulf Stream slow, island paradises drown or huge fireballs blow giant craters all over Siberia & Arctic Canada. I’d come back to this thread to comment that several apparent SKDK/ CTR social networking advocacy specialists were trolling about on TruthDig, lecturing posters about our tree-hugging hysteria… one thing’s for damn sure, my oil/ gas service sector equities were suddenly kicking ass yesterday! Was there another debate or some damn thing on the TV?

    1. Jeotsu

      It is my observation, as a full-time farmer, that many of the people who argue that “we’ll just adapt, it won’t be too bad” have no friggin’ idea how weather dependent we are when it comes to food production. We’re lucky in the we do low-input pastoralism. meaning my job is to let the grass grow so the stock can eat it and get big and fat. We can adapt to poor weather (and less grass growth) by lowering our stocking rate, or by bringing in supplemental feed when times get tight (essentially importing some other farms’ good weather, with lots of fossil fuels added in for cutting, baling, transporting, etc.

      As it is even with our animals well fed on supplements the strange weather has been causing lots of health issues in our region. Surges in off-season parasitism causing losses. Weird off-season fungal diseases all over causing losses. It can be rough.

      Of course even just lowing our stock density is a direct reduction of farm productivity. x% less stock = x% less meat/milk/fiber.

      Cropping farmers don’t have such luxury. Weird weather is terrible for crop yields. And every year it gets weirder.

    2. PhilU

      I don’t think you understood this sentence:

      James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, now argues that the 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels threshold — that most international institutions say is the baseline of how much warming we can take — is “nonsense” and “a prescription for disaster.”

      That means at 2C we risk becoming Venus.

  8. temporal

    The range of failures that are likely to end in mass die offs are not limited just to foolish mistakes.

    I live in a college for rich kids town and each year the kids coming in are driving cars that are less efficient than the year before. Now nearly everyone drives the biggest truck or SUV that will fit in a parking space. Few regular cars and no econo-boxes. The well off, as indicated by the reference to private jets above, are not even pretending to try. That goes for buying car trends for most of America. Economy cars are mostly sought by older folks who remember what they experienced when they were young.

    As if there were no other reason to oppose a built-up the military, their every action is anti-environment to the extreme. I doubt every action done by those that hope to be responsible will do much of anything to offset their actions. By their nature these sorts of organizations will actually race toward environmental destruction.

    Still, I would hazard that GE’s Fukushima catastrophe and the giant garbage islands in the oceans, that are only just now starting to be addressed, along with the recent die-offs of coral reefs are the scariest of all. Kill wide swaths current life in the ocean and what replaces it will probably not be an improvement.

    1. Cry Shop

      It’s not just the rick kids, but most of the population that buy cars and a whole consumerist lifestyle of jet skis, motor yacht. De Caprio bought a Toyota Prius and then a Tesla, but his yatch in one hour puts out more CO2 than a a Mega SUV will do in a month.

      It’s not just fund managers, but even quite a lot of charity leaders who take private jets, Little Clinton taking a private jet to a clean energy conference is so typical. Gore did the same. I remember when the leadership of Sierra Club got busted for flying regularly to Washington on private jets owned by a fracking lobbyist, posted about it here, but can’t find my post now using the site search engine.

  9. John

    Greed, inability to face the consequences of our once-in-history lifestyle,
    and the sheer madness of our society, always meant this would be our fate:
    the fall from the earth’s cradle.

  10. Ché Pasa

    Chicken Little has been hollering about DOOM!!1 for so long, even those who understand what’s happening aren’t paying a whole lot of attention. Given the evidence, it’s reasonable to believe we passed the Climate Change tipping point long ago and there’s no going back, at least not in many lifetimes. And what “we” do from this point won’t change things all that much.

    The argument is basically that there are “too many people” using “too many resources” and that “significantly reducing global population” and “restricting or eliminating use of fossil fuels” (among other resources) are the principal mitigation factors that will stall or even reverse Climate Change.

    We’ve been hearing variations on those themes for decades; many of us have heard it for our entire lives. “Reduce global population. Restrict use of natural resources.”

    What exactly does that mean? Who, in other words, is to be liquidated in order to reduce global population? Who will be allowed to survive? Where and how, and by whom is it to be done? Of course there are no answers to these questions and for good reason. The answers would make the Holocaust and the many tens of millions of others who were exterminated in World War II seem to be merely a blip, a hiccup. The necessary population eliminations to mitigate Climate Change are on the order of billions. And billions. Who indeed will render them gone? And how?

