Weekend Open Thread

A cyber-penny for your thoughts “¦ and links.

88 Responses to Weekend Open Thread

  1. wili says:

    My understanding is that our collective understanding of tornadoes is not sufficient to say for certain that GW definitely would cause an increase in their intensity and/or frequency.

    Is that the case? Is this just and under-studied area? Why exactly is this so hard to predict?

    It seems to me that an increase in intensity of storms should also mean an increase in intensity of tornadoes. What am I missing?

    [JR: There are multiple factors that drive the ideal conditions for tornadoes, making the link to global warming more complicated than, say, heat waves or droughts or deluges or even wildfires. I’ll do a post Monday.]

  2. Sunshine says:

    Looks like folks in Colorado have got it goin’ on… – Youth for Global Sustainability – Denver, May 14, 2011
    iMatterMarch – Sat. May 7 (just before Mother’s Day march)

    More US and global events posted at:

  3. Richard Brenne says:

    wili (#1) – Those are excellent questions, and we’ve recently discussed this with at dozens of great comments in great detail.

    I believe I started the conversation about this April 27 (the day of the worst tornadoes since maybe 1974) with comment #19 under the post headline “Masters: Midwest Deluge. . .”

    I continue my comments there with #33 and #49, while professional meteorologist Ed Hummel answers and expounds with comments #26 and #39.

    This thread is also a classic because scientist Dan Miller weighs in several times relating to his conversations with Jim Hansen beginning at comment #20.

    Here’s the link:

  4. English Mark says:

    An interesting report on CO2 release by warming oceans suggests it may happen sooner than previously thought

  5. Lewis C says:

    The diversion of attention from the significance of the greatest super storm cells ever recorded in the US continues apace, led by the AWOL POTUS.

    His response to the event was to remark the these were merely “the strongest storms we’ve see in decades . . .” which is both untrue, misleading and profoundly irresponsible. He went on to set the focus entirely on losses, with no mention whatsoever of causation.

    This event should have been used as the teaching moment where the president affirmed the trend of ever more extreme and damaging weather events, backed by well prepared statements from Holdren, the Pentagon, US Academy of Science, Munich Re, etc.

    Instead, he should now be challenged for misleading the US public on an issue critical to their safety, security and prosperity, and for setting the denialist propaganda lead that the MSM has been well content to follow.

    Now that the death toll has exceeded that of the 1974 event and it is no longer useable as the figleaf to belittle the current event, the BBC has posted the following from AP :

    “The death toll from the tornadoes that hit the southern US this week has risen to 340, in one of the worst twister outbreaks in the country’s history.
    . . . . .
    More than 200 tornadoes were reported across six southern US states on Tuesday and Wednesday.
    . . . . . .
    More than 250 people died in Alabama alone – mostly on Wednesday. As many as a million homes and businesses in the state are still without power.

    The overall death toll across the southern US makes it the second-deadliest tornado outbreak in US history, the Associated Press news agency reports.
    It says the largest death toll ever was in March 1925, when 747 people were killed in storms that raged through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.”
    . . . . .

    Given the near total lack of a warning system in 1925, can anyone put up a justifiable projection of what the present event’s casualties would now be under the same parameters ?

    Personally I take the president’s lying about the significance of the event as strong evidence that he is more than scared of the US public awakening to the climate threat they face and forcing him to have to agree a deal with China et al before the latter have been weakened or destabilized by serial intensifying impacts of climate destabilization. He is willing to lie, outright, on record, in defiance of the science that Holdren has to be supplying, in order to postpone that awakening and maintain the inherited policy of a brinkmanship of inaction.



  6. Richard Brenne says:

    Also wili (#1) – Then the conversation continued 9 posts below under the heading “Tennessee Valley Authority. . .” with my comment at #28 and Colorado Bob (the all-time links champion together with Prokaryotes) providing an excellent link at #29.

    Finally under the heading “Extreme Weather Costs Lives” I made comments about this at #s 7, 19, 24 and 33 with Steve Bloom providing excellent comments at #s 14, 15 and 25 and MarkB at #17.

    Merrelyn Emery made great comments at #s 28 and 29 and my final comment was this one (with several modifications):

    “In meteorological experience combined with atmospheric science knowledge combined with candor (perhaps due to his senior position) I think Kevin Trenberth’s the go-to guy on this, with of course others I mention helpful as well.

    Jeff Masters had this convincing data about how tornadoes aren’t necessarily increasing in 2008 that he’s still using as his reference, but I think that data will be updated over enough time, perhaps especially when measuring the largest tornado outbreaks that occur when there’s record or near-record heat, humidity and Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures as there were in this case. Here’s his link, notice it’s over three years old now:

    Scientists like Kevin, Jim Hansen, Susan Solomon and the handful of most experienced, courageous, big picture viewers can often be a decade or two ahead of the mainstream scientific conclusions that finally catch up with their conclusions (though those are constantly changing) eventually. If I were building or insuring something in a vulnerable area over many decades I’d listen to them and others like them more than all the 20th Century and obsolete data combined. But that’s just me, I like to see who I feel is most expert and candid and then synthesize their views rather than those of less experienced and less candid folks who might have a dog in a particular fight (and I don’t think Gavin does, or at least Vick told me he didn’t).

    (By the way, tornadoes are always such a crapshoot I don’t know that I’d let that influence my building, except for adding the sturdiest possible safe room on the lowest level – ideally a basement – with no windows. But I wouldn’t build anything in any kind of flood plain, because over the lifetime of the building I’m confident every flood plain will likely have at least one damaging flood sometime.)

