Decades of Denial and Stalling Have Created a Climate Crunch

Jerri-Lynn here. The UN Climate Change Conference – COP24-  began yesterday, a day early, in Katowice, Poland. Negotiators from 195 countries seek to flesh out details of the 2015 Paris Accord. These are the most significant climate talks to occur since that accord and prospects look bleak – not least as Trump has previously announced that the US intends to withdraw from the agreement (but cannot do so until 2020).

The importance of 2015 agreement has been overstated – too little, too late – in curbing the global emissions that have us hurtling toward climate catastrophe. There’s plenty of blame to go around for why we are where we are – and it dates to well before Trump became President. This post traces warnings about climate change back more than fifty years; effective political or regulatory action has been sorely lacking, in part as a result of a successful disinformation campaign waged by fossil fuels interests.

By David Suzuki, a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at Originally published at DeSmog Blog

In a 1965 speech to members, American Petroleum Institute president Frank Ikard outlined the findings of a report by then-president Lyndon Johnson’s Science Advisory Committee, based in part on research the institute conducted in the 1950s.

“The substance of the report is that there is still time to save the world’s peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution, but time is running out,” Ikard said, adding, “One of the most important predictions of the report is that carbon dioxide is being added to the earth’s atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas at such a rate that by the year 2000 the heat balance will be so modified as possibly to cause marked changes in climate beyond local or even national efforts.”

Many scientists were reaching similar conclusions, based on a body of evidence that had been growing at least since French mathematician Joseph Fourier described the greenhouse effect in 1824. In the 1950s, Russian climatologist Mikhail Budyko examined how feedback loops amplify human influences on the climate. He published two books, in 1961 and 1962, warning that growing energy use will warm the planet and cause Arctic ice to disappear, creating feedback cycles that would accelerate warming.

The predictions have proven to be accurate, and evidence for human-caused global warming has since become indisputable.

What happened? Over the ensuing decades, the fossil fuel industry didn’t try to resolve what it knew would become a crisis. Instead, it worked to downplay and often deny the reality of climate change and to sow doubt and confusion. Knowingly putting humanity — and countless other species — at risk for the sake of profit is an intergenerational crime against humanity, but it’s unlikely any perpetrators will face justice.

Still, warnings from researchers worldwide started to sink in. In 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen told a U.S.congressional committee, “Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming. It is already happening now.”

People in the U.S. and elsewhere started to demand action on climate and other environmental challenges. Political leaders from George H.W. Bush in the U.S. to Margaret Thatcher in the U.K. to Brian Mulroney in Canada started jumping on the “green” bandwagon — in word if not always in deed.

Had we heeded early warnings and had political representatives done more than talk, we likely could have addressed the problem with minimal societal disruption. But the industry-funded denial machine, which continues today, has been effective. Concern about climate change and other environmental issues has diminished as the problems have intensified. Politicians continue to think in terms of brief election cycles, focusing on short-term gains from exploiting fossil fuels rather than long-term benefits of conserving energy and shifting to cleaner sources.

Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and carbon sinks like forests and wetlands are still being destroyed. Even if we stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow, we’ve emitted so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that we wouldn’t be able to avert worsening of the consequences already happening. But we still have time — albeit very little — to ensure the problem doesn’t become catastrophic. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is conservative in its estimates, gives us about 12 years to take decisive action.

And yet, some people still deny or downplay the problem, or argue we have to shift slowly, even though they seem reluctant to start what could have been a gradual transition had we started a half-century ago.

Canada, China, and Russia are the worst offenders. A report published in Nature Communications ranked the climate plans of various countries and concluded that if the world followed our climate policies, we’d face a catastrophic rise in global average temperature of 5°C by the end of the century. The U.S. and Australia weren’t far behind.

We have to do better. Many people, especially politicians, say we can’t shift from fossil fuels overnight. That may be true, but if we don’t start, we’ll never get there. With a Canadian federal election less than a year away, it’s up to us all to ensure every political party makes climate change its highest priority and has a realistic plan to address it.

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  1. McGardner

    Arctic ice melt = warmer Arctic Ocean temps when mixed with Atlantic waters = increased evaporation due to cooler land temps vs. warmer sea temps = increased snowfall = arctic cooling = global cooling.

    “The real experts on the oceans and how they function were at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. It was in 1956 when they published A theory of ice ages by Maurice Ewing and William Donn.”

    The actual literature has a 30$ paywall but might be worth someone’s time and money if they were of the open-minded sort.

    Hansen on the other hand has been criminally off the mark with completely unreliable premonitions. To call this science “settled “ and actually make taxable public policy from it is really the next greatest robbery of all time. Elitist liberals can’t help but propound theory that ends up eating their own protectorates ie all that is intersectional. The globull warming tax regime will end up costing the poor a much larger percentage of their wealth. Unfair!

    1. The Rev Kev

      Well, if you want a solution that does not involve taxes, we could wait around until a “market-based” solution appears to solve climate change for us. As Styxhexenhammer666 would say – “Peace Out!”

      1. Carolinian

        Meanwhile the yellow vests in Paris are rioting over an AGW motivated fuel tax increase which has become a tipping point against neoliberalism. It’s convenient for our technocrats to blame it all on ignorance or the oil companies when in fact it’s their leadership failures that are the primary culprit. The righties had a point when they dunned Al Gore for his fancy Nashville mansion and it turns out that “do as I say, not as I do” is as ineffective in moving public opinion as it is with one’s children. You can’t really expect social sacrifice–and carbon taxes would be a hardship for many–to be accepted from politicians like Macron and Third Way supporter Gore who in other respects have shown themselves to be a class enemy.

        I like Suzuki, whose nature program used to be shown here, but societies aren’t simply going to change with the wave of a scientist’s hand. This is a much more complicated problem than many like to pretend.

        1. johnnygl

          I’m convinced, based off nothing more than my own gut feeling, that people like Al Gore and Macron are specifically being paid by the fossil fuel industry to discredit pro-environmental policies.