    Who is to decide what resource use is forbidden? How is the decision to be enforced? On whom is the burden primarily to fall? And who will be exempt?

    What is the predicted effect of these and other Climate Change mitigation efforts? Will Climate Change actually be stalled or reversed with the elimination of billions and billions of human beings and the prohibition on the use of many resources by the few survivors or is it too late for that?

    Our Betters have been preparing for whatever comes while the rest of us have been accusing and squabbling and demanding that someone else be sacrificed. It’s wrong to say “nothing has been done” to mitigate Climate Change, because plenty has been done, but it hasn’t been enough and it hasn’t been fast enough.

    So what do we do now?

    1. Vatch

      Who, in other words, is to be liquidated in order to reduce global population?

      Why do people keep saying things like that? You do know that everyone will die eventually, don’t you? So there’s no need to accelerate mortality. What we desperately need to do is to reduce the number of births by strongly encouraging the use of effective contraception. Misguided people in numerous countries have been resisting the use of effective family planning for decades.

      1. Ché Pasa

        Which populations are to be reduced via contraception and how is the order to be enforced? Even China’s much derided one-child policy was only able to slow population growth, it was not able to reduce population, in part because the death rate kept falling as better public health practices were implemented. So even a policy as stern as that does not reduce populations.

        On the other hand, raising standards of living is almost universally recognized as an indirect but extremely effective form of population control. Raising standards of living, however, requires greater use of resources, including greenhouse gas contributing resources.

        Alarmist terms like “liquidation” are used because that’s what would be required to significantly reduce global populations in a relatively short time, say within any proposed time frame to stall or reverse the current episode of Climate Change. Do you know of another way to reduce global population within decades or at most within a generation? Please share.

        1. Vatch

          There is no way to reduce the human population humanely within a generation. But the longer we wait, the worse it will become.

          The education of women worldwide is essential, for when women realize they are more than just baby making engines, they often choose to have smaller families. As expected, this is strenuously opposed by religious conservatives from a wide variety of religions. Surprisingly, it’s also opposed by some politically correct leftists.

        2. River

          War, well in this case more of purge.

          Just typing this makes me ill, but the solution is there. Declare war on Islam. Two billion followers. Get China and India on board since their populations are and have always been high and need to go down. Divide the spoils before hand with treaties (Pakistan/Bangladesh back to India, China the South Seas & Indonesia, new colonialism in Africa, you get the idea)

          After the carnage 2 billion dead Muslims, and probably 1-2 billion dead the rest. Expect Pakistani nukes to involved. But the population would be cut almost in half.

          Why Islam? Easy to get people on board mainly. Plus not a lot of nukes in Islamic countries. Still enough of course. One is enough tbh.

          Then follow up with birth-control policies and rebuilding “Green” infrastructure. Of course, nothing could be left, but with a lot destroyed a polluting infrastructure gone that will at least slow down the warming. Those who survive that maelstrom, maybe their kids will get it right.

          It would drop the population in ten years though.

          1. Vatch

            You know, one of the primary goals of family planning advocacy is the prevention of premature deaths. I hope your comment is intended to be “A Modest Proposal” type of satire.

      2. PhilU

        Everyone will die at once.

        James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, now argues that the 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels threshold — that most international institutions say is the baseline of how much warming we can take — is “nonsense” and “a prescription for disaster.”

        That means we risk becoming Venus at 2C.

    2. pretzelattack

      Chicken Little has been hollering about DOOM!!1 for so long, even those who understand what’s happening aren’t paying a whole lot of attention. Given the evidence, it’s reasonable to believe we passed the Climate Change tipping point long ago and there’s no going back, at least not in many lifetimes. And what “we” do from this point won’t change things all that much.

      chicken little and doom has nothing to do with this. people are paying a lot of attention to this, especially since the actual warnings have gotten scarier. it’s reasonable to suppose there is plenty we can do about this, if–big if–we can get off fossil fuels very quickly.

      the efforts we’ve made so far have helped the renewable energy industry, but we need to do a lot more; showy international agreements haven’t accomplished very much so far. the sad thing is that plenty more has been done to accelerate the warming. the greenhouse gas emissions are the main driver. we haven’t decreased them overall, we’ve increased them, and we haven’t done nearly enough to get on renewables. population is not the main issue. if we don’t act decisively, now, the population will be decreased drastically by wars, but if you want to save people, start addressing the primary issue now.

      we can’t reverse climate change, but we can mitigate it. if you’re asking about sacrifice, the people leading the cushiest most resource hungy lifestyles will have to sacrifice the most per capita. enforcing this is going to be the problem, yes, but we can’t avoid conflict in any case.

