Climate

Northern Territory Chief Minister on Carlos’s deluge: “So a really one in 500 year event; nobody’s experienced anything like this before.”

Paul Gilding: “The Great Disruption has arrived”

Darwin, Australia suffered its greatest 24-hour rainfall in its history [last] Wednesday, when a deluge of 13.4 inches (339.4 mm) hit the city when Tropical Cyclone Carlos formed virtually on top of city and remained nearly stationary. Carlos has now dissipated, and brought only an additional 1.50″ (38 mm) of rain yesterday to Darwin. Over the past four days, Carlos has dumped a remarkable 26.87″ (682.6 mm) of rain on Darwin (population 125,000), capital of Australia’s Northern Territory. Australia’s west coast is also watching Tropical Cyclone Dianne, which is expected to remain well offshore as it moves southwards, parallel to the coast.

How extreme was the latest Australian deluge, which Dr. Jeff Masters described above?  The Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson said:

Over 420 ml of rain in that catchment in less than 24 hours is off the charts since records began and certainly that combined with a six metre high tide, that water came up very, very quickly. So a really one in 500 year event; nobody’s experienced anything like this before.”

I asked Paul Gilding, author of the forthcoming book The Great Disruption, to comment on the implications of the off-the-charts weather Australia has been suffering though.  He wrote:

Any doubt that climate change is an economic problem, not just an environmental one, was washed away with people’s lives, homes and businesses in Australia over the last few months. Floods of biblical proportions, and just weeks later, a cyclone of record intensity, saw people torn from inside their disintegrating houses as walls of water literally shattered whole communities. Also washed away was any doubt that the window for early action was now firmly closed. Now is the time to prepare for our new climate, a climate we helped to create with our massive coal exports and use. The good news is that faced with such catastrophic impacts, we will surely now wake up to the need to act urgently to stop climate chaos accelerating our of control.  Humanity has shown itself to be good in a crisis, as witnessed in the mobilisation for World War II. We are more than capable or responding rapidly, we just need to decide to act. That decision is coming soon.

Gilding is former executive director of Greenpeace International.  Gilding has a longer piece on his blog, “The Great Disruption has arrived,” which concludes:

More than anything else, I believe food will come to define our entry into this period. Food prices, after hovering around long-term highs for several years, are now passing the extreme peaks of 2008 as climate chaos takes hold.

Still, he remains optimistic. You’ll have to read his blog (and his book) to learn why.

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52 Responses to Northern Territory Chief Minister on Carlos’s deluge: “So a really one in 500 year event; nobody’s experienced anything like this before.”

  1. Leland Palmer says:

    What’s disrupting the climate is the 100,000 times greenhouse multiplier effect, not “too big of an economy”, as Paul Gilding says.

    Caldeira – 100,000 X Greenhouse Multiplier Effect

    It’s fossil fuel use that is killing us, not energy use.

    We could construct a fine economy based on solar energy, for example, and not be up against any of these sorts of limits.

    Concentrating solar plants built in the 1980’s have now paid off their loans, and are now producing electricity at about 3 cents per kilowatt hour, among the lowest prices ever for electricity generation.

    It’s fossil fuel use we are paying the climate disruption price for, not energy use.

  2. Lou Grinzo says:

    Yes, food is the ultimate issue.

    Start with known facts: We spew CO2 into the air for 2.5 centuries. That CO2 causes warming. That warming causes a cascade of other effects — melting glaciers, rising sea levels, droughts, floods, melting of permafrost and methane hydrates, Arctic amplification (albedo flip), conversion of Alaskan forests and the Amazon from carbon sinks into sources, ocean acidification — and a pattern emerges. Every single item downstream of the emission of CO2 is a feedback that makes warming worse and/or is something that directly hinders our ability to feed ourselves. Every. Single. One.

    We keep talking about what kind of event might constitute a “climate 9/11” or (in my terms) a “climate Hiroshima” that jolts us into action. I’m increasingly of the opinion that it won’t be a gigantic, sudden event, but long-term (by comparison) rise in food and fuel prices. It will much more likely be the “climate constrictor” (as in boa) that squeezes mainstream voters and consumers until they demand a way to distance themselves from the financial impacts.

    This will have vastly greater impact on places like the US than would any amount of media coverage you could throw at huge humanitarian crises around the world. Millions of people starving? Millions more are turned into climate refugees and are living in makeshift camps in terrible conditions in a neighboring country that’s desperate to get rid of them? Shrugged off in an instant. But raise the price of bread, meat, milk, and beer and you’ll have the undivided attention (and wrath) of Americans.

