With the World on the Line, Scientists Outline the Paths to Survival

Yves here. Unfortunately, the scientists’ warning that will come from next week’s IPCC looks like too little, too late, despite the desperately urgent message. I remember how the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth warnings were pooh-poohed.  And what government has the will to undertake the needed mobilization, which would need to include reducing offshored carbon production, via buying goods from countries that pollute on behalf of the West.

By Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and staff writer for Grist, covering climate science, policy, and solutions. He has previously written for the Wall Street Journal, Slate, and a variety of other publications. Originally published at Grist

This week, scientists and representatives from every country on Earth are gathering in South Korea to put the finishing touches on a report that, if followed, would change the course of history.

The report is a roadmap for possible ways to keep climate change to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Anything beyond that amount of warming, and the planet starts to really go haywire. So the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a U.N.-sponsored, Nobel Peace Prize-winning assemblage of scientists — wants to show how we can avoid that. To be clear, hitting that goal would require a radical rethink in almost every aspect of society. But the report finds that not meeting the goal would upend life as we know it, too.

“This will be one of the most important meetings in the IPCC’s history,” said Hoesung Lee, the group’s chair, in his opening address on Monday.

The report will be released on October 8. From leaked drafts, we know the basics of scientists’ findings: World greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 — just 15 months from now. The scientists also show the difference in impacts between 1.5 and 2 degrees would not be minor— it could be make-or-break for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, for example, which would flood every coastal city on Earth should it collapse.

“The decisions we make now about whether we let 1.5 or 2 degrees or more happen will change the world enormously,” said Heleen de Coninck, a Dutch climate scientist and one of the report’s lead authors, in an interview with the BBC. “The lives of people will never be the same again either way, but we can influence which future we end up with.”

The report has been in the works since the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Three years ago, during the climate talks, leaders of a few dozen small island nations and other highly vulnerable nations, like Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam, demanded the bolder 1.5 degrees C temperature target be included in the first-ever global climate pact. The group represents 1 billion people, and for some of the involved countries, like the Marshall Islands, their entire existence is at stake.

At the time, the lead negotiator from that tiny Pacific island nation used the word“genocide” to describe the inevitable process of forced abandonment of his country due to sea-level rise, should global temperature breach the 1.5 degree target.

Even taking into account the policies and pledges enacted globally since the Paris Agreement, the world is on course to warm between 2.6 to 3.2 degrees C by the end of the century, according to independent analysis by Climate Action Tracker.

According to a U.N. preview of the report, meeting the 1.5 goal would “require very fast changes in electricity production, transport, construction, agriculture and industry” worldwide, in a globally coordinated effort to bring about a zero-carbon economy as quickly as possible. It would also very likely require eventually removing huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using technology that is not currently available at the scale that would be necessary. And there’s no time to waste: “The longer CO2 is emitted at today’s rate, the faster this decarbonization will need to be.”

The world has already warmed by about 1.1 degrees C, and the implications of that are increasingly obvious. In just the three years since the Paris Agreement was signed, we’ve seen thousand-year rainstorms by the dozens, the most destructive hurricane season in U.S. history, disastrous fires on almost every continent, and an unprecedented coral bleaching episode that affected 70 percent of the world’s reefs.

In this age of rapid warming, the IPCC report is inherently political — there are obvious winners and losers if the world fails to meet the 1.5-degree goal. If the world’s governments are to take the implications of IPCC’s findings seriously, it would be nothing less than revolutionary — a radical restructuring of human society on our planet.

Right now, scientists are trying to find the precise words to describe an impending catastrophe and the utterly heroic efforts it would take to avert it.

“We’re talking about the kind of crisis that forces us to rethink everything we’ve known so far on how to build a secure future,” Greenpeace’s Kaisa Kosonen told AFP in response to a draft of the report. “We have to try to make the impossible possible.”

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  1. c_heale

    Unfortunately, I give this zero chance of happening in 15 months, given the fact that governments have consistently ignored this problem for more than 40 years. The only way a change will happen is a major disaster which cannot be ascribed to anything else but climate change and seriously affects at least one but probably all of China, the USA, Russia, and the EU. My guess is that the only thing that this could be would be massive crop failures and subsequent famine due to abnormally hot/dry weather.

    1. Isotope_C14

      You are correct I think.

      The bacteria in the northern areas feasting off of ancient dead plant material can not be stopped.

      This planet is 30% land, where are all those carbon capture hypothetical factories going to be?

      1. saylor

        From what I am to understand, the ‘feedback loop’ has too much momentum at this point and will take us past the stated threshold.
        But my reading material could be wrong…, I certainly hope so.

        1. Isotope_C14

          That is correct saylor,

          The human CO2/NOx/CH4 inputs don’t really matter at this point, the little microorganisms that have been frozen for millennia are doing far more than is being measured, now that they have been thawed and are churning out methane.

          The question is not if, but when will the temperature be too high to support agriculture at the current scale that it is.

          Then for philosophers and prognosticators, will the earth end up like venus or mars? We won’t be here to see it.

          1. Michael Von Plato

            I’m 76, and I expect to be here to see quite a bit of it. We are in a rapidly accelerating vicious cycle – feedback loops upon feedback loops. As a retired meteorologist who still keeps up with the science, I see only a looming disaster of biblical proportions. The nihilists who run the world are buying land in New Zealand and the Andes below the current glacier lines. They will last the longest, with water arable land, a tolerable climate and good water. But that won’t last forever either. Good luck for the rest of us. BTW, it will all really break loose with the warming oceans, the augur of our doom.

            1. pdxjoan

              Mother Earth might have other plans for the nihilists’ and their escape plans. Ever heard of The Ring of Fire?

              1. Isotope_C14

                I’m still wondering what their plan is to shut off and decommission all the nuclear plants. All those coastal ones are going to Fukushima once the sea level rises dramatically. I guess they think a radioactive world will be habitable. Or perhaps they don’t understand the concept of a half-life, being that most of their training is in looking at quarterly balance sheets.