    If you want to be a good, conservative scientist you’ll look at the hydrological records for the U.S. and say “What increase in flooding?” as I said Robert M. Hirsch and many other top hydrologists do. The same with tornadoes.

    What these top scientists in every way are saying is the same as what Joe says: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Just because up to .8 degree C increase over a century hasn’t necessarily been reflected in flooding and tornadoes over 2% of the Earth’s surface (the over-represented – I’m sure you’ll agree – 48 states) measured mostly up through the 20th Century doesn’t mean that there won’t be an increase in severe flooding and tornadoes globally over the next century when there could be up to 10 times the temperature increase and thus 40% more water vapor (equivalent to 15 Lake Superiors) in the atmosphere and the energy equivalent to the output of almost 2 million nuclear reactors in the system. I think that would create weather no human living now can imagine (as well as a run-on sentence no one can read).

    It’s high time scientists drop their most timid, confusing, caveat-laden clichés and follow the lead of people like Kevin, Jim and Joe with far bolder and ultimately far more accurate statements.

    Or learn to tread water, and air.”

    Thanks Wili, and I look forward to Monday’s post and a lot more great comments, Richard Brenne

  7. Anonymous hits the Chamber of Commerce, releases thousands of documents, including tons from the ultra-right-wing, Koch-funded, union-killer Mackinac Center.!

  8. jcwinnie says:

    I just hope that as we get to That Time Again some pundit will show an image of a BP platform drilling deep in the ______ (Gulf, Arctic, your backyard) and note that the Repugnant and Demorat platforms sure look similar this time around, don’t they?

  9. Leif says:

    Fluid dynamics, and air is considered a fluid, are interesting. Living in the NW and more familiar with water, tides and current, I have often seen whirl pools at the interface of currents. Some to “gum swallowing” proportions. Bigger tides, (more energy), constraining topography or larger interfaces of water flow over flat terrain all produce these water versions of tornadoes. I have cruised by many that one could see into many feet below the surface and was in one that spun a 58″ fishing vessel completely around in her tracks. There are sections of the inside passage, Seymour Narrows, where Cruise Ship line up to await slack water. On land you are on the bottom of these critters, where as on the water you are on the top but they are all the same. More energy equals stronger whirl pools or tornadoes.

    That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it…

  10. Joy Hughes says:

    There’s huge interest in community owned solar energy across the United States:

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    “After the glacier melts, the earth rebounds …”

    Periods of exceptional climate change in Earth history are associated with a dynamic response from the solid Earth, involving enhanced levels of potentially hazardous geological and geomorphological activity. This response is expressed through the adjustment, modulation or triggering of a wide range of surface and crustal phenomena, including volcanic and seismic activity, submarine and sub-aerial landslides, tsunamis and landslide ’splash’ waves glacial outburst and rock-dam failure floods, debris flows and gas-hydrate destabilisation.

  12. Prokaryotes says:

    “Anonymous hits the Chamber of Commerce, releases thousands of documents, including tons from the ultra-right-wing, Koch-funded, union-killer Mackinac Center.”

    Anybody can be anonym, everybody. Let’s hope all the good guys help to shed more lights on the denial machine and lies spread for short sighted political motives. You do not play games when it comes to climate shifts.

  13. Prokaryotes says:

    “An interesting report on CO2 release by warming oceans suggests it may happen sooner than previously thought ”

    Good that we have the MSM to help create awareness and size responsibility. Oh, wait a minute … rightnow humans are about to fall of the cliff. Because the wrong people are STILL able to manipulate the public opinion, when it comes to CLIMATE SCIENCE. You have to put these people on trial or whatever is needed.

  14. Jeff Huggins says:

    When? When? When? WHEN??

    When are we going to get serious about how we’re going to make serious, real, effective progress on climate change and the related energy issues? I mean really.

    At this point, this question seems to be the elephant on the table that nobody will acknowledge and speak to, i.e., that we ignore and refuse to address.

    As far as I can tell, the strategy (if you can call it that) of the movement at this point seems to consist of a combination of cheerleading and consolation. Our strategies and tactics have been ineffective. And (for some reason?) we don’t seem to want to acknowledge that and change them. So instead, we try to “cheerlead” each other to stick with it — stick with what, I ask? — and we also console each other after our tactics fall so far short of the mark that it’s impossible to be honest and see them as anything other than failing.

    We don’t even have a President that “gets it” to the degree of understanding what needs to be done and what HE should be doing. And we elected him, he’s in the party that most of us are in, and this blog is hosted and run by a top-quality brilliant bunch of folks who (presumably?) have influence at the White House or who can at least get a meeting with the President. (Joe, can CAP leaders get sufficient time with the President to talk to him about these things, or what?)

    To me, this is the most important topic at this point, something that we shouldn’t be ignoring. We know we have a problem (climate change and related energy matters). We know our situation. We know that our strategies and tactics so far have fallen way short and that we aren’t — at all — positioned for progress unless we change something big-time. So then, is the real answer — the substantive CORE of it — really to cheerlead each other and console ourselves, without doing anything else differently? Or at the CORE of things, do we need to actually DO things differently (much better strategies, much better tactics, much better thinking) and then accompany those better approaches with helpful cheerleading and (in the rare occasions that they fall short) some appropriate consoling?

