Gaius Publius: 2017 Breaks Climate Records Despite No “El Niño Boost”

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive  here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

“Fig. 1. (a) Global surface temperatures relative to 1880-1920 based on GISTEMP data, which employs GHCN.v3 for meteorological stations, NOAA ERSST.v5 for sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research station data[1].” Source: “Global Temperature in 2018” by James Hansen. (Speech bubble annotations mine; click to enlarge.)

This is an update on the coming climate train wreck. The numbers are in for 2017, not just the global temperature itself (see graph above), but also the clearly climate-related damage that was done — the fires, hurricanes and other extreme-weather events. 2017 ranks in the top five hottest years on record, and broke the record for climate-related damage.

About global temperature in 2017, look at the chart above and note three things.

With No El Niño, 2017 Was Still the Second Hottest Year in the Instrumental Record

First, the two most recent “super El Niño” events, in 1997-98 and 2015-16, clearly represented peaks or spikes in global warming, while the intervening years hung close to the 12-month and 132-month running means.

Not so in 2017. Despite the lack of El Niño conditions in 2017, the year still placed second on the list of the hottest years ever recorded. Dr. James Hansen:

Global surface temperature in 2017 was the second highest in the period of instrumental measurements in the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) analysis. Relative to average temperature for 1880-1920, which we take as an appropriate estimate of “pre-industrial” temperature, 2017 was +1.17°C (~2.1°F) warmer than in the 1880-1920 base period. The high 2017 temperature, unlike the record 2016 temperature, was obtained without any boost from tropical El Niño warming.

This should be concerning to everyone, for the reason explained below.

(By the way, note that the statement above covers only “global surface temperature” and not oceanic warming as well, especially deep oceanic warming. The entire planet is being heated by our use of fossil fuel, not just the surface.)

The Rate of Global Warming May Be Accelerating

Second, this data means we may be entering a period of accelerated warming. I think most people assume that global warming and its effects will be linear, will proceed along a roughly straight line that allows us to calculate how much we can delay in dealing with it. Not so.

I’ve argued for some time that linearity is not guaranteed, is in fact highly unlikely, and that the chief cause of global warming, the injection of CO2 into the atmosphere, seems already to have accelerated. In a piece earlier last year, “Atmospheric CO2 Jumps +4 ppm in June Compared to June 2015“, I wrote:

Consider a simple calculation. Most governments that try to show they are interested in ending man-made CO2 emissions have “exit rates” — rates at which humans go to zero emissions — which nonetheless have us increasing emissions as late as 2050. The underlying assumption is that if we start the count at 400 ppm in 2014 (per the monthly chart at the above), then add +2.11 ppm per year, we don’t get to 450 ppm for roughly 20-25 years (allowing for modest acceleration in the growth rate). But if atmospheric CO2 growth suddenly zooms to +4 ppm/year starting with this year’s 406 ppm, we’re at 450 ppm in 11 years.

As I noted then, eleven years from now is 2027, and 450 ppm is game-over — partly because global warming will have shot well past +2°C, producing enough social, political, economic and military chaos to make a global solution impossible; and partly because if we haven’t stopped Exxon et al before then, we never will, and the process will go to termination.

Here’s what “goes to termination” means: Humans won’t stop adding atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gasses until we’re pre-industrial again. Or worse.

“Pre-industrial or worse” is not what we want for our species. “We” in the previous sentence includes only the non-sociopaths among us — those of us not in charge of U.S. and global energy policy.

Global Warming Has Already Reached +1.2–1.4 Degrees Above Pre-Industrial, Depending on How “Pre-Industrial” Is Defined

Third, note again Hansen’s comment that “Relative to average temperature for 1880-1920, which we take as an appropriate estimate of “pre-industrial” temperature, 2017 was +1.17°C (~2.1°F) warmerthan in the 1880-1920 base period.” If you look at the chart above, you’ll see that the 2015-2016 high was roughly +1.2°C above what Hansen defines as “pre-industrial temperature.”

If global warming is accelerating along with global CO2 emissions, and the most recent peak was warming of +1.2°C, the aspirational Paris target of halting global warming at +1.5°C is impossible, despite this bit of (desperate) optimism:

IPCC 1.5°C report: A clarion call for EU action on climate

A leaked draft of the IPCC’s forthcoming report on keeping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius gives reason to hope that the target is attainable. But only if urgent action is taken immediately, warns Dr Bert Metz.

At this point, all optimism should be desperate, and that desperation should drive emergency action, something I and others have written many time about.

One could argue, in fact, that we’re actually much closer to +1.5°C global warming than even Hansen, or the IPCC, recognizes. It’s all a mater of where you measure from in calculating the “pre-industrial” baseline.

• Dr. Hansen puts the baseline as the “average temperature for 1880-1920” and gets present warming of +1.2°C at the 2014-2016 peak.

The IPCC, per the link above, puts “global average temperatures” at “just 1 degree Celsius (°C) above pre-industrial levels” — noticeably lower than Hansen’s number. 