                I imagine it would be torture living with these sociopaths in their underground bunkers, with shock-collars for their bodyguards once money has no value, or having them have a special code for opening the food vault. If their bodyguards had a lick of sense they’d take them out now. Same goes for their private jet pilots. Methyl-mercury poisoning is pretty hard to trace. Hint, hint.

            2. markodochartaigh

              The bush crime family in 2005 bought 100,000 acres in Paraguay which sits on a huge aquifer and major natural gas reserves and is close to land owned by the family of sun myung moon and a US military base. US troops have apparently been given immunity in Paraguay in order to control the population for whichever dictator the US government will put in power when tshtf. The land deal was reported in US and British media as well as Latin American media. The deal on the soldiers apparently only in Latin American media.

    2. cnchal

      > Unfortunately, I give this zero chance of happening in 15 months . . .

      I give it zero chance of happening in 50 years. Economic groaf trumps all.

      > “The decisions we make now about whether we let 1.5 or 2 degrees or more happen will change the world enormously,” . . .

      As if scientists had any influence, and who is this “we” they are referring to? Just look at the mountain of debt that grows exponentially faster than the economy’s ability to pay, and everyone thrashing like crazy to pay the interest, never mind the principle.

      Then you have the modern idiocy of I(di)oT. I am still ruminating on an article Lambert linked to a few weeks ago about the supply chain and how it’s related to Amazon’s Alexa spy ware duffuses are putting in their homes, and how it can be used to turn I(di)oT lights on and off just by talking instead of getting off your ass and walking over to a switch on the wall. I bet the energy required to run the server to process that command and store the information related to that command in multiple places in the cloud consumes multiples of the energy used to light the damn bulb for eight hours. That’s just to turn it on. Double it to turn it off. Colossal waste to satisfy what exactly?

      Really, it’s up to you and me. Can you find happiness in an austere lifestyle? Need little, want less.

      1. Summer

        “Just look at the mountain of debt that grows exponentially faster than the economy’s ability to pay, and everyone thrashing like crazy to pay the interest, never mind the principle.”

        If it’s going to be as bad as projected, will anybody have anytime for people worried about “money?” Think about it: In these scenarios, people are worried about how much to charge each other to save their own lives.

    3. saylor

      And I would point out that the potential for a massive crop failure is now at the point where in any given growing season of the grain belt (not so much this year as the harvest is in) around the world could happen within three months. Not enough rain or too much rain all at once or even just too much rain over the season. Much of the world still has private gardens to supplement if not totally provide nutrition. The failure in any significantly large enough region would push that population to require supply from the global network. Have a failure somewhere in the global network and there you have your crisis. The saying that we are 9 meals away from anarchy could be extrapolated to we are always 3 months away from a global crisis. And that is not including the intermediate impact of much higher prices for the food still available.

    4. Amfortas the hippie

      aye. a big enough die-off should do the trick…
      prolly the only thing that can stop or even mitigate the problem .
      as a humanist, and a creature of the Enlightenment, this makes me sadder than words.

    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      A Category 6 hurricane in the Arctic Ocean which destroyed the Russian Arctic natural gas fields and destroyed 1 or more major Arctic Ocean coastal port cities would certainly get some attention.

      1. polecat

        That wouldn’t happen, as a hurricane needs very warm sea surface temperatures to form and sustain itself ..

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Well . . . my comment was my satirical way of suggesting that when the Arctic Ocean is warm enough to feed a hurricaine, then people will really notice . . . once the hurricane forms.

          Of course if one were to have a “facultative hurricane” . . . an extratropical hurricane-strength storm . . . maybe a winter blizzard snowrricane, it might happen even sooner.

    6. clarky90

      “Scientists and representatives from every country on Earth are gathering in South Korea”.

      (1) How many deeply concerned “scientists and representatives” journeyed to South Korea by foot?
      (2) How many deeply concerned “scientists and representatives” journeyed to South Korea by bicycle?
      (3) How many concerned “scientists and representatives” journeyed to South Korea by commercial passenger jet?
      (4) How many hypocritical Bast@rds journeyed to South Korea by PRIVATE or military jet?

      Personally, I have completed numerous (days/weeks) treks, over the years. My little brother and I, bicycled from Edmonton to Vancouver, when we were 17 and 15yo.

        1. clarky90

          We hitch-hiked from Vancouver, down the West coast to San Francisco, and then back across to Ohio. We traveled to Edmonton, with our bicycles, by bus. 1967

    1. Keith Howard

      I can’t recommend Slobidian’s book too highly:

      Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism
      (Harvard, 2018)

      Lucid, well written, and concise, this intellectual history of the effort to make money and capital safe from democracy is essential reading. A scholarly book, it never indulges in polemic: it doesn’t need to.

      1. pretzelattack

        no it means we didn’t realize how quickly the feedback loops would take effect, and how clueless the politicians have been in their short sighted corruption. and the models project, not predict, so far on the conservative side.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      ” 2 degC ” ? What is that in God’s own natural organic Fahrenheit degrees?

      1. John Wright

        Fahrenheit maps the freezing water to boiling water to the range 32 to 212 = 180 degrees
        Celsius maps the same range 0-100

        180/100 (1.8 or 9/5) is the scaling factor for converting a delta C temp value like this.

        Simple doubling is not too bad as it is only a 20% error.

        2c x 1.8 = 3.6F

        2c x 2 = 4F.

      2. Synoia

        f = ((c + 40) * 9/5) – 40
        c = ((f + 40) * 5/9) – 40

        f = 2c + 40
        c = f/2 – 20

        1. John Wright

          The original poster was asking about a delta change of 2 Celsius degrees to equivalent delta change in Fahrenheit.

          Effectively one only has to worry about the slope of the C vs F line to do an accurate conversion because a 2c rise is a difference, not an actual C temperature value,

          This is accurate: C_difference * 9/5 = F_difference
          As is this: F_difference * 5/9 = C_difference

          One does not have to be concerned about the offset between the two scales (32 F = 0 C) because they are both scaled linearly and the original question related to a 2C rise (a difference) in temperature.