      1. Ché Pasa

        So much of the doomsaying about Climate Change has little or no utility for most people, and that’s why so many have stopped paying attention. Few people can change their lifestyles sufficiently to affect the course of global warming, and those who can make significant changes have done so — or contrariwise they refuse to, and expect the “lesser people” to carry the burden of lifestyle change.

        The big things, like ending the use of fossil fuels yesterday, waiting not for tomorrow, or halting the breeding and raising of meat animals, or moving vast numbers of people away from the coasts are matters of social engineering that neither the public nor private sector in this country or any country are prepared or competent to accomplish.

        Our Betters have been aware of the dire predictions of what the future holds for many years, and they’ve been preparing. Their have their bunkers and bolt holes, their full service nearly self sufficient mountain retreats, their beefy security men together with heavily stocked arsenals, and they control what our governments do and don’t do. They’re ready, no matter what happens.

        The rest of us have to make do one way or another, with whatever resources and strength we can muster. Some of us will be fine, some will be lost, others would rather party.

        But we can’t continue to expect — or require — the least among us to sacrifice most.

        1. Romancing The Loan

          If it makes you feel any better, I tend to agree with the Archdruid that they’re going to die at the hands of their beefy security men.

        2. pretzelattack

          nobody can change their lifestyle sufficiently to stop global warming, it takes a worldwide effort. it doesn’t help to label informing people about the risks as “doomsaying”, or comparing climate scientists to chicken little. it may be we won’t lift a finger to mitigate it, but that is no reason not to try. and i’m not sure what is being asked of “the least among us” here. are you talking about third world countries? us citizens? we’re all going to be paying, whether we want to hear about it or not.

  11. Moneta

    I would love it if our leaders came out and said that we do not want any growth in energy production over the next decade… forcing everyone to become more energy efficient.

    But that’s a pipe dream. No country ever becomes energy efficient until it is forced to.

  12. DJG

    Thanks for this, Yves. I see a couple of comments above that amount to “let’s not do anything and hope in a vague way that not everyone dies of a hantavirus or outbreak of mega-zika.” At least, the comments list hasn’t been invaded by the denialists yet.

    The issue here is U.S. behavior, which has been execrable. And I suspect that the conserva-Dems, being so war-minded, simply plan to steal a few more years of oil from the Middle East as they let those countries fall into chaos. So part of the question here is rather raw: How much longer can the rest of the Earth and its inhabitants afford the likes of Clinton, Pence, Kaine, Trump, the Koch brothers, Carly Fiorina, and so on?

    The Russians, who haven’t been great about dealing with climate change, recognize that the U.S. elites are deranged by self-regard, denial of the science, and love of looting. It’s as if the Russians know something about the collapse of elites and consequent revolutions.

  13. johnnygl

    Much respect to Yves for pointing out the low-hanging fruit of improving energy efficiency. It’s absent from the conversation far too often.

    Couple of things missing from discussion…
    1) public transport and denser housing. We need lots more of both.
    2) changes in land use, reforesting is needed and lots of unused grassy space needs to go back to forest or get turned into gardens. This gives us a rugged, simple and proven method of taking carbon back OUT of the atmosphere and putting it into the soil.

    1. Ignacio

      Things to do:

      1) Individually: analyse your actions and how can you personally reduce energy spending. If you are not self-employed press your company to save energy. Contact your political representatives and tell them how worried are you about the issue.
      2) Construction: Define new construction standards required to obtain permits for all kind of constructions. (Pasive and active solar control measures, exploit inertia…)
      3) Existing constructions: stick and carrot to get them reformed as much and as many as possible to make them reach the new standards.
      4)Transportation: force large companies to arrange public transportation schemes. Improve public transport. New restrictive standards for vehicles. High circulation taxes. Higher fuel taxes. Promote cycling. Slow cities. City centers without automobiles (except services). Make it difficult to use your own vehicle in cities. Restrict parking.
      5) White collar work centers: promote work at home to reduce office space and commuting. Make them compliant ith new stardards defined above.
      6) Factories: these usually have a lot of room to reduce energy spending with clever analysis.