          Al Gore, in particular, got obscenely rich in a fairly short time. Qatar paid him a lot of money for a TV station.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Less consumption is a way to avoid new ways that monetize for their promoters.

              It (less consumption) might even demonetize.

              As well, less consumption (here, for the rich) leads to less incentive (but not complete elimination, sadly) to accumulate wealth.

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                If the less-consumption is carefully targeted, it may have a stronger effect. If we less-consume electricity, the Utilities less-consume coal, gas and oil for boiling the water to make the electricity. So learning how to Live Better Less Electrically “could” have an anti-Big-Koch-and-Coal revenue stream strangulation effect IF eNOUGH highly motivated conservation lifestylers strangle down their year-in year-out use of electricity DEEPly eNOUGH to feed back upstream through the Utility supply system.

                Likewise, more-consumption of truthfully truly reNEWable materials would incentivize their producers and handlers to produce and handle more of them, and manage them for ongoing renewability. But those things are expensive and will remain so. Can targeted consumption-modifiers save enough money DEconsuming fossil energy from the Common Enemies of All Humanity ( coal, gas and oil companies) to have spendable money free to spend on . . . artisanal pickles? Or Copper River Sockeye Salmon? Or elite high-priced Carbon Capture range-and-pasture beef? Or high-end last-for-decades garden tools?

                I think it would take a “germanically-patient” sort of cold bitter hatred . . . the hatred which renews itself for decades, to motivate millions of people to undertake the lifelong inconvenience of re-engineering their life-long lifestyles to withhold significant money from the Common Enemies of All Humanity who make up the coal, gas and oil industries.

                And we won’t disappear them all at once. It will take decades of hate-based conservation-lifestyling initiatives to degrade them and attrit them down to a size where we can launch devastating extermination raids against them at the political/legislative level.

        2. jrs

          any decent proposal for carbon taxes has a transfer for the poor as an offset. End of story. There is really nothing more to debate, maybe whether one should support bad carbon tax proposals which is all real theoretical, but sensible ones have transfer offsets period.

          The righties don’t have a point, they have a lame but somewhat effective diversion tactic. As in: hey never mind the actual climate change ALL around us (and worse in the arctic), look at Al Gore over there.

          1. Carolinian

            So with the Dems under Clinton having ended “welfare as we know it” then who exactly is going to propose this “decent” carbon tax?

            My point being that the prevailing neoliberal doctrine of both parties is designed to keep the poor and working class desperate and insecure in the present day. Therefore it’s hardly surprising that large segments of the population here and in France are more concerned about keeping their children fed right now rather than what will happen in fifty years. If global warming is a problem caused by all of us–and it is–then the perceived fairness of any solution is very important. That’s why it matters whether Al Gore and other advocates are leading by example.

            All of which is to say that AGW is a political matter and governments worldwide seem increasingly unable to solve basic social issues, much less global warming. The fact that so little has been done in the last thirty years just makes my point.

            1. jrs

              Are there any carbon tax proposals seriously under consideration as law now in the U.S.? I’m actually asking, I don’t know, but not as far as I know. But if not we can’t really resort to “the kind of policy that would get passed” as it seems right now that isn’t ANY as far as carbon taxes. People still work on ideas for a carbon tax as a serious idea though, and those proposals tend to have transfers for the poor. Those proposals are ready to go and we should be calling for them given the crisis.

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                Well . . . James Hansen still has his seriously-intended Tax-and-Dividend plan, though he calls it a Fee because the word “taxes” is now so socially toxic. And the way it is structured, a dividend of exactly the same size would be sent to each citizen or legal resident or whatever. Such a dividend wouldn’t matter very much to the rich and the super-rich, but it would make a survival difference to the poor and the near-poor.

                If people don’t like that because of ideological distaste for anything that could be sprayed with the skunk-scent -of “markets” . . . then perhaps those people can offer something better that might work if applied.

                At this point, every possible idea deserves consideration.

        3. pretzelattack

          the basic science part is not complicated. we still apparently need to get over that hurdle. i would say the fuel tax is a class motivated solution, and the outrage is over that. the neoliberals will hijack anything and everything. the righties did not have a point when they said gore was faking or creating the science; gore was not around in the 1800’s when the basic theory was developed.

    2. pretzelattack

      nope, hansen has been spot on. they are called projections, not premonitions. you might try reading about the science on something other than economics blogs.

    3. Oguk

      No, I don’t think so. That’s way too easy. “Martin Arthur Armstrong (born November 1, 1949) is a self-taught[1] economic forecaster who uses his own computer model based on pi. In 1999 Armstrong was convicted of fraudulently cheating investors out of $700 million and hiding $15 million in assets from regulators.”(Wikipedia) So, not a climate scientist, and a fraudster. Lovely! Here’s a real climate scientist: “The warm winter-greater snowfall paradox seems to have worked out along the East Coast in recent years though; but has it really? The December-February temperate chart for Boston (below) shows the strong relationship between temperature and snowfall. Warmer winters mean less snow. ” (Forbes: Is There A Warming Temperature-Increased Snowfall Paradox?)

    4. Alfred

      Here is what Columbia University is currently saying about Ewing’s and Donn’s theory, at : “1956: A theory of ice ages Maurice Ewing and William Donn, Science Maurice “Doc” Ewing, one of the world’s most influential oceanographers and Lamont’s first director, teamed with geologist Donn to propose that ice ages are driven by self-perpetuating natural cycles of freezing and thawing of the Arctic Ocean. This paper and two followups were seized upon in popular literature of the time to suggest that a new ice age would arrive soon. Although scientists’ views shifted radically as more evidence came in, this initiated Lamont’s tradition of studying large-scale climate swings.” Thus Columbia regards Ewing and Donn’s work as having considerable heuristic value, but by no means as stating the last word on its topic. According to the same (official) website, Lamont-Doherty’s next landmark study considered the role of human processes in a related matter: “1960: Natural radiocarbon in the Atlantic Ocean Wallace Broecker et al., Journal of Geophysical Research Wallace Broecker, one of the founders of modern climate science, showed how isotopes of carbon produced by natural and human processes could be used to map ocean currents that we now know form a series of global-scale loops. This led to an overarching model of the “Great Ocean Conveyor Belt” and the idea that changes in the conveyor may bring sudden, powerful shifts in the global climate.” Then, and most significantly, it points to a third Lamont-Doherty study, by the same Broecker: “1973: Are we on the brink of a pronounced global warming? Wallace Broecker, Science This is the paper generally credited with coining the phrase “global warming” in scientific literature. The planet at that time was emerging from a decades-long natural cooling cycle, which Broecker postulated had been masking an ongoing warming effect caused by rising industrial carbon-dioxide emissions. Broecker predicted that as the cooling cycle bottomed out, global temperatures would rise swiftly. He was right.” Roar, Lion, Roar.