        2. John Wright

          another quibble:

          stated as
          >f = ((c + 40) * 9/5) – 40 -> = c *9/5 + 360/5 -40 = c * 9/5 + 72 -40 = c * 9/5 +32 f * 5/9 + (40 * 5/9) -40 = f* 5/9 + 200/9 -40 = f* 5/9 + 22.222 -40

          c = f * 5/9 – 17.777 <– incorrect as it should simplify to ( F-32)* 5/9 but doesn't

          Simpler and accurate formulas
          F = (C * 9/5) +32
          C = (F-32) * 5/9

          1. John Wright

            One more correction to my mis-correction

            C = f * 5/9 -17.777 is the same as (f -32) *5/9 = f * 5/9 – ( 32 * 5/9) = f * 5/9 – 17.777

            My bad as -17.777 = -32 * 5/9.

            Synoia’s formula’s are correct, but more complicated than need be.

  2. Kevin

    It is no use blaming governments for lack of action, they just reflect the views of their electorates.
    Most people think that all they have to do is say that wind turbines look beautiful, recycle their bottles and cans and perhaps buy a Prius one day. They just have no idea of the impact of the necessary changes in lifestyles and are unlikely to accept them.

    1. Lorenzo

      It is no use blaming governments for lack of action, they just reflect the views of their electorates.

      now where did ya get that idea from?! agreed on the rest

      1. albrt

        Would it be more accurate to say the governments reflect the revealed preferences of the electorates?

        Because somehow we keep getting more-of-the-same type candidates no matter which party wins. That can’t be an accident.

          1. wilroncanada

            Not just the donors, the people who even bother to vote.
            Up here in the Great White North, where the summer roads through the tundra are impassable and in winter they no longer freeze enough to support transport trucks, one province, Ontario, just elected a denialist jerk as Premier, and another, Alberta, is liable to in the next few months.
            There is NO majority support anywhere for policies which might mitigate or eventually reverse earth’s destruction, because such action WILL, definitely, demand change of our lifestyle of gluttonous consumption, and we know it, though we NEVER admit it.

      1. albrt

        All of the consumers are going to consume the climate change dog food, regardless of whether or how they vote.

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      I’d like to know which governments reflect the views of their electorates, but aside from that, I’d agree that most people have little clue what changes in their lifestyle would be required to head off the worst of the coming disaster. That’s why I believe that the examples that must be set will come from us Poors.

      It’s too late already to avoid a heap of misery. That means it will be critical to “spread peace” so that our communities can respond to the increasing frequency and intensity of weather-related crises with calm cooperation, solidarity and mutual aid rather than hoarding, exploitation and violence. That means building trust and fostering communication at the local level. The way that some Puerto Ricans responded to the power outage after Maria is a good example of what can be accomplished (and it was the Poors doing it).

      At the national level, we’re probably looking for a miracle. If that doesn’t happen, it means that localities will be under even more pressure to deal with events.

      1. John Wright

        Possibly governments do what they believe is best, short term, for their own survival.

        While much of the electorate may believe climate change is occurring, the lifestyle changes are to occur for “other” people.

        Climate change is Garrett Hardin’s “tragedy of the commons” writ large

        This is from December 13, 1968, almost 50 years ago, but, in my opinion very relevant.


        Hardin discusses problems for which there is “no technological solution”.

        ” It is fair to say that most people who anguish over the population problem are trying to find a way to avoid the evils of overpopulation without relinquishing any of the privileges they now enjoy. They think that farming the seas or developing new strains of wheat will solve the problem–technologically. I try to show here that the solution they seek cannot be found.”

        I’m not a believer that “they will come up with something to avert climate change” and this speech from 50 years ago helps buttress that view.

  3. Norb

    Scientists lead the way into this problem, they are proving incapable of leading humanity out. The climate crisis represents a moral and ethical failure on the part of humanity, and using the language of science to address the problem is sheer futility- human hubris.

    Scientists are functionaries to power structures that move the human herd one direction or the other. Conditioning a human being into a “consumer” is turning out to be the dumbest thing created by “civilization”. Undoing this conditioning is not even in the discussion- let alone achieving any meaningful results in a short timeframe. This is not surprising because the reigning power elite view the masses as expendable and detestable- although this is rarely admitted openly. The structure is one giant confidence scam. Suffering and Austerity are for the “little people”.

    The image I have in mind is early hunter gathers driving entire herds of bison over a cliff as a hunting technique. The sense of power and excitement at that hunting success must, and was, truly awesome for those experiencing it and reveling in its “discovery”. However, in the long run, that killing efficiency is pretty stupid in that bison, and the entire bison ecosystem, will be exterminated.

    The mass of humanity is the current herd of bison heading over the proverbial cliff- being driven by complex systems controlled loosely by the power elite- beating the drums of unlimited individual consumerism.

    Scientists, in league with the consumerist ethic, have unleashed technologies upon the masses that they cannot control; And the stupid power elite believe themselves invulnerable to the consequences. The elite are today, and have always been, riding atop a wave of death and destruction.

    In a strange sense of Irony, Austerity is the only solution to humanities existential dilemma. The collective “WE” in our heart of hearts want it ALL- but the only real chance for long term survival comes form demanding less of the world and finding strength and solace that we are not alone in this world and are connected to larger systems operating out of our immediate control. This is a religious problem, not a scientific one. It comes to redefining what having it ALL is and MEANS.

    This will not be achieve with elite scientists expending their energies illustrating to the masses the significance between 1.5 and 2- This is business as usual, the elite riding atop a wave of death and destruction.

    In an even greater sense of irony, it is when the electronic screens go blank, is when the real meaningful change has begun.

    1. Wukchumni

      In an odd fashion, life in the former Soviet era Communist world was good preparation for climate change, as austerity was a given there, and it’d be much easier to adapt to the new normal, as opposed to our you are what you own society, and instead of jumping from the 4th step of a building to the pavement, would be more like jumping from the 4th floor.

