Dealing with climate trauma and global warming burnout

I’d be very interested in hearing what coping mechanisms readers have developed for dealing with “climate trauma.”

The knowledge that humanity is headed pell-mell toward self-destruction is tough to deal with.  I am fortunate that I get to vent blog full time on this subject, though that doesn’t free me from the frustrations of the Cassandra syndrome. I will share one of my secrets for avoiding burnout.

Whenever I get frustrated by people refusing to see what is right before their eyes, by the success of the climate science deniers in their campaign of disinformation and delay, and by the attacks on the personal integrity of the many idealistic scientists and activists who are desperately trying to help humanities save itself from itself, from Hell and High Water — I remember one thing.  The deniers and delayers sleep well at night thanks to their blinkered ideology.  And I will be damned if I’ll give them yet one more advantage on top of their better funding, better messaging machine, freedom from having to present factual or consistent arguments, and credulous coverage by a status-quo media.  We simply can’t afford to get burned out, since the end result would be humanity getting burned up.

Guest blogger Gillian Caldwell, the campaign director of 1sky, has done all climate science activists a favor by opening up on this painful subject to my friend Lise Van Susteren, M.D. (who previously posted “Our Moral Obligation to Act“).  Caldwell’s post was originally published here.

I have spent my lifetime face to face with some of the most brutal and inhumane acts ever committed, but nothing has been as traumatizing for me as trying to get action to tackle the climate crisis.

As a long time human rights defender and prior Executive Director at WITNESS, I helped produce and direct films on rape as a weapon of war and amputations in Sierra Leone’s recent bloody conflict, I conducted an undercover investigation into the Russian mafia’s involvement in trafficking women for forced prostitution, I investigated hit squads in apartheid South Africa, and I spent countless hours in editing rooms watching first hand images of death, destruction, and devastation.

But spending my days and nights trying to get our country to tackle global warming is more emotionally demanding than any job I have ever done.

When I was at WITNESS, people used to say “The work you do must be so difficult. How do you manage?” to which I would respond “Well, I can see the results. And it’s not as bad as environmental work would be!” What I meant when I said that five years ago is that I felt overwhelmed by our inexorable march to “pave it all” — parking lot by parking lot, McDonald’s by Wal-Mart.

But seeing former Vice President Al Gore give his now famous slide show at the TED conference in 2006 convinced me that nothing mattered more than tackling global warming, and that climate change had massive humanitarian and human rights consequences. There was no looking back, so in mid-2007 I leapt, knowing that I was headed straight towards my deepest fears and concerns.

As I started to immerse myself in the science and early impacts of global warming, I became increasingly distraught. But I soldiered on, hoping against hope that I would be so busy in an ambitious new start up campaign at 1Sky, and so relieved to be trying to do something about it, that I would not be overwhelmed with existential angst and despair. Looking back on the last year and a half since I started as 1Sky’s Campaign Director in the Fall of 2007, my wish has generally come true. But since President Obama’s inauguration and the 2009 clock started ticking on the countdown to Copenhagen, I feel myself slipping. And I know I am not alone.

So when Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a psychiatrist and co-convenor of last month’s conference at the National Wildlife Federation on the Psychological Aspects of Climate Change asked me to videotape an interview (part 1 | part 2) with her that would be played before the heads of the American Psychiatric Association and the Centers for Disease Control, I agreed. And in spite of the fact that I found myself weeping at several points during the conversation and know it never bodes well for a woman in leadership, I let her play it during the plenary session in conference.

I did that because I believe that I and many other people around the world are suffering from “Climate Trauma.” It’s my own term. I am not a mental health professional, but I can identify plain as day the symptoms I recognize in myself and in my colleagues traumatized by our work to tackle climate change. And these symptoms are of course different from, but related to, the much deeper trauma of those who are already being directly impacted by climate change, whether through dislocation, drought, or the death of a loved one:

1. Anxiety and Stress. We know we are facing a looming catastrophe of unparalled proportions — a truly existential crisis in that scientists predict that if we do not take dramatic action now, human beings will not be able to continue living on Earth as we have come to know it. This is not the place to detail the reasons or predicted impacts of climate change, but it is to say that a central motivation in pushing for climate and energy policy is our knowledge of that existential threat. And there has never been more urgency or intensity to our wish and our call, with the looming international negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009 and the critical need to have demonstrated US leadership before we get there. We in the US are literally dizzy with work, given the pace of the congressional calendar, regulatory action, and the Administration more broadly. Many of us are insomniacs and obsessive workaholics.

2. Fear and Hopelessness: We know we must be bold and visionary and imaginative and hopeful about all of the potential of a 21st century green economy built on wind, solar and geothermal. All the polls and marketing specialists tell us that people will tune us out if we shriek about the fact that the sky is falling and that people want to hear about solutions. We do see a path forward — a way out of this mess we got ourselves into. But in our heart of hearts ,we are fearful that the powers that be in industrial America, the votes in Congress, and the ignorance or economic plight of voters all around us, will stand in our way and we may get nothing at all, or too little to late. Will we add up? We think about our children and their future, and we weep. We tear ourselves away from them for yet another day, another night, trying to preserve something left for them to live in. Even the children are traumatized: look at what 10 year old Nikos Spiridakis produced as a wake up call or what this young girl in Michigan says when her aunt asks her what global warming is.

3. A Parallel Universe: We often feel like we are living in a parallel universe. Don’t people see that we are headed straight off a cliff? How could they possibly continue to argue that there is legitimate dispute about whether or not the planet is warming? How could the ones who know that it is warming leave all their incandescent bulbs on? Leave their SUV idling? Blast the heat and open the windows? Toss their water bottle in the trash? And sit out this fight of a lifetime, this fight for our lives? We are obsessed and alone and sometimes we or our loved ones literally have to ban the topic from conversation rather than repeat ourselves again. And again. And again.

4. Depression, Irritability and Anger: Flip sides of the same coin, we find ourselves alternately depressed, irritable, or angry. Who wouldn’t under the circumstances? But these symptoms only get in our way, and diminish our power to be the leaders we must be to confront the greatest challenge of our generation, and perhaps of all time in life on this precious planet we call home. We need each other — our colleagues, our teams and the people who love us — to keep on keeping on.

When Dr. Spencer Eth, a respected forensic psychiatrist, saw the interview I did with Dr. Van Susteren at the conference, he wrote a short article on “Climate Warriors and Emotional Burnout.” He wrote:

The mission of a ‘climate warrior’ is demanding and may become self-sacrificing. The activist must articulate terrible truths about the coming ecological catastrophes. Indeed, future scenarios may approximate what psychiatrist Robert Lifton described as a death imprint – the indelible images of the grotesque that the person cannot assimilate.

Dr. Van Susteren followed up with some advice on how to sustain ourselves.

And so, we find ourselves “surfing the apocalypse,” as my friend Gary Cohen from Health Care Without Harm would say. We know that this crisis is an opportunity to reinvent the way we are living our lives, and to steer this troubled ship called Earth towards safer harbor. In our despair, we must surface all our passion and commitment and power to ensure that we come together as an unstoppable force for change, turning the tide back in the right direction, and lifting all boats.