• Dr. Michael Mann (quoted here), like Dr. Hansen, gets a higher number with what he considers to be an even more appropriate baseline:

It has been widely reported that 2015 will be the first year where temperatures climbed to 1C above the pre-industrial. That might make it seem like we’ve got quite a ways to go until we breach the 2C limit. But the claim is wrong. We exceeded 1C warming more than a decade ago. The problem is that here, and elsewhere, an inappropriate baseline has been invoked for defining the “pre-industrial.” The warming was measured relative to the average over the latter half of the 19th century (1850-1900). In other words, the base year implicitly used to define “pre-industrial” conditions is 1875, the mid-point of that interval. Yet the industrial revolution and the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations associated with it, began more than a century earlier. …

[U]sing the more appropriate 1750-1850 pre-industrial baseline, we see that the Northern Hemisphere average temperature (gray squiggly curve [in Figure 3 at the link]) has already warmed nearly 1.2C [as of 2013; Figure 3 was published in 2014]. Temperatures have exceeded 1C above pre-industrial levels for most of the past decade. [emphasis added]

Dr. Mann’s current warming number, using his logic, would be +1.3°C or a little higher.

• I took a less cautious look at determining the baseline (here) and found “the global temperature low at about 1900–1910 … is a good proxy for the pre-industrial temperature low pointed out in the chart [at the link]. We can take the temperature in that later period (1900 or so) to be nearly the same as the “pre-Industrial low.

This gives a present global warming number of approximately +1.4°C.

None of these numbers is good if the health of the many, not profit for the few, is one’s primary concern.

A Watershed

However you consider the situation — non-El Niño spikes in temperature; accelerating CO2 emissions and very possibly warming as well; or the uncertain definition of the “pre-industrial baseline” (a somewhat politicized discussion in the case of the hyper-cautious IPCC) — no matter what lens one looks through, we’re clearly at a watershed.

Or two watersheds. The first, a watershed of events. The second, a watershed in public awareness of how immediate are the consequences. The first watershed is undeniably in front of us; it’s in the data itself.

The second is a prediction. In my estimation, people are much more aware — today — of global warming than any in the corporatized media gives them credit for. That awareness, unreported for now, will come bursting though sooner than expected, with undeniable, and non-linear, consequences.

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  1. pretzelattack

    the elephant in the room is starting to smash things. meanwhile, our elites fight over who gets the most crumbs from the political spoils system. we need realists running things, not con artists.

    1. Skip Intro

      The elephant in the room is the massive methane releases from the areas formerly known as permafrost… and the seafloor clathrates too… can’t forget those.

      1. RWood

        Sliding (hah! It’s dust to dust here)
        At current topic on

        This is a comment by WXmanWannabe:

        Here is new study released today which is actually good news in terms of Lake bed permafrost melt in the Arctic; it suggests that “new” carbon release from upper layers has less of an impact than older carbon deeper down as well as related methane release. This actually makes the case (in reverse) that the older carbon that we dig out of mines to burn coal, and the ancient oil deposits that we burn for fuel and gasoline, are worse in terms of emissions:

  2. Christine

    We need the population to drop back to sustainable numbers, like the 1.6 billion at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. We are in the Sixth Great Extinction, and forget about arguing mammal numbers, the e360 yale. com numbers on the drop in the insect populations, inside nature preserves, say humans will not have food. We just cannot face reality, and so, disease will probably have to take us down. Weisman, in The World Without Us, said if every woman had limited herself to 1 child at the turn of the last century, we would have been at 1.6 by such intelligence. So, what will it be…Black Death, nuclear winter? Who knows, but it will come.

    1. John Wright

      One can hear people assert that “whatever we do, we need to be humane”.

      But how does one have humane population control?

      From my vantage point in California, I suspect CA will eventually lead the way as resource constraints such as water or energy limit the number of people who can be supported.

      In my neck of the woods, we had a massive wildfire that destroyed a lot of homes. A Los Angeles economist arrived in town to push to rebuild quickly and add some more homes to accommodate more “growth”.

      The city council dutifully approved the building of an additional 250 homes to one of the burned out regions.

      I suspect, in the not too distant future, people will look at the profession of “economics” and its message that continual growth of human population can be and always will be accommodated will become a subject of common ridicule.

      This might be about the time the faux-Nobel economics prize is “delisted” from the Nobel slate..

      1. Ed Miller

        Speaking of population control, I’m so old I can remember when citizens in the US actually discussed the issue of too many humans on this finite planet, as opposed to expecting unlimited growth to infinity. Once the oligarchs’ henchmen took over in the 1980’s there’s been hardly a word in mainstream media at the national level. Hmmmm.

        As a side note, IMHO people who plan to live to 150+ (Peter Thiel, et. al.) should be the first to go. I don’t even want to think of what a world with 150-year-old people would be.

    2. Dirk77

      Running the numbers, my estimate of 1 billion is about yours. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, my proposal would be to execute every 6 out of 7 people on the planet right now. Though if you start with the worst offenders, you can let more survive. Me, nor any of my friends will survive (especially the ones with kids), but that is the breaks. Your proposal is far more gentle but I am not sure that it is too late. That said, if you view humans as part of the ecosystem itself, just watching the whole sad scenario play out is a possibility too.

      1. cnchal

        . . . my proposal would be to execute every 6 out of 7 people on the planet right now. . .

        Good thing you aren’t large and in charge.