    2. pretzelattack

      climatologists didn’t lead “us” anywhere. they don’t “lead us”. all they can do is show the consequences of our behavior. and scientists generally are not part of “the elite”. they have little power, and most are not wealthy.

    3. Aumua

      Sure is a lot science and scientist bashing going on here. If scientists are responsible for consumerism then certainly advertising people are responsible for it, as well as truckers for moving all those useless consumerist items around, and the third world factory workers who assemble the endless unnecessary gadgets. Science has been used for evil, I can agree with that, but who’s really responsible now?

      1. JTMcPhee

        “The species” is responsible. Maybe an honorable mention to “the limbic system and its Designer.” Pleasure, power, violence, pain, even, it turns out, “empathy” which can also be weaponized, all wrapped up in a nice positive-feedback network between the lizard brain and the rationalizing functions in the neocortex. “Designed to fail.”

        Interesting discussion of sorts under this post today. But looking wider over the landscape, there seems to be darn little from the more talkative and subtle among even this well-versed body that goes to what can be done, should be done, and who can do it, to mitigate the coming disaster (and several of us Pooh-Pooh even the imminence of said set of disasters, or at least the increasingly likely scope and pace.) Meanwhile, many of us are looking daily for hints on what might be the next Ten Bagger we might glom onto… including bets on the collapse of the Tech Titans…

        Lots of chatter about how wonderful some of our lives are (with rueful passing notices of how bad things are for others and how much worse things will get,) with a silent subtext of how fortunate some of us are, especially those nearer to the ends of their lives with lots of wealth and stuff in hand, abler to travel widely (burning carbon) and drink deeply of the pleasures to be had (if somewhat withered and diminished, e.g, by the trashing and decimation (by fire, flood and other disasters), of favorite accessible-to-few wilderness Edens.)

        My own sour, cynical reading is that the educated froth of the Smart Folks, even the ones who seem to feel that bit of angst, “But at my back I always hear/ Time’s winged chariot hurrying near…”, are also invested in the premise that the human species is about to fall, that it’s inevitable that it will happen soon, and that the best that the individual can do is extract the most pleasure and profit that one can, and eventually retreat into that dying sigh, “Apres moi, le deluge.” Right along with the most grasping and destructive and cynical and dishonest of the worst of us. Like the Bolton-and-Bibi-class species-suicide instigators, and the CEO creatures and their enablers and underlings across the manufacturing and marketing and and supply chain and financial incubi and succubi that have started troubling not only our fitful sleep but waking nightmares. Unconcerned, because they know they are immune to the consequences of the various vectors and trends they have set in motion.

        Just one such vector might be this, likely staffed by credentialed, very smart people and if reports of the activities possibly ongoing there are anywhere close to correct, some pretty sociopathic “banality of evil” staff of “experts:” Will “we” ever know for sure whether the US imperial military (that has demonstrably and intentionally exposed US citizens here in the Homeland to various pathogens and toxins and radiation) “geniuses” (sic) are actually ringing the “Revived Soviet Union” with Lugar Facilities from which viruses and bacteria and other pathogens are possibly being broadcast into the Enemy’s Territory, to bring about “disaster capitalism opportunities?” And every day, well-educated and cheerful young and less so people get up, sh!t shower and shave in drinking water, and go off to invent and work on further development of all kinds of really cool and increasingly lethal stuff — cyber, genetically engineered, “kinetic,” autonomous, “artificial intelligence,” beam-weapons kind of stuff.

        The easy, slick response is that it’s just one of those “conspiracy theories,” among many that subsequently have turned out to be not theory but practice:

        My sense is that most of us really, in our secret hearts and understandings, have consigned the future to Death — with a silently breathed prayer that what’s going to happen, we hope and expect, will happen after we are comfortably dead (if lucky, with decent medical end-of-life care), all our debts and messes will be left to others — our children and executors — to deal with, so who cares? It’s too big! for us to do anything about!

        1. JTMcPhee

          And this: It’s like the Blob in the movie of that name: No way to stop it, and even if humans do shrivel it up, some “scientist” will scoop up a bit to use for some “scientific” purpose, or as in the original movie where the “monster” was frozen, flown by the “Air Force” to the Arctic, and dropped into the ice and snow. Closing lines: “Dave says that while the creature is not dead, at least it has been stopped. To this, Steve Andrews replies, “Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold”.” hmmmm….

  4. Brooklin Bridge

    Right now, scientists are trying to find the precise words to describe an impending catastrophe and the utterly heroic efforts it would take to avert it.

    Um, not really. Scientists are trying to hang on with their fingernails in a tsunami of party hearty till we drown in our own vomit of greed. What can they say that will be heard at all above the din of corporate whores, rapists and thieves running our governments, our judiciaries (welcome Kavanaugh to the water boarding championship!) and most of all our increasingly high tech brain washing -the MSM, in a rapturous global frenzy of genocidal plunder – me first before it’s over, Après moi le déluge – in all it’s possible forms.

    What scientists are trying to say is deathly simple, “We’re this close to toast!”, but are ignored, laughed at or fired for their efforts. So what do we get? Listen to any weather report and witness American jellyfish. Our rather unique version of heroic efforts!

    And after taking in those clowns and getting just a hint of the insanity, pause and consider what we are actually facing. Just because it’s simple doesn’t make it easy. Any realistic prescriptions at this point, such as significant reductions in population and drastic changes in overall lifestyles, would be too much for most to even contemplate, never mind implement.

  5. southern appalachian

    Well, Yves, thanks for the post. It got me to thinking about what I might be able to do. It took some time and coffee to work my way back down from a global perspective to a place where I have some influence and now am curious- I’m wondering what Lambert’s thoughts are on sheet mulch these days. He often mentioned it a while back. Been a few seasons since. I’d like to put a pollinator mix out front, now is a good time.

  6. Sam Adams

    The choice is to try and puzzle where in the world will the effects of global climate change be the least destructive. Move there, create a place to survive individually and as a species.

