Science stunner: On our current emissions path, CO2 levels in 2100 will hit levels last seen when the Earth was 29°F (16°C) hotter

Paleoclimate data suggests CO2 “may have at least twice the effect on global temperatures than currently projected by computer models”

The disinformers claim that projections of dangerous future warming from greenhouse gas emissions are based on computer models.  In fact, ClimateProgress readers know that the paleoclimate data is considerably more worrisome than the models (see Hansen: ‘Long-term’ climate sensitivity of 6°C for doubled CO2).  That’s mainly because the vast majority of the models largely ignore key amplifying carbon-cycle feedbacks, such as the methane emissions from melting tundra (see Are Scientists Underestimating Climate Change).

Science has just published an important review and analysis of “real world” paleoclimate data in “Lessons from Earth’s Past” (subs. req’d) by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Jeffrey Kiehl.  The NCAR release is here: “Earth’s hot past could be prologue to future climate.”  The study begins by noting:

Climate models are invaluable tools for understanding Earth’s climate system. But examination of the real world also provides insights into the role of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide) in determining Earth’s climate. Not only can much be learned by looking at the observational evidence from Earth’s past, but such know ledge can provide context for future climate change.

The atmospheric CO2 concentration currently is 390 parts per million by volume (ppmv), and continuing on a business-as-usual path of energy use based on fossil fuels will raise it to ˆ¼900 to 1100 ppmv by the end of this century (see the first figure) (1). When was the last time the atmosphere contained ˆ¼1000 ppmv of CO2? Recent reconstructions (24) of atmospheric CO2 concentrations through history indicate that it has been ˆ¼30 to 100 million years since this concentration existed in the atmosphere (the range in time is due to uncertainty in proxy values of CO2). The data also reveal that the reduction of CO2 from this high level to the lower levels of the recent past took tens of millions of years. Through the burning of fossil fuels, the atmosphere will return to this concentration in a matter of a century. Thus, the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 is unprecedented in Earth’s history.

I will repost the references at the end, since this is a review article (see also 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)

So now the question is — how much warmer was it back then?

What was Earth’s climate like at the time of past elevated CO2? Consider one example when CO2 was ˆ¼1000 ppmv at ˆ¼35 million years ago (Ma) (2). Temperature data (5, 6) for this time period indicate that tropical to subtropical sea surface temperatures were in the range of 35° to 40°C (versus present-day temperatures of ˆ¼30°C) and that sea surface temperatures at polar latitudes in the South Pacific were 20° to 25°C (versus modern temperatures of ˆ¼5°C). The paleogeography of this time was not radically different from present-day geography, so it is difficult to argue that this difference could explain these large differences in temperature. Also, solar physics findings show that the Sun was less luminous by ˆ¼0.4% at that time (7). Thus, an increase of CO2 from ˆ¼300 ppmv to 1000 ppmv warmed the tropics by 5° to 10°C and the polar regions by even more (i.e., 15° to 20°C).

What can we learn from Earth’s past concerning the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gas increases? Accounting for the increase in CO2 and the reduction in solar irradiance, the net radiative forcing””the change in the difference between the incoming and outgoing radiation energy-of the climate system at 30 to 40 Ma was 6.5 to 10 W mˆ’2 with an average of ˆ¼8 W mˆ’2. A similar magnitude of forcing existed for other past warm climate periods, such as the warm mid-Cretaceous of 100 Ma (8). Using the proxy temperature data and assuming, to first order, that latitudinal temperature can be fit with a cosine function in latitude (9), the global annual mean temperature at this time can be estimated to be ˆ¼31°C, versus 15°C during pre-industrial times (around 1750) (10). Thus, Earth was ˆ¼16°C warmer at 30 to 40 Ma. The ratio of change in surface temperature to radiative forcing is called the climate feedback factor (11). The data for 30 to 40 Ma indicate that Earth’s climate feedback factor was ˆ¼2°C Wˆ’1 mˆ’2. Estimates (1, 11) of the climate feedback factor from climate model simulations for a doubling of CO2 from the present-day climate state are ˆ¼0.5 to 1°C Wˆ’1 mˆ’2. The conclusion from this analysis””resting on data for CO2 levels, paleotemperatures, and radiative transfer knowledge””is that Earth’s sensitivity to CO2 radiative forcing may be much greater than that obtained from climate models (1214).

Indeed, in the release, Kiehl notes his study “found that carbon dioxide may have at least twice the effect on global temperatures than currently projected by computer models of global climate.”

Why is the ‘real world’ warming so much greater than the models?  The vast majority of the models focus on the equilibrium climate sensitivity — typically estimated at about 3°C for double CO2 (equivalent to about ¾°C per W/m2) — only includes fast feedbacks, such as water vapor and sea ice.  As Hansen has explained in deriving his 6°C ‘long-term’ sensitivity:

Elsewhere (Hansen et al. 2007a) we have described evidence that slower feedbacks, such as poleward expansion of forests, darkening and shrinking of ice sheets, and release of methane from melting tundra, are likely to be significant on decade-century time scales. This realization increases the urgency of estimating the level of climate change that would have dangerous consequences for humanity and other creatures on the planet, and the urgency of defining a realistic path that could avoid these dangerous consequence.

For background on the tundra (and methane), see Science: Vast East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane stores destabilizing and venting:  NSF issues world a wake-up call: “Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.”

Methane release from the not-so-perma-frost is the most dangerous amplifying feedback in the entire carbon cycle.  The permafrost permamelt contains a staggering “1.5 trillion tons of frozen carbon, about twice as much carbon as contained in the atmosphere,” much of which would be released as methane.  Methane is  is 25 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as CO2 over a 100 year time horizon, but 72 times as potent over 20 years!  The carbon is locked in a freezer in the part of the planet warming up the fastest (see “Tundra 4: Permafrost loss linked to Arctic sea ice loss“).  Half the land-based permafrost would vanish by mid-century on our current emissions path (see “Tundra, Part 2: The point of no return” and below).  No climate model currently incorporates the amplifying feedback from methane released by a defrosting tundra.

Kiehl’s work is in line with other major studies, like this one:

Scientists analyzed data from a major expedition to retrieve deep marine sediments beneath the Arctic to understand the Paleocene Eocene thermal maximum, a brief period some 55 million years ago of “widespread, extreme climatic warming that was associated with massive atmospheric greenhouse gas input.” This 2006 study, published in Nature (subs. req’d), found Artic temperatures almost beyond imagination-above 23°C (74°F)-temperatures more than 18°F warmer than current climate models had predicted when applied to this period. The three dozen authors conclude that existing climate models are missing crucial feedbacks that can significantly amplify polar warming.

How long might it take for the extra warming to kick in?  That isn’t known for certain, but two major studies looking at paleoclimate data that Kiehl didn’t cite suggest it’s sooner rather than later:

A study published in Geophysical Research Letters (subs. req’d) looked at temperature and atmospheric changes during the Middle Ages. This 2006 study found that the effect of amplifying feedbacks in the climate system-where global warming boosts atmospheric CO2 levels-“will promote warming by an extra 15 percent to 78 percent on a century-scale” compared to typical estimates by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The study notes these results may even be “conservative” because they ignore other greenhouse gases such as methane, whose levels will likely be boosted as temperatures warm.

