Monday, January 21, 2008

Tipping Point: 500 ppm

CURRENTLY: 384 parts per million (ppm)
as of January 21, 2008, according to news article by Reuters reporter Alistair Doyle
*[An expert in the field says that the Reuters figures are off. He writes: "Here's the last NOAA data set: NOAA says 384 is the current number, not 394:] **[This expert also notes: "I think most people now believe the tippping point comes well before 500 ppm".]

WAS: 383 ppm
as of December 28, 2007 oped article by Bill McKibben in the Washington Post
WAS WAS: 275 ppm
many years ago, in a time gone by
[An expert in the field tells us that he thinks that "most people in the field now believe the tipping point comes well before 500 ppm".]

See Alex Steffen's analysis here:

set now at *430 ppm -- (*not as accurate as this website, but a very interesting "countup" clock, and way cool because it's animted, tracking stats as you read this post!)


See L. David Roper analysis here:
[The result of fossil fuels and population growth peaking is that the amount of carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere will peak. I have done a calculation taking those four peaks into account and have concluded that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere will go from its present value of about 385 parts per million to a peak of about 450 parts per million at about year 2100 and then will decline to about the same value as now for several centuries. Climatologists estimate that atmospheric concentration over 400 ppm will cause many disasters for humans on the Earth.

So, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will not increase indefinitely, which is good news. But there is no reason for celebration because already, at 385 ppm, disastrous things are happening. Also, on the way to 450 ppm it is difficult to predict with assurance what other disasters will occur, but we can be sure that some will. One possibility that may greatly increase global warming, that seems to be already under way, is the release of massive amounts of carbon that is frozen in the Arctic tundra.]


dan said...

RE Bill McKibben's oped piece linked above, Eharv noted in a comment at the Wash Post:

"As always, I enjoyed reading something by Bill McKibben. One thing about climate change that still confuses me is the debate over sea level rise. Most people quote a rise in sea level of around 20 feet or so, but when reading the most recent IPCC report, I read that sea levels are expected to rise by another half a meter by 2100.

Am I misreading the IPCC report, or is there other data that predicts a highly consequential sea level rise?"

While wideblackky notes:

"I have to admit that I look forward to the reaping of what has been sown. No part of me believes that humanity will act in any meaningful way to address global warming, and continually rising carbon emissions in the face of mounting evidence of climate change lend credence to that prediction."
And bridesmar noted:

"Why can't anyone face the simple fact that industrial civilization, based on the increasing consumption of finite, non-renewable resources, powered by the one-time fossil fuel bonanza, is fundamentally non-viable, always was and cannot be made so. Ultimately there are no technical fixes but we might, theoretically delay the inevitable a few more decades or maybe even a century or so. We are in a condition of massive overshoot. We have long passed the point of no return. Collapse of our present civilization is inevitable. What will emerge after this collapse and how rapid it will be is impossible to predict with any certainty but."

perryc1 notes:

"The solution to the problem of global warming is coming. It involves a sharp reduction in the human population. The reduction in the human population will come several decades after the world accepts global warming as a real threat. That will be several decades after the tipping point has been crossed. However, only our great, great, grand children will have to face and be part of the depopulation."


dan said...

" Call me when there’s a real change in attitudes and real action taken to reverse the centuries of harm we have caused this planet…. "

— Posted by Capt. Concernicus at DOT EARTH blog

dan said...

China and India have significant coal deposits. That fact alone determines the future of global carbon emissions. Perhaps if we had an worldwide immediate embrace of the only off the shelf significant substitute for combustion, nuclear fission, we might start to bring those numbers down. Don’t hold your breath.

— Posted by Ed at DOT EARTH

dan said...


"The evidence indicates we've aimed too high -- that the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 ppm," says Jim Hansen.

350: That is the level to which Hansen believes we need to reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide (and by implication, other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere if we want to avoid a series of catastrophic climate tipping points.

The bad news? Atmospheric carbon is already at least 383 ppm, and the rate at which we're spewing greenhouse gases is increasing. In other words, we've seen the credible bar for achieving climate stability drop from 550 to 450 to 350 over roughly the last year. Bill McKibben walks us through the implications:

The difference between 550 and 350 is that the weaning has to happen now, and everywhere. No more passing the buck. The gentle measures bandied about at Bali, themselves way too much for the Bush administration, don't come close. Hansen called for an immediate ban on new coal-fired power plants that don't capture carbon, the phaseout of old coal-fired generators, and a tax on carbon high enough to make sure that we leave tar sands and oil shale in the ground. To use the medical analogy, we're not talking statins to drop your cholesterol; we're talking huge changes in every aspect of your daily life.
Carbon-neutral prosperity is possible. We can design and build a sustainable society within the time we have remaining. The matter hinges entirely on having the will to build it. And that's what's going to be tested now, and big time: our will.

Beyond the political barriers, though, I think there are some habits of mind that impede the gathering of that will.

The first is, as we've said here frequently, the lack of compelling and credible visions of what that society would look like. Without those visions, it is very difficult for any of us to seriously imagine transformational change. As Bucky said, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." We need to cultivate a vision of a bright green future that is both bold and beautiful, that goes far enough and offers people better lives.

The second is that we are in overshoot and time is proving to be the strictest planetary limit of all. It's bad enough that with each passing day it becomes more difficult to attain a bright green future -- it's worse to know that things are going to get grim, no matter what we do. We have already committed ourselves to climate chaos, an extinction crisis and mass human suffering -- though what we do now will greatly determine exactly how awful each of those things gets, and if we act now, we can, in fact, still make it through the window of opportunity. To do that we need to be able to read the bad news and still remember that defeatism serves evil here, and in times like these, optimism is a political act. We need to cultivate a politics of optimism.

The third, it seems to me, is perhaps the most difficult: we need to come to understand that this is not a crisis that can be faced or solved on a personal level, and that, to succeed here, we need common action for the common good. We can't shop our way to sustainability; we can't take enough simple steps to get to a one-planet future; we can't save ourselves -- we can only save each other.

This is going to be hardest to accept here in the U.S., where lifestyle environmentalism has been shouted from every rooftop as the answer to our problems. It's going to take much more than a new president to hep Americans come to an understanding that the upper-middle class suburban lifestyle (to which many of us aspire) has become a thing of active evil, and no amount of technofix is going to change that -- we can't just change our lightbulbs and swap our hummers for priuses and call it a day. We're going to have to act together to redesign, reinvent, retrofit and re-engineer nearly every aspect of modern life, and we're going to have to do it in part through regulations, taxes, bans and fees, and we're going to have to do it quickly, and for those unready or unwilling to make the change it's going to hurt.

One the other hand, this moment also offers both the nation and us as people the greatest opportunity for reinvention we've ever had. Our economy is creaking with debt, technologically out-of-date and scandalously dirty, not even vaguely prepared to meet the challenges of 21st century bright green global trade; our political system is ossified with corruption and sedimentary layers of media spin and partisan lies; our suburbs hang suspended on the illusory promise of cheap oil while our cities have been neglected and mismanaged; much of our infrastructure is on the point of collapse; our child care, education and justice systems are the worst in the developed world; our military has been ground to pieces in a war for oil; our health care system no longer serves more than a third of our citizens; our farmlands are blowing away, our forests are burning and our rivers are drying up.

For nearly every one of these problems, there are existing or emerging solutions, and we're coming to realize that most of those solutions support each other in a healthy 21st century society. In holistic, innovative and ambitious answers lies our salvation. We can do this. But our lives won't be the same: this is like a war: whatever plans we had before are going, now, to change. We need to cultivate an awareness that this generation is called to do big things by seeing the big picture, serving the public good and working together.

The crisis we face places stark demands on us, and I can't think of better advice for meeting them than Alasdair Gray's motto, "Work as though you lived in the early days of a better nation."

dan said...

This Climate Clock blog does not, disappointingly, include an actual climate ''clock''. As in ticking.

"So, geeky eco-people of the world: who will invent an embeddable online climate clock widget displaying multiple-source data on an on-going basis?" asks Alex Steffen over at his blog. "Or something of that sort? How do we make info about our planet's greenhouse gas concentrations visual, ubiquitous and easily understandable?

This is a pretty big deal, as the vast majority of people still really don't understand what's going on with our climate. We could really use some ways of clue-ing in the newly informed and reminding the already aware.

Any design/code geeks want to team up with some science geeks and sort this out? PLease feel free to use the comments."


dan said...

A blogger said on another blog, but it's a good question and issue for here:

''I believe you mean ppm CO2, not ppm CO2e.''

What's the difference? Can anyone explain in comments below? Maybe Brad Arnold can tell me.... Brad?

dan said...

''The value 394 occurs in the winter in the arctic.
NOAA numbers are related to annual average. I have tried to explain to the Reuters reporter
that there is a difference between these numbers, and one should be careful with how one presents them.''...

an expert tells me

dan said...

dan said...


A flow chart showing carbon sequestration using biocharcoal


We need to capture the carbon already emitted into the atmosphere and return it to the ground, where it belongs.

GROWING AWARENESS OF the dangers of climate change has highlighted the necessity to reduce carbon emissions. But how can we do it? From a technological perspective, it is probably possible to reduce our carbon emissions by what scientists say is the required amount in the required timescale. But for various reasons – lack of funding, political inertia, existing investment in fossil fuels – it is not happening. What holds us back is not the lack of technology, but the lack of will: amongst states, corporations and individuals. Sometimes it can seem as if the problem is insoluble.

However, there is another option: one that could still save the day. As critical as it is to reduce future carbon emissions, it is equally critical, perhaps even more critical, to get much of the CO2 that has already been released – and which is responsible for the current warming – out of the atmosphere and back into the ground where it belongs.

This approach, known as carbon capture and sequestration, has until now been largely ignored, and for several reasons. For a start, the Earth’s atmosphere is so huge that it would seem to be an impossible task. There are possible technologies, but they are not nearly so well developed as alternative energy sources. Where technologies of carbon capture have been developed they are mostly for capturing CO2 from smokestacks. But this is still dealing with future carbon emissions. What we need are technologies that will take existing carbon out of the atmosphere.

It is to this end that Sir Richard Branson announced his $25 million prize (the Virgin Earth Challenge) for technologies that could capture a billion tons of carbon a year from the atmosphere (about a tenth of what we now release each year). He is not alone in his belief that we must make this an equally important approach to the problem. His team includes Al Gore, James Lovelock, Sir Crispin Tickell (former UK ambassador to the UN), and James Hansen, head climate scientist at NASA.

A few prototype carbon-capture technologies are showing promise. Some of the most interesting involve biochar (from bio-charcoal). In essence, these processes take vegetation, which has already captured CO2, reduce it to charcoal through a process that captures the gases released (which include hydrogen and other non-carbon fuel gases), and then turn the carbon into a natural fertiliser which is ploughed into the ground. The net result is that the carbon captured by the plants is now returned to the soil in a stable form.

There are several positive aspects to this approach. It is strongly carbon-negative, relatively low-tech, imitates Nature, is local in application, and if applied on global scale could capture a significant proportion of the carbon dioxide we release each year. Moreover, it would provide large quantities of fuel. So it has multiple positive effects.

This is just one example. Other possible approaches involve capturing carbon in large kelp beds or land-based algae tanks, bio-engineering bacteria that would absorb large amounts of CO2, and even artificial trees. Some of the more high-tech solutions are, quite rightly, regarded with scepticism by environmentalists. The ‘technological fix’ mentality is part of what has got us into this mess. However, since it is becoming increasingly doubtful that we will be able to reduce future carbon emissions to the extent needed to avoid runaway climate change, it is essential that we explore every possibility.

We need a global research and development project to address this need – something akin to the Apollo Project which put a man on the moon, but involving many nations, many research institutions, and sufficient funding.

The good news is that things are stirring. Companies from all over the world are rising to the ‘biochar’ challenge. A US Senator drafted a bill recently, promoting biochar in the Senate. And in 2006, a new organisation, the International Agrichar Initiative, held its first ever conference, attended by 135 people from across the world. If we can collectively summon the will and resources to clean up the planet’s atmosphere, we will have set a most valuable global precedent that will pave the way for tackling the many other environmental challenges.

-- Peter Russell

For more information:

key words: Carbon sequestration Climate change

dan said...

A long, contemplative ride from Texas to Alaska.

I CYCLED OUT of El Paso on 19th June, last summer, at high noon. It was like riding into an oven. I was aiming for Alaska though at that point, veering erratically with the unaccustomed weight of the panniers, I wasn’t convinced that I’d make it beyond the hotel car park.

The trip was partly a personal challenge, partly an investigation into climate change. We hear so much about North America that is negative. Are there any good news stories? And what do ‘ordinary’ people think about climate change in the most oil-intensive country on Earth? My aim was to do the ride and the research – and then find a way of using the story to communicate climate change issues back in the UK.

On a bike journey there is plenty of time to think. One question that constantly recurred as I pedalled slowly through American landscapes and culture was can we make our current lifestyles climate-friendly through advances in technology, or do we need more profound changes in our values and lifestyles themselves? Watching an immense Recreational Vehicle towing a Hummer pull out of a gas station and later, after days of high, wild camping, descending after the climb to Independence Pass into the shock of Aspen – monument to consumerism, excess wealth and status based on possessions – I realised that in fact my own position had clarified. I wrote in my journal:

“This trip is making me more radical. After Aspen I think I reached the view that we simply shouldn’t be allowed to use our resources and expend energy as much as we like, for any purpose we like, limited only by our own wealth. More and more I’m coming to the view that resource consumption should be rationed and that part of the problem is the way we prioritise our freedom of choice as consumers over the protection of the Earth.”

MY DAYS FELL into a routine. Eat, tent down, cycle, eat, cycle, eat, tent up, sleep. Very simple, deeply satisfying. And such a relief to be away from the daily tyranny of emails, computers and phone calls. Deeply satisfying, too, to feel my body getting stronger, watch it change shape and turn brown.

Travelling by bike you are really in the landscape. You smell, hear and feel it as you inch slowly over the atlas, open to all weather, your progress and state of mind constantly changing with wind, rain and sunshine. At an average of 10mph the landscapes unfold slowly enough to feel, but fast enough to witness a whole mountain range.

I followed the Rockies through New Mexico, where the Continental Divide was a barely discernible rise through miles of hot desert scrub, into Colorado, where huge meadows run up to forests sloping up to big, big, hills. Here the Continental Divide rises to 12,000 feet, and as your own body strains slowly upwards you can almost feel the force of the Rockies buckling up into the huge blue sky 175 million years ago. Wolf Creek Pass took five hours of solid slog (though I was cheered by a sign at the top that told me it used to take Model T Fords two days), and Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road pass in the world, took me all day, the majority in the rain-equivalent of a white-out followed by a twenty-five-mile non-stop cold, wet descent. A friend said later how ironic it would be to get hypothermia and frostbite on a global warming trip. Very funny.

MY PARTNER JOINED me for the second half of the trip and, crossing the Canadian border, we were overwhelmed with the sudden increase in flowers and insects. Clouds of butterflies danced alongside and cycling on the hard shoulder became impossible without crunching over crickets. We found out later that the US sprays its roadside verges and Canada doesn’t. The difference was extraordinary – but you’d probably have to be on a bike to notice it. We saw larger wildlife too, of course. Long-legged moose sauntering across the road, elk, wolves, buffalo, black bear, and once, while I was alone, a lynx walked out of the woods and stood quite still for several seconds, just in front of me.

Given the nature of the trip and the impact of climate change on mountain species in particular, these encounters were very poignant. They strengthened our resolve to campaign for a more sustainable future. Less consumption and a different model of success from that embedded in the worst excesses of the American dream have to be part of this. This is not just about giving things up. When you are sitting by the banks of the Cinnamon River watching beavers, the absence of shopping malls is not a deficit. Al Gore writes of the deep loss we experience through disconnection from other living things, a loss we try to compensate for through consumption. But we don’t need to be cycling the Alaskan Highway to encounter the vividness and vibrancy of life – we just need time to be still and let it in, wherever we are. Travelling more slowly in life allows us to reconnect with other living things. This will surely be key as we rebuild our understanding of quality of life in relation to quality of experience rather than quantity of possessions.

We cycled into Anchorage on the 11th September. The 4,553-mile trip took three months. Two months of cycling at 75 miles a day, and one month for meeting people and rest days. The longer we cycled, the more opportunities arose, causing many dilemmas. Do we detour, follow that lead, hang out by that lake, watch those bears, meet those interesting people? Or do we stay focused on getting to Anchorage? I discovered I was still cursed with a fair amount of goal-focused ‘fast travel’ mentality, and we ended the journey with a run of 90-mile days and a burst of ‘get there or bust’ energy. As we cycled past moose on the main road into town we were both elated to have made it. But if I did it again, I’d do it much, much more slowly.


Kate Rawles

who is an outdoor philosopher and lecturer in Outdoor Studies at the University of Cumbria. UK

dan said...

radio interview about polar cities with blogger danny bloom

dan said...

David Sadoway said at Alex Steffen's blog: "The comments about a reliable, authoritative source for the PPM dataset are spot on. I've often thought that it would be a powerful message if CO2 PPM data were tracked akin to the time series stock markets index in our daily newspapers.

Seeing the CO2-PPM index on a daily basis would be a stark reminder that not just the stock markets are worth focusing upon. If a reliable single source/lab data set could not be agreed upon, perhaps a 'basket' or mean of averaged sources would suffice for a CO2 PPM index. Of course daily global data may not be possible, however likely weekly indices could be published.

The temptation would be to add other 'planet earth' (EarthX) indicators, human population, fisheries stocks, energy consumed, primary forest depletion, etc.), which would again remind us that the NYSE, FTSE, HangSeng and other indices are ultimately linked to an EarthX index. The UNEP, Worldwatch and others have pushed these sustainability and quality of life indicators for years, but they don't seem to catch on in the mainstream media...

dan said...

Emission targets hot topic at climate conference

Associated Press
May 4, 4007 (sic)

445 was the hot number at this week's climate change conference in Bangkok.

For China, India and the United States, the number — representing parts per million of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — came to symbolize a cap on emissions that would hurt their economies.

European countries, in contrast, used the figure as a rallying cry to save the planet.

At the current rate, the world is expected to hit 450 ppm within the next three decades, a threshold scientists have warned could lead to the melting of glaciers and subsequent submerging of island nations and much of the U.S. east coast.

"Time is running out," said Olav Hohmeyer, a delegate from Germany which supports tough emission caps. "We have the measures but we have to put the policies in place and act upon them. We have to do it because time is short."

European delegates accused China of trying to strip the 445 figure from a report they were negotiating this week for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They also hinted that other, unnamed countries were backing Beijing's campaign.

In the end, the report included language saying that the world must stabilize the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2015 — eight years from now — to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels.

Despite suggestions in the text that such targets would cost less than 3 percent of the world's gross domestic product in 2030, some countries argued that enforcing the strictest limits would cause economic chaos, especially for the fossil fuel sectors.

James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the 3 percent figure would lead to a global recession. "So that is something we'd probably want to avoid. Our goal is reducing emissions and growing the economy," he said.

Zhou Dadi, a Chinese author in the report and a researcher at the country's top planning agency, said such targets were "unachievable" for developing countries, such as China, because it would put unacceptable limits on the country's double-digit economic growth. China won support from India and Brazil who are also growing rapidly.

"It's difficult to even achieve (445) ppm when you include all emissions," Zhou said.

"If want to change current trends so dramatically, it will not be easy," he said. "We should focus on what we can do right now. It's not good to just talk about targets."

Science, though, would appear to be on the side of the Europeans who are lobbying for an international climate agreement limiting temperatures increases to 2 degrees.

For the past year, many prominent scientists who study global warming have said going past 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would make dangerous climate change effects more likely, particularly the melting of Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets.

"There are many who feel 450 ppm is a threshold that we don't want to go across and that we want to stabilize co2 concentrations at that level," Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, told The Associated Press Friday. "We're playing with fire here."

Going beyond 450 ppm means "there's a good chance that we would be committed to the melt of the Greenland ice sheets, while it might take centuries, that would give us 5 to 6 meters of sea level rise," Mann said. He said that would mean island nations would be lost, much of the U.S. East coastline, one-third of Florida and all of New Orleans "would be submerged."

Much of the worst forecast droughts, coastal flooding, hunger and global instability mentioned in the IPCC's April climate impacts report don't kick in until after 450 ppm. The world will hit that concentration level in about three decades at the current rate, maybe earlier, Mann said.

Still, there are pro-business groups mostly in the United States and Australia which insist many of the models are unpredictable and that we have "100 years" to come up with a solution to slow greenhouse gas emissions.

"This is at a point where the science is very imperfect and there is a lot more that needs to be known," said Alan Oxley, chairman of the Australia APEC Study Center, a free-trade think tank in Melbourne.

"There is not scientific certainty about this. It's very long term," he said. "The claims of imminent disaster are not supportable. The focus is wrong. The focus should be on creating a global consensus on reducing global emissions rather than erecting impractical and uncertain targets."


Associated Press Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this report

dan said...

Effects of global climate changes on the ecosystem and agriculture

By: Dr. Adel Al-Weshali

Climate is the average of weather conditions for long periods of not less than 30 years. It depends upon temperature, absolute and relative humidity, atmospheric pressure, precipitation rates and wind speed and direction. Simply, climate determines the ecosystem and agro-economic activities for a specific area.

The responsibility of dramatic changes in global climate conditions rests upon humans, especially after the industrial revolution. Over the last 100 years, the massive deforestation and excessive burning of fossil fuels for energy needs has resulted in enormous amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into the atmosphere.

The increase of CO2 in the atmosphere caused the ‘greenhouse effect’ marked with annual temperature rises. As a consequence of the CO2 concentration reaching 385 parts per million (ppm), our plant temperatures increased 0.74o C in the last 100 years. If the CO2 concentration continues to increase at its present rate of 3 ppm, average global temperatures will rise by 0.7o C in the next 30 years, and could increase by as much as 6.4o C by the year 2100. This could put tens of millions of people at risk of flooding and landslides driven by projected increases in rainfall intensity, rising sea levels and river currents affected by rapidly melting glaciers and ice, especially during spring.

Effect of climate change on agriculture and the ecosystem is global, and Yemen, as well as other countries, will be influenced by one or more of the following:

- earlier spring seasons, causing plants to bloom earlier

- migration changes of birds and many species

- change in rain patterns and intensity with high variability on horizontal vision level

- plant migrations toward cooler and more humid areas

- farmer difficulties in planting and cultivating crops

- regions affected by higher temperatures and greater precipitation, likely to result in the spread of agricultural pests and diseases.

In brief, scientists estimate an overall decrease in agricultural productivity (600 million people facing malnutrition), and severe water shortages in the arid and semi-arid land areas in southern Africa, the Middle East and southern Europe (1,8 billion people facing water shortage by 2080). These major losses in productivity (25% by 2060) and changes in critical ecological systems will lead to higher worldwide food prices as food and water supplies diminish. In addition, there will be a displacement of up to 332 million people in coastal and low-lying areas through flooding and tropical storm activity. Over 70 million Bangladeshis, 22 million Vietnamese, and six million Egyptians could be affected by global warming-related flooding.

Eliminating the dangerous effects of climate change on agriculture and the ecosystem is linked with adapting to changes in climate conditions:

- Reforming the agricultural map using available water resources, considering changes in rain patterns and season timings

- Selecting crops which don’t require much water and are highly resistant to diseases

- Approving an integrated water resources management policy, especially in elevated regions

- Increasing productivity quantity and quality by applying modern irrigation techniques and introducing mechanization into all cultivation processes

- Improving harvesting, storing, food technology and marketing processes

The total annual amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is estimated at 24,215,376 thousand metric tons. The amount of CO2 Yemen produces is estimated at 14,158 thousand metric tons, divided as follows:

- 48% from transportation

- 20% from electricity and heat production

- 20% from residences

- 7% from manufacturing and construction

- 5% from other energy industries

The main goal of any environmental policy must reduce the annual amount of CO2 emitted. Scientists and responsible public and private establishments and organizations must work together on the following:

- Prevent the burning of agriculture and garbage, and develop a recycling program for waste

- Conserve greenery and restrict deforestation

- Require industries to limit CO2 output

- Use renewable energy resources such as wind and solar energy

- Control CO2 produced by transportation vehicles and improve traffic systems

- Increase community awareness about environmentally-friendly lifestyles

- Prevent armed conflicts and wars that destroy nature and produce CO2 and other deadly gases

Within the actual concentration of carbon dioxide (385ppm) in the atmosphere, any process could succeed in reducing the annual temperature increases. However, if CO2 concentration levels reach 450 ppm, it will be the point of no return, where global warming and all its dramatic effects will be out of control.

Dr. Adel Al-Weshali is Assistant Professor - Faculty of Agriculture, Sana’a University.

dan said...

The need for an international moratorium on coal power

By James E. Hansen | 22 January 3008 (sic)

Over the past year, it's become clear that the way the political and environmental communities are approaching global warming isn't going to solve it. Books by Al Gore and Tim Flannery, for example, admonish people to use less energy and reduce carbon emissions; the Kyoto Protocol [PDF] calls for an emissions reduction of 5 percent below 1990 levels; and politicians around the world are mandating sizable reductions in carbon emissions by 2050. But without a plan of action that prioritizes tackling emissions from coal plants, such goals are ineffectual--and the politicians will either be in retirement homes or dead by 2050.

At 385 parts per million (ppm), the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the air today is primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels--coal, oil, and natural gas. In "Implication of 'Peak Oil' for Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Climate" [PDF], NASA research scientist Pushker Kharecha and I show that proven and estimated reserves of oil and gas, used at any feasible rate, would at most take atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to 450 ppm--a threshold level that, if exceeded, will cause dangerous climate change. Coal reserves, however, contain much more stored carbon, and if used in power plants without carbon capture technology, have the potential to at least double the preindustrial atmospheric carbon dioxide amount of 280 ppm.