      1. Ignacio

        As an example, I am now in the process of changing ligthnings. By exchanging bulbs and halogen lamps for leds I have already reduced the nominal power by about 300W, when I finish I’ll have reduced it by about 500W. If it is done in millions of houses the savings would be quite noticeable. It has an energy cost but it has other advantages: less power means longer duration for the hole electric installation. I have mostly replaced bulbs that had been working for long.

      2. John Rose

        A very simple proposal: Finance public transit with a tax on parking spaces until there are empty spaces because people are using public transit so fully, it being so efficient and comfortable.

  14. John Wright

    It would be good if the economics profession would bring in new metrics to reflect the damage economic activity is doing to the world’s climate.

    The emphasis on GDP growth, where much of this number depends on digging/pumping up hydrocarbons and then converting the energy to consumer goods, transportation, and buildings WITHOUT allowing for the negative value subtracted from the environment is, in my view, evidence of a fundamental flaw of economics as practiced by the political class.

    Of course, this is somewhat similar to hoping the vast US financial industry would look at America’s war making effort and say, “These are massive societal investments that have tremendous negative returns be they in absolute security, loss of citizen freedoms, death/injury to our own military people, immoral killing of innocents, and even more damage to the environment. US wars don’t make sense, lets try to stop this effort.” .

    But it would be foolish to ever expect the “Doing God’s work” financial industry to push this case.

    I suspect the elite, at US corporations, schools and government largely believe climate change is real, but believe they can sufficiently protect themselves and their class against its effects.

    Per the bible, Noah had advance warning of an impending weather change, and built his ark.

    Maybe yachts are the new Noah’s Arks?

    1. Ignacio

      I think this post emphazises the necessity of new paradigms in economics. We should not forget but leave aside those GDP metrics and economists should start to use other metrics that already exist but are rarely used. Water footprints, soil footprints, etc. If for a country, imports substract in GDP calculation, CO2 emissions should also substract, contamination should sustract etc. Using supercomputers it shouldn’t be that difficult to obtain guesstimates for CO2 emission costs and bring them to the past and present.

    2. Waldenpond

      The rich are outfitting their bunkers. I think they imagine they will lock themselves in and hope for a flood of mass shootings followed by a flood of epidemic diseases. Some psychopath scientist (it only takes one) may assist with the release of some nasty viruses in the delusion that it would save the planet in the long run.

  15. Ignacio

    You mention inertia in companies. I would argue that inertia is shared by households. Many don’t bother to act even if they know there are enormous risks. I know this because i am trying to implement energy-saving measures in residential buildings. And it is hard to convince people even when you show that certain energy saving investments are amortized in 4-6 year span. I think that in Europe we are one step beyond the US simply for historical reasons and general lack of oil resources. Incentives are beign put in force, although not as fast as it should, energy saving is getting impulse and I think that it won’t require much time for it to gain it’s own inertia. Of course, in countries like Germany it is going faster than, for instance, Spain plagued with financial constraints.

    There is a lot of room to save energy, and gosh, you americans can do quite a lot. I usually don’t travel much on holidays but this summer i revisited California and the SW with my family. We spent two nigths in Las Vegas in our way to Utah and it was sickening. We flew from San Francisco (well refrigerated airplane @ 22ºC celsius) landed in McCarran, still at 22-24ºC (+40ºC outside), entered a Uber taxi (still 22-24ºC that took us to MGM Grand (awful – we had a special offer) with all its impressive inner volume at 22-24ºC. Yet with enormous doors opening continuously and heat entering, I guess that the air conditioning should require epic amounts of power. One nigth we had a walk throughout the strip (roughly 34ºC) and yet all those air conditioning apparatuses ougth to be roaring to keep temperatures in the lowest level of the comfort zone. I regret having spent time in Las Vegas although it is a curiosity.

    1. nowhere

      I regret having spent time in Las Vegas although it is a curiosity.

      When I’ve gone, that’s my general sentiment as well.

  16. JohnnyGL


    “It is hard to convey the scale of this inferno, but here’s a comparison that might help: it is currently producing more carbon dioxide than the US economy. And in three weeks the fires have released more CO2 than the annual emissions of Germany.”

    I think things like banning Indonesian palm-oil (or at least heavy tariffs) should be on the table, too, along with large-scale aid for re-foresting projects.