  3. Leif says:

    Flash Mob the White House today! Call 202 456 1111, 9-5 EST. All lines are busy. A good sign, unless the Tea Baggers are active. Do not give up! swamp those puppies. Vote for the Climate we had, not the one that makes the EXXON et al richer.

  4. Berbalang says:

    Maybe not, it is difficult for people to make the connection between Global Warming and the price of bread, meat, milk and beer. I am afraid it would have to be something catastrophic that is weather related, doesn’t go away and steadily gets worse, like a sudden one meter rise in sea level.

  5. Vic says:

    Not content with temporarily knocking out most of Queensland’s coal infrastructure, Gaia is now targeting the oil and gas operations of Australia’s north western coast. 

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/pilbara-region-takes-cover-as-cyclone-hits-home/story-e6frg8zx-1226010355913

    In retaliation, that other “big Australian” BHP Billiton (aka the worlds biggest mining company) instantly expands it’s resource base by 45%, buying into the US shale gas industry to the tune of ten trillion cubic feet of gas, a figure BHP hopes to triple.

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/business/bhp-billiton-in-big-us-shale-gas-deal/story-e6frfh4f-1226010357676

    Gaia loses again.    

  6. catman306 says:

    Vic,
    “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
    AND
    “Gaia bats last.”

  7. Wonhyo says:

    I increasingly believe any hope of the masses “waking up” to the reality of the connection between global warming and climate change is wishful thinking. Those who are reasonable and open minded enough to “get it” already get it. Those who don’t never will. By the time individual deniers are hit by climate catastrophe, they won’t care about the connection. All they’ll care about is where their next meal is coming from. If anything, the deniers will find a way to blame their woes on the very people who warned of climate change.

    Given this situation what is the most useful thing we climate realists can do with our knowledge and understanding?

  8. Wonhyo says:

    I meant to write “connection between global warming and rising food prices”.

  9. catman306 says:

    I followed a link from a commenter at Wunderblog about damage in Christchurch. It shows photos taken before and after the latest earthquake. A slider is used to move between before and after as many times as wished. I’ve never seen this before. It’s dramatic.

    I’m commenting here to suggest that this ‘before and after’ software would be EXCELLENT for showing differences between any two graphs or other data presentations. I’d like to see, for instance, last year’s ice compared with this year’s in such a graphic way.

    http://www.news.com.au/world/christchurch-cathedral-before-and-after/story-e6frfl00-1226010081646

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Scott’s Antarctic samples give climate clues

    Putting all this data together has allowed researchers to show that the creatures grew roughly the same amount each year until about 1990.

    Since then, there has been a steady increase, with the annual growth rate now being more than double the 20th Century average.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12524042

  11. Jeffrey Davis says:

    Denialist response to atribution studies are odd. They make comments like “It’s rained heavily in the past”. So, apparently until AGW produces novel weather — meatballs, howling dogs and cats, literal buckets of rain — there’s nothing menacing about increasing the energy in the atmosphere.

  12. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Big massive huge awesome devastating incredible unforgettable storms will continue to hit the world, including the U.S.

    Can’t deny devastation, and it’s coming to your neighborhood soon.

    Even the deniers will have no choice but to open their eyes. And I think this will happen in concert with food shortages, a double whammy. The human is going to have to do something mighty amazing to survive this one.

  13. @ 1 Leland Palmer

    Couldn’t agree more. Trouble is we are ham-strung by the way we account for our economic activity (discounting the future, no cost associated with using Earth’s resources and services). The rules of accounting encourage ordinary people to destroy the future and assures them it is “rational behaviour”. We need to change the rule to change the game and give our children a decent chance of enjoying the sort of civilisation we have enjoyed.

  14. Adam R. says:

    Can’t deny devastation…

    Wanna bet?

    …and it’s coming to your neighborhood soon. Even the deniers will have no choice but to open their eyes.

    “It’s all just natural cycles! Climate has changed before! Socialism! Al Gore!”

    Please remember: you are talking about people capable of believing that the National Academy of Sciences of the USA—just to name one of many— is deliberately promoting a hoax. There are literally no events that could change minds so estranged from reality.

  15. Raul M. says:

    I think the decibel volume of the passing breeze
    Has gone up. I remember first noticing it (the breeze))
    Being louder on average about 15 years ago.
    That was when I first knew something was really
    Different. Sometimes it seems to swirl at one
    Distant location and then just heads to further
    Distance only to start a new swirl back at the
    Starting place. It has great power and so do
    People of the nature deficit generation.