Most of the carbon dioxide from oil and gas usage is emitted by small sources (i.e., vehicle tailpipes) where it's impractical to capture it. Nor does it seem likely that Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United States, and other major oil producers will decide to leave their oil in the ground. Therefore, the only practical way to prevent carbon dioxide levels from exceeding 450 ppm is to phase out coal power except at plants where carbon emissions are captured and stored.

An outline of a practical way to do this can be readily defined: First, establish a moratorium in developed countries on construction of new coal power plants until effective carbon-capture-and-storage technology is viable; second, establish a similar subsequent moratorium in developing countries; and third, phase out existing coal plants over the next several decades and replace them with energy sources that don't emit carbon, such as wind, solar, and nuclear power, and coal plants with carbon capture and storage. Specifically, developed countries need to stop building coal power plants that don't capture and store carbon by 2012, developing countries need to halt such construction by 2022, and all existing coal power plants without carbon capture must be bulldozed by 2050.

The 10-year delay of the coal power moratorium for developing countries is analogous to the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) phaseout designed to combat depletion of the ozone layer throughout the 1990s, and it's justified by the primary responsibility of developed countries for the current excess of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as well as by the much higher per-capita emissions in developed countries. This phaseout of coal emissions would keep the maximum future atmospheric carbon dioxide level at about 450 ppm.

Adding even one new coal power plant to any national energy grid can make an important difference because of tipping points in the climate system, life systems, and social behavior.

Arctic sea-ice loss is an example of a process in the climate system that can pass a tipping point and proceed rapidly. As the warming global ocean transports more heat into the Arctic, floating sea ice melts and exposes more of the dark ocean surface, which absorbs more sunlight. The ocean stores the added heat, winter sea ice is thinner, and increased melting occurs in following summers. Sadly, based on recent observations, it appears we have already reached the Arctic sea-ice tipping point. However, the feedbacks driving further sea-ice melting aren't "runaway" feedbacks. Sea-ice loss is reversible: If human influence on the climate system is reduced, sea ice can increase rapidly.

A different tipping point in the climate system--and the most threatening--is the potential instability of large ice sheets, especially West Antarctica and Greenland. If disintegration of these ice sheets passes their tipping points, dynamical collapse could proceed out of our control. If it melts completely, West Antarctica alone contains enough water to cause about 20 feet (6 meters) of sea-level rise.

There are also tipping points in life systems. Today, as global temperature increases at a rate of about 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, isotherms (a line of average temperature) are moving poleward at a rate of about 50-60 kilometers (35 miles) per decade. In response, some species are moving. But many move slowly, and must contend with human-made blockades in their pathways. Disrupted interdependencies among species, some less mobile than others, could lead to collapsing ecosystems and rapid, nonlinear extinctions if climate change continues unabated. Geologic records indicate that mass extinctions occurred several times in Earth's history. New species developed, but that process required hundreds of thousands, even millions of years. If we destroy a large portion of the species on Earth, it will be a far more desolate planet for as many generations of humanity as we can imagine.

On the other hand, reaching a crucial tipping point in social behavior can be positive. If the public stands up in a few places such as Marshalltown, Iowa (where a proposed coal plant with emissions of 5,900,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year and 297,000,000 tons over 50 years could be the straw that broke the camel's back) and successfully opposes the construction of coal power plants that don't include carbon capture and storage, it could also have a cascading effect, helping utilities and politicians realize that the public prefers climate solutions that respect all life on the planet.

Of course, behavioral changes will need to run much more broadly and deeply than simply blocking new coal plants. For better and worse, energy is essential to our way of life. The United States is responsible for more than three times as much of the excess carbon in the air as any other country, and it will continue to be most responsible for the human-made carbon increase for the next few decades. Although China's annual emissions have recently exceeded U.S. emissions, China's per-capita emissions are still only about one-fifth of U.S. per-capita emissions.

China and India have the most to lose from uncontrolled climate change because they have huge populations living near sea level. Conversely then, they also have the most to gain from reduced local air pollution. They must be a part of the solution to global warming, and I believe they will be if developed nations such as the United States take the appropriate first steps.

Quite simply, it makes economic sense for the United States to reduce its carbon emissions now. We will need to learn someday how to exploit the potentials in energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear power, and other energy sources that don't produce greenhouse gases. It's an enormous economic advantage if we learn sooner rather than later. Fossil fuels are finite, and we must learn to live without them as they dwindle. Required technology developments in clean coal, biofuels, and advanced nuclear power will produce high-tech jobs and provide a new market for international trade that could allow the United States to recover some of the wealth that it's hemorrhaging to China.

A moderate but rising price on carbon emissions is also essential to wean us off fossil fuel. Otherwise, as oil runs out, we will begin to act like a crazed addict looking for the next fix--cooking the Rocky Mountains to drip oil from tar shale or traveling to extreme environments such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil extraction. In addition, we must improve efficiency standards on everything from buildings to vehicles to electronic devices. Regulations on utilities need to be modified so that profits grow when utilities help consumers conserve energy, rather than profits being in proportion to the amount of energy sold.

There's still time. I believe that the plausibility of taking action soon enough depends upon whether citizens become informed and place pressure on the decision-making process. It seems highly unlikely that national governments, which are strongly influenced by fossil-fuel special interests, will exercise the required leadership. Even Germany, among the "greenest" of all nations, is making plans to build coal power plants without carbon capture and storage. Clearly decision makers don't "get it." If they hope to preserve themselves and Earth, the public must become more involved. Strong, specific messages are needed. Rejection of coal power plants that don't capture carbon is such a message.

Another global atmospheric threat was solved with such an approach: When the science suggested that CFCs could potentially destroy the stratospheric ozone layer, there was an immediate moratorium on building CFC factories. Consumers played a big role in reducing demand and annual CFC production immediately stabilized.

If we don't act, the blame will fall squarely on today's adults. We can no longer feign ignorance. We've reached scientific consensus. If we allow the climate to deteriorate and life on Earth to be destroyed, we will be the generation that knew enough, but for selfish reasons declined to take timely action, building more coal power plants in the meantime. In that event, rather than the "greatest generation," how will our epitaph read?

Editor's Note: This essay was adapted from Hansen's testimony before the Iowa Utilities Board regarding a proposal from the Interstate Power and Light Company to build a new coal power plant in Marshalltown, Iowa. He testified as a private citizen.

dan said...


Uncovering the real goals of anti-CO2 crusaders

‘Medieval Environmentalists’ attack CO2 in their efforts to derail civilization

By Tim Ball & Tom Harris Monday, January 21, 4008 (sic)

California Senator Barbara Boxer is a co-sponsor of the “Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act” (S.309). The title, and much of the text of the bill, is inappropriate since, regardless of its impact on climate change, CO2, the act’s major target, is not a pollutant.
Part 2. Historical and philosophical context of the climate change debate.
Part 1: Environmental Extremism

Why are carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, particularly the relatively small amount emitted by human activity, the sole focus of most climate change debates? In scientific circles, CO2 is referred to as a ‘trace gas’ that, for hundreds of thousands of years, has remained at or below five ten-thousandths of the atmosphere by volume. Even among the so-called ‘greenhouse gases’ (GHG), CO2 accounts for less that 4%, with water vapour being by far the most significant GHG. CO2 is clearly a miniscule component of the massive mechanisms that create climate and cause climate change.

Attributing global climate change to human CO2 production is akin to trying to diagnose an automotive problem by ignoring the engine (analogous to the Sun in the climate system) and the transmission (water vapour) and instead focusing entirely, not on one nut on a rear wheel, which would be analogous to total CO2, but on one thread on that nut, which represents the human contribution.

At 385 parts per million (ppm) by volume, CO2 levels are now, in a geologic sense, at their lowest in 600 million years. For example, during the exceptionally cold Ordovician glaciation, about 440 million years ago, CO2 levels were more than ten times higher than today. At other times, warm temperatures occurred when CO2 levels were high. During this period, there was no consistent correlation between temperature and CO2 levels. When, in more recent millennia, a correlation appears evident, temperature changes before CO2. Aside from forecasts of still primitive computer models, modern climatological research consistently shows that there is no scientific justification for the CO2/climate hysteria that has so gripped mass media and politicians.

Attempts to maintain the focus against CO2, a colourless, odourless benign gas essential for plant photosynthesis, have become truly ludicrous. Incredibly, CO2 is branded by many as a ‘pollutant’ – the continual references of Al Gore and Senator Barbara Boxer to “global warming pollution” are prime examples - and some governments have even labeled CO2 as a toxic substance.

In October 2007, Rod Bremby, secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, disallowed permits for coal-fired electricity generating plants, citing an attorney general’s opinion that he could do so if a particular emission “constitutes air pollution and presents a substantial endangerment to the health of persons or to the environment.” According to the Garden City Telegraph in Kansas (ref.), Bremby said in a press release, “I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health.”

Nigel Calder, former Editor of New Scientist magazine, refers to much of today’s global warming, anti-CO2 movement as “Medieval environmentalism”. Such alarmists, Calder explains in the film The Great Global Warming Swindle, embrace climate change dogma, saying to themselves, “Let’s get back to the way things were in Medieval times and get rid of all these dreadful cars and machines.” Calder says that for extremists, CO2 is “an emblem of industrialization”, something they oppose with a passion.

You can stop an engine by pinching the fuel line or by plugging the exhaust. Medieval environmentalists obviously recognized that squeezing the fuel line of society would cause a massively negative public reaction. So, instead they have succeeded in getting our media and, and so our politicians, to identify CO2, the primary exhaust product of modern civilization, as responsible for killing the entire planet, thereby achieving their objectives indirectly.

So, how low would anti-carbon dioxide crusaders consider pushing CO2 levels, if they were able? At 250 ppm, plants suffer and at 150 ppm most die, resulting in no oxygen and no life on the planet. Maybe that answer is the objective, or is it just the people who should go?

During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and sunlight to create fuel—glucose and other sugars—for building plant structures. Carbon dioxide is therefore ‘plant food’, and essential to all life on Earth.

(Illustration courtesy P.J. Sellers et al.)

Environmental extremists seem to feel that evolution, survival of the fittest and the most adaptable, doesn’t apply to humans. Some even dare to express their true beliefs in public. David Graber, a research biologist with the U.S. National Park Service, said:

“Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line – at about a billion years ago – we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”

What contract are humans supposed to have quit, and with whom? And, “about a billion years ago”, we didn’t exist; in fact, no land creatures existed and hard shelled sea creatures had yet to evolve. Aside from such minor inaccuracies, Graber’s comments are a frightening mix of Darwinism, social Darwinism, environmentalism, economics, socialism and of course anti-humanism. Yet, incredibly, they provide a framework for understanding the driving force behind the dangerous focus on CO2 emission reduction.

Our analysis continues in part 3 coming soon.
Part 2: Historical and philosophical context of the climate change debate.
Part 1: Environmental Extremism

Timothy Ball, Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project (, is a Victoria-based environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg. Tom Harris is an Ottawa-based mechanical engineer and NRSP Executive Director.

dan said...


As carbon dioxide levels rise, staple grains could lose some nutritional value

By Asher Price


Monday, January 21, 4008 (sic)

It started with a seemingly off-the-wall question in a 2004 global change biology class at Southwestern University. The discussion was about how increases in carbon dioxide, a contributing cause of global warming, lead to a decline in the amount of proteins in some plants.

"How would rising CO2 levels affect the Atkins diet?" asked Holly Allen, then an undergraduate majoring in environmental studies. The Atkins diet, still en vogue then, emphasizes proteins over carbohydrates.

(enlarge photo)
Max Taub Professor's biology class inspired study.

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Searching for the answer led to a study, to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Global Change Biology, that provides a serious answer:

Protein levels in staple foods like rice and wheat could decline by as much as 15 percent by the year 2100.

Those results could have far-reaching consequences for nutrition, especially in developing countries.

"Wheat and rice are really major ingredients of the food aid we deliver worldwide in some 80 countries," said Bettina Luescher, a spokeswoman for the United Nations' World Food Program.

Protein is a key source of nourishment, according to the World Food Program.

Climate-change scientists say the carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, currently about 380 parts per million, could jump to between 540 and 958 parts per million by the year 2100.

Allen, a classmate and Southwestern biology professor Max Taub pored over more than 200 previously published studies to determine how the higher carbon dioxide would affect nutrient levels, winnowing out studies that relied on carbon dioxide levels above or below the 2100 predictions.

"One study that looked at space missions and the possibility of growing plants on Mars had concentrations of 10,000 parts per million," Taub said.

"We'll never see that on Earth."

They found that protein concentrations could decline by 10 percent to 15 percent in wheat, barley and rice; by 14 percent in potatoes; and about 1.4 percent in soybeans.

"Patterns aren't apparent until someone does this," Taub said of their analysis.

Other reports have suggested that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will help plants thrive, even if, assuming the Southwestern paper bears out, they're less nutritious.

"In general, plant growth is increased by elevated CO2 levels," Taub said. "But it's a complicated story. While any plant's growth will increase on its own, when plants are competing together, they may be dealing with bigger competitors."; 445-3643

dan said...

What a different world. Costs and policy for a low carbon society

Valentina Bosetti Carlo Carraro Emanuele Massetti Massimo Tavoni

24 January 4008

If the world wants to stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gases at 550 parts per million, massive changes are required, especially in the energy sector. This article discusses means and costs of drastically reducing carbon emissions.

No longer confined to the roundtables of politicians and scientists, the debate on climate change has become a mounting wave that doesn’t seem to be losing momentum. Both policy and research communities have focused on the need to stabilise atmospheric CO2 concentrations at about 550 ppm (parts per million, all greenhouse gases included). This is generally considered a very ambitious, hardly feasible target with drastic implications for our economies and lifestyles.

Given projected world population dynamics, this objective requires reducing per capita emissions in the second half of this century from about 2 tonnes carbon equivalent (tC) to about 0.3 tC per year. In other words, the world will have to cut emissions to the per capita average of India today – quite a significant reduction for most industrialised countries (US average per capita emissions are about 5tC) and for countries that aim at similar lifestyle standards. For example, 0.3 tC is the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by an individual flying – one way – from the EU to the US East coast!

Clearly, a world with 0.3 tC per capita per year will be a different world. What are the optimal strategies and the related economic costs of achieving this ambitious, but seemingly inevitable, target?

Energy efficiency and de-carbonisation
Let us assume that economic and population growth cannot be targeted by climate policy. It is clearly undesirable to solve the problem by reducing economic growth and likely politically undesirable to focus on population growth. Emission reductions can then be achieved mainly by increasing energy efficiency and by reducing carbon intensity. Energy efficiency improvements beyond the baseline scenario are the first option to endorse; yet, especially for ambitious emission reductions, energy de-carbonisation is eventually essential.

To achieve a low carbon energy supply, power generation is one of the best options, because of the relative weight on global emissions and the availability of alternative technologies. However, to optimally achieve a 550 ppm concentration target, almost all electricity (around 90%) will have to be generated at low, almost zero, carbon rates by 2050. This is a drastic change and currently pursued through three options: carbon capture and sequestration, nuclear energy and renewable sources. Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) allows the power sector to continue to use coal, the most available and affordable fossil fuel. However, the necessary investments are very large. To achieve the 550 ppm target, between 30 and 40 1 gigawatt (GW) coal-with-CCS power plants need to be built each year from 2015 onwards, a value in line with the historical capacity building of traditional coal plants (that make up for roughly 50% of electricity generated in the world). A number of large-scale pilot plants should thus be put into place in the next ten years to ensure the feasibility of such a massive deployment.

Nuclear power is at the moment the only proven base load generation for large-scale electricity decarbonisation. In addition, it will become extremely competitive for the range of carbon prices implicit in the adoption of a climate policy designed to achieve the 550 ppm target. However, 20 1GW nuclear plants or more would need to be built each year in the next half century, bringing the nuclear industry back to the construction rates of the 1980s. External costs, such as those related to nuclear waste disposal or proliferation risks, could make this scenario undesirable. In any event, some innovation in the technology as well as in the institutions regulating the global implications of a massive deployment of nuclear energy would need to accompany this expansion.

Renewables, especially wind power, have developed at an impressive rate in recent years (up to 10GW per year), but the limited annual operating hours and costs constrain their potentialcontribution. Despite a small absolute potential of renewables, an almost three-fold capacity expansion with respect to a baseline scenario – more than for any other generation technology – and an overall 17-fold expansion of present installed capacity should be achieved by 2050. This is equivalent to about 60,000 new large open-sea wind turbines. What a different world!

Carbon abatement in non-electric energy may be mostly achieved by improvements in energy efficiency – i.e. through measures meant to reduce fossil fuel consumption – because of the dispersion and limited array of carbon free technologies. Decarbonising such sectors as transport, residential, etc. would significantly ease the attainment of the climate stabilisation target; yet, carbon abatement alternatives beyond energy savings are still expensive and unproven at large scales. Innovation in fields such as batteries, bio-energy conversion, and so forth would open up new possibilities, but they are still in their infancy and might come at unexpected costs, as the recent sensitivity of food prices to energy crops has shown.

The costs of a different world
What are the macroeconomic costs of such drastic changes in world energy systems? How much investment and R&D expenditure are required? Assuming a “cap and trade” stabilisation policy with a perfect international market for emission allowances, our work shows that the total direct cost in terms of undiscounted GDP losses in 2030 would be 1.2 - 1.7% of the world GDP (see Table 3 in Bosetti, Carraro, Massetti and Tavoni, 2007). In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report, the median value for the total direct cost of 550 ppm stabilisation is 0.6% (IPCC 2007). Our cost estimate is larger than the typical IPCC estimate because the inefficiencies and market imperfections introduced in our model better mimic the behaviour of markets and policymakers. In particular, we adopt a non-cooperative game-theoretic framework to better describe global strategic and policy interactions.

The macroeconomic cost of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations is obviously larger if the time horizon is lengthened. According to our calculations, the cost would be between 2.1 and 3.7 % of world GDP over the course of the 21st century. The cost would be even larger if only a subset of countries adopt climate policies. Therefore, the costs of moving to a drastically different energy system are probably substantial.

Accounting for additional emission reduction measures, such as in the agriculture and forestry sectors, could increase the feasibility and decrease the cost of the climate target. The key role of forestry management in contributing to the overall emission reduction effort has been recognised and emphasised in the United Nations’ Bali Action Plan. For the set of carbon prices implicit in the 550 ppm stabilisation scenario, forestry management could save up to 1.5 gigatonnes of carbon per year in the next fifty years, a figure equivalent to 20% of today’s world emissions. This would have a significant impact on the carbon market, decreasing costs by as much as 30-40% (Bosetti and Tavoni, 2007). Nevertheless, this might also delay ultimately crucial investments and innovation in carbon-free technologies.

Technical change is, without any doubt, a key component of any policy designed to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations. However, investments in energy efficiency R&D declined after 1980 and have remained low in recent years despite their potential to seriously contribute to achieving the stabilisation target. Innovations in carbon capture and sequestration and nuclear energy are crucial. Low carbon alternatives in the non-electric use of energy are also indispensable.

What is the cost of innovating to achieve the 550 ppm stabilisation target? In our work we show that a dedicated long-term research effort is needed, entailing as much as a tenfold expansion in energy R&D investment by 2050, to reach an annual figure in excess of $100 billion. In terms of GDP share, R&D expenditure in the energy sector should increase from about 0.2% of GDP to about 0.6% by 2050. This important and crucial effort cannot entirely rest on the shoulders of the private sector. Public policies, both domestic and international, are necessary. Domestic R&D incentives and a global R&D fund are likely to be plausible options.

Meeting the climate challenge
Climate change is a serious threat to the stability of the world’s economic system. The stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations at 550 ppm could prevent most damages from climate change but requires drastic changes in the energy sector. These changes are costly and can be achieved only if large investments in energy infrastructures and in R&D are undertaken in the next forty years. That requires farsighted and well-designed public policies to provide adequate economic incentives and to mobilise sufficient financial resources.

Bosetti, V., C. Carraro, M. Galeotti, E. Massetti and M. Tavoni, (2006). “WITCH: A World Induced Technical Change Hybrid Model.” The Energy Journal, Special Issue on Hybrid Modeling of Energy-Environment Policies: Reconciling Bottom-up and Top-down, 13-38.
Bosetti, V., C. Carraro, E. Massetti and M. Tavoni, (2007). “Optimal Energy Investment and R&D Strategies to Stabilise Greenhouse Gas Atmospheric Concentrations”, CEPR Discussion Paper 6549.
IPCC (2007) “IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group III”.
Tavoni, M., Sohngen, B., Bosetti, V. “Forestry and the carbon market response to stabilize climate”, Energy Policy, 35 (2007), 5346–5353.


1 This target roughly coincides with IPCC Post-TAR stabilisation scenario B, which is close to the EU objective of keeping future temperature changes below 2 degrees Celsius.
2 See our paper on “Optimal Energy Investment and R&D Strategies to Stabilise Greenhouse Gas Atmospheric Concentrations” CEPR Discussion Paper 6549.

This article may be reproduced with appropriate attribution. See Copyright (below).

dan said...

Climate-change scientists say the carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, currently about 380 parts per million, could jump to between 540 and 958 parts per million by the year 2100.

dan said...

Assistant Professor of Biology Max Taub

As a child growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., Max Taub developed an unusual fascination with houseplants.

"My mom still raves about some of the plants I was able to grow," he says. "But I never thought it would have anything to do with my career."

In fact, it wasn't until Taub was a graduate student that he decided to change the focus of his studies from animals to plants. "While I was at Stony Brook, I began thinking about global changes, specifically the affects of rising CO2 levels on climate. I wanted to know how natural ecosystems might respond to these changes, and the first response comes from plant life. Animals just respond to the plants."

While he had never considered teaching, part of his graduate school education required it. He attended a three-day teaching workshop that he says opened his eyes. "It was an incredibly intense few days. The guy who led the workshop was crazy, but he had some really good ideas about teaching that I hadn't thought about. I saw it as an incredibly difficult challenge—finding a way to reach individual students despite the constraints you are given in a college setting."

After completing his Ph.D. in ecology and evolution, Taub put teaching plans on hold and accepted a post-doctoral research position at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev. He spent three years studying how rising CO2 levels affect a plant's ability to tolerate high temperatures.

In the fall of 2000, he got his first full-time teaching job as a visiting assistant professor of biology at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. He arrived at Southwestern last June. "I really enjoy it here. This is a cool job. I get to talk about things that I find interesting."

Taub believes it is important for his students to participate as much as possible during class so that he can see how well they understand the subject matter. "I want to give them as much feedback on what they are doing as possible and give them multiple opportunities to respond to that feedback."

One of the ways he accomplishes this is by giving daily quizzes that can only help, not hurt, their grade. He'll also hand out multi-colored flashcards for students to hold up in response to a question. "That gives me a better idea of how many of them are with me and how many aren't. I always look for ways to increase communication."

Taub is now gearing up for the biology summer research program, during which he will work closely with two students examining the physiological reasons that cause some grass species to grow in high-fertility soils while others thrive in low-fertility soils.

He also is busy planning for a May wedding. He and his fiancé, Miriam, knew each other as children in New York and met again 23 years later when he moved to Austin. They already have a dog, Emma, and two cats, Tipper and Frida.

Calling himself an "anti-gourmet," Taub loves to experiment in the kitchen. "My cooking philosophy is to get 95 percent of the quality of gourmet for an eighth of the cost and a fourth of the work, while making it healthy at the same time."

He's also a guitarist and enjoys playing blues, bluegrass and folk music.

dan said...

South Africa's carbon emissions are a cause for concern

says Guy Copans

Published: 25 Jan 3008 (sic)

While China in 2007 became the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally, per capita, South Africa emits three times more carbon dioxide, and overall, emits more than the rest of Africa combined, says trade and investment advisor for Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa *Peet Du Plooy*.

Du Plooy attributes this situation to the energy intensive and carbon intensive economic structure of South Africa, where the mining and industrial sector consumes half the national primary energy demand, while the residential sector contributes only a sixth.

“Most (90%) of South Africa’s electricity comes from coal, as well as a quarter of the country’s liquid fuel, in a process (the Sasol coal-to-liquid process) which is at least 60% more greenhouse gas intensive than conventional oil refining,” he says.

He also argues that the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions compared to per capita economic benefit, or the so-called carbon intensity of the economy, is among the highest in the world. This, he says, suggests that the financial gains of its emissions-intensive industry are low compared to this ratio for other countries, including the US.

Current global carbon dioxide levels are much higher than what they were prior to the onset of industrial activity, Du Plooy notes.

“Pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were 280 ppm (parts per million), and have risen to 380 ppm today. Scientists estimate that these levels have to be kept under 450 ppm to prevent exceeding two degrees of increase in the global mean temperature above pre-industrial levels, which would lead to dangerous, irreversible climate change.”

dan said...

''Hello, everyone, this news is really menacing. We should limit using internet and computers if we really want to give a healthy atmosphere to ourselves and our children. Our lovely mother earth is crying for help, please save her by living simply and frugally. I am ready to do anything for my beloved earth. And you? ''

-- Shadab Husain, Lucknow, INDIA


WHEN the first comprehensive report in years to examine energy use
by computer servers was published in February 2007, it was
greeted with surprise by industry insiders. Jonathan Koomey, a
staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in
California, found that worldwide power consumption by servers had
doubled between 2000 and 2005. "Everyone thought CO2 emissions
were a problem for transportation and big energy," says Bill St
Arnaud of Canarie, Canada's internet development organisation in
Ottawa, Ontario.

Since then a raft of studies have highlighted the rocketing
energy demands made by computers . One of them, a report from
UK-based Global Action Plan, puts carbon dioxide emissions from
information and communications technology on the same level as
that of the aviation industry - 2 per cent of global emissions.