    Even as I think that ExxonMobil is one of the worst and most damaging organizations ever to exist, they do understand a few important things about getting stuff done. They understand that you can’t cheerlead and console the oil out of the ground. You actually have to think very carefully and do your homework to find it, then you have to bring in the heavy equipment, then you have to dig deep, and then you have to stick with it, and you have to accompany those steps, and that persistence, with all sorts of strategies and tactics to keep the whole thing going. Which brings up a thought: Perhaps the very best way for us to be effective in the climate cause would be to see if we could strike a deal to swap places with the oil and coal folks? In other words, if we (on our side) adopt the aim of keeping the oil flowing and the coal burning, and if the folks who are presently leading ExxonMobil and Shell and etc. would only adopt our present aim (of addressing climate change and transitioning us to a clean energy economy), the likelihood of society achieving the latter aim will go way, way up. At least that’s the way it seems to me at this point. I wish it weren’t so, but wishing won’t get us there.

    So are we (ClimateProgress) going to have more posts — deeply honest and credible and serious ones — that acknowledge the elephant (the fact of the failure — or at least the deep insufficiencies — of our present approaches) on the table? Posts that ask the leading climate organizations to identify, explain, and defend their present plans? Posts that allow us to improve on, critique, and comment on those approaches and plans?

    (On second thought, I’m not quite sure that’s the best approach, although perhaps it should be part of the approach. In addition to the public discussion, the actual meetings WITHIN and BETWEEN the organizations should be where much of the discussion takes place. But is it? From here, I’m not seeing much improvement in tactics! What I see seems far too conventional and far too insufficient.)

    Please realize that, to many of us (or at least to me), it’s hard to figure out why we, and CAP, can’t have more influence on President Obama and the Administration? I’ll put that another way: We all spend a great deal of time complaining about ExxonMobil (including me of course), the Repubs, Trump (now), the media, and so forth; BUT that seems a bit odd, and a bit old, and a bit ineffective (at this point) or at least premature, when you consider that we can’t even expect rigorous help from the President that WE elected, and the party that WE belong to, and we (apparently) can’t expect that CAP has much influence on the President or the party. We need to get our own act together before we can even hope to influence the big battle itself. Is President Obama “with us” (the serious climate movement) or “against us”?? (NO MUDDY ANSWERS, PLEASE.)

    And what about the scientific organizations?? They may be speaking out more than they were three years ago, but I can still hear the sheep “baaa” from the meadows two miles from my house much better than I can hear the scientific organizations speak out about climate change. Indeed, the AAAS, the NAS, the ACS, the Royal Society, and so forth all need to hire folks like Trump, Palin, Rush, Romney, and so forth and get them on an honest and scientifically informed script. Is there not a person who is both a scientist AND can speak emphatically and compellingly? Two of the nicest, calmest, most polite, people on the planet are — yes — Steve Chu and Bill McKibben. Maybe, to compliment their approaches, we need a few more General Pattons and Vince Lombardis. Maybe we also need some Sean Connerys (as James Bond)!

    Anyhow, sorry for the rant. But are we going to acknowledge the elephant and then talk about it?

    Be Well,


  15. Jeff Huggins says:

    And Another Thing

    Sorry, but one more thing. This should go without saying, but blogs are very much like other forms of media in one way anyhow: Even if for different reasons, they like and need audiences. They have audiences and constituents that they would rather not offend (I assume).

    Parents always face that decision of how much “tough love” to offer versus how much to simply give the kids whatever will make them feel happy in the moment. That’s not an easy question or decision.

    My guess (I may be wrong) is that there is a similar dilemma here and/or with other climate blogs: Not a small part of the audience (for example, CP’s audience) consists of the leaders, mid-level folks, dedicated volunteers, and part-time volunteers in the climate movement’s organizations and in other environmental organizations. Similarly, not a small part of the audience consists of concerned folks in the scientific organizations and, also, in the universities in relevant fields.

    So then, what happens if the organizations in the climate movement, the environmental organizations, the scientific organizations, and the relevant university folks are falling far short when it comes to the effectiveness of their (our) strategies, tactics, degrees of cooperation, and so forth? What happens when we need to face facts and do many things differently? What happens when we need to do better than the same-old ideas? Who will point that out? Will CP tackle that topic — surely an uncomfortable one for important parts of its audience?

    Just as it would be uncomfortable for Fox News to inform its conservative audiences that climate change is real and that oil and coal must go, so also it would probably be somewhat uncomfortable for CP to tell its audiences that their strategies and tactics are (for the most part) simply not working and that they need some creative and vigorous rethinking, reinvention, and enhancement. Perhaps in some cases we need new leadership too? But can (and will) CP get into THAT topic to the degree that’s apparently necessary? Or are the movement’s organizations and leaders going to be satisfied (moment-to-moment, month-to-month) by cheerleading and consoling ourselves as climate change gets worse and worse?

    It is not easy for media outlets (including blogs) to tell it like it is and to administer some “tough love” where necessary. But that sort of thing will be necessary, I think, if we’re to get out of our current slump.

    Be Well,


  16. Prokaryotes says:

    Re Lewis, We should not forget that each one of us carrys blame too.
    It’s our lifestyle choices which make a difference and the more aware people need to live the change we want to see of the rest. Because most people follow the lead and did not start to swim against the current. The current of fossil energy usage needs to be fought. Start with getting independent of teh fossils.