A second study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, “Missing feedbacks, asymmetric uncertainties, and the underestimation of future warming” (subs. req’d), looked at temperature and atmospheric changes during the past 400,000 years. This study found evidence for significant increases in both CO2 and methane (CH4) levels as temperatures rise. The conclusion: If our current climate models correctly accounted for such “missing feedbacks,” then “we would be predicting a significantly greater increase in global warming than is currently forecast over the next century and beyond”-as much as 1.5°C warmer this century alone.

In the longer term, past 2100, if we were to get anywhere near the kind of warming that Kiehl’s analysis of the paleoclimate data suggests we are headed to, that could render large tracts of the planet uninhabitable.  That was the conclusion of a recent PNAS paper coauthored by Matthew Huber, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue (release here).  I haven’t blogged on it, but I guess I will have to now.  The bottom line:

“We found that a warming of 12 degrees Fahrenheit would cause some areas of the world to surpass the wet-bulb temperature limit, and a 21-degree warming would put half of the world’s population in an uninhabitable environment,” Huber said. “When it comes to evaluating the risk of carbon emissions, such worst-case scenarios need to be taken into account. It’s the difference between a game of roulette and playing Russian roulette with a pistol. Sometimes the stakes are too high, even if there is only a small chance of losing.”

So don’t even think about what 29°F warming could mean.

Kiehl concludes:

The above arguments weave together a number of threads in the discussion of climate that have appeared over the past few years. They rest on observations and geochemical modeling studies. Of course, uncertainties still exist in deduced CO2 and surface temperatures, but some basic conclusions can be drawn. Earth’s CO2 concentration is rapidly rising to a level not seen in ˆ¼30 to 100 million years, and Earth’s climate was extremely warm at these levels of CO2. If the world reaches such concentrations of atmospheric CO2, positive feedback processes can amplify global warming beyond current modeling estimates. The human species and global ecosystems will be placed in a climate state never before experienced in their evolutionary history and at an unprecedented rate. Note that these conclusions arise from observations from Earth’s past and not specifically from climate models. Will we, as a species, listen to these messages from the past in order to avoid repeating history?

Will we?

Related Posts:


  1. S. Solomon et al Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, S. Solomon et al., Eds. (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 2007).
  2. M. Pagani, J. C. Zachos, K. H. Freeman, B. Tipple, S. Bohaty , Science 309, 600 (2005); 10.1126/science.1110063. doi:10.1126/science.1110063Abstract/FREE Full Text
  3. B. J. Fletcher, S. J. Brentnall, C. W. Anderson, R. A. Berner, D. J. Beerling , Nat. Geosci. 1, 43 (2008). CrossRefWeb of Science
  4. D. O. Breecker, Z. D. Sharp, L. D. McFaddenn , Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 107, 576 (2010). Abstract/FREE Full Text
  5. P. K. Bijl, S. Schouten, A. Sluijs, G. J. Reichart, J. C. Zachos, H. Brinkhuis , Nature 461, 776 (2009). CrossRefMedlineWeb of Science
  6. P. N. Pearson et al ., Geology 35, 211 (2007). Abstract/FREE Full Text
  7. D. O. Gough, Sol. Phys. 74, 21 (1981). CrossRef
  8. D. L. Royer, Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 70, 5665 (2006). CrossRefWeb of Science
  9. G. R. North, J. Atmos. Sci. 32, 2033 (1975). CrossRef
  10. The cosine temperature expression can be integrated analytically to obtain the global annual mean temperature. Paleotemperatures from (5) for a subtropical location and a high southern latitude location were used to determine the two coefficients in the analytical expression for global mean temperature.
  11. S. E. Schwartz, Clim. Change; 10.1007/s10584-010-9903-9 (2010). doi:10.1007/s10584-010-9903-9 CrossRef
  12. J. Hansen et al., Open Atmos. Sci. 2, 217 (2008).
  13. P. K. Bijl, A. J. Houben, S. Schouten, S. M. Bohaty, A. Sluijs, G. J. Reichart, J. S. Sinninghe Damst©, H. Brinkhuis , Science 330, 819 (2010). Abstract/FREE Full Text
  14. D. J. Lunt et al., Nat. Geosci. 3, 60 (2010). CrossRefWeb of Science

79 Responses to Science stunner: On our current emissions path, CO2 levels in 2100 will hit levels last seen when the Earth was 29°F (16°C) hotter

  1. Villabolo says:

    Civilization will not get the chance for such emission levels to be released by 2100. It will collapse well before that.

    [JR: Sadly, if the tundra start to seriously thaw, it won’t really matter if the economy collapses in terms of emissions rising.]

  2. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Question – Do we know from ice cores or evidence elsewhere whether past episodes of abrupt warming have been associated with melting of permafrost?

    [JR: Some have been associated with massive release of methane.]

  3. fj3 says:

    re: methane emissions from melting tundra

    The latest seems to be that the models ignore methane emissions from fresh water lakes, streams and forests conventionally thought to sequester carbon but may contain bodies of water that actually emit methane.

  4. Sue in NH says:

    James Hansen discusses the Paleocene Eocene Thermal maximum and what he calls the “methane gun” in his book “Storms of my Grandchildren.” He talks about the methane clathrates in ocean sediments melting and outgassing, amplifying the warming effect leading to rapid climate change and massive extinctions.

    He also remarks that the “methane gun” is now fully reloaded after tens of millions of years of organics settling in the ocean bottom and undergoing only partial decomposition in the anoxic environment of the ocean sediments, creating these clathrates.

    We have all read about the increase in methane release in the polar regions, bubbling lakes and high concentrations of atmospheric methane in the region. This leads me to think the “tipping points” are already past and these amplifying feedbacks are well underway, and completely out of our control. Even if we did all convert to solar and bicycles tomorrow, the climate system is shifting.

    There are no brakes on this handbasket we are all riding in, only an accelerator. The question really becomes “How fast do you want to travel towards hell and high water?”

  5. Edpeak says:


    Very useful and timely as always. One thing I’m unclear about, re that “highest co2 in 30-100m yrs” quote, I thought the 2009 paper using ratios of boron and calcium isotopes took the “higheset in 800,000 years” back to about 14 million years ago, that it’s the highest since about that long ago, but DID find an equal level to today’s if you go that far back. So it was about 390ppm about 14m yrs ago, yes? Presumably his phrase “is rapidly rising to a level” is the key qualification…

    So just how much higher does co2 have to get, how much higher than 390ppm, before its “hasn’t been this high in at least 33m years” territory?