  • Take care of yourself physically and spiritually, through healthy living and maintaining a balance in your professional and personal life.
  • Physical exercise is essential — endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers, are secreted in response to exercise. Endorphins help fight psychic pain, too. Exercise also boots your immune system. If you are stressed out and getting sick a lot — you need regular exercise. Swimming can be very soothing.
  • Get out of doors as much as possible — connect with the forces that drive you and give yourself up to the beauty of nature in the present. Your energy to continue the battle will be rejuvenated.
  • Remember that you are not alone. There are lots of other people who may be just as traumatized as you are — they just aren’t talking about it. Some people are distracted by jobs that don’t constantly expose them to the realities. Unlike you, they can get away from it for a while.
  • Diversify your work and your life: force yourself to participate in activities not related to climate.
  • Reinforce boundaries between professional work and personal life. It is very hard to switch from the riveting force of apocalyptic predictions at work to home where the problems are petty by comparison. If you haven’t found another solution: Take 10 mins, close your eyes, shut your brain down. If you don’t know how, Google “How to meditate.”
  • Connect with your fellow climate warriors: Gather – Play games, dance, tell jokes. There is nothing like a laugh. Don’t talk about climate!
  • Your fears are realistic. But what you can do, or what you expect you can do, may not be.
  • Personal therapy can help. You wouldn’t be the first person to conflate some personal problems with what is happening to the planet. Although “we” are working on it, many professionals may not yet “get” the problem with climate.

The Don’ts

  • Overwork
  • Having trouble sleeping? Avoid climate related work at night. Make sure to cut off the computer at least 2 hours before bedtime. The blue light emitted by computers suppresses a hormone that triggers sleep more than light from other parts of the spectrum. Additionally, turning out lights is not only good for the planet — the resulting incremental darkness sets the body up to sleep. Also, did you know that it can take as many as 9 hours for your body to completely break down caffeine?
  • Believe that you are invulnerable. In fact, admitting what you are going through makes you more resilient.
  • Ignore signs & symptoms of burnout. Like an overused muscle — without some kind of rest or intervention burnout will only get worse.
  • Forget that understanding the material does not require that you actually experience what is being spoken about.
  • Lose focus on the essential tasks.
  • Don’t give up! Despite the forecast — we are working together like never before.

60 Responses to Dealing with climate trauma and global warming burnout

  1. Gail says:

    Thank you for this guest blog, it is very helpful to know there are others who experience the same process upon climate enlightenment.

    The struggles described seem to be quite common among people once they recognize the scope of climate effects.

    in my blog I wrote:

    I feel rather like I imagine a Native American might have felt, somewhere in the last couple of centuries, who realized that her family’s entire way of life was going to be obliterated forever and there was nothing she could do about it.

  2. PaulK says:

    I would add, don’t ascribe evil intent to those who disagree with you. It is much easier to convince someone to change their views if you assume those views are sincerely held, no matter how wrongheaded you think they are.

    [JR: I would agree that you should not reflexively ascribe evil intent to those who disagree with you, and indeed the overwhelming majority do not have any such evil intent. The Marc Moranos of the world are thankfully few in number. Most of the professional deniers are simply willfully ignorant — although I’m not certain how much longer one can excuse their behavior merely by saying they have different political worldview that allows them to filter out scientific reality. But again the overwhelming majority of deniers and delayers we deal with are simply doubters who have foolishly put their trust in people who are deceiving them.]

  3. David Freeman says:

    Excellent post on a very serious problem.

    When nearing burnout through frustration trying to deal with deniers who like my brother are otherwise quite intelligent and well read, I pause to think about sudden (relative to personal perspective) positive changes during my lifetime and imagine we can have a similar turn in understanding in the next few years.

    My favorites are:
    1) the civil rights movement. I grew up and live in the South. Yes, we still have work to do but the difference between now and the casual acceptance of grotesque expressions of racism is dramatic. When MLK Jr was killed, the captain of my high school football team walked into homeroom period the next day and announced to the class, “the only problem is not enough niggers were killed.” Only a few of us felt shame and even fewer expressed outrage at my school that day.
    2) look at the progress on LGBT rights. I personally was opposed to highlighting gay marriage as an issue since I thought it was too emotional and would backfire against the progress of general gay rights. Boy, was I wrong. People seem to be be “getting it” now because it IS an emotional issue that people can relate to personally when they imagine being turned away from the hospital when their most loved one is dying – as happened to a lesbian friend.
    3) the fall of the Soviet Union
    4) South Africa
    5) the election of Barack Obama – few imagined any black man could even win the nomination in our lifetimes. What a change in just a couple years.

    Not all tipping points are bad. I gain strength from my hope that we are headed towards a positive tipping point on climate change that will also result in greater involvement in all of humanities social needs.

  4. paulm says:

    Well timed post. Thanks.

  5. paulm says:

    many other people around the world are suffering from “Climate Trauma.”

    many from “climate shock” as they realize the event is occurring, but are paralyzed in to scrambling denial and inaction because of the magnitude.

  6. As others have said, great timing. At my recent birthday party, I spoke once again about the issue, and was quickly cut off at the knees by my brother-in-law. I was shocked by the vitriol and anger… it had obviously been simmering for some time. I have several in my family who hold similar views, and I thought that if I can’t convince any of them, what chance do I have of changing any minds at One Blue Marble.

    But we are moving back to the city with plan to live a much healthier, sustainable life, and become involved in politics and activism there.

    We need to keep the faith!

  7. Ronald says:

    There is an easier way to lose that anxiety. Become a denier. Not a good suggestion? No? But I bet it works.

  8. Nancy says:

    I talk to people everywhere I go – supermarkets, family gatherings, sitting on a park bench, on the bus – about climate change. I have handouts in my purse that I give them if they’re interested. It gives me hope that mostly everyone I meet accepts the information and expresses thanks for what I do.

    I also think it’s important to join local climate groups and spend time with others who care about the issue. By seeing that there are many others working hard to make a difference, it gives me hope . I can’t say that I don’t feel like giving up sometimes. Luckily, those feelings are temporary.

    Thanks, Joe, for this interesting blog!


  9. Dill Weed says:

    Language shapes our perception of reality. Our perception of reality IS our reality. We create our reality and live within that reality’s boundaries and with its limitations – without appreciating that we really do.

    Making our goals too big creates anxiety and stress.

    Saving the world is a goal far too big for any person or group of people. It is an impossible and self-defeating and therefore should be discarded.

    Allowing ‘saving the world’ to enter our thinking, speaking and writing is harmful and crippling. It is, however, seductive.

    Everyone would like to be a hero or be heroic. Trying to be a hero nearly always fails. Though you may feel like a hero (for a time), you eventually get squashed by impossible challenges and people will fail to rally around you or your cause as you think they should, so you end up feeling bitter and disappointed because they just don’t understand and then you begin to criticize them and alienate them – further hurting yourself and cause.

    Anxiety and stress get created through descriptions, too. Most articles on GW/CC never fail to tell you of the disastrous consequences. The foretelling of disaster at every turn is fatiguing and damning.

