Some New Climate Models Are Projecting Extreme Warming. Are They Correct?

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Yves here. Readers may be surprised to learn that independent science groups review major climate models on a regular basis. Nevertheless, and I hate to seem like such a naysayer, but between Covid-19 and greater social divisions, the ability of many advanced economies to change course on climate change seems very much diminished.

By Jeff Berardelli, a meteorologist and climate contributor to CBS News in New York City, and a regular contributor to Yale Climate Connections. Originally published at Yale Climate Connections

For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world’s top climate modeling groups have been “running hot” – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.

“It is concerning, as it increases the risk of more severe climate change impacts,” explains Dr. Andrew Gettelman, a cloud microphysics scientist from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado.

As a result, there’s been a real urgency to answer this important question in climate science: Are there processes in some new models that need correcting, or is this enhanced warming a real threat?

After months of contemplation and study after study, the picture is becoming much more clear, and providing something of a breather. Along with those studies, an unprecedented international research mission, led by NOAA and named ATOMIC, aims to provide climate science with the most sophisticated insights yet into why some models point to more warming.

International Effort To Evaluate Climate Models

For the past 25 years the international community has been evaluating and comparing the world’s most sophisticated climate models produced by various teams at universities, research centers, and government agencies. The effort is organized by the World Climate Research Programme under the United Nations World Meteorological Organization.

Climate models are complicated computer programs composed of millions of lines of code that calculate the physical properties and interactions between the main climate forces like the atmosphere, oceans, and solar input. But models also go a lot further, incorporating other systems like ice sheets, forests, and the biosphere, to name a few. The models are then used to simulate the real-world climate system and project how certain changes, like added pollution or land-use changes, will alter the climate.

Every few years there is a new comprehensive international evaluation called the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). In the sixth such effort, known as CMIP6 and now under way, experts are reviewing about 100 models.

Information gleaned from this effort will act as a scientific foundation for the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) next major assessment report, scheduled for release in 2021. The goal of the report – the sixth in 30 years – is to inform the international community about how much the climate has changed, and, importantly, how much change can be expected in coming decades.

A Conundrum Emerges

Over the past year, the CMIP6 collection of models being reviewed threw researchers an unexpected curveball: a significant number of the climate model runs showed substantially more global warming than previous model versions had projected. If accurate, the international climate goals would be nearly impossible to achieve, and there would be significantly more extreme impacts worldwide.

A foundational experiment in every report addresses “sensitivity”: If you double levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) that were in the air before the Industrial Revolution, how much warming do the models show? This doubling is not expected for a few more decades, but it is a quick way to communicate the critical role of greenhouse gases in changing the climate.

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 35% since the 1800s because of the burning of fossil fuels. As a result, global temperatures have already increased by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the first IPCC assessment report, published in 1990, the answer to that question about the impact of doubling carbon dioxide gave a fairly wide range of results – between 2.7-8 degrees F of global warming. Since then, four more assessments issued six to seven years apart reached nearly the exact same conclusion on sensitivity.

But that sensitivity may, for the first time, change significantly in next year’s assessment. Why? Because starting last year, numerous models in the CMIP6 collection displayed even bigger spikes in temperature upon doubling of CO2 concentrations. We’re in serious trouble if the climate sensitivity falls in the mid or upper range of the previous assessments. But if the new, higher estimates are correct, the impacts on civilization would be catastrophic.

(Source: Tweet by NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt)

According to the highly regarded climate site Carbon Brief, which did an independent evaluation of the model suite, 30% of models showed a significant increase in their sensitivity to a doubling of atmospheric CO2.

In the above CarbonBrief interactive visualization, the bars offer a comparison in the range of sensitivity in the CMIP5 models (gray) and CMIP6 models (blue).

New and Encouraging Evidence Is Emerging

At first, scientists were uncertain whether the new model runs were on to something, so the international modeling community dug in to produce multiple studies. The results are not yet conclusive, but a gradual collective sigh of relief seems to be materializing.

