M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F

Today’s question:  How the heck does the Greenland ice sheet survive accelerated disintegration from projected 20°F warming by the 2090s?

I previously blogged on how the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Climate Change has joined the climate realists — the growing group of scientists who understand that the business as usual emissions path leads to unmitigated catastrophe (see “Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path” and below).

Back in January, the Program issued a remarkable report in January, by over a dozen leading experts, doubling their 2095 warming projection to 5.2°C. The media mostly ignored it, which is no surprise, since the media generally ignores the realists in general (see U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: “Recent observations confirm “¦ the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised” “” 1000 ppm).

Now, the MIT study has been published in a peer-reviewed journal — The American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate (subs. req’d) — which obviously it makes it much more credible and high-profile.  Reuters has a good story on it, “Global warming could be twice as bad as forecast.”  The study concludes:

The MIT Integrated Global System Model is used to make probabilistic projections of climate change from 1861 to 2100. Since the model’s first projections were published in 2003 substantial improvements have been made to the model and improved estimates of the probability distributions of uncertain input parameters have become available. The new projections are considerably warmer than the 2003 projections, e.g., the median surface warming in 2091 to 2100 is 5.2°C compared to 2.4°C in the earlier study. Many changes contribute to the stronger warming; among the more important ones are taking into account the cooling in the second half of the 20th century due to volcanic eruptions for input parameter estimation and a more sophisticated method for projecting GDP growth which eliminated many low emission scenarios.

[Note:  That rise is compared to 1981-2000 temperature levels.  So you can add at least 0.5 °C and 1.0 °F for comparison with pre-industrial temperatures, which I did in the headline — see “A (Hopefully) Clarifying Note on Temperature.”]

The MIT press release calls for “rapid and massive” action to avoid this.  Study co-author Ronald Prinn, the co-director of the Joint Program and director of MIT’s Center for Global Change Science, says, it is important “to base our opinions and policies on the peer-reviewed science….  There’s no way the world can or should take these risks.”   Duh!

Their median projection for the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in 2095 is a jaw-dropping 866 ppm.


Projected decadal mean concentrations of CO2. Red solid lines are median, 5% and 95% percentiles for present study: dashed blue line the same from their 2003 projection.

As grim as this prediction is, it is still almost certainly an underestimate of what will happen on our current path of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions, as Prinn explains:

And the odds indicated by this modeling may actually understate the problem, because the model does not fully incorporate other positive feedbacks that can occur, for example, if increased temperatures caused a large-scale melting of permafrost in arctic regions and subsequent release of large quantities of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. Including that feedback “is just going to make it worse,” Prinn says.

Speaking of feedbacks, the model shows staggering warming near the poles (see “What exactly is polar amplification and why does it matter?“):

Figure 9:  Latitudinal distribution of changes in SAT in the last decade of 21st century relative to 1981-2000. Red solid lines are median, 5% and 95% percentiles for present study: dashed blue line the same from Webster et al., (2003).

Median arctic warming — north of 70° latitude — (from 1981-2000 levels) is 20°F!  How could Greenland‘s ice sheet possibly survive that?

Why the change in the 2009 modeling, compared to 2003? The Program’s website explains:

There is no single revision that is responsible for this change. In our more recent global model simulatations, the ocean heat-uptake is slower than previously estimated, the ocean uptake of carbon is weaker, feedbacks from the land system as temperature rises are stronger, cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases over the century are higher, and offsetting cooling from aerosol emissions is lower. No one of these effects is very strong on its own, and even adding each separately together would not fully explain the higher temperatures. Rather than interacting additively, these different affects appear to interact multiplicatively, with feedbacks among the contributing factors, leading to the surprisingly large increase in the chance of much higher temperatures.

The carbon sinks are saturating, and the amplifying feedbacks are worse than previously thought — that, of course, is a central understanding of all climate realists (see Study: Water-vapor feedback is “strong and positive,” so we face “warming of several degrees Celsius” for links to the various feedbacks that have been ignored by most climate models).

Andrew Freedman at had one of the very few stories on this important study back in February and reprints this useful figure from MIT:


He explains:

Results of the studies are depicted online in MIT’s “Greenhouse Gamble” exercise that conveys the “range of probability of potential global warming” via roulette wheel graphics (shown above). The modeling output showed that under both a “no policy” scenario and one in which nations took action beginning in the next few years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the odds have shifted in favor of larger temperature increases.

For the no policy scenario, the researchers concluded that there is now a nine percent chance (about one in 11 odds) that the global average surface temperature would increase by more than 7°C (12.6°F) by the end of this century, compared with only a less than one percent chance (one in 100 odds) that warming would be limited to below 3°C (5.4°F).

To repeat, on our current emissions path, we have a 9% chance of an incomprehensibly catastrophic warming of 7°C by century’s end, but less than a 1% chance of under 3°C warming.

“The take home message from the new greenhouse gamble wheels is that if we do little or nothing about lowering greenhouse gas emissions that the dangers are much greater than we thought three or four years ago,” said Ronald G. Prinn, professor of atmospheric chemistry at MIT. “It is making the impetus for serious policy much more urgent than we previously thought.”

The time to act is now.

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49 Responses to M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F

  1. Steve Bloom says:

    OT: Joe, my eyes popped when I saw this Guardian article this morning. It states that as a consequence of water shortages due to climate change and excess irrigation “(t)he government says more than 150 million people will have to be moved.” That’s an impressive number even for China, ~11% of the population. It’s equivalent to the population of the entire western U.S., less California.

  2. Icarus says:

    This is a very worrying scenario, and I’m quite sure we’re committed to significant global warming *even if* we could stop burning all fossil fuels tomorrow, but I wonder: Is there enough fossil fuel in the ground to take us to that level of CO2? So far we’ve burned enough to raise atmospheric CO2 by 100ppm since pre-industrial times (~280 – 380ppm), so simple arithmetic suggests that we’d need to burn at least 5 times as much again to take us to 900 or 1000ppm. Is that right, and is there that much left in the ground?

  3. Nathan Srigley says:

    icarus: if they run out of fossil fuels they will find something else to burn, I’m thinking the dreams of future generations.

  4. Icarus – one thing you might be forgetting is that at certain thresholds, many carbon sinks become carbon sources. Also, as those sinks saturate, more and more of the co2 we make is staying in the atmosphere (currently, the ocean absorbs a significant amount of the co2 we produce every year).

    So, as Mark Lynas so eloquently outlined in his book Six Degrees, the real issue is that if we get to 450ppm and stay there long enough (which is not far off – we’re at ~380 now) feedbacks in nature might take us all the way to, say 600 or 650, without us even lifting a finger.

  5. Icarus says:

    Christopher – that’s a good explanation and certainly must be a big factor. Now you come to mention it I have read about the oceans becoming net emitters of CO2 once they reach a certain level of warming. Thanks for your reply.

  6. Sasparilla says:

    Man I assumed that this took into consideration the big self feeding feedbacks (like permafrost melting) to get the higher numbers, but it doesn’t – this is extremely disturbing.

  7. Gail says:

    I am just finishing up Fred Pearce’s “With Speed and Violence, Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points” that does a superb job of summing up the cumulative effects of positive feedback. It is impossible to read it and not understand the profound changes in climate we will undoubtedly experience in the very near future and in fact, already are.

    I also saw this map this morning over at survivalacres dot com, which I find extremely disturbing too, since from what I can see, it grossly underestimates the potential for aridification in the Eastern US – and judging from the unprecedented recent summer heat waves, in Europe as well. This spring, many many trees here dead standing timber, and it is quite difficult to find any tree that doesn’t exhibit signs of decline – virtually all of them are only partially leafing out. Most bizarre is that not only are there fewer leaves on the thinning crowns, but they are smaller in dimension. Most noticeable are the sycamores. Their leaves are suspended at 1 to 2 inches in diameter, when they normally would be 6 to 8 inches across (!) This is the evidence of vegetation turning from being a carbon sink to a carbon emitter.

    And it is the beginning of the process that will entail drying of the soils as more sunlight reaches through the shrinking canopy, and of course the loss of all vegetation that grows underneath in their shade, and all the animals too. Not to mention wildfires. It has the potential of total ecosystem collapse and then it’s anyone’s guess whether the soils will remain arable for crops.

    The question I ask is, if the “experts” that make maps like this are so oblivious to actual conditions on the eastern seaboard, who knows how much they are missing everywhere else, even in those places they predict to be at risk of drought?

  8. Lou Grinzo says:

    And speaking of the (no longer quite)permafrost, I did some digging and came up with the current readings from NOAA from atmospheric methane. The bottom line: It’s continuing the rise we’ve seen since late in 2006.

    I posted about it on my site yesterday (Methane checkpoint), and included links to the data and the online graph generating goodies the NOAA provides.

  9. Leland Palmer says:

    There is a way to stop this, I believe:

    From the Norwegian/Russian Bellona Foundation:

    By combining technology for CO2 capture and storage (CCS) with the use of biomass, future energy production can remove CO2 from the atmosphere. The latest observations of climate change tell us that carbon negative is not only an interesting idea, but a necessity if we are to avoid crossing dangerous climatic tipping point….

    …While this prospect might sound more like dreaming, the first carbon negative energy plant will be put in operation in Denmark by the European energy utility Vattenfall by the end of 2013, achieving a net removal of half a million ton of CO2 per year from the atmosphere while supplying energy to 200 000 homes. The enabling technology is a combination of bioenergy and CO2 capture and storage (CCS).

    One embodiment of carbon negative energy ideas would be to carbonize biomass into biocarbon. This biocarbon or charcoal could then be burned in coal plants modified to improve their thermal efficiency and to capture their CO2. What this does is to switch the sources and sinks associated with coal, and take carbon out of the biomass (and so ultimately out of the atmosphere) and store it underground.

    Biomass can be burned directly in coal fired power plants, but cannot entirely replace coal. Biocarbon – pelletized charcoal – has properties almost identical to coal, and should be able to be burned in existing coal fired power plants as a 100% replacement for coal. Carbonization of biomass and production of biocarbon is currently being done at only a few sites around the world, but is a straighforward application of existing technology. Rapid production of charcoal is being done by the flash carbonization process at the University of Hawaii, for example, and a Canadian firm is producing biocarbon from “beetle killed” trees that cannot be used commercially for any other purpose.

    Biocarbon would make biomass as transportable as coal, and make it possible to replace coal at the 100% level in existing coal fired power plants.

    It is also possible to enhance the efficiency of existing coal plants, by using a combination of oxyfuel combustion and a process called HiPPS, both investigated extensively by the National Energy Technology Lab in concert with private corporations.

    By combining biocarbon fuel, oxyfuel combustion, a HiPPS topping cycle, and Carbon Capture and Storage, I believe that a practical carbon negative system of energy production could be constructed – by modifying existing coal fired power plants.

    If done on a large enough scale, this solution could have the sort of hugely synergistic impact on the problem that appears to be necessary to prevent disaster.

    See, for example:

    Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage (BECS):
    a Sequential Decision Approach to the threat of Abrupt Climate Change

  10. _00_ says:

    “It is inconceivable that even after a decade since global warming ended and seven years into a cooling trend with no end of cooling in sight, that world leaders are unaware of these facts and are still pursuing initiatives to stop global warming. Something is terribly wrong with the official international science bodies such as the IPCC who have not come forward and properly informed the world leaders of current global temperatures. ”

    this thing detract MIT science … (in pro of use his tech)

  11. RE Wonk says:

    FYI, the Dept. of Energy also covered this story in one of its newsletters, the “EERE Network News”:

    That’s “EERE” as in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the office that Joe led for a short time.

    Question for Joe: aren’t MIT’s “policy” options too weak? They stabilize at 550 ppm CO2 (675 ppm CO2 equivalent). As a result, they find only a 20% chance of holding temperature rise below 2 degrees C. Shouldn’t they be talking about 450 ppm, or even 350 ppm? They seem to be giving the message that even “rapid and massive” action probably won’t work. This could fuel the fire for the “why do anything” climate denial argument.

  12. David B. Benson says:

    Icarus — Read David Rutledge’s essay on TheOilDrum. He seriously doubts there is that much recoverable cola left.

    On the other hand, he does not consider positive feedbacks from permafrost, etc.

  13. David B. Benson says:

    Leland Palmer — Fine ideas, but the scale is way too small. Realistic estimates are around 8 gigatonnes of carbon per year from fossil fuels. Realistic is to grow biomass containing 10 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year. For full replacement that is 0.8 gigahectares = 8 million square kilometers. With some working area, you’ll need the entire

  14. Mary says:

    The debate over this issue is ultimately irrelevant. The actions proposed by President Obama and Waxman won’t do anything to reduce CO2 not now or in the future. Due in large part to the fact the world’s governments, thanks to the collapse of the global financial system, can’t afford to do anything about “Climate Change” anyway. Significantly reducing CO2 comes with an estimated price tag of over $7 trillion dollars. That’s 20% of the world’s GDP.

    Moreover, the temperature of the earth is constantly going up and down, and has been for the last 4 billion years. Up, down, up, down, up, down. The variations in the past were MUCH more wild and extreme than they are these days. The variations we’re talking about these days are absolutely trivial in comparison. And the same thing holds true for ocean levels.

    For example, in the fairly recent past, sea levels were at one point 300 FEET [yes, feet] higher than they are today, such that the California Central Valley was an inland sea, etc. And subsequent to that, sea levels were hundreds of feet lower than they are now, such that it was possible for humans and animals to walk from Russia to Alaska, since Asia and North America were actually a single connected continent.

    And yet, here we are fretting about, literally, centimeters of ocean level variations. It’s completely absurd just on the face of it. When the oceans rose 300 feet, the planet survived, animals thrived, the fish had a bit more room to swim around in. When the oceans fell 300 feet, the planet survived, the animals thrived, the reptiles had a bit more land to crawl around on. IT WAS NOT A CATASTROPHE EITHER WAY. And yet, in the most wild alarmist projections, they’re talking about sea levels rising 5 feet in the next 500 or 1000 years or so. That’s never going to come to pass, considering the data we now have, but even if it did — so what? So the oceans will have risen by 5 feet in 3000 AD. A couple of streets in Miami and San Diego will be flooded. The coastline of Bangladesh will be shorter. But none of that will be perceptible over the span of anyone’s lifetime. The oceans, even in a worst-case scenario, will inch in, inch by inch, over centuries.

    Now, this same principle can be applied to all aspects of the global warming debate. Just try to look at the data yourself and judge for yourself, aside from any politics, and ignoring any “appeals to authority” or any ad hominem arguments; and you’ll almost certainly come to the same conclusion as as I did, namely that the entire topic is blown wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy out of proportion; that any changes thay may happen will be fairly minor and of unknown significance, and that it’s nothing but a big political football filled with hot air.

  15. Oliver says:

    “The science is settled”

    “MIT study in error by a factor of 2!”

    (Luckily in the appropriate direction)

    Sorry, couldn’t resist!

  16. Gail says:

    Mary says,

    The variations in the past were MUCH more wild and extreme than they are these days.

    Actually, according to the geological evidence, the current human contribution to rising greenhouse gasses is FASTER than anything in the past from whatever natural causes, and the concern is that the resulting climate chaos that results from this rapid forcing will be more violent and produce more extensive extinctions than seen previously.

    Here’s one consequence of our emissions of CO2 that is CURRENT, not “wayyyyyyy” out of proportion:

    the oceans are absorbing the bulk of it, causing acidification, and it’s killing (KILLING) coral reefs and other creatures that are the essential bottom of the food chain.

    Given that a large proportion of the global human population relies on food from the sea, and they will likely starve unless they migrate into your backyard and your supermarket seeking food, is that any worse than, I don’t know, a couple of flooded streets?

    Mary, you need to do some reading of actual science, it will help you when you have to cope with disruptive events in the future.

  17. Gail says:

    I am almost finished reading Fred Pearce’s “With Speed and Violence, Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points” which is a superb summation of the pernicious cumulative potential of positive feedbacks. Anyone who reads it will be persuaded that the common predictions are grotesquely overoptimistic.

    I saw this map this morning

    which is scary enough all by itself but here’s the thing: From what I can observe personally in New Jersey, and up and down the Eastern Seaboard, this spring it’s ever more obvious that the climate here is no longer hospitable to the trees that evolved to inhabit the niche they occupied the past millennia.

    Whether in private yards, landscapes around commercial buildings, along roadsides or deep in untended woods, many trees are lifeless standing timber and the rest virtually universally exhibit signs of decline. It is quite difficult to even locate a tree that does have ugly bare branches sticking out above a thinning crown. Most bizarrely, among many of those that have struggled to leaf out, the leaves are not just fewer in number but actually stunted in dimension as well. It’s especially notable in the sycamores, who currently have leaves one or two inches wide while they should have great plates 8 or 10 inches across! This shrinking biomass is how the vegetation transitions from being a carbon sink to a carbon source.

    Fred Pearce has many examples from the undisputed geological record of the inexorable trend of this process.

    Ultimately all these trees will die which will in turn affect all the dependent plants that normally live under their canopy, and all the animals and birds that rely on their shade will perish. The sun will penetrate the soils, depleting and drying them, rains will wash them away diminishing their fertility, wildfires will rage. It remains to be seen how viable they will be for agriculture.

    The map begs the question, if the *experts* are so oblivious to this process on the Eastern Seaboard, how much are they ignoring or glossing over the consequences of climate change in areas which they DO identify as at risk?

  18. David B. Benson says:

    Mary — GWP is about $67 trillion, so $7 trillion is closer to 10%. But that price tag will be spread over many years, each withy a world economy of around $67–70 trillion.

  19. Mary says:

    David B. Benson, Environmental elitists like you may not think a $7 trillion dollar drain from the world economy used for the sole purpose of reducing co2 is a big deal. However, the poor people in China and India may think otherwise.

    The fact stands, that the world will not bow to US demands to reduce co2 when it is not in their economic interests to do so. They will just look at the US as an imperialistic bunch of loons who are trying to force their will on the world. If President Obama’s cap and trade bill is implemented China and the rest of the world will be laughing all the way to the bank with our money in their pockets.

    China’s stance can be summarized thusly: “we plan to keep doing what we’re doing, but feel free to pay us extra for the carbon we emit making stuff you want to buy”
    If we go down this route, we will impoverish ourselves – either via trade war or lost manufacturing, or both – and as an added bonus, we’ll have absolutely no global impact on any carbon emissions we cut as they will be happily made up elsewhere at our expense. Sounds like a great plan.

  20. Danny says:

    Mary, I agree with you, “the world will not reduce co2 if it is not in their economic interest to do so”. The real issue for us and the world as a whole is that there is no viable alternative to coal and oil available right now that will meet the energy needs of the US or the world.

    The only one being proposed is “wind” which is very expensive compared to coal and oil and thus has to be subsidized by the tax payers. Not only that, wind energy is very bad for the environment as every living creature in its path will be annihilated. Wind power would lead to a drastic reduction of open spaces in the Great Plains and the southwest deserts. If one takes into account the new power lines that will have to be build the impact will be even greater. THE IMPLICATIONS OF WIND PRODUCED POWER FOR WILD LIFE WILL BE CATASTROPHIC.Not to mention that the giant blades of those wind power plants transform them into true grim reapers for all flying creatures.

    Large corporations like GE, who are big supporters of President Obama, will be the biggest winners if cap and trade is passed. So will China. Everyone else will be the losers. As President Obama stated, if his cap and trade bill goes through energy costs will go “sky high”. Not only that, there is little chance that cap and trade will actually reduce co2.

    The argument that the US has to “lead the way” in order to “save the world” is just plain stupid. Lead the way where?

    — To “sky high” energy costs as President Obama has stated?

    — To killing a lots of birds and small animals in the path of millions of very costly “wind power” turbines?

    — To benefiting large Corporations like GE, who will siphon off billions of dollars in tax payer funding?

    — To the loss of millions of private US jobs in the coal industry?

    — To pay for more and more government union tax payer subsidized “green jobs” paid for by the money drained from the smaller and smaller private sector?

    — To sending our hard earned dollars over seas to China so they can increase their co2 output in order to produce things for us that we could produce here at less cost and damage to the environment not to mention less co2 as those big ships produce a lot of co2 going over the ocean.

    Sounds like President Obama and the rest of the environmentalists are telling the people of the US that in order to “save the world” they must destroy the US economy and do great harm to the environment even though they know it will do little or nothing to reduce co2.

  21. Sam says:

    Danny, What people like President Obama , Rep Waxman and Gail are asking us is to destroy the US economy and wreck the environment based upon a long-range climate forecast which has not been scientifically proven. Probably not the behavior of rational people. As Mises said, “Tu ne cede malis.” Do not give in to evil.

    The environmentalist irrational thinking is simply evil. If you look at the drastic harm wind power will have on the environment and calculate the end to end energy budgets, (it takes a lot of energy and political capital to harvest fuels from the middle east) that are required to meet the energy needs of the US. Using US based coal, oil and natural gas (the US has a lot of it) the US could reduce the end to end energy budget by an order of magnitude, save environment from the harm that wind power would create plus create tangible wealth for all US citizens. Just look at Alaska.

    This is a plus because a) this allows far more time to develop viable alternative energy sources (unlike wind) and b) this keeps the energy dollars within the US.

  22. Godfrey says:

    Gail, The “positive feedback” assumptionn of the global warming “believers“ is very dubious.. The issue has to do with water vapor. Sometimes water vapor is a greenhouse gas, and sometimes it is an anti-greenhouse gas, namely when it blocks radiation from reaching the earth. In addition, certain types of clouds have a greater effect on albedo than on greenhouse forcing, making the whole feedback assumption seem hopelessly simplified. What was even more puzzing is that, since the solubility of CO2 in water decreases as temperature rises, this alone should contribute to runaway global warming, and life on earth should have been pretty much unlikely starting millennia ago. Also look at a paper by Heinz Hug in which he argued that the IPCC model for global warming overstated the heating forcing effect of doubling atmospheric CO2 by a factor of eighty. He argued that all of the thermal radiation that is absorbed and re-radiated by CO2 is absorbed within 10 meters of the ground. Further, RealClimate discussion of this paper is contrived and unconvincing, which sounded a lot like the proponents of the geocentric universe resorting to theory of epicycles in a futile effort to defend a failing dogma.

    So this is what we know:

    1. CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
    2. Water vapor can also act as a greenhouse gas
    3. The models that attempt to describe the influence of CO2 on temperature don’t work very well.
    4. The models that attempt to describe the influence of human activity on temperature work even less well.
    5. The science is no where near being settled one way or the other.
    6. There is a great deal of political capital to be had on both sides of the global warming debate.

  23. Gail says:

    The trolls are out tonight!

    Sam: destory the US economy! Hello! George W. Bush did that, not least with his phony war in Iraq?

    Danny: Wind is a threat to living things? Try runaway greenhouse effect? Just look at the current rate of extinction!

    Mary: China is way ahead of you. Look it up.

    And then all of you, please, crawl back under the rocks from whence you emerged.

  24. Gail says:

    Godfrey, I missed your post while I was writing. Please, please, log on to and buy Fred Pearce’s book. If you can’t afford it, email me an address to witsendnj at yahoo dot com and I will snailmail my copy to you. Free of charge!

  25. Sam says:

    Gail, Instead to name calling Please answer the following questions:

    — Will wind turbines kill thousands and thousands of animals and birds when they are deployed on the thousands of acreage needed to replace even a fraction of the energy produced by oil and coal?

    — Will the plant life that once absorbed a lot of the dreaded co2 be destroyed in order to make way for wind turbines that are being proposed to replace even a fraction of coal and oil?

    — Will wind power, even if deployed on thousands and thousands of acres of land, be enough power to replace coal and oil? If you do the math you will see that wind power will replace a mere fraction of energy from coal and oil thus have minimal impact on co2 reduction. Same holds true for solar by the way. Just do the math.

    — Is there another viable alternative, other than wind, that is being proposed that will replace oil and coal in the near future? (Nuclear would do it but President Obama is against nuclear so it is not an option at this time)

    — If US energy costs “sky rocket” as President Obama has said, will this have a negative impact on the economy and jobs, thus significantly lower the US standard of living, that is “destroy our economy”.

    — If the rest of the world does not go along with President Obama’s cap and trade proposals, will co2 be reduced enough world wide to impact the climate?

    — What is the likely hood that the rest of the world will go along with President Obama’s cap and trade proposals if it will do harm to their economy?

    Thanks and please refrain from name calling if you want to have any credibility.

  26. Godfrey, says:

    Gail, I will read the book. If you want some other view points on this issue I suggest you read:

    Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (Vintage) (Paperback)
    by Bjorn Lomborg (Author)

    The Deniers: The World Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud**And those who are too fearful to do so (Hardcover)
    by Lawrence Solomon

    An open mind is always a plus don’t you think?

  27. Gail says:

    Sam, I apologize for resorting to name-calling. My offer to send a free copy of the book I referred to stands for you as well. I am not a scientist – but I do know enough to understand it when I read it, even if I cannot explain it in a glib fashion.

    To answer your questions, or a few of them anyway,

    from what I have read, yes, there is a destructive effect from wind power, but it pales in comparison the environmental degradation that results from burning fossil fuels. That includes my daughter’s cancer.

    Solar and geothermal are excellent alternatives, and serious energy efficiencies could be hugely influential, if employed on a grand scale.

    The rest of the world will never be motivated to do a thing if Obama doesn’t lead them. We can’t simultaneously claim to be the pre-eminent society on earth, and then shun our responsibility to lead. The US must make the first steps and then encourage – and if that isn’t enough then demand – that the rest of the world follows our example.

    What is the likely hood that the rest of the world will go along?

    So what?

    The question is, if we don’t lead, how can we expect them to follow? And if we don’t lead, and they don’t follow, do you have any expectation that your children will have a happy, peaceful life?

  28. Gail says:


    It’s a deal. I will order said books and read them.

    Cool It. and The Deniers.

    Please get back to me so we can compare notes. okay? You’ve got my blog, send me a comment or via email or facebook; and let’s compare impressions.

  29. Godfrey, says:


    Will do. Hope you enjoy the books.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Gail, “So what” The money and resources wasted on a futile effort to reduce co2 that could have been spent more productively on feeding and housing the needy and cancer research among other things, that’s why. As to setting an example to the world, the world will think us all a bunch of loons while laughing all the way to the bank at our expense. Also, wind and solar will provide only a fraction of the energy required to replace coal and oil.

    Do the math and you will see that the alternatives to coal and oil (wind and sun) being offered by the Obama administration,cannot mathmatically replace the energy being provided by coal as oil. Quite simply, wind and solar can NEVER be more than minor contributors to our energy portfolio and the sooner we accept this reality the sooner we can move on to real solutions.

    Wind: Using the data available for General Electric’s largest wind turbine, a 3.6 MW peak power behemoth.
    GE’s turbine will only produce its rated peak power when the wind is blowing at 14 meters/sec or greater. The power output drops off sharply as wind speed declines. The national average wind speed is just over a measly 4 meters/sec so I bumped it up to 6 meters/sec because that’s a point on the output curve on GE’s website.
    At 6 meters/sec the output of the 3.6 MW peak power wind turbine is just 0.4 MW.
    To get 3.6 GW then requires about 8,000 3.6 MW wind turbines spread over 500 square miles.
    I’d like to see some of the eco-ignorant advocates of wind as the solution do the math themselves.

    Sun: As to solar, using Palo Verde as that standard.
    According to the New American the maximum, which is far more than what is actually recoverable, amount of solar power available per acre in Albuquerque, a region of the country blessed with a lot of sunshine, is 970 kW/acre.
    Palo Verde produces 3.6 GW from its three reactors that run 24/7 and only shut down for maintenance and periodic refueling. Now, to get that same 3.6 GW from a solar array operating at 100% efficiency (remember, this is a physical impossibility) the solar plant would require ~3,300 acres. This sounds like a pretty good deal but in reality the physical maximum efficiency of modern solar cells only allows a conversion rate of about 10%. The problem of maximizing power from sunlight has been known for at least 30 years, and is primarily one of physical limitations, not engineering technology. So this 3,300 acres in reality would require 33,000 acres to produce the same 3.6 GW as a nuclear power plant. That also assumes the entire 33,000 acres is covered by solar arrays, which, again is impossible. There needs to be spacing for panel movement, personnel and vehicle
    traffic, and support facilities. So lets conservatively say that to generate 3.6 GW during the peak sunshine hours would require 35,000 acres. Now, what about when the sun isn’t shining or the 3/4 of the year when solar incidence isn’t at its summer maximum? Then of course there’s the problem of keeping the dust from accumulating on 35,000 acres of solar panels.

    As for biofuel: The inputs required to convert crops into fuel mean that there is an environmental cost associated with producing this fuel. There is some debate about whether or not there is any net benefit from ethanol in terms of greenhouse gas emissions when compared with petroleum. If we also must cut down rain-forests to make room for bio-fuel crops then the whole prospect is much more costly (in terms of environmental impact). In the case of a corn crop I believe it takes 200 years to pay back the damage of deforestation (both in releasing stored carbon in the forest and lost carbon sequestration

    over the life of the crop). So in other words, it doesn’t get paid back and we cause immediate damage of higher magnitude than normal fossil fuel use.

    The question I have for you is how to you expect your children to lead a happy and healthy life if President Obama spends trillions of dollars on a futile and wasteful effort to reduce co2 that will most certainly significantly lower their standard of living.

  31. Gail says:

    Um. To Anonymous.
    Wind, Solar, and geothermal will HAVE TO BE.

    Lower standard of living?

    I already had one daughter who almost died of cancer and is still suffering the effects of chemo-that would be heart damage that is potentially fatal.

    So, could you maybe just, stfu?

  32. Mike D says:

    “When the oceans rose 300 feet, the planet survived, animals thrived, the fish had a bit more room to swim around in. When the oceans fell 300 feet, the planet survived, the animals thrived, the reptiles had a bit more land to crawl around on. IT WAS NOT A CATASTROPHE EITHER WAY.”

    So your standard of “not a catastrophe” is “didn’t extinguish all life on the planet”?

  33. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi David B. Benson-

    Fine ideas, but the scale is way too small. Realistic estimates are around 8 gigatonnes of carbon per year from fossil fuels. Realistic is to grow biomass containing 10 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year. For full replacement that is 0.8 gigahectares = 8 million square kilometers. With some working area, you’ll need the entire Sahara

    The large land area needed is a drawback, it’s true. But much of the land could be dual use, IMO.

    In this report, Oak Ridge National Laboratory found 1.2 billion tons of “waste” biomass available per year in the U.S., consisting of mostly agricultural waste with some forest trimmings and urban waste thrown in.

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry: The Technical Feasibility of a Billion Ton Annual Supply

    In addition to this waste biomass, I suggest also gathering an additional 1.2 billion tons from fire-protecting existing forests, harvesting charred trees after wildfires, urban carbonaceous waste and manure, and an additional 1.2 billion tons from biomass plantations and imports. This 3.6 billion tons of biomass could be carbonized into about a billion tons of biocarbon, evolving some heat to dry it and some combustible gases at the same time from it’s hydrogen content.

    A billion tons of biocarbon is roughly equal to our current coal use, and if the power plants were converted into carbon negative power plants, remember all of this carbon would end up sequestered. So, this billion tons of carbon can also be counted multiple times, in its impact.

    Firstly, this would displace a billion tons of coal, and so a billion tons of carbon would be kept out of the atmosphere. Secondly, it would generate electricity for electric cars, displacing perhaps 250 million tons of carbon. Thirdly, it would help prevent wildfires by clearing the forests of combustible undergrowth, preventing perhaps another 250 million tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere from wildfires. Fourthly, carbonizing manure from domestic animals and carbonaceous urban waste would also keep much of our current domestic production of methane out of the atmosphere. Fifthly, a billion tons of carbon would be put back underground. Finally, maybe 2 billion tons of natural gas and petroleum could be burned to bring carbon emissions up to zero.

    U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (projected for 2012) are about 7.7 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, roughly equal to 2.1 billion tons of carbon. So, you can see, by simply converting the coal plants into carbon negative power plants, we could easily become a carbon neutral society, due to the multiple synergistic effects of carbon negative energy production.

    As fossil fuel plants are replaced by renewables, the U.S. could move from there rapidly into the negative numbers, and become a carbon negative society.

    These are the kinds of numbers the Read and Lermit also generate.

    The impact of carbon negative energy schemes can be huge.

    Yes, there is enough biomass, and one good thing is that biomass generating land need not be biomass plantations, because on site conversion of the biomass into biocarbon makes the carbon in biomass as transportable as coal. So the biomass could come from dual use land, and not necessarily from biomass plantations. Another thing that could be done to move biocarbon from local sources of biomass to the power plants is build biocarbon log pipelines, using coal log pipeline technology. Unlike coal log pipelines, biocarbon log pipelines might actually purify their water, because biocarbon contains of a large proportion of activated charcoal.

    I’ve purchased a URL, I will work all of this stuff out in detail, and post it on this website, as I get the time. You’re invited to visit, if you like, and help me by critically reviewing the plan.

    Thanks for your help and input. :)

  34. Mike D says:

    I’m still laughing that anti-wind people are pretending to care about birds flying into turbines. Bleeding hearts, I tell you.

    Poor birds. Clearly what we need to do is remove entire mountaintops to mine coal.

  35. Mike D says:

    According to Wikipedia, Albuquerque covers 180.6 square miles. That’s 115,584 acres. I betcha somewhere in there we could find 35,000 acres of rooftop if we had to.

    And you haven’t even mentioned solar thermal power.

    “Sun: …So lets conservatively say that to generate 3.6 GW during the peak sunshine hours would require 35,000 acres. Now, what about when the sun isn’t shining or the 3/4 of the year when solar incidence isn’t at its summer maximum? Then of course there’s the problem of keeping the dust from accumulating on 35,000 acres of solar panels.”

  36. Leland Palmer says:

    “When the oceans rose 300 feet, the planet survived, animals thrived, the fish had a bit more room to swim around in. When the oceans fell 300 feet, the planet survived, the animals thrived, the reptiles had a bit more land to crawl around on. IT WAS NOT A CATASTROPHE EITHER WAY.”

    Yes, but the atmospheric carbon from those events was added to the atmosphere about 10,000 times slower. So, life had time to migrate or adapt, mostly. Methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2, with a half life in the atmosphere of 12 years, had time to oxidize into CO2.

    The methane that is being evolved from our 1.6 trillion tons of carbon in our melting permafrost will not have as much time to oxidize into CO2, as in past events in which warming and CO2 concentrations increased much more slowly.

    Forest will not have time to adapt, either, and we can expect huge firestorms, like what we had in California last year, only much, much worse. In ten years or so, California might resemble the Australia, with its 2009 bushfires:

    Check out the speed of the fire, racing up the hill about one minute into this video. If many of us here on this blog are right, this is a vision of our future.

    It’s apparently the rate of change of CO2 concentration which is causing this apparent runaway warming event, more than the absolute amounts of CO2.

    It’s a rate of change problem, IMO.

    We are increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere on the order of 10,000 times as fast as natural processes, and appear to be sending the system out of control by doing this.

  37. Jim Beacon says:

    Gail (and others),

    As you can see, there is no point “debating” a denier at this late date. All the data and proof needed to convince any rational, thinking person about what the real science is telling us (not the twisted junk science cited by the deniers on this page) has been available for a long time now. Those who continue to deny, misconstrue, cherry-pick, twist and flat out lie about the science will continue to do so and no amount of logic or proof will get them to stop or change their tune. All anyone does by “debating” them here or anywhere else is “give them ink” and, as always, their comments go on the record in the cache and indexes of the search engines so that people seeking real information on the issues will continue to stumble across their citations to debunked junk science for months or years to come.

    As for the “horrible cost” of reducing CO2 emissions, that is a myth intended to scare people into doing nothing. Reducing CO2 emissions will create far more jobs than it eliminates and will generate a massive new domestic technology industry that will dwarf the computer boom of the 1990’s as an engine of DOMESTIC economic growth for the nation. The financial cost of doing nothing and continuing business as usual is what will become staggering over the next decade. It will finish off the U.S. economy (as it very nearly did last year, in case anyone failed to notice… it was the abrupt doubling of gasoline prices… without anyone putting on any CO2 reduction laws… which popped the real estate bubble which then caused the banking system to collapse). Continuing to burn high-carbon fuels they way we do now will soon make the ‘gas crisis’ of 2008 look like a picnic. Government mandated CO2 reductions will *improve* the economy since it will push us towards finding new ways to do business.

    I don’t understand why these denier comments are allowed to continue to appear on these pages. Joe chided the Washington Post, the New York Times and many other journals for publishing denier junk science opinion columns, yet continues to allow identical opinionating to appear on this blog on an almost daily bais.

  38. Gail says:

    Leland Palmer, exactly, well said. It is the rate of change that is so dangerous. Species do not have time to adapt and also, the multiplying effects could push the climate further and further into the intolerable range.

    Jim, I still think these discussions serve a purpose. I myself know people who are ignorant on the subject – absolutely oblivious – to be accurate, I should say that MOST of the people I know are ignorant. They don’t do the homework, they don’t even know where to start.

    Talk about living in a parallel universe.

    I discussed with a dear friend the other day about how her lovely hollies were turning yellow and dropping leaves. “Oh I know!” she said, “They need zinc!”

    Like hell they need zinc! They need the climate they are adapted to live in. Not the one we have created, which is only going to march inexorably, and ever more rapidly, in the same uninhabitable direction.

    Whenever and wherever people who have given this no thought, or just enough to dismiss it, do eventually stumble on to this topic, it won’t hurt for them to see their own denier points repeated, and rebutted, at any venue.

    Obama can’t fix this alone. It’s going to take the support of every rational citizen in the nation. There are a solid 20% who will always believe the earth is flat, but the rest might be persuaded once they recognize the empirical evidence – like melting glaciers and unprecedented hurricanes.

  39. paulm says:

    Hey Gail,

    Tree talk….
    Cautionary Tale of Trees

  40. paulm says:

    “It’s apparently the rate of change of CO2 concentration which is causing this apparent runaway warming event..”

    Tipping Action!

  41. Gail says:

    Thank you for that link paulm! I wrote to them, it will be interesting to see if and how they reply. So far, not one forester I have contacted has agreed that climate change is affecting tree health – with the exception that many admit the beetle out west is spreading because of warmer winters. They miss the forest for the trees, as it were, and only see individual pathogens and pests. It’s a curious sort of denial.

    I used to mourn the loss of chestnuts, elms and ash to blights and insects. Now I miss those days when in hindsight I was hopelessly naive.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Jim Beacon,
    According to you if the “deniers” just shut up than the “believers” can win the day. Sounds a little bit like what a religious fanatic might say about the “deniers” back in the days of the inquisition. Below is just one of the many scientists critique of the global warming “believers” theories. The bottom line is the science is far from settled.

    Summary of Gerhard Gerlich Criticism Greenhouse Effect
    Posted by ReasonMcLucus at 08:19 on 21 Oct 2007
    The following is a summary of the conclusions of
    (Dr. Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner – “Falsification of the Atmospheric Greenhouse Effects Within the Framework of Physics”)

    “5 Physicist’s Summary

    A thorough discussion of the planetary heat transfer problem in the framework of theoretical
    physics and engineering thermodynamics leads to the following results:

    1. There are no common physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effect, which explains the relevant physical phenomena. The terms \greenhouse effect” and \greenhouse gases” are deliberate misnomers.

    2. There are no calculations to determinate an average surface temperature of a planet:
    a) with or without atmosphere,
    b) with or without rotation,
    c) with or without infrared light absorbing gases.

    The frequently mentioned difference of 33 C for the fictitious greenhouse effect of the atmosphere is therefore a meaningless number.

    3. Any radiation balance for the average radiant flux is completely irrelevant for the determination of the ground level air temperatures and thus for the average value as well.

    4. Average temperature values cannot be identifed with the fourth root of average values of the absolute temperature’s fourth power.

    5. Radiation and heat flows do not determine the temperature distributions and their average values.

    6. Re-emission is not reflection and can in no way heat up the ground-level air against the actual heat flow without mechanical work.

    7. The temperature rises in the climate model computations are made plausible by a perpetuum mobile of the second kind [perpetual motion machine]. This is possible by setting the thermal conductivity in the atmospheric models to zero, an unphysical assumption. It would be no longer a perpetuum mobile of the second kind, if the average fictitious radiation balance, which has no physical justification anyway, was given up.

    8. After Schack 1972 water vapor is responsible for most of the absorption of the infrared radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere. The wavelength of the part of radiation, which is absorbed by carbon dioxide is only a small part of the full infrared spectrum and does not change considerably by raising its partial pressure. Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects : : : 93

    9. Infrared absorption does not imply “backwarming”. Rather it may lead to a drop of the temperature of the illuminated surface.

    10. In radiation transport models with the assumption of local thermal equilibrium, it is assumed that the absorbed radiation is transformed into the thermal movement of all gas molecules. There is no increased selective re-emission of infrared radiation at the low temperatures of the Earth’s atmosphere.

    11. In climate models, planetary or astrophysical mechanisms are not accounted for properly. The time dependency of the gravity acceleration by the Moon and the Sun (high tide and low tide) and the local geographic situation, which is important for the local climate, cannot be taken into account.

    12. Detection and attribution studies, predictions from computer models in chaotic systems, and the concept of scenario analysis lie outside the framework of exact sciences, in particular theoretical physics.

    13. The choice of an appropriate discretization method and the definition of appropriate dynamical constraints (flux control) having become a part of computer modelling is nothing but another form of data curve fitting. The mathematical physicist v. Neumann once said to his young collaborators: “If you allow me four free parameters I can build a mathematical model that describes exactly everything that an elephant can do. If you allow me a fifth free parameter, the model I build will forecast that the elephant” (cf. Ref. [185].)

    14. Higher derivative operators (e.g. the Laplacian) can never be represented on grids with wide meshes. Therefore a description of heat conduction in global computer models is impossible. The heat conduction equation is not and cannot properly be represented on grids with wide meshes.

    15. Computer models of higher dimensional chaotic systems, best described by non-linear partial differential equations (i.e. Navier-Stokes equations), fundamental differ from calculations where perturbation theory is applicable and successive improvements of the predictions – by raising the computing power – are possible. At best, these computer models may be regarded as a heuristic game.

    16. Climatology misinterprets unpredictability of chaos known as butter fly phenomenon as another threat to the health of the Earth. In other words: Already the natural greenhouse effect is a myth”

    Post to:
    Science and Technology, Greenhouse gas disproved, Gerhard Gerlich, Ralf D Tscheuschner

    rm 1

    Greenhouse; a deliberate misnomer!
    BuilderBob 24 Feb 2008 13:14
    Firstly, thank you for the summary. I tried reading the original paper and got lost in the maths.

    With so much evidence against AGW, why is our government pushing the anti-CO2 agenda? Agreed we need to look after the planet as all resources are finite with an ever expanding population depending on these same resources.

    By the way has anyone costed the carbon footprint of the wind turbines scheduled for construction if Waxman’s cap and trade bill passes?

  43. Chris says:

    Another issue that muddies the man made global warming theories is what came first co2 or temperature changes? Some scientists have evidence that points to the fact CO2 increases may accompany temperature increases rather than causing them. Indeed, some high resolution studies have suggested that the temperature increases precede the CO2 increases. Interestingly, also, ice core data shows strong temporal correlations between inferred temp. and amount of dust preserved in the ice core. Finally, the older geological record shows several dramatic examples of where CO2 concentration and global average temperature were either unrelated or even anti-correlated.

  44. Dan says:

    The below seems to disprove the theory that a rise in co2 is responsible for a rise in temperature. Can anyone explain this?The Late Ordovician Period [approximately 450 million years ago] was also an Ice Age while at the same time CO2 concentrations then were nearly 12 times higher than today– 4400 ppm. According to greenhouse theory, Earth should have been exceedingly hot. Instead, global temperatures were no warmer than today. Clearly, other factors besides atmospheric carbon influence earth temperatures and global warming.

  45. Leland Palmer says:

    Well I found this, about the Ordovician:

    Our blog doesn’t like the url for some reason, but this study is from Ohio State University:


    COLUMBUS, Ohio – Critics who dismiss the importance of greenhouse gases as a cause of climate change lost one piece of ammunition this week. In a new study, scientists found further evidence of the role that greenhouse gases have played in Earth’s climate.

    In Thursday’s issue of the journal Geology, Ohio State University scientists report that a long-ago ice age occurred 10 million years earlier than once thought. The new date clears up an inconsistency that has dogged climate change research for years

    Don’t know much about it, myself. Hadn’t heard about it before. A 10 million year error in the timing of events that happened 450 million years ago is not really unreasonable, perhaps.

    I know that CO2 levels have declined over time, and there have been times in the past when CO2 levels were much higher. But changes generally happened slowly, at rates of perhaps one percent every ten thousand years. And certainly, the natural feedback systems of the earth’s climate were active, and were hard at work keeping the system in control at all times, although perhaps drifting very slowly in response to changes in CO2 levels and perhaps small changes in carbon sequestration mechanisms.

    What worries me is the rate of change, though.

    We are changing CO2 levels at rates of up to one percent per year – perhaps 10,000 times as fast as has been common in the past.

    A truck traveling one tenth of a mile per hour is not very dangerous. A truck traveling a thousand miles per hour is very dangerous indeed.

    The system is out of control, IMO.

  46. AlCrawford says:

    Icarus: “Is there enough fossil fuel in the ground to take us to that level of CO2? So far we’ve burned enough to raise atmospheric CO2 by 100ppm since pre-industrial times (~280 – 380ppm), so simple arithmetic suggests that we’d need to burn at least 5 times as much again to take us to 900 or 1000ppm. Is that right, and is there that much left in the ground?”

    Second question: “is there that much left in the ground”. In a nutshell, yes. But not in the form of oil but rather mostly as coal and some as more exotic carbons such as shale oil and tar sands.

    First question: “Is that right”. That is a maybe. One reason that it might take less is that the oceans may not be able to absorb as much CO2 as they have been. About half of the CO2 put into the air is absorbed by the oceans. As the oceans heat up and as they become saturated with CO2 they will absorb less CO2 and, if fact, might start releasing the CO2 that they previously absorbed.

    Some of that is well beyond a hundred years from now. But the carbon in the atmosphere will stay there for centuries and the warm up will continue well beyond the end of this century, especially if we continue as we have been. And what will happen if the oceans start releasing their carbon into the air two or three centuries from now is anybody’s guess.

  47. George says:

    I remember seeing graphs which showed that long ago (500+ million years), atmospheric CO2 levels may have been as high as 7000 ppm. The planet was also said to be much warmer then, perhaps +10C. That is a lot hotter than today, but it isn’t exactly Venus! Given that you had +10C with 7000 ppm of CO2, I am puzzled that a much lower level (<1000 ppm) would be credited with such severe effects. If you take current climate models and plug in a CO2 level of 7000 ppm, do you get a realistic result (i.e., one which matches what we believe to have happened in the past)?

  48. Johnny Lilja says:

    hello George First I,d like to know where you’ve got 7000ppm as the figure I’ve seen is lower about 4.500 (but I’m no expert)if my memory serves me. This would increase the temperature about 8-9C so I think you got it about right. The increase due to a CO2 level of 540ppm (quite likely in 2050 in my opinion) would lead to a 2C rising due to CO2. BUT there is also other feedback factors such as water vapor, disappearing albedo, methan from the tundra and so on but I think that you are aware of that. Venus atmosphere is mostly CO2 but that goes for Mars too. Venus has a huge greenhouse effect but Mars hasn’t so the lesson is not only too look at the percentage; the quantity of the greenhouse gases is the real thing.

  49. Mike#22 says:

    MIT Roulette Croupier updates the Odds.

    “How to limit risk of climate catastrophe
    Comprehensive analysis of the odds of climate outcomes under different policy scenarios shows significant benefits from early actions.”
    –David L. Chandler, MIT News Office