  17. David K says:

    I hate to bring up Watts but in the last few weeks he has had 2 pieces on the UN apparently “disappearing” info from websites dealing with climate change predictions which haven’t panned out:

    If this is true, what the f@*k are they thinking at the UN. Haven’t they learned anything from “Climategate?” Now I know that if these claims are true the whole edifice of climate change won’t crumble to the ground as most of the deniers might claim, but they sure don’t need our help. Why is the UN shooting itself in the foot?

    I’m pretty frustrated and I’m wondering what Joe and CP readers might think of this stuff.

    [JR: Much ado about not much. Looks like at some point UNEP reposted something from “produced for the Environmental Atlas of the newspaper Le Monde diplomatique” and people thought it was from UNEP and they took it down. As you can see from Googling, “Fifty million climate refugees by 2010,” it can hardly be described as a conclusion that folks at the UN were heavily promoting. It is almost impossible to find any reposting of that claim — other than by deniers recently.]

  18. Mark Shapiro says:

    A simple call for those of us frustrated with the lack of progress (100%) and frustrated with our D leaders:

    Tax the rich.
    (Extra credit: end the wars.)

    There will be no political progress (on climate or a host of other issues) until and unless we blunt the power of our plutocracy. Nota bene: the titanic oil company profits just reported are net of all their marketing, lobbying, and “think” tank expenses. And some of that money came from us.

  19. Clare says:

    something of interest for Colorado Bob?
    I think he will have seen some info about this heavy rainfall event on 25-27 April here where I live in NZ, but maybe not all the details? The main problems have been in coastal areas to the south – east of Waipawa & Waipukurau – & north of Napier city. I’ve included some links.

    Most of Hawke’s Bay region has received between 30mm and 200mm of rain in the past 24 hours with the area north of Nuhaka in the Wairoa District receiving just over 207mm in 24 hours. ”

    This next link mentions a weather guage recording 500mm, I think this is maybe a farmers own one, rather than ‘official’ because I can’t find it on the Weather Underground site. I saw the couple on TV saying this occurred in 15 hours!

    And now today NZ has another severe weather warning for the north of the North Island:

    At least these rains are not feeding into a massive river system like you have in USA, this is at the coast & draining out to sea. But it still has done considerable localised damage to property, roading, caused big slips & damaged a town’s water supply.

  20. Steve Bloom says:

    Joe, this seems to be the key article re the refugees business. Unsurprisingly, it’s another fabricated scandal. I remember reading the Spiegel article that first got this fraud rolling and noticing a remarkable lack of direct sources. Usually that’s a very bad sign (take note, David K).

    [JR: Yes, the original statement was overblown, but appeared to have “up to” in it and in any case was stating “environmental deterioration already displaced up to 10 million people a year.” Sources are always a good idea since “environmental refugee” covers a lot of potential territory.]

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Gov. Mike Beebe on Saturday declared 57 of Arkansas’ 75 counties as disaster areas following recent storms and flooding.
    The National Weather Service is calling for two to more than five more inches of rain in a swath extending from northeast Texas to southwestern Kentucky that includes all but far northwest and far southeastern Arkansas.

    “Everyone knows it’s coming,” DeCample said. “We’ll take the preparations that we can, but with the size of some of the rivers we have we can’t take much more rain.”

  22. John Ward says:

    Jeff and others:
    I would really appreciate some discussion of economist Steven Stoft’s book Carbonomics: How to Fix the Climate and Charge it to OPEC. It’s three years old but presents an impressive, carefully thought-out plan for reducing atmospheric carbon. Stoft’s premise is that the only action that reduced the world’s use of carbon fuels and simultaneously lowered the price of fuel was the Arab oil embargo (the high price made people use less gas, which drove down the price). His conclusion is that the best way now to reduce carbon energy use, while keeping revenue here rather than shipping it to OPEC, is to institute a carbon tax, all of which would be periodically distributed equally to all Americans–an “untax.” That would encourage buyers to use less gasoline and keep the profits, but would let anyone unconcerned with cost buy as much gasoline as he or she wanted. Everyone would receive an equal amount back, but only by using less carbon would you end up with a profit. British Columbia has been using a similar plan for three years plan with some success, but to be fully effective it would require international cooperation. Stoft has a plan for that too. Conservatives should like the idea because it uses market forces rather than regulations or subsidies.
    Stoft’s plan is more attractive and would appear to have a better chance of being accepted internationally than cap-and-trade. It’s simpler, does not require complex bargaining, and is harder to cheat at. The international plan has a few differences and added features. It allows nations to use any means of taxing carbon that they want to, but would set a level that, if exceeded, would necessitate payments to countries that did better than the assigned level. One might suppose carbon-based companies and countries that sell carbon-based fuel would oppose it, but our Senate also killed cap-and-trade after the House watered it down so much it would have had little effect anyway. Despite high praise from people who should know, and being proposed earlier by James Hansen, it appears to have been totally ignored by those in charge of formulating a plan for the US (just as they ignored single payer health insurance). Perhaps they think it would be politically unpopular, but it appears to be much more advantageous to the consumer than cap-and-trade, much simpler to set up and run, and potentially freer from the influence of lobbyists and special interests.
    Especially surprising–and disappointing–is that I find nothing said about it on any of the climate blogs that I read. Running a search for Steven Stoft on a dozen blogs turned up only a 2008 page of his website Zfacts, but no mention of the book (he did have a Carbonomics blog on this site in 2009, but it’s gone in the current site). Maybe blog readers don’t read books because they believe they become dated too soon. But three years after it was published, Stoft’s ideas cry out to be implemented. They are every bit as fresh and important as when he wrote them.
    I have only two quibbles with the book: first, after reading and thinking about this for four years, evidence is accumulating that climate change will be more dangerous and require stronger measures than Stoft’s plan proposes. But since far too many of our representatives are owned and paid by carbon-based fuel powers and are attempting to undo what little we have achieved, Stoft’s plan will at least give us a fighting chance of moving forward instead of backward. And the fact that it will work long-term to mitigate global warming while offering the short-term benefit of returning money to the public instead of shipping it abroad is a strong point in its favor. But it’s also my second reservation: by making oil from oil wells the primary focus of the plan, much dirtier energy sources are downplayed: coal, shale oil, oil sands, and, now we discover, shale gas. Once the proposed pipeline is constructed to send oil sands to the US from Canada, it will be hard to shut it down. On the other hand, as I said, I don’t see anyone offering a better plan, and this one needs to be much better known.
    There’s more about the book on, where you can order the book with author’s discount (it’s only ten bucks at Amazon anyway)–or you can download it and read it for free by clicking the “read the answer on Google” button (but then you can’t underline the important stuff). Pp. 262-69 sum up the basic rules for his plan.
    I know the politics of the moment make any attempt to do something effective about climate change an uphill struggle, but with this plan I believe we have a real shot. After reading it, I don’t understand why we’re still talking about cap-and-trade.