“Evidence is emerging from multiple directions that the models which show the greatest warming in the CMIP6 ensemble are likely too warm,” explains Dr. Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

For example, a study released April 28 evaluated the past performance of the models making up the CMIP6 ensemble. The team assigned weights to each model based upon historical performance of their warming projections, weighing the poorer performing models less. By doing so, both the mean warming and the range of warming scenarios in the CMIP6 ensemble decreased, meaning the warmest models were the ones with weaker historical performance. This result supports a finding that a subset of the models are too warm.

That conclusion is supported by another new study evaluating one particular model – the Community Earth System Model (CESM2) – that showed greater warming. Using that model, the researchers simulated the climate in the early Eocene era, about 50 million years ago, when rainforests thrived in the Arctic and Antarctic. The CESM2 simulated a historical climate that seems way too warm compared with what is known about that era from geological data, indicating that the model is likely also too warm in its future projections.

Two other recent studies of the CMIP6 models being evaluated use clever analysis methods to narrow the range of future warming projections and also reduce the projected warming of the CMIP6 models by 10 to 15%.

Through the intensive research spurred by the CMIP6 climate-sensitivity curveball, scientists have been able to turn a confounding challenge into a confidence builder, providing even greater certainty than they had before in both the abilities of the climate science community and in the computer models used. Moreover, the experience has helped unearth uncertainties remaining in the modeling process.

Experts conclude much of this uncertainty probably lies in the complexity of clouds. “We have been looking as a community at why the models with greater warming are doing what they are doing – and it’s tied to cloud feedbacks in the southern mid-latitudes mostly,” explains Schmidt.

In fact,  a new study addressing the increased sensitivity was published in Science Advances stating, “Cloud feedbacks and cloud-aerosol interactions are the most likely contributors to the high values and increased range of ECS [sensitivity] in CMIP6.”

Understanding the Complexity of Clouds

It’s long been known in climate modeling circles that cloud processes and interactions are a potential weak link for climate modeling. That reality has been brought front and center by the urgent challenges posed during this CMIP6 evaluation period, but the current evaluation of models also provides an opportunity for discovery and improvement.

Cloud complexity comes from the reality that clouds have a multitude of sizes, altitudes, and textures. Some clouds cool Earth by providing shade, reflecting sunlight back into space. Others act like a blanket, trapping heat and warming the world.

Given that about 70% of the globe is covered by clouds at any given time, it’s no surprise that they play an integral role in regulating the climate. The challenge is to figure out which types of clouds will increase, which will decrease, and what the net effect will be on cooling or warming as the climate changes.

One study last year reached an alarming conclusion: Left unchecked, the release of CO2 into the atmosphere may lead to a tipping point where shallow low clouds disappear – leading to runaway, catastrophic warming of nearly 15 degrees F. While scientists see that outcome as only a remote possibility, it drives home the urgent need to better understand clouds.

“We have a saying at NOAA: It isn’t rocket science – it’s much, much harder than that,” quips Dr. Chris Fairall, ATOMIC’s lead investigator. “One of the major problems for modeling is there is not clean separation of scales.” The photo below is one that Fairall took from the NOAA P-3 aircraft.

“Think about trying to code up a model that can produce this,” Fairall muses. “Huge cloud systems are made up of a spectrum of clouds from the size of Kansas to ones that fit in the trunk of your Volkswagen.”

In the real world and the simulated model world, cloud formation depends partially on how moisture interacts with aerosols, tiny floating particles in the air. Aerosols are fine particles like smoke, sea spray, and pollutants. These tiny dust-like particles act as condensation nuclei, allowing gaseous water vapor to turn into cloud droplets.

The interplay between clouds, aerosols, and a warming climate in a model affects how much of a cooling or warming influence that model calculates.

Recently a new international dataset of emissions – including changes in the concentrations of aerosols – has been introduced into some climate models with improved cloud physics. As a result, some scientists conclude, the changes have affected cloud dynamics in these models, leading to additional warming.