    5. John Wright

      If what you suggest is true, that global cooling is coming, is not that more reason to store future sources of energy for heating (AKA petroleum products) in the ground as they could be very valuable to future generations in this colder world you postulate?

      It then appears the global cooling theory advocates and global warming theory advocates are on the proverbial “same page”, the world needs to cut its consumption of oil and save it for future generations to use (in a colder world) or not use (in a warmer world).

      1. jrs

        yea I don’t see how you get from that specific global cooling story (apparently it will be global cooling caused by global warming): to therefore we should do nothing and continue to dump carbon into the atmosphere. Well unless you are paid by the oil industry.

    6. saylor

      Global warming/Global cooling; either way our extreme use of fossil fuels has significantly pushed climate change.

    7. Jeremy Grimm

      Please read Hansen et al. 2016 “4.1.3 End-Eemian cold event evidence from North Atlantic Sediment Cores” [ no paywall]. The section “4.2 Millennial climate oscilations” describes the transitions of climate through hot and cold: “Major glacial–interglacial climate oscillations are spurred by periodic variation of seasonal and geographical insolation (Hays et al., 1976). This behavior of the Earth’s climate was characteristic of an Earth with CO2 levels reaching a maximum of 290 ppm. We are at 400+ ppm CO2, reached at the speed of an instant in geologic time through human burning of fossil fuels. We are entering a new climate set point with new behaviors which based on our best understanding of Paleoclimates at similar levels of CO2 behave very differently — and yes I believe there are cooling events in that behavior. Think of the changes which followed volcanic eruptions with significant increases in CO2 for a very roughly comparable event to the sudden jump to 400+ ppm CO2. For further excitement note that the rates of change in surface temperatures and sea levels estimated for past Paleoclimate events appear to be as rapid as decades … even a matter of years. See “ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE: THE VIEW FROM THE PAST, THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE” — the AGU 2014 Nye lecture by Jim White []

      1. Synoia


        A feature of Chaotic systems is to move “abruptly” from one quasi-equilibrium to another.

        From what I’ve see all the projections appear linear. Linearity is not a feature of chaotic systems. The actual changes will be far worse than any projection extant today.

        The answer to the Fermi Paradox,

        Why do we see no signs of intelligence elsewhere in the universe?

        appears simple:

        Intelligence is an evolutionary dead end, because the species dies, poisoned in its own effluent

    8. Edward

      The basic argument for global warming is that greenhouse gases like CO2 allow sunlight to pass through the atmosphere and get absorbed by the earth while prevented heat from radiating to space. It is like covering a car with an invisible blanket on a summer day. Think how hot the car will get.

      More energy now is absorbed by the Earth from the sun. Where does that energy go?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Is the annual energy from the sun, minus the energy radiated back to space, a net positive absorption or a net negative?

        Over millions (or billions) of years, if that annual number is constant one way (either plus or minus), the planet would have warmed or cooled tremendously.

        But I don’t know if that is the case here. I think there is some kind of balancing mechanism. It’s unlikely we have Goldilocks situation where the net energy difference, annually, is zero…just right, not too high, and not too low.

        1. Grebo

          Gaia. The theory that life on Earth maintains homeostasis of the whole planet not just each individual organism or ecosystem. Unfortunately for us it operates on a timescale of thousands of years and can be overwhelmed by sudden shocks.

    9. Scott1

      I recorded for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro all of the Ecology lectures given there in the mid ’70s. The possibility of Global Cooling was spoken of. It was most doubtful as the immediate threat. Cooling was the least likely of Climate Change as a reality either way and since the ’70s warming has been the proven Climate Change result of burning fossil fuels to power human civilization on earth.
      “Burn everything up and it gets hotter. Big Surprise!” is what I imagine saying when seeing myself as a Stand-Up.
      There are people who must simply be told what to do, and those who are co-operative. The un-cooperative want to keep on burning oil and gas.
      We are in the Death Throes of the 100 Yrs. Oil War.
      Driving all in and on a finite world is overpopulation.
      In all cases when it comes to human beings & how they live in the world education makes all the difference. Gets to the point now where the educated have to tell the uneducated and uncooperative what to do, and be happy about it. Pay them and they will be happy about it.
      Better government pays people to do the right thing when otherwise they will not volunteer.
      Now we are stuck and must create a Big Dog Unitary Power that has the numbers & pays nations to do the right things.
      Takes power. Demonstrating power is what the UN needs to do by making all nations use Electric Tanks. While making them all convert to electric tanks make tank treaties that prevent tank war and then nuclear war. Once the or a UN has such power it will be able to tell people of the world nations what to do to keep climate change in rein.
      I cannot convince everybody in the world what to do, human nature being what it is.

    10. Susan the other

      Two things: 1. Hansen isn’t off the mark and he certainly isn’t criminally off the mark. His latest research (which takes a long time horizon) is on the complexity of ocean currents. We maybe have come to the understanding that the ocean plays a stabilizing role a little late – the problem is that the ocean absorbed CO2 and heat for over 2 centuries of industrialization, maintaining a livable climate, but now it is saturated and this poses an even bigger problem because it will take at least another two centuries to clean up the CO2 and cool the ocean so in the meantime we will have a wetter climate because the ice caps are melting into the warmer ocean water. And this means it will take many lifetimes of dedication to learn to maintain the earth in balance. Hansen is a hero. And 2. Mitigating climate change is a challenge and we can rise to it without fiscal irresponsibility. The money spent on the climate will create new industries and jobs and will provide a cleaner environment. So its a win-win when we finally suck it up emotionally and get on with it.