    By dividing “2ppm/yr (approx)” into your answer we can have a number of years before “highest in 14m yrs” becomes “highest in 33m yrs” to inform (ourselves first and then) the public

  6. Edpeak says:

    the last two “33m” should say “30m” per his quote, sorrry

  7. Edpeak says:

    Ok re-reading apparently Kiehl means “in the next 90 years or so (by the end of this century” when he says “is rapidly rising to a level…” from today’s level of 390ppm…most friends and neighbor’s eyes glaze at “90 years from now” and don’t see that as “imminent” though of course I don’t see it that way, and was hoping for a simple answer like “in only N years” for a smaller N, it will be “now the highest in 30m+ yrs” but I guess not, and I guess it’s good news, we have more breathing room, than just a few decades, before hitting an infamous level that’s “the highest co2 in 30m+ yrs”

    I think to wake up the public a little less focus on temps and a little more or a lot more on showing the 450,000 or 800,000 or 650,000 year CO2 graphs (just co2, not temps next to them since that only feeds the trolls to try to distract and change the subject)

    Drum it into their heads over and over and over again the VISUAL GRAPH of the co2 over the past 800,000 years and it’s striking: an almost VERTICAL increase and not only that, an increase by an amount that is equal to or greater to the natural top-to-bottom (290ppm to 180ppm or about 100ppm difference) and when the public GETS that, and GETS that even if we know nothing about temps (which of course we do) that that ALONE is telling us it’s not wise to run such an experiment on the planet..then we have their attention, and can add about ocean acidificadtion and temperatures

    It only takes a few years of 2ppm/yr increase to overwhelm the seasonal up and down co2 cycle…but for temperatures the daily high and low and seasons overwhelm the “it went up by 1C over the last 100 years” and people get fooled and distracted by weather, seasons, random variability, etc…even confusing precipitation with “colder” (snow)

    The basic extremely striking reality of the CO2 graph, which we should include in 50% if not 100% of our postings and talks about climate “change” (destablizitaion) needs to be more well known by the public than it is, they need to know it by sight and recognize it as easily as the face of Lincoln or Einstein or today’s pop stars…those of us who are not on the fence and are not fooled, still find extremely valuable the more detailed info on temps too of course, as is the case here

  8. catman306 says:

    Will the concentrations of methane from melting permafrost be great enough to burn if ignited by lightning or other sparks? Will the tundra start erupting in a fire that can’t be extinguished?

    Gives ‘midnight sun’ a whole new meaning.

  9. Colorado Bob says:

    NOAA’s National Weather Service Releases Report on May 2010 Nashville Flood

    On May 1-4, 2010, greater Nashville and the surrounding region experienced catastrophic, record flooding. Despite ongoing forecasts and warnings for heavy rain and widespread flooding several days in advance, 26 people died in the region – 11 of those in Nashville, where property damage exceeded $2 billion.

  10. C. Vink says:

    For the readers that ain’t familiar with it yet, here is the graph mentioned by Edpeak #7 – see this useful page on ‘Global Climate Change Indicators’.

  11. Michael Tucker says:

    Yes, it is a tragic future we have created for our descendants.

    If we continue to do nothing, as we seem determined to do, we will get hell and high water.

    If we do limit all greenhouse gases we still get hell and high water according to a new study from the Canadian Center for Climate Modeling and Analysis.

    Unlike some who SAY they are for limiting greenhouse gases but DO NOTHING, I am absolutely for doing the right thing NOW but we had better be honest about the dismal results.

  12. Bullwinkle says:

    I think climate science needs to talk less technically and more to the human experience. By that, I mean less PPM in 2100 or temp rise in Celsius.

    Most Mericans don’t do metric. Celsius numbers are smaller and make the rise less scarey. Science should always include degrees F when talking about temp change of any kind. Merican’s can’t do metric!

    Also, I think we need to talk less about 90 years and more about what our grandchildren will see. People can’t imagine 1.5m of sea level rise by 2100, but they CAN understand “Your grandchildren will see New Orleans permanently underwater.”

  13. mike roddy says:

    This should be required reading in Congress. Since the Right will ignore it, someone should get this info to staffers, who are mostly human.

  14. Solar Jim says:

    My conclusion is that humankind has made a terrible, terrible error. It may be described as a lie, fraud, inevitable lack of wisdom, corrupted politics leading to false economics, an existential threat, a clear and present danger, hubris or a hundred other descriptions.

    We are so blind by our own human arrogance, and at the same time limited by our subservience to authority, that we have allowed the dominant economic paradigm (Eisenhower’s military/industrial complex if you will) to define the sequestered carbon of evolutionary life as “energy.” This means we have defined solid coal, liquid petroleum and subterranean methane, located in the planet’s lithosphere, wrongly as ENERGY. These are resources of MATTER, and a planetary civilization that does not know the difference is, in a few words, facing death from corruption of concept.

    Thus, energy efficiency as presently thought of is worse than zero. It is UNDEFINED. Our economic structure has been running on TILT during the twentieth century, most especially since World War Two, and now the rest of the world (96% of humanity) is following.

    Thank you Joe for blogging on the edge of the earth. Some of your readers are on the edge of our seats.

  15. MapleLeaf says:

    Brilliant Post Joe!These findings are most disturbing…..I honestly wish that they were wrong, but in all likelihood they are right. We have been warned…yet again.

    I agree with Mike @12. Are policy makers aware of these findings, and what the consequences of our current emission’s path are likely going to be?

  16. Nell says:

    WASHINGTON, October 12, 2006 (RFE/RL) — The landscape of Siberia is transforming. New lakes are forming in the north, while existing lakes are getting larger. Some buildings and houses built upon the permafrost are sinking and starting to crack.

    What’s more, scientists expect this process to speed up, because as the lakes thaw, they release carbon and methane into the air, which in turn contributes to global warming.

    Russia: Siberia’s Once-Frozen Tundra Is Melting

    This about the 4th comment on this subject I’ve submitted here… hoping hear how scientist are viewing this. Is it melting too slowly to be a concern or have we crossed the tipping point?

  17. Leif says:

    Me: Knowledge is being attacked on many fronts around the world. i.e. Arizona, FOX, GOP, GOBP, Dictators, Taliban, etc. Interestingly enough funding for hate speech mostly is coming from Fossil industry or other extraction efforts. Knowledge is power, ignorance is servitude. Who do you love?

    Carolina: You know, I am just realizing how many things are connected to the oil industry. I have been convinced for a while that strife ultimately comes from struggles over resources. But, I keep learning more and more.

    ME: Follow the Money!

    After all the whole battle about the “reality” of global warming can be boiled down to the right to DUMP pollution for free or to compensate the commons. And How Much $$? Corporations like the “FREE” part.

    We, workers, get to pay the “How Much” part. Corporations, being the only thing big enough to clean up the climatic mess, will make money on the cleanup. Where did the BIG money go in the BP cleanup? The bigger the mess the more money out of our pockets. Somehow… That all helps the “GDP”, it’s all good.

    Cash flow is 10+%? to the bankers. It does not mater that it kills the planet, “cheep extraction” and “free dump privileges” is the highest return on investment. That is the direction middle men want to follow. It is in their genes. It helps to have an “addicted” population.