    I was enjoying the “The Lonely Sea Turtle” a Nature program on PBS last night when its producers slipped in 3 or 4 references to GW (the essence if which was that the world is going to Hell in a hand basket). That really brought me down and decreased my enjoyment because in the middle of this engaging story they dropped an unsolvable problem into my lap several times when all I wanted to do was just enjoy the show. Producers and writers (media) do this all the time. It doesn’t do the good they think it does or GW would be solved already. NOR IS IT GOOD JOURNALISM.


    Catastrophic language creates ‘climate fatigue’ and cripples our will to create change by making the challenge seem overwhelming, if not impossible, and hampers our efforts by depressing us.

    But, the truth is…

    Fact: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

    Fact: We may or may not (individually) complete that journey.

    Fact: Humanity will in some way shape and form, survive climate change no matter how bad it gets and be better for it.

    Fact: Those who survive will have had impressed upon them the important lesson(s) of Sustainable Living.

    Fact: Sustainable Living is a goal that can substitute for the impossible goal of Saving The World.

    Opinion: Sustainable Living should be adopted as mantra and used at every opportunity and every context possible to displace negative descriptors and reframe the discussion.

    Doing so will require language reformulation and those reformulations will require different thinking and (word craft) descriptions.

    The pen is mightier than the sword and language is more powerful than you know. When we communicate, most of us fail to appreciate that and to take it into consideration and use it to our advantage.

    It takes longer to craft a message conscious of words’ power, than to respond ‘in the moment.’

    The paragraph on stress and anxiety created a lot of stress and anxiety by its word choice. It describes where many people are, including me, until I wrote this (such is the power of current language). The paragraph on fear and hopelessness reinforced the same.

    The solutions at the end of the article make ‘curing climate trauma’ seem like a job, like work; because there are all these things you should be doing to cure your ‘climate trauma.’ People are going to feel bad because most of them won’t do those things and they’ll know they are not doing them and then they’ll feel bad about that, too.

    The cure for ‘climate trauma’ is the surgical removal of the language that creates it and an intentional, thoughtful reformulation of language to create the OPPOSITE effect – which will by extension change people’s beliefs, attitudes, and then their behavior(s) and they will eventually find themselves doing things that relieve their stress once this new language (in the form of new beliefs) takes effect.

    Word use is the problem and the solution.

    Fact: What can be done with words can be undone with words, but it will take rigorous intentionality.

    I am talking about a new kind of journalism.

    Contact me if this strikes home, Joe.

    Dill Weed

  10. Sasparilla says:

    Very nice article, thanks for putting this up.

  11. Milan says:

    Working on climate change can be very psychologically difficult. So few people appreciate the scale of the problem or what needs to be done to remedy it and, at the same time, there are still troglodytes who deny the basics of the science. I have certainly had many periods of intense personal anxiety, dread, depression, and anger.

    Articles like this one certainly have value for those who are deeply personally invested in driving climate change mitigation.

  12. This article is troubling, and is a really interesting symptom of how environmentalism winds up shortchanging the actual goals of environmentalism.

    Dill Weed has already brought up how important it is to remain positive, and how powerful words are. I tend to agree that the apocalyptic vision environmentalists spin of the future can be accurate and be poor leadership at the same time.

    All this talk of “trauma” and “enlightenment” sounds really ego-oriented. Is the goal to make a better future, or is the goal to be better than everyone else because you understand that the future is going to be awful?

    I don’t want to be right, I want the world to be a better place. I want to be a part of a movement in which this crisis is *consistently* an opportunity, and in which the goals are abundant, inclusive and reality-based. This is achievable. Who doesn’t want a cleaner planet, with quieter cars that don’t emit greenhouse gasses or soot, efficient homes with more elegant heating systems, walkable cities, tastier food, less asthma, more trees? I could go on and on listing all the great things that could be the positive abundant message… but instead the message, consistently, is on a vague anti-apocalypse crusade that serves mostly to stretch the limits of the public imagination and steer the narrative into a well-worn rut:

    Environmentalist = Cassandra.

    You want to cure Climate Trauma? Me too! I think the first step is taking the razor blade off our own wrists.

  13. paulm says:

    Dill Weed, Is Obama stressed? He certainly doesn’t look so!

  14. joyce says:

    Dill Weed
    a fact?
    “Fact: Humanity will in some way shape and form, survive climate change no matter how bad it gets and be better for it. ”

    What data supports that?

  15. Dill Weed says:

    Your right, Joyce.

    That humanity will survive in some way, shape, or form is not a fact. It is a belief. An important one, I think.

    One could argue that this would be the case, but I won’t. I believe it is important to believe that humanity will survive.

    Quite a few people have commented on Obama’s calm demeanor. He does seem quite composed, Paulm.

    Dill Weed

  16. Jim Beacon says:

    There’s a hidden aspect to this problem: That old saying about how “everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” Until very recently people could not do anything about the weather even if they wanted to. The logical extension of that was “people do not affect the weather”. That mindset is why it took us so long to wake up to what we have been doing to the atmosphere — and it still works as the psychological foundation upon which the deniers build their house of lies. Too many people still feel deep down inside that mere humans can’t affect the weather. Finally, once you convince them we have, then that psychological foundation is still there. whispering in the back of our minds. “but the problem is too big for us to really do anything about it… at least in time to do any good.”

    It’s a tough mindset to overcome. My personal solution is to do small things in my own life and my own home which help solve the problem, even if only in a tiny way. At least I’m *doing* something, and that feels good. Here’s what I mean:

    The solar power industry would have you believe you need to spend at least $10,000 for a home solar energy system. Not true. I spent $850 for a single-panel, two battery system. It doesn’t produce a lot of power, but enough to run my laptop computer and stereo for 4 hours every evening. That’s a tiny bit of electric power not coming from the coal plants. If everyone did this, it would not only make them feel better, make them a bit more independent and pro-active, but the total reduction in electricity demand would prevent quite a few new coal plants from being built.

    Of course, everyone can change out their incandescent light bulbs for CFL or LED bulbs today and immediately stop using 300 to 500 watts per day in their homes. It hardly costs anything to do this, but saves huge amounts of electricity. It would mean more coal plants that won’t be built. You might think everyone has done this by now, but if you walk down the light bulb aisle of any store in America, you’ll see that 2/3 of the products being sold are still the old, wasteful incandescent bulbs.

    If you’ve already done the above, you can tell other people how great it is (and why) and courteously try to persuade them to do the same.

    This is real grassroots activism, something that doesn’t rely on politicians or “them” to get things done. Not only does it actually help the problem a little (or a lot if everyone does it), it goes a long way to prevent you personally from feeling helpless and hopeless, which focusing exclusively on the politics of the problem will certainly do.

    There are a many other examples: Plant lots of trees and bushes. They absorb CO2. It doesn’t cost much, really affects the problem and the green, growing plants and their shade will help buoy your spirits. If you or someone you know still has single-pane windows in their house, get them changed out for double pane windows. Add more insulation to your attic. Drive less by planning how to use your car more effectively and combining errands into one trip. If you live in a very hot area (which we all will be shortly), you can buy UV-treated Plexiglas, cut it to fit your south-facing windows and stick low-cost reflective film onto it. Put these “summer storm windows” up in the late spring to prevent a lot of the sun’s heat from getting in. You’ll make back the cost of doing this in one year on reduced air-conditioning bills.