But despite the increased confidence that a subset of the CMIP6 models are likely overdoing warming projections, Gettelman believes there is at least some merit to the warmer projections because this generation of models has more sophisticated cloud physics.

So in order to get to the bottom of cloud complexity and improve these vital model projections, the international community is collaborating on a massive research project.

Investigating the Secrets of Clouds

To address the urgent question about the dynamics and role of clouds in a warming world, NOAA and European partners launched their ongoing research effort unprecedented in scale. The U.S. contribution, ATOMIC – short for Atlantic Tradewind Ocean-Atmosphere Mesoscale Interaction Campaign – is an international science mission that was featured recently on “CBS This Morning: Saturday.”

“The research that originally motivated this project was an analysis that showed that the single biggest factor that separated the CMIP models into big warming and not so big warming was treatment of shallow convective clouds,” Fairall explains.

The best places to find shallow convective clouds are tropical waters. So in February, a group of scientists from more than 40 partner institutions from countries including the U.S., Germany, France, and the U.K. painstakingly probed hundreds of miles of tropical air and sea near the island of Barbados. They used every tool in their arsenals: five research aircraft, four large fact-finding vessels, buoys, radar and futuristic air and ocean drones to examine the makeup of these complicated and crucial clouds.

Scientists expect that the vast, concurrent and diverse types of observations captured in ATOMIC will allow them to improve how clouds are represented in climate models, enabling them to make more precise predictions of future climate and impacts.

Fairall says the data from ATOMIC is ideal for such assessments, and he expects the findings will inform the upcoming 2021 comprehensive IPCC report. With the data from ATOMIC still being analyzed, scientists have not yet reached conclusions.

On the whole, however, these unprecedented research efforts to troubleshoot discrepancies in the latest models have already borne critical fruit. They are providing scientists with more insights, illustrating the crucial value of the scientific method, lending credibility to the capability of climate models, and helping build more confidence within the climate science community.

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  1. Rod

    thanks for posting this–the Climate Crises ‘soundtrack’ is constantly playing in the background, whether we are tuned in or out.
    More definition in the models not only declutter, but constantly refine the threat, thereby helping to undermine the skeptics.
    The Climate, the Disease, and the Economy are all signaling the necessity of Humans to change our behavior and relationship with our Home/Earth—if they had a voice like we humans, we humans would be cringing in the din—imo.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    Nice to see some – I won’t call it ‘good’, but at least ‘not bad’ news about climate change.

    But the latest reports from the Arctic are horrifying – record temperatures over a vast area of Siberia. In any rational world that would be headline news worldwide.

    1. Rod

      One perspective I have had trouble finding is one from Russia on the Climate Crises.
      Not news of spill or fire, but of concern and activism. Even within the ‘international’ coalitions of and XR the information is scant.
      I do not believe Russians are Dumb, Ignorant or unconcerned on the issue, and having the largest continuous land mass arctic adjacent, have agency in the debate.

      1. Fritzi

        I think the Russian Churches’ position on climate change would have a lot of weight.

        I kinda find myself embarrassed for not really knowing anything about where it stands.

      2. a different chris

        There seems to be a great swath of Russians that think that GW will turn Siberia into the Great Plains, Crimea into the Florida Coast, et. al. and everything will be great.

        You do have to realize it’s cold up there.

        1. Punxsutawney

          Do they still realize that it’s still going to be dark half the year up there in Siberia? GW or not, the tilt of the earth will be the same.

      3. Daniel

        Russians are anything but dumb, ignorant and unconcerned — and not long ago one Russian ministry published an excellent document about the catastrophic prospects of global warming there (the release apparently had something to do with a bureaucratic conflict between ministries and this document was taken down shortly thereafter; the Russian economy,after all, remains massively dependent on the extraction and sale of fossil fuels). The Church establishment is a partner of the state and, to my knowledge, has said nothing constructive on this issue. My purely anecdotal sense from years of traveling there and talking to Russian intellectuals in St. Petersburg and Moscow (including those on the left) is that they tend to be skeptical about climate change. Haven’t quite figured out why. No doubt there is more going on locally at grassroots.