  23. OregonStream says:

    Don’t know if this is worth much time, but it’s horrible. Am I to assume that doesn’t do much fact-checking?

  24. Sailesh Rao says:

    Prokaryotes #17, Kudos for asking us to lead by example! But it goes beyond the type of energy we use. In our present Caterpillaristic societies, we have been brought up to believe in the inevitability of our own caterpillarism, and we’ve been told that our ultimate purpose is to accumulate as much as we can in our respective cocoons while choosing the color of its exterior: should it be red, should it be blue or should we get totally radical, unshackle ourselves from fossil fuels and color it green? Meanwhile, most rivers and lakes are dead, the ocean is dying, billions of tons of pollutants including known carcinogens and radiation are raining upon the last remaining forests even as they are being razed down to meet our ravenous appetite for meat, dairy, cheap energy and high-tech gadgets. Meanwhile, the privileged few in their rich cocoons assiduously treat the rain water before drinking it without spending even a single second thinking about the plight of birds, animals and fishes that don’t have access to water treatment plants.

    The time is ripe for mass metamorphosis and I can’t think of a better group of people than the CP readers to lead by example. After all, the lifestyle of a butterfly is far more fulfilling than that of the mindlessly, planet-trashing caterpillar.

  25. Richard Brenne says:

    Speaking of tornadoes (Was I? Only in about a dozen comments. . .), Leif at #9 does his usual job of saying more with fewer words than just about anyone – he and Raul are the poet laureates of CP.

    I didn’t notice Joan Savage’ great comment 4 posts below (“Extreme Weather”) at #36 about tornadoes, making great points, nuanced and concluding that in public we might want to emphasize the most direct and clear connections to climate change. I agree with that generally, but Merrelyn’s comment about using teachable moments is also valid.

    And a key aspect of adaption might be a law requiring owners of mobile home parks and apartments to provide a storm cellar for all the residents. Since folks only need to be in there for brief periods, they could be pretty simple, like a bunker. Of course fresh water and other emergency supplies would also be a plus. Spread the cost among as many as we can.

    Also no Trump residence should be allowed to have such a storm cellar, including one for his hair.

  26. Colorado Bob says:

    I was poking around Dr. Masters site –

    Figure 1. Still frame from an animation showing the height and extent of the rain columns associated with the thunderstorms that spawned Wednesday’s tornadoes. This data, taken from NASA’s TRMM satellite, showed that some of these violent storms reached incredible heights of almost 10.6 miles (17 km.) Image credit: NASA/SSAI, Hal Pierce

    Congo sets its all-time heat record
    The Democratic Republic of the Congo, the world’s 12th largest country, set a new all-time extreme heat record on March 8, 2011, when the temperature hit 39.2°C (102.6°F) at M’Pouya. Congo’s previous all-time hottest temperature was 39.0°C (102.2°F) at Impfondo on May 14, 2005. Congo is the first nation to set an all-time extreme heat or cold record in 2011. Last year, a record 19 nations, plus the UK’s Ascension Island territory, set all-time extreme heat records. I thank weather records researchers Maximiliano Herrera, Christoper C. Burt, and Howard Rainford for their assistance researching these records.

  27. Richard Brenne says:

    Also speaking of tornadoes, it was interesting to see the juxtaposition of the tornadoes affecting so many lives (hundreds dead, thousands injured, millions affected) with the royal wedding about two very privileged people, with two billion gasping in their telegenic presence.

    I was eating a bowl of soup in front of Nightline last night, expecting to hear more about the millions of commoners devastated by the biggest tornado disaster since the Great Depression, and almost experienced a living room tornado from all of Cynthia McFadden’s breathless gushing. “They kissed!” Then, Lord Jesus is my witness, “They kissed again!”

    It might seem that the royal wedding has little to do with climate change, but oddly it does. Celebrity worship of this magnitude (in this case going back hundreds of years) includes the worship of those with the largest carbon and all other footprints, and a desire to try to increasingly be like them.

    Four hundred years ago during the reign of England’s last great monarch (that I know of, I’m an inverse royal scholar, preferring the histories of people like Howard Zinn) Elizabeth, the world might have had somewhere around 100,000 kings, queens, emperors and other inbred and arrogant aristocrats.