    Oh, what to do? There are a few options, most ugly. IMO. There is the status quo. (No elaboration needed.)
    or… A restructuring of the Capitalistic System so that it works FOR all humanity and earth’s life support systems. (Get real!)

    or.. The President, with the military, a majority? of the senate, and a definite majority of the people (if the truth were known) declared WAR on the “Capitalistic” segment of society and restructure “Capitalism” to benefit Humanity instead if kill us. LOL
    (You got to be kidding, tell that to Wall Street…) However I like it. It looks mostly bloodless.

    Room to elaborate on the: “It looks mostly bloodless.” Done right, it would be bloodless. Work to bring Green Technology to the third world to make their life better instead of making billionaires out of millionaires. What a concept. So far it has been hard to get the cooperation of the rich. They call it “socialism” and dismiss it.

    I am beginning to call it “Survivalism.” New definition… A new economy based on Capitalism with a Moral Code. Capitalism structured to sustain Humanity and all the rest of it. Capitalism for the rest of us if you will. We have proven that Capitalism works in that it makes money, now we need to factor in the rest of us.

    Capitalism and Corporations did just fine under “War Powers.” The military is the only entity that can stand up to the Wall Street. They have more fire power than the Tea Baggers. (An important point. I’m are trying to keep this bloodless, remember.)

    This is getting a little out of hand and I got stuff to do…
    The sun is peeking. TA TA…

  18. Timeslayer says:

    Hi all,

    Anyone else starting to feel alienated from the vast majority of humanity (including good friends) who are simply ignorant of what is happening and the unimaginably awful consequences of it? I mean, I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but THIS IS IT! There will be no reprieve from this. Why doesn’t the real threat of civilization’s collapse in our lifetimes interest most people? When I discuss these issues with my friends, they seem to understand what I’m saying and agree that the climate is changing, but never acknowledge the big, scary picture of how different the world could be in the very near future. Seems like Climate Progress and a few other sites are the only places to go to engage with people who have any clue.

    Particularly exasperated today,


  19. John McCormick says:

    Not So Off Topic;

    President Obama, in his tribute to the survivors and victims of the Tucson tragedy, implored us: “We should do everything we can to live up to her expectations.”

    Of course he was speaking of Christina-Taylor Green, a 9 year old gem born on September 11, 2001.

    We are in a long fight and Christina and all our children expect more from us. Ian, and all of us, remember the President’s words.

    John McCormick

  20. very concerned citizen says:

    Doesn’t this 16C rise get us dangerously close to the runaway warming towards Venus?

  21. Ben Lieberman says:

    We’re still missing that focus on what to do to start building pressure of a kind that simply will not result from individual action.

  22. John McCormick says:

    RE # 16

    Neil, Yes, we have crossed the tipping point.

    It might not be perfectly evident to us for another decade. But, ask citizens of Southeast Australia and numerous other regions devastated by deluges and drought if the future of climate change has come upon them full force.

    The IPCC AR4 report is like reading an economic analysis of the US economic meltdown of the past several years that says unemployed homeowners might default on their mortgages and that might hurt the US economic picture.

    Not so much the fault of the IPCC AR4 report. It has to be a consensus document and will always be a consensus document. Interesting reading and getting us nowhere.

    The tipping point arrived in 1971.

    John McCormick

  23. Ian says:

    This is another sad day. One day we’ll get some good news.

    Timeslayer: I think we all feel alienated. Even from those we care about the most. Hard to believe this is happening.

    John McCormick: I’ll do my best for her and all the other kids out there. I really will. Can you contact me at: Thanks man.

    Take care everyone.

  24. Jim Groom says:

    I recommend everyone take a side trip to the Huffington Post and read todays piece by Peter H. Gleick on the planets fever. The article reveals nothing that the readers of Joe’s page are not familiar. You have to read the many comments coming from the public to see the angle of the hill science is facing in explaining climate change. I for one am not confident that the public can ever understand what is happening to their world.

  25. Wit's End says:

    Timeslayer, the implications of climate change inevitably lead to such an enormous existential threat that very few people can bear to even glimpse the truth let alone acknowledge the full ramifications.

    The models are so inadequate, in one sense the deniers are right about it! But the are wrong, as this post implies, in an overly conservative, not overly alarmist, direction.

    In addition to the observations that we are emitting CO2 far faster than it ever increased in the paleoclimatic record, the models are missing two other crucial things.

    One, my own contention that the models do not factor in the effects of the “other” greenhouse gases, which are the precursors to ozone, a highly toxic and inexorably rising component of the atmosphere which is killing trees at a rapidly accelerating rate. So precipitously that our forests are turning from essential CO2 sinks to CO2 emitters, and this represents a tremendous contribution to climate change – as well as compromising the source of oxygen we need to breathe.

    Two, the models do not take into account “Global Dimming” whereby the aerosol pollutants we have released into the atmosphere are masking the heating by blocking radiation from the sun to earth’s surface. Anyone who hasn’t seen this movie likely doesn’t understand how important this is for predictions of future warming.

    As Peter Cox, head of the UK MET office says in the film, “If it turns out that the cooling [from particulate pollution] is stronger than we thought, then the warming is also a lot stronger than we thought…and that means the climate is more sensitive to carbon dioxide than we originally thought – and it means our models may be undersensitive to carbon dioxide.”

    He looks a little worried when he says this.

  26. Sou says:

    I find it hard to stay awake in concert halls. To think that my nieces’ and nephews’ children and grandchildren will go through life in a perpetually drowsy state is not encouraging, particularly as they will have much bigger issues to deal with in their efforts to adapt to and survive the Anthropocene Epoch.

  27. paulm says:

    This is not really a stunner, it’s been kinda looking that all the estimates were hedging low…

    We must remember that humans are efficiently tapping carbon that had be effectively completely eliminated from the Earth’s climatic equation never to be returned until modern man came along.

    Now its all being injected back at a frantic rate, probably unprecedented.

    This ‘new’ carbon is surely going to trip a tipping point.

    When the methane bombs start fizzing were going to be frying.

    [JR: No stunner for CP readers. For 99% of media and policymakers and influentials, if they were paying attention.]

  28. From Peru says:

    It seem that paleoclimate is shouting to all us:

    It’s your choice to boil like brainless frogs…
    No Pressure.

  29. catman306 says:

    “wet-bulb temperature limit” 95 F. wet-bulb x 6 hrs.

    Death by prolonged hot-humidity.

  30. paulm says:

    24 Jim,

    I am deflated.

    I know not one family, friend and colleague who appreciates whats even vaguely in store.

    They have accepted that the world is warming and it probably has something to do with us. But they refuse to accept or even consider that it is a bigger problem than say the getting a cheap fight for the next holiday.

    And most of them are well educated, reasonable progressive and caring people. Most with kids.

    I am branded a fanatic. Which is sort of true, but there is a good reason for it.

    I am trying to push the moral aspect of it now as Hansen has pointed out.
    I am hoping that it will switch something on up there.

    UBC Ecologist Bill Rees Part 1 – why we must….

    Climate Change is a moral issue
    “Climate Ethics – What Are Our Moral Obligations to the Future?” – Kathleen Dean Moore speaks about the moral challenges of ecological emergencies.

  31. MADurstewitz says:

    Unfortunately, humans are very good at cognitive dissonance. We don’t deal with our reality, but we’ll get all worked up over drama on the Kardashians or the Jersey Shore.