    If you want to get more pro-active, when you see a parking lot or commercial building lit up like a Christmas Tree all night long, seek out the manager or owner of the property and, again, courteously, point out to them that they could turn off half those lights and still have everything well-illuminated and save themselves a lot of money (and do their bit to help reduce CO2 emissions at the same time).

    There are plenty of other things which every single individual person can do right now, today, that will actually help the problem and help keep their spirits up. Personal action is the key.

    Finally, make a firm commitment about your own car of the future. I own a 1998 sedan which still gets 30 mpg. I have made a promise to myself: No matter how beat up it gets, I will NOT buy another car until there is one available (which I can afford) which gets at least 40 mpg and preferably is at least partially electric. I will keep my existing car, fixing it as necessary, until then. Know what? If even 30% of the population did this, the auto makers would be *forced* to produce those higher efficiency/electric vehicles very quickly in huge numbers at prices we could afford. They would have no choice if that is what a 30% of their customers insisted upon, and refused to buy anything else, by simply saying, “No, I won’t buy another car unless it meets MY specifications, not yours. And don’t bother crying to me about the economy or lost jobs. You want my money, you build the car I want.”

  17. Anonymous says:

    The Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China is not in the pocket of environmentalists. Yet, it is rapidly moving ahead of the US on more than CO2 emissions. It has imposed better fuel efficiency standards than those in the US. It is investing heavily in renewable and nuclear powered electric generation.

    Why should Chinese leaders go in those directions?

    Maybe it is because China’s history is measured in thousands of years and our in centuries. They have seen it all come and go; from remarkable scientific discoveries, massive engineering feats (the Great Wall among them) countless wars won and lost, cruel and repressive leaders, a wide and rich diversity of art, language, dress and a constant focus on agriculture to feed its people and maintain civil stability. In other words, China has the gift of history to guide its future while the US and Western Europe are writing our history and too busy to learn from it.

    China realizes it does not have the internal wealth the US has to weather climate change according to its understanding the science, projections of impact on land, sea, water resources, agricultural productivity and health.
    It is because Chinese Communist leaders/planners understand their vulnerability in a climate-changing world that they are investing in topsoil throughout Africa to augment their food supplies already diminishing through droughts and desertification.

    I am not cheerleading China’s role in addressing climate change. Rather, I am trying to understand how to use China’s climate impact planning mentality as a way to put down climate denyers. I ask them why those Communists are investing in windmills, energy efficiency and climate-impact adaptation measure? My answer: because their leaders control the future of all Chinese and their preservation requires planning and compliance. By contrast, our leaders control only the voters who get to decide every 2, 4 and 6 years on new leaders. In that sense, we are paying a price for our treasured democracy because it has the potential to give us leaders like Reagan and the Bushes and Palins.

    Perhaps we can find an alliance with China and India that transcends our customary pathway through the doors of the White House and State Department. While we are grieving and fretting about our American failure to get our Congress to act on climate change legislation, we might consider demanding that our President sit down with Cinese leaders, over an extended period of time, and negotiate a treaty that spells out clearly how our two countires are joined at the hip regarding climate change and how neither can survive without the full and equal participation of the other in every aspect of mitigation and adaptation.

    I, personally, have written off the average American as an ally in the climate change fight; too many cats to herd. Instead, I see the strength of the most vulnerable countries like India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Taiwan, Haiti and their governments sensing or knowing catastrophe is heading their way and their control over their people and prosperity demands they focus on adaptation underwritten by northern countries. That puts the debate not in the Congress as much as in the UN General Assembly where victim countries can make demands that go relatively ignored in the UNFCCC process.

    John McCormick

  18. Dill Weed says:

    John McCormick,

    I am cheered whenever I read about China taking steps to harness green energy. Wave power is being advanced in Scotland, Ireland and the UK. Spain and Germany have invested heavily in solar and wind. China will soon be the leader in wind power and will push strongly into solar, too. When the Chinese do something, they do it big.

    Some complain that it is not enough quick enough, but it is something and it is picking up speed. It is encouraging that the Chinese have put themselves willingly to the task as Europeans have, too.

    Hopefully, this will get so much coverage that it will shame the US into action in greater measure – maybe that will happen when it is widely recognized that these countries have advanced far beyond us (like with Sputnik).

    We will have to have some break throughs with our media coverage though, the public will have to become galvanized and that will take improved communication as I have described and some big, acute climate or climate attributed disasters, too probably.

    The ball is rolling slowly now, but it will pick up speed. It will take years no doubt and there will be set backs and disappointments, but green energy will inexorably grow, especially when gas and energy prices spike again.

    We are on the right track. It would take something execptional to turn back tide now. It is encouraging that even in a worldwide recession that green power is powering on.

    Dill Weed

  19. PaulK says:

    Richard Levangie,

    Here in Chicago, I have hosted several forums on alternative energy, efficiencies and 21st Century architecture. Among those attending, opinions on AGW run the full gamut from Moranoish to Rommish to no opinion at all. What all agree on is the need to replace fossil fuel.

  20. Col says:

    Go and find good news stories. Make a list of them every week.

    You might be surprised with how much good news is happening out there.

  21. ken levenson says:

    Nice to see your post here. Definitely feeling like there’s a parallel universe. And I clearly need to work on the dos and dont’s – thanks for the reminder!

  22. Mossy says:

    I use the term “climate awareness depression” or CAD for short. However, my kids have recently re-diagnosed me with manic/depressive climate change disorder because I am on a high after a successful climate event or rally, and then in a frump after reading about the latest severe weather or glacial melting.
    I think there is a need for increased involvement of psychologists, both to deal with those of us afflicted with CAD, and to help understand the minds of the oblivious sector of our population, as we may only be able to effect a change if we understand the factors that are responsible for their position.
    I am also very concerned about the divisions between those of us on the same side, all pecking at each other to create the best solution, while “the other side” continues to spew out the same outlandish lies that seems to be effective just by the nature of their repetitiveness.
    Frankly, I do feel that there needs to be more “reality talking” as I see most people, including politicians, as clueless, and therefore unwilling to act. Dr. Hansen states that we need a great communicator, and we have one in Obama, if he would just have the “climate talk” with the American people!

  23. Gail says:

    Mossy, I do think Obama, who meticulously plans his moves ahead like a chess grandmaster, is awaiting the perfect moment to have his discussion about climate change. There is no question he understands the full drastic import of the ramifications. He’s got children. Combatting climate change is a priority with him. I’m not convinced he will be able to spare the globe the worst case scenarios. But I am convinced he will try, and that he will be better positioned to do so than anyone else I can imagine.

    He may do it in a legislative context, or perhaps in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor event. But there is no doubt in my mind, it is part of his long-term strategy.

  24. ecostew says:

    Actually, as a retired scientist, I find engaging in ensuring our sustainable energy security as we mitigate AGW while also ensuring food, water, etc. supplies and protecting the environment to be a challenge that would never lead to trauma or burnout.

  25. Leland Palmer says:

    I got burned out, too, in the summer of 2008.

    What happened was that I “got the big picture” during the huge wildfires we had in California last year, 1.25 million acres, when a couple hundred thousand acres burned is “normal” except that there are no normal years anymore.