      1. Isotope_C14

        Northern Illinois has the largest concentration of Nuclear Power Plants in the US. There is no safety anywhere…

    1. Anon

      Actually, the effects of climate change will affect many different aspects of the world we know, both physical and social. Will potable water and sanitation continue. Or degrade to the point of disease dissemination (See:Yemen). How will we get the weather forecast to prepare for bigger, more frequent storms. How will agriculture function? Who will “share” in the fruits of farm productivity?

      It could get ugly, fast.

  7. Wukchumni

    We’ve got nephews & nieces and you can only ponder what their lives will be like if they make it to say 80-90 years old in 2100, but when you’re last man charlie in the human food chain currently, I look at the coming changes with more astoundment than fear, for if I live to be as old as my father was, i’ve got a few decades in which to watch.

    The onslaught is just beginning, and Mother Nature has come up with doozies, my favorite being the ‘rain bomb’ which delivers 20-50 inches of H20 in 24 hours. Japan has been hit with a few of these over the years, along with many other locations all over the world. Imagine her ramping it up to 100 inches, why not?

    There is simply no human defense against it, the perfect weapon.

    1. JTMcPhee

      And like nuclear weapons on ICBMs and autonomous submersibles, particularly the super fast ones the Rooskies have ostensibly developed and the Empire is now running pell-mell to “deploy” too, and against which there is also no apparent defense, these “rain bombs” are also the product, it would seem, of centuries of human ingenuity coupled to human meanness and greed (the use of A-bombs was in service to the hegemonic drives of the Empire, after all — no challenging power DARE confront the Greatest Most Exceptional Thingie Ever To Be, and thank God for the Soviet Union defeating the Nazis and finally coming into the War of Asian Supremacy…)

      There was this TV documentary series, and a couple of books too, I think it was called “Connections,” by science historian David Burke,, that tracked the linkages of various technologies and ‘innovations” and “disruptions” through time, like movable type and the Jacquard loom that so bothered Ned Ludd and his “home artisanal weavers,” leading to computers, to nuclear weapons to the really nasty stuff that’s coming with Yuuuuge Data and AI and Home CRSP-R personal bio-hacking kits under the Xmas Tree.

      And I can hardly wait to see who gets a ticket to ride that “elevator to outer space” that all it takes is some profit-driven development of “sheet graphene” to make the cable that will let “pods” crawl up 22,000 miles to a geosynchronous construction (maybe they will call it “Elysium,” like this myth, where the privileged can live while Earth and its mopes burn, drown and devour each other along the lines of “Soylent Green.” All Elysium’s necessities and fripperies being supplied by “extractables” extracted from the unclaimed “wealth” of the asteroids and smaller planetoids out there… “So long, and thanks for the fish.”

      And you can bet your sweet bippie, that in among the teeming hordes of “innovators” and “disrupters” in the War Department and its equivalents, which no doubt, humans being what we are, attract the same kind of a$$holes and “threat generators” in other lands, there are quite a few studying how to control and direct “rain bombs” and other weaponized climate features against “enemies…” “Our” neocons are clearly looking, in their idiot way, for means to sow chaos and produce seed plots for disaster capitalists pirates and looters to do what they love and know so very well how to do, in those spaces on the planet where they have not yet “succeeded.” Despite a lot of trying.

      Here’s to the folks that say, “find where in the world the effects of global climate change (and the other impacts of neoliberalism and neoconservatism will be least, and move there.” And the rest of us Imperial citizens with similar yearnings. DIf you go, do not forget to take your guns and money — you may find the areas you identify are already occupied by people who will not “thank us for our disservice…”

      I’m betting the Filthy Rich will before long be offering us a more overt choice — of ways to kill ourselves, being careful, of course, to leave recoverable, transplantable, monetizable body parts, to “leave more for others (them)…” “It is a far, far better thing that you do…”

      So if you blessed folks can go to those better-than-the-rest-of-the-planet places, better get on about it, no?

  8. John

    Nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide,
    It’s not Love I’m running from,
    It’s the heartbreak I know will come.
    Martha and the Vandellas

  9. jfleni

    I’m sure the grease monkeys are playing close attention as they search for even more oil and studiously ignore and dump on renewables.

  10. Phacops

    Growth is the logic of a cancer cell. And, nobody is talking about the necessary reduction of the human population that makes any mitigation of anthropogenic global warming sustainable.

    As somebody who has decided to remain childless, I can be as wasteful as is economically possible yet do less damage than somebody who spews out children. Why should I reign in my appetites to make room for harmful and selfish impulses of others who decide to have children?

    1. California Bob

      Agree ‘cops. First, population stabilization, then reduction are the only possible remedies for GW (all else is token). I had one child–unplanned–and he’s a blessing, but that’s far less than the 2.3-2.5 children per fertile couple that would at least level population growth.

      The population will be reduced–or eliminated–eventually, one way or another.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Leaving more for us conscienceless sybarites to enjoy. At no cost to our special lives.

        What kind of mope goes in for notions like the one my Great Depression-schooled grandparents and parents sort of worked to?

        Eat it up.
        Wear it out.
        Make it do.
        Do without.
        Only what you need, not what you want.

    2. Whiskey Bob

      I would be more worried about the constant pursuit for the growth of profit under capitalism because that’s the primary factor in what is driving climate change over the brink. Make a quick buck at the cost of workers and Mother Nature because by the time they’ll do something, these capitalists will hopefully be dead.

      The first world is really what is living at an unsustainable level and they maintain a labor aristocracy over the third world. The neoliberal model is hoping that the market will sort it out when it’s actually playing chicken with Mother Nature and the third world are going to suffer the genocide first. The first world has long ignored the phlight of the third and they will only start truly caring when the disaster comes home to the middle and upper class. The first will still assist the third but will not change their unequal relationship.

      Population control can help reduce and control overconsumption but isn’t going to the core of what is causing it in the first place. The Chinese did population control (granted not to combat climate change) but they still have a government controlled by business interests that are willing to play fast and loose with nature for a quick buck.