    It will take a terrible, terrible disaster here in North America to wake people up. A disaster that cannot be spun out of the news cycle.

    And it will be far too late.

    Lovelock is right. We are too stupid to save ourselves.

  32. Chris Winter says:

    From the Purdue article:

    “Humans at rest generate about 100 watts of energy from metabolic activity. Wet-bulb temperature estimates provide upper limits on the ability of people to cool themselves by sweating and otherwise dissipating this heat, he said. In order for the heat dissipation process to work, the surrounding air must be cooler than the skin, which must be cooler than the core body temperature. The cooler skin is then able to absorb excess heat from the core and release it into the environment. If the wet-bulb temperature is warmer than the temperature of the skin, metabolic heat cannot be released and potentially dangerous overheating can ensue depending on the magnitude and duration of the heat stress.”

    So with a population of 9 billion, the extra two billion (roughly) are equivalent to a new heat source of 0.2TW. Then of course there are the additional artificial sources…

  33. Adam R. says:

    I know the deniers like Watts and Milloy will simply handwave this review in Science away, if they acknowledge it at all. Their dishonest polemics are entirely predictable.

    More interesting will be the reactions of the luke-warmers like Kloor, Pielke, Jr., Curry, et al. Will they continue to wring their hands about alarmism and incivility, or will they be moved to be just a trifle more concerned about the precipice yawning before them?

  34. Villabolo says:

    One of my favorite short clips for educating the layman and the young.

  35. Jeff Huggins says:

    Read These (Please), Then “Let’s Talk”

    In direct relation to the point of this post, please read these two things, then “let’s talk”:

    First, read the very recent (November 2010) “Climate change position statement” of the main official geological society in the U.K., The Geological Society of London (located at Burlington House, no less). Go to their website. On the home page, you’ll see a “Policy and Outreach” heading, with “Policy and Position Statements” as a choice under that heading. Click on that, to go to the Policy and Position Statements page of the site. On that page, at the top of the list, you’ll see the new “Climate change position statement”. Read it.

    While you are on the site, look at who belongs to, and has led, that Society. Look at the backgrounds of the past five or six Presidents of the Society. One of the recent past Presidents was the Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell.

    Then, read the book “Challenged By Carbon”, by Bryan Lovell, who is presently the President of The Geological Society, has geology degrees from Oxford and Harvard, is currently at Cambridge, and was formerly a leading geologist in the oil industry, at British Petroleum (now BP). (The book is also recommended by Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, a former President of the Society and also former Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell.) The book goes into the 55 mya event, but it’s also very (and most!) interesting from the standpoint of its historic documentation of how much key geologists and leaders in the oil industry, and the oil companies themselves, have understood about this problem for a long time, from a geological standpoint. Most interesting is the transcript of a debate that the Society held between a senior representative of BP and a senior representative of Exxon in March of 2003. Don’t miss it! So, from an historical standpoint, DO read that book (please).

    Then “let’s talk”. The oil industry has been getting away with too much, for far too long. And — to be honest — we in the climate movement have been dismal (dismally ineffective) — I repeat, dismal — at shedding full light on this to a degree sufficient to compel people to make appropriate changes in policy, buying behavior, and so forth. So, all I can say, presently, is this: Please do read the new Position Statement and, also, the book “Challenged By Carbon”. Then, let’s pick up — and pick up the pace on — the “shedding light on the oil industry” task. Please. Thanks.



  36. caerbannog says:

    Joe, you’ve got to give a big shout-out to ABC news — Not 5 minutes ago, I saw an ABC news segment on global-warming and extreme climate events, and there wasn’t a denier in sight! ABC featured Dr. Richard Somerville prominently, without even so much as a second of “equal time” given to a denier hack.

    ABC will certainly be receiving lots of hate-mail/phone-calls as a result of its excellent segment, so you might want to let the ABC folks know that you have their back when they do a global-warming piece like the one I just saw. News pieces produced with the sort of excellence and professionalism like the one I just saw deserve our strongest public support!

    [JR: Yes, I did see it. Awesome. Will blog when it’s online.]

  37. Great information here. Thank you Joe.

    We should remember that global warming is not a belief that is taught. It is a condition that is discovered.

    Ideology and religion mean nothing here. We seek an understanding of the mechanisms and science so that we may model scenarios into the future. Our science is getting better and better. But to be very clear – contrary beliefs, wishes, distracting PR campaigns and dreams of delay have no effect on what kind of change will happen in the real world.

    We only have an opportunity to discover what is happening. Then we may decide how we can react. And whether we wish to survive. We will soon choose the process by which we can survive, it will be clear, and we will be on task or not.

  38. scas says:

    A powerpoint from Dr. Natalia Shakhova presented November 30, 2010 at a symposium hosted, apparently, by the DoD. It shows that abrupt climate change may be happening now. Worth taking a look at.

    I think if this is true, then those scenarios are very likely. Maybe its time we started investing in emergency food synthesis from atmospheric gases.

  39. Villabolo says:

    scas @38

    “Maybe its time we started investing in emergency food synthesis from atmospheric gases.”

    Spirulina, as a protein source, can be efficiently grown in arid areas.

    “Greenhouses”, made of concrete walls with the glass in the roof tinted to reduce sunlight, can also be used in dry areas. Water can be used very efficiently in enclosed structures.

    Social structure would be the most important facet of a new civilization and it would shape the type of technology used.

    I would like to see complete de-(sub)urbanization. In its place, a network of self-reliant “villages” numbering about 500 persons each with several square kilometers of land.

    Time to go to bed.

  40. Even knowing the models did not include feedbacks, scientists would not talk to the media about the extreme scenarios on the record. I think the Oxford +4C conf in 2009 loosened some tongues.

    You can read what Richard Somerville thought going into the Cancun climate meet: Will Year of Climate Extremes End Without Progress on Tackling Climate Change?

    And Natalia Shakhova’s findings from last spring (along with Mark Serreze director of National Snow and Ice Data Centre)
    Arctic Leaking Methane a Super-Potent Global Warming Gas — Reaching Feared Tipping Point?

    Finally a look at how just 2C globally could trigger permafrost tipping point
    Arctic Ice in Death Spiral, Thaws Permafrost — Risks Climate Catastrophe

  41. Colorado Bob says:

    Ok , what’s next ?

    Do we lay down like dogs ? Bitch and moan ? Flounder about ?

    One thing I know about the deniers, those jackasses are always coming at us, by god I’m sick of it . I don’t know much , but I’m taking the fight to them.

  42. GFW says:

    Catman @8

    At least the answer to that one is No.

  43. Jeandetaca says:

    The well known graph showing the striking parallel between CO2 concentration and T° variation already tells us that the today T° increase (less than 1°C) does’t account for the totality of the CO2 increase (more than 100 ppm between 280 and today 390 ppm) (see here:
    The basic concerned citizen like me has allways been disturbed by the general scientific message that there is no strict correspondance between these 2 graphs. In the past, a 100ppm deviation (in the last ice age) gave 6°C less in average T°.
    So I am not surprised that paleoclimate studies contradict the current climate models for underestimation of the T° increase related to CO2 increase.
    For my general understanding, could anyone gives me a clear exponation for the mechanism that stops the positive feed back between T° increase and CO2 increase (or the link to a paper on this topic)

  44. Raul M. says:

    That would be increase in carbon in sediment
    and soil. A decrease in air carbon through
    natural sequestration, that requires little
    Critters and microbes.