    It was like living in a nightmare, going to work in the smoke filled days, looking at the orange colored sunlight from the smoke, and knowing that the climate was destabilizing. It was almost comical, looking at my coworkers in denial, looking at the wildfires, looking on the internet at the polar icecap melting, looking at the smoke hanging in the air every day for over a month.

    So yes, it’s hard. These days, I keep myself going knowing that I need to stay strong, to do whatever I can to stop runaway global warming.

    Most people still don’t understand positive feedback. One person who does understand both positive feedback and the climate system is James Lovelock, and I found this interview with Lovelock by Rolling Stone after I became convinced that the climate was destabilizing.

    In this interview, Lovelock predicts 6 billion dead by 2100, and I think personally he might be underestimating the rate of climate change, out of scientific conservatism.

    The size of the problem and the momentum of it is why I favor simply seizing the coal fired power plants and forcibly converting them to carbon negative biomass/CCS plants.

    We have to stay strong, we have to function for years, and do what we can.

    This climate crisis is just awful, like a slow motion train wreck, like nothing humans are built for.

    We need to stay strong, stay honest, stay focused, work hard, and do what we can.

    If we fail one day, we need to try again the next day.

    Perhaps this is wrong, but I feel like I have to succeed on my job, in order to pay for Internet access and materials for my home workshop where I am working on a carbon negative cement aggregate, to help fight global warming.

  26. Zed Price says:

    I personally deal with it by realizing that their is an enormous cycle to existence. If before us there were ever an animal as intelligent and conscious as we are, they too must have destroyed themselves and left no trace. It’s no big deal. The world turns. Unless we put all our nukes in one place and detonate them all sending us spiraling into the sun, life will continue on this planet for some time to come. While genetically encoded to protect ourselves, recognition that humanity isn’t necessarily what’s most important is crucial to our viewpoint of the world. I’m sure our fellow animals have the thought the world has been a hellacious nightmare since we started cutting through the wilderness with our highways and cutting down forests for our books. When you think about it that way, do you really WANT humanity to continue?

  27. mitchell porter says:

    We have “deniers” and “delayers”; is there a word for people who are optimistic about climate futures to the degree that they make activists nervous, because they are afraid to relax *that* much? I am in this third category, for two reasons.

    The first reason is plain old negative feedback. Those 1000ppm-by-2100 futures are never going to happen, because they would require that humanity go on burning fossil fuels uninhibitedly even after a 2-degree rise. I think the Worldwatch Institute’s aspirational trajectory, designed to keep future warming within *1* degree of the present, should be regarded as an upper bound on what will actually happen. I don’t care if the best Copenhagen can do is produce a target of 450ppm (and I certainly think we’ll never cross that threshold); the world is going to keep giving us negative feedback which will eventually impel action beyond what is politically countenanced now.

    The second reason is going to be a lot more controversial here, but basically, I think cheap air capture of carbon is inevitable, thanks to advances in applied chemistry (“nanotechnology”, if you like), and it is going to come much sooner than people imagine. That’s really the end of the problem – when the question becomes, not how to get the carbon out of the air, but what to do with it when we do so. We are going to transition from a condition of struggling to coordinate global emission reductions, to needing to decide *exactly* how many parts-per-million of CO2 we want, because the human race will be in a position to set that value.

  28. Mitchell,

    While I believe that capturing carbon is probably not going to become cheap, and will probably present its own problems (think of all the ways trapped carbon frees itself and imagine all the ways our enormous carbon banks could resurface), I tend to be in your camp.

    Humans are not as stupid as most activists assume they are. We are getting it, and the problem is big, but solvable.

  29. Mitchell – you make a good point. Denialism can extend to those who understand AGW, they (or we) just don’t want to face the colossal tasks of survival. And the grim world for our children.

    Human denial helps us cope.

  30. Richard,
    What’s the difference between denial and a can-do attitude? I think the difference is both vast and subtle.

  31. joyce says:

    Several weeks ago I heard Nicholas Stern (British Economist) relay a marvelous climate change joke that put things in perspective:

    “Two planets circling in orbit passed each other. One said to the other: “you don’t look well.” The other said back, “I don’t feel so great. It’s those humans, you know.” The first one replied: “Don’t worry, it won’t last long…”

    The world will be saved–we’re just trying to extend the spec of time that the incredible human experience continues. Basically, geology rules.

    This doesn’t mean that I’m not working my fanny off (and having fun along the way) to learn as much as I can about sustainable practices and find ways to help others learn–it just means that I know it’s folly for me to think I’m trying to “save the world…” I need to accept what is, and just do what I can do.

    “Black humor” is a good coping mechanism for me, whether dealing with personal, community or global tragedies.

  32. Dill Weed says:

    Have you ever felt relieved when someone just told you what they did or what happened – just reporting the facts and only the facts?

    Knowing what happened, what they did, etc makes all the difference because then you can get to dealing with the matter at hand. Until you know what’s what, you are in the dark and that creates stress and anxiety AND leaves you open to deception and manipulation.

    The journalism we have today tells us very little about what has happened (is happening) and the relative context (which would allow us to judge the importance of the information).

    We are constantly told selected facts and opinions that support the author’s opinion and purpose. We get mostly opinion, usually regurjitated from some other source, often mindlessly. This can even appear to be quiality journalism.

    Instead of trusting us to form an educated opinion from a reportage of facts and relevant context – we are told what to think. This is emotional manipulation disguised as journalism.

    It produces short-term alarm or outrage. It burns people out and stymies genuine engagement and motivation that real reporting would create.

    There is very little genuine communication that reports the facts to the degree they are known along with the relevant context which allows an individual to determine the information’s worth and determine a course of action.

    Journalism as it is practiced today empowers the status quo.

    Dill Weed

  33. Gail says:

    Dill Weed,

    Thank goodness for the internet! “With Speed and Violence – Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change” by Fred Pearce just arrived in my mailbox this morning. I am up to Chapter 8 and highly recommend it (AFTER, of course, you’ve already read Hell and High Water!).

    It’s extremely well-written and makes Arctic research stations seem almost beguiling. Then there’s this informative tidbit about climate change between ice ages about 12,000 years ago, gleaned from ice cores – “The world warmed by at least 9 degrees – the IPCC’s prediction for the next century or so – with ten years.” page 23

  34. Dill Weed says:

    Thanks Gail,

    I get it. I most certainly do. I’ve been following the issue intensely for a few years – from both sides (That can almost drive you crazy BTW – it’s all conflicting opinions and their cherry picked arguments from both sides.)

    I’m convinced there is a problem, but do not expect it to be addressed in time to avoid major disruptions. Experience is the best teacher. Harsh experience is what it will take to change our societal vaules towards sustainability. It is going to be quite a ride.

    Dill Weed

  35. cougar_w says:

    When I get stressed out about AGW and the deny-o-sphere, I take a deep breath and remind myself that we are not trying to save the world. Nor salvage humanity. It is unlikely that all of humanity and the entire world will be consumed in the coming changes.

    What we are clearly trying to avert in addressing AGW is the assured destruction of industrialization, capitalism, and most of western culture and achievement.

    Less of a problem. See?