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    GULFPORT — Baby dolphins, some barely three feet in length, are washing up along the Mississippi and Alabama coastlines at 10 times the normal rate of stillborn and infant deaths, researchers are finding.

    The Sun Herald has learned that 17 young dolphins, either aborted before they reached maturity or dead soon after birth, have been collected along the shorelines.

    Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/02/21/109128/infant-dolphin-deaths-spiking.html#ixzz1EiBBQEwy
    ———
    The first calving season since the rig sank.

  17. Colorado Bob says:

    Heavy late summer and autumn precipitation (twice the normal amount since October in parts of North Dakota and Minnesota) have soils saturated and streams running high before the winter freeze-up. Another winter of above average snowfall has added water to the snow pack on top of the frozen saturated soils in the North Central US. NWS models show this snowpack containing a water content ranked in the 90 to 100 percentile when compared to a 60 year average. These factors have combined to create some of the highest soil moisture contents of the last century. ”
    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1752#commenttop

  18. jemand says:

    @Wonhyo

    oh yes, I’m afraid you may be right. I’m reminded about the global warming debate I had with my grandfather. After links to all sorts of denier websites, he linked me to something fundamentalist about God being in control of the weather and how we are angering him with our liberal values and environmentalism and gay rights and such.

    So yeah. That was the end of the discussion for me, when I realized that *even when* the effects cannot be ignored, these idiots are going to blame it on Armageddon, the end of the world, and religious eschatology and punishments for “evil liberals.”

  19. K. Nockels says:

    It really looks like we are in for another wild ride this year as the converging factors of Climate,Food and Energy come together to show us just how NOT in control we are. The roller coaster ride we have embarked upon has left the station and is rounding the first curve, next is the stomach dropping down slop as the speed of travel increases.
    I think we have crossed the threshold of that all important tipping point TIME. The delayers and deiniers have managed to get their way, how ironic it is that to win means to lose everything. I really wonder sometimes if anyone can really be that stupid, guess so.

  20. David Schonberger says:

    Re: WH Flash mob. I just got off the phone with a comment operator, after several busy signals and then a hold on the line for more than 10 minutes. But at least I got through and talked with a live human being. I kept it pithy, since they are obviously busy over there. I simply said that I care deeply about a livable climate for humanity and other living species and that I strongly urge President Obama to go on prime time TV as soon as possible and make the case to the American people that our nation must act decisively on climate change beginning now.

    Ok, so where are those other reports. people? ;-) Keep ’em coming!

  21. Leif says:

    I know of 2 people in my web circle that have gotten thru, though I have not with over 2 dozen tries. A written comment can be left at the whitehouse.gov “contact” site. Keep those phones buzzing folks. 202 456 1111

  22. paulm says:

    The transition could be so straightforward – removal of fossil fuel subsidies, very small symbolic tax on fossil fuels, hugh ramping up of subsidies on sustainable energy – sun, wind and hydro/tide.

    The transformation would/could happen within 5yrs.

    To think that sustainable energies are almost effectively free and have minimal health effect and that there is enough solar in the deserts of Arizona to supply all of the US just make you wonder where the will is and why it isn’t there.

  23. Jeff Huggins says:

    Made The Call

    I just called the White House comment line and requested that the President go on national prime-time TV to explain to Americans the reality of climate change and why we need to take action now, as Roger has been (correctly) suggesting. I sincerely hope that others do the same today. It’s an easy call. You might have to wait on hold for awhile in order to leave a comment — my wait was about 9 minutes — but the feeling you get after doing it is well worthwhile. Please call.

    Be Well, (and thanks Roger),

    Jeff

  24. Michael Tucker says:

    I am not optimistic because I still see reaction to disaster instead of action to reduce GHG emissions. We will eventually see change that is imposed on us from reacting to a radically changing climate.

    What we do in the next two decades will make all the difference. If we continue on as before, as we continue to do now, we many very well be overwhelmed by disasters. We are doing nothing now and we see the results. Food and fuel prices are shooting up like rockets while most of the developed world is suffering with a very slow economic recovery. We see the turmoil this causes in countries that import the majority of their food and soon we will see the turmoil it causes in countries that import the majority of their fuel; like the US. Any day now the call will begin to open up domestic drilling as if that could replace a meaningful amount of imported crude. It does not matter that it will make no difference to the oil supply and those who call for more drilling will link it to jobs. Haven’t heard much from Republicans about creating jobs lately but you will as soon as they demand more domestic drilling.

  25. Colorado Bob says:

    ” they demand more domestic drilling. ”

    North America is the most explored province in the world. There are more holes in North America, than all of the rest of the world combined.