    Now we have around a billion people living with access to more food, travel, entertainment, knowledge, comfort and convenience than most pre-20th Century royals could’ve imagined. Our planet doesn’t have the resources and the biosphere can’t handle this many living this lavishly.

    So to celebrate the line of succession that most exemplifies this excess is so silly that Omar Sharif could’ve just as easily returned Peter O’Toole’s arrogant insult in Lawrence of Arabia, and used this broadcast as an example.

    In fact it is this line of succession that kicked off the fossil fuel use that has us looking at our rapidly approaching collective mortality in the royal mirror. Because Henry VIII wanted a male heir and to divorce to find a woman (or several) to provide him with one he separated from the Catholic Church, which meant separating from most of Europe where he’d been getting most of his cannons and other metal objects, and so he set about smelting his own metals (although I’m guessing he had others to do the actual work) to make his own cannons and that caused the deforestation that led to the increasing use of coal and then oil and gas ever since.

    And while life is ideally as much of a meritocracy as possible (best exemplified in the commoner commenters here at CP), royalty is exactly the opposite, an accident of birth. How positively medieval.

    Also the ideal is egalitarianism as all our pre-civilization ancestors have come infinitely closer to being, including every other species from which we’ve evolved. There might be the leader of a tribe, pack or pride, but they don’t have billions of times as much as their poorest members, as our species has so cleverly arranged things.

    In fact I feel climate change is perhaps the main manifestation of our collective bad karma for treating our poorest so abysmally for the 10,000 years since agriculture began. The species we domesticated most was each other.

    And the protocol that one has to bow, avert one’s eyes and otherwise gasp in the presence of one of these accidents of birth? Puh-lease. I got yer pro-to-col right here. . .

  28. Peter M says:

    A post from and Australian site this past winter- interesting information

    When James Hansen talks climate change, people listen. The head of climate studies at NASA, Hansen first gave evidence on the issue to the US Congress in 1988, and is now an eminent scientist and a prominent public advocate.

    In new research just out, Hansen concludes that at the current temperature, no “cushion” is left to avoid dangerous climate change, and that the Australian government target goals “… of limiting human-made warming to 2° and CO2 to 450 ppm are prescriptions for disaster”.

    The question Hansen raises is direct and brutal in its implications: is the planet already entering a zone of dangerous climate change?

    With Arctic sea-ice in a “death spiral”, Greenland in 2010 melting at an unprecedented rate, a seemingly extraordinary number of extreme climate events in the past year from the Russian fires to the Pakistan floods, and 18 countries setting temperature records, have we already gone too far for a safe climate?

    In a draft of a new research paper, Hansen and his collaborator Makiko Sato has opened a new debate about what might be the conditions for a safe climate; that is, one in which people and nations can continue to live where and as they have been, with secure food production, and in a bio-diverse environment.

    The period of human settlement over the past 10,000 years is known as the Holocene, during which time temperatures and hence sea levels (the two having a close correspondence) have been remarkable stable. Temperatures over the period have not been more than 0.5C warmer or cooler than the mid-line (see chart). The warmest part of the Holocene (the “Holocene maximum”) was about 8000 years ago, and according to Hansen, today’s temperature is about, or slightly above, the Holocene maximum:

    “… we conclude that, with the global surface warming of 0.7C between 1880 and 2000, global temperature in year 2000 had returned, at least, to approximately the Holocene maximum.”

    Note, this is to the year 2000, and temperatures have increased ~0.15C in the last decade, so:

    “Global temperature increased 0.5C in the past three decades to a level comparable to the prior Holocene maximum, or a few tenths of a degree higher.”

    That is, we are already a little above the Holocene maximum. This matters because Hansen’s and Sato’s look at climate history (paleoclimatology) in this new research finds that it is around this temperature level that the large polar ice sheets start to behave differently. During the Holocene, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been relatively stable, as reflected in the stability of the sea level. But once substantial melting starts, the loss of heat-reflecting white sea-ice, which is replaced by heat-absorbing dark ocean water, produces an “albedo flip”:

    “Summer melting on lower reaches of the ice sheets and on ice shelves introduces the “albedo flip” mechanism. This phase change of water causes a powerful local feedback, which, together with moderate global warming, can substantially increase the length of the melt season. Such increased summer melting has an immediate local temperature effect, and it also will affect sea level.”

    Their conclusion is that:

    “… the stability of sea level during the Holocene is a consequence of the fact that global temperature remained just below the level required to initiate the ‘albedo flip’ mechanism on Greenland and West Antarctica.”

    The implication is clear that “just above” the Holocene maximum lurks real danger. As Hansen and Sato say:

    “… the world today is on the verge of a level of global warming for which the equilibrium surface air temperature response on the ice sheets will exceed the global mean temperature increase by much more than a factor of two.”

    That is, warming at the poles will become more rapid and exceed the ratio so far, of being twice then global average. This change, they say, can be found in past warming events such as the Pliocene about 3 million years ago, so that:

    “… even small global warming above the level of the Holocene begins to generate a disproportionate warming on the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. “

    To put it bluntly, we are on the edge of a precipice in terms of large ice-sheet losses and sea-level rises, and there is little “cushion” left:

    “Polar warmth in prior inter-glacials and the Pliocene does not imply that a significant cushion remains between today’s climate and dangerous warming, rather that Earth today is poised to experience strong amplifying polar feedbacks in response to moderate additional warming.”