  36. Gail says:

    Gillian Caldwell, please allow me to apologize to you on behalf of that pompous, condescending fact-challenged screed from Dr. K. He went off his medications yesterday.

  37. It’s Hamlet’s choice: to suffer the slings and arrows, or take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them. Even if the cause is lost, it feels better to be fighting.

    Sometimes, it happens that the urge to fight gets misdirected. Friendly fire may then hurt allies. Enough of that, please.

    Better to focus that fighting energy on solutions. Technical solutions, preferably. Lots can be done in conservation, alternative energy sources, tree planting, etc. and those efforts are certainly good. But what is needed most is a solution for CCS that can be deployed to India and China within the next 20 years.

    Coal-fired power contributes the most CO2 to the problem, and that’s where we can hope for big cuts in emissions soon. Also, natural gas power is a big CO2 source, just not as bad as coal. The solution is not to outlaw fossil fuels, or to substitute wind and solar for coal as baseload power. I know many will disagree with that statement, but I maintain that it is indisputable fact that we are stuck with our fleet of pulverized coal plants because of the world’s accelerating need for electricity.

    Coal CCS (“clean coal”) is a dream, not a reality, but it is not impossible. I do not believe, however, that the conventional approach of chemical capture and underground storage can possibly be a scalable solution for the US, India, and China in the next 20 years. A new approach is needed for both capture and storage or conversion of the captured CO2.

    Centrifugal gas separation might strip the nitrogen ballast (75% of the volume) from flue gas (along with steam) because the molar mass of N2 is only 28 g/mol whereas CO2 is 44 g/mol. Using the conventional rapidly rotating cylindrical centrifuge, of course, would be impossible. An alternative to get high-g separation is to make the radii of the vortices very small in anisotropic turbulence and to collect the separation effects of innumerable vortices through a tree-like fractal sink flow network forced by counter-rotating centrifugal impellers. Axial suction at the impeller axis strips the vortex cores, which are rich in N2. Simultaneously, and continuously, the CO2, SO2, and aerosols are expelled radially outward, while N2 is stripped radially inward. Radial counterflow, for mechanical carbon capture. For more, see:

    For the captured CO2, shear electrolysis between counter-rotating oppositely-charged Faraday disk electrodes, powered by renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, could crack the CO2 and produce useful products, such as O2 for oxyfuel combustion and solid carbon. It would also crack SOx at the same time. I have a pending patent application on that (US and PCT) but it has not yet been published.

    The object is to provide a profit motive for capturing and disposing of CO2 by turning it from waste to resource. Bulk carbon nanotube synthesis might be enough of an incentive to get China and India interested in taking effective action to cut CO2 emissions as they massively increase their coal capacity. Maybe it sounds like a long shot, but it is our only hope.

  38. HarryL says:

    As a denier I compelled to tell all of the alarmists on this site that you all really must wake up and get a life.Especially you paulm.

  39. friedfish2718 says:

    Stressed? Get laid. No need to thank me.

  40. gofer says:

    Here’s a solution to all your problems. GO educated yourself. Read the counter arguments with an open mind and you will find, like I did, that you have been duped. I have never see so many outright lies, half-truths and distortions in my life. Antarctica has gained by 30% over the past 3 decades. The Arctic ice is nearly 283,000 sq mi. above the same time last and at the 30 year average for this time of year. If you want to remain in fear, then go ahead, but no open-minded person can delve into global warming and not see the truth. We are facing several decades of cooling…the same cycle we went through before since record keeping started. Enjoy life, the climate and the earth will be just fine. Don’t be duped. Think for yourself, if you REALLY want to know the truth. A doubling of CO2 would increase crop production by a third. THere is no evidence that anything bad would happen with an increase. IT’s just an effort to tax the bejebbies out of people worldwide and to transfer massive amounts of wealth. I’ve spent 10 years studying everything I could find and I see absolutely no reason to be the least bit concerned.

    We need to focused on actual pollution and focus efforts and money into something that can be accomplished. THe climate/weather is going to do what it’s going to do with out without our help. I sincerely hope people will start checking for themselves. Billions of dollars tend to corrupt people and here, we’re talking about trillions and a huge burden on people personallly.

    BTW, CFL bulbs are a waste of effort. Most light bulbs are used at NIGHT when there is an EXCESS in the electrical grid. Baseload runs 24/7 and it’s running through those lines no matter what bulb you use. It has 0 effect on the fuel used by the plant. That’s why they pushed charging electric cars at night because there is an EXCESS. Never mind the mercury poisoning and deaths in Chinese mfg. plants that make those bulbs! There’s always a catch. THINK and be happy!

    CO2 is harmless and it’s what gives you the breathing reflex. IT’s the second most important gas to survival. If you work in an office bldg., you are breathing anywhere from 1000-1200 ppm, which is normal for that environment.

  41. PeterW says:

    HarryL, I would think a denier who trolls climate science websites to spew utter nonsense needs a life far more than anyone posting here. Perhaps you should get some sunshine and get out of your mother’s basement for a while.

  42. PeterW says:

    gofer: “Go educated yourself”

    That’s funny. That’s really funny.

  43. Rod Dyson says:

    I have never read such a bunch of drivel in all my life. You guys have got to be joking right?

    Yes there is climate change, but you kid yourself if you think man is the cause. The next climate change happening right now is perfectly normal but is colder not warmer.

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your anxiety is going to get a whole lot worse.

    You better brace yourself because the whole AGW scam is unravelling at a rate of knots.

    Better you all find yourself another cause. This one is all but dead.

    Do you have the guts to put this post up?

  44. Zed Price says:

    This is hilarious. Some denier website obviously linked here to send his trollers.

    Here’s the question. Why are we being duped? What possible reason is there to fake global warming? What corporation is propagating all this “fake” climate science? Who gains big from action to reduce green house gas emissions?

    No one. There isn’t a single entity large enough or wealthy enough to fund and spread this kind of disinformation.

    You want the truth? Follow the money. The longer climate action waits, the more money fossil fuel companies make. “If you’re not a part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.”

  45. Zed Price says:

    I’m forced to note the difference between those who are argue that global warming isn’t real, and those who are that is a serious problem: we want to be wrong. If our opponents are right, we will rejoice.

    But until such as time as we are proven wrong, we will fight, and fight, and fight. If we’re wrong, humans get a clean environment and cheap electricity (via long lasting wind and solar power installations.) If our opponents are wrong, we flood almost every major city on Earth.

  46. Gail says:


    Why can’t trolls spell? Why do they hate the English language so?

  47. HarryL says:

    RE:Peter W,

    Peter i’m a 49 yr old male married with 4 wonderful children and a homeowner.My mother God bless her resides in her own home that does not include a basement.

    You however must live in a basement because you obviously have not been outside lately and notice that the earth is cooling.

    Wake up tree huggers and smell the COOLING thats about to take over.And praise God AND STOP WORSHIPING GLOBULLWARMING!!.

  48. Gail says:


    Talk about impoverishment.

    You guys are good fun. Seriously! You make me laugh, keep it up!

  49. Rod Dyson says:

    LOL my last post didnt make it because it was sooo true LOL

  50. Rod Dyson says:

    another censored luv in blog that cant stand the truth about global warming.