  26. Richard Brenne says:

    I agree with your take on solar energy and support that, Leland Palmer (#1), but take issues with these statements:

    “What’s disrupting the climate is. . .”not too big of an economy” as Paul Gilding says.

    It’s fossil fuel use that is killing us, not energy use.

    We could construct a fine economy based on solar energy, for example, and not be up against any of these sorts of limits.”

    As I said, I support your support of solar energy, but as much as I support this (enough that I’ve used the word “support” four times in one sentence), it’s hard to imagine 7 billion people not running into limits to growth, as we see all around us.

    There would still be species loss, and deforestation, and topsoil loss, and aquifer depletion, and all other kinds of pollution, and CO2 from deforestation and cement production, and methane release from garbage, rice paddies and livestock, and the depletion of all other minerals, etc, etc, etc.

    It’s like all the problems of our species are represented by one grossly overweight man who eats a diet of fast foods and also chain smokes. Yes, the smoking might be the worst thing for him, but his other habits could kill him as well.

    I agree that fossil fuel use is like our species smoking, and creates climate change, ozone depletion that is killing all plant life, ocean acidification, pollution and other ills.

    But overfishing, garbage and pollution from other sources is also killing marine life at alarming rates.

    Your solar solution is excellent, and one that needs to be pursued as much as possible, but Malthus (and Thomas Jefferson and Darwin, who agreed with Malthus), the Ehrlichs, Al Bartlett, the Limits to Growth folks and others who saw this coming decades or centuries before the rest of us are tragically being proven fundamentally correct: There are limits to growth, and any expert in any of these and other areas will tell you that they’re all around us, and closing in.

    Politically correct pronouncements like “It’s not population, it’s consumption” (it’s both) and “There are no limits to growth” (there are) and “There’s a techno-fix” (there isn’t) are more sophisticated ways of denying that there are limits to growth, and that we’ve reached these limits.

  27. Colorado Bob says:

    What really worries me as far as drilling goes, are the finds off Brazil. If the Deep Water Horizon, was going to the Moon for oil, these deposits of Brazil are a trip to Mars. When they lose one of these holes, molten salt will be coming up the hole with the oil and gas. When oil reaches $200.00 a barrel, there will be every reason to try and get at them.

  28. Colorado Bob says:

    The latest find :
    Repsol finds oil gusher off Brazil’s coast

    http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Resource-Wars/2011/01/27/Repsol-finds-oil-gusher-off-Brazils-coast/UPI-24641296143916/
    ——
    This well is 170 miles off Sao Pualo, and in 7,000 feet of water. No word on how deep the well is, but many of these new discoveries are 10,000 to 12,000 feet deep.

  29. Rob Mutch says:

    Joe, Thanks for the link to Gilding’s blog and book. Rob :o)

  30. Colorado Bob says:

    My mistake, 16,000 feet deep , the first of these very deep holes :
    The Tupi field lies below 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) of water and then 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) of salt, sand and rocks

  31. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    #17 Raul M.

    Your post reads somewhat like a haiku. And “nature deficit generation” couldn’t describe it better.

  32. Richard Brenne says:

    Colorado Bob (#29) – You’re so right about the inevitable attempts to drill and secure oil from far off the coast of Brazil – in fact we might as well be trying to get oil from Mars.

    The estimates Leif and others here came up with is that since 1970 we’ve added energy to the system (around 90 per cent going into the oceans) that is the equivalent to 190,000 nuclear power plants, with 10 new power plants coming on line each day.

    The first hurricane to hit Brazil on record in 2004 is just a preview of coming attractions. We’ll see storms in the oceans that no one has ever seen or imagined.

    Susan Casey’s excellent 2010 book “The Wave” chronicles this better than anyone has, and it is an amazing read.

    Those oil rigs will be taken out one way or another. Even the additional weight of added sea level rise could be increasing seismic activity of all kinds, unleashing new generation after new generation of underwater earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis.

    I absolutely promise you that many if not most of those oil rigs would be taken out in one way or another long before they’ve extracted all the oil they could. And if we succeed in burning all those fossil fuels that are best sequestered, that would be even worse.

    As Vic (#5) suggested, beginning with Louisiana, Russia and Australia, it’s like Gaia has begun targeting some of those extracting or exporting the most oil, gas and coal. . .

  33. Colorado Bob says:

    Salt at this depth is reported to act like sludge, with some unknown physical properties. This means that construction of an effective well-bore may be difficult.

    http://www.offshore-technology.com/projects/tupi/

  34. Colorado Bob says:

    Owls change colour as climate warms

    Dr Karell told BBC News that the brown owls, which used to form 30% of the tawny owl population in Finland, now make up 50%.