  11. Don Cafferty

    Dated September 28, 2018, Moon of Alabama posted that an assumption contained in a 500-page environmental impact statement prepared under the Trump Administration is that: “On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees [Fahrenheit] by the end of this century”. 7 degrees fahrenheit is slightly less than 4 degrees which gives support to the 3.2 celsius reference in this article.

    According to Moon of Alabama, there is another assumption contained in the environmental assessment and it is “the planet’s fate is already sealed.” It is an assumption that is not based on an assessment that effort to make change will fail. It is an assumption more like: “The child already fell into the well, there is no longer any need to cover it.” [Or, in my words, there is an overriding principle like “we will reap our profits as long as we can!”] Rather than encourage change as a response to global heating, leaders and elites are likely trying to determine how to profit from the changing world. As an aside and having seen so many references to the current armed conflict and quest for war, I wonder what improvement might occur in the climate projections if all conflict stopped immediately and the people and machinery of war were returned to home base and port. It seems to be a pointless conflict when the climate itself will bring massive change to areas of the world that are currently being engaged.

  12. thoughtful person

    There was a map recently posted (I think here) – showed where climate change impacts would be worst. Seemed that the poorest countries in Africa and Asia would be most affected. Between the fact that most of the pollution comes from the consumption of the wealthiest, and the impact being felt most in poorest countries, we’re not going to see much change in trajectory of the climate change tsunami…

    It’s looking like the limits to growth scenario of business as usual is playing out. That means we’re going to see a massive drop in human population in the next few decades. The political implications of this are not likely to be pretty.

    As I keep seeing, building resilient communities is probably one approach that might help. Perhaps like the monastic world of the dark ages. Octavia Butler’s dystopian futures seem somewhat plausible. They and Marge Piercy’s ‘he she and it’ world of corporate run “city states”…

    1. JTMcPhee

      I like the version given us by the original Robocop movie — Omni Consumer Products suborning and supplanting the political economy of “people,” disaster-capitalizing Detroit (already done, as we write) to serve corporate profit and corruption writ large. Not likely that we mopes will have a “hero” like Robocop to take down the first set (it’s a boxed series now) of Evil Looters…

  13. The Rev Kev

    I wonder what would happen if the scientists and governments came out and said that the only way that we can live as a society is if we go back to an 1830 level of technology with most of us becoming farmers and the like again? How would most people react? What if the choice was to do this or else go on as we are and face a spectacular crash by the end of the century? I can guess what most people would choose. Give up iPhones and Facebook? No way, man.
    Over the millennia we have experienced, as a race, a variety of challenges and we have mostly had time to form a response. I suspect that now we are getting in the form of climate change more and more challenges and are getting hard pressed to form a response to these changes as they arise. You could say that nature is now at the point where it is getting inside our OODA loop. As for our governments, they seem to be using the classic Yes Minister strategy-

    Stage one, say nothing is going to happen.
    Stage two, say something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it.
    Stage three, say that maybe we should do something about it, but there’s nothing we can do.
    Stage four, say maybe there was something we could have done, but it’s too late now.

    1. Wukchumni

      We watched a couple of 3 hour long films from the early 70’s about Swedish immigrants to Minnesota in 1850 with Max Von Sydow & Liv Ullman, and I can’t recommend them enough, as their lives were hands on as portrayed in the films, they did everything themselves if possible, and you get a real feel for the era, as the director strove for authenticity.

      The Emigrants & The New Land

      1. California Bob

        Watch ‘Mountain Men.’ I have no idea how legitimate the portrayals are, but they seem sincere and realistic.

        1. Wukchumni

          Now on the flipside, there’s Alex Cox’s masterpiece: Walker-with Ed Harris.

          It’s a perfect period piece set in the 1850’s Nicaragua, and then the late 20th century shows up unexpectedly.

      2. JTMcPhee

        Not all of us are as dour and depressed as those wandering Scandinavians. Maybe it might be less ugly? Naaah — the initial conditions of stuff like soil and water and air and weather are so much worse, and there are “natives” there who are armed with something other than arrows, lances and coup sticks –

        1. Wukchumni

          Talk about counting coup, one of the many things that impressed me in the films, was a young Swede who goes to California and then comes back to Minnesota to his brother and his wife and family, is the squarehead traded in his gold out west for what are now termed “broken banknotes” or as they are called in the film: “wildcat notes” a name of the era.

          His brother goes to the bank with them, and discovers that they are all worthless-a common problem with privately issued money, you see.

          “A Nation Of Counterfeiters” by Stephen Mihm, will get you up to speed on how fiat money backed by bupkis, filled in for a lack of Federal paper money until 1861, and then broken banknotes pretty much went away, see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!

  14. Synoia

    Their efforts were the result of the industrial evolution. The settlement of the west was a product of the industrial

  15. Louis Fyne

    Consume less widgets/energy, have less babies.

    Consume less = something you’ll never hear from advert-driven mainstream media. Travel less = anathema to aspirationa; globe-trotters everywhere.

    Have less babies = politically incorrect and/or racist and/or religiously insensitive for the rich/developed world to lecture the developing world on fertility/family planning

    bottom line: expect a snap die-back somewhere/sometime in the future. hopefully not in your backyard.

  16. Whiterab

    The Defense Department called this one correctly years ago as the most dangerous problem we will face. Yes, we can mitigate the short term problems for awhile but what happens when millions of the poor of the world start moving from drought and flooding in order to feed their families. Hint – it is already happening.

    I was optimistic fifteen years ago when working as an engineer on a team for an international oil company (Yes, they knew – it’s “see spot run” level of thermodynamics) but have become very pessimistic. We may be too late.

  17. sharonsj

    The future is either going to be “Elysium” with the rich living in huge space stations while the poor labor below, or roving gangs of cannibalistic survivors scavenging what’s left (“The Road”).

    As someone who learned numerous crafts and skills, from weaving to canning, I can tell you they are all labor intensive. Our stupified modern generations, with their cell phones, sports obsessions, and a thousand channels to watch, won’t stand a chance.