    Follow the money alright just look up gov’ grants

  51. HarryL says:

    Just look at the Waxman cap and trade bill and how cluless Waxman is.His statement that the Icecaps are evaporating and when they are done evaporating the ground underneath will heave and cause all kinds of disasters,should in itself be a red flag about how political and clueless these moorons are that push this unproven hoax called AGW.

  52. Note to denialists: errors in spelling and punctuation are not in fashion here. CP readers tend to be on the high end of the literacy spectrum, and although you may disapprove of their attitude toward your skeptical position and their fastidious grammar, if your intention is to persuade, you are doing a bad job.

  53. HarryL says:

    Mr. McCutchen sir,Your pompus attytude is typical of the alarmists M.O.You need to pull your head out of your rear and think outside of the AGW box.theres a whole new world of Facts that dispute your tainted theory.

  54. HarryL says:

    All is not well in CO2 regulation land. You may have heard about a leaked memo from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that questions the EPA findings on CO2 being a “threat to human health”. BTW there is still time to lodge your comments (as is your right as a US citizen) on this finding, details here.

  55. Joe says:

    1. Is the world actually warming? Recently there is a cooling trend since 1998 even though mans co2 output has dramatically increased during the same time period.

    2. Is warming caused by man? The world has been warming since around the mid 1800’s long before any significant industrial output of co2. The 1930’s were the warment decade of the last century. We know that the world has been much warmer in the past and it has also been mush cooler

    3. Is warming bad? Longer growing seasons, less energy to heat homes, more areas of earth may be inhabitable by humans

    4. If all of the answers to the above question are yes, is there anything that we can do to stop it? Well we still need electricity and we need to get to work. Solar and wind power are very expensive and unreliable. Burning fossel fuels it what modern civilization is built upon and give us all the standard of living that we have become used to. China and soon India produce more co2 than the US and they are not about to curb industrial activity.

    Please consider the possibility that you have been lied to by Mr Gore and that he has become quite wealthy because gulible people like you believe his lies.

  56. Susan says:

    Earth to denier central: your facts are not facts. In any case, what are you doing here?

    Joe, Harry, Rod, and other trolls:

    Take a look at world weather news over a period of time. It’s a waste of time trying to point out facts to you all, but each of your points are recycled memes funded and organized with the help of wealthy and entrenched vested interests, some of them decades old. Science is a huge debate among intelligent and thoughtful people, and they’ve taken all your quibbles into account; there are plenty of answers unless you depend on the Inhofe/Morano and WattsUpWithThat brand of disinformation. Most of them and their sources are not experts but bias pushers resisting change.

    Antarctica’s surface area has slightly increased in some areas but is diminishing rapidly in others. The volume of the ice is decreasing rather fast. Nova’s “Extreme Ice” as provides pictures and data which might possibly penetrate your determination to ignore reality. Now, about volume, the area of a square three feet on a side is 3 x 3 = 9. If it’s 2 feet deep, that’s 18, 3 feet deep, 27, etc.

    The six warmest years in the GISS record have all occurred since 1998, and the 15 warmest years in the record have all occurred since 1988.

    Deniers are fond of picking 1998 as it was unusually hot, and comparing all the years since as if the record began in that year, which it did not.

  57. I think the point is that once and a while you just have to step away and take a break.

    Everyone has a different level of tolerance. So maybe a workaholic can go longer with being spelled.

    I did something today that I am not proud of, especially after having left the boob tube turned off basically since 2006 —

    I left the TV on all day to keep me company — sorry, really, I am.

    The only excuse I can give is that I know the electricity around here is produced by a hydroelectric dam.

    But I needed the company and also a break from the relentless frugality.

    Another thing you can do is to simply not bring the subject up with people you know who are unconvincible (sp?). When they react so badly, you feel suddenly that you are living in a parallel universe, that you are out there, separate, alone. So, just avoid having that experience, and don’t bother even trying with these people, you are wasting good energy.

    There is no getting around the fact that a very dark cloud is hanging over us and the lives of our children, but we cannot live in that mental cloud, we have to appreciate every minute that we still have of what we are able to enjoy right now — get out and smell the roses.

    Take good care of yourselves everyone!

  58. HarryL says:

    Mr. Armstrong I totally agree with your previous statements.One question though.How is it proven that we contribute 3% CO2 to the budget?

  59. I can’t help but wonder if this “fear” is way WAY out of proportion to the real dangers of global warming (GW).

    Is GW “the end of the world unless we stop it cold now”? Let’s say the worst projections GW models are correct. Is it cause for labeling GW the most significant threat human kind as ever faced? Would it really be the end of the known world? How does the challenge and consequence of global warming stack up against past and current threats?

    The other obvious threat that should come to mind is Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War (accidental or otherwise). You would think that GW would, in most people’s mind, pale in comparison to the consequences of nuclear war, but – you would be wrong:

    Check out Global Warming Impact Like ‘Nuclear War’ by Jeremy Lovell:

    I asked myself: is there currently any other global threat that could be as bad or worse than global warming. I think the answer is yes. Read below and you can come to your own conclusions:


    ABC a couple of years produced a documentary called “Last Days on Earth,” about the various ways human kind, as a whole, could bite the big one. Most were fairly far fetched, e.g., (Will super-intelligent machines someday make their own decisions and destroy us?). A few though were much more plausible events: a massive asteroid hit, nuclear war, and – global warming.

    Global Warming End of the World

    Watch the episode on Global Warming first:

    See part two here:

    The episode starts out by saying there’s no debate that the climate, overall, has been getting warmer. A simple observation that’s been replicated over and over again.

    It then moves on to talk about how “special interest” has sown doubt about the GW and why.

    They then talk about the well-known correlation between CO2 and warming (and it’s more than just a correlation – there’s good evidence that C02 causes warming).

    They talk about the very hot summers we have had lately, and how tough it has been on the polar bars and penguins.

    At this point, we hear predictions of up to half the animals and plants going extinct if nothing is done.

    Then we hear that if Greenland’s ice sheet melts, that’s 20 feet of sea level rise (over the next 200 years, maybe sooner). If Antarctica melts, that’s another 20 feet.

    Near the end, it’s starts to get apocalyptic, i.e., “GW will wipe out civilization as a we know it.” This comes mostly from predictions of 20 to 40 foot sea raise. This will lead to the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse, killing billions.

    Then it moves onto what we can do to stop the coming apocalypse, and most of this has to do with C02 reduction.

    What’s interesting at this point is very little (in fact, no) evidence for this apocalyptic end of the world. All natural ice on the planet would have to melt, human kind would have to be helpless to adapt over the course of one or two centuries to raising sea levels.

    I’ll just leave it at this: beyond the fact of C02 warming the planet, the uncertainly starts going way up, and the most dire predictions have been called into serious question, and therefore debate over how bad is GW, how much worse will it get, how long will it take, and what we should do is in full sway.

    Global warming is clearly a problem, and a potentially serious one, but if we can’t stop it cold (and it seems unlikely that we can’t), is it the worst problem we currently face?

    Nuclear War End of the World

    Now watch Last Days, Nuclear War:

    First they make the point that while the cold war is over, the threat is not.