    Willie Smits shows how to do it on a smallish scale so that the local people are able to sustain themselves and this methodology turns the locals into defenders of the forest, instead of their having a destructive impact by clearing forest for crops via slash-and-burn.


    More of this kind of thing, please!!!

    1. CraaaaaaazyChris

      I want to make a similar point: I think any real solution to these climate change problems will have to shift the focus to the worst offenders, and put them in “pain city”. The fires in Indonesia, similar deforestation elsewhere, methane leaks in CA, fracking sites scattered around the US (and elsewhere), Canada tar sands stuff, coal production, etc. Is there a top-10 list of this stuff? Or a dashboard widget?

      I think a big failing of climate science as advocacy for change is the focus on generic, aggregate numbers like the 400ppm or 2 degrees average warming, or various per capita numbers which serve to spread and dilute the blame.

  17. jfleni

    Get more rich grease-monkeys to dig another grease pit; water is not important, only grease!

    Don’t worry about private jets; it’s just more grease: be happy!

    Make sure your two-ton gas-buggy has plenty of grease all the time so you can
    get junk food!

    Other suggestions by poison-dwarf-bros, *xxon etc. much appeciated.

  18. LT

    “Opportunity to create a much better future..”
    It will be different, and, like always better for some than others.

    A significant amount of money is being spent to convince the super rich they can escape the planet. Also, those of means are looking to segregate themselves with bunkers or islands, etc.

    I don’t see much drive to work out how all can live together in the alleged and always dreamed of “better future.”

  19. Jamie

    We are beyond the point of no return for the trillion dollar carbon trading floor the elites wish to setup for value extraction — not to ‘save’ the earth:

    BUBBLE #6 Global Warming

    Fast-forward to today. It’s early June in Washington, D.C. Barack Obama, a popular young politician whose leading private campaign donor was an investment bank called Goldman Sachs — its employees paid some $981,000 to his campaign — sits in the White House. Having seamlessly navigated the political minefield of the bailout era, Goldman is once again back to its old business, scouting out loopholes in a new government-created market with the aid of a new set of alumni occupying key government jobs.

    Gone are Hank Paulson and Neel Kashkari; in their place are Treasury chief of staff Mark Patterson and CFTC chief Gary Gensler, both former Goldmanites. (Gensler was the firm’s co-head of finance.) And instead of credit derivatives or oil futures or mortgage-backed CDOs, the new game in town, the next bubble, is in carbon credits — a booming trillion dollar market that barely even exists yet, but will if the Democratic Party that it gave $4,452,585 to in the last election manages to push into existence a groundbreaking new commodities bubble, disguised as an “environmental plan,” called cap-and-trade.

    The new carbon credit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that’s been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won’t even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance.

    Here’s how it works: If the bill passes, there will be limits for coal plants, utilities, natural-gas distributors and numerous other industries on the amount of carbon emissions (a.k.a. greenhouse gases) they can produce per year. If the companies go over their allotment, they will be able to buy “allocations” or credits from other companies that have managed to produce fewer emissions. President Obama conservatively estimates that about $646 billion worth of carbon credits will be auctioned in the first seven years; one of his top economic aides speculates that the real number might be twice or even three times that amount.

    The feature of this plan that has special appeal to speculators is that the “cap” on carbon will be continually lowered by the government, which means that carbon credits will become more and more scarce with each passing year. Which means that this is a brand new commodities market where the main commodity to be traded is guaranteed to rise in price over time. The volume of this new market will be upwards of a trillion dollars annually; for comparison’s sake, the annual combined revenues of all electricity suppliers in the U.S. total $320 billion.

    Goldman wants this bill. The plan is (1) to get in on the ground floor of paradigm-shifting legislation, (2) make sure that they’re the profit-making slice of that paradigm and (3) make sure the slice is a big slice. Goldman started pushing hard for cap-and-trade long ago, but things really ramped up last year when the firm spent $3.5 million to lobby climate issues. (One of their lobbyists at the time was none other than Patterson, now Treasury chief of staff.) Back in 2005, when Hank Paulson was chief of Goldman, he personally helped author the bank’s environmental policy, a document that contains some surprising elements for a firm that in all other areas has been consistently opposed to any sort of government regulation. Paulson’s report argued that “voluntary action alone cannot solve the climate change problem.” A few years later, the bank’s carbon chief, Ken Newcombe, insisted that cap-and-trade alone won’t be enough to fix the climate problem and called for further public investments in research and development. Which is convenient, considering that Goldman made early investments in wind power (it bought a subsidiary called Horizon Wind Energy), renewable diesel (it is an investor in a firm called Changing World Technologies) and solar power (it partnered with BP Solar), exactly the kind of deals that will prosper if the government forces energy producers to use cleaner energy. As Paulson said at the time, “We’re not making those investments to lose money.”