    “Its survival has improved as winters have become warmer,” he said. “In other words, climate-driven selection has led to an evolutionary change in the population.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9401000/9401733.stm

  35. Gnobuddy says:

    @26, Michael Tucker says:

    “What we do in the next two decades will make all the difference.
    ———————————————————————————–
    I am quite curious as to what the worlds leading climate scientists think about this, when they’re talking off-the-record with friends and spouses. What percentage of them think we still have time to make any difference in the climate collapse outcome?

    I’m not a climate scientist, but I do have a bit of experience working with systems with feedback, both positive and negative. Anyone who has ever allowed a microphone too near a public address system loudspeaker knows that once positive feedback starts – once that P.A. is screeching with feedback – it makes no difference what external forcings do – the feedback takes over. That P.A. won’t stop howling no matter what you shout into the microphone – the only way to stop the howling is to change the physical system, by lowering the gain somehow.

    We now know that there are a number of positive feedback mechanisms involved in atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. Once we humans put enough C02 into the atmosphere to trigger significant warming, natural positive feedback mechanisms – everything from melting polar white ice being replaced by dark water to dying forests becoming C02 sources instead of sinks to methane release from warming permafrost – will take over.

    Once these positive feedbacks kick in sufficiently, our atmosphere will start to “screech” like that P.A. – meaning that the temperature will start to rise rapidly, no matter what we humans may do to control human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. We may cut our global emissions by 3 gigatonnes of carbon per year, but that does no good at all if rapidly melting permafrost emits six gigatonnes per year of carbon at the same time.

    So, from the scientific curiosity point of view, the question is, how far into the rise of positive feedback are we, and is there really any time remaining where we humans can still act to prevent runaway positive feedbacks from taking over?

    My gut instincts tell me that it’s already too late, and may well have been too late fifty years ago. If that’s correct, we better focus on preparing for the inevitable, rather than attempting to avert what cannot in fact be averted.

    -Gnobuddy

  36. Mond from Oz says:

    Reason and bitter experience speak with one voice – but Murdoch and the Koch brothers and the Republican Congress speak with another (to say nothing of Little Ozzie Gerard H.). They know that haIf the population has an IQ under 100; they know how to divert them with the entertaining brutalities and concocted crises of commercial sport and the adulteries of Hollywood starlets.

    To a variable degree we share an understanding of the enormity of the changes that will be forced upon us. Will we make timely preparation? Abandon ‘growth’? Will the Pope endorse contraception while BP and the coal owners admit their error? Or will we hide under the well funded blanket of denial until it is all far too late?

    I am in my eightieth year. The damage has been done in my lifetime.

    (I have also posted this on the Gilding blog)

  37. paulm says:

    Gnobuddy, u miss the point….

    …we have to switch to sustainable energy whatever the timeline.

  38. Richard Brenne says:

    Paul Gilding’s excellent essay on his blog (http://paulgilding.com/cockatoo-chronicles/cc2011022thegreatdisruptionarrives.html) is one of the best summaries of the problems and solutions I’ve seen.

    I support every solution he mentions, but feel that they’re a little glib, overly optimistic and unrealistic, as much as I’d like to believe them (and in the Tooth Fairy and that the Rock never made a movie with that name).

    So below I’ve reprinted Gilding’s essay and then added comments of my own in parenthesis, beginning where Gilding turned gelding:

    But don’t panic (Panic!). We will wake up soon (Really? Zzzzzzz). It’s the end of economic growth that will really get our attention (And be completely misunderstood by virtually everyone).

    There is surprisingly good news in all of this (For those who feel the death of all life on a planet is good news). We as humans have long been very good in a crisis. We ignore our health issues until the heart attack (then after); our unwise lifestyle choices until the cancer diagnosis (then smoke through our tracheotomy). We ignore our badly designed financial system until the economic crisis (and then use taxpayer money to bail out billionaires and perpetuate that system); or the threat of Hitler until the brink of war. Again and again, we respond to problems late, but dramatically – and, crucially, effectively. (I’ll give you part of the WWII thing, but that was the most easily understood, visceral problem, while reaching the limits to growth in every way is much the opposite.) Slow, but not stupid (Slow and incredibly stupid).

    This is a good attribute, given what’s coming. We’re going to have to transform our economy very rapidly, including our energy, transport and agricultural systems. This transition – to a zero net CO2 economy – will soon be underway and the business and economic opportunities for those who are ready are hard to overstate (What we most need are more rich people, and the economic system that is the motivational force for all life in every Universe, our Lord and Creator, the Free Market, which has done nothing wrong but create the problem in the first place).