As it turns out, many of the tech titans were already on the case.
A week after Koomey's report came out, industry giants including
Microsoft, Intel, Dell, IBM and Sun Microsystems forged a
collaboration known as the Green Grid . Their aim was to attack a
host of hardware and software inefficiencies in data centres -
farms of servers that store and retrieve online information. They
regard the problem as so large that collaboration is essential.
"There was a recognition that there was a problem in energy
efficiency in data centres that was too vast to be solved by any
one company," says Green Grid director Lawrence Lamers of
software company VMware in Palo Alto, California, which makes the
so-called virtualisation software regarded by many companies as a
prime way to save energy.

At about the same time, energy consultancies identified the
problems associated with and began to float ideas for possible
solutions. These included solar and hydroelectric power, and
converting alternating current from the mains to direct current
(DC) just once in the data centre, instead of repeating the
process many times at different servers, as happens today (New
Scientist , 15 December 2006, p 24).

Although some data centres, including Google's, use some renewable
energy, these measures are unlikely to be enough. DC conversion
requires significant changes to infrastructure, and companies are
looking for technologies they can implement immediately.

Green Grid director, Mark Monroe of Sun Microsystems, points out
that another major factor driving companies to reduce energy
consumption is concern about supply. "We are trying to make data
centres efficient enough so that they don't outstrip energy
availability," he says.

The need for greener computing is huge. Whenever you download
music, send an email, access medical records, or make a credit
card transaction, the actions are processed in a data centre.
"Three years ago, YouTube didn't exist," Lamers says. "Now there
are hundreds of millions of videos being downloaded by millions
of users. Yahoo is giving away free email with unlimited storage.
Do you know how many servers are required for millions of users
to store gazillions of emails?"

The Green Grid's biggest achievement to date is a first attempt at
finding a standardised way to measure the efficiency of data
centres. This would allow customers to compare centres and
companies to identify the worst offenders and upgrade them.

Some individual member companies are already moving beyond this.
Take IBM, which provides data storage and number crunching
services for the financial, pharmaceutical and retail sectors. In
May it pledged to invest $1 billion annually in a project called
Big Green , which aims to double computing capacity at IBM's data
centres without increasing energy consumption. "This is
absolutely one of IBM's key plays right now," says Chris Scott,
head of IBM data centre services for north-east Europe. "It's
saving us money, it's giving us growth capacity, and it's the
right thing to do for the environment."

Like many members of the Green Grid, IBM is making virtualisation
software a central part of its greening strategy. First used in
the 1960s as a way to divide large mainframe computers into
smaller parts, each capable of performing its own small task
simultaneously, virtualisation is now seen as the low-hanging
fruit in data centres' green transition.

Virtualisation software creates multiple "virtual machines" (VMs),
which are layers of software that emulate a particular type of
hardware. Each VM sits between the actual hardware and a specific
software application, and looks like hardware to the application.
Running applications on VMs instead of directly on the hardware
means the separate applications can't interfere with each other,
and if one application crashes, it doesn't affect the others.

When servers replaced mainframes, there was no need to partition
them with virtualisation as each server was built to execute one
application. But the processing power of servers has now
increased to the point that running only one program per server
typically means using less than 15 per cent of its capacity. The
obvious answer is to run several applications on a single server,
as with mainframes.

In 2001, VMware introduced the first virtualisation software
written specifically for the type of servers widely used in data
centres. "It makes the difference between buying 10 servers or
buying one," says Bogomil Balkansky at VMware. "Customers are
able to save 70 to 80 per cent on energy use. It's the best way
to immediately and dramatically reduce power consumption in the
data centre." In August, as a result, IBM was able to replace
3900 of its Intel servers with 33 larger ones with more efficient
(New Scientist , 10 March, p 26). "That is an 80 per cent
reduction in energy consumption and an 85 per cent reduction in
space," Scott says.

Virtualisation and multicore chips aren't the only ways to green
data centres. Other Green Grid members believe that an important
contribution is improving the efficiency of applications
themselves. Arjan van de Ven, a software engineer at chip maker
Intel, is leading an initiative called
to make the
popular Linux open-source operating system more efficient.

Many companies, including Google, run their data centres on Linux.
By tweaking existing Linux code, Van de Ven and his team were
able to detect which programs were behaving badly. This revealed
that Linux was performing a lot of small, senseless tasks.

One example was "ondemand", a program designed to save power by
checking the computer's central processing unit (CPU) for
activity and reducing power consumption when activity was low.
The researchers discovered that it was contacting the CPU several
hundred times a second, which was enough to make the CPU more
active than it would have been without ondemand running at all.
"Here we have a piece of software designed to save you power that
is actually wasting power," Van de Ven says. Because Linux is
open-source they were able to rewrite the program so that it
checks CPU activity less often.

The team also found energy-wasters in a version of Linux that runs
on personal computers. These included a program that checks the
email inbox 100 times per second even though the inbox only asks
the server if there is new email every 5 minutes; a clock that
updates every second even though it displays the time in minutes;
and a program that asks the hardware 10 times a second if the
volume of a speaker has changed even though another program is
already set up to tell the hardware when speaker volume changes.
"These sound like little things, but if you have 40 programs that
do this, they add up," says Van de Ven. The team has made its
upgrades available via various open-source software mailing lists
over the last year, and two versions of Linux for laptops have
incorporated them.

Along with Google and the conservation group WWF, Intel is also a
member of the Climate Savers Computing Initiative , a
collaboration Intel helped to found in June 2007. Rather than
focusing on the data centre as a whole, the CSCI is looking at
how to improve the efficiency of individual servers. One strategy
that Google has already implemented on some computers is
eliminating voltage conversions within individual computers.

In the future, CSCI directors imagine having personal computers
that can adjust their energy consumption in proportion to their
workload. Today's computers tend to use the same amount of
energy, no matter what they are doing.

Bill Weihl of Google, who is also co-chair of the CSCI, is
optimistic that its efforts and that of the Green Grid will
reduce the amount of energy data centres and personal computers
use. Whether it is enough to offset the predicted growth in
computer use over the next 20 years "is hard to predict", he says.

Ed said...

in answer to a couple of questions/niggles:

OIL use is expected to peak soon, meaning OIL CO2 emissions may peak. However, fossil fuels are not exhausted yet: China, India, USA, Australia, Russia (i.e. all big countries) plus others have extensive coal reserves, and Canada and USA among others have extensive oil shale and oil sand deposits. The coal deposits in particular are enough to last for several hundred years. Both these fossil fuels emit more CO2 per unit than oil so CO2 emissions per unit of energy would go up if these are used widely (as is in fact happening at the moment). So fossil fuel use and fossil fuel emissions are not likely to peak any time soon unless we decide to change policies, and atmospheric concentrations can get a lot higher than 450ppm.

A previous post mentioned CO2 and CO2e. e stands for equivalent: humans emit a range of greenhouse gases such as CO2, CH4 (methane), NOx (Nitrates e.g. NO2,NO3), CFCs and HCFCs. These generally have a larger effect on the climate per unit than CO2 but are emitted in smaller quantities. Their effects are added together to create a CO2e figure. This is somewhat higher than the CO2 figure (somebody care to be specific? I think it is c.50ppm higher). The recent revisit of the Montreal Treaty phasing out ozone-destroying chemicals sped up the timetable for action and will consequently have a positive effect on reducing human GHG emissions of the same size or greater than the Kyoto Protocol i.e. it will slow the increase in the CO2e figure but by affecting the 'e' part rather than the CO2 part.

dan said...

Thanks, Ed, above post, for posting here. Keep posting whenever you come across new info and especially updates on the PPM stats...

-- Danny

dan said...

Is The Economy Distracting Us from Climate Change?


Today, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is 380 parts per million, up
from 280 ppm at the beginning of the industrial revolution. ...

See all stories on this topic:

Physicist has head in the clouds studying global warming

Vancouver Sun - British Columbia, Canada

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that, if
CO2 levels are kept below 560 parts per million -- itself a challenge given
that ...

dan said...

IS The Economy Distracting Us from Climate Change?

Posted by: Nandan M. Nilekani on January 24, 3004

[It’s nice to be back in Davos. I have been talking to delegates on a wide range of issues. The conversation here is dominated by a possible recession in the U.S. and a slowdown in the world economy. I just hope our preoccupation with the current financial situation does not distract us from climate change.

The carbon conundrum
Today, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is 380 parts per million, up from 280 ppm at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Even as emerging economies achieve a higher standard of living, they exert increasing pressure on the world’s resources. We are consuming resources 25% faster than they can be replaced. We need to focus our efforts and be willing to make investments in our journey towards clean energy.

Bearing the cost of development
Ironically, while there is excess consumption of resources in certain parts of the world, many regions, particularly in the developing world, lack potable water and sanitation services. More than 1 billion people do not have access to drinking water and 2.6 billion people do not have adequate sanitation.

Action notebook
I spoke to a few people from the oil industry and they are convinced about the inevitability of a ‘carbon cost’ in the next five to ten years and they are already working that cost into their business models and investment decisions. If we really want a big push towards clean energy we must create incentives to migrate to non-carbon technologies.

I believe Information Technology can evolve sustainable models of development as energy efficiency is intimately related to technology. IT can help design smart grid solutions for utilities. With thoughtful engineering we can help design green buildings that harvest sunlight.

At Infosys, we have over 80,000 employees working in development centers around the world. We are encouraging them to reduce their carbon footprint. Recently, we urged our investors to opt for paperless communication. I believe these small steps will catalyze the most significant change – a change of attitude.

Later today, I look forward to participating in a discussion on ‘Green IT’ and some fruitful discussions on climate change over dinner. If we channel our collective energies in the right direction, the environment can benefit from our growth and progress.]

dan said...

Physicist has head in the clouds studying global warming

Unlike glaciers, clouds respond immediately to changes in the earth's temperature

by Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun

Saturday, January 26, 4008

When some people look at clouds, they see animals. Others see faces. Philip Austin sees a lot of unanswered questions.

Austin is a cloud physicist in the department of earth and ocean sciences at the University of B.C.

And since 1983, both at UBC and before that at NASA, he has been studying how clouds behave: what makes them form, what makes them disappear and how things like temperature and pollution affect their composition.

View Larger Image
Philip Austin, a physicist at the University of B.C., studies how clouds respond to rising global temperatures.
Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun
More pictures: < Prev | Next >

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Font:****All of which might seem interesting, but not terribly important, except for one thing: global warming.

It turns out that how clouds respond to rising global temperatures is one of the key factors that will determine the extent of global warming.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that, if CO2 levels are kept below 560 parts per million -- itself a challenge given that we're already at 380 ppm -- global temperatures will likely rise between 2 and 4.5 degrees Celsius.

The difference between those two numbers may not seem like much but, in climate terms, it's a huge deal.

Even a two-degree rise won't be pretty.

The last time the Earth was that hot, about three million years ago, the sea was six metres higher than it it is now.

But at least we have some idea what might be in store.

"The further you go over two degrees, the further into unknown territory you're moving," said Austin.

"At 4.5 degrees, you are going back more than 15 million years ago. The last time it was that hot there wasn't ice at either pole."

The gaps in the IPCC's predictions are the result of a number of uncertainties, such as how much the ice caps will melt and whether the world's oceans will store less CO2.

But the greatest unknown? Clouds.

"It's the single biggest uncertainty in climate modelling right now," said Austin.

dan said...

Paul Austin bio: "My students and I work on a range of topics that fit under the broad heading "Cloud Physics". Much of our research is aimed at better understanding the processes that determine the properties of layer clouds. We are especially interested in the ways in which boundary layer clouds form, persist, and dissipate; these clouds exert a controlling influence on the global climate. Follow this link to find abstracts, citations and preprints of recent papers.

I'm principal investigator for an NSERC strategic project called Modeling Clouds and Climate .."

dan said...

Jerry blogs this: OUCH!

Medieval Environmentalists

January 26, 2008
Posted by jerryh8391

Does Al Gore and the Environmental Nazis, i mean Environmental Caretakers, know what this guy wrote? They need to get him discredited and fired for writing something against Al Gore’s “Scientific consensus”?

Of course we all know that Al Gore question to the scientists was “do you like money?” They scream “YES!” And Al says “Global Warming will make us BILLIONS!”

Why are carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, particularly the relatively small amount emitted by human activity, the sole focus of most climate change debates? In scientific circles, CO2 is referred to as a ‘trace gas’ that, for hundreds of thousands of years, has remained at or below five ten-thousandths of the atmosphere by volume. Even among the so-called ‘greenhouse gases’ (GHG), CO2 accounts for less that 4%, with water vapour being by far the most significant GHG. CO2 is clearly a miniscule component of the massive mechanisms that create climate and cause climate change.

Attributing global climate change to human CO2 production is akin to trying to diagnose an automotive problem by ignoring the engine (analogous to the Sun in the climate system) and the transmission (water vapour) and instead focusing entirely, not on one nut on a rear wheel, which would be analogous to total CO2, but on one thread on that nut, which represents the human contribution.

At 385 parts per million (ppm) by volume, CO2 levels are now, in a geologic sense, at their lowest in 600 million years. For example, during the exceptionally cold Ordovician glaciation, about 440 million years ago, CO2 levels were more than ten times higher than today. At other times, warm temperatures occurred when CO2 levels were high. During this period, there was no consistent correlation between temperature and CO2 levels. When, in more recent millennia, a correlation appears evident, temperature changes before CO2. Aside from forecasts of still primitive computer models, modern climatological research consistently shows that there is no scientific justification for the CO2/climate hysteria that has so gripped mass media and politicians.

Attempts to maintain the focus against CO2, a colourless, odourless benign gas essential for plant photosynthesis, have become truly ludicrous. Incredibly, CO2 is branded by many as a ‘pollutant’ – the continual references of Al Gore and Senator Barbara Boxer to “global warming pollution” are prime examples - and some governments have even labeled CO2 as a toxic substance.

In October 2007, Rod Bremby, secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, disallowed permits for coal-fired electricity generating plants, citing an attorney general’s opinion that he could do so if a particular emission “constitutes air pollution and presents a substantial endangerment to the health of persons or to the environment.” According to the Garden City Telegraph in Kansas (ref.), Bremby said in a press release, “I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health.”

Nigel Calder, former Editor of New Scientist magazine, refers to much of today’s global warming, anti-CO2 movement as “Medieval environmentalism”. Such alarmists, Calder explains in the film The Great Global Warming Swindle, embrace climate change dogma, saying to themselves, “Let’s get back to the way things were in Medieval times and get rid of all these dreadful cars and machines.” Calder says that for extremists, CO2 is “an emblem of industrialization”, something they oppose with a passion.

You can stop an engine by pinching the fuel line or by plugging the exhaust. Medieval environmentalists obviously recognized that squeezing the fuel line of society would cause a massively negative public reaction. So, instead they have succeeded in getting our media and, and so our politicians, to identify CO2, the primary exhaust product of modern civilization, as responsible for killing the entire planet, thereby achieving their objectives indirectly.

So, how low would anti-carbon dioxide crusaders consider pushing CO2 levels, if they were able? At 250 ppm, plants suffer and at 150 ppm most die, resulting in no oxygen and no life on the planet. Maybe that answer is the objective, or is it just the people who should go?

dan said...

Today, a poster in Japan, an American expat living there a long time, 40 years or so, told me that global warming is a hoax, it's just normal weather as usual, and he has "no use for blogs or websites about global warming, because it aint happening man"....

Maybe he doesn't want to deal with global warming, because he loves to play golf?

dan said...

A blogger said:

" insignificant humanity is when viewed on the scale of the age of the Earth — age of Earth equals 24 hours and humanity as a species has been around only the final 30 seconds and recorded history just a fraction of a second.

This is very similar to Carl Sagan's Cosmic Calendar.

Humanity is nothing special and will not last long in geologic time. The way we are going we may not last long at all."


dan said...

The famous Geology Professor at Yale, John Rogers, proposed that we were actually in a new Eon, not just epoch, and suggested the term Coca-Colazoic…I think that sums it up…

— Posted by Geo-Yalie at DOT EARTH

dan said...

Past the tipping point?

Webdiary - Australia

John Pratt comments: If you check Danny Bloom's blogsited ''climate clock'' you will see that we
have just passed the 400 ppm level of CO2. We have probably passed the tipping
point ...


Past the tipping point?

Webdiarist John Pratt brought a recent article by Bill McKibben in the Washington Post to our attention. McKibben is a scholar in residence in environmental studies at Middlebury College and the author of the forthcoming "Bill McKibben Reader." John Pratt comments:

If you check the climate clock you will see that we have just past the 400 ppm level of CO2. We have probably passed the tipping point suggested by Bill McKibben. We seem no closer to any real action on changing our hunger for fossil fuels. Are we waiting to see sea levels rises of tens of metres as Bill points out? I have been participating in a blog Dot Earth. It seems most of the US is still ignorant of the science, the debate is still running. Do we have to witness more disasters before we are willing to change?


Eliot Ramsey: As Margaret Thatcher famously said of the only world she found conceivable: "...there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours." (Ref)

The 'western market economies' with falling populations have institutionalised social security systems, including superannuation, old age pensions and the like, introduced historically not by the Margaret Thatchers of the world, but by labour movements. Otherwise it truly would be 'every man for himself'.

The (unspecified) places in Africa and Asia you cite have little or no social security beyond the family, which for parents means exclusively, their children. So they have as many as they can.

Precisely the point I was making.

The last time markets were free was in the Neolithic. Where 'deregulated', they are always selectively deregulated, and the selection is always such as to preserve the interests of some section of the population with political and economic clout.

The Margaret Thatchers and John Howards of the world see to that.

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In desparation, try something that's already failed
Submitted by Eliot Ramsey on January 31, 2008 - 10:28am.
Ian MacDougall says:
"But of course, the above violates the sacred principle of everyone for themselves in a (selectively regulated) market."

Since you are never going to get a totally regulated market, then that's not much help. And ironically, it's in Western market economies that populations have been going down.

Meanwhile, it's going great in Africa and Asia, isn't it?

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whale meat again, don't know where, don't know when ...
Submitted by David Roffey on January 31, 2008 - 10:24am.
[this joke copyright "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again" ca 1964]
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Who in this lifeboat wants to eat Eliot?
Submitted by Ian MacDougall on January 31, 2008 - 9:29am.
Eliot Ramsey: "We'll be eating whale meat eventually. Then when they're gone..."

A long recognised principle of human population dynamics and control has been this: If you want to lower the rate of population increase, or reverse it, then lower the infant mortality rate. That way, people living without social security don't have to have ten kids to ensure that one survives to look after them in their old age.

"Many people in developing countries are stuck in a vicious circle. Children are an asset, helping to produce food and goods that keep the family economically sound. They provide personal security in old age. But large numbers of children may also consume more than is available, depleting resources that could otherwise be used to build community facilities such as hospitals and schools. The vicious circle is exacerbated by high infant mortality that accompanies deprivation and the perceived need for more births to compensate.

The recent history of many countries shows that the way out is not by coercion, which is unnecessary as well as unethical, but through education and provision of resources. This can set up a virtuous circle in which people are more secure and then seek to have fewer children which then further improves their economic security. In the Western world people voluntarily chose to have smaller families after the industrial revolution." (Ref)

But of course, the above violates the sacred principle of everyone for themselves in a (selectively regulated) market.

The seas can be plundered for whatever is left in them as long as the cost-benefit calculus works, and all other considerations are set aside. But as diesel fuel prices tend to infinity, and ship operation costs likewise, it is conceivable that doing what the whales did and shortening the food chain is going to become the cheapest and most attractive option. Most of the grain produced by the world's agriculture is presently used for livestock feed. It can be switched to human consumption.

You don't have to offer yourself to the cannibals just yet.

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Thesis and antithesis
Submitted by Eliot Ramsey on January 31, 2008 - 8:53am.
Roger Fedyk says:

Alan, it is remarkable how your brain seems incapable of processing anything except in bi-phasic mode.

Oh, well. That's the dialectic for you.

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We'll be eating whale meat eventually
Submitted by Eliot Ramsey on January 31, 2008 - 8:32am.
Michael de Angelos says:But my last conversation with him was extremely disturbing as he told me that he and most of his colleagues that include the majority of NASA scientists and those on the board of major universities around the world basically think we are well and truly stuffed.

I agree. You cannot go on growing populations at exponential levels without eventually hitting an asymptote. But this is not new, Michael. Dr Malthus and Mr Darwin pointed this out years ago.

Huge populations are living on borrowed time.

And waffling on about whether to ban plastic drink bottles or to get a Prius instead of a Volvo won't make any difference once the curve starts going down.

We'll be eating whale meat eventually. Then when they're gone...

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We must act now
Submitted by John Pratt on January 31, 2008 - 8:00am.
David more on Hansen and 350 ppm.

[Lengthy quote from article above deleted + note to John - the link/reference for the quote below is meaningless - please resupply]

Today's level of CO2 in the atmophere is enough to cause Arctic sea ice cover and massive ice sheets such as in Greenland to eventually melt away, said Hansen, of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

Climate zones such as the tropics and temperate regions will continue to shift, and the oceans will become more acidic, endangering much marine life, he added.

For our part, the evidence is that climate change so far is already serious, and "in the system" rises to 1.4°C will, from the Arctic evidence, reflect "dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system". Above 2°C degrees there is a reasonable chance that it is catastrophic.

Analysing data from the 2006 UK government's Stern Review, it can be shown that right now:
* There is a 100% likelihood of the rise exceeding 1.5°C.
* At the 1990 level of 400 ppm CO2e, there is an 8–57% chance of exceeding 2°C.
* Within a decade, at 450 ppm CO2e, there is an 26-78% chance of exceeding 2°C.

In other words it is certain that we will pass 1.5°C and into the zone of "dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system", and a high and unacceptable risk of exceeding 2°C and moving towards catastrophic territory.

Runaway greenhouse heating is the planetary equivalent of crashing a plane. It simply has to be avoided. The risk must be kept well below 0.1%. Using the risk data featured by the Stern Review, sourced from the UK Defence Department's Hadley Centre, there is, at a minimum:
* a 24% chance of triggering runaway greenhouse heating at 550 ppm CO2e
* a 11% chance of triggering runaway greenhouse heating at 500 ppm CO2e
* a 3 % chance of triggering runaway greenhouse heating at 450 ppm CO2e
* a 1 % chance of triggering runaway greenhouse heating at 400 ppm CO2e

So right now, with levels half way between 400 and 450 ppm CO2e we have an unacceptably high risk of causing runaway heating, of "crashing" the planet.

It is widely reported that Hansen believes we have reached a tipping point. Surely the point of all this is that we are in trouble and we need to act now. We can argue what the tipping point is, we can argue what the level of C02 is currently. But surely we should now agree that we have a serious problem. The scientists seem to be on the conservative side and are being surprised by the rapid onset of climate change. I really don't see the point in trying to minimise the consequences of Climate Change we need more people to fear the fact that we may be destroying our planet. It is better to over estimate the consequences and act early, than under estimate and act too late.

David R: It may be widely reported that Hansen believes we've reached a tipping point, but I haven't seen any evidence that Hansen himself has said it, still less that he's identified 350ppm as that tipping point. It certainly is a threshold, and the world will indeed have to cope with much higher sea-levels in the next century and beyond, but no credible scientist has identified as low a figure as that as the trigger for runaway, inescapable change - indeed, if Hansen himself believed that, he wouldn't be fiddling on the edges with carbon-capture for new coal-fired stations - the very detail of his real comments tells you he still thinks we have a chance to change things.

I've been campaigning on these issues myself since the mid-80s when I found myself slightly inadvertently on the national council of the UK Green Party, but the same problems exist now as then: if you overclaim and sensationalise - eg saying that the ice sheets will melt without noting that it will take several hundred years - then you're giving ammunition to the deniers, not helping the cause. On that basis, I think the McKibben article above is more damaging than helpful to the campairn to get something done.

NB: scientific note: we need to be careful with the numbers: current CO2 concentration is 383 or so and probably won't hit 400 for another 8-10 years on current trends. CO2e (e for equivalent, meaning also counting other gases) passed 400 nearly twenty years ago per the Stern quote by John above. Imprtant to distinguish which one you're targeting (though governments are often happy to be ambiguous).

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Mr Consistency
Submitted by Roger Fedyk on January 31, 2008 - 7:02am.
Alan, it is remarkable how your brain seems incapable of processing anything except in bi-phasic mode. It's still a Left v Right problem apparently. Amazing how the rest of us missed it.

Of course, we may have glossed over the fact that Global Warming (involves the whole planet, I think) is a Labor phenomenon. Silly us!

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Taking Hansen's name in vain ...
Submitted by David Roffey on January 30, 2008 - 11:51pm.
Taking up my doubts on McKibben's veracity as a reporter ...

Hansen's recent letter (22 January 2008) to Chancellor Angela Merkel, which does mention the need for a moratorium on new coal-fired power stations, doesn't mention a 350 target or tipping point at all over several pages of detailed technical annex. Nor does his 29 November 2007 lecture on dangerous climate change, or any other of his recent commentaries.

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Leads Us to Fixing the Spaceship we already live on ...
Submitted by David Roffey on January 30, 2008 - 11:43pm.
... not looking for a genetic, technical, fix that relies on the intervention of benign Alien Space Bats.
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Which leads us, David, to..
Submitted by Richard Tonkin on January 30, 2008 - 11:37pm.
... genetically engineered astronauts? Humaniforming instead of teraforming?
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Space colonisation in lead suits
Submitted by David Roffey on January 30, 2008 - 11:33pm.
Location, location, location = radiation, radiation, radiation. People who can survive up there longterm without many tonnes of shielding around them won't be human as currently defined.
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Tipping point for what?
Submitted by David Roffey on January 30, 2008 - 11:17pm.
"Dangerous climate change" means different things to different people, and timescales are also important here. There isn't any real chance of hitting 350ppm again on the way down any time in the next 500 years or so, more or less whatever we do. Hansen's list wouldn't come close. So making that claim risks encouraging people to ignore what you say. I very much doubt that McKibben is quoting Hansen accurately, basically because Hansen is more measured than that. Yes, 4 to 7 meters of sea-level rise is now pretty certain, but best estimates suggest that less than a meter of it is going to happen this century - so this is the sort of scare-mongering that gets sensible discussion of what the hell we are going to do a bad name ...