      4. PlutoniumKun

        I really don’t know how ordinary Russians view this, there are others on this site who are far more familiar with the country.

        I know quite a few years ago a number of senior Russian government advisors were either open climate change deniers or were of the ‘its good news if the permafrost melts’ school of thought (i.e., economists, not scientists). I don’t know about now, I think the huge forest fires around Moscow a few summers ago were a wake up call. Recently Putin has being making some very thoughtful contributions – whether this is because he sees it as good politics, or whether he is personally now very concerned, I’ve no idea. But the Russian economy is, of course, very reliant on oil and gas.

        1. DANIEL

          In my opinion, Putin just sometimes gives lip service to the problem of climate change — but his position is, at best, diffident; his general position has been that it “may” be anthropogenic, but perhaps not; that it will have both bad consequences and good ones, that it some places “adjustments” will be necessary. And no real action against the causes of climate change. Even the recent disaster with Norilsk, where melting permafrost led to bursted oil pipes, is being dealt with on the most trivial level (company officials being charged with poor maintenance and failure to notify the central government promptly, and being compelled to pay for clean up). And it is full steam ahead on extracting oil from under the melting Arctic waters, etc.

      5. Andrey Subbotin

        First, we do not have a tradition of western-style activism, and view western organizations that try to branch into Russia with suspicion. If there is some action to be taken, we expect our government to take it.

        Second, Russia sees less downside from warming (less coastal cites) and some upside (some of the ice desert will become livable in 100 years after ecology rebalances, easier arctic navigation etc). I guess we’d participate in a viable international scheme, but think those with more to lose should lead them.

        Third, western/anglosaxon world is lately hostile to us, and will use any weakening of our economy as attack vector, while our actions alone will have only a small influence on warming outcome. We consider this a more urgent threat than warming.

        1. rd

          Other than the Black and Baltic Seas, they don’t have much coast line that would be impacted much, so that is not a huge issue for them.

          Russia’s cash flow is dominated by oil and gas. It is hard to be focused on preventing climate change when your cash flow depends on people burning carbon.

    2. Bruno

      As Siberia conflagrates, the climate modelers have their heads in the clouds. What will it take for them to hear the words of Bob Dylan’s “Wicked Messenger–from Eli he did come-‘the soles of my feet, I swear, are burning'”? Any “model” that does not show the *present* state of our burning permafrosted taigas, or estimate their increased burning to come from the ever-heating planet, is quite simply worthless.

      1. jef

        I agree Bruno. Even without burning permafrost is a problem. Permafrost makes up over a quarter of the northern hemisphere and it is nearly all warming up and melting releasing an ever increasing amount of methane. All of which is happening 50 to 75 years before the modelers “predicted.

        By the time it is (allowed to be) fully acknowledged how bad CC is going to be it will be way to late.

    3. RBHoughton

      Let’s be frank – the forces in favor of continued pollution have the ear of North American and European governments and will be able to raise a doubt about the science until its too late. So, let’s wait until the problem is beyond us in the usual way. Apologies for threatening the income of those myriad scientists in the climate change industry.

  3. sam

    Not sure that more accurate models would make much of a difference. Our whole economy runs on cheap, convenient and high energy content fossil fuels. The cost of switching to alternate sources is hard to estimate but maybe a 100-1000% increase in the cost of everything we consume would be a potential ballpark. If people can’t be bothered with the small sacrifice of wearing masks to mitigate a very immediate risk how will they ever be convinced to make enormous sacrifices to avoid a future calamity?

    1. Ian Ollmann

      I don’t see how you get to these numbers. For electricity generation, renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels already. We haven’t switched over because of the expense of replacing established capacity with new infrastructure, but that established capacity has a finite lifetime. Some things like coal are often shutdown early because they can’t compete in the marketplace due to high cost of fuel and complying with environmental regs.