    In response to the now inevitable crisis, we will demand our governments think more deeply (If by “think more deeply” you mean “find scapegoats”). We will have to adopt policies known to improve quality of life, like encouraging community, social inclusion and – the most heretical idea of all – greater equality and a steady state economy (An economy evidently based on pigs flying F-16s landing on the frozen reaches of hell).

    Taking all this together, we can now say with a high degree of certainty that change is going to start coming thick and fast. Change in our economy, in our politics, and in our lives. Change that will be challenging, but that will ultimately lead us to a better place (In our next life).

  39. Dan Miller says:

    Regarding the discussion above of what to do, I’m focusing my energy now on convincing progressives – those who do believe in AGW – that things are far worse than they think and the time for urgent and dramatic action is now. If progressives and environmental groups won’t tell people how bad things are, who will? Certainly not the media.

    Most progressives and environmental groups want to focus on the “Green is Good” message and stay away from talking about what will happen if we don’t go green (and, at this point, even if we do) because that bums people out (and, believe me, it does). However, the Green is Good message makes Green sound about 20% better than the status quo when, in reality, it’s 1000 times better because there will be no status quo.

    We have a chance to convince progressives that climate change is something to be feared… but it will be harder than you think. Humans are not built to respond to problems like climate change. But it is worth a shot considering the alternative.

  40. Richard Brenne says:

    Gnobuddy (#38) – Excellent points. In this and other recent comments I think you’re digging deeper and coming closer to complex and hidden truths than anyone (in addition to Mulga Mumblebrain and some others).

    The thing about climate scientists and everyone else is that we’re all living in cognitive dissonance. I often have lunch with scientists at NCAR, and we’ll eat and chat like anyone while often discussing mind-bending issues. My latest lunch was spent chatting with Warren Washington, a legendary climate scientist, asking him about Jim Hansen’s feeling that we could create a runaway greenhouse effect that ultimately turns Earth’s atmosphere toward that of Venus, which is 850 degrees F with 97 per cent CO2 (sun lotion needs to be about SPF 30 – thousand).

    Washington felt that this was possible, but certainly not certain. I think such cognitive dissonance affects all our lives, and climate scientists or other experts are no different. They do their work and a growing number are pretty certain we’re heading down the path you describe, but then get in their car and pick up milk on the way home like the rest of us.

    Truth be told, except in rare instances they’re generally infinitely better specialists but not better generalists than the rest of us, especially those commenting here at CP. I’ve sought out those who are best at seeing the big picture like Trenberth, Kiehl, Hansen, Santer, McKibben, Bartlett, Romm, etc, but your recent comments are as deep and perceptive as anyone’s, and usually deeper.

    About all we’ve got going for us is the inertia built into the system that is being eroded and will suddenly collapse in an even more dramatic way than 2010, although 2010 itself could have been a tipping point (or 1998, 2007 or some year in the future).

    I still think we do all the work we can to make every positive change we can along all the lines mentioned here at CP. But knowing that it might not be enough is only honest, and will help prevent us from being blindsided, which is the worst thing that can happen.

  41. Richard Brenne says:

    In answer to Wonhyo’s question about what we should do at the end of his excellent comment at #7 (seconded by Mond from Oz at #39 and thirded by my own dark comment at #41), I think we communicate everything we know to everyone we can as much as we can, especially any member of the intelligentsia (my broad definition includes all the deepest and most caring teachers, writers, filmmakers and others who communicate to more people themselves).

    It was the intelligentsia that understood the evils of racism and did much (more always needs to be done) to change institutional racism, and the intelligentsia needs to come to a similar conclusion and inspire similar action in regard to climate change and all other massive human impacts.

    The Right’s hatred of the intelligentsia stems from the fact that they’re often racists who didn’t want to address racism, greed-mongers who don’t want to address greed or lifestyle changes, and they’re deeply resentful of their intellectual and moral superiors.

    Maybe put a little too delicately, but there it is. . .

  42. Florifulgurator says:

    “The good news is that faced with such catastrophic impacts, we will surely now wake up to the need to act urgently to stop climate chaos accelerating our of control.”

    Such a merry optimist. There’s a wall behind the human brain and the real world: ego. Will it be broken so easily with just a little rain? I doubt. And even if acceptance of rality seeps thru – will Homo S “Sapies” suddenly want to draw inconvenient conclusions, or even act accordingly?

    Evidence speaks against you, hominids!

  43. Prokaryotes says:

    Is there a statistic for Record breaking weather events – globally?