  2. McGardner

    Good retorts all…. maybe we should stick with Real Scientists(tm)
    Does a nobel laureate qualify?

    And even if we’re all going to die from the weather changing, why is that our generation’s charge? And only the western world? How can you take this fear sausage and swallow it whole hog as such. Silly. Stewardship is for the idle rich.

    1. pretzelattack

      a nobel laureate with no expertise in climate science? and retired? that nobel laureate? it’s our generation, and following generations, that will have to bear the brunt of climate change, so it is incumbent on us to do something about it. you’ve segued from linking from one kind of con to another. this is not progress.

        1. Anon

          While I have no endearment to Al Gore, he was simply a messenger, not a scientist. And while the Nobel Committee deemed to recognize him for his efforts, that doesn’t put him on the same level as James Hansen.

        2. pretzelattack

          no, genever. what does gore have to do with climatology? as far as i know, he isn’t claiming the science it is based on is bogus, which is the only relevance as far as i can see.

          1. pretzelattack

            lol, i watched the beginning of the talk, he says he has no interest in the subject, but he learned about it in 2008 by spending half a day on google. oh yeah, there’s a good source.

  3. Loneprotester

    I cannot say whether the science is right and we have 12 years, much less, or much more to “fix” the climate.

    I do know that the global economy crashed hard in 2008, and that the response of global experts (in many instances, the selfsame people now shrieking for action on climate change) led to a tepid recovery in which wealth and power became more concentrated than it has been in centuries.

    If “they” had done a better job fixing the economy after “they” broke it, I might be inclined to heed their calls now. They might have had some credibility. Now they demand all the power and most of the money in the name of “saving” the earth. Am I a fool? Saving it for whom?

    1. pretzelattack

      what global experts on what subjects? why do you equate climate scientists with economists?

      1. tegnost

        i think it’s global experts sold on globalism can’t face that the resources necessary to rule the earth are cooking it instead…Riding in on my favorite hobby horse amazon, boss ordered 5 40″ x 6″x 6″ packages from the mad bezos…Mad bezos put those 5 packages into 3 48x12x20 boxes, 3 and some other trinkets wrapped in paper, the other 2 boxes had 1 unpapered item bouncing around in a box, and each one of the boxes could have contained all of the order. Honey badger don’t care and neither does mad bezos. My point being that nowadays the uber optimists in the tech crowd I know are floating global warming as a good thing (by the by along with surveillance, b/c if you haven’t done anything wrong…to which I commonly respond well you smoke weed and for most of your life it’s been illegal) Certainly there’s a lot of denial because of rice bowls, along with those such as Lee who contend “save it for what” which is possibly a more defensible position.

        1. tegnost

          I forgot to point out that the wonderful usps delivered the most expensive last mile out here to the island. Thanks usps! At least someone knows how to get things done

    2. John Wright

      The global financial crisis had a secondary effect of slowing emissions, giving a real world example of what actually works to affect emissions, a slowdown in economic activity.

      But no politician who wants to be re-elected will push for lower economic growth.

      “The finding casts doubt on the ability of policymakers to encourage reduced emissions while also growing the economy, says study author Dr. Klaus Hubacek, an ecological economist at the University of Maryland. Whether it’s possible to do both at the same time has been central to the debate over climate-change policy.”

      This is why I believe blame cannot be foisted solely on the petroleum industry. If they had, as a group, suggested that burning of fossil fuels would be leading to climate change, and as a consequence, they were going to strand much of their reserves and ration the sale of their products by increasing their prices, I believe there would have been a massive pushback from consumers and politicians.

      If memory serves, a local Northern California US Congressman by the name of Dan Hamburg suggested (in the 1990’s?) adding a 5 cent/gallon gas tax to encourage conservation.

      That was NOT popular with his rural constituents, perhaps that was not the only reason Hamburg was not re-elected, but it may have been a factor.

      I am not optimistic that the world wide policymakers will do much more than hold conferences and pass resolutions that have little effect.

      In my opinion, significant change is not impossible, but implausible.

      1. jrs

        We vote for gas taxes in CA now. They were approved by a large majority of the voters. We want a gas tax. Now it did have a purpose of funding transportation and not just a carbon tax but.

        Yea CA was a more conservative state back then.

    3. jrs

      When the economy crashed it should have been seen as an opportunity to shift off this economic system, not to bail out (with massive money injections) a system destroying the world.

  4. McGardner

    You are not a fool, for the fool is one who refuses to question the “settled sciences”. As if there has ever been a more oxymoronic term! If it’s settled, let’s just pack up our R&D budgets and hit the beach for the next 12 years… we’re doomed anyways!
    Try to improve the greatest number of lives with the technology, resources and wherewithal we have, at the lowest cost in real tangible today dollars. It’s cold here in Minnesota and there’s people on the streets in tents. Only the fool appropriates monies to CO2 studies while the poor freeze in the streets.
    What happened to Be Here Now? Unless I’m just missing the link between Concoct future problem > Create present tax solution to future problem > Use present tax monies for present other problem> rinse/repeat

    1. pretzelattack

      if i understand you correctly, it is cold in minnesota, and the government isn’t dealing well with the homeless problem, so you think we should ignore science, while pining for ram dass.

      1. a different chris

        Ah yes, the sudden concern for the poorest among us from the right wing when we bring up the climate mess we are making.

        Give. Me. A. Break.

        Also, modern humans are, what, 120,000 years in at this point? We did pretty well without central heating, let alone electricity. We aren’t going to do so well without food. And that’s if I accept your proffered need to prioritize, which I do not.