  18. JimTan

    If things get really bad then Property and Casualty Insurers will likely sue municipalities to recover their losses from climate change related catastrophic events. Whether or not they win, insurers would interestingly be arguing that municipalities should have known about rising global temperatures, and should have done more to prepare for or prevent the related catastrophic events.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Municipalities have agency? Interesting notion. I can see arguing that Mayor Riochard J. Daley had agency, and Rahm Emanuel the dual US-Israeli. Not so clear on various “government structures.”

      Where were the actuaries (that have actual agency) in all of this? No doubt they have also seen all this coming. How have they advised their boards and CEOs about how to address out-year liabilities? Just deny coverage, like a lot of insurers do as a default position?

  19. Alain de Benoist

    The situation is getting so critical on the climate change front that perhaps finally people will start taking a serious look at stopping all immigration to wealthy countries from poor countries. If US policy makers had had proper foresight on this issue, the 1965 Immigration Act would have never passed and the US population would currently stand around 260 million and the global average temperature would be perhaps (wild guess)1 degree centigrade lower. But instead Europe and the US have converted nearly 100 million low consuming people from poor countries into high consuming immigrants in rich countries. If current US immigration trends hold, the US population in 2100 will be a climate killing 500 million. With an immediate halt to all immigration and a well-funded program of voluntary repatriation, it is possible the US population could be reduced to only 300 million by 2100. Only time will tell how seriously people take the climate change threat.

  20. DPaul

    I am not good at linking but will try the piece I’m linking to speaks to populations in places in conflict and those at peace, there is quite a difference. Seems to me that if we were to somehow able to stop so many conflicts the worlds human population would drop or at least slow down. I have seen, not able to find, that there are stats more clear than the link that reducing nation/state conflicts has as one side benefit a reduction in population growth to replacement levels of existing population in those nation/states. If we could reduce conflicts there would be a natural reduction in birth rates. Maybe we should (ty John Lennon) “give peace a chance.”

  21. saylor

    The McMansions are all around me.
    I am about to adopt a ‘tiny house’ life style but on a sail boat.
    Many people I talk to want to embrace the ‘tiny house’ life style but few do.
    Such living requires less raw materials and demands less consumerism because there is really no place to put ‘stuff’.
    It may become part of the ‘necessary adjustment’ to live so.
    In the meantime, I’m hoping to contribute by providing volunteer data collection regarding ocean conditions and developing tiny house technology. I anticipate that except for the times I have to start my engine (rarely) I will for the most part be off the grid for energy requirements.
    Just something to muse about.

    1. JTMcPhee

      If you have not already done so, you might look up books and articles by Lynn and Larry Pardey, They have “lived small” aboard a couple of 30 foot wooden boats they built themselves, and twice circumnavigated the planet (without any engine at all.) Worth looking into.

      I lived for a couple of years on a 28 foot sailboat in Seattle. Daily had to dress for success for my job as a lawyer with a Big Seattle Law Firm, now swallowed up by a Still Bigger International Law Firm. It’s not easy, and mildew and sinking and corrosion threats are omnipresent.

      My wife and I lived aboard and cruised a wooden sailboat for 12 years, until age and joint issues and other health problems grounded us. It is a challenge to live small, even in a 40+foot sailboat (about 225 square feet of floor space.) And you need to pick your place — most everywhere on the coastal US, the rich folks have either forced out the liveaboards by harassment or changing the laws, or priced them out by forcing them into “mooring fields” and marinas bought up by “developers.” It can be a wonderful, close-to-nature-and-good-people life, but also terrifying when you get hit by lightning (twice) or try to stay aboard through big storms (not advised — put out fenders, tie up good, hope the dock does not fall apart or get overtopped by storm tides and other boats left sloppy by absentee owners don’t break loose, ram and sink you.)

      “A rising tide does float your boat,” so rising sea level might be manageable as long as you have a source of food and maybe solar panels for some electricity. We cruised for a year and more, and our electric needs including refrigeration (except air conditioning, needed sometimes due to health issues) were provided by two 150 watt solar panels. Fishing in polluted waters, gleaning seaweed and filter-feeders like clams and scallops, won’t your nutritional or health needs. Learn to live with a composting toilet — so many places are “no discharge” even though the real source of sh@t in the water is the industrial ourfalls in the area, concentrated a=normal feeding operations, farmers practicing monoculture, and of course local sewer utility and storm drains carrying dog and cat poop and fertilizer and pesticides and household chemicals and undigested medications into the “common waters.”

      Best of luck to you, matey! Go, while there is still a “there” to go to, an “away” to “get away” to. Basic physics tells us that concentrations of poop and plastics and such inevitably spread out to “everywhere…” Along with nasty human behaviors.

  22. JEHR

    This article contains the most melancholy comments I have ever read and yet it felt good to face reality for a time.

  23. RBHoughton

    One of the few things that the Church of England has done right is to sell (no Christian charity these days) an estate they own on Fiji to the government of a neighbouring island which will be under water soon. Congratulations CofE.

    This article mentions the build-up of CO2 but not nitrogen in the World’s waters. We will fail to preserve eco-systems if we pick this or that pollutant to remedy. We should clean-up totally. That requires a change of mindset wherein environmental preservation is always a factor in MoAs and commercial contracts.

  24. bruce wilder

    The IPCC produces stilted but adequate science, and lousy economics.

    The simplest economic model would suggest that the world needs to radically reduce all energy use from all sources even as it eliminates fossil fuel use entirely.

    I rarely see the necessity to lead with radical energy conservation even mentioned let alone highlighted.

    And, when can we start burying the neoliberal carbon pricing nonsense?

    1830 technology is a lousy model on the whole, because it was fantastically wasteful of energy in any given application and population was much smaller.The

    We really should be moving toward reserving half the planet as wilderness and then thinking about how to feed ourselves.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I think the IPCC produces adequate but extremely conservative science constrained within an over concern for what bad news political players and the public will tolerate. In our present political climate this is very easy to understand. I’m not sure about the economics the IPCC produces. However I think it should be clear that Climate Disruption is not a problem that economics has a solution for. Our economy is driven by energy from the combustion of fossil fuels. When the fossil fuels run out or no longer flow the economy our civilization and culture is based upon will cease. The best economics can do is provide some Pareto-optimal solution for how to go about driving off a cliff.