    How many once in every 500 year events did we break last month?

  44. S. Molnar says:

    I’m with Wonhyo on this. In fact, Gilding’s statement “Humanity has shown itself to be good in a crisis, as witnessed in the mobilisation for World War II” is silly, since the Nazis were also part of that humanity, and their mobilisation, while impressive, was anything but good. We must keep trying, but I’m not optimistic at all.

  45. Richard Brenne says:

    Florifulgurator (#46) writes “Evidence speaks against you, hominids!”

    While hominid has come to mean upright walkers to many, technically hominids are all Great Apes including (in the order they swung out of our family tree) orangutans, gorillas, chimps and humans, but doesn’t include Lesser Apes like the gibbons and Donald Trump.

    In addition to the other Great Apes, I don’t find Homo habilis, Homo erectus or Neanderthals much to blame for our predicament, or even Homo sapiens before agriculture (after agriculture, interestingly God’s curse to Adam in that allegorical story, maybe we’re “Homo assholis”).

    Almost all hunters and gatherers are quite egalitarian, a tribal chief having some ceremonial feathers or other ornamentation but otherwise living like everyone else in the tribe. But maybe this was just because most hunters and gatherers had to migrate so often they couldn’t carry and accumulate possessions.

    Anthropologists have found that murder rates among hunters and gatherers are exceptionally (by most current standards) high, usually a man killing another man over a woman, followed by a series of revenge killings for each preceding killing. So maybe our assholishness is somewhat ingrained, and exasperated by “advanced” civilization, which deserves its own quotation marks.

    While orangutans, gorillas and bonobo chimpanzees are mostly peaceful, the common chimpanzee can be murderous. Paul Ehrlich tells the story of male chimps killing a mother and her baby from another group and then, in an apparent act of conscience, delivering the dead baby’s body to Jane Goodell’s doorstep miles away.

    As you so eloquently say, it appears that our ego selves gain control and block the normal expression of our authentic selves. This obsession with ego, status, winning arguments, gaining and maintaining power seems to be the culprit, more than being a hominid alone.

    Maybe “Evidence speaks against you, egoists!”

  46. Sou says:

    I’ll make another suggestion for those in Australia. Write or contact the main fishing industries in South Australia and ask them to protest to the Australian Government for enticing BP to do deep water drilling in the Great Australian Bight. There are some very wealthy fishers in that area, who I don’t imagine want to lose their millions by a deep water oil drilling catastrophe.

    Complain to the Australian Government and the South Australian, Western Australian, Tasmanian and Victorian governments about the same issue. All these states could be affected by a mishap.

    Then write to all Australian states where coal is mined for electricity generation and/or export and demand they develop and implement a plan to phase it right out.

  47. Roger says:

    This is just a note to follow up on my suggestion that we climate hawks who read Climate Progress translate some of our frustration over the lack of climate progress into constructive action. Why don’t we ALL CALL our chief executive and ask him to act?

    So, my heartfelt thanks go out to budding climate heroes LEIF and friends (#3 & #23), DAVID Schonberger (#22), JEFF Huggins (#25), PAULM (#26) and to the many others (#’s unknown) who heeded the call to participate in the first (that I know) unofficial CP Flash Phone Mob Action. They did this by calling 202-456-1111 (or 202-456-1414), between 9am and 5pm, to ask the volunteer White House Comment Line Operators to ask President Obama to please give a “State of the Climate” address on prime time national TV, so that Americans understand what is at stake, and can thus work together to solve this ‘Mother of all Problems’ (as described to me by Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson).

    As I think most folks who have made calls to the White House will attest, it’s fun, it’s easy, and it will give you an even greater sense of accomplishment than seeing your comments posted here on CP. What’s more, you can ‘have your cake, and eat it too’ by posting a comment ABOUT your call to the White House. This has the added benefit of encouraging others to join us in making the calls—many of which can continue through the week, and beyond. (Flash idea: How about “Wednesdays = White House call day!)

    My wife and I both called both numbers several times today and got busy signals or were put on hold. I’ve suggested, when finally getting through, that they add more lines and operators. (Gosh, even the IRS doesn’t usually make one wait 10 minutes and that gives them a bad name.) At the same time, I must admit, the operators are very patient when they finally do get to your call.

    So, the best call strategy is to call until you get the recording (not the busy signal), then settle in to re-read parts of “Hell and High Water” or “Eaarth” or “Storms of my Grandchildren” or “World on the Edge” or etc. while you’re waiting for the friendly human to pick up. You will also be told about how to send an electronic comment by going to http://www.whitehouse.gov, then clicking on “Contact Us” in the upper right hand corner of the home page, then filling in the simple boxes provided.