    The bank owns a 10 percent stake in the Chicago Climate Exchange, where the carbon credits will be traded. Moreover, Goldman owns a minority stake in Blue Source LLC, a Utah-based firm that sells carbon credits of the type that will be in great demand if the bill passes. Nobel Prize winner Al Gore, who is intimately involved with the planning of cap-and-trade, started up a company called Generation Investment Management with three former bigwigs from Goldman Sachs Asset Management, David Blood, Mark Ferguson and Peter Harris. Their business? Investing in carbon offsets. There’s also a $500 million Green Growth Fund set up by a Goldmanite to invest in green-tech … the list goes on and on. Goldman is ahead of the headlines again, just waiting for someone to make it rain in the right spot. Will this market be bigger than the energy futures market?

    “Oh, it’ll dwarf it,” says a former staffer on the House energy committee.

    Well, you might say, who cares? If cap-and-trade succeeds, won’t we all be saved from the catastrophe of global warming? Maybe — but cap-and-trade, as envisioned by Goldman, is really just a carbon tax structured so that private interests collect the revenues. Instead of simply imposing a fixed government levy on carbon pollution and forcing unclean energy producers to pay for the mess they make, cap-and-trade will allow a small tribe of greedy-as-hell Wall Street swine to turn yet another commodities market into a private tax collection scheme. This is worse than the bailout: It allows the bank to seize taxpayer money before it’s even collected.

    “If it’s going to be a tax, I would prefer that Washington set the tax and collect it,” says Michael Masters, the hedge fund director who spoke out against oil futures speculation. “But we’re saying that Wall Street can set the tax, and Wall Street can collect the tax. That’s the last thing in the world I want. It’s just asinine.”

    Cap-and-trade is going to happen. Or, if it doesn’t, something like it will. The moral is the same as for all the other bubbles that Goldman helped create, from 1929 to 2009. In almost every case, the very same bank that behaved recklessly for years, weighing down the system with toxic loans and predatory debt, and accomplishing nothing but massive bonuses for a few bosses, has been rewarded with mountains of virtually free money and government guarantees — while the actual victims in this mess, ordinary taxpayers, are the ones paying for it.

    It’s not always easy to accept the reality of what we now routinely allow these people to get away with; there’s a kind of collective denial that kicks in when a country goes through what America has gone through lately, when a people lose as much prestige and status as we have in the past few years. You can’t really register the fact that you’re no longer a citizen of a thriving first-world democracy, that you’re no longer above getting robbed in broad daylight, because like an amputee, you can still sort of feel things that are no longer there.

    But this is it. This is the world we live in now. And in this world, some of us have to play by the rules, while others get a note from the principal excusing them from homework till the end of time, plus 10 billion free dollars in a paper bag to buy lunch. It’s a gangster state, running on gangster economics, and even prices can’t be trusted anymore; there are hidden taxes in every buck you pay. And maybe we can’t stop it, but we should at least know where it’s all going.

    By Matt Taibbi
    April 5, 2010

  20. Sluggeaux

    7.4 BILLION Human Beings

    Climate change has little to do with greedy lifestyle choices. It has everything to do with choices by human beings, mostly made in Third World counties, to breed. Global population has roughly quadrupled since 1950.

    Lifestyle changes might make us feel better, just as humans have offered sacrifices to their “angry gods” for millennia, but they will have little impact on the planet’s health when it is being trampled by over-population everywhere.

    The die-off is coming. If you want to know what it is going to look like, I think that one need look no further than Syria. The herd will cull itself with Kalashnikovs, food blockades, and blown-up sewer systems.

    1. pretzelattack

      it has everything to do with fossil fuels, which aren’t consumed equally, and the warming already in the system, which was not caused equally. most of it was caused by the us and europe–which has nothing to do with overpopulation in the third world.

      1. Sluggeaux

        Third World societies indeed did not pre-load the system, but with globalization all societies now aspire to the same profligate levels of consumption. My point here is not to place blame, which clearly falls on Europe and America.