        1. Loneprotester

          So you want to return people to a time before central heating and electricity?

          Good luck with that.

          Look at what is happening in Paris right now and multiply that thousands of times over.

          I will not give up my personal freedoms and rights, nor the benefits of modern science and technology on your say so. Try to make me and we shall see what ensues. I think that is the message of the Gilets Jaunes. I stand with them. Marchons, citoyens!

          On the other hand, if we wish to race forwards in pursuit of NEW technologies to leapfrog over these current problems, I will gladly offer support. Redouble movement forward, we are together. Try to knock me backwards, now you have a fight.

          1. Ignacio

            I will not give up my personal freedoms and rights

            Not even to the extreme of loosing all the rest? Good luck with that.

            1. SimonGirty

              Come, TAKE my glib red herrings, K Street cut&paste tropes and specious straw men from my cold dead hands, μολὼν λαβέ hippys!

          2. jrs

            What technologies are beneficial or not (if any are on net) is an interesting and complex debate.

            However, the personal freedoms and rights trope tends to be used mostly in silly arguments on not banning single use plastics, and plastic bags and etc. when such bans are really no brainers. Yes people will have a lot less chintzy fake freedom in the world to come, but perhaps move toward better cooperative solutions.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Well you don’t need that much money for CO2 studies but I take your point about people freezing in the streets. I take it too that you are conservatives in your beliefs and I can respect that so I have a proposal. How about bringing out a law making it illegal to give government money to any private company or organization that makes more than a billion dollars a year. Think about it. No billions for banks, Amazon, Google, oil companies, big pharma, defense contractors, media companies – the whole shebang. This is traditional conservative ideals in any case.
      With the, at a minimum, hundreds of billions of dollars freed up each and every year there would be more than enough money to house, clothe, feed, educate, supply a well-paid job (so that they become tax-payers) and give reasonable medical services so that you move American’s personal wealth more what it was like two generations ago. Sound reasonable to you? If the CO2 studies still worry you, I am sure that such studies can be privately funded as well.

      1. McGardner

        I would absolutely agree that the USG shouldn’t be doling out anything to any billion dollar plus Inc. And for that matter, they shouldn’t be doling out anything to any company, especially the medical monopolies. Sherman Act could quickly dismantle Big Pharma and Big Health Insurance. Reduce the cost of sick care to a cash in hand scenario. We’d suffer a quick (or not if the .gov “meddled”) little recession and get on with it (and yes, gasp!, take care of the weakest amongst us) Alternatively, we can allow our politicians up and down the ticket to push global warming taxes to fill pension gaps due to increased benefit costs (health insurance) and coming bond portfolio blowups. Rates are going up and so are property taxes; likewise, city budgets are being built around purported greenification.
        Talk about a Bernaysian masterstroke. We’re now asking the government to save us from ourselves! Oy…

        As Puff the Magic Dragon once said, “Climate Change is a canard.” :-) be well

            1. juliania

              Your initial post makes very good points even if one disagrees with the basic premise you finally expressed, McGardner. I myself have no car and take public transportation to haul home my provisions, which is not going to matter any more than a bird rubbing its beak on a rock on top of a mountain; but I do it now, having erstwhile contributed more pollution in my younger commuting and joytravelling days. No innocent, I.

              Having come from the Brexitonomics thread, to me there’s a similarity in unalterable effects looming with no clear , practical answers how to address them, only worldwide. Maybe it ought to be addressed here as Wrexitonomics?

              Has a nice ring to it, anyway.

    3. jrs

      but the poor also burn alive in their houses, they flood, whole poor countries deal with massive flooding etc.. They die due to climate change. It’s not reversible, maybe it’s reducible or mitigatable to a degree.

  5. Michael

    There appears to be much angst occurring, following the IPCC’s October surprise climate statement hinged upon them finally discovering the Arctic and the consequences of its rapid meltdown.

    The convolution of humanity’s thinking is evident everywhere (see above). IMHO the problem is with inertia and prior capital investment, both in infrastructure and in buying politicians. What historically as taken 200 years per energy source change, is now required in 50, of which we have squandered 40.

    Based upon my limited observations this experience is highlighting humans’ inability to think clearly about a problem without injecting their own emotional baggage. The stakeholders in the status quo have always been very adept in taking advantage of this to create havoc in public opinion to subvert demonstrable rational change.

    Again, IMHO, what has to happen now is an across the political spectrum cultural shift toward the support of investments that will very quickly get off fossil fuels, and simultaneously introduce the Geo-engineering band-aids that will buy us enough time to develop the technology to economically remove the excess CO2 from the atmosphere and restructure our society away from an inefficient energy and transportation infrastructure.

    We cannot expect our “leaders” to lead, but only to succumb from the pressure from the grass roots, since it appears their only interest is in self-preservation. Inasmuch as 80% of the population across all political ideologies agree with the problem and want government to act responsibly, the time is ripe for change.

    On a personal note, I have been complaining about this to my family for 20 years, and since the October statement and the California wildfires, they shot back at me recently that the problem is so overwhelming that their natural instinct is to shut it out. They suggested the above idea of positive action toward the end, rather than dwelling on how we got here.

  6. Wukchumni

    There were a few hundred cars on the road in 1900 and now there’s a billion all spewing carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.

    Who wouldn’t like the convenience of your conveyance being totally reliable transportation that didn’t need to be fed, housed or in need a vet and was only good for a range of say 50 miles before it got too tired, and really the only climate change downside to a horse was the piles it left on the ground.

    My car has about 200 horsepower, or the power of 200 horses, right?

    The C02 rise i’d guess is mostly on account of cars, no?

    How do you get rid of the lions share of a billion cars without wrecking the world as we know it?

    1. cnchal

      > How do you get rid of the lions share of a billion cars without wrecking the world as we know it?

      It’s not how many cars, it’s how much fuel goes through them to run the rat race so you keep one step ahead of the debt monster trying to chew your ass off that is the big factor. Groaf of debt is killing us.