        Right now, enough food is produced annually to feed 14 billion people, except almost half is wasted, implying a massive distribution and production miss-allocation of resources problem.

        What is wrong with you, really?

        1. Dirk77

          My point is that for all of the perceived gravity of the problem, I don’t see any proposed solution commensurate with its magnitude. So I offered one. But perhaps all this hand wringing is just show and not much is really expected to get done. If so, that’s ok too, but it would be helpful to know that.

          1. cnchal

            Interesting response. Calling the execution of 6 billion people a solution is quite a bit over the top. You make Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao combined look like the most angelic choir boys ever.

            . . . Me, nor any of my friends will survive (especially the ones with kids), but that is the breaks. . .

            Also over the top. Get a grip. If you don’t die from an accident or illness, you will survive, or perhaps even prosper until old age get’s you. Global warming won’t kill you, nor your friends. It no doubt will make life difficult for millions, particularly if you have to move due to rising oceans, or if you live in tornado alley and the wind speeds increase to 3 or 4 hundred MPH.

            From Gaius’ post at the end.

            Or two watersheds. The first, a watershed of events. The second, a watershed in public awareness of how immediate are the consequences. The first watershed is undeniably in front of us; it’s in the data itself.

            The second is a prediction. In my estimation, people are much more aware — today — of global warming than any in the corporatized media gives them credit for. That awareness, unreported for now, will come bursting though sooner than expected, with undeniable, and non-linear, consequences.

            That awareness is building. Many people are caught on a debt treadmill where they have to keep earning and churning to survive. It is the debt based economic system we exist in, and it is deemed by those in power which benefit personally from this system, the best there is.

            For the near term, solutions are going to come from individuals that turn down excessive and gluttonous consumption which spews CO2 into the atmosphere. The more people that act that way, the cheaper it becomes for the gluttons to be gluttons, unless some restraint is imposed, so the question becomes who imposes the restraint and gores the glutton’s ox?

            The low hanging fruit is the food production system which turns oil into food, and wastes nearly half the food. Ridiculous, but there it is.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              I don’t agree. Scarcity of potable water will start to bite by 2050 if not sooner. We’ll see far more serious political battles and wars over that 20 years before that.

              William Gibson predicted that the jackpot, as in the 40 year breakdown of systems and rise in disease that wiped out 90% of humans (in his book The Peripheral) started ~ 2027. That sounds about right. And his book was optimistic. It assumed civilization survived in some form.

              Enough of a change in weather patterns will lead to a decline in food production. This is a small but telling example:

              Gonnella Baking Co – which supplies the buns to Major League Baseball’s Wrigley Field – faced an unusual problem in October when flour from this year’s U.S. wheat harvest arrived at their factories containing low levels of protein…

              That meant bakers couldn’t produce bread with the airy texture customers demand, setting off two weeks of tinkering with temperatures and the mixing process, and the eventual purchase of gluten as an additive. By the time the alchemy was done, Gonnella had thrown away more than $20,000 worth of substandard bread and buns, said president Ron Lucchesi…

              The problem spans the $23 billion U.S. bread market and highlights a paradox in the global wheat trade. Despite a worldwide grains glut, high-protein hard wheat is scarce after two years of poor U.S. harvests. The shortage hurts bakers and millers who prize high-protein wheat, along with the farmers who grow it.


              If the famed multi-year California drought hadn’t had a bit of a respite IIRC the year before last, experts were convinced that CA would see agricultural output plunge, with big ramifications across the US.

              Similarly, if the bee population collapses, humans will be done in less than a decade. That appears to be happening due to a combination of pesticides weakening their immune systems and increased cell phone towers and other high frequency communications messing with their navigation systems.

              Given the severity of the ongoing great species dieoff, your attitude is really arrogant. Food output is only the most superficial element of how humans are wrecking the world ecosystem. Staying with the status quo with some tinkering at the margin isn’t workable even over a two decade timeframe.

              1. cnchal

                That meant bakers couldn’t produce bread with the airy texture customers demand, setting off two weeks of tinkering with temperatures and the mixing process, and the eventual purchase of gluten as an additive. By the time the alchemy was done, Gonnella had thrown away more than $20,000 worth of substandard bread and buns, said president Ron Lucchesi…

                The next paragraph mentions a grain glut, so the telling part is what exactly? That high protein hard wheat that makes airy texture bread is in short supply due to poor US harvests for two years, and changing weather patterns due to global warming is the culprit? If only we had tackled climate change and global warming fifty years ago, perhaps they would have had great harvests of that particular strain of grain for the last two years avoiding the disaster of airy-less texture bread.

                Why not give the substandard, airy-less texture bread away instead of sending it to the trash? Oil went into growing, harvesting, transporting, milling the substandard wheat, with the final insult of more oil used to send it to the garbage dump, where even more oil is used by bulldozers to drive over the trash to compact it before even more oil is used to bury it. Not one calorie of it went to a person, but in the name of the markets this was the result.

                The Reuters article is a cry about lost profits and declining stawk market prices of the participants of this sector, while the stawk market roars for everyone else.

                As a society, where do we start to address global warming? Who is forced to stop consuming first? Who would implement Dirk77’s solution of executing 6 billion people to reduce the extent of global warming already baked into the future? Who will stop paying off their personal mountain of debt? Who will tell the Chinese, that have bitten the consumer apple and like it to stop, and enforce it?