      There are a few things like plastics that I expect will continue to consume fossil fuels, but it isn’t really necessary to bring oil extraction to zero. We just need to stop burning the stuff.

      Natural gas remains cheap since it is a byproduct of the oil for transportation industry. However, as more countries move to ban new ICEs, the size of the oil transportation market will decrease and so will the availability of nat. gas. At that point, the cheap natural gas power plants may find it isn’t so cheap anymore.

      1. Dwight

        Another exposition of the dogma of immaculate conception of wind, solar, and hydro infrastructure.

  4. Susan the other

    Don’t worry, the scientists are on it. That’s always nice but I notice they don’t address some stuff, like the waning magnetic field of the earth and the dormant electromagnetics of the sun – as if that had nothing to do with cloud formation. iirc, the Danish climate cosmologists had a theory of cosmic particles getting through our magnetic field and causing cloud formation – so that could account for more cloud formations. Whether clouds cool or warm the planet is good to understand because if low, shallow convective clouds over tropical water have a balancing effect on warming it could become a useful technique – like turn all those dinosaur aircraft carriers into mega water hosers. They’re already hosers.

  5. BinDenver

    My understanding of the new CMIP6 data is that the big change is more complete solar inputs than was used the past. There is a hypothesis forming that since solar inputs were not properly recognized by prior CMIP data, the excess warming was attributed to solely human activity. Now that it is included, there is both the erroneous human attribution and the correct solar attribution, making warming predictions too high. The article’s focus on clouds is only half correct – solar particles inducing cloud formation is being studied now with eye opening results.

  6. Daniel

    I meant to add to my note on the situation in Russia: The Church is a partner of the State and, to my knowledge, has not said or done anything useful regarding climate change. There are some things going on locally at the grassroots, but information on that is scarce.

  7. Alex Cox

    I don’t understand the labelling of Gavin Schmidt’s graph. What do “The Russians” “The Pack” and “The Wolf Pack” signify?

    Still, not to worry if NOAA is on the case! They did a great job explaining the collapse of WTC7. No one could suggest that they would ever fake the science for political ends.

    1. Ignacio

      Just gaming with names: not surprisingly Russian models are the most optimistic and the rest can be divided in two groups as if there are two diverging consensus one centred at about 3ºC per doubling and a second centred at about 5ºC per CO2 doubling and he calls this the wolf pack. IMO regardless the best estimate is the Russian, 3, 5 degrees or higher we are already witnessing big changes in weather and temperatures, changes that anyone who is awake is noticing. We are already in uncharted territory and record temperatures are broken almost every year. We are seeing disturbing outcomes that look poised to worsen in the next decade. Think of Siberia this summer (not long ago it was considered the permafrost area was very stable, even increasing, and “climategaters” accused scientists about false claims on permafrost loss). Think of Australia fires. Uncertainty and catastrophic events are already here. Go and ask an agricultural producer if she or he have noticed changes, go and ask in coastal sites suffering increasing damage in properties after a storm, go and ask fisheries, ask yourself about sleepless hot summer nights… Let’s not get lost in models. That is for scientists. We need urgent action regardless these models are more or less correct.

    2. Aumua

      Wait so NOAA offered an explanation of the WTC7 collapse? Or did you just mean scientists in general?

      1. LawnDart

        Maybe he’s confusing the Weatherman/Weather Underground with another terrorist group that may or may not be responsible for the 9/11 attacks?

        Kinda seeing the uptick of nutters and trolls around here as of late. I think that it’ll be “all hands on deck” to keep the comments sections on this site from totally crapifying the way ZeroHedge has over the past few years. Guess it’s their way of “self-pleasuring,” but still is pretty gross and embarrassing seeing them do this in public, especially from so-called adults.

        Maybe NC moderators would consider a “Dog-Whistle Day,” and lay out some click-bait for the trolls in the way one might chum sharks? If it could be done subtly enough in order not to draw additional unwanted attention to this site, then it might be a great way to find out who needs to be blocked or banned from posting.