        Rather, it is to suggest that the population explosion has already pushed the planet past the point of no return, and that the “solutions” proposed are tantamount to bringing a box of Band-Aids to a beheading.

        1. pretzelattack

          the population explosion is a side issue, and china and india are doing a lot more to promote renewable energy than we are. so they aren’t accepting that the situation is at the point of no return. the solution is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. if we can’t do that, our civilization may well be doomed, but it is not pointless to advocate for it.

  21. Susan the other

    I hope I get back on. New address. My computer crapped out and my sister in law gave me her old one which is space tech compared to my deceased loved-one. One thing we do that is sort of Kaizen is competition. Which we equate with productivity. Which in this economy can use more energy but use fewer people and is just a self perpetuating mess. All our nutty contradictions … but if we used this kaizen idea as a way to form a different mindset it could work. This is reminding me of the Mash theme song – suicide is painless, it brings on many changes…. but we can do this. really… if we try. I think we can do it because I have changed the way I live. I keep the heat at 55 in the winter and 85 in summer; I do laundry once every two weeks; shower every Sunday night, even if I don’t need it! and I eat half the calories I used to eat and I’m just fine, with a few vitamins. But I’m old – so I don’t know about the rest of you guys. I keep fantasizing about NYC banning all cars and the people staggering out on the street in the morning to actual fresh air and sunshine. Or any other city on the planet. It would be delightful. What’s to fear?

  22. lin1

    TOTAL Moratorium on breaking ground for real estate development. Begin reclaiming land and planting trees on it. There is no shortage of buildings for commercial or residential habitation, half of national inventory sits empty ..unsold or unrented. . .Watershed restoration projects declared a national security problem. Estuaries like The Chesapeake bay absorb vast amounts of carbon when healthy, so should be declared critical national resources. Take management out of the hands of malefactors like Virginia and Texas.

  23. Lupemax

    An excellent interview with Paul Watson who heads up Sea Shepherd Conservation Society – he is informed and blunt and not optimistic but he still fights on and encourages others to fight their passion. In January 2008, Paul Watson was named by The Guardian as one of its “50 people who could save the planet” for the work of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. I think it is too late to save living beings on the planet. The earth will go on.

  24. nothing but the truth

    i blame economists for this (and putin, of course).

    By making Malthus a non-mentionable, we got into the malthusian trap.

    1. witters

      You mean we ignored Malthus? Good god, man. Read the bloody book and see. Malthus said late 18C England was way overpopulated, and that meant no wage increases or public sanitation spending etc. as that would only encourage more of the poor working vermin to spread. What was needed was the poor to die (neoliberal rule 2), and for the rich to breed profusely (and, of course, live the energy rich lives they deserved). Yes, Malthus is the answer…

      1. nothing but the truth

        to appreciate malthus does not mean to kill your own brain.

        what we are seeing today has been a long time in the making. the planet has been overpopulated for a while.

        now with exponential population growth and exponential resource usage per capital we are really in the pits.

  25. George Job

    It’s the shallowness of the water in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf that’s the devil in disguise because shallow water columns allow the frozen methane hydrates, frozen in place ever since the last Ice Age, to come to surface rather than oxidize within the sea. Thereby releasing greenhouse gas CH4 into the atmosphere. In Wadhams’ words: “The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is exceptionally shallow – more than 75 per cent of its entire area of 2.1 million square kilometres is shallower than 40 metres – so most of the methane gas avoids oxidation in the water column and is released into the atmosphere” (p. 123).

    Accordingly, atmospheric concentrations of methane above sea surface have already been measured at 4 times normal atmospheric levels. That’s a lot! So, it’s happening right now, meaning the worst possible case has already started. The gravity of the issue is that CH4 is much, much more powerful, at least 20 times, per molecule than is CO2 at accelerating global warming.


    “Our planet has actually changed colour,” Peter Wadhams, A Farewell to Ice (Allen Lane an imprint of Penguin Books, 2016

  26. Gaylord

    Yves: “The biggest near-term priority needs to be radical reduction in the use of energy.”

    Also, fresh water.

    Also, making babies.

  27. Pespi

    It would be funny if there was a early european town formation council meeting where one had to justify their access to arms. I..uh.. really need the jet.. becuaase I have.. a lot of … important… meetings *BUZZ* *trap door to the gator pit*

Comments are closed.