                I won’t get anywhere admonishing my young neighbors to stop having children so that global warming is reduced due to them not being born.

                Eating is necessary for survival. In my view, when almost half of what is produced is wasted, and if that can be substantially reduced, is not tinkering at the margin. Economies need to shrink instead of continual expansion and more wasteful consumption.

                Who will go first and deliberately make do with less? Individuals.

                We routinely have discussions about about how people need jawbs and your view on a BIG is that it won’t work. My view is that a combination of BIG and job guarantee can work. Pay people to do nothing and consume as little as possible, and tax the hell out of the billionaires for two fundamental reasons, one, to pay for it, and two, to stop those billionaires from their massive consumption of resources.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  What about “sixth great species die off” don’t you understand? Literally half the species that used to be in the world are gone. That is due in large measure to pesticides and habitat encroachment. We are killing the coral reefs. The oceans are already so acid that we are going to have greatly reduced shellfish soon. We already see a collapse in fish stocks and the lower level organisms that fish eat.

                  Billions will die. Soon. The idea that redistributing current food stocks will solve the problem isn’t beginning to come to grips with the scope of the problem. And that’s before you get to climate change induced mass migration and wars.

                  We’ve linked to stories like this and you’ve apparently ignored them:


                  People need to stop having kids and eat less and way further down the food chain. Period. Having kids now is one of the most selfish things you can do. The kids are going to be coming into a terrible world.

                  1. cnchal

                    What about “sixth great species die off” don’t you understand?

                    There is much I don’t understand. I get that we have poisoned ourselves with pesticides and there was a good link the other day about McDonalds that turned out to be about farmers producing food using too much fertilizer, which runs off into the water ways and ends up chocking the life out of areas where those rivers empty into large bodies of water.

                    So the idea isn’t to redistribute current food production, it is to produce a lot less food in the first place.

                    1. RWood

                      There are several avenues availed to drive down population. Here’s one:

                      Routine use of some of the strongest antibiotics, which doctors have said should be preserved for the most extreme cases lest resistance to them should increase and prevent their use for the diseases for which they are intended, is now a common practice in farming in the developing world. The consequences will be felt throughout the world because resistance to strong antibiotics is spread among organisms.

                      Colistin is regarded as one of the last lines of defence against serious diseases, including pneumonia, which cannot be treated by other medicines. Without these drugs, diseases that were commonly treatable in the last century will become deadly once again.

                      Who knows where this leads? Who put this throughfare here?

        2. Oregoncharles

          I’m generally one of the doomsayers on here, but I think you’re right that there’s a narrow way out, if we did everything right. I’m not surprised that there’s more than enough food grown already; I’ve see enough about wastage. And apparently famines are mostly caused by lack of money or transportation – or wars.

          If we embarked on a massive campaign to restrict population, distribute resources much more equitably, greatly reduce waste, stop feeding human food to animals, and so on, we could probably make it through without a mass die-off. ( As Synoia notes below, executions would hardly be necessary.) Even the water restraints that Yves notes, also below, could be managed if we did it right.

          I trust the problem with this optimism is obvious.

        1. Ed Miller

          Sign up the entire world with US “healthcare”. Oligarchs extract more wealth at maximized rate and people die faster. Double bonus!

    3. funemployed

      A massive worldwide effort to distribute birth control and access to reproductive care including free and relatively safe abortions is entirely doable and could start tomorrow, yet here in midwestern merica, my wife and I are looked at like strange aliens when we share that we don’t want kids. And I’ve insulted more than a few people deeply by saying I don’t think it is ethical to bring children into the world right now.

      Not saying it would reduce the population enough, soon enough, but it would certainly help with good bang for buck.

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      I have read that insect die-off is largely due to pan-everywhere use of neonicotinoid pesiticides as protectant coatings applied to seed before planting. The neonics are systemic insecticides easily transported throughout plant tissues . . . waiting on guard to kill any insect which eats them. But they apparently leach from seed-surface out into surrounding soil as well, where any passing plant can find them, take them up, and kill any insect which eats THEM also. Including eating any pollen and nectar they produce.

      And these neonics are apparently very fine-focus tailored to find and destroy the function of insect brain cells. So a little kills a lot, and keeps on killing. Killing off the insect base of terrestrial insectivorous food chains, leading to bird-shortages , among other things.

      The solution would be a hard-ban on neonics, meaning years of hard time in the world’s worst prisons for any selling them or using them in any way whatsoever.

      Don’t like that? Bye bye birdies.

  3. Ian Perkins

    And the article doesn’t mention methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, huge amounts of which are trapped in the permafrost and stuff which is on the verge of melting and causing runaway apocalyptic climate change.
    The Paris Agreement basically just hopes that keeping the temperature rise below 2 degrees will keep this from happening. In fact we’ve no idea what global average temperature rise would trigger it, but there are a few alarming signs that it may be kicking in already – try googling pingos or Svalbard Global Seed Vault flood.