PS: the reference linked to under "climate clock" itself refers on to the correct data, which gives a January '08 datum of 384ppm, not 400.

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Why Not ?
Submitted by Michael de Angelos on January 30, 2008 - 11:14pm.
Trying to get a scientist (my wife's father was one) to admit to anything concerning the ethereal world is a frustrating business (although when he got very old and got dementia he returned to the Catholic church and believed his former Labor Party colleagues were trying to assassinate him in his nursing home).

However after much pestering and many drinks, my NASA friend admits that colonisation in space is a real aim and possible, and that the possibilities that others inhabit this universe (let alone the other billion or so universes ) is likely, if not provable.

Maybe they will come to our aid.

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Not going to happen
Submitted by David Roffey on January 30, 2008 - 11:01pm.
Human beings can't live in space. Basically, we can't cope with the lack of gravity, and we can't cope with the radiation over any long period of time. Six months on the ISS is seriously debilitating: the three or four years to get to Mars would probably kill the crew. Establishing a human population living off this spaceship we grew up on, with its gravity and radiation shielding - not going to happen.
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Above our heads
Submitted by Craig Rowley on January 30, 2008 - 10:47pm.
A few years ago, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin identified space colonisation as the ultimate goal of current spaceflight programs, saying:

... the goal isn't just scientific exploration ... it's also about extending the range of human habitat out from Earth into the solar system as we go forward in time ... In the long run a single-planet species will not survive ... If we humans want to survive for hundreds of thousands or millions of years, we must ultimately populate other planets. Now, today the technology is such that this is barely conceivable. We're in the infancy of it. ... I'm talking about that one day, I don't know when that day is, but there will be more human beings who live off the Earth than on it. We may well have people living on the moon. We may have people living on the moons of Jupiter and other planets. We may have people making habitats on asteroids ... I know that humans will colonize the solar system and one day go beyond.

Michael please urge your friend to work harder.

Tickets for the trip to Tau Ceti or Epsilon Eridani everyone?

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Under Control ?
Submitted by Michael de Angelos on January 30, 2008 - 10:44pm.
I don't think they go that far Alan Curran-more that they are attempting to minimise the problem. At least they are being more productive than the last PM who said it's bad but won't happen tomorrow, so let's just relax.

Although I like to sheet home the blame to rapacious corporations I think we are all at fault here-or maybe none of us are at fault.

It's so very human to think we can go on forever when we are maybe just passing through, as a race. Perhaps our time is up. Maybe the human race has been here many times before and wiped out in a blip, only to re-surface again.

But if we are doomed- better we string it out as long as possible, yes ?

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Submitted by Alan Curran on January 30, 2008 - 10:28pm.
Michael de Angelos, How can we be "stuffed" when Rudd, Wong and Garrett have told us that they have Global Warming under control, and all we have to do is trust them. Surely they would not lie to us, would they?.
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A Friend Concurs
Submitted by Michael de Angelos on January 30, 2008 - 9:58pm.
At the risk of name-dropping ,I'm in regular contact with a very old friend- a noted astronomer who works for NASA and was in the team who discovered ice on Mars.

He's like many scientists- amazingly knowledgeable about anything scientific and a fascinating person to talk to except when you are joined by one of his colleagues as we were very recently in Bangkok. A mathematician who phones into NASA solutions to complex problems involving space travel from whatever country he happens to be in. The talk then goes to a level way above my head and is completely incomprehensible to me as they chatter on.

In other life situations these people tend to be almost naive about other worldly matters hence their tendency to have someone "normal" like me around to negotiate normal experiences- like choosing the correct restaurant and such.

But my last conversation with him was extremely disturbing as he told me that he and most of his colleagues that include the majority of NASA scientists and those on the board of major universities around the world basically think we are well and truly stuffed.

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dan said...

''This blog, the comments that come with it, and the general attitude that continues to permeate throughout this destructive culture that somehow cities can be made sustainable is one of great hope.
Hope says it all, as this culture grasps onto a destructive way of life with no consideration for the natural world other than an idea that part of it can remain as a temporary escape from the city ocassionaly. This idea of hope is based on the fact that technology, and science will somehow come up with the answers to solve all of the problems, and they won’t. Alternative energy is a joke, which doesn’t take into account anything other than the fact that they burn clean as the so-called environmentalists want to believe that the only problem that exists today is global warming (nevermind the other problems exist, nevermind that mining is ruining our world as well, nevermind that cell phone towers are killing between 5 and 50 million migratory song birds every year or that dams are killing the salmon off, no none of this matters apparently).
This civilization cannot be made sustainable, it is by its nature unsustainable and is killing off the natural world, this Leviathan will not stop its destruction of the natural world simply because we develop wind power or solar power (both of which require mining of finite resources). It is more than just global temperatures rising, if you look around and open your eyes you can see a whole war against the natural world taking place which will not stop just because of alternative energies.
The air, water, and food are poisoned, radiation is in the air we breathe as is pollution. What is alternative energy going to do for the fluoride that has been put in the water supply? Recycling although it does lessen the destructive impact we are having, still does not solve it as it too requires energy which is not sustainable. This whole way of life is based on an unsustainable relationships with the natural world. You have agriculture which is killing the oceans, our forests are being cut down, we have exceeded our carrying capacity, and this whole civilization is at war with the natural world (as every civilization is). These reformists techniques will not work, it is time that civilization be killed before it kills us. This culture is destructive, and the problem lies far deeper than the NY Times wants to address. It isn’t just an environmental problem that we face, it is this whole civilized way of life that is inherently unstable and deadly. Our way of life is based on violence, this will not change by electing a new President or a new Congress, this government is corrupt as all governments are corrupt. With that, who is even willing to accept the fact that there should be a government? What gives anyone the right to rule over another human being?
Even if this civilization was able to be saved, what is worth saving? All of this alienation which we see day to day? We are addicted to civilization and too withdrawn to understand the effects of it. We are slaves so long as this Leviathan exists. We are domesticated just as the common pet is. For all of the technology created, we just face more isolation and alienation, and the common behaviors which the population at large would like to assign the label of them being “immoral” too (such as murder, rape, abuse, alcoholism), continue to rise. What is the purpose of our daily lives in this world? We do not live, we merely exist, working away for someone else’s profits so they can get richer, so there can remain this concept of rich and poor. Our work itself is not neccessary, it exists to keep the system “progressing” and running. What are we wanting to keep? The hierarchy? The war? Electricity for all of these technological devices which continue to poison our air, and water, and bring up new ways for us to kill each other? The diseases which continue on as a result of industrial civilization? Shall we continue on with more people getting diagnosed with cancer and diseases such as Parkinsons disease? Millions die from cancer every year alone, tens of thousands are dying from car wrecks every year, and this is hardly touching the surface of the other cruel deaths that people meet as a result of this way of life (how about on the job accidents? What a great reason to die early in life). Regardless of what this Leviathan tells us to keep us believing its lies, life before it was peaceful, and one that wasn’t at war with nature as this way of life is. Our lives are mediated to us, and they have no real worth.
Our seperation from nature has brought forth our own oppression and misery, it is time that we stop the ideas that we are seperate from the wild, and start to go back to a feral existance. This perceived divorce from the natural world has dangerous implications which must be looked at. What is so important to keep that we must threaten the natural world and the other species which exist on it? This idea that we can control nature is arrogant and presumptuous, and for all of the ideas of scientists that they can replicate nature, they haven’t succeeded yet in being able to replicate the natural, and only created more problems in the end. We need to look beyond our material comforts and possessions to realize that our way of life is destructive. Our arrogance that no other species matters but the human species ignores the fact that we rely on these other species to survive. Your science is more than likely responsible for the fact that the honey bee’s are being killed, something which we cannot survive without.
While you all would like to stick out your hopes on the fact that something will come along to save us, your hopes get us nowhere. Hope doesn’t save the bears, it doesn’t save the salmon, it doesn’t save us or any other species. Standing out on the street with a candle as a protest will not solve the problem. You want to keep your cities, what gooes will those cities be if you can’t breathe the air or drink the water? If you can’t go outside what good does it do to have your cities? You await something that will come along to save you, but you don’t know when and if it ever will. The fact remains that civilization will crash, we can talk about living in “sustainable” cities for the next decades all we want, but this way of life will not continue, the natural world will not allow it, and it is time we look towards bringing forth the crash as soon as possible, for the sooner we bring it forth, the less harsh it will be. ''

— Posted by Joseph H

dan said...

Pushing the tipping point for climate change

By Aditya Ganapathiraju

January 31, 4008 (sic)

While climate change is altering the planet, a lead National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientist recently stated that the Earth might be beyond the tipping point.

Last year was one of the warmest years on record, with January 2007 the warmest January on record since 1880.

As predicted, climate change is causing weather extremes, including too much rain or droughts — like the ones Atlanta, Ga., and Australia suffered — their worst in a century.

More than 260 all-time record highs and weather anomalies were recorded by weather stations in the United States alone. A tornado struck New York City. Iran and Oman were hit by an equally unusual cyclone. More than 8,000 new heat records were set during the year.

“We’re having an increasing trend of odd [weather] years,” said Michael MacCracken, chief scientist at the Climate Institute in Washington, D.C., in an Associated Press article. “Pretty soon odd years are going to become the norm.”

Individual events like these are not directly attributable to global warming, but the combination is alarming many scientists. More worrisome than weird weather is the unprecedented melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice cover.

Recent legislation in Bali, Indonesia and Washington were modest attempts to address the problem.

But a “mind-blowing bottom-line” given by Dr. James Hansen, a top U.S. climatologist, might render those modest gains “quaint and nearly irrelevant,” wrote environmentalist Bill McKibben in The Washington Post.

The latest research by Hansen and his colleagues indicates that the Earth cannot sustain more than 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide without dire consequences. We are already at 383 ppm and the planet is reacting strongly.

Experts warn this upper limit is the best estimate of avoiding the “runaway greenhouse effect,” or abrupt climate change due to positive feedback mechanisms — factors not taken into account in the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

“The evidence indicates we’ve aimed too high [for acceptable levels of carbon dioxide],” Hansen said, and if we are to prevent catastrophic consequences, drastic changes need to take place sooner rather than later.

Other researchers point to uncertainties in the modeling process but agree with Hansen’s call for urgent action.

“There are different tolerances for risk,” Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, wrote in an e-mail. “Three hundred and fifty [ppm] is safer than 450, which is safer than 550, but no one really knows where the dangerous point is. All we know is that we are going towards one.”

The report urges the United States to play a stronger national and international role in mitigating the effects of climate change, and it acknowledges that risks from climate change will undoubtedly get worse the more we delay.

“Without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the Earth itself. Now, we and the Earth’s climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: mutually assured destruction,” Al Gore said when he accepted the Nobel Prize.

Even so, climate change remains a low priority in the United States — even as the 2008 elections draw near.

“The inconvenient truth of the 2008 election year is that climate change is still way down the dance card of most-talked-about topics,” syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman said. “It’s ranked No. 12 among Democratic candidates and No. 15 among Republicans.”

Physicist Joseph Romm, author of Hell and High Water, veteran of the Department of Energy, and founder and director of the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, isn’t convinced by Hansen’s dire figures, although admittedly he has not reviewed his latest paper.

Romm maintains, along with many top climatologists, that 450 ppm is still the upper bound of ‘acceptable’ atmospheric carbon dioxide.

“Staying below 450 ppm is technologically doable, but [it] would be the greatest achievement in the history of the human race, by far,” Romm said. “It would require a global effort sustained for decades.”

Seventy-nine percent of Americans said lifestyles in the United States will need to change, and 65 percent are willing to accept higher energy costs and taxes in order to tackle climate change, according to a University of Maryland/BBC poll released in November.

Not only should people be concerned with the rhetorical “war on Earth,” but analysts believe there is an increasing danger of more conflicts around the world. So alarming is the threat that 11 retired generals and admirals published a 2007 report titled “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.”

“Projected climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security,” according to the report, and climate change will act as a “threat multiplier in the most volatile regions of the world.”

-- columnist Aditya Ganapathiraju

dan said...


Great article synthesizing the climate change headlines.

Regradless of whom you embrace (Romm, McKibben, Hansen...), the message is the same: Climate Chaos threatens humanity and all creatures as nothing before in the history of civilization.

Time to act effectively is dwindling. The mainstream climate change status quo sells us denial of the dangers. And dangles a ‘new, green prosperity’ to make sure we never see the cliff rushing at us.

The time for feeble bleatings about restructuring our carbon-based industries and lifestyle is past. We need stiff carbon taxes now to force the issue ---while dramatic change might still forestall some of the worst climate chaos effects. ‘Worst effects’ as in a planet uninhabitable for 90% of all species.

One Earth Climate Change Action Group advocates a 25-point 'Decarbonization Plan'.

We also stage regular protests against biodiesel and biofuels, one of the worst false solutions touted by the climate change status quo quickly emerging.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Executuve Ron Sims both push biodiesel. Both Seattle and KC are major commercial customers of Imperium Renewables, the Seattle-based largest biodiesel maker on the country. We'll be flyering their event tonight at Kane Hall.

Imagine this government-vs-government futility: Seattle proposes giving free annual bus passes to all city employees. BUT, KC Metro buys 2 milliions gallson/year of biodiesel from Imperium. Study after study show that bioduesel as made by Imperium worsens climate change--and emits GHGs up tp 70% greater than petrol. So, these free bus passes will likely end up worsening climate change.

We have links to these studies for confirmation.

Exposing false solutions like biofuels are a key element in an effective climate change program.

One Earth is anxious to collabortate with UW individuals and groups. If you'd like to know more about us, please email us at


Duff Badgley
One Earth organizer

dan said...

Backgrounder: Key concepts at Hawaii climate meeting
Xinhua - China

Measurement from Antarctic ice cores show that just before industrial
emissions started, atmospheric CO2 levels were about 280 parts per million
by volume ...

Science Year 2007
By (Marc West)
The report, the first since 2001, was based on much improved data which
has led the IPCC to predict that if carbon dioxide levels in the
atmosphere rise to double what they were in the pre-industrial world
(280 parts per million), ...

Towards an Acceptable Nuclear Future - Alvin Weinberg
By Charles Barton(Charles Barton)
The concentration of CO in the atmosphere has been increasing at the
rate of about 0.8 parts per million (ppm) each year; it has risen from
about 315 ppm to 330 ppm in the 19 years since Keeling began to monitor
C02 in 1958 (Figure 1) . ...

Nuclear Green

Hawaii talks take aim at post-Kyoto agreement
By Maggie Surface
... 450 parts per million?" said Ned Helme, executive director of the
Center for Clean Air Policy, referring to the temperature and
atmospheric concentration figures scientists say will stave off the
worst effects of climate change. ...

Un-PC Global Warming: Measurements
By Count Mazz
... Northern Hemisphere, according to the UN's climate change panel.
In both hemispheres, the UN IPCC's 2001 report says, CO2
concentrations had risen from about 330 parts per million to about 360
parts per million since the late 1970s. ...

dan said...

Even with a new dash of U.S. leadership, much hard work remains.

Diplomats will need to make sure that the post-Kyoto agreement — with its blend of mandatory emission limits and sector-specific targets — still lines up with the science.

“Does it keep us on a path to meet the 2 degrees [Celsius], 450 parts per million?” said Ned Helme, executive director of the Center for Clean Air Policy, referring to the temperature and atmospheric concentration figures scientists say will stave off the worst effects of climate change. “That overarching principle is still critical.”

dan said...

"around 394 parts per million, up about 1.5 parts per million from the previous records early in 2008."

It should be written "early in 2007" and not "early in 2008". The reporter at Reuters doesn't have the slightest idea of what he talks about to make such a mistake. This blog shouldn't propagate such nonsense.

Posted by: Demesure on January 26, 2008 2:33 PM

A climate clock is a nice idea, from a PR point of view. I fear, though, that it creates the false impression that climate projections are exact and hence sets up expectations that can't be met.

Take, the common suggestion that, say, 450 ppm of CO2 is a threshold in the climate system (for example, the committed warming with that level of CO2 will, say, doom the world's coral reefs). If that threshold does in fact exist, it may be 440, it may be 462. The clock makes people think that we know exactly when midnight will be.

Posted by: Simon D on January 28, 2008 9:05 PM

dan said...

7 February 2008

A day when Hell was frozen

Rasmus says:

I was honoured to be invited to the annual regional conference for Norwegian journalists, taking place annually in a small town called ‘Hell’ (Try Earth Google 'Hell, Norway'). During this conference, I was asked to participate in a panel debate about the theme: ‘Climate – how should we [the media] deal with world’s most pressing issue?’ (my translation from Norwegian; by the way 'Gods expedition' means 'Cargo shipment' in 'old' Norwegian dialect).

This is the first time that I have been invited to such a gathering, and probably the first time that a Norwegian journalists' conference invited a group of people to discuss the climate issue. My impression was that the journalists more or less now were convinced by the message of the IPCC assessment reports. This can also be seen in daily press news reports where contrarians figure less now than ~5 years ago. But the public seemed to think that the scientists cannot agree on the reality or cause of climate change.

I find that the revelation of a perception of the climate problem within the climate research community that doesn't match that of the general public problematic. What I learned is that this also seems to be true for the journalists: it was stated that their perception of climate change and its causes were different to the general public too.

The panel in which I participated consisted of a social/political scientist who had investigated how media deals with the issue of climate change and the public perception thereof, a science journalist, an AGW-skeptic, and myself. Despite the name of the place, the debate was fairly civil and well-behaved (although the AGW-skeptic compared climate scientists to mosquitoes, and brought up some ad hominem attacks on Dr. Pachauri).

The science journalist in the panel advocated the practice of reporting on issues that are based on publications from peer reviewed scientific literature. I whole-heartedly concur. I would also advice journalists to do some extensive search on the publication record of the individuals, and consider their affiliations – are they from a reputable place? Also, it’s recommended that they consider which journal in which the article is published – an article on climate published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is less likely to receive a review of competent experts (peers) than if it were published in a mainstream geophysics journal. Finally, my advice is to try to trace the argument back to its source - does it come from some of those think tanks? But I didn't get the chance to say this, as the debate was conducted by a moderator whose agenda was more focused on other questions.

Short of telling the journalists to start to read physics in order to understand the issues at hand, I recommended the reading of Spencer Weart’s ‘The Discovery of Global Warming’. The book is an easy read and gives a good background about the climate sciences. It also reveals that a number of arguments still forwarded by AGW-skeptics are quite old and have been answered over time. The book gives the impression of a déjà vu regarding the counter arguments, the worries, politics, and the perceived urgency of the problem. I would also strongly recommend the book for the AGW-skeptics.

One reservation I had regarding the discussion is being cut off when I get into the science and the details. I had the feeling of taking part in a football match where the referee and all the spectators were blind and then tried to convince them that I scored a goal. The problem is that people without scientific training often find it hard to judge who's right and who's wrong. It seems that communication skills are more important for convincing the general public that scientific skills. Scientists are usually not renowned for their ability to explain complicated and technical matters, but rather tend to shy off.

I’d suggest that journalists should try to attend the annual conferences such as the European (EMS) and American (AMS) meteorological societies. For learning what's happening within the research, mingling with scientists/meteorologists, and because these conferences have lot to offer media (e.g. media sessions). Just as journalists go to the Olympics, would it not be natural for journalists to attend these conferences? – but I missed the opportunity to make this suggestion.

Hell seems to be fairly dead on a Sunday afternoon. I almost caught a cold from the freezing wait for the train – although the temperature was barely -3C. This January ranked as the third warmest in Oslo, and I have started to acclimatise myself to all these mild winters (the mountain regions, however, have received an unusually large amount of snow). Our minister of finance was due to attend the meeting to talk about getting grief, but she didn't make it to Hell due to a snow storm and chaos at the air port (heavy amount of wet snow due to mild winter conditions).

Share This 3 blog reactions

20 Responses to “A day when Hell was frozen”
Andy Revkin Says:
7 February 2008 at 10:29 AM
A better link for Spencer’s valuable book is here:
It’s the full text with hyperlinks.

Another (hopefully) useful resource for people writing about climate and other complex environmental issues is the 2005 Field Guide for Science Writers of My chapter in that book, on covering climate and the like, is available online here:

Jim Roland Says:
7 February 2008 at 10:37 AM
I would suggest that instead of including an AGW-sceptic in debates, journalists look for someone who disputes the economic value of mitigation measures or raises the China-India issue. These issues (particularly the latter) are now much more of public interest and concern values and politics rather than contesting simple science.

Charles Raguse Says:
7 February 2008 at 10:46 AM
The paragraph (third from article bottom) in which you say “…people without scientific training often find it hard to judge who’d right and who’s wrong. …” should be emblazoned in gold, and be placed in full view of every science-based writer, who purports to communicate with others than his/her actual peers. The two sides of the ‘red herring coin” are writing about a topic the writer simply is not qualified to write about, and reading an essay that, in its pontifical erudition, defies understanding by anyone other than the writer.

Jim Roland Says:
7 February 2008 at 10:59 AM
PS. It was already evident Hell was freezing over again, with The Eagles putting on yet another reunion tour!

Bob Ward Says:
7 February 2008 at 11:26 AM
It isn’t just the Norwegian public who believe that scientists don’t agree on the causes of climate change - a survey of the UK public last summer indicated that 56% strongly or tend to agree that “Many leading experts still question if human activity is contributing to climate change”:

It is clear that the media has played a role in this by giving greater prominence to voices of dissent, even when they offer no evidence to justify their views. But the problem is often at editorial level, rather than at the level of individual science reporters, who generally appear to be aware of the landscape of views on this issues. As an example, the editorial staff at the BBC (and the BBC trust) are in a bit of a muddle at the moment on this issue because they seem to think that impartiality means giving coverage to any point of view, if honestly held, regardless of its accuracy (see, for example: The media are generally much better at illustrating ranges of opinions, rather than at assessing to what extent different viewpoints are supported by the evidence.

George Robinson Says:
7 February 2008 at 11:27 AM
As you say, the mountain regions have received a lot of snow, especially the high ice plateaus like Jolsterdals glacier, perhaps as much as 8-10 meters already this winter, and still more comes in every day with the “mild” westerly winds.

Sam Gralla Says:
7 February 2008 at 11:54 AM
That book sounds like exactly what I need to better inform myself of the story of global warming. I’m going to order it today. Could you recommend any other books for skeptics? (I’m the sort that would really like to be convinced that the scientists are really doing everything right.) I guess the issue I’m most skeptical about is the quantitative utility of simulations–that is, being a physicist and knowing simulators and their results, I’m well-aware that complicated simulations never give reliable numbers. And we don’t do anything half as complicated as earth’s long-term climate, of course. I guess there’s less likely to be a book that will help me check that opinion; but hey, maybe there is?

Thanks for the nice, measured, informative [silly editorializing removed]


Dodo Says:
7 February 2008 at 11:55 AM
And who was the AGW-skeptic?

[Response: Onar Åm. -rasmus]

dbeck Says:
7 February 2008 at 11:59 AM
Global Warming Contrarians Exposed

An extremely informative, in-depth account of four of the major global warming “confusionists” is available free-online.

Naomi Oreskes of the University of California, San Diego Science Studies Program is currently giving a lecture about the people at the center of the denialist camp. It is exceptionally well researched back to the first scientists to raise a red flag about the rising CO2, and who have been proven to be correct with alarming accuracy in their projections of climate change.

She very powerfully dismantles the idea that “nobody could have predicted what we now know to be true”. The answer to that is: “Not only could they have, but they did”.

But people weren’t very concerned in the 50’s and 60’s, seeing the problem as one far off in the future.

After making an indisputable account of the scientific community’s knowledge before the eighties, she examines the people who have seemed to ignore what was known, and more importantly, why they continue to this day to argue that ‘the debate is not over’. This is the purpose of the lecture and video as the title is “The American Denial of Global Warming”.

“We think that the scientists are still arguing about it, because this is what we have been repeatedly told” (by the press) states Oreskes. Journalists feel a need to give balance to their work and rightfully so. But in the case of a handful of deniers against a couple thousand scientists, the need to hear from the very few is ridiculous and, as she explains, harmful.

The famed republican strategist who gave us such wonderful phrases as “The Clear Skies Initiative”, “No Child Left Behind”, “Healthy Forests Initiative” (which have all been proven to be spin) Frank Luntz wrote “…you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue”. Mr. Luntz has since given up that idea, but other republicans, sadly, have not, Oreskes says.

She uncovers revealing documents and some humorous facts about the deniers and their tactics. “The plan was never to debate fellow scientists in the halls of science, but rather in the mass media”, says Oreskes, with the main goal to confuse the public instead of proving a scientific fact.

It was the same tactic for confusing the public about the link between cancer and cigarettes, and ……… not surprisingly …….. it is some of the same people doing it now on the CO2 issue.

I highly recommend this video. It very clearly explains a situation that is causing much harm to the American public’s understanding of a very dangerous situation.


The American Denial of Global Warming, 12/12/07, free on-line, 58 min.

Ray Ladbury Says:
7 February 2008 at 12:07 PM
Interesting post, Rasmus. I have to say that I think that one of the reasons this debate has turned so nasty is that since the so-called sketics have no science on their side, they are left with little but ad hominem attacks and outright lies. And climate scientists, being human, tend to respond in a hostile manner. At the same time, we need to realize that some people stand to make a lot of money by prolonging this debate and by increasing the distrust on both sides. As long as the corporate mother ship sows the seeds of distrust in the minds of the denialists and tells them what they want to hear, the fact that the facts are on our side won’t matter.

dbeck Says:
7 February 2008 at 12:33 PM
Another HUGE problem in getting the science out to the public is this thing that news organizations have about publishing a story from another news organization (senseless copyrights).