        I like to scan Links and Water Cooler for info to follow-up on, and to return to these sections hours later for the comments, as many of these are often as well thought-out as the original posts. NC is usually the 3rd or fourth website I hit in the morning (general news (to see if anything has blown-up overnight), financial news, weather, and then my bank if checks are due to clear;-). Might a fundraiser specifically to support moderation be OK with the readership in these crappy and stressful times? Or do we just need to know where to pay the moderator’s bar-tab?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The problem is that this is not a moderated site, which appears to be your assumption. Comments appear by default unless they hit a moderation tripwire. “Asshole” is one, since at least half the time, people who use that word are spewing bile, as opposed to making an observation, like “Trump takes pride in being the Asshole-in-Chief,” which would go into moderation but would then be approved.

          And then if a problematic comment winds up appearing, we have to rip out not just the offending comment but all the replies in a very specific order so as not to break comment nesting for all the comments that appear later. And those reader refutations honestly often reflect a lot of reader effort and are regularly informative and entertaining.

          So we rarely expunge comments unless they are Gawdawful or we were lucky enough to catch them before anyone replied. We can also restrict the commenting privileges of offenders.

          When things have gotten really bad, we have shut down comments entirely for a week or so to tell readers they need to cut it out and behave better.

          1. juno mas

            Yes. And the range of comments passing through the site sharpens critical reading/reasoning skill. Don’t Sleep at the NC.

  8. Jeremy Grimm

    The scientists modeling climate want to get their models right, and it is important that we have accurate climate models. Building those accurate climate models will be a work of centuries as the climate changes and new effects are discovered. It is very important to build accurate climate models for the future centuries of Humankind to use, especially in the event climate oscillates or ventures toward chaotic changes [at least up to a point].

    The climate system is non-linear, highly complex, and probably chaotic. The idea of a climate temperature ‘sensitivity’ to a doubling of CO2 is an effort to reduce the climate to a simple over-damped linear system in which the sensitivity value provides an estimate for value of the new global temperature set-point for a given level of CO2. It was a way to come up with an easily understood back-of-an-envelope estimate of global temperature changes in response to CO2 increases. Of course I have greatly simplified the details of this simplified sensitivity estimate:
    “Charney defined an idealized climate sensitivity problem, asking how much global surface temperature would increase if atmospheric CO2 were instantly doubled, assuming that slowly-changing planetary surface conditions, such as ice sheets and forest cover, were fixed. Long-lived GHGs, except for the specified CO2 change, were also fixed, not responding to climate change. The Charney problem thus provides a measure of climate sensitivity including only the effect of ‘fast’ feedback processes, such as changes of water vapor, clouds and sea ice.” (“Target Atmospheric CO2 : Where Should Humanity Aim?”, Hansen and others, [])
    Delving into the details the need for climate models to refine the sensitivity estimate becomes evident. Now, some climate models are coming up with some high estimates for the sensitivity to a CO2 doubling. In my opinion, that should not come as a surprise or a source of great concern to anyone except the modelers and the scientific community developing climate models for the future.

    The problem with the sensitivity fudge number is how it is being used by the Political-Economic Machine to come up with a CO2 ‘Budget’. Among other things, our civilization depends on burning fossil fuels and on a stable climate for our agriculture. Fossil fuels will run out, and we have no plan B. The climate is changing, which is proving problematic for agriculture. To address these existential concerns our Neoliberal Political-Economic Machine is intent on constructing a Market to solve all our problems most ‘efficiently’. This is based on some dubious assumptions among which: the sensitivity number is not a fudge the scientific community was pressed to come up with and we can be pretty sure 1.5 degrees C increase in global temperatures is OK but 2 degrees or higher gets dicey. And these assumptions mean we can burn fossil fuels until we reach our 1.5 degrees budget; we can use the Market to most efficiently handle how we burn the remaining fossil fuels in our budget. Market magic will come up with the replacement for fossil fuels once we hit the 1.5 degrees mark for a projected increase in the global temperature.