    1. rjs

      the article also neglects to mention sulfur dioxide, an anti-greenhouse gas, emissions of which China has reduced 75% over the past 10 years….

      when coal is burnt, both CO2 and particulates are released into the atmosphere…among the particulates are sulfate aerosols, which partially ameliorate the greenhouse effect caused by the CO2 – those sulfates are why we see a global cooling in the year or two after a major volcanic eruption:
      while the CO2 hangs around for centuries, the sulfates are relatively short lived…so when we clean up or stop burning coal, the greenhouse effect caused by CO2 continues, but the global dimming from sulfates which has been slowing the warming is gone immediately, allowing for the full force of the greenhouse effect to occur…

      1. Dirk77

        Given the increase in the slope in the above plot at around 1971, I wondered about that. Wasn’t the EPA created about then?

        1. rjs

          the US cut SO2 emissions from above 35 million tons per year before 1970 to around 5 million tons a year now, largely on the back of the acid rain legislation….our cuts had a minor warming effect because China’s SO2 emissions were growing to over 37 tons per year at the same time…now that China is cutting their’s, we’re finally seeing an acceleration of the greenhouse gas warming that was already baked in over the last 50 years…

          (ie, the SO2 cooling graph is now returning to near zero)

  4. Tom Stone

    The great die off is inevitable at this point, there are no political mechanisms that can deal wil this situation.
    This is particularly true of the USA which has no longer has any means of peaceful change.
    I expect the response of TPTB when this becomes an urgent problem to be stupid, extremely brutal and ineffective, as is traditional.
    In the meantime, the majority of the US population is going to learn what it’s like to live in the poorer parts of Puerto Rico..

    1. pretzelattack

      well switching to renewable enery will avoid it. granted, given that both parties are captured by corporate interests, action to avoid it will not be led by the usa. but saying it is inevitable is far from the truth. china for one seems at least to be led by people in the reality based community.

      1. Ian Perkins

        Switching to renewables would avoid it, but it looks touch and go whether we’ll do it in time.
        If we don’t, we’ll have to stick those sulphate particles back in the stratosphere to blot the sun out, unless we’ve thought of something better in the meantime. This is exactly the sort of thing I can see the USA contemplating – deny global warming and keep on burning but keep geoengineering as Plan B in case the SHTF.

        1. Isotope_C14

          The incredible buffoon Rex Tillerson claimed that it is an engineering problem in a talk to the CFR fools.

          His geoengineering solution was to move the farms north.

          Dumb people should never be in charge. Vast areas of Canada and upper Minnesota are on Canadian Shield granite, with about 3 inches of topsoil.

          See Rex, there was this ice age that pushed all the good soil to Iowa, Indiana and Illinois.

          The sulfur aerosol solution is beyond idiotic. I’m sure there won’t be acid rain lakes once again…

          1. Ian Perkins

            Beyond idiotic for sure, but then so is much of what goes on in the world today.
            Unfortunately, the science seems to agree that squirting sulphate into the stratosphere would stop global warming, with lots of side effects. And some – such as Tillerson, an ex-ExxonMobil idiot – would see that as an OK back up plan while they continue with their fossil fuel addiction.

          2. The Rev Kev

            “there was this ice age that pushed all the good soil to Iowa, Indiana and Illinois”
            Fascinating that. Know any sources online for that?

                1. Oregoncharles

                  That’s nothing. The entire Columbia basin was reshaped by colossal, I mean apocalyptic, flash floods when an ice dam in Montana – take a look at the map to appreciate this – collapsed, releasing an enormous glacial lake. Many times. Huge areas in eastern Washington, where my wife grew up, were stripped of their soil and even the rocks reshaped. The famous rock formations of the Gorge were formed by the floods shearing off the ends of ridges, leaving standing walls of bare rock. And the Willamette Valley, upstream from the Columbia, was filled with mud by the backwash, with a bathtub ring of “erratic” boulders. Except along the rivers, the soil is deep clay that was deposited when the waters paused before flowing back out.

                  All of this was only deciphered in the last few decades. Before, the formations were a geological puzzle. Yes, the glaciers certainly left their mark.

  5. Ed

    Apparently Cape Town is running out of water, due to the usual population pressures, which if it were actually happening would be a big deal.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Hearing the same thing. Along with worries about social structure crumbling.

      google ‘climate change’ + us military and you’ll get many hits. But so far, the political discussions appear to have been controlled by petrochemical interests.

    2. Wukchumni

      If we hadn’t the amazingly bountiful last winter that broke the 5 year long drought and filled aquifers, California could closely resemble Capetown. As it is, our winter is so far AWOL, with temps in the mid 70’s to low 80’s over the next 10 days. That ain’t cool.

  6. Boothroyd

    Owing to the fact that our species appears to be helplessly rushing towards self-inflicted extinction due to global warming and other human-caused ecological disasters, I often wonder if scientific warnings such as these aren’t merely a form of communication the purpose of which is to solidify group identity as well as to elevate one’s percieved status within the group, rather than affecting the socio-economic change necessary to avert such catastrophes. Reading about and discussing global warming, while interesting, appear to be insufficient actions for solving the problem, while furthering the intactability that our evolved tribal politics ensures will further worsen the situation.