  45. John Mason says:

    Not that surprised to read this, Joe et al. Although the opposition often woffles on inanely about the models, what they typically miss is that, if the models ARE missing anything, it is the positive feedbacks which we know DO HAPPEN from what the rocks tell us. At the moment, we are on course for the mid-Cenozoic at a rather rapid rate. And it’s not the destination that is the problem at all, but the RATE at which we are heading towards it – like an airliner coming in to land but with no reverse-thrusters!

    Cheers – John

  46. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    In the last hour or so I’ve read a typically dishonest piece by the denialist rag “The Guardian’ (which still has the audacity to pretend its nature is otherwise) where the massive flood disasters in so many far flung regions were ‘explained’ as merely good old La Nina. Not a mention, even to pooh-pooh it, of anthropogenic climate change, the increase in atmospheric water vapour, and the clear and repeated predictions of climate scientists that this would lead to just such precipitation events. Then I saw a typically brainless TV report by a pompously condescending BBC talking head on the same weather disasters, pushing precisely the same denialist barrow.
    What I think is apparent is that the Rightwing Thought Police who control the output of the Western media have either received explicit instructions, or absorbed the message by that mysterious process of mental osmosis that works in the Murdoch Archipelago, that anthropogenic climate change must not be mentioned anymore, except in absolutely unavoidable cases eg, introducing a denialist who will proceed to sneer at the ‘warmists’. Moreover comments blogs (The Guardian’s CiF blog a truly putrid and extreme example) have been turned over to the denialist rabble, and in their increasing hysteria and frenzy of invective, resemble Dante’s Inferno if it were populated entirely by imbeciles. I think this signals that the ruling psychopaths are both worried that they might be losing control because the public might be waking from their brainwashed denialist stupour, and that they will go to any lengths to suppress the truth as long as possible, in order to eke out just one more wafer thin slice of the fossil fuel billions.

  47. Prokaryotes says:

    Sue in NH said “Even if we did all convert to solar and bicycles tomorrow, the climate system is shifting.

    There are no brakes on this handbasket we are all riding in, only an accelerator. The question really becomes “How fast do you want to travel towards hell and high water?””

    I believe that with combined world wide affords “zero & negative carbon” actions, such as with BECCS – “Biochar”, artificial photosynthesis, correct optimized algae cultivation and solar radiation management “white roof tops”, humanity can prevent it. But it would require a paradigm shift in global combined affords “humanity as a single unite”, which we are far far away from.

  48. Anonymous says:

    Nell wrote:

    “This about the 4th comment on this subject I’ve submitted here… hoping hear how scientist are viewing this. Is it melting too slowly to be a concern or have we crossed the tipping point?”

    I am not a scientist as such, and the little knowledge I have does not give a definite answer to this question. Comment number 4 by Sue is highly relevant. I don’t think we know just how fast it is melting, but it sure is a concern. In fact, is “how fast” an issue? If only a moderate part of all that methane were to enter the atmosphere, whatever the time scale, then our goose is well and truly cooked.

    Have we crossed the tipping point? you asked. Again, I don’t think there is a definite answer to this at the moment, but it has to be a definite possibility. And this factor, I gather, has not been included in any of the climate models.

  49. Sou says:

    @ 46 Mulga, I’ve noticed a lot of reporting stopping short of linking the intense and prolific rain to the warming world. Some go as far as linking it to La Nina (which is true) but stop short of saying the La Nina rains would not be as strong if the world hadn’t been warming so much.

    Tonight, though, I was pleased to see on Australian commercial television news (Channel 7 national news) an interview with a climate scientist who clearly linked the Australian floods with climate change and said to expect more as the earth continues to warm up. And there was, unusually, no denier ‘balance’.

    It would seem odd to congratulate Channel 7 for this (equivalent to congratulating them for not having someone deny gravity is the cause of a person falling from a balcony). But maybe it’s worthwhile to encourage them to do it more often.

  50. Clive says:

    Nell wrote:

    “This about the 4th comment on this subject I’ve submitted here… hoping hear how scientist are viewing this. Is it melting too slowly to be a concern or have we crossed the tipping point?”

    Sue’s post number 4 is very relevant to your post. I am not a scientist, and the knowledge I have does not give a definite answer to your first question. But is the “how fast” a relevant question? If only a moderate amount of that methane enters the atmosphere, at whatever rate, our goose is well and truly cooked.

    Have we crossed the tipping point? Again, I don’t know. But it has to be a possibility. And from all that I read, the frozen methane has not been factored into any of the climate models.

  51. Prokaryotes says:

    Timeslayer said “Anyone else starting to feel alienated from the vast majority of humanity (including good friends) who are simply ignorant of what is happening and the unimaginably awful consequences of it? I mean, I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but THIS IS IT! There will be no reprieve from this. Why doesn’t the real threat of civilization’s collapse in our lifetimes interest most people? When I discuss these issues with my friends, they seem to understand what I’m saying and agree that the climate is changing, but never acknowledge the big, scary picture of how different the world could be in the very near future. Seems like Climate Progress and a few other sites are the only places to go to engage with people who have any clue.”

    Yes that is true, and there are evolutionary principles at work, when it comes to strange things and repetitive task in humans.First thing is: Just be the change you want to see.

  52. Prokaryotes says:

    Everybody who keeps up the action on denial about the greatest threat in human history IS A THREAT TO THE SURVIVAL OF THE HUMAN SPECIES – repeat

  53. David Smith says:

    I have two questions; one related to the post and one not so much.

    1) If there is a reasonable expectation that this temperature increase will occur, then why are people who are aware of this and not currently working full time in areas related to stopping it from happening, continuing to work their day jobs instead of quitting and joining some sort of citizen’s army effort to do whatever it takes (action) to get the situation under control? “I need the money” is starting to seem like a bad excuse. If not now, when?

    2) Does anyone know how many people in the US actively pursue knowledge and understanding on a weekly basis in order to come to terms with global warming and what might be required to get it under control? I fear this is a very small percentage of the adult population.

    It seems to me that all was fair before we knew. Now that we know, those who know and are spreading confusion and dis-information and manipulating the political processes are insuring a course which will directly cause all of us harm and take from us everything we care about and hold dear, including the comfort gained in the knowledge that life will continue when we are gone and that our children will live better lives and have more opportunity than we did in our time.

  54. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Buntgen et al

    “Historical circumstances may challenge recent political and fiscal reluctance to mitigate projected climate change”

    Another article to add to the list

  55. Prokaryotes says:

    “Wet and warm summers occurred during periods of Roman and medieval prosperity. Increased climate variability from ~AD 250 to 600 coincided with the demise of the Western Roman Empire and the turmoil of the Migration Period. ”

    2500 years have past and humans have not evolved! FFS, ACTION NOW!