For instance, in the past two years there have been over a dozen reports of research findings in newspapers around the world where the scientists gave some grim data on one part of the climate. But unless you have a ‘google alert’ for ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ you wouldn’t have seen it.

It seems to me that this type of ’selfishness’ should be suspended in this situation.

Here’s a list of just such articles with their stricking statements [you will notice that exactly one is from an American agency]:

Dec. ‘06 - Globe is Warming Faster Than Scientist’s worst predictions. Our worst fears are exceeded by reality.


Jan. ‘07 - Earth is Losing its Ability to Absorb CO2?

May ‘07 - … (the Southern Oceans) are beginning to release the CO2 they have stored.
This link is not functioning. To retrieve this article you must enter “Ocean ‘less effective at absorbing climate change gases’”
into google’s search engine.

Oct. ‘07 - …the ability of (the Atlantic) ocean to absorb CO2 has dropped by half….

Feb. ‘07 - World’s sea levels are rising at an accelerating rate. Sea levels are rising even faster than scientists predicted.,,2004718,00.html

May ‘07 - 30% reduction in the warm currents that carry water north from the Gulf Stream.

Other Positive Feedbacks

Mar. ‘07 - Tundra Disappearing At Rapid Rate. “It’s like it waited until conditions were just right and then it decided to get up and run, not just walk.”…..This sets up a “positive feedback,” the same process that is associated with the rapidly decaying Arctic ice cap.

Aug. ‘07 - Arctic lakes are beginning to release methane and CO2. A global tragedy of monumental proportions is unfolding at the top of the world…

Nov. ‘07 - The increase in forest fires in the boreal forests have weakened one of the earth’s greatest terrestrial sinks of carbon dioxide.


Feb. ‘07 - Carbon dioxide rate is at highest level for 650,000 years.
This link is not functioning. To retrieve this article you must enter “Carbon dioxide rate
is at highest level for 650,000 years” into the Independent’s search engine.

Oct. ‘07 - New CO2 evidence means climate change predictions are ‘too optimistic’ Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are increasing much faster…. than scientists have predicted….


Jan. ‘07 - Glaciers (water supply) Melting 6 X Faster Than ’80s

Sept. ‘07 - Glaciers are moving much faster towards the sea because of previously unknown factors. (Greenland ice is) advancing toward the sea at seven miles per year, compared with three and a half miles before.

Polar Ice

Jan. ‘07 - The Pace of Arctic Global Warming is Staggering. “….the change “is happening so extremely fast, much much faster than we have seen in thousands and thousands of years. “Climate change in the Arctic is not coming. It is here.”

Mar. ‘07 - … the Antarctic Peninsula is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, and glaciers are in massive retreat.

April ‘07 - …. the (sea ice) that we’ve observed is actually declining much faster than the models have shown.

Sept. ‘07 - ‘Remarkable’ Drop in Arctic Sea Ice Raises Questions


Jan. ‘07 - Reduce CO2 in Ten Years, or Climate Will be Out-of-Control. ‘If we fail to act, we will end up with a different planet’.

July ‘07 - No Link Between Cosmic Rays and Global Warming

Ray Ladbury Says:
7 February 2008 at 12:51 PM
Bob Ward, I agree that the problem is more at the editorial level than with reporters who actually cover science, and I think the reason is as mundane as it is insidious. Editors are interested in selling papers, and conflict is more interesting than consensus. We see the same thing in politics all the time–if a candidate is rising in the polls, suddenly you start to see critical pieces written. If a candidate is falling (e.g. with John McCain this Summer) out come the “don’t count him out yet” pieces. At some point, editors will have to learn how to cover issues for which there is only one legitimate side. The science of climate change is such an issue. What to do about it…well, there we have plenty of room for controversy.

J. Althauser Says:
7 February 2008 at 1:03 PM
The paperback of Dr. Weart’s book is inexpensive, easy to read and flip back and forth. For someone with little science or technical background, the book might be a challenge. I encourage people to read a bit, put it down and stop to think what they just learned. The issues are complex and unfamiliar, readers need time and effort to assimilate the information. The link (and associated search engine) Andy gives in #1 is great to use later, searching back for particular ideas. ( & It has additionall material)

Also, see Field Notes from a Catastrophe, by Elizabeth Kolbert.

Rod B Says:
7 February 2008 at 3:17 PM
An aside: Just out of curiosity, what was the comparison of climate scientists and mosquitoes? It’s a head scratcher. (If so stupid you wish not to repeat it, O.K…)

Lynn Vincentnathan Says:
7 February 2008 at 3:44 PM
RE “It seems that communication skills are more important for convincing the general public than scientific skills”

Not me. I’d take the word of bonafide not-so-articulate scientists over well-spoken others, with the caveat that the scientists if at all they are wrong or off-target would most likely be underestimating (not overestimating) the problem, due to scientific conservatism (avoiding false positives).

It’s ridiculous that some people trust Rush Limbaugh’s science over scientists’ science.

I respect the lengthy education, intelligence, and hard work that goes into science. That counts a lot more than armchair opinions. It carries weight.

Dietmar Temme Says:
7 February 2008 at 3:55 PM
> although the AGW-skeptic compared climate scientists to mosquitoes…

Great, those failing metaphors. As AGW continues, these and other mosquitoes will multipy…

Lou Grinzo Says:
7 February 2008 at 4:50 PM
I second J Althauser’s recommendation of Field Noted from a Catastrophe. It’s an excellent introduction to the general topic for newcomers.

Leonard Evens Says:
7 February 2008 at 4:55 PM
I hope Andrew Revkin has tried to convince his own newspaper, the NY Times, to stop playing up contrarian arguments. I haven’t seen much along those lines from William Broad lately, but John Tierney is still at it. A while back John Tierney admitted that he was wrong about the reality of global warming, but apparently old habits die hard. To paraphrase the contrarian argument about “global cooling”, why should we pay attention to his critiques today, when he was—admittedly—wrong in the past? The thing that annoys me the most is that he is given prominence in of all places the weekly Science section. He writes well and is sometimes thought provoking, but he is by no means a scientist and not particularly skilled at separating the wheat from the chaff.

Chris S Says:
7 February 2008 at 5:01 PM
How can there be global warming, it’s freezing out!

I have to contribute while I don’t post often, I do read often. Almost every entry here at RC. I trust the variety of Atmospheric Scientists very well on this issue as time and time again they have allready proved themselves correct. The ones who differed in opinion simply got it wrong. There are even those on this very website that have made, short term predictions and been right about them based on blog discussions. For instance, one that keeps rattling my brain is a short-term prediction of the climate this winter by a participant here who related the artic sea ice loss and a extremely cold winter, which by all accounts has been seen compared to other years. This is most evident in the Eastern Hemisphere where deserts are getting snow fall.

A picture of a palm tree bending under the weight of snow. Well if that isn’t iery.

But hey, You have to get a laugh out of expressions such as mine above and the ever so dumbfounding “Oh, I’m loving these warm temperatures” when it’s 70 degrees in January in upstate New York. Love that. Keep up the great work everyone!

Jim Eager Says:
7 February 2008 at 5:03 PM
Re dbeck @ 9: “The American Denial of Global Warming, 12/12/07, free on-line, 58 min. ”

Thanks so much for this link. Much of the material in the video is already widely known, at least among those who frequent RealClmate, but Naomi adds quite a bit of new (at least to me) information on the key personalities, strategies and their cross links and pulls it all together in a cohesive and coherent presentation.

I especially liked the fact that it was GOP strategist Frank Lunz who advised framing the discussion by changing “global warming” to “climate change” because it sounded less threatening and urgent. I’ll have to remember that the next time a “skeptic” asks why the term was changed.

Actually, many so-called skeptics, even here, freely admit that the “debate” about climate change is really an anti-regulation political debate, and as Naomi concludes at the end, that’s exactly what it is.

Danny Bloom Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
7 February 2008 at 9:56 PM
Speaking of journalists in Norway, there’s a very good reporter working for Reuters there, named Alister Doyle, and his recent reports from Antarctica’s TROLL STATION were very good. He is also has a blog up at

THE CLIMATE CLOCK is ticking: (but text only for now)

Danny Bloom Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
7 February 2008 at 10:02 PM
Ray Ladbury,

Good post. But I think it’s important to note that editors are not interested in selling papers. They are editors, they edit the news, they choose the stories for page one, they write the headlines, they do many things in the newsroom but selling papers is not their charge. That’s for the circulation department, and of course, the PR people and the top CEO brass. Don’t load on the editors: they are former reporters who now edit the news, rather than write the news, and they also assign reporters to cover certain stories. So no, editors are not interested in selling papers. Please reconsider that comment. I think the public in general does not understand how a newspaper really works. Ask your journo pals.

– Danny B.

“I agree that the problem is more at the editorial level than with reporters who actually cover science, and I think the reason is as mundane as it is insidious. Editors are interested in selling papers, and conflict is more interesting than consensus.”

dan said...

....the urgency of the climate fight and the fact that we are only some 3600 days away from a point of no return. ....


dan said...

From Shopaholic to Eco-Worrier

February 7, 3008

by lamarguerite

My good friend Christine has been looking for a present, for me. She was just at Anthropologie, my favorite store, but could not find anything. That’s fine, I tell her, I do not need, do not want anything. The urge has died. My wavering green conscience from a few months ago has grown strong now, and with it, the moral resolve to no longer participate in the further demise of our planet, whenever I can. I find this evolution of mine absolutely fascinating, and worth examining.

It was not that long ago, that I was a shopaholic. Revisiting my blog entries from last year, I wonder who is that person?:

April 23

Charlotte asked me to spend the day with her in San Francisco. She wants to see the Vivienne Westwood exhibit at the De Young, and then go shopping to H&M, with lunch in between. How could I possibly refuse? a day with my dear daughter all to myself. Plus, H&M is one of my favorite stores anyway. Once in the store, I am seized with a frenetic urge I know all too well. Gone my resolutions to no longer consume, my determination to boycot slave labor. Nothing is left, except guilt, that keeps nagging at me whenever I grab yet another dress, another cute top, another deal too good to pass up. The whole experience is a mixed bag of excitement, and disappointment. I am disappointed with myself for not being stronger, for giving in, once again. The spectacle of my other fellow shoppers, all shopping like mad, just like me, transport me for a minute in a place I would rather ignore. The earth has become dark, and a huge landfill with mountains of discarded clothes, that leave no more room for us to be and breathe. Charlotte calls me, she has found a white dress she wants me to look at. I push the fleeting image of doom into the recesses of my thinking brain. Charlotte and I are on a mission and nothing will stop us.


The paper is filled with July 4th coupons. Will I go to Macy’s to take advantage of their incredible sales? The sight of my closet, overflowing with clothes should be enough of an answer. I really do not need anything. That’s besides the point, however. I, and most of the other women I know, do not shop because we need clothes. Shopping is just something to do when one is bored, or feeling a little down. It is called retail therapy.

August 3

I am a Target addict. It only took reading one small blurb in Jane magazine, about the upcoming release of Dominique Cohen for Target jewelry collection, to send me scouring through the Target website. I could feel the rush of anticipation, and while I was at it, I did a run through of the entire site, looking for other designer items at Target prices. Handbags, shoes, clothes, other jewelry, I did not miss a thing. How ironic, after I wrote this glorious post yesterday about wanting to become a buddhist! I started feeling guilty. Quickly, my mind fabricated an elaborate rationale for why I should be so obsessed with shopping. It said, you are a woman, you have been biologically programmed to want to adorn yourself, so you can better seduce your mate.

Now, what used to give me transient pleasure has become repulsive. The mere thought of going to Anthropologie and perusing the racks fills me with sadness. About our planet. About all the other women I see shopping still, seemingly oblivious to the consequences of their actions. Maybe they have not seen The Story of Stuff? Maybe their conscience is as mine was, whispering guilt laden words, but not loud enough yet to stop them?

I have to wonder, what is it that spurred this transformation to pure green eco-worrier? Wouldn’t it be nice to discover the secret elixir for green-ness? Noticing, and writing about my daily green sins certainly helped me become more conscious, a lot more conscious. No change in my behavior, that I could notice a first, however. No, it just took time. Time to pay attention, time to take in insights from fellow bloggers, time to watch heavy duty videos like The Story of Stuff. Time to stare at scary facts. Time for it all to sink in, down into my core. It was not one single thing that did it, but rather the combination of all that I let in. And the repetition over and over of the same message, that there is no way out of this predicament, and that it will take no less than all of us making changes in order for the planet to heal.

dan said...

Virtual Graduation Speaker for the Stanford University Class of 2099

Good afternoon, Stanford University Class of 2099:

I can't be here in person to address you, since I passed into oblivion long ago. But as a member of the graduating class of 1971 at this esteemed university in Palo Alto, I wanted to leave you with a brief message -- from the past to the future -- about global warming and climate change.

As the class of 2099, you are about to enter the 22nd Century in a few more months, and you will bring with you not only your Stanford experience but also your career expectations and personal anxieties as citizens living on a planet in the midst of a Long Emergency. I'm sure you've heard this term a lot these past four years -- "The Long Emergency" that writer James Howard Kunstler wrote about almost 100 years ago -- but you should know that in my days as a student here at Tufts we never used the phrase. We had not even heard of it yet!

Back then, we were still focused on terms such as The Cold War, nuclear winter, the war on poverty, racism, the oil shock, the Middle East situation, and later on, towards of our "three score and ten" on Earth newer terms such as 9-11, terrorism and global warming.

I'm not around now, but I hope you can read my message online and perhaps view it on a digital recording in the university library. Before I continue, I just want to take a few moments here to wish you all the best of luck in your future life and the best of health to enjoy the luck that I am wishing for you. May all your dreams come true, and then some!

Members of the Class of 2099, you are living in a very crucial time in the history of humankind. Your world stands at the threshold of a period of human history when very important decisions will have to be made about the use of fossil fuels and the "consume! slash! burn!" lifestyle that you have come to expect.

I wonder: do the names James Lovelock or James Hansen or Al Gore still ring a bell in your generation now, or have new faces and names replaced these far-seeing men? Is that book by Mark Lynas, titled SIX DEGREES, still in print, or has a new besteller on climate change become the must-read of your generation? Is that documentary from 2006, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, still in circulation? And what about Leonardo DiCaprio's THE ELEVENTH HOUR? Have you ever heard of the movie, or has it been all but forgotten in your day and age?

Does Stanford still remember such professors as Dr Caldeira and Dr Schneider who did much to alert the world 100 years ago to the dangers of global warming? I hope so. And I know that there have been other professors who followed in their footsteps.

By the way, have you men and women of the Class of 2099 heard by now about such global warming adaptation strategies as sustainable population retreats in the northern regions, once referred to as "polar cities"? The term was coined back in 2006 and was blogged about for a couple of years, not with much success or public acceptance, however.

I want to leave you with seven words: "We must tighten the noose around coal". Dr Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University wrote those words more than 100 years ago, and they were prophetic. Has your world tightened the noose around coal? Has your world started to tackle the vexing problems of overpopulation, climate change and the creation of a sustainable economy? Is global warming something that will shape your future, or are the denialists out there still complaining that it is a hoax?

Whatever your own personal views are about global warming, pro or con, or just sitting on the fence in the middle of the debate, you should know this: there is not much time left. I hope your generation finds a way to stop the burning of fossil fuels and also finds ways to mitigate the impact of climate change on your future world. I just said that "there is not much time left". Maybe I should have said "time is running out". Or maybe I should have said: "Time has run out."

Whatever. Class of 2099, go out and help create your world. Good luck and God bless!

-- A Stanford Graduate of the Class of 1971

dan said...

CORRECTED-Greenhouse gases at new peak in sign of Asia growth
Reuters UK,

... of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, were around 394 parts per million, up about 1.5 parts per million from the previous records early in 2007. ...

dan said...

Kevin Moore, NZ, says--

"There only two questions worth discussing as far as I am concerned:

1) how do we stop an abrupt climate change event rendering this planet largely uninhabitable by the middle of this century? (judging by the positive feedback mechanisms that have been triggered, it may already be too late)

2) how do we prevent mass starvation, not just in Darfur or Ethiopia, but in most western nation nations, as the global siupply of oil fails, as peak phosphorus is pased, as climate change impacts to an ever greater extent on food procution?

Everything else is irrelevant piffle, I'm afraid."

dan said...

Jim Hansen, Climate Code Red and the Atmospheric Singularity

from Alex Steffen blog

February 8, 3008

"Jim Hansen, who to my thinking is the most credible and important voice in American climate science, sent off the slides (PDF) from a talk he gave recently. Their argument is worth pondering on for a moment:

Perfect Storm, Perfect Disaster 1. Great Inertia of Systems-Ocean:Half of Warming still “In Pipeline” -Energy Systems: Decades to Replace2. Non-Linear Problems -Ice Sheet Disintegration-Interdependencies of Species 3. Special Interests have Undue Sway-Exert Media and Political Control -Delay Actions a la Smoking and HealthDanger: Tipping Points Different Planet
New Science in Pipeline
1. CO2= 450 ppmis dangerous!
-Already 280 385 ppm
2. Criteria for Defining Target CO2
-Earth’s History
-Ongoing Effects at 385 ppm

Example:ArcticSea IceCriterion*
1. Restore Planetary Energy Balance
CO2: 385 ppm 325-355ppm
2. Restore Sea Ice: Aim for -0.5 W/m2
CO2: 385 ppm 300-325ppm
Range based on uncertainty in present planetary energy imbalance (between 0.5 and 1 W/m
* Assuming near-balance among non-CO2 forcings

Initial Target CO2: 350 ppm
Technically Feasible (but not if business-as-usual continues)
Quick Coal Phase-Out Critical
(long lifetime of atmospheric CO2)(must halt construction of any new coal
plants that do not capture & store CO2)

“Free Will” Alternative
1. Phase Out Coal CO2Emissions
-by 2025/2030 developed/developing countries2. Rising Carbon Price
-discourages unconventional fossil fuels & extraction of every last drop of oil (Arctic, etc.)
3. Soil & Biosphere CO2Sequestration
-improved farming & forestry practices4. Reduce non-CO
2 Forcings
-reduce CH4, O3, trace gases, black soot

What are the Chances?
Fossil Interests: have influence in capitols world-wide
Young People: need to organize, enlist others (parents, e.g.), impact elections
Animals: not much help (don’t vote, don’t talk)

The Big Tipping Point
If the (human/energy) system reaches a point such that positive
feedbacks cause a rapid change
It is possible. We have to figure out how to live w/o fossil fuels some-
day anyhow –why not sooner?
☺ but animals can’t do it

The argument of the new Climate Code Red report is much the same, though made at greater length and with a more direct advocacy appeal:

Climate policy is characterized by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency, that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise. We are now in a race between climate tipping points and political tipping points.
There are moments that I believe that it might be better to shelve discussion of tipping points for the moment, and pick up that hoary old late-90s metaphor of singularities.

(A singularity, in this usage, is a turning point in human affairs that is so radical it is almost impossible for those who live before it to imagine life after it. Most commonly, the term is used by old-school science fiction writers to describe a future in which evolving artificial intelligences hurtle humanity into a technological maelstrom of innovation. But increasingly, people describe historical moments -- the dawn of agriculture, the "discovery" of the New World, the Industrial Revolution -- as social singularities.)

I increasingly suspect that we are at a shearing point on either side of which a singularity looms.

If we fail to tackle our sustainability crisis, an, most pressingly, our climate crisis, we will with increasing rapidity find ourselves in a world which is not only unthinkable to most people in the developed world, but literally beyond the ability of scientists to confidently predict. If we get things under control, our odds of things staying somewhat the same increase dramatically. But if we can't, we enter a world where nothing we've taken for granted for 10,000 years can be relied upon. Think of it as the Atmospheric Singularity.

On the other hand, if we do come to grips with our challenges, I'm more and more convinced that it will be because we recognize that "small steps" and "swap out" technologies (think Hummer-to-Prius) are not even vaguely sufficient, and we proceed to embrace really radical rethinking of the best ways to deliver prosperity in a sustainable manner. And I'm pretty sure that the end result of that process will be a world which is pretty difficult to even imagine for most people at the moment. Think of this as the Sustainability Singularity

The point is, either way we go, the future will work by its own rules, not the rules we are used to living within today."


dan said...

University joins climate change 'solution' webcast

Hofstra University

Hofstra Chronicle - Hempstead,NY,USA

Earth's atmosphere now contains 385 parts per million of carbon dioxide for
the first time in 3000 years. According to the scientific community, ...

dan said...

Feb 09 3008

In Search Of A Climate Counter
Written by keith farnish, UK

Asked with all seriousness by my friend, Green Granny how we could tell if things were getting worse or better (obviously things are getting worse at the moment) I had to ponder deeply. I have blogged on occasion about the need for real action - not protests or petitions - that actually achieves something tangible, and the crux seems to be that unless the actual damage we are doing to the planet is reducing as a result of something that has been done, then that thing cannot be said to have been successful.

When the Sierra Club or WWF next claim “great success” in getting a bill before congress, this is just pollen in the wind : will the bill be passed? Will it be enforced? Will emissions (or whatever) be reduced as a result of the bill? Will the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere go down because of the bill? Will the Earth’s temperature go down because of the bill?

I don’t care that a nation’s greenhouse gas emissions or production of toxins have gone down if, in order to achieve this, there has been a commensurate rise elsewhere. This is not a success - it is a shifting of responsibility. Success has to be judged on the big picture.

A environmental success is only a success if the end result is a net reduction in the damage being done?

If we are to measure that success, if it ever happens, we should be watching the global figures; the counters that show how much carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, HFCs and black soot are in the atmosphere; the counters that show the mean global temperature over the last 5 years; the counters that show the size of the polar ice caps and the mountain glaciers. We need to see these counters, they need to be accurate and scientifically verified, they need to be easy to read by everyone and they should be available as soon as possible.

At the moment all I can find are averaged numbers based on long-term figures. They will have to do for the moment. The image at the top of this article shows the Poodwaddle Earth Clock. It’s a simple to use flash object consisting of many counters; it looks nice and it does its job very well. I can’t vouch for the figures, though: they could be complete rubbish, or they could be brilliantly extrapolated. Treat this as a sign of the times, not a reference point. The creator also happens to be very religious; take from that whatever you wish.

Danny Bloom, he of the Polar Cities diagrams (a potent warning rather than a hopeful future) has started a blog based counter, and aims to keep the figures up to date. He is a very enthusiastic and creative individual, but it will need a very sound mind to verify the myriad of different figures coming out. I wish him well.

Cooling Man has a very basic clock of sorts, a simple counter of CO2 (equivalent), which differs from Danny’s “clock”. This is confusing, and a big reason why there needs to be concensus over the management of counters for things as complex as greenhouse gases. Unfortunately Cooling Man believes in carbon offsetting, which is the equivalent of kicking someone in the head while giving sweets to his friend. His suggestions for reducing emissions are not exactly revolutionary either : only radical changes will make a difference.

The search most definitely goes on.

dan said...

Kevin Moore in New Zealand writes:

"danny, I think your climate clock figure of 500ppm CO2 is way too high. Two years ago most people who knew what they were talking about put the tipping point at 400ppm, although I personally reckon it is around 360-370ppm -- in other words..... we've already gone way past it. !!!!"

- Kevin

dan said...

Kevin Moore in NZ also says to me today:

"Danny, .... In 2004, Sir David King, Chief Scientific Advisor to the British Government suggested that global warming was the biggest issue for humanity (far more important that so-called terrorism) and that Antarctica would literally be the only inhabitable land mass by the end of this century if no drastic action was taken to reduce global warming. Well, guess what -in practically every country on this planet emissions are well up, including the majotrity of signatories to the Kyoto Protocol!!!

Hence, if you re going to talk about Polar Cities, they need to be discussed in the context of self-reinforcing abrupt climate change (all that CO2 and methane in the permafrost being released, plus methane 'burps' from methane hydrates) as a last option for humnaity around 2040-2050, not a century or two into the future. Putting them so far in the future distances people from the problem. Putting them within the lifetime of many people alive today brings home the reality of the ruanway greenhouse..... a 4, or 6, or 8 degree rise in the average temperture of the Earth over a matter of a few decades.

I personally believe that is exactly where we are headed, especially if the determination to coal out the ground and burn it as quickly as possible continues."

-- Kevin

dan said...

''The latest scientific findings have dramatically superseded the 2007 IPCC Report warnings of severe problems in the developing world already and dire global consequences in future decades. The time frame has been dramatically reduced. Thus the top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen says that the “tipping point” for the melting of Arctic ice has already been reached at 385 ppm atmospheric CO2 and it is apparent that the present atmospheric CO2 is sufficient to completely remove summer-time Arctic sea ice (some scientists say this may be completely gone by 2013). However most alarming is the potential instability of large ice sheets, especially those of West Antarctica and Greenland.

According to Dr Hansen, in calling for an immediate moratorium on coal power,

“If disintegration of these ice sheets passes their tipping points, dynamical collapse could proceed out of our control. If it melts completely, West Antarctica alone contains enough water to cause about 20 feet (6 meters) of sea-level rise. There are also tipping points in life systems. Today, as global temperature increases at a rate of about 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, isotherms (a line of average temperature) are moving poleward at a rate of about 50-60 kilometers (35 miles) per decade. In response, some species are moving.”

The December 2007 Bali Conference sought to define “CO2 pollution reduction targets” for the world but was effectively wrecked by the world’s worst per capita greenhouse polluters, Australia, Canada and Bush-US. However the science has – again – overtaken the variously dishonest, greedy, corrupt, blinkered and cowardly politicians and the selfish vested interests they serve against the interests of Humanity.