    1. pretzelattack

      yes, looks like the action will eventually be violent. i would hope that doesn’t happen, but given the instransigence of the leaders, it doesn’t seem likely that it can be avoided.

      discussing any problem doesn’t solve it. not enough people are desperate enough to take action, but ignoring the problem seems unlikely to help.

      1. Boothroyd

        A lack of evidence indicating an imminent change in collective behavior in order to mitigate severe environmental and social problems suggests that they are indeed being ignored by the majority. Perhaps our reasoning architectures have evolved biases for solving problems of social dominance hierarchies, in which the “fittest” individuals and groups succeed by over-consuming and over-reproducing wherever system constraints allow. If so, these “hard-wired” behavioral tendencies may prove extremely difficult to overcome in a timely manner.

  7. Wukchumni

    One issue hitting here is the new trend of less ‘chill hours’ for nut or fruit crops in the Central Valley. I read somewhere that pistachios are the one closest to not getting enough coldth.

  8. Edward E

    A number of records for the Earth’s climate were set in 2017:

    •It was the warmest year on record for ocean heat content, which increased markedly between 2016 and 2017.
    •It was the second or third warmest year on record for surface temperature – depending on the dataset used – and the warmest year without the influence of an El Niño event.
    •It saw record lows in sea ice extent and volume in the Arctic both at the beginning and end of the year, though the minimum extent reached in September was only the eighth lowest on record.
    •It also saw record-low Antarctic sea ice for much of the year, though scientists are still working to determine the role of human activity in the region’s sea ice changes.
    Zeke Hausfather @hausfath

  9. Wyoming

    No we are not at the Watershed moment.

    We are at the Triage moment.

    The Watershed moment could more accurately be said to have occurred in 1988 when Jim Hansen testified to Congress on the flood which was coming and that the time to start acting had arrived. The flood is almost upon us. We simply no longer have the time to completely overhaul the entire infrastructure of our civilization let alone that we do not have the capital or resources to do it any more either. As Christine pointed out, to avoid trying to swim through the flood we needed most importantly to dramatically reduce population so that the capital and resource requirements of completely overhauling civilization would not be impossible. But we dithered.

    The author is mentally standing in one of our narrow canyon washes here in Arizona and up stream he sees a flash flood tearing downstream at him. He thinks ‘this’ is the watershed moment as he can say to his family, “See? Here comes the water?”. But the watershed moment was when the rain started falling on the mountains upstream. That was when he needed to start running. Following the dictates of our cultural commitment to excessive optimism the author repeats the falsehood that we can still outrun the flood, but that moment has long past. At this point he can grab one of his two kids and try and climb the cliff next to him to escape the flood. The other kid will be consigned to the deep.

    The Triage Moment.

    We are at the point where we have to abandon those who cannot be saved and try and save those which we have some chance of saving. We are functionally at war and we are losing badly. We must retreat or we will likely lose it all. Who gets to hand out the triage cards is a burning question.

    The conclusion of this article is another example of how our cultural bounds do not let us speak plainly about dire situations. We always have to lean so hard towards optimistic explanations that a big percentage of the population will be incapable of understanding the urgency of action. And, worse, those who stand to profit form the status quo will be able to exercise subtle, and no so subtle, opposition to action to garner additional profits in some cases, but survival advantage overall. So we downplay the seriousness of the situation while trying to encourage people to change. And accomplish pretty much nothing.

    The world as a whole is years, maybe a couple of decades, from the level of awareness (let’s call it the Panic point) which triggers drastic action due to public pressure. And when people panic they do not take the common good into account as we all know.

    1. Wukchumni

      At this point, i’m more curious as to how primal we go in our descent into something wicked this way comes. The populace of the country largely lives via well established stereotypes of one another that always reinforce each of our worst traits…

      We’ve already convinced ourselves that 26 six year olds or 26 church goers gunned down is worth the price of prayers posthaste, but nothing else.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        After reading some of the post-apocalyptic SF in the new ‘Home-on-the-Praire’ genre I started wondering what other scenarios made sense as possible futures. That the present human populations will not be sustainable in the future seems plain. The non-linearity of Climate Disruption is just as plain from the study of past climate change. The finitude of Earth and its resources is also plain. There are graceful albeit somewhat unpleasant ways to adapt to these certainties but the intransigence and short sight of those who rule us is also plain.

        Some random event will trigger uprisings freeing the thinly subdued primal responses you allude to. I think our populations will remember those who brought us to brink and their kind will be eliminated from the gene pool. A power vacuum will open matters to the dark actions of the remaining sociopaths lusting for power and advantage — and with luck the worst of their kind might eliminate themselves and their aggressive followers from the gene pool. I haven’t figured out what happens next. I like to believe that somehow the aggressive, the pathological and the socialpathic might weed themselves out of human society leaving the meek to inherit the Earth. [I always liked the children’s book “Millions of Cats”.]

        A society of the meek would hold very different values from our society of the Market. The humankind selected by those values would also be very different. I guess it’s plain I have a lot of details to work out. I am playing with the idea that humankind is a combination of our genetics and our society and both might evolve to new forms. Societies and civilizations have collapsed in the past but I believe the collapse we face — possibly within our lifetimes — will indeed be different this time. The scope and speed of collapse will dwarf all past catastrophes. We fall from an enormously greater height.