    Seocnd, C02, even the mass qualities we’re producing today, has always been here, there’s just more of it in the air. Splitting the atom, on the other hand, was an unprecedented leap forward in human kind’s understanding, power, and ability to destroy. Before Trinity, the power people witness in the New Mexico desert only existed in the heart of a star. Now we now can literally replicate a piece of the sun and duplicate it on earth.

    By the 1960’s the world arsenal of nuclear weapons numbered close to 40,000. And were not atomic weapons, like those used on Japan, but thermonuclear weapons, each 100s of times more powerful, and there were over 40,000 such weapons on the planet. This prompted Kennedy to say in 1961:

    “Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”

    He was not exaggerating or kidding.

    While most of the fears today are about Iran and North Korea, Kennette Benedit, Executive Director of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says “these are the not the countries, the systems, the weapons that are the real theat.” The real “end of the world” threat comes from the fact that neither the U.S. or Russia have stood down. Their massive strategic nuclear world-wide forces are still operational, on alert, and in their cold war state of readiness.

    “Although the Cold War is said to have ended in 1991, the US and Russia each still operate under the assumption that the other could authorize a nuclear attack against them. The failure to end their Cold War nuclear confrontation causes both nations to maintain a total of about 2,600 strategic nuclear warheads on high-alert status, which can be launched in only a few minutes, and whose primary missions remain the destruction of the opposing side’s nuclear forces, industrial infrastructure, and political/military leadership.” (See SGR Newsletter:

    The most likely way a war could start would be accidental. If there was an accidental launch by Russia, it would be almost immediately detected, and the “drill” for Obama would be to make a decision w/in 15 minutes. That’s how long he would have before a detonation on U.S. soil. The standard exercises call for a proportional retaliatory strike. At that point, it could easily escalate.

    The Scientists for Global Responsibility Newsletter continues:

    “During the Cold War, the US-Soviet nuclear standoff was a political issue familiar to most Americans. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, a lowering of tensions between the US and Russia (which obviously inherited Soviet weaponry) led to a rather remarkable American complacency about the danger posed by the continued existence of US and Russian nuclear arsenals.

    In 1994, this false sense of security was fostered by a largely symbolic agreement between the US and Russia to remove the launch coordinates from, or ‘de-target’, their nuclear missiles. Because it takes only about 10 seconds to re-install target coordinates during the launch process, the agreement created no meaningful change in the ability to launch strategic nuclear forces in a rapid fashion.

    On January 24, 1995, President Clinton told Congress that “not a single Russian missile is pointed at the children of America”. Only hours later, a Norwegian weather rocket (Black Brant XII) was mistakenly identified by the Russian early warning system to be a hostile incoming ballistic missile.

    The warning apparently was passed up the entire Russian chain of command and reportedly resulted in the opening of the ‘nuclear briefcases’ carried by the Russian President, Defence Minister and the Chief of the General Staff. These briefcases are designed to facilitate the rapid transmission of the ‘permission order’ to launch Russian nuclear forces. According to numerous published accounts, the false warning caused the President to open his briefcase for the first time. The buttons in the suitcase probably gave him a range of nuclear strike options against all strategic targets, including the US and Western Europe.

    The electronic display on the nuclear briefcase indicated a possible US or NATO nuclear missile launched from Norway or the Norwegian Sea. The President tracked the missile on the screen for three to seven minutes before it became clear that the missile was not headed towards Russia. Russian nuclear forces were then ordered to return to watch duty. Under Launch-on-Warning protocol, he was within a few minutes of a launch decision.

    Had this incident occurred during a period of increased tensions between the US and Russia, one wonders if the outcome would have been the same. Regardless, the 1995 Russian false warning of a US/NATO nuclear attack clearly illustrates the potential danger of an accidental nuclear war made possible by the existence of hundreds of high-alert ICBMs.” (See SGR Newsletter).

    The existing U.S. & Russia nuclear arsenal on alert is enough to obliterate both the U.S. and Russia and end civilization in the world as we know it. And it wouldn’t take 100, 200 years — it would take about 12 hours.

    End Civilization? How?

    Technically, the total yield of these weapon is equal to 80,000 Hiroshima bombs. That one bomb killed 100,000 people, instantly. 80,000 times 100,000 people = 8 billion people. There’s only 6 billion people on the planet.

    Second – talk about climate change! – an exchange of only 20 missles would change the climate in ways that would go way beyound the worst projections of global warming. Just 20 missiles, about a 100 megaton exchange, would be enough to set up a Nuclear Winter because of the detonations and the resulting firestorms in the cities they hit.

    Most people have no idea that the detonation of a single average strategic nuclear weapon will ignite a gigantic firestorm over a total area of 105 to 170 square kilometers. The bombing over Dresden ignited a firestorm over an area of about 35 square kilometers. (See SGR Newsletter).

    A single average strategic nuclear weapon would ignite a firestorm over an area 4 to 5 times LARGER than Dresden. One strategic nuclear weapon. One.

    To see what unleashing all these weapons would do, see the After effects of Nuclear War:

    In addition to several hundred million immediately killed, surface temps would fall to sub-freezing levels a few days after.

    And it wouldn’t take an accidental exchange of 20 or so missiles between the U.S. and Russia (assuming it would stop there), even a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan would be enough to drastically change the climate — not in 100 to 200 years, but in about a day.

    A team of scientists at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder); and UCLA conducted the rigorous scientific studies on the effects of a “small” regional nuclear war, and concluded:

    “We examined the climatic effects of the smoke produced in a regional conflict in the subtropics between two opposing nations, each using 50 Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons to attack the other’s most populated urban areas,” Robock said. The researchers carried out their simulations using a modern climate model coupled with estimates of smoke emissions provided by Toon and his colleagues, which amounted to as much as five million metric tons of “soot” particles.

    “A cooling of several degrees would occur over large areas of North America and Eurasia, including most of the grain-growing regions,” Robock said. “As in the case with earlier nuclear winter calculations, large climatic effects would occur in regions far removed from the target areas or the countries involved in the conflict.”

    “With the exchange of 100 15-kiloton weapons as posed in this scenario, the estimated quantities of smoke generated could lead to global climate anomalies exceeding any changes experienced in recorded history,” Robock said. “And that’s just 0.03 percent of the total explosive power of the current world nuclear arsenal.” (American Geophysical Union in San Francisco:

    So, is GW warming a problem that deserves the attention of scientists and public policy analysis? Yes.

    Can GW warming realistically end the world in 100 – 200 years. Unlikely, even if we can’t prevent the worst of it.

    Is GW the biggest threat to human kind today? The answer is a laughable resounding NO! The end of the world is only a button push away. Me? I’ll take a 20 to 40 foot sea rise over 100-200 years then a 3000-5000 megaton exchange over the course of 12 hours.


    If anyone wants to argue that global nuclear war wouldn’t be the end of the world, you put yourself in the shoes of those hawks who used to argue that nuclear war was both winnable and survivable.

    In 1984, and film called Threads was released as a dramatic answer to these “hawks.”

    Also, there’s terrific documentary, “1983, The Brink of Apocalypse” about the year the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. can the closest they ever had to global thermonuclear war:

    It’s very good, and at times, riveting. And the 80’s music they use as a soundtrack is inspired.