      A debt jubilee will do nothing, if the purpose is to fire up moar consumption. We should tax the crap out of the elite so they can’t afford to fly and use that money to pay people to do nothing.

      1. Wukchumni

        I would posit that out of those billion car drivers, perhaps a few thousand of them are driven by the elite, that you want to tax in an Eisenhower fashion of 9/10’s of what they earn.

        The end result would be 999,999,992 cars still using up fuel like there’s no tomorrow. Just where does that 125 pounds of petroleum in my car’s gas tank go before I need to get more?

    2. Eclair

      “How do you get rid of the lions share of a billion cars without wrecking the world as we know it?”

      Well, Wukchumni, the world as we know it is crumbling fast, even as the billion cars continue to go zoom zoom zoom. It’s just crumbling faster for some people (poor, brown, black) than for the wealthy.

      How does a government slow down pollution from private cars? Punitive taxes at the source; on the purchase of cars, on the purchase of fuel. Then you end up with a ‘gillet jaune’ rebellion, as this hits hardest the already pinched masses.

      Tax heavily, in the form of high licensing fees based on gas mileage. The poor and middle class get to keep their small, fuel efficient cars and the rich, who have so much money that a hefty licensing fee is but a drop in the bucket, get to ride around in heavily armored limousines at 9 miles to the gallon. Or use helicopters and private planes. Thus advertising their superiority and worthiness as compared to the little people. We can guess how that will end.

      Ration gasoline and aviation and diesel fuel. Every adult gets 5 (or 2 or 10) gallons a week. Period. Announce that the policy will begin in a year (or 6 months). Provide federal funding for efficient public transportation systems. Buses to begin with. Rail eventually. Scooters and bicycles. Walking! (Additional benefit of improving health.) There will be a black market; impose costly sentences for those involved.

      This basically will destroy the US economy-as-we-know-it. Which is what happened during WW2. But the economy was diverted into making weapons; we ignored market forces because we were ‘at war.’ We had to arm ourselves or we would die. The nation is facing a similar crisis now, just worse because the demise of life-and-economy-as-we-know-it will happen no matter what we do. We can go down in confusion and chaos or we can change in a relatively orderly fashion.

      1. Wukchumni

        If you took away the ability to drive here, combined with the awful public transportation possibilities, everybody would be marooned more or less.

        We’d need a rock solid public transport system before you took away the go-juice, as if that’s gonna happen.

    3. Anon

      My car has about 200 horsepower, or the power of 200 horses, right?

      Depends on whether the car’s horsepower (~740 watts) is measured at the engine crankshaft or at the wheels. There is friction (power loss) between the crankshaft and the wheels. Oh, and the type of horse matters, too. Watt, of steam engine fame, was comparing the work performed by his engines to a draught horse (work horse), not a quarter horse.

  7. cnchal

    > Decades of Denial and Stalling Have Created a Climate Crunch

    Pardon me? Decades of going in the exact opposite direction of denial and stalling has amplified the climate crunch.

    How long are the supply chains, again? Raw material from all over the world is ripped from the earth, shipped to China to be processed into consumer crapola in the most polluting way possible, to be shipped all over the world again.

    Globalization is a disaster, no matter where one cares to look.

    The problem with “leadership” is that it’s “do as I say, not as I do”. Will the leaders give up their gluttonous lifestyles? Hell no, but making the peasants lives miserable so they give up after everything financially is extracted from them makes up for that.

  8. p fitzsimon

    Do you think Obama accepts global warming as fact. I understand he just bought a 9 bedroom home in Washington with 8 baths to be occupied by just himself and Michelle. Also, they both gallivant all over the planet vacationing and promoting books, giving speeches. His daily carbon footprint probably exceeds my yearly. Does anyone know of any high profile Democrat who actually walks the talk?

    1. TimR

      It never gets old, chuckling at the hypocrisy of it all… I’m no saint, but at least I don’t claim to be one.

      I guess they manage because they rarely if ever get called on it by other media figures. Part of a tacit agreement within their exclusive club, gentleman’s agreement type deal. And if something isn’t remarked in the media, it doesn’t exist.

    2. Grumpy Engineer

      The Democrats’ environmental sins go far beyond lifestyle hypocrisy. To quote from Jimmy Carter’s Wikipedia page:

      Upon taking office, Carter asked James Schlesinger to develop a plan to address the energy crisis. Carter also won congressional approval for the creation of the Department of Energy, and he named Schlesinger as the first head of that department. Schlesinger presented an energy plan that contained 113 provisions, the most important of which were taxes on domestic oil production and gasoline consumption. The plan also provided for tax credits for energy conservation, taxes on automobiles with low fuel efficiency, and mandates to convert from oil or natural gas to coal power.

      Between this and Democrat’s long-standing opposition to nuclear power, it is any wonder the US ended up with a giant fleet of coal-fired power stations?

  9. Grumpy Engineer

    Had we heeded early warnings and had political representatives done more than talk, we likely could have addressed the problem with minimal societal disruption.

    And how exactly would this have been accomplished? David Suzuki doesn’t describe what an actual solution would have looked it at all.

    This type of article frustrates me to no end. It’s another version of “if we can just overcome those evil deniers and convince everybody that the problem is real, then everything will be okay”. Sadly, that’s not even remotely true. Belief isn’t the primary problem. You must have a real technical solution ready with costs (and lifestyle restrictions) that people are willing to endure. None of our political representatives offered such solutions when the early warnings were issued. None of them are offering such solutions today.

    Will our political leaders ever strongly advocate NUCLEAR power, like James Hansen does? It’s the closest thing we have to a real technical solution.

    1. John Wright

      You might also include this link

      This discusses many of the concerns about nuclear (terrorism, waste disposal) that will tend to make nuclear NOT happen.

      The article has:

      “From the wider environmental perspective, meanwhile, even a tenfold expansion in nuclear capacity by 2100 would by itself barely reduce the atmospheric burden of CO2 from a projected 900 ppm (parts per million) to 820 ppm, both catastrophically higher than today’s concentration of 380 ppm, according to Daniel Schrag.”