        We live in the singular era enabled through the exploitation of vast quantities of stored solar energy — a one time deal. We used that energy — wastefully — to build enormous human populations. We also built a singular base of knowledge on that energy and the brainpower of that enormous population which offers the key to a different future than past civilizations could hope for. My hope lies in that aggregation of knowledge. The problem for the future lies in how to preserve as much as possible of this knowledge — things we may never be able to learn again. I believe the seeds for a new and better world lie somewhere in that knowledge.

        1. Wukchumni

          I could see the USA splitting apart into factions, and eventually little fiefdoms ala Europe pre-19th century, for aside from the MIC there isn’t much that keeps us together as one.

          It’ll be unlike any other epoch, as the idea of things having worth will be sorely tested when climate change renders previously agreed upon value a moot point. In collapses, knowledge transfer usually means into the round file in some fashion, hopefully some information is remembered, as society rebuilds anew into the world of it’s choosing.

          1. The Rev Kev

            You might want to grab yourself a copy of John Michael Greer’s novel “Retrotopia” if you can. There is a sample at but the point of this future of 2065 is that there are other ways of adapting to the future than what we usually recognize. Here, the Lakeland Republic of the upper Midwest has decided that past technology is actually a resource that can be mined successfully.

            1. Oregoncharles

              Greer has also sponsored a series of story collections covering related themes. They’re available on his new website, His writing is always interesting; I usually avoid the more spiritual essays, but he just wrote a quick history of neo paganism and modern druidry that proved fascinating. A lot I didn’t know.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      If — in past climate changes the increase in atmospheric CO2 lagged behind the increase in temperature — this suggests to me — there are probably natural mechanisms which add CO2 to the atmosphere in response to increases in temperature. We live in an age of Climate Disruption lead by a substantial and remarkably rapid — measured on geologic time scales — increase in CO2 increasing global temperature. I think we might get a chance to discover some of the natural mechanisms which increased atmospheric CO2 in response to increasing temperature in the past. [Actually I believe many of these mechanisms have already been discovered but not sufficiently well understood to accurately model.] This is a convoluted way of suggesting the long term impacts of the CO2 levels at the time of Hansen’s 1988 paper might already have been too too high to avert our ongoing Climate Disruptions. Certainly the social and economic state of world had already arrived at the point where little or nothing would be done to reduce CO2 emissions, the extraction of petroleum, natural gas, and coal. A wiser, kinder, gentler society might have at least attempted to slow the rate and acceleration of Climate Disruption and mitigate its impacts — but that’s not us.

    3. Eclair

      Wyoming, I like your characterization of the state we are in (or not in) as past ‘watershed’ and into ‘triage,’ but approaching ‘panic.’

      After reading article linked in NC a few days ago (which I though I had bookmarked, but guess not) on our government’s sad incapacity to understand and combat insurgencies in countries we have invaded, I wonder if the metaphor we are searching for in our attempts to wrap our minds around the horrible enormity of our situation vis a vis the rapidly changing climate, might not be ‘insurgency’ or ‘the resistance.’

      The article pointed out that the French and Norwegian Resistance movements realized they had no chance of defeating the Nazi war machine; it was simply too massive, too well organized, too well-equipped. They could only harass them and make it a bit more difficult for them to operate. And … they could fairly easily eliminate those locals who cooperated with the Nazi occupation government.

      At some point, sooner rather than later, do we begin to view fossil fuel corporations (and their allied industries) as ‘occupiers’ and destroyers of our home planet? We can ask them, politely, to leave off their depredations and stop drilling and fracking and blowing up mountains and poisoning the air we breathe and the water we drink. We can present petitions to beg them to stop spewing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere and to refrain from acidifying our oceans. Good luck with that.

      At some point, sooner rather than later, do concerned citizens form a Resistance? And, no, this does not mean marching about on legally sanctioned parade routes wearing pink, or any other color, hats. Although, that is a great distraction.

      Resistance movements are never pretty. Before you decide, you weigh the consequences of doing nothing and just ‘accepting’ the inevitable because that does not disrupt the more or less comfortable life we are leading. The inevitable, more and more, looks like massive dislocations of populations, relegation of increasingly large percentages of vulnerable people into states of ‘precarity,’ creation of systems of government/corporate surveillance and control to manage the resulting unrest. Along with water shortages, topsoil depletion, ocean die-offs, and coastal flooding. But …. most of the readers here might, just might, be able to avoid the worst.

      Most people do not see ‘reality;’ they happily live in a world of their own, or their leaders’, imagining. I would guess that the average NC reader, whether commenter or lurker, sees the world in all its naked wretchedness (as well as in its moments of splendor). It’s a curse … and a blessing.

      We know what is happening. The planet is descending into a chaotic state. At the ‘triage’ moment, we, each of us, must decide which path to take.

      1. RWood

        Another take on the living world:

        We live in an environment of extinction. We have subjected the planet to a pernicious miasma of global warming which we continue to exacerbate by our selfish actions, initiating rates of change in biospheric systems that offer non-human life-forms few options of adaptation other than death. Now, in refusing the accommodation of the non-human and the possibilities for coexistence, we must suffer the consequences – phenomena that it is quite reasonable (and politically useful) to call Weather Terrorism.
        John Davis

  10. Synapsid

    If we calculate what concentration of CO2 would have the same warming effect, by itself, as the current concentration of greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, N2O, perfluorocarbons) added to the atmosphere by human activity, that CO2-equivalent concentration is closer to 500 parts per million by volume than to the approximately 410 ppmv that is the current CO2 concentration.