    Sea-levels are one devastating metric of “dangerous climate change”:

    “Sea level rise potentially sets a low limit on the dangerous level of global warming. Civilisation developed during a time of unusual sea level stability. Much of the world’s population and infrastructure is located near current sea level.”

    While some suggest a linear (or flat line) increase in sea-levels this century, Hansen and Sato argue forcefully that:

    “… the fundamental issue is linearity versus non-linearity. Hansen argues that amplifying feedbacks make ice-sheet disintegration necessarily highly non-linear. In a non-linear problem, the most relevant number for projecting sea level rise is the doubling time for the rate of mass loss. Hansen suggested that a 10-year doubling time was plausible, pointing out that such a doubling time from a base of 1 mm per year ice sheet contribution to sea level in the decade 2005-2015 would lead to a cumulative 5-metre sea-level rise by 2095. “

    Here Hansen repeats his view, first published in 2007 but widely ignored, that a 5-metre sea-level rise is possible. In fact, recent research by Blancon et al published in Nature in 2009, examining the paleoclimate record, shows sea-level rises of 3 metres in 50 years due to the rapid melting of ice sheets 123,000 years ago in the Eemian, when the energy imbalance in the climate system was less than that to which we are now subjecting the planet.

    So what evidence do we have of Hansen’s and Sato view that sea-level rises will be non-linear?

    “The most reliable indication of the imminence of multimetre sea level rise may be provided by empirical evaluation of the doubling time for ice sheet mass loss. “

    Looking at recent research on mass loss in Greenland and Antarctica:

    “These data records are too short to provide a reliable evaluation of the doubling time, but, such as they are, they yield a best fit doubling time for annual mass loss of 5-6 years for both Greenland and Antarctica, consistent with the approximate doubling of annual mass loss in the period 2003-2008. There is substantial variation among alternative analyses of the gravity field data, but all analyses have an increasing mass loss with time, providing at least a tentative indication that long-term ice loss mass will be non-linear… We conclude that available data for the ice sheet mass change are consistent with our expectation of a non-linear response, but the data record is too short and uncertain to allow quantitative assessment. The opportunity for assessment will rapidly improve in coming years if high-precision gravity measurements are continued.

    Further evidence of our lack of “cushion” can be found by looking at the warm Eemian inter-glacial peak 125,000 years ago, when it is generally understood that:

    “… temperatures in the Eemian … were less than 1C warmer than peak Holocene global temperature”

    In fact, Hansen and Sato conclude that:

    “… global temperature was only slightly higher in the Eemian and Holsteinian interglacial periods than in the Holocene, at most by about 1°C, but probably by only several tenths of a degree Celsius.

    Yet at these times:

    “… some paleodata suggest rates of sea-level rise perhaps as high as 1.6 ± 0.8 metres per century and sea level about 4-6 metres above present-day values.”

    A look at the Pliocene, three-to-five million years ago, leads to the conclusion that:

    “… in the early Pliocene, when sea level was about 25 metre higher than today, was only about 1C warmer than peak Holocene temperature.”

    While atmospheric CO2 amount in the Pliocene is poorly known, a typical assumption, based on a variety of imprecise proxies, is 380 ppm, or less than today’s level!!

    So at today’s level of carbon dioxide, and not much above the current temperature, the world has experienced sea-levels five to 25 metres higher than at present! From that, it is not hard to understand why Hansen and Sato conclude that:

    “… goals of limiting human-made warming to 2C and CO2 to 450 ppm are prescriptions for disaster.”

    Summing up:

    “Earth at peak Holocene temperature is poised such that additional warming instigates large amplifying high-latitude feedbacks. Mechanisms on the verge of being instigated include loss of Arctic sea ice, shrinkage of the Greenland ice sheet, loss of Antarctic ice shelves, and shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheets. These are not runaway feedbacks, but together they strongly amplify the impacts in polar regions of a positive (warming) climate forcing … Augmentation of peak Holocene temperature by even 1C would be sufficient to trigger powerful amplifying polar feedbacks, leading to a planet at least as warm as in the Eemian and Holsteinian periods, making ice sheet disintegration and large sea level rise inevitable.”

    In a line:

    “Earth today is poised to experience strong amplifying polar feedbacks in response to moderate additional warming.”

    We are perhaps already a few tenths of a degree above the Holocene maximum, and the system seems to be in the early stages of rapid change. It is widely expected Arctic sea-ice will be totally lost in summer with a few years to a decade or so, perhaps at less than 1C or warming. Very few scientists think Greenland would be stable in an Arctic with little or no summer sea-ice, and opinion is split as to whether it is past its tipping point already.

    It is hard to argue that anything above the Holocene maximum (of about 0.5 degrees above the pre-industrial temperature) can preserve a safe climate, and that we have already gone too far. The notion that 1.5C is a safe target is out the window, and even 1 degree looks like an unacceptably high risk.

  29. Mond from Oz says:

    OregonStream #24
    Has posted a link to denier David Evans’ piece on She feels that it should be addressed. I agree. Could someone grit their teeth and have a look?

  30. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Richard Brenne #28, as much as I applaud most of your sentiments, egalitarianism is not an ideal for many of our Indigenous peoples, it is a reality.

    I know it is difficult to imagine when all you have ever known is hierarchies of dominance, hierarchies of status, but I have lived and worked with some of these people as well as having studied these cultures academically, and they have no ‘leaders’. They do have some divisions of labour but no hierarchy of status, no separate levels of ‘management’.