    In any case, having made the call, I decided to convey my thoughts to the president in my own words and send them via the above method. One is ‘allowed’ up to 2500 characters.

    So, without any apologies, below is what I decided to write. Should others feel inspired to write, and I hope many will be, please feel free to borrow or build on (or subtract from) any of these ideas. They are here to share. If enough people do this, perhaps the president will speak soon enough for us to change direction before final tipping points are passed.

    “Dear President Obama,

    This is an urgent request for your very critically needed, world-class leadership.

    When we met in New Hampshire, while I was working to help get you elected, you said that you were “on climate change.” That has been a key reason for my support. For me, and for many others, you now represent our last best hope for a livable future climate.

    Now, as food and energy prices rise, the time has come for you to face facts: Our current, convenient climate change consensual confusion conundrum cannot continue. We need to act urgently to transition away from fossil fuels. If enough people are made aware of the problem, we can work together to solve it. But this can’t happen when so many millions in fossil fuel funds freely flow in an attempt to maintain the status quo.

    Now is the time for you to go on prime time national television to present a clear, concise “State of the Climate” address to inform misinformed Americans of the reality, urgency and importance of manmade climate change, and our need to aggressively deal with it. Your message will be supported by more than 95 percent of climate scientists. You must then have your SOTC message repeated on TV and radio until it is finally understood.

    Then, as FDR did during our last huge challenge as a country, when entering World War II, you must lay out bold objectives for American industry’s transition to the renewable fuels of the future. We need a modern energy policy. We need your strong leadership!

    I refuse to believe those who say that it is beyond your power to explain the truth.

    With wavering hope,

    Roger Shamel

    Husband, Parent & Etc.
    AB, Chemistry, F&M College
    MS, Chemistry, Ohio State University
    MBA, Marketing/Finance, Harvard Business School
    Former Senior Project Manager, Arthur D. Little, Inc.
    President and CEO, Consulting Resources Corporation
    Founder, Global Warming Education Network (GWEN)
    Participant, Boston Rally in Support of Wisconsin Workers”

    (OK, that last part was perhaps a bit much. Meeting Tea Party types is another story!)

    Again, I hope that Climate Progress readers will please feel free to borrow any of the above ideas that trigger ideas of your own, for use when YOU write your comments to President Obama. But DO write! I doubt that Obama has time to read Climate Progress, but I do know he gets briefed on what people are saying when they call or write him at the White House. And, keep in mind that paid deniers are likely also calling, and sending comments too. So, climate hawks would be wise to make some calls just to stay even!

    Warm regards,
    Roger

  48. Jeff Huggins says:

    Thanks to Roger, and Great Letter

    Thanks for the thanks, Roger, and for the great letter to President Obama! That’s a genuinely great letter!

    Given that you’ve met the President, given all of your activities, given the demonstration at the White House, given your great letter, given your well-considered and creative writing, and given all else, I think it would be great for ClimateProgress to run your letter as a blog post — an example of a great and necessary appeal to the President. The letter is excellent, lively, sincere, and so forth, and it would make a great guest post. I don’t think it should just “sit here” as Comment 50 on this now-old thread, headed for the deep archives where dead and dying threads go.

    I also agree that the calling should continue, perhaps weekly or perhaps as an ongoing initiative that calls for people to call frequently, any time they can, whatever day it might be.

    Also, as an aside, I’m very curious to hear about the latest thinking and plans from 350.org. I got a standard e-mail message yesterday (or in the last couple days, anyhow) saying that they are about to announce their latest thinking and plans.

    Thanks again, Roger and Susan and GWEN!

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  49. Richard Brenne says:

    Roger (#50) and Jeff (#51) – I second Jeff’s remarks, Roger’s letter would make a great guest post. Also, often on the most alarming and interesting threads the comments can get deeper and deeper and some real gems like this are near or at the end of the comments.

    If you want to get some of the deepest, most philosophical, action-oriented and meaningful comments, surf the comments at the end of the most alarming posts, often with the most comments. Keep coming back again until the number of comments plateaus out.

    One thing I would not do, however, is slam everyone else commenting by childish statements like “Do what I do, not what you’re doing” and “what I’m doing is meaningful and what you’re doing is not” and “commenting at CP is just preaching to the choir”. Getting a solid consensus like calling the president is meaningful, and comes from comments that do preach to the choir in encouraging others to do that.

    I think what everyone is doing who comments here is extremely valuable and we need it all, and more. There’s no need to lessen anything, including reading and commentating at CP.