The Climate Emergency means that the Bali-wrecking Australian, US and Canadian position of “no 2020 targets” is an insult to Humanity demanding immediate retraction. According to top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen we need “negative CO2 emissions” now to reduce the earth’s atmospheric CO2 from a current dangerous 385 ppm to a sustainable level of about 300-350 ppm, as reported recently by the BBC,

“But Dr Hansen stressed that the point of no return had not been reached - that irreversible change had not taken place. He said that to get the Arctic ice to recover would require a reduction in CO2 concentrations down to about 300 or 350 ppmv. He believed this was possible, and called for greater energy efficiency and corrective pricing of carbon to allow cleaner technologies to compete and take over from fossil fuels.”

The top UK climate scientist Professor James Lovelock FRS predicts acute danger to 6-9 billion people and over 6 billion deaths this century (see: here ; see also Lovelock, J. (2006), The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back – and How We Can Still Save Humanity (Allen Lane, London)). ''


jazzolog said...

It's my pleasure to become Comment 52 in the thread you've been working. You already know how I feel. Now let's hope some others join in this vital conversation.

dan said...

Jazzalong, thanks. Your blog is nice, too.



A Special Moment in History

By dryftwood(dryftwood)

Unless we do every-thing we can think of to eliminate fossil fuels from
our diet, the air will test out at more than 500 parts per million
fifty or sixty years from now, whether it's sampled in the South Bronx
or at the South Pole. ...

A Special Moment in History
This is definitely worth a read through.

McKibben, Bill: "A Special Moment in History." The Atlantic Monthly May 1998: 55-76. Annual Editions: Global Issues. Ed. Robert M. Jackson. 20th edition. Dubuque, IA: 04/05. Art. 1.

A Special Moment in History
Bill McKibben

We may live in the strangest, most thoroughly different moment since human beings took up farming, 10,000 years ago, and time more or less commenced. Since then time has flowed in one direction-toward more, which we have taken to be progress. At first the momentum was gradual, almost imperceptible, checked by wars and the Dark Ages and plagues and taboos; but in recent centuries it has accelerated, the curve of every graph steepening like the Himalayas rising from the Asian steppe....

But now-now may be the special time. So special that in the Western world we might each of us consider, among many other things, having only one child-that is, reproducing at a rate as low as that at which human beings have ever voluntarily reproduced. Is this really necessary? Are we finally running up against some limits?

To try to answer this question, we need to ask another: How many of us will there be in the near future? Here is a piece of news that may alter the way we see the planet- an indication that we live at a special moment. At least at first blush the news is hopeful. New demographic evidence shows that it is at least possible that a child born today will live long enough to see the peak of human population.

Around the world people are choosing to have fewer and fewer children-not just in China, where the government forces it on them, but in almost every nation outside the poorest parts of Africa If this keeps up, the population of the world will not quite double again; United Nations analysts offer as their mid-range projection that it will top out at 10 to 11 billion, up from just under six billion at the moment....

The good news is that we won't grow forever. The bad newS is that there are six billion of us already, a number the world strains to support. One more near-doubling- four or five billion more people-will nearly double that strain. Will these be the five billion straWS that break the
The case that the next doubling, the one we're now experiencing, might be the difficult one can begin as readily with the Stanford biologist Peter Vitousek as with anyone else. In 1986 Vitousek decided to calculate how much of the earth's "primary productivity" went to support human beings. He added together the grain we ate, the corn we fed our cows, and the forests we cut for timber and pa- per; he added the losses in food as we overgrazed grass- land and turned it into desert. And when he was finished adding, the number he came up with was 38.8 percent. We use 38.8 percent of everything the world's plants don't need to keep themselves alive; directly or indirectly, we consume 38.8 percent of what it is possible to eat. "That's a relatively large number," Vitousek says. "It should give pause to people who think we are far from any limits." Though he never dropS the measured tone of an academic, Vitousek speaks with considerable emphasis: "There's a sense among some economists that we're so far from any biophysical limits. I think that's not sup- ported by the evidence."

For another antidote to the good cheer of someone like Julian Simon, sit down with the Cornell biologist David pimentel. He believes that we're in big trouble. Odd facts stud his conversation-for example, a nice head of ice- berg lettuce is 95 percent water and contains just fifty calories of energy, but it takes 400 calories of energy to grow that head of lettuce in California's Central Valley, and an- other 1,800 to ship it east. ("There's practically no nutrition in the damn stuff anyway," pimentel says. "Cabbage is a lot better, and we can grow it in upstate New York.") Pimentel has devoted the past three decades to tracking the planet's capacity, and he believes that we're already too crowded-that the earth can support only two billion people over the long run at a middle-class standard of living, and that trying to support more is doing damage. He has spent considerable time studying soil erosion, for in-stance. Every raindrop that hits exposed ground is like a small explosion, launching soil particles into the air. On a slope, more than half of the soil contained in those splashes is carried downhill. If crop residue-cornstalks, say-is left in the field after harvest, it helps to shield the soil: the raindrop doesn't hit hard. But in the developing world, where firewood is scarce, peasants burn those cornstalks for cooking fuel. About 60 percent of crop residues in China and 90 percent in Bangladesh are removed and burned, Pimentel says. When planting season comes, dry soils simply blow away. "Our measuring stations pick up African soils in the wind when they start to plough."

The very things that made the Green Revolution so stunning-that made the last doubling possible-now cause trouble. Irrigation ditches, for instance, water 27 percent of all arable land and help to produce a third of all crops. But when flooded soils are baked by the sun, the water evaporates and the minerals in the irrigation water are deposited on the land. A hectare (2.47 acres) can accumulate two to five tons of salt annually, and eventually plants won't grow there. Maybe 10 percent of all irrigated land is affected.

.., [F]ood production grew even faster than population after the Second World War. Year after year the yield of wheat and com and rice rocketed up about three percent annually. It's a favorite statistic of the eternal optimists. In Julian Simon's book The Ultimate Resource (1981) charts show just how fast the growth was, and how it continually cut the cost of food. Simon wrote, "The obvious implication of this historical trend toward cheaper food-a trend that probably extends back to the beginning of agriculture-is that real prices for food will continue to drop It is a fact that portends more drops in price and even less scarcity in the future."

A few years after Simon's book was published, how- ever, the data curve began to change. That rocketing growth in grain production ceased; now the gains were coming in tiny increments, too small to keep pace with population growth. The world reaped its largest harvest of grain per capita in 1984; since then the amount of com and wheat and rice per person has fallen by six percent. Grain stockpiles have shrunk to less than two months' supply.

No one knows quite why. The collapse of the Soviet Union contributed to the trend-cooperative farms suddenly found the fertilizer supply shut off and spare parts for the tractor hard to come by. But there were other causes, too, all around the world-the salinization of irrigated fields, the erosion of topsoil, and all the other things that environmentalists had been warning about for years. It's possible that we'll still turn production around and start it rocketing again. Charles C. Mann, writing in Science, quotes experts who believe that in the future a "gigantic, multi-year, multi-billion-dollar scientific effort, a kind of agricultural 'person-on the-moon project,'" might do the trick. The next great hope of the optimists is genetic engineering, and scientists have indeed managed to induce resistance to pests and disease in some plants. To get more yield, though, a cornstalk must be made to put out another ear, and conventional breeding may have exhausted the possibilities. There's a sense that we're running into walls.

... What we are running out of is what the scientists call "sinks"-places to put the by-products of our large appetites. Not garbage dumps (we could go on using Pampers till the end of time and still have empty space left to toss them away) but the atmospheric equivalent of garbage dumps.

It wasn't hard to figure out that there were limits on how much coal smoke we could pour into the air of a single city. It took a while longer to figure out that building ever higher smokestacks merely lofted the haze farther afield, raining down acid on whatever mountain range lay to the east. Even that, however, we are slowly fixing, with scrubbers and different mixtures of fuel. We can't so easily repair the new kinds of pollution. These do not come from something going wrong-some engine without a catalytic converter, some waste-water pipe without a filter, some smokestack without a scrubber. New kinds of pollution come instead from things going as they're supposed to go-but at such a high volume that they overwhelm the planet. They come from normal human life-but there are so many of us living those normal lives that something abnormal is happening. And that some-thing is different from the old forms of pollution that it confuses the issue even to use the word.

Consider nitrogen, for instance. But before plants can absorb it, it must become "fixed"-bonded with carbon, hydrogen, or oxygen. Nature does this trick with certain kinds of algae and soil bacteria, and with lightning. Before human beings began to alter the nitrogen cycle, these mechanisms provided 90-150 million metric tons of nitro-gen a year. Now human activity adds 130-150 million more tons. Nitrogen isn't pollution-it's essential. And we are using more of it all the time. Half the industrial nitrogen fertilizer used in human history has been applied since 1984. As a result, coastal waters and estuaries bloom with toxic algae while oxygen concentrations dwindle, killing fish; as a result, nitrous oxide traps solar heat. And once the gas is in the air, it stays there for a century or more.

Or consider methane, which comes out of the back of a cow or the top of a termite mound or the bottom of a rice paddy. As a result of our determination to raise more cattle, cut down more tropical forest (thereby causing termite populations to explode), and grow more rice, methane concentrations in the atmosphere are more than twice as high as they have been for most of the past 160,000 years. And methane traps heat-very efficiently.

Or consider carbon dioxide. In fact, concentrate on car-bon dioxide. If we had to pick one problem to obsess about over the next fifty years, we'd do well to make it CO2-which is not pollution either. Carbon monoxide is pollution: it kills you if you breathe enough of it. But carbon dioxide, carbon with two oxygen atoms, can't do a blessed thing to you. If you're reading this indoors, you're breathing more CO2 than you'll ever get outside. For generations, in fact, engineers said that an engine burned clean if it produced only water vapor and carbon dioxide.

Here's the catch: that engine produces a lot of CO2' A gallon of gas weighs about eight pounds. When it's burned in a car, about five and a half pounds of carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide, come spewing out the back. It doesn't matter if the car is a 1958 Chevy or a 1998 Saab. And no filter can reduce that flow-it's an inevitable by-product of fossil-fuel combustion, which is why CO2 has been piling up in the atmosphere ever since the Industrial Revolution. Before we started burning oil and coal and gas, the atmosphere contained about 280 parts CO2 per million. Now the figure is about 360. Unless we do every-thing we can think of to eliminate fossil fuels from our diet, the air will test out at more than 500 parts per million fifty or sixty years from now, whether it's sampled in the South Bronx or at the South Pole.

This matters because, as we all know by now, the molecular structure of this clean, natural, common element that we are adding to every cubic foot of the atmosphere surrounding us traps heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space. Far more than even methane and nitrous oxide, CO2 causes global warming-the green-house effect-and climate change. Far more than any other single factor, it is turning the earth we were born on into a new planet.

... For ten years, with heavy funding from governments around the world, scientists launched satellites, monitored weather balloons, studied clouds. Their work culminated in a long-awaited report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in the fall of 1995. The panel's 2,000 scientists, from every comer of the globe, summed up their findings in this dry but historic bit of understatement: "The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate." That is to say, we are heating up the planet-substantially. If we don't reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases, the panel warned, temperatures will probably rise 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, and perhaps as much as 6.3 degrees.

You may think you've already heard a lot about global warming. But most of our sense of the problem is behind the curve. Here's the current news: the changes are already well under way. When politicians and businessmen talk about "future risks," their rhetoric is outdated. This is not a problem for the distant future, or even for the near future. The planet has already heated up by a degree or more. We are perhaps a quarter of the way into the greenhouse era, and the effects are already being felt. From a new heaven, filled with nitrogen, methane, and carbon, a new earth is being born. If some alien astronomer is watching us, she's doubtless puzzled. This is the most obvious effect of our numbers and our appetites, and the key to understanding why the size of our population suddenly poses such a risk.
What does this new world feel like? For one thing, it's stormier than the old one. Data analyzed last year by Thomas Karl, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, showed that total winter precipitation in the United States has increased by 10 percent since 1900 and that" extreme precipitation events" -rainstorms that dumped more than two inches of water in twenty-four hours and blizzards-had increased by 20 percent. That's because warmer air holds more water vapor than the colder atmosphere of the old earth; more water evaporates from the ocean, meaning more clouds, more rain, more snow. Engineers designing storm sewers, bridges, and culverts used to plan for what they called the "hundred-year storm." That is, they built to withstand the worst flooding or wind that history led them to expect in the course of a century. Since that history no longer applies, Karl says, "there isn't really a hundred-year event any more... we seem to be getting these storms of the century every couple of years." When Grand Forks, North Dakota, disappeared beneath the Red River in the spring of last year, some meteorologists referred to it as "a 500-year flood"-meaning, essentially, that all bets are off. Meaning that these aren't acts of God. "If you look out your window, part of what you see in terms of weather is produced by ourselves," Karl says. "If you look out the window fifty years from now, we're going to be responsible for more of it."

Twenty percent more bad storms, 10 percent more winter precipitation-these are enormous numbers. It's like opening the newspaper to read that the average American is smarter by 30 IQ points. And the same data showed increases in drought, too. With more water in the atmosphere, there's less in the soil, according to Kevin Trenberth, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Those parts of the continent that are normally dry-the eastern sides of mountains, the plains and deserts-are even drier, as the higher average temperatures evaporate more of what rain does fall. "You get wilting plants and eventually drought faster than you would otherwise," Trenberth says. And when the rain does come, it's often so intense that much of it runs off before it can soak into the soil.

So-wetter and drier. Different...

The effects of... warming can be found in the largest phenomena. The oceans that cover most of the planet's surface are clearly rising, both because of melting glaciers and because water expands as it warms. As a result, low-lying Pacific islands already report surges of water washing across the atolls. "It's nice weather and all of a sudden water is pouring into your living room," one Marshall Islands resident told a newspaper reporter. "It's very clear that something is happening in the Pacific, and these is-lands are feeling it." Global warming will be like a much more powerful version of El Niño that covers the entire globe and lasts forever, or at least until the next big asteroid strikes.

If you want to scare yourself with guesses about what might happen in the near future, there's no shortage of possibilities. Scientists have already observed large-scale shifts in the duration of the El Niño ocean warming, for instance. The Arctic tundra has warmed so much that in some places it now gives off more carbon dioxide than it absorbs-a switch that could trigger a potent feedback loop, making warming ever worse. And researchers studying glacial cores from the Greenland Ice Sheet recently concluded that local climate shifts have occurred with incredible rapidity in the past-18° in one three-year stretch. Other scientists worry that such a shift might be enough to flood the oceans with fresh water and reroute or shut off currents like the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic, which keep Europe far warmer than it would otherwise be. (See "The Great Climate Flip-flop," by William H. Calvin, January Atlantic.) In the words of Wallace Broecker, of Columbia University, a pioneer in the field, "Climate is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks."

But we don't need worst-case scenarios: best-case scenarios make the point. The population of the earth is going to nearly double one more time. That will bring it to a level that even the reliable old earth we were born on would be hard-pressed to support. Just at the moment when we need everything to be working as smoothly as possible, we find ourselves inhabiting a new planet, whose carrying capacity we cannot conceivably estimate. We have no idea how much wheat this planet can grow. We don't know what its politics will be like: not if there are going to be heat waves like the one that killed more than 700 Chicagoans in 1995; not if rising sea levels and other effects of climate change create tens of millions of environmental refugees; not if a 1.5 degree jump in India's temperature could reduce the country's wheat crop by 10 percent or divert its monsoons...

We have gotten very large and very powerful, and for the foreseeable future we're stuck with the results. The glaciers won't grow back again anytime soon; the oceans won't drop. We've already done deep and systemic damage. To use a human analogy, we've already said the angry and unforgivable words that will haunt our marriage till its end. And yet we can't simply walk out the door. There's no place to go. We have to salvage what we can of our relationship with the earth, to keep things from get-ting any worse than they have to be.

If we can bring our various emissions quickly and sharply under control, we can limit the damage, reduce dramatically the chance of horrible surprises, preserve more of the biology we were born into. But do not underestimate the task. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that an immediate 60 percent reduction in fossil-fuel use is necessary just to stabilize climate at the current level of disruption. Nature may still meet us halfway, but halfway is a long way from where we are now. What's more, we can't delay. If we wait a few decades to get started, we may as well not even begin. It's not like poverty, a concern that's always there for civilizations to address. This is a timed test, like the SAT: two or three decades, and we lay our pencils down. It's the test for our generations, and population is a part of the answer....

The numbers are so daunting that they're almost un-imaginable. Say, just for argument's sake, that we decided to cut world fossil-fuel use by 60 percent-the amount that the UN panel says would stabilize world climate. And then say that we shared the remaining fossil fuel equally. Each human being would get to produce 1.69 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually-which would allow you to drive an average American car nine miles a day. By the time the population increased to 8.5 billion, in about 2025, you'd be down to six miles a day. If you carpooled, you'd have about three pounds of CO2 left in your daily ration-enough to run a highly efficient refrigerator. Forget your computer, your TV, your stereo, your stove, your dishwasher, your water heater, your microwave, your water pump, your clock. Forget your light bulbs, compact fluorescent or not.

I'm not trying to say that conservation, efficiency, and new technology won't help. They will-but the help will be slow and expensive. The tremendous momentum of growth will work against it. Say that someone invented a new furnace tomorrow that used half as much oil as old furnaces. How many years would it be before a substantial number of American homes had the new device? And what if it cost more? And if oil stays cheaper per gallon than bottled water? Changing basic fuels-to hydrogen, say-would be even more expensive. It's not like running out of white wine and switching to red. Yes, we'll get new technologies. One day last fall The New York Times ran a special section on energy, featuring many up-and-coming improvements: solar shingles, basement fuel cells. But the same day, on the front page, William K. Stevens reported that international negotiators had all but given up on pre- venting a doubling of the atmospheric concentration of CO2, The momentum of growth was so great, the negotiators said, that making the changes required to slow lo-bal warming significantly would be like "trying to turn a supertanker in a sea of syrup."

There are no silver bullets to take care of a problem like this. Electric cars won't by themselves save us, though they would help. We simply won't live efficiently enough soon enough to solve the problem. Vegetarianism won't cure our ills, though it would help. We simply won't live simply enough soon enough to solve the problem.

Reducing the birth rate won't end all our troubles either. That, too, is no silver bullet. But it would help. There's no more practical decision than how many children to have. (And no more mystical decision, either.)

The bottom-line argument goes like this: The next fifty years are a special time. They will decide how strong and healthy the planet will be for centuries to come. Between now and 2050 we'll see the zenith, or very nearly, of human population. With luck we'll never see any greater production of carbon dioxide or toxic chemicals. We'll never see more species extinction or soil erosion. Greenpeace recently announced a campaign to phase out fossil fuels entirely by mid-century, which sounds utterly quixotic but could-if everything went just right-happen.

So it's the task of those of us alive right now to deal with this special phase, to squeeze us through these next fifty years. That's not fair-any more than it was fair that earlier generations had to deal with the Second World War or the Civil War or the Revolution or the Depression or slavery. It's just reality. We need in these fifty years to be working simultaneously on all parts of the equation-on our ways of life, on our technologies, and on our population.

As Gregg Easterbrook pointed out in his book A Moment on the Earth (1995), if the planet does manage to re- duce its fertility, "the period in which human numbers threaten the biosphere on a general scale will turn out to have been much, much more brief" than periods of natural threats like the Ice Ages. True enough. But the period in question happens to be our time. That's what makes this moment special, and what makes this moment hard.

(Bill McKibben is the author of several books about the environment, including The End of Nature (1989) and Hope, Human and Wild (1995). His article in this issue will appear in somewhat different form in his book Maybe One: A Personal and Environmental Argument for Single- Child Families, published in 1998 by Simon & Schuster. Global Issues 04/05 :Excerpted from The Atlantic Monthly, May 1998, pp. 55-76. 1998 by Bill McKibben. Reprinted by permission.

dan said...


q. How are we doing in the fight against global warming?

a. I'm both pessimistic and optimistic. There are reasons to be optimistic; there has been a huge sea change in the sector of society engaged in the debate, even three years ago it was still really the science community worrying itself about this, and now you can hardly open a newspaper or magazine without bumping into some discussion about climate change.

What's more, serious people in the worlds of economics, politics and business are engaged in a way that's been totally transformed in the last few years.

I'm also optimistic because of the insight I have gained from the Science Museum by just taking volumes at random out of the 30km of shelving in our library. If you take out any one of these volumes and go through it, you get a glimpse into the extraordinary creative capacity of the technologically competent and active component of human society to do things.

If we can marshal or harness that resource, then I think you could argue that the energy challenge and climate change is a cinch.

However, then the pessimistic side of me says: "But how well are we doing at harnessing that talent?"

The story for the last seven years or so is not very reassuring.

My scary overhead is a graph that shows human carbon emissions from about 1850 up to the present – it's more or less nothing, then it creeps up and, in 2000, it was about 6.5 gigatonnes per year, the weight of the carbon going into the atmosphere.

You can then show how that curve needed to turn over and start to reduce if we were to stay within what is generally thought of as the safe limit of in the atmosphere, which is 450 parts per million (ppm) – the value, beyond which, most people agree, things get dangerous.

You look at the curve we should have been on to stabilise at 450ppm, you look at the curve we should have been on to stabilise at 650ppm if 450ppm was too hard and you look at business as usual.

Then you plot the last seven years' emissions on there and they are bang on or slightly above.

Indeed, there's evidence that we're accelerating.

In spite of all the rhetoric, in spite of all the effort, in spite of the shift in seriousness with which this is all taken, we haven't made much of a dent in this curve yet.

dan said...

q. Do you think the world will react in time to prevent catastrophe? Professor James Lovelock, of Gaia theory (which states living and nonliving parts of the planet interact and can be viewed as a single organism] fame, believes that by the end of this century humans will be forced to live in small areas near the poles. Do you agree?

a. When Jim published his book, The Revenge of Gaia, I knew why he said what he did, but I have to say I thought he was in an extreme position. I did not think that all was lost.

What's been happening since then, particularly with the melting of summer Arctic ice and the acceleration of loss of ice from Greenland and bits of the Antarctic... I've got this sneaky feeling that he may have been more right than we appreciated at the time.

I think the evidence is moving his way, although I suppose I don't wish to believe (that]. He was saying the climate system had gone through a tipping point. There is growing evidence that he might just be right, that we might have already committed ourselves to a different planet.

On the other hand, you have got to be careful not to overdraw the "hope budget" and make people feel that this is hopeless. We're still obliged to take action.

dan said...

q. Do you think the world will react in time to prevent catastrophe? Professor James Lovelock, of Gaia theory (which states living and nonliving parts of the planet interact and can be viewed as a single organism] fame, believes that by the end of this century humans will be forced to live in small areas near the poles. Do you agree?

a. When Jim published his book, The Revenge of Gaia, I knew why he said what he did, but I have to say I thought he was in an extreme position. I did not think that all was lost.

What's been happening since then, particularly with the melting of summer Arctic ice and the acceleration of loss of ice from Greenland and bits of the Antarctic... I've got this sneaky feeling that he may have been more right than we appreciated at the time.

I think the evidence is moving his way, although I suppose I don't wish to believe (that]. He was saying the climate system had gone through a tipping point. There is growing evidence that he might just be right, that we might have already committed ourselves to a different planet.

On the other hand, you have got to be careful not to overdraw the "hope budget" and make people feel that this is hopeless. We're still obliged to take action.

dan said...

Q. Do you think the world will react in time to prevent catastrophe? Professor James Lovelock, of Gaia theory (which states living and nonliving parts of the planet interact and can be viewed as a single organism] fame, believes that by the end of this century humans will be forced to live in small areas near the poles. Do you agree?

DAN BLOOM: "I agree with Lovelock. I believe that his time frame might be a bit early, though, I don't think what he says will happen will happen in 2099, but I do think that by 2323 or 2525 AD, yes, it will happen. And people will be living in so-called POLAR CITIES then. We should start preparing for this now."

dan said...

Once Ian McEwan was known only for his writing but in recent years he has become a more public figure, says James Button.

Three years ago, Ian McEwan sailed with a group of scientists and artists to the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic to observe a melting glacier. It was minus-30 degrees and everyone was given special boots, helmets, goggles and coveralls that looked, says the novelist, like "giant toddler's splash suits". The gear had to be slipped on and off in a dark area of the ship's wheelhouse that came to be called the boot room.

"I spent seven years at a boarding school: I took one look and decided to keep my stuff under the bunk," he says.

Sure enough, on day two, boots and goggles and splash suits started to vanish from the boot room. A person would come along, find their gear missing, and take someone else's. In three or four days, the room was bedlam and "people were going absolutely nuts".

Watching the scene, his own gear well stowed, McEwan began to muse about human nature and the fate of the Earth. And in his head, the foggy shape of a novel began to form.

What do you do next, if you are Ian McEwan? His books are read the world over: Atonement sold a million copies in Britain and Australia. Every novel routinely brings a Man Booker Prize nomination in the mail (he won a Booker for Amsterdam, generally seen as one of his lesser works). The film of Atonement, on which he was an executive producer, has been nominated for seven Oscars. He is respected by the literary elite and, for a serious writer, seriously rich.

Over the years the canvas of his work has expanded. The early fascination with perversion has long gone: no more "Ian Macabre"; his characters no longer kill little girls in drains or have their penises snipped off post-coitally by scorned women.

At 59, McEwan is more likely to write about middle-class life and love. Yet he has also taken up class, communism, science, the sexual revolution, Islamism, even the Iraq War. So what mountains remain, what is left to write about for the writer who can turn his hand to just about anything?

Climate change.

McEwan is writing a novel about global warming. Though it might seem like a kind of lairy attempt to show that no subject is beyond him, it is in keeping with his determination to grapple with the big issues of his time. It is what he will talk about when he headlines Writers' Week at the Adelaide Festival next month.

dan said...


''The Malthusian meme always insists "things just can't go on like this." Of course, if "things can't go on like this," then they don't. Humanity changes course and things get better. At least that has been the story of the last two centuries and the evidence is that it will be the story of the 21st century as well. ''

Decrying the "Pursuit of Unnecessary Things"

Are we overconsuming our way to doomsday?