    With true egalitarianism comes cooperation, collective decision making as in “a decision arrives” and truly ‘civilized’ behaviour, not the caterpillar type that Sailesh Rao describes although I feel that is somewhat unfair to caterpillars.

    I can find much in our current Western industrialized culture that I could never justify as ‘civilized’. And what do you make of our potential destruction of a whole planet? The whole notion that one person has rights over another is intrinsically ‘uncivilized’ as is the notion that one species has rights over another.

    Perhaps you mistake technological prowess plus a great deal of technological hubris for any of the root meanings of ‘civil’, ‘civic’ or ‘civilized’? ME

  31. Mond from Oz says:

    Sarah #14
    Provides a reference to a natural gas site. NG seems to get a lot of advocacy as some sort of panacea. I have asked CP contributors the following question on a number of occasions, but now can’t find the answers. So again – is this statement correct?

    NG is a fossil fuel like any other: it generates energy by oxidising carbon, and produces exactly the same amount of CO2 per unit of energy generated as does any other carbon source. Correct?

    Its claimed advantage, that it produces less aerosol polution, is actually disadvantageous in that by reducing these emissions it is reducing a negative forcer which abates the warming effect of solar irradiation, and thus challenges the warming effect of CO2. Correct again?

    I guess that is an example of Hansen’s ‘Faustian Bargain’ The implication, IMV is that NG is just another diversion from the only tenable goal, which is an immediate start to a program which will terminate all carbon fuel use in 20 years..

  32. Richard Brenne says:

    Merrelyn (#32) – Great stuff! I was hoping to hear from you about that, and our friends Sailesh Rao and Mulga Mumblebrain as well. . .

  33. Richard Brenne says:

    Also Merrelyn (#32) – Small matters, but ideals and reality are linked, and with enough focus the latter can become the vision of the former. Best of all is when ideals are simply lived in reality as with our friends and mentors indigenous people. Did they have to think, agonize and work to make these ideal cultures happen, or is it just what was?

    And “civilization” is just common usage as you know, when to be truly civil is usually about the opposite, as we remember when Gandhi was famously asked, “What do you think of Western Civilization?” and he answered “I think it would be a good idea.”

  34. darth says:

    A group called “American Tradition Partnership” is spamming Loudoun County residents with scare-mongering about an upcoming vote on a Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance. This is a local issue but this group is a Colorado based anti-green organization that uses extreme fear tactics and ‘phone bombs’ to influence legislators. I wonder where they get their funding?

    A little info about them is here:

    Any readers in Loudoun County VA please be aware of this external group.

  35. Robert says:


    “NG is a fossil fuel like any other: it generates energy by oxidising carbon, and produces exactly the same amount of CO2 per unit of energy generated as does any other carbon source. Correct?”

    Incorrect. NG is oxidation of CH4 and produces about twice the energy per molecule of CO2 compared with coal.

  36. Sailesh Rao says:

    Merrelyn #32: Perhaps, my mixed metaphor seems unfair to real caterpillars. In Nature, the butterfly more than compensates for its consumption during the caterpillar stage by contributing tirelessly to the regeneration of Life.

    The trouble with the human species is that the vast majority seem to have mutated into caterpillars that never undergo metamorphosis before reproducing. And, the dominant culture even extols the top 100 human caterpillars on an annual basis in glossy magazines, while paying scant attention to the human butterflies who are working tirelessly to regenerate Life around the planet. These regenerative actions are being totally swamped by the destruction wrought by their mutant caterpillar brethren.

    For a mutant caterpillar, it may seem a tremendous sacrifice to lead life as a butterfly, with a light footprint sipping nectar from flowers while flying about pollinating them. Why give up the constant feasting and gorging on the vast buffet before it? But, from a butterfly’s standpoint, working to undo the damage done by its immature brethren gives it a common purpose larger than itself and makes life far more worthwhile than the mutant caterpillar can ever fathom. Therefore, rather than flailing about agonizing over why President Obama has not yet spray painted all our cocoons green while we continue the feasting on a buffet that is increasingly tarnished by our own waste, I suggest that it is far better to undergo metamorphosis and become a shining example for other mutant caterpillars to grow into.

  37. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Richard #35. If only these were small matters!

    Yes, of course I agree with the great Ghandi and I also agree it, ‘civilization’, is common usage. But therein lies the problem – while we continue with this common usage, we continue to fool ourselves, something we are, unfortunately, very good at.

    I put usage of ‘civilization’ in the same deadly deceptive box as the currently fashionable usage of ‘live’ to describe inanimate systems, e.g. this site has gone ‘live’, [no it hasn’t – nothing has come to life]; this is coming to you ‘live’ [no it isn’t – you are watching a machine transmit a few pulses not long after something was photographed by another machine]. This usage of ‘live’ is blurring the boundaries between animate creatures and inanimate technologies and it is dangerous. What does it do to our respect for life, or the shred of it that is left?

    On the other ‘small’ matter: when people are organized on the second design principle and work as peers to determine their most desirable future, they come up with a picture that includes the set of four human ideals. When two groups do it in two different locations and then compare notes, they are always shocked by the commonality. The words may differ a bit but the meanings are pretty well identical. It doesn’t matter who they are.

    I guess the ancient cultures worked out from experience that you get better results from the second design principle than from the first (which is what we use generally). After all, it is how kids and people organize themselves when they act spontaneously, ME

  38. Prokaryotes says:

    