  56. @17 Leif,

    I agree with you that money is the key to this issue; it is the only tool that we have that is as all pervading as the climate. It is a tool of our own invention and only works by virtue of the permission of our shared imagination but it is the most powerful motivator we have ever invented. So powerful that some people confuse the “money world” as being the “real world”. It is not.

    The good news is that as it is our creation, it is within our control to set the rules for how it works. The basic functioning of the current rules was set up in the 15th century when double-entry book-keeping was invent, which is probably why no cost was associated with the Earth’s resources and services because at that time the wolrd would have appeared to be truly abundant.

    There are a lots of suggestions for how the rules could be changed. Hansen’s Fee & Dividend scheme is one but I suspect has too much of a “redistributive” feel about it to go down well in the US. Jonathan Porritt, a UK environmentalist, suggests in his book “Capitalism as if the world matters” suggests a “depreciation charge” for the use of natural capital but doesn’t elaborate on how to implement it. I think that has real potential; business understands that depreciation is about putting aside cash so that when a capital item needs replacing there is money to do it, so applying it to natural capital would not be too much of a stretch of their imagination. If they were obliged to spend that charge on restoration projects of their choice(e.g. restocking oceans, protecting biodiversity, taking carbon out of the atmosphere) it would by-pass government administration (but not verification) and so couldn’t be accused of being a tax.
    Some businesses are ready for this as this clip shows but I don’t see many comments on environmental blogs pushing for this to be an agenda item. Be great if we made it the number one focus.

  57. Sue in NH says:

    Yeah, tell ABC news what you think of their excellent report.

    Feedback site here

  58. J Bowers says:

    @46 Mulga. The Guardian isn’t as bad as you make out if you follow it regularly. They took a shot at Morano only the other day which prompted a response from that shill at his blog. I don’t see many news outlets being anywhere near as critical of deniers on a regular basis. Yes, CIF is like a season of The Walking Dead but there are a number of regulars who consistently go head to head with the hordes of zombies who sockpuppet there.

    I’ll add that the BBC is attributing Australia’s and Sri Lanka’s flooding to La Nina, but not Brazil’s.

  59. Sam says:

    Somehow, this might be instructive. Per Wikipedia, repeated efforts were made to warn the Titanic about icebergs, including one attempt less than three hours before and one ten minutes before it hit the iceberg. Somehow the skipper of the Titanic did not respond adequately to the first message and failed to get the second message.

    Are we three hours or ten minutes from the iceberg? How do we get the skipper(s) to get the message and respond correctly?

    Apparently, the wireless operators had a financial incentive to transmit personal private messages for passengers; they appear to have given greater priority to for-profit personal messages than messages for the bridge.

    Is this our problem? If so, I have one possible suggestion: Try to get 60 Minutes to do a program based on “Methane Release from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) and the Potential for Abrupt Climate Changes” by Dr. Natalia Shakhova.

  60. Andy says:

    I’m unclear on whether the long, long term (a couple thousand years or so) sensitivity of global temperatures to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations is due to releases of methane, growth of forests, loss of ice, etc. or more from the equilibrium of the deep ocean’s temperature with surface temperatures.

    I know that during some past hot house earth periods, the deep ocean became warm and anoxic. It seems to me that high artic temperatures and the loss of the high pole to equator temperature gradient would require a lack of cool ocean upwellings.

    If anyone has an article discussing this, I’d appreciate a citation or link.

  61. Barry says:

    Joe, thanks for an absolutely outstanding post.

    The facts that convinced me that climate change was a major threat years ago were:

    — PALEOCLIMATE: Hansen’s point that we have a 100% correct model of the climate that includes all feedbacks exactly right: the Earth’s past. Studies of that have always been raising red flags that sensitivity is huge compared to computer models.

    — CURRENT CHANGES: Second on the list is how the Earth is reacting now. And again if anyone really follows this you can plainly see it is reacting far faster than even climate scientists expected. Elizabeth Kolbert’s book “Field Notes from a Catastrophe” drove this home by just letting scientists talk about their research. Almost all were “oh my god, I can’t believe how fast this area I study is changing.”

    I also have found that these two points are by far the strongest at convincing others that we have a real problem.

    The depth of your knowledge and how you pull it together in posts like this is impressive and super-useful.


  62. Barry says:

    Villabolo (#1), Sue (#4) and others who think it is too late to stop dangerous climate change:

    All I can say is that James Hansen doesn’t think so. He has been about as right as you can be for decades on climate change. Hard to imagine someone more knowledgeable about it. He says we still have time, but not a lot: “This is our last chance”

    Hansen’s plan is rapidly phase out coal and unconventional fossil while focusing on forestry and agriculture improvements to draw down existing CO2. He says we can get back to 350ppm even.

    Others have other plans that will work as well. Joe just posted a detailed solution. As he often points out, we know what to do, we have the ability, we have the technology, we just have to do it.

    The message that “it is too late” is exactly what Big Fossil wants you to internalize. Don’t internalize it. They have done enough damage without also taking away your hope and your ability to fight for a sustainable climate while we still have time to make a difference.

  63. Barry says:

    Bill Waterhouse (#2): “Do we know from ice cores or evidence elsewhere whether past episodes of abrupt warming have been associated with melting of permafrost?”

    Definitely. Read chapter 8 in Hansen’s book “Storm of my Grandchildren” for details on this being a major driver of both end-Permian and PETM warming/extinction events. As well is to info on why this is as big or bigger a threat today.

    TIP: You can buy Hansen’s book in Kindle online format for $9 from Amazon. Then download the free Kindle reader for Mac or PC to read it. Best of all you can highlight and search it this way.

  64. Barry says:

    Edpeak (#5 – #7) on ppm story:

    I think a better story than “when we hit ppm equal to 30mya” is the story that above 350ppm we have a good chance of losing the ice on the planet…which will not only destroy much or our biggest cities and prime agricultural lands…but will also instigate many of the most powerful feedback loops that will take the climate out of our hands.

    Since we are already well beyond 350ppm the issue is urgent NOW.

    One important point about comparing now to past ppm is that the sun is much brighter. In fact it is so much brighter compared to the PETM of 55mya that it is equal to a full doubling of CO2 all by itself.

    This fact is what leads Hansen to worry that a repeat of PETM CO2 levels could push Earth into runaway climate change — “the venus effect”.

  65. Timeslayer says:

    @David Smith, #54 –

    Thanks for your incisive questions. I fit your description of someone who is acutely aware of what is happening, yet working (in my case) as an attorney at a big law firm, doing work that has nothing to do with attempting to ameliorate the situation. And as you suggest, I often wonder what I should be doing instead- join a citizen’s movement focused on climate issues? I don’t think such a movement exists yet. I’m aware of but unsure whether that can be a viable instrument for the kind of change we need, which is really a revolution.