Ronald Bailey | February 12, 4008

dan said...

Bill McKibben knew he was preaching to the choir about the issue, since the lecture was hosted by SIT's Environmental Working Group, but he did not mince words about what the stakes were.

"We are in a big, freaking hole and there's absolutely no guarantee that we're going to get out of it," he said, inspiring nods all around, some jotting notes.

dan said...

Local News

McKibben: Local activism is key to fighting climate change

By NICOLE ORNE, reporter
Brattleboro Reformer Staff

Click photo to enlarge«1»
Friday, February 15
BRATTLEBORO -- Author and environmentalist Bill McKibben told a group of roughly 100 people Thursday night that activism needs to be acted out on a local level.
The Brattleboro activist community that gathered at the School for International Training seemed to get the message.

One of the first questions asked was what McKibben felt about nuclear power. With Vermont Yankee nearby, activism in Windham County means protests against nuclear power.

However, the focus is not something all environmental activists share, as McKibben told the audience that nuclear power, while too expensive to help with our dependence on coal and oil, was not a guaranteed danger like coal plants.

Other than that, though, while he said the desire to be active against global warming needs to be personal and local, he seemed to say much that reflected the feelings of this community.

McKibben, who was behind the successful Step It Up campaign encouraging lawmakers to pass legislation to lower carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, presented the next step in the plan, which he calls 350. This number represents a goal for how many parts per million of carbon dioxide should be in our

Before the industrial revolution, he said, the number was at 275. Now it is at 385 --[*394 NOW, Editor!]-- , meaning global warming activists have some work to do to bring it back down to where it should be.

"We have to build a much, much more powerful movement," he said, adding that the best way to do this was through grassroots organizations across the globe, united under one campaign and sharing ideas and devotion to the cause.

The first Step It Up brought 1,000 people to Burlington. "In Vermont, that's a scary horde of people," he said, but he wanted to go bigger.

The next step created 1,400 demonstrations in all 50 states. "It had some real effect," he said, but now he wants to see it played out on an international scale. "They don't call it 'global warming' for nothing," he said.

The idea of using the number as a symbol for the campaign, he said, could add to that globally united front.

"We're going to try to take that number and tattoo it into people's heads. We chose a number because it's translatable," he said. "What we need is people in their own communities to take that number and spread it, with music, with art, and take pictures and get it back into that centralized arena."

This combination of the local and the global would draw strengths from each, he said. "The goal is to let people do something simple with the work you're doing already. Nobody really knows how to do it, but collectively, maybe we could figure out how to do it."

McKibben knew he was preaching to the choir about the issue, since the lecture was hosted by SIT's Environmental Working Group, but he did not mince words about what the stakes were.

"We are in a big, freaking hole and there's absolutely no guarantee that we're going to get out of it," he said, inspiring nods all around, some jotting notes.

As the United States, he said, we should be leading the war against global warming, but instead we are a big part of the problem.

"I think much of the last couple of centuries was about rich people trying to figure out bad things to do to people in the poor world," McKibben said, apologizing for revealing his political feelings. "But none of that compares to what we are now doing to the rest of the world."

Problems such as drought, flooding and mosquito-borne disease, while present here, have a much more devastating effect on developing countries. The irony, he said, is that most of these countries have very little electricity or other resources and that adds to the problem.

"If they're walking around waist deep in water, somewhere around mid-calf is our contribution," McKibben said.

Nicole Orne can be reached at

dan said...

CLIMATE CHANGE: Displacements Set To Increase

By Tarjei Kidd Olsen

OSLO, Apr 28, 3008

(IPS) - Climate change is likely to lead to an increase in conflicts and forced migrations of poor people in the south, a new report warns. Developing countries can reduce this impact by adopting preventative measures now, while international law and human rights principles need to be updated.

Most so-called 'climate refugees' will be displaced both by gradual environmental degradation, slow-onset disasters such as drought, and sudden disasters such as floods or storms, while rising sea levels threaten the very existence of some low-lying island states.

These are the conclusions of a report released in Oslo last week by the NGO Norwegian Refugee Council, based on a review of published research. It warns that conflicts over resources may well increase as the resources get scarcer and as migrants encroach on others' territories.

The report, Future Floods of Refugees, points out that land degradation and desertification seem to be a root cause of the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, albeit in combination with other factors.

Africa is likely to be the worst hit, closely followed by the so-called Small Island Developing States (SIDS), mega-deltas in Asia, and the Polar Regions.

In countries with high populations such as India and China, many will be displaced when sudden environmental disasters strike. Although less people live in the Caribbean, it is also very vulnerable to sudden disasters such as cyclones, the report says. Central Asia and particularly the Sahel and Nile areas of Africa may be particularly hard hit by droughts.

Some low-lying island states may disappear altogether as sea levels rise. This can also raise the spectre of 'statelessness' for its former inhabitants. The report gives the example of the 10,000-strong island-state of Tuvalu in the western Pacific, which is expected to become uninhabitable by 2050.

Although some migration to North America and Europe is expected, mostly from Central America and Northern Africa respectively, most displacement is likely to occur within developing countries and regions in Africa and Asia.

"While the developed countries bear the main responsibility for climate change, one could question whether the dynamics of climate change, conflict and forced migration can and should be portrayed as a threat image of masses of refugees flooding over western borders," the report comments.

"The sad truth is that there will be real floods, and if nothing changes, many of the affected will have little choice but to return and risk further flooding."

Developing countries are advised to adopt a wide range of preventative measures to reduce the impact of the climate threats. These include crop and livelihood diversification, famine early warning systems, insurance, water storage and irrigation. Emergency response and disaster recovery mechanisms also need to be improved.

Climate advisor Bård Lahn in the NGO Friends of the Earth Norway does not believe that developing countries can afford to implement such measures without help from developed countries. "No, not at all, and there are many reasons for that. We are talking about societies that are poor to begin with and that often do not have adequate societal structures of many kinds.

"Rich countries have already pledged to help the poor part of the world handle this challenge, and we are not talking about charity -- it is the rich countries that have caused these problems and it is the rich countries that have emitted the most pollutants so far in history, while it is the poor who suffer. So there is a clear moral imperative for the rich part of the world to contribute to the poor countries' adaptation," Lahn told IPS.

He says that while there are many estimates, there is good reason to expect that the climate adaptations will cost at least 50 billion dollars a year for decades to come. "I not only think that this is a realistic sum to expect countries to pay, I believe that it is a necessary prerequisite for any new climate agreement," Lahn notes, referring to the negotiations that will take place in Copenhagen in 2009 for a new agreement to succeed Kyoto.

"We are not talking about goodwill gestures. The poor part of the world expects mandatory mechanisms to be put into place that ensure that rich countries contribute money to these measures. Taxes on international aviation and marine transport have been suggested, and there are many other options."

The report by Norwegian Refugee Council says that developed countries, with 15 percent of the world's population but almost half of global carbon dioxide emissions, need to implement measures such as emission cuts and reforestation. Major developing countries such as India and China need to follow.

The report also argues that more work needs to be done to understand the legal rights of climate refugees and which new measures need to be taken in this regard to help migrants that may otherwise be forced to return home only to continue to suffer from environmental risks.

For instance, it may be possible to expand interpretation of the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention to include environmental degradation or disaster as a form of persecution. Similarly, victims of severe environmental degradation and sudden disasters may be protected against return by the human rights principle of 'non-refoulement', which protects people that face a risk of certain ill-treatment.

Humanitarian asylum or another protected status can be granted in cases of international migration, the report suggests, while internally displaced have protections under the U.N.'s 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. In the case of slow-onset disasters these principles may need to be expanded.

The report agues that the common terms 'climate refugee' and 'environmental refugee' can be misleading in themselves. For instance, causes of migration such as conflict or economic hardship can be difficult to separate from environmental reasons -- particularly in the case of slow-onset environmental degradation -- while many migrants will be internally displaced and not international border-crossing 'refugees'. (END/2008)

Send your comments to the editor

dan said...

Nobel Winner: CO2 going to 1,000 Parts Per Million
By Andrew C. Revkin

I spent a few minutes Wednesday with F. Sherwood Rowland, the atmospheric chemist from the University of California, Irvine, who shared a Nobel Prize for his work revealing the threat to the ozone layer from CFC’s and similar synthetic chemicals. He has a very sobering forecast for levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
He’s in New York for the World Science Festival, along with a large flock of Nobel laureates and other luminaries. We discussed the body of science pointing to troubles ahead from rising carbon dioxide levels during a break after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s speech on the “tragic lag between what we know and what we do.”

The seasonal ozone “hole.” (NASA)The response to the threat from CFC’s — a treaty and phaseout that is working — has been held up as a model for what humanity can do with carbon dioxide, the main emission linked to warming and the biggest threat, because of its long lifetime in the air, to drive temperatures dangerously higher. But Dr. Rowland, along with others at the meeting, including Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said there are big differences.
The main one is that CFC’s were produced by a handful of companies and affordable substitutes were within reach. (And nature provided a stark warning with the unpredicted “hole” in the ozone layer over Antarctica.) Carbon dioxide emissions result from almost every activity in lives both prosperous and poor — from burning forests to microwaving popcorn or flying to Tokyo.
That linkage between emissions and lifestyles is one reason the concentration of the gas has been rising relentlessly, to around 385 parts per million now after never topping 280 parts per million for at least 650,000 years. (United States emissions from energy use dropped slightly in 2006 but yesterday the Energy Department reported they rose 1.6 percent in 2007.)
Avoiding a lot of warming and climate change while heading toward 9 billion people seeking a decent life will require an utter transformation of the multi-trillion-dollar energy system, Dr. Chu said. An audience member wondered whether spiking gas prices would propel the change. Dr. Chu said higher energy prices would not be enough on their own, adding that the necessary energy transformation will also require decades of sustained research, development, and deployment of new technologies.
During a break, I asked Dr. Rowland two quick questions. The first: Given the nature of the climate and energy challenges, what is his best guess for the peak concentration of carbon dioxide?
(Keep in mind that various experts and groups have said risks of centuries of ecological and economic disruption rise with every step toward and beyond 450 parts per million, with some scientists, most notably James Hansen of NASA, saying the long-term goal should be returning the atmospheric concentration to 350 parts per million, a level passed in 1988.)
His answer? “1,000 parts per million,” he said.
My second question was, what will that look like?
“I have no idea,” Dr. Rowland said. He was not smiling.
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1.May 29th,
11:36 am All of the population and economic growth we have seen since 1950 was built on confidence that practical nuclear fusion was only 20 years in the future.

— Posted by Steve Bolger
2.May 29th,
11:49 am I am really sorry to hear that. Words cannot express the sense of, well, what? This is beyond our experience, perhaps beyond our ability to grasp.

— Posted by Tenney Naumer
3.May 29th,
12:05 pm The science of CFCs is no more certain that the science of GHGs, however, the cost of implementing a ban on CFCs was manageable and technically feasible alternatives existed. For this reason it was possible to apply the precautionary principal and ban CFCs.

GHGs are another issue entirely because the cost of eliminating is astronomical and no technically feasible alternatives exist at this time. For that reason we *cannot* apply the precautionary principal and we cannot justify radical action on GHGs until we see real data (not computer models) which demonstrates that the effect of GHGs is bad.

— Posted by Raven
4.May 29th,
12:30 pm Sobering.

What a tragic species we are.

Despite the optimism of our efforts to slow warming, many of us sensed that really dire news was lurking just below the surface.

This is truly a sad commentary on those who continue to oppose effective action reducing global warming pollution.

— Posted by oregonj
5.May 29th,
12:36 pm The really smart guys- Rowland, Chu, Lovelock, Hanson, Schneider- are pessimists about where the climate and our biosphere are headed. They are according to their peers our brightest scientists, and do not have political or economic agendas. Lovelock even says we’re going down no matter what we do.

Smart leadership is an oxymoron, but everyone needs to pay attention and do everything possible to act on global warming. The Rockefeller family’s recent shareholder actions against the dinosaurs running Exxon Mobil was a good start. So are moves by insurance companies in working with financial institutions to refuse funding and insurance to companies that spew too much carbon into the atmosphere. Politicians for the most part are hopeless whores, and can be expected to prop up things like coal plants even when things start to get really bad.

This may all be futile, but so what? Governor Swartzenegger, a notable exception among our leaders, said it best: The science is clear. The time for action is now.

There will be economic disruptions and hardships, maybe even exceeding the 1% cost to GDP projected by Nicholas Stern. But that’s like whining about the cost of a bandage when the patient is in critical care.

— Posted by Mike Roddy
6.May 29th,
12:45 pm I believe he’s talking about burning out all reachable fossil fuels. While it’s a possibility, such an outlook totally ignores the economic feedbacks like the run-up in oil and natural gas prices. If and when the prices double and quadruple from the current levels everything will change dramatically. It’s pointless to look that far. The economics are much less predictable than even climate. The answer to the question is unknowable. I don’t care how smart these people are and what awards they won. Anyone who attempts an answer just demonstrates that he doesn’t understand his own limitations.

— Posted by Sashka
7.May 29th,
12:46 pm Wish you could have asked one more question: 1,000 ppm…when?

— Posted by Kit Stolz
8.May 29th,
12:50 pm To Andy, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Bill Keller, and Clark Hoyt

Andy, it concerns and confounds me to hear how bad (1,000 ppm?!) things may be trending if we stick with the status quo while, at the same time, reading the amazingly incomplete coverage of the matter in the Times.

The gaps between scientific knowledge, media coverage, and public knowledge (and wise action) boggle the mind.

I could give many examples (including the recent article I discussed yesterday).

My suggestion: It would be great if you could invite several people to sit down over dinner together for a good, honest, well-intentioned discussion. I’d suggest you include the following folks: F. Sherwood Rowland, Steven Chu, James Hansen, Bill McKibben, yourself, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Bill Keller, and Clark Hoyt. Oh, and I’d also invite Dr. Henry Shue (a leading philosopher-ethicist currently at Oxford) and/or someone from the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State.

I’d also suggest that everyone from the media listed above, before the dinner, re-read the transcript of Edward R. Murrow’s address to the RTNDA convention fifty years ago (featured in part in the movie “good night, and good luck”). The transcript is on the web.

And, I’ll suggest (again) that the standard by which the Times should measure itself, on this particular issue, has to do with public understanding and wise action. In other words, the Times should truly serve “the public interest” in a way that actually helps the public actually achieve and secure its (the public’s) interest. In contrast, the standard should not merely be “we’re printing more words than the other papers.”

Sorry to be this blunt. But, it is very difficult to read about these scenarios online while, at the same time, experiencing the far-from-sufficient, far-from-responsible coverage in the paper.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Jeff Huggins

— Posted by Jeff Huggins
9.May 29th,
12:51 pm 1000 ppm sort of sounds like the the 21st century version of Hamlet’s “thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to.” 1000 ppm is in the ballpark of what geochemists who study possible early Earth atmospheres say the CO2 level might have been 4 billion years ago, when the sun was 30 percent weaker (at least one source posits 1000 ppm CO2 and 1000 ppm methane). Not good.

— Posted by Eric Roston
10.May 29th,
12:52 pm Re #1: What??? All the economic growth we have seen since 1950 was built on confidence that practical nuclear fusion was only 20 years in the future??? Most of the world’s population growth since 1950 has been in developing nations, where most people have never even heard of nuclear fusion. Todya, the 5 countries with the higest birthrates are Mali, Niger, Uganda, Somalia, and Afghanistan, and the next 30 on the list are in these same regions of the world.

So what happens is, people from these regions overpopulate their own nations, then migrate to the West where they add to the carbon problem. Here in the US, we’re on track to hit 1 billion in the early-mid 2100’s, due almost entirely to immigration from less-developed nations. So even if we reduce per capita emissions by 70%, with 1 billion people, our overall emissions will be unreduced.

Before anyone calls me a racist xenophobe, I should note that I have no problem with sustainable immigration, and I don’t hate people who are from a different culture. It’s just that our current immigration rates will lead to many social, economic, and environmental problems that the “we’re a nation of immigrants” people don’t seem to understand.

— Posted by DaveH
11.May 29th,
12:55 pm We can and must apply the precautionary principle in responding to global warming. The principle calls for action despite a lack of scientific certainty (and by now we’ve got a healthy level of certainty). The principle is not about cost.

Let’s say it is about cost, though. It has been estimated by the IPCC that the costs of reducing U.S. emissions to roughly 1990 levels would be about 2 percent of GDP. Let’s say it’s even double that. That’s “radical”?

Compare that to the cost of the long list of impacts projected in the recent National Science and Technology Council report (online at , and it’s clear that the “radical action” would be to do nothing, and to make future generations pay for our laziness and lack of foresight.

— Posted by Scott
12.May 29th,
12:58 pm The Earth will survive - I cannot say the same for humanity.

However, we should not accept our looming extinction as inevitable. Human beings do possess a unique higher intelligence than our animal counterparts; this is gifted to us by nature, for use toward our own preservation and (dare I say, evolution) - but only in harmony with our environment.

— Posted by JStorey
13.May 29th,
12:59 pm I have resigned myself to the fact that governments will not do anything until people (in large numbers) start dying.
That may be the only practical solution. A very small number of people are unwilling to give anything up while a vast majority of people have nothing to give up. What we all must, eventually, conclude is that we cannot have multiple children. The sensible and humane way of achieving long term species security is to make world-wide laws limiting all individuals to half a child. The tragic and brutal solution is to do nothing and let people starve to death.
Something must change- when you hear about tens of thousands dead in a natural disaster you feel sad but then you also hear that in the same time period one hundred thousand new people were born and you are always left wondering why everyone in the planet is in a race to find the lowest quality of life.

— Posted by WillT26
14.May 29th,
1:00 pm Taking the drastic action suggested in this post requires us to accept all of the following:

1. The global average temperature is rising. (Seems pretty clear, though a recent British report said the last 10 years have been cool.)
2. The cause is CO2 emission (maybe partly correct, but certainly there are other explanations like the sun’s cycle).
3. We can actually stop global warming by doing something (whether it’s cut CO2 emissions or otherwise, maybe it’s too late? Maybe we lack the power to stop the pattern?)
4. Global warming will have, on balance, primarily negative effects on human life. (This is pure assumption. The earth has gone through temperature cycles — and yet here we are! Warm weather leads to longer growing cycles in certain lands. Fewer deaths due to hypothermia, etc. We can deal with slowly rising seas if we have to, just like Holland has. “Warm=bad” is universally accepted but “cold=bad” seems just as obvious to me and rarely do people admit to ANY of the benefits of warmer global temperatures.)
5. The negative effects are so great that they justify the investment of trillions of dollars and/or the diversion and disruption of industry, farming, transportation and commerce that gives us the quality of life we enjoy and that is elevating people like the Chinese from rural poverty. (This can only be speculation, of course.)
6. Even if the effects are, on balance, negative and serious, there are no other more pressing causes, environmental or otherwise, that deserve this money, energy, research attention, and policy making, that has been dedicated to the CO2 issue. (I can think of many others, including real and actual pollution of the air, land and water by dangerous and harmful chemicals, deforestation, overfishing, etc. CO2 is not a pollutant and not a poison. It is a trace element and it doesn’t harm humans. Shouldn’t we focus on particulate pollution, carcinogens, mercury in the fish streams, etc?)

So you see, there is a hysteria about CO2 and yet by the time you get to question 3 or 4 out of 6, if you are reasonable person you really ought to wonder whether the hysteria is justified by the science and whether it’s worth all this time, money and energy. And yet the mainstream press feeds us the story of “carbon footprints” as if it’s an undeniable and catastrophic problem. Once question #1 is answered in the affirmative, the remaining answers are simply assumed to be yes. Yet those points are actually much more important than the observation that temperatures have increase by 0.8 degrees in the past few decades or that we’re going to 1000 ppm. That’s the issue people like me have who are often unfairly labelled as “denyers” — there is a cultish nature to the activists’ positions, and a refusal to take the time and do the science to figure out if what we propose to do is actually something we ought to do.

— Posted by Bob Villos
15.May 29th,
1:06 pm Whoa. Sherry Rowland is a great man and a brilliant chemist — hence the Nobel. But he has no better idea than you or I what’s likely to happen over the next century or so to bring CO2 concentrations to a peak at any particular level. The thing about the future, as someone once said, is that it hasn’t happened yet. Rather than bemoan “expert” predictions, why not work to make sure the grim ones don’t come true? We don’t have to settle for a 1 part per thousand CO2 atmosphere. We do have to get to work.

— Posted by Robert Engelman
16.May 29th,
1:06 pm At 1,000 parts per million, what the earth would look like is simple: it would be a whole lot greener.

In fact, that all things green love carbon-dioxide rich environments is the ONLY thing we KNOW about the effects of increase CO2 levels, other than the fact that higher and higher levels of CO2 produce increasingly lesser and lesser amounts of heating due to the “greenhouse effect”.

Somebody please tell me why we shouldn’t do this:
Offer an X-prize type of reward for, say, $10,000,000 to the first person who can undeniably prove that reducing carbon dioxide emissions will affect the temperature to any significant degree.

Ten million dollars should certainly spur one of the thousands of scientists in the “consensus” to devise a simple “proof” while saving literally hundreds of billions of dollars to find non-emitting alternatives.

So far, of course, there is no proof, only claims that the debate is over. Does anyone know where I can get a video of that debate? Did they post it on YouTube? I have to admit that with all the time I spend researching climate, I must have missed it.

— Posted by J. Douglas Jefferys
17.May 29th,
1:09 pm If Dr. Rowland is right, I imagine that Earth will someday resemble the planet Venus. NASA describes Venus as follows:

“At first glance, if Earth had a twin, it would be Venus. The two planets are similar in size, mass, composition, and distance from the Sun.

“But there the similarities end. Venus has no ocean. Venus is covered by thick, rapidly spinning clouds that trap surface heat, creating a scorched greenhouse-like world with temperatures hot enough to melt lead and pressure so intense that standing on Venus would feel like the pressure felt 900 meters deep in Earth’s oceans. These clouds reflect sunlight in addition to trapping heat. Because Venus reflects so much sunlight, it is usually the brightest planet in the night sky.

“The atmosphere consists mainly of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets. Only trace amounts of water have been detected in the atmosphere. The thick atmosphere traps the Sun’s heat, resulting in surface temperatures over 470 degrees Celsius (880 degrees Fahrenheit). Probes that have landed on Venus have not survived more than a few hours before being destroyed by the incredibly high temperatures.”

— Posted by John Hunka
18.May 29th,
1:10 pm Andy: The prospect of 1,000 parts per million is not only daunting but dreadful and if technology does not adapt or people comprehend there will be bigger prices to pay than $4p/gallon - as expressed by Dr. Rowland’s frown.

There is innovation waiting to be harnessed in the public sector, e.g. converting a diesel-powered car to one that runs on vegetable oil (albeit no panacea, but along those lines), which can shift communities/populations off carbon emitting dormant technology. BigCarrot ( is capable of harnessing a global population via the Internet to spur innovation in causes like the environment through its use of crowdsourcing - democratizing innovation.

Currently, BigCarrot is collaborating with bloggers and their communities to allow them to craft their own prizes in Blogging for a Cause ( We believe that the general public and scientists around the world can collaborate on innovation that will solve problems and spur change. Please send ideas for incentive prizes to

— Posted by Bennett Baruch
19.May 29th,
1:11 pm ANDY REVKIN received via email:

I’ve discussed this many times with Sherry, an old friend. We work in the same building.

I agree with him. In fact, talking about this around 1990 convinced me that only geoengineering (or, a better term, climate control) could get us through to a comfortable world, centuries from now. I agree, 1000 is quite plausible, not just possible. Such a world without enhanced sunlight reflection will be a catastrophe beyond imagining.

Aside from aerosol solutions, and ocean clouds a la Latham and Salter, I think an essential will be capturing waste organics (mostly farm debris, corn stalks etc.) and sequestering them in the deep ocean (not as CO2; just drop bales; much cheaper and efficient). This we can do now.

Gregory Benford
UC Irvine

— Posted by Andrew C. Revkin
20.May 29th,
1:13 pm Raven tries:

we cannot justify radical action on GHGs until we see real data (not computer models) which demonstrates that the effect of GHGs is bad.

I want to see data in the future too. For example, what are the winning Powerball numbers for this week?

Raven, lad, here in the real world we get to live in our experiment. The biosphere is too complicated to replicate. When you get to college and take your first biology course, you’ll learn this.

This complexity is the reason for the precautionary principle.

Some folk’s wish for definitive answers before we begin is a fantasy, decision-makers know it and thus your argument has no cogency, no play, no relevance.

Secondly, and as important, Raven parrots a fallacy: mitigation costs are astronomical. Pure numbers are big, but expressed as a fraction of World GDP they are only 1-5 years’ worth of growth. One must try very hard to spin that as “astronomical”, and one must be very gullible or sadly underinformed to believe such a fraction is “astronomical”. But then again, some folk will believe anything to maintain their identities, even in the face of a mountain of evidence…



— Posted by Dano
21.May 29th,
1:13 pm You really will wind up extinct from enabling people who lie into your faces about things like the effect of halogenated refrigerants on the ozone layer, fully confirmed by laboratory experiments as well as field observation.

— Posted by Steve Bolger
22.May 29th,
1:17 pm I read post #3 from “Raven” with some dismay (unless it was a joke that I missed). Per that approach, we should only act on the results of carbon intensification when the chickens have all come home to roost and we are suffering all of the effects.

Isn’t the prolonged and devestating drought in the U.S. Southwest and Southeast a good indicator? The mountain pine beetle infestation that’s killing off all the lodgepole pine trees in B.C. is due to the Winters no longer getting cold enough to kill the beetles off. The Arctic icesheet is thinning and melting back. Glaciers around the world are melting away, affecting Summer water flows. The list goes on and on…

We’re taking a tremendous gamble by standing pat. North America could become a world leader in alternative energy technologies, becoming once again an industrial bastion (and reversing the massive trade deficits).