    It’s worth reminding ourselves that all the greenhouse gases are contributing to the warming.

  11. Paul Handover

    This is such grim reading!

    I’m in my 70s and have this naive hope that when I draw my last breath I will do so knowing that humanity has embraced the urgent and pressing need to save itself.

    Articles like this, despite the truth of the underlying message, depress me so much.

    For they underscore the degree of naivety I hold within me!

  12. Synoia

    For years I have been contemplating where to go to avoid the catastrophe.

    It cannot be low lying.
    It cannot be a desert.
    It cannot be a river valley

    It must grow much food
    The locals must be friendly (and in extremis, the are likely to be not friendly anywhere).

    I have zero candidates. My best guess was the birthplace of Man, the African Veldt.

    In N America the South East side of the Appalachians might be possible.

    In Europe the Massife Central come to mind.

    New Zealand might work, and I have a sister there.

    1. Wukchumni

      Among the largest population densities of all states in pre-Columbian America, the indians of California had figured out the best places to survive for thousands of years, a useful roadmap from the past to align one with something that has potential now.

        1. Edward E

          Dogpatch USA | Abandoned Arkansas

          It’s available, but I’d recommend living up by the ski lodge, and get a quit claim deed. There are a lot of places on the Ozarks plateaus with very fertile land and lots of wild game & fishing. The plateau tops are a bit prone to drought sometimes though. Nice to have some backup farming land in the valleys. Beautiful!

    1. Wukchumni

      A dozen years ago, my buddy in Auckland was showing me places in Auckland Harbor that had the mounts where substantial cannons in the 1880’s used to point outwards, along with the genuine article higher up on a hill, an effort to thwart would-be bad intentions by the Tsar et al, no doubt!

      Coastal fortifications were constructed in New Zealand in two main waves: around 1885 as a response to fears of an attack by Russia.

      In 1885 the New Zealand Government bought ten Armstrong BL 8-inch and thirteen Armstrong BL 6-inch guns on disappearing carriages. The disappearing gun was the very latest in military technology in the 1880s. It was “disappearing” because as it fired, the recoil pushed the gun back underground where it could be reloaded under cover. The total costs of this artillery plus the costs of installation including land, emplacements, magazines and barracks was about £160,000.

      Following the “second Russian scare” a number of additional RML 7-inch and 64-pr guns were also installed.

  13. Susan the other

    Everybody knows. Where is Leonard Cohen when we need him? I’m sick of our dear leaders being terrified of stating the situation bluntly and ducking from telling us what will be done. They are gutless wonders. It almost makes sense at this point, with everybody and their dog fully aware of the climate disaster, that the President initiates a big infrastructure budget along with an even bigger military project – notice there were no specifics, just basically everything needs to be done. I’d agree with that. But wouldn’t it be nice if somebody had the courage to admit it?

  14. Tom Bradford

    I’m a New Zealander by choice rather than birth for (almost) this very reason. Nevil Shute’s “On the Beach” had a big impression on me when I read it in the ’60’s as a kid in the UK. I was much older before I was able to make the move and the underlying danger had changed from nuclear war to climate change but I’ve never regretted it.

    New Zealand has the additional advantages of a reasonably robust climate – the oceans surrounding it will hopefully prove a buffer against the extremes of heating – and those same oceans will hopefully also stop us being overwhelmed by great numbers of uninvited, like some of those commenting above.

    Of course we have seen a few billionaires recognizing the writing on the wall and using their wealth to jump the queue, but the recent furore triggered by the bogus justification for granting residency to Peter Thiel who bought his way in and the election of a left-wing government will hopefully put a stop to this.

    1. Wukchumni

      We’d given some thought to immigrating to NZ, had the points and all, but then we got older, and into the scrap heap with you, ha.

      Always enjoyed the Kiwi way of life, their outlook on things and importance of the outdoor life, the perennial David to the world’s Goliaths in sporting events, and their wry sense of humor that’s more deadpan than their Antipodean cousins across the ditch.

      Been a dozen times over almost 4 decades, and watched it change a lot, mostly for the better, and it’s all good, but we favor the South Island in the summer. I’ve been on many tracks, did the Milford Track in 1990 as my first one, and dozen others since. They’re all so interesting, and you get to meet the world on neutral ground when staying in huts.

      One time we were walking the Abel Tasman Track and were given NZ census forms to fill out @ one of the huts by the warden there, as that was the day the whole country did it, hotels, motels, caravan parks, etc. A snapshot of the country, it’s citizens and visitors.

  15. Jer Bear

    A better measure is Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies, since the oceans are affected earlier than land surfaces, are more greatly affected and cover more surface area of the planet. The only drawback is the more limited period of record. Going forward, SSTAs will likely be the standard for keeping track of climate change.

  16. Synoia

    That linear fit is suspect. I’d like to see a growth curve fit.

    Not too many linear anythings outside of manufactured things,


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