      In my opinion political leaders will never strongly advocate for nuclear power.

      Throwing out nuclear as a potential solution simply “kicks the can down the road.:

      1. p fitzsimon

        Actually, I believe the Union of Concerned Scientists have endorsed nuclear as part of the solution. And the Boston Globe newspaper, a liberal icon of the Northeast, has given support to Nuclear.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          The Boston Globe is a right wing Rag.with a once arguably “liberal” slant. Also, a moderately distinguished past (waaaay past). It’s Ronald Regan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Junior, and Obama all rolled up into one wopper turd lie after another. It’s only claim to fame in the last 30 years is the Priest scandal. It wouldn’t touch golden geese like big-oil in any serious way without 12 foot thick silk gloves wrapped in 48 inches of velvet covered by 6 inches of satin.. The paper edition is not quite as good as the NYT for snotty cat litter, but not far behind. It’s been a while since I had one, but regardless, I think cats deserve better.

      2. Grumpy Engineer

        The Harvard Magazine article is needlessly pessimistic about nuclear. It assumes that we’ll continue solely with enriched uranium in light water, which a process that was developed as much for weapons-grade plutonium creation as for power generation. There are other reaction chains out there that generate less waste and are less suitable for weapons proliferation. It also assumes that we wouldn’t use a larger electrical grid to replace processes that currently burn fossil fuels (like oil- and gas-fired furnaces in people’s homes). Replacing combustion-based appliances with electricity-based replacements is critical to reducing CO2 emissions in more than just the power generation sector.

        But with all that said, if you don’t like nuclear, then what’s your alternative? Do you know of an alternate technical solution that will really work and has costs and lifestyle restrictions that people will be willing to accept? Don’t point to the 100% renewables “solution”, as this is what Germany has pursued with their Energiewende. They’ve doubled the price of electricity over the past nine years (which really hurts people on the lower end of the income scale), while their CO2 emissions have actually risen. They had belief. But not a real solution.

        Alas, if we truly only have 12 years to turn things around, then we’re screwed. I suspect you’re correct in stating that political leaders will never strongly advocate for nuclear power. And even if by some miracle they all suddenly did, we could never build a large enough fleet of reactors in time. But it’d still be faster and more effective than shooting for the pipe dream of 100% renewables.

        1. John Wright

          As I have stated before, I don’t foresee a solution.

          Climate change may be a problem for which there is no plausible and painless solution.

          Assuming there MUST be a solution may simply be a comforting thought.

          Nuclear has a lot of bad press to overcome as the US government has lied about its safety.

          There is that matter of about $500 billion of clean-up from the government sponsored nuclear weapons sites.

          The Hanford cleanup alone is estimated to cost $100 billion.

          As you say “then we’re screwed”.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Doesn’t Hansen advocate a very different kind of nuclear plant than the ones we have in service today?

      1. Grumpy Engineer

        Oh, yes. He’s advocating alternate reaction chains that are safer and produce less waste. Notably, less plutonium. I don’t know that he’s settled on a particular process, but it’s worth noting that there are a LOT of different options out there. To quote from

        Technologies under development include small modular light-water, molten salt, gas-cooled, and liquid-metal-cooled reactors. China has recently made major investments in several nuclear innovation projects, including high-temperature gas reactors, thorium-fueled molten salt reactors, sodium-cooled fast reactors, and accelerator-driven subcritical systems.

        It’s also worth noting that NOBODY is advocating that we build exact replicas of the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, or Fukushima. Though we seem to be unaware of it here in the US, there have been considerable advances in reactor design in the 40+ years that have passed since those reactors were built. I’d personally recommend looking at South Korea’s nuclear history. Their nuclear fleet has an excellent safety record, and it was built for less than half the dollars-per-watt.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Maybe the people advocating for the best possible Hansen Reactors need to make it very clear that they are not advocating Chernobyls and Fukushimas and Three Mile Islands. Because word about these better-in-theory reactors is not reaching the big majority public.

  10. TimR

    I came across this credentialed skeptic recently and curious what believers would say about his views? I’m genuinely curious as I remain open minded on the topic (though highly suspicious of CC as a trojan horse for class warfare agendas.)

    Quote from book catalog site

    The Human Scale sparkles with erudite iconoclasm. Salomon Kroonenberg tackles such explosive issues as climate change, the greenhouse effect and rising sea levels both unconventionally and incisively. His tone and line of reasoning demonstrate his aversion to doom-mongering; in fact he fires a formidable salvo of arguments at fashionable alarmist forecasts that suggest the earth is heading for man-made catastrophe.

    Kroonenberg takes the reader around the globe from the Caspian Sea (with its extreme changes in surface level) to the Columbian volcano Nevado del Ruiz, which spewed tons of mud over the small town of Armero in 1985, turning it into a necropolis. At the same time he produces chains of facts and correlations, which he binds together into a kind of geological Theory of Everything. He offers a surprisingly new and topical perspective by forcing the reader to look over the edge of a vast abyss of time, measured in billions of years.

    1. TimR

      Quote continued:

      Kroonenberg challenges politicians, scientists and other opinion makers to extend their models of the future, which often look ahead no more than a century, to at least the year 10,000. He wants them to measure events not only against a human scale but against that of the natural world.

      This accessible, almost playful book enables the reader to take several steps back, like a painter working on a large canvas. Only then can we get a sense of the earth’s great geological cycles, such as the recurring ice ages. The author continues to surprise (if not provoke) with assertions like: why all the fuss about adding a bit more greenhouse gas to the atmosphere when we are already due for another ice age?

      Professor Kroonenberg, known to his colleagues as ‘a poet among geologists’, scatters references to world literature throughout his intelligently composed marathon lecture. Far from being pretentious, this is a well considered way of raising the material above the grubbing around in the dirt which so limits many books on geology.