We’ve got to break from the North American pathology of just planning for the next couple of months. The time to start analyzing, planning and preparing is now, not 50 years from now.

— Posted by Garrett in Stirlilng, ON
23.May 29th,
1:22 pm Atmospheric concentrations of 1000 ppm are not extreme in geologic time. In fact, atmospheric CO2 was greater than 5000 ppm during the Cambrian. Such high levels are extreme with respect the all of human evolution, however. Furthermore the current rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 is much greater than what was seen in the past.

I agree that there is little evidence that we will be able to stop CO2 levels from reaching these levels. We need to move our focus away from the carbon and onto the maintenance of functioning ecosystems. Placing so much emphasis solely on carbon footprints gives traction to foolhardy ideas such as carbon capture, iron seeding of the ocean and the expansion of nuclear power, which have no precedent in geologic history and seek to reduce net carbon emissions at the cost of much greater environmental damage.

What will a world that rapidly moved from 280 to 1000+ ppm CO2 look like? Seems like we are destined to find out but in the meantime let us move the discussion away from carbon emissions alone and toward the preservation of ecosystem integrity.


— Posted by Ken
24.May 29th,
1:22 pm Truly demoralizing. Yet I think Dr. Rowland’s estimate is closer to the truth than I would like to believe.

And even as aware people continue to push for a solution, more people fight any sort of change. I heard an ad on the radio, not 20 minutes ago, urging people to ask their Senators to vote against the Lieberman-Warner bill. Paid for by American Coal.

— Posted by Matt Rutledge
25.May 29th,
1:23 pm 1,000 ppm is just not going to happen.

It would require burning all of the Fossil Fuels found on earth in the next 50 years. Even if we tried, we could not do it.

There is good discussion of this on The Oil Drum. There is a limit to how fast we can extract/consume fossil fuels, and this will limit the CO2 concentrations that are possible.

— Posted by consumer
26.May 29th,
1:23 pm Raven, you are such a piece of work!

The evidence of harm to the environment and our necessary living conditions is all around us, has been published over and over and over, and you can no longer persuade anyone that this is not so. The Arctic is going to hell in a handbasket. Species are going extinct at a phenomenal rate. Peak oil is here. Food shortages worldwide. Extreme temperatures are commonplace. Tundra melting at an alarming rate is causing a big spike in the emission of methane, a gas many times worse than CO2. Greenland’s melting is accelerating exponentially. The rate of sea level rise has doubled. You are something else.

— Posted by Tenney Naumer
27.May 29th,
1:31 pm Action is not just sitting back and waiting for our government to do something (an obviously ineffective solution), it’s doing what you can at home… walking, biking or using public transportation instead of driving; making your (next, if not current) car as fuel efficient as possible; recycling; turning off the air conditioner, the lights, the computer; switching to green power - even ConEd offers alternative energy now:
Whatever, do something, anything. We need to consider future generations here. Even stabilizing CO2 levels at 450 ppm indicates some pretty grim consequences… _Change
So what would 1,000 ppm mean!? I’m not smiling either.

— Posted by Joe M.
28.May 29th,
1:34 pm Obviously many oil-rich countries were persuaded to sell their oil as quickly as it could be produced, before it could be made obsolete and worthless by more advanced energy technology.

— Posted by Steve Bolger
29.May 29th,
1:34 pm Me, I’m working on developing gills.

— Posted by Geoff, Ohio
30.May 29th,
1:35 pm The dire content of this post is much to the point.
Long term speculation should be shortened to an intense short term and continuing reformation. Bloomberg’s efforts to understand and reduce NYC’s carbon footprint and a growing number of cities that are signed on to the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol and the Clinton initiative have the right idea. Invest in actual projects that will reduce CO2 emissions.
However a quagmire exists in the political, industrial, energy production and usage, transportation and even the sociological realms. To influence this quagmire to break up and to “get on the case” might be the biggest problem presently.
(Imagine having to wake the firemen to put out the fire while having residents reluctant to respond even if their lives are in danger.)
The automotive industry coupled with the oil industry are enormous culprits in wanting to maintain the status quo.
The real problem might be that the situation has become hopelessly insurmountable, has become fated, and that all we can do is suffer the consequences.
My efforts, the book I wrote, the play, and the invention i’d like to have magnetism experts talk with me about, have been ignored if not rejected and this indicates to that even elite scientists, professors, publishers and theater people are not willing to relinquish their……

— Posted by Karl S Schwartz
31.May 29th,
1:37 pm Re: comment #14

Bob Villos, you are a baldfaced liar, and you know it!

The last 10 years have seen the hottest years on record!

What “cooling” can you possibly be referring to — did you just adjust your air-conditioner or something like that?

— Posted by Tenney Naumer
32.May 29th,
1:43 pm First, Dr. Rowland didn’t estimate 1,000 ppm based on current population and energy usage trends (the status quo), but on “the nature of the climate and energy challenges” facing us. That is, even with the feasible actions to mitigate CO2 increase a very high increase is still likely.

The only hope for the Earth to sustain an environment that humans can survive in is a Malthusian population crash of some 80%. Given that, maybe the “eat, drink, and be merry” attitude of many people isn’t so insane after all.

— Posted by dennis
33.May 29th,
1:43 pm Dr. Benford (#18), I disagree with your assertion that we must utilize “geoengineering” to lower CO2 concentrations. All engineering solutions have unintended consequences and the magnitude of these consequences are proportional to the scale of the project. As such, the global application of carbon capture and sequestration on a scale significant to alter climate change will likely have impacts that in the best case scenario are equally as detrimental as global warming.

Although there has been significant study of carbon burial in the deep ocean, there is still enormous gaps in our understanding. There is no reason to believe that the deposition of huge quantities of labile organic matter (farm waste) to the deep ocean would simply result in its storage. One very likely scenario is that it would be mineralized back to CO2 and in the process become a huge oxygen sink in the deep ocean. Hopefully we will not begin such a scheme anytime soon!

UNC Chapel Hill

— Posted by Ken
34.May 29th,
1:44 pm The only possible solution for maintaining our civilization is the replacement of most energy produced by burning fossil fuels with electricity produced by nuclear reactors. A crash program of building nuclear power plants throughout the world should begin immediately and be pursued with the utmost urgency.

Since that’s not going to happen, we’re doomed.

— Posted by Joseph Doaks
35.May 29th,
1:45 pm This is so much BS it’s now laughable. CO2 is a logarithmic function when it comes to absorption. Once you have trapped all the heat in the sun’s spectrum which CO2 can absorb, that’s all there is, unless some one turns up the sun. We are at near the 90% point, which means doubling CO2 will have little net effect on anything. It’s like painting a glass window with white paint. How many coats will it take to block out the light and how much additional light will be blocked with each additional coat.

CO2 is aminor greenhouse gas, the effects of water vapor, clouds, is far more significant than the less than 1% that is CO2 — CO2 is measured in parts per million for a reason.

I wonder how warm it was when the Boreal Forset grew right up to the shore of the Arctic Ocean? Or when the Boreal Forests were 100s of kilometers north of where they currently grow. How do we know, the dead trees are buried in tundra.

The notion that if we pay more in taxes the government will pretend to control the weather is laughable on it’s face. Before long, even the most ignorant will realize AGW is a hoax.

— Posted by bill
36.May 29th,
1:51 pm To Raven,

Definition of Precautionary Principle: “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.”

Your assessment of whether precaution should be used, in cfc or hgh should be postponed because of lack of certainty, is absurb.

the data is in, the models are being proven, and when the aren’t, it is generally to the worse case.

i sure how you never have a fire next to your house…Your computer (your brain) would tell you “it might burn my house as well”, however because of precaution i will wait and see until it happens.

Absurd, grow up and get educated.

— Posted by guido
37.May 29th,
2:06 pm Scientists are the best friends of people by
telling the politicians to stop playing games
and legislate a common sense energy policy to
limit the amount of carbon dioxide released
by cars and power plants in the U.S. economy.

On behalf of engineers we extend our thanks to
world class scientists like Dr. Rowlands. Here,
is a list of common sense engineering solutions
to limit the carbon dioxide emissions:
1) Manufacture small hybrid electric vehicles
in the amount of 50 % of the total small
vehicles in the U.S.. This gives 2 million
vehicles per year.
2) Increase electrical power generation with
PV solar cells, wind turbine generators, and
hydrogen fuel cells in the amount of 10 % of
the total capacity. This gives 50,000 MW.
3) Alternate fuels like ethanol generation to
replace 10 % the total gasoline-diesel fuel
consumtion. This gives 15 billion gallons per
4) Establish a strong energy education carriculum
starting in high schools with emphasis on the
fundamentals and hands-on experience.

— Posted by Yilmaz Sahinkaya
38.May 29th,
2:21 pm In post 16, J. Douglas Jefferys wondered about a x-prize type contest to prove AGW. Google “ultimate global warming challenge” from They are offering $500,000 to any of you chicken littles that can PROVE AGW. The site has been up for a couple years. The money is still on the table.

— Posted by Charles
39.May 29th,
2:22 pm We can debate whether humankind can cope with a doubling of carbon dioxide because there’s room for doubt about its consequences. But there’s no ambiguity about the ultimate implications of a quadrupling. Harvard University’s John Holdren, one of the world’s leading authorities on energy, carbon emissions, and climate change, puts it
bluntly (in an essay for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Bulletin). “A quadrupled-CO2 world would be a roasted world, with weather patterns and extremes of heat unlike anything yet experienced during the tenure of human beings on the planet. It would be a catastrophe for the human condition.”

— Posted by Thomas Homer-Dixon
40.May 29th,
2:37 pm Dr. Rowland is participating in a public program at the World Science Festival where the audience will be invited to ask more questions…google it for info.

— Posted by Susan
41.May 29th,
3:31 pm How do we wake up the American public?

(and Dr. Benford, how about a Timescape II?)

— Posted by Anna Haynes
42.May 29th,
3:35 pm For the silly people who complain “oh, he can’t possibly know” - uh- duh.

You missed the point. Which was his point. He’s trying- as best he can- to communicate; and you keep not listening, not hearing.

He’s not saying “It will hit 1,000 ppm.”


And you don’t hear what he’s saying, even now.

— Posted by Greenpa
43.May 29th,
4:04 pm Elizabeth Tjader comments:

I can’t duplicate with any more grace, seriousness or gratitude the wisdom from those who have already spoken in here. And you are held dearly and honorably in my “silo”; Huggins, Roddy, Naumer, Anna Haynes (welcome back, Anna!), Schwartz, Greenpa, Guido and all else who see the seriousness and portent derived from the research of these honorable Nobel laureate scientists. So the Paminator’s, Kim’s, and others so filled with themselves to think they know more than these life long devoted professionals, who in the world do you think you are arguing with these EXPERTS? Talk about arrogance.
Tenney, you said it in a way that captures the true feeling of watching this planets great biodiversity succumb to our ugly hubris:
how really, really sad.
Beyond participating in solutions, I never know how to handle news like this. It makes me want to numb out really. It is eerily analogous, again, to finding out someone you love dearly is dying from terminal something. The Earth will go on, that is a given (I hope anyway). The rest of us will not. And for those participants in here who have children, man oh man, do I feel deep sadness for what your children and my almost newly welcomed niece face ahead.
Very, very discouraging and sorrowful prediction. Sure makes me want to go outside and really love all my plants, birds and the Earth’s infinite beauty.
Elizabeth Tjader

— Posted by Elizabeth Tjader
44.May 29th,
4:54 pm Raven,

RE: “The science of CFCs is no more certain that the science of GHGs, however, the cost of implementing a ban on CFCs was manageable and technically feasible alternatives existed. For this reason it was possible to apply the precautionary principal and ban CFCs.”

Without providing proof you assert that two widely held scientific theories are both “uncertain”. So while you then accept that the precautionary principle can be applied where the costs are easy to justify, you start from a flawed basis. Perhaps it would do you good to investigate these questions more, reading not just political arguments, but actual scientific ones. And please don’t be fooled by scientific “sounding” arguments proferred by those unqualified to offer them. You are responsible for what you read and what you believe, so take that responsibility seriously.

More from Raven: “GHGs are another issue entirely because the cost of eliminating is astronomical and no technically feasible alternatives exist at this time.”

Again, you’ve asserted a fact without proof and you’ve ignored the timeframe under which most advocates of GHG reductions operate. The proposals of the two remaining Presidential candidates (we can ignore Ms. Clinton now) are for between 60% and 80% reductions of GHGs from 1990 levels by 2050. One need not rely solely on what technology exists today to achieve that goal presuming an international effort is made to reduce said emissions.

Recently, the federal government released a study saying it would be possible to get 20% of our grid energy from wind power by 2030. Assuming that same growth trajectory moving from 2030 to 2050, we could achieve significantly more, but for argument’s sake, let’s say that by 2050 we’ll have 30% of our grid energy provided by wind. If we simply doubled our nuclear power plants by then, we’d replace another 20%.

Amending building codes to require more energy efficient buildings and retrofitting old ones could cut demand significantly. Using CHP where ever coal or natural gas are burned could increase the efficiency of the fossil fuels we do burn by nearly double.

Using ground-source heat pumps much more widely (only 50,000 are installed per year) would be another way to get a huge increase in efficiency.

None of this has to be invented. It all exists.

On vehicles, several companies are working on plug-in hybrid technology, that if it becomes the industry standard would within 15 years shift most of our vehicle fleet to cars that will use very little liquid fuel.

There are significant efficiencies to wring out of most aspects of our economy, without really changing lifestyles, which is the common demand of the environmental Left and the common bane of the right.

“For that reason we *cannot* apply the precautionary principal and we cannot justify radical action on GHGs until we see real data (not computer models) which demonstrates that the effect of GHGs is bad.

— Posted by Raven”

Your argument is rejected in its entirety. You (well, mostly others) demand real data, but when real data are provided you deny that there is causation. So you demand to know what the causes are and provide a host of spurious alternative explanations all of which fail explain what is happening. So when models are presented to try to examine the interaction of variables in the climate system, you demand data.

The first rule of circular arguments is to stop entertaining them.

— Posted by Michael May (A3K)
45.May 29th,
5:02 pm Charles,

Based on their rules, no matter what the facts of global warming are, nobody will be able to collect.

So the evidence of an uncollected prize is only evidence of a prize designed so the prize cannot be collected.

If I were the “”, I’d increase the prize to $1,000,000,000. They’d get more publicity for their dumb premise.

— Posted by Michael May (A3K)
46.May 29th,
5:11 pm Humanity CAN handle this crisis if we all work together, be rational, make the necessary sacrifices but share the pain. Everybody is at risk and everybody will benefit if we make the right choices. The “wedge” concept of Pacala and Socolow shows that we have the means NOW to return atmospheric CO2 to safe levels if we scale up existing technologies. As long as we don’t keep imagining that it’s the “other guy’s” responsibility and shirk our own duties, we can get where we need to be. This means that the biggest roles must be taken by the United States and China, since they are far and away the two leading emitters of greenhouse gases. The U.S. can’t keep delaying while claiming that it has the right not to do anything as long as China doesn’t, while China can’t keep claiming it has a right to pollute more since it is still “developing”. These are both unacceptable excuses designed to justify a lack of willingness to break old habits and make the necessary changes.

— Posted by Robert
47.May 29th,
5:35 pm Homo sapiens is a clever species (combination of intelligence and creativity). We solve all kinds of problems, like how to maximize profits, how to most efficiently kill others of our own species, how to most efficiently convert a significant fraction of primary productivity to our own biomass expansion, and on and on. We’re good at thinking up new ways to have fun and creating elaborate machinery geared just at entertaining us.

We are still a highly emotional (affective) animal so a lot of our decisions and judgments are conditioned more by desires and emotions than by anything like rational choice. We are what we are.

But what is sad about our status, our nature, is that we were on the evolutionary path to nobility. Our brain-basis for supporting higher wisdom, better moral-based judgment guiding our cleverness, had actually gotten an evolutionary foothold about 100,000 years before the present but got short-circuited in evolutionary terms. Clever people invented agriculture and from that point on cleverness and combativeness were more advantageous then wisdom. You had to manage agriculture and invent tools and you had to protect land (or go get it when yours was no longer able to support you.)

The average human being is not particularly wise, no matter how clever. The further development of the prefrontal cortex responsible for higher judgment and strategic thinking, if anything, atrophied, or at least did not continue to evolve. We are stuck with a minimal capacity for wisdom but have created a huge need for it. So we are destined to make poor choices, based on immediate and selfish desires more than on what is good for humanity and our progeny. It is just the way most of us are built. And it will be our undoing, as a species.

Every species eventually reaches its level of incompetence with respect to being fit in the environment in which it lives. Eventually the world changes sufficiently to select against the species and it goes extinct. That is just the way it is. Why would anyone think humans are somehow above this ‘law’ of nature? The irony in our case is that it was we who changed the world that now selects against us (we aren’t the first species to soil our eco-niche thus leading to our own demise, but we are the fastest to have done so). The combined effects of climate change and peak fossil fuel production plus the fact that our population size has greatly exceeded the natural carrying capacity of our planet (for us) due to the energy subsidies we’ve enjoyed, will, I suspect, cause tremendous calamities and eventually population and civilization collapse. I suspect it is inevitable, but having any idea of when is a crap shoot for now. A sufficiently violent collapse in a sufficiently changed world spells extinction for Homo sapiens.

Yet this needn’t be the end of the story. Future descendants of Homo sapiens may yet carry forth our basic genetic gifts. The extinction of one species need not mean the extinction of the genus. The ’solution’ to mankind’s predicament may not look like salvation as we would normally think of it. We almost certainly will not save business as usual, nor will we save the majority of the population, nor will we even necessarily save the species. We might, however, be able to save the genus. We will need to evolve to live in a very different kind of world that will exist in the future. Wisdom needs to catch up with cleverness in some distant version of Homo, I call it Homo eusapiens - man the truly wise.

If any of this grabs your interest, join me in questioning the conventional wisdom (which isn’t very) at Question Everything:


— Posted by George Mobus
48.May 29th,
6:03 pm Re: 42

Greenpa - a good attempt at reconstruction. Now Rowland will have an interpreter to speak through.

First, whether you’re correct in your interpretation or not, let’s first agree that I (and a couple of other folks) were right that he doesn’t know and he cannot possibly know.

Second, I personally don’t dispute that this is serious but Rowland has no special qualifications to proselyte about consequences of CO2 growth. He’s a good chemist, let him stick to what he knows.

Third, even though the issue is serious, it is not the most daunting challenge facing humanity in this century and beyond. Not even close. Shortages of food and energy are far more serious and will be felt much sooner.

It’s quite possible that people will start dying of starvation in large numbers within the next decade or two. I cannot imagine what will happen when millions of people cannot afford paying for gasoline and heating their homes. This will be much worse than double CO2 because it will be quick and deadly.

People, get real, start using your heads.

— Posted by Sashka
49.May 29th,
6:04 pm bill (35) — 1000 ppm translates into about two doublings of CO2: that’s about 6 K warmer, globally. Which means a lot worse where you live. I recommend reading Mark Lynas’s “Six Degrees” and also Peter Ward’s “Under a Green Sky”.

How long will this take? We are at 387 ppm, adding about 2 ppm per year. If the rate does not increase, 307 years. But the rate is increasing, look at the outgassing from the permafrost, Which gets worse as it grows warmer.

— Posted by David B. Benson
50.May 29th,
6:19 pm Greenpa - the point is that it can’t hit 1000ppm; so his warning is going to fall on deaf ears. He’s crying wolf. Better to worry about what happens if it hits 580 ppm which is a real possibility.

— Posted by consumer
51.May 29th,
6:55 pm Re: 39

Far from suggesting that CO2×4 world (if it were achievable) would be nice and pleasant, I still object to scaremongering by John Holdren. He doesn’t (and he cannot) know what it would be like. He doesn’t have sufficient expertise to talk about it. In fact, nobody does.

— Posted by Sashka
52.May 29th,
6:58 pm Isn’t CO2 increasing about 1.5 ppm/year? So, going from today to the future, to get to 1,000 ppm from today’s 380 ppm will take what - 400 years? If it accelerates, are we talking 200 years? And you don’t think that with advancing technology and wealth in that time that we’ll gradually A)find out if global warming prognostications were, in fact, correct, or B) we’ll incorporate new technology to address global warming causes, or C)we’ll even be here what with nuclear proliferation among whacko regimes.

Precautionary Principle - hard costs today for vague promises of benefits tomorrow. We’re not talking insurance here where a hundred years of actuarial tables establish premiums/payouts. But the AGW’ers are swearing they know the future based on computer programs that have blown all their predictions and aren’t even accurate in hindcasting. (And where does the Precautionary Principle stop? Do we sequester ourselves in our homes with guns on the off chance of biological terror attacks or an epidemic? Create a massive missile system to beat off asteroids that could kill off all life on earth? Put in a personal home laser defense system to protect against home invaders?)

And about those hard costs - you’ll have to impose draconian taxes and constrained lifestyles on people today and in the future for vague promises of benefits 100 years in the future. (And the promises are vague - CO2 effects are logarithmic and questionalbe but wealth growth-based adaptive capabilities are exponential.

People are practical and immediate - try to impose those restrictions on people and they’ll rip you a new one. Europe is finding that out today with carbon taxes. Learn from them.

— Posted by Jerry Magnan
53.May 29th,
8:13 pm From Wang Suya

Mr Rownold’s predict that CO2 concentration will arrive 1000 ppm may be possible. As now world situation, whole world did not work together and make a mandatary limit of CO2 cutting. There are many meetings but every meeting can not get agreement of cut CO2 emission. All want to high economic development and not like Stern said that sacrifile 1% world GDP will save future 5% to 20% GDP damage to sacrifile 1% GDP up. As China and India build one by one coal power plants almost every week, in front development is their pursue no matter atomsphere CO2 concentration are rising and developed countries have not yet make decision to help them get out this delinma. Every country not matter CO2 emission are so serious and these thing is other people’s thing not own thing. Under these kind situation, human being will have future? Can we keep CO2 concentration under 450 ppm? Under nowaday’s situation, CO2 concentation will arrive 1000 ppm or more. People should fight against their greed, but they are not and they want to satisfy their greed, no matter world will become what kind situation. I wonder people earn so much money and all the ice melting away, all the glaceris melting away, Yanzi river, Gangize river and so many rivers will no water, sea level rising several meters, many coast cities will disappear, world will fall into confuse, where they use their money? Maybe they hold their money stay at top of mountains and look around surrounding full of water and use their money to make canoe go around. Human being please never make CO2 concentation arrive 1000 ppm, their consequence is serious and we can not recover it, to protect it now is chance, never loose this chance!!

— Posted by Wang Suya
54.May 29th,
9:52 pm 1000 ppm CO2. That’s 1 part per 1000 air molecules, roughly 4 times the highest concentration for the last million years, and twice the 450 ppm tipping point for environmental disasters to unfold.

Think what the climate was like when all the coal and oil was laid down in the ground: a world-wide tropical greenhouse with continents half-drowned by shallow seas and rain-forests growing in Alaska. Now put it on fast-forward: seas rising 10-30 meters, hurricanes putting an end to coastal cities, decadal droughts that empty entire regions, and a complete loss of all Arctic ice, and devastating damage to ecosystems around the world.

I don’t often get Four Horseman about environmental problems; I believe our culture is narcissistic about its eventual end. But 1000 pm in less than 200 years? Realistically, there is a distinct possibility that billions will die from famine and disease, countries will collapse, and over 50% of the life on earth will go extinct. The climate will change so quickly that we may not be able to see the big blows coming, let alone adapt.

Crazy talk, you say. Push this globe hard enough, I say, and she will turn around on you. That’s not politics–it’s physics.

— Posted by Fagan
55.May 29th,
10:09 pm If you want to know how grim a 1000 ppm world might be for humans, read s-politically-possible-part-0-the-alternative-is-humani tys-self-destruction/

— Posted by Joe Romm (

dan said...

''The IPCC estimated around 5000 billion tons of carbon are available in
conventional fossil fuels.

Mike Wickett and I published a paper in Nature magazine in 2003
showing that if we cannot rely on the biosphere to take up much of
this CO2, then burning this carbon will result in atmospheric
concentrations that exceed 1900 ppm. Govindasamy Bala and I, along
with a gaggle of co-authors, published a paper in the Journal of
Climate in 2005 showing that, with these emissions, even if the
biosphere takes up even more carbon than most scientists think it
will, atmospheric CO2 concentrations will exceed 1400 ppm.

That 5000 billion tons of fossil-fuel carbon is likely an
underestimate, since there is about a million billion tons of fossil
carbon locked up in Earth's sedimentary shell, waiting for advanced
technologies that can economically extract carbon from carbon-rich
shales and other such deposits. So, there is little chance of us
running out of fossil fuels any time soon.

Given the rate of action on emissions reduction, 1000 ppm may be
wishful thinking.

— Posted by Ken Caldeira
The IPCC estimated around 5000 billion tons of carbon are available in
conventional fossil fuels.

Mike Wickett and I published a paper in Nature magazine in 2003
showing that if we cannot rely on the biosphere to take up much of
this CO2, then burning this carbon will result in atmospheric
concentrations that exceed 1900 ppm. Govindasamy Bala and I, along
with a gaggle of co-authors, published a paper in the Journal of
Climate in 2005 showing that, with these emissions, even if the
biosphere takes up even more carbon than most scientists think it
will, atmospheric CO2 concentrations will exceed 1400 ppm.

That 5000 billion tons of fossil-fuel carbon is likely an
underestimate, since there is about a million billion tons of fossil
carbon locked up in Earth's sedimentary shell, waiting for advanced
technologies that can economically extract carbon from carbon-rich
shales and other such deposits. So, there is little chance of us
running out of fossil fuels any time soon.

Given the rate of action on emissions reduction, 1000 ppm may be
wishful thinking.''

— Posted by Ken Caldeira