      Fossil fuels are a one-time gift to humankind. When we burn them all up, or at least burn up all that are economic to extract from the Earth there are no more. In spite of many pretty stories about alternative energy sources humankind has not found or created a replacement source for the vast amounts of energy we presently consume. We will have no alternative but to conserve our energy usage in the not too distant future. But I don’t think there is much wisdom in trying to burn up every last bit of fossil fuel as fast as possible. Besides supporting our economy, civilization, and culture — our very society and way of life — fossil fuels are the engine that drives our science and technology. What kind of science and technology can we support in the future without a source of energy? How will we make steel or titanium without coal or a tremendous source of electric power?

      I very much agree with your view of the 1830s technology and its wastefulness. I don’t understand the nostalgia for that period. We have learned a great deal since that time. It is also easy to forget how much the 1830s depended on fossil fuels and to forget how many fewer we were then.

      I’m not concerned about reserving half the planet as wilderness. That will happen when our populations decline — either precipitously as seems most likely or through deliberate measures to reduce birthrates and I’m afraid there is too little will and there will be too little time for a graceful decline in world populations. Now seems like a very good time to think about how to feed ourselves. Climate Disruption promises to throw a wrench in agriculture at the same time that we are running out of the fossil fuels that created our “Green Revolution” and made our ruined soils temporarily fertile.

  25. jonboinAR

    We really should be moving toward reserving half the planet as wilderness and then thinking about how to feed ourselves.

    I agree with this. The wilderness that remains must be preserved and we humans make do on the rest we’ve already partly despoiled.

  26. Newton Finn

    I’m as frightened and demoralized about climate change as anyone else in the reality-based community, yet wading through a technical article like this one helps me separate what we know from what we don’t know and indicates that bleak despair is not the most appropriate subjective response to our precarious situation. Although it’s a slog, others may find this article useful as well.

  27. marcyincny

    I scanned through the comments but didn’t find any mention of the lag time between the increase in atmospheric CO2 and the increase in measured global temp. I know the gap has been reduced over the years but isn’t it still at least 15 years? If the current increase in temp is 1.1 how much has the CO2 emissions of the past 15 years baked into it?

    1. Synoia

      lag time between the increase in atmospheric CO2 and the increase in measured global temp = 0.


      1. blennylips

        Source please?

        I find CO2 warming effects felt just a decade after being emitted
        December 2, 2014, Institute of Physics trustworthy.

        But, the ever(?) reliable wattsupwiththat claims Empirical Evidence Shows Temperature Increases Before CO2 Increase in ALL Records, so zero may be the compromise number – can’t argue with Empirical and ALL after all./s

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          I think the wattsupwiththat claim is based on what is known about past epochs of climate change. The increase in atmospheric CO2 did appear to occur after climate warming began. Other climate changes were triggered by changes in the yearly insolation. I believe the increase in CO2 that followed past warming events amplified that warming and probably became the dominant driver for the warming. I believe the increase in CO2 was a positive feedback effect. If there was a source for increased CO2 in the atmosphere triggered by an increase in global temperature — I doubt that source was the fossil fuels buried deep in the Earth.

          The present disruption of the Earth’s climate can be directly related to the increased CO2 added to the atmosphere as a consequence of humankind’s profligate burning of fossil fuels. What is the final level of CO2 we might expect if there is an additional unaccounted for source of increased CO2 whose release is triggered by an increase in global temperatures?

  28. Don Scott

    Becoming less polluting does not mean a negative change in how we live. I’ve cut out home’s CO2 emissions by over 90% but replacing an older oil furnace with a high efficiency heat pump that works down to -30°C and uses very little energy to operate. Then I replaced our Sienna van, one of the most fuel efficient vans with a used Leaf, which combined with the Prius we replaced an older Volvo with 10 years ago, have cut our vehicular CO2 emissions by nearly 90% as well.
    Both are saving up lots of money in annual operating costs. Our homes total energy costs (oil + electricity) have tumbled 64% despite a 38% increase in electricity rates. Our driving costs have similarly tumbled, as have our emissions.
    Every 5 years, the IPCC reports that their previous report understated the danger the earth is in. This years, they seem to be upping their game – and clearly warning that if we love our kids and grandkids as we all claim, they the time for serious action, by governments, industry and each of us as individuals is way overdue – which means that the effort we all make, must be more aggressive than anything we have anticipated yet ignored up to now.

  29. southern appalachian

    There are some farmers around me that are using Savory’s ideas to increase the carbon content of their soil. There are a few books on the subject; there are the methane releases from the ruminants; on the other hand there were large herds of bison – here in the US – prior to European settlement, so maybe that could be a constant.

    Anyone heard more about this stuff recently? There were a few people, I thought, who were going to do some research, or who had started some quantification.

    Assume most of you know but if not an introduction via the Savory Institute and books Grass, Soul and Hope and The Soil Will Save Us

  30. TheScream

    It’s all over. Since Trump, the discussion has turned from “the science is not proven” to “it’s Fake News designed to destroy our way of life.” Even though deniers had been generally…um…ignorant and slightly deranged, they at least were wiling to accept irrefutable proof if and when it arose. Now, the deniers simply ignore entirely on the basis that it’s all lies from the basic science to the statistics and data. It’s like arguing religion; you can’t.
    With the US off the wagon, others see no need to join the fight. If we hit, as many seem to be predicting, a recession or worse in the next year or so, then there is no way we will do anything to “hurt the economy.” Already the “leader of the free world” is demanding that OPEC and others produce as much oil as possible. Hardly a clarion call for saving the planet.
    Color me depressed. Call me paranoid. Accuse me of negative thoughts, and so on. But according to everything that I have read, it’s too late anyway.

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