      ‘I want to show how insignificant humans are,’ Kroonenberg explains. ‘We are merely a tiny cog in the works, a factor that can be almost completely discounted.’ He achieves this aim to a truly remarkable degree. The Human Scale is a book that takes risks in its exploration of both social and scientific iissues

      1. TimR


        Salomon Kroonenberg brings abstract data to life in a highly accessible way.

        NRC Handelsblad
        Thinking about his arguments really gets you somewhere. You can then enter the arena far better prepared than simply with the idea that all kinds of dreadful things are happening.


        Salomon Kroonenberg
        Photo: Fjodor Buis
        Salomon Kroonenberg
        Salomon Kroonenberg studied physical geography at the University of Amsterdam and completed his doctorate there in 1976. Between 1972 and 1982 he worked as a geologist in Surinam, Swaziland and Columbia before becoming Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at the Agricultural University of…

        lees meer
        De menselijke maat. De aarde over tienduizend jaar (2006). Non-fiction, 334 pages.
        Words: 85,000
        Copies sold: 20,000

        With illustrations and references

    2. pretzelattack

      has he published anything in the science journals? if he has some solid scientific objections to climatology, i’m sure the fossil fuel industry would fund a study by him. they already did that once, the so called BEST study, and it found that the science was solid. they haven’t funded an actual study since that i know of.

      1. TimR

        The climatologists themselves don’t have “solid science”… As they base everything on modelling, which is not testable against a control.

        Besides I’ve also read a large swath of the “climategate” East Anglia emails, which show clearly all the politicking and shabby treatment toward fellow scientists who don’t toe the party line.

        1. pretzelattack

          no it isn’t based on models. it’s based on basic physics, as the article above points out. they didn’t have computer models in 1824. the “climategate” bullcrap has been debunked over and over and over, cherrypicked phrases from selected emails, but it is a zombie meme. why don’t those scientists who “don’t toe the party line get financed by the fossil fuel companies to show the errors?

          1. TimR

            It’s not justcherrypicked man… I read many full emails and full conversations. It was compiled by a skeptic source, but they were complete.

            I’m not convinced Big Oil is independent of the overall establishment, as you are. They may fund some Antis, but in a limited hangout, controlled opposition way.

            Good point about the physics idea going back a ways, but I still think the field us heavily reliant in computer models, which is a suspect methodology to make claims on for a complex system. Thanks for replying, wish there was a way to carry these discussions to current threads.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              All I know is . . . the glaciers and ice-cap-edges were thinning and melting back during the whole time these East Anglia people were sending their emails back and forth.

              And the ice formations kept right on melting the whole time the “gotcha” community said the emails prove there is no global warming.

  11. Brooklin Bridge

    I don’t get the perennial attachment to Nuclear. Even the most modern Nuclear plants remain huge cost behemoths that are outdated money pits, considerably more costly than solar or wind by the time they roll out the first 100 watts and they go down hill fast from there. And that is before the fact that neoliberal – so called “market” and definitely profit driven – society does not do well with expensive time consuming safety precautions – particularly in construction where 20 or 30 years will go by before the first cracks appear and the builders and (ha,ha,ha, regulators bribe takers) will be long gone..

    And from an NC/Yves post:

    1. steven

      I don’t get the perennial attachment to Nuclear.

      Could it be that no economic rent can be collected from rooftop solar – and not as much from wind generated energy? Most of us can’t afford a nuclear reactor (and wouldn’t want one in our back yard if we could).

      Even the most modern Nuclear plants remain huge cost behemoths that are outdated money pits, considerably more costly than solar or wind…

      Then there is that ‘time’ thing. I can see continuing to operate what we have to provide base load power. But by the time new ones are up and running, the planet is cooked, no? The IPCC and James Hansen do their credibility no good by endorsing this politically motivated BS.

      1. steven

        …should have added after

        Even the most modern Nuclear plants remain huge cost behemoths that are outdated money pits, considerably more costly than solar or wind…

        “that’s the whole idea.” Once these “outdated money pits” get approved by your state utilities commission, rate payers get stuck with the bill PLUS whatever ROI investors are guaranteed … AND of course the ‘administrative’ costs of overseeing them – whether they ever come online or not.

        In the case of Arizona and Tucson Electric Power (TEP) substitute fracked natural gas for nuclear ‘because TEP doesn’t want to become beta testers for solar, storage’ or anything else that would jeopardize their customers’ pocketbooks (besides paying their top 6 – 8 employees tens of millions every year in compensation and stock benefits).

    2. Grumpy Engineer

      @Brooklin Bridge:

      Why the “perennial attachment to nuclear”? Because you can de-carburize an economy faster and more completely with nuclear than you can with renewables.

      Look at the following chart from James Hansen’s article in Science Magazine: It’s quite apparent that countries that pushed hard for nuclear made faster progress than countries that pushed hard for renewables.

      And the push for renewables often stalls out early. The intrinsically intermittent nature of wind and solar power can cause extreme supply-vs-demand mismatches that cause real problems. You can compensate for it better if you have lots of hydro or have lots of neighbors who are willing to buy your surplus power and backfill you when you run short, but not everybody can do that. The US certainly can’t. We’d be lucky to get to 20% non-hydro renewables before seeing severe supply-vs-demand mismatches. Taking things up to 70% nuclear wouldn’t be a problem at all.

  12. Glen

    I have yet to see any behavioral studies of our situation.

    My current model is that we are about 100,000 frogs in a giant pot slowly being brought to a boil. One frog makes all the decisions. It has been and will continue to ignore the slow boil since it has managed to secure an ice cube, and the protection of ten other frogs.

    This model predicts that when 1/2 to 2/3 of the frogs are killed by heat, the head frog is killed by one of the remaining ten frogs. Very shortly after that, the pot comes to a boil.

    The study concludes that it is a bummer to be a frog, and that the head frog is an idiot. There is no amount of ice or other frogs which will prevent the head frog from being killed by the other frogs.

    1. eg

      You missed a step — the one where the head frog and his cronies pay half the poor frogs to kill the other half

      Otherwise, spot on.

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