    The bad news about the sensitivity fudge number creates a little problem. We may have already blown our CO2 ‘budget’. Actually most indications were that we had blown our budget before the recent problems with the sensitivity number and 1.5 degrees might not be all the OK anyway. The Market is still working on coming up with a plan B for replacing fossil fuels. We are still doing our very best to burn as much fossil fuel as possible as fast as possible although the Corona pandemic has put a damper — the Market hopes a temporary damper — on our efforts.

    1. oaf

      “The climate system is non-linear, highly complex, and probably chaotic”.Yes, agreed. I suggest that most models potentially underestimate the contributions of organic systems (with the exception, perhaps, of attempting to include changes in forest, wetland, desert areas, etc.). Not only Flora has the potential for introducing Chaos, but Fauna as well, as the two are inextricably intertwined and interdependent. There are surprises in store. That I will bet on.
      Kinda hard to do a controlled, double blind study, isn’t it? We would need some identical planets. Only sure way to mitigate is to change human behavior. That is the most pertinent factor we potentially could have control over.
      The externality of Markets seems to be Terracide.

  9. JeffK

    It’s clear from our response to the pandemic that we have limited social and political capabilities in dealing with emergent threats that have lagging and unpredictable mortal effects. I can predict with certainty that whatever climate change reversing initiatives that are approved, there will be a group of angry Americans with cardboard signs marching at the capitol demanding their constitutional right to burn as much fossil fuel as they want because of FREEDOM!!! (to be irresponsible). Even if the deniers are proven to be wrong and the future conditions predicted by the models shown true, there will be the deluge of conspiracy theories about deep state disinformation and hoarding of oil by banks. Even if automotive transportation improves with great energy efficiency technology, the manufacturers will build inefficient muscle cars and oversized pickup trucks because of profits – not policy. If there are policies that impinge on profits you can be sure there will be lawsuits and more angry Americans with cardboard signs demanding FREEDOM to buy muscle cars and giant pickup trucks, freedom to buy oversized 4000 square foot plastic McMansions with clothes driers in every bathroom and heated swimming pools.

    We all see the threat – the bullet spinning at our chests in slow motion. But some percentage (35%, 45% 55%?) of Americans have been reared and trained to be rugged individuals in the finest of neoliberal traditions. Will we step out of the way of the slow-mo bullet as individuals or collectively try to stop it? It’s really a question of percentages. How many have moved up the banks of mount Vesuvius to enjoy the Bacchanal till the end? How many are open to visions of a desired future condition and are willing to sacrifice personal freedom and comfort to give it a try? I think with the right visionary and the right messenger we have a collective chance. But, in the back of my mind I am thinking of ways to step out of the way of the bullet on my own – while I am still free. I’m probably not alone.

    1. LawnDart

      I am thinking of ways to step out of the way of the bullet on my own – while I am still free. I’m probably not alone.

      There’s that passport problem…

      Alienated or exiled within USA, you’re already a stranger to your land. I was looking at jetting in about two years, but it seems my (our) options there have become rather limited as of late.

      When I was a kid, I used to have woods that I could run away to, either from home or from school. Decades later, I again find that rather appealing. But public lands aren’t what they were; the taxman is thirsty, and nature’s bounty has grown thin.

      Elsewhere still seems to be the best option, if you are old enough to be respected and young enough to pursue means.

      1. JeffK

        One doesn’t have to leave the country or head for the hills. I am leaving consumerism and the status symbols of the hyper-masculine “American Dream”. I am trying to live conscious of where resources come from and where they end up when used up – asking if that can be repeated times 7 billion indefinitely without destroying the planet I love. I am trying to position my self to be as self reliant as possible while being a responsible citizen of a community. I am not running away.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      Wow! Are there so many who believe “we have limited social and political capabilities in dealing with emergent threats” … whoa … whoaaaaaH! Really? Freedom??? Freedom to buy “oversized 4000 square foot plastic McMansions with clothes driers in every bathroom and heated swimming pools” … really? really??????????????”.

      Sorry I don’t buy that unless there’s been a major extra-terrestrial excavation of human I.Q.’s and basic common sense. … it’s a cook book? What is there to understand?

  10. Jose Luis Campos

    What is desired I detect in these discussions about world warming and its possible destruction is the substance of religion, to shape one’s life for an eternal reward. I am a religious man and I do abstain very often, not always, and then I call that sin and suffer much. If there is no eternal life I will never know it. If I abstain from present comforts for the sake of a future thermodynamic salvation of mankind I will not know it either.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      There’s pie in the sky when we die.

      Please send a missive when you receive you pie from the sky. It will be shared … but may not be believed [!?].

    2. Johnny Appleseed

      This is a rather narrow solipsistic take. I think we are talking about the preservation of many and wonderful living beings and systems, not merely “mankind.” Shame on you.

  11. TheClimateWouldLikeToReply

    My Arctic Circle temperature the other day was 38 degrees C / 100 degrees F.
    So while I respect your scientific theories, I think you just need to go and look at what is happening to me.

    I feel poorly, with intermittent fevers getting higher and longer. They might not kill me, but they they will probably kill you in the end.

  12. FrankZappasGuitar

    Thanks for sharing this, NC! The models and their accuracy is pretty fascinating, and hopefully improvements continue to be made in their accuracy and the implementation of cautious policy in response to them, as big decisions are coming. I’ve seen people say the IPCC ARs have underestimated future emissions trends in the past, and those are the ‘big consensus’ reports. One thing that’s incredibly concerning to my mind is that the thermal forcing due solely to albedo loss and latent heat effect loss once we get year-on-year ice free summers (‘blue ocean events’) will be enough to cause rapid heating and disasters for all kinds of agriculture globally — up to a degree C or more in less than a decade seems to be consensus. Industrial monocropped lands for corn, wheat, and rice will be especially hit, soy as well but less. Those crops all have sensitive ranges of temperature above which large % loss is guaranteed, esp. for monocropped areas with poor soil and limited ecological systems.

    David Battisti, UW “Climate Change & Food Security”

  13. JeffK

    Pie in the sky like… ” Market magic will come up with the replacement for fossil fuels once we hit the 1.5 degrees mark for a projected increase in the global temperature” Jeremy?

    I’m sorry for being cynical. Someone said there are two types of world views, one from prophets of doom and one from the wizards who believe that technology, innovation, and the markets will answer the call of necessity. I hope you are right. I spent a number of years working on research efforts in the advanced cellulosic biofuels project. I watched it fizzle out when oil fell to $25/bbl, and when investors sold the tree farm and opted to put the land in forage for dairy and a confined animal feeding operation.

    Read Herman Daly’s Beyond Growth. The biosphere is the limit of the world economy. Seems like we are approaching the limit.

  14. Rod

    This was most excellent and I hate I couldn’t get back before today.
    Thanks for the take on Russia/ns. Those two comments on the Orthodox Church twinge a nerve as I believe the Organized “Faith” community a Goliath of potential sway largely AWOL from the CC debate. Exempting the Indigenous Peoples Spirit beliefs and actions which I have witnessed first hand multiple times in multiple countries and cultures.
    Like the guy that grates, suggesting we start using the cookbook that we have is probably the best idea. But me, JeffK and probably him—JG—and you others, are not enough—mass and momentum being linked through physics and all. Yves alludes to that often.
    The Masters have mastered Disaster Capitalism.
    However, the Covid, its spread and effects, are so novel and not understood by them—yet. Their tricks are not working—yes their leverage of ‘starving’ are but are so transparent even the ignorant are starting to see and connect the dots.
    So we have a window.
    or maybe just a hole that we can bust into a garage door opening.
    As FrankZG mentioned, Albedo is troubling and an element within the articles calculations but planting and harvesting are getting a bit dicey—I am planting now in March crops that I have never planted before late April and seeing flowering’s a month earlier than the past 30 years of my records.
    Thanks again NC and all

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