    The profound ignorance of the public regarding climate change must change, and I think teaching people about these issues is essential to addressing the problem, even tho it’s a monumental challenge in itself given how busy people are with their daily lives and trying to keep everything together in this economy. And the corporate media that promoted the Iraq War certainly won’t help us. The recent ABC News segment on climate change, while adequate in itself, is only meaningful if it’s followed by similar climate change stories every night until the public begins to get it. Otherwise the impact of one-off stories like that will remain negligible.

    As you say David, we are absolutely on the verge of losing everything. So if not now, when? and How?


  66. Barry says:

    #20, very concerned citizen: “Doesn’t this 16C rise get us dangerously close to the runaway warming towards Venus?”


    Hansen has a chapter in his book that covers this very issue in detail.

    The key points are:

    — sun is brighter now than in the past

    — we are dumping CO2 at least 10 times faster than in the past so natural diminishing feedbacks won’t be as effective

    — the sensitivity of the climate to any forcing increases rapidly as the forcing becomes stronger. In other words the same amount of forcing produces much larger temperature increases as the total forcing grows.

    Hansen: “So Venus had a runaway greenhouse effect? Could Earth? Of course we know it could. The question is, rather, how much must carbon dioxide increase before a runaway effect occurs?”

    He lays out the details, including recent paleoclimate findings on PETM and end-Permian.

    Bottom line we need to keep coal and unconventional fossil in the ground forever.

  67. Michael Tucker says:


    It is already dangerous now. Global climate disruption is upon us now and we will continue to see it get worse NO MATTER WHAT WE DO. There is no off switch.

    YES we can get back to 350ppm but ask Dr Hansen, or any other respected climate scientist, about the temperature and how quickly the global climate can respond.

    Now it is a matter of how dangerous do we want to allow it to get. It is bad now and IF WE CONTINUE TO DO NOTHING IT WILL GROW IMPOSSIBLY OUT OF CONTROL!

    BUT we need to be honest. If we want to claim the moral high ground we NEED TO STICK TO RIGOROUS HONESTY.

  68. Barry says:

    Ben (#21): “We’re still missing that focus on what to do to start building pressure of a kind that simply will not result from individual action.”

    This is true.

    However I think most climate hawks/activists miss the essential fact that reducing fossil fuel by anyone from individuals to the biggest spewing nations like USA and China, will always be:

    — a VOLUNTARY undertaking

    — not SUFFICIENT to solve the problem

    In other words, the motivations and psychology that get an individual to cut fossil fuels is essentially the same as that required to get a nation to cut fossil fuels.

    Take the USA. Even if USA immediately stopped using fossil fuels it would not be enough to stop dangerous climate change as long as other nations kept burning fossil fuels.

    The benefit, in my mind, in individuals working hard to cut fossil fuels out of their lives is that it gives those individuals insight into what is hard/easy both psychologically and economically. These are the same issues our nations have to deal with too.

    When I hear people say things like “what I do doesn’t matter because it is so small and insufficient”, that is when i really worry we aren’t going to solve the climate crisis…as that statement is true for every nation as well.

    If the most concern individuals aren’t willing to cut fossil fuels because they see it as VOLUNTARY and INSUFFICIENT, then it is laughable that a nation of mixed mindset will do it.

    Everything is NECESSARY to do and yet none are SUFFICIENT alone.

    I think this is what Ghandi meant by “Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it”

    China, USA, Canada, Australia and other nations have shown that nobody has been able to force them to cut fossil fuel pollution…it must be a VOLUNTARY decisions by the citizens of those nations.

    I think not enough individuals have committed to cutting fossil fuel pollution in their own lives yet to move the nation to take the same step.

    At some level I really think the broader public is looking at the climate hawks own choices to judge the urgency and necessity of themselves making a voluntary and “not enough to solve it alone” step as a nation.

    In this case the personal really is the political.

  69. Lou Grinzo says:


    “Is this our problem? If so, I have one possible suggestion: Try to get 60 Minutes to do a program based on “Methane Release from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) and the Potential for Abrupt Climate Changes” by Dr. Natalia Shakhova.”

    Anything but that! After the way they totally blew some topics out of the water (oil sands and NG-powered fuel cells leap to mind), I wouldn’t want them to touch this. They’d give the deniers 50% of the face time, make a dozen or so very basic scientific errors, and leave the viewer with the idea that “some” scientists think “something” is going on up in Siberia, but it’s probably just another wackaloon theory.

  70. Maya says:

    Timeslayer, Prokaryotes, and Ian – yes, me too. I’ve never posted here before, but I just had to speak up. You’re not alone.

    My family and I are beginning preparations to go off-grid. It will be a huge change, and will probably take years, but at least I can give my children and grandchildren the best chance I know how to provide. It’s the most substantial thing I can see to do to become the change….

  71. Hossein Turner says:

    This is it. This is the death knell for the species.

  72. John Davidson says:

    Interesting question: What was this high CO2 level doing re the effects of ocean acidification? I understand that some species are more vulnerable than others but at least some shellfish and corals survived.

  73. Wit's End says:

    John Davidson, I believe that in the past, CO2 levels rose much more slowly than they have been since the industrial revolution, ocean acidification would have been a much slower process, giving species time to adapt.

    Here is a great site devoted to the subject, it just publishes links to new research and news reports:

  74. Jim Eager says:

    CBC Radio 1’s Quirks and Quarks included a segment on a Nature Geoscience paper dealing with the long term and long lived effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 ( ) in today’s program that included an interview with Dr. Nathan Gillett of Environment Canada’s Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis.

    You can listen to the segment, Climate 3000, here:

  75. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Sam #60, we hit the iceberg around 1998, when the hot El Nino year gave the opportunity for the denialist ecocidaires to launch ten years of ‘its been cooling since 1998’ propaganda. A watertight bulkhead went with the theft of the UEA e-mails and the ‘Climategate’ moroncy, and the deliberate sabotage by the West of Copenhagen. Then another went with the Cancun greenwash and the Republican electoral triumph. At the moment we are re-arranging the antimaccassars on the deckchairs, and the MSM band, bought and paid the Kochtopus, is sliding towards the icy water, playing ‘We’re in the Money’. The one difference between us and the doomed Titanic is that we have a devoted cadre of saboteurs, working feverishly below deck, to sabotage the pumps, blow more holes in the hull and ensure that the steerage passengers are first into the abyss.

  76. Mike says:

    On any other issue being peaceful is a useful way forward, but when the entire human race is in the balance should we be being so reasonable in our approach towards the other side?

    I think extreme action needs to be taken. The people who are spreading intentional misinformation should be publicly executed, and I’m sure when the world gets to a stage where it’s obviously too late, lynch mobs will literally go out and hang people in the streets who were knowingly against taking the necessary action.

    Watch out if you’re a doubter and below an age that will see you surviving until say 2050. The lynch mobs will be ready.

  77. Paulm says:

    With the methane release were talking about 1500+ ppm.
    Venus here we come.

    Time to find a new planet.

  78. paulm says:

    So ….
    . more sun energy than previous
    . methane sources fully loaded like never before
    . CO2 injected at the highest rate ever and nothing like it in the past
    . forest degradation and general environment degradation restricting uptake of CO2 on a rapid and hugh scale

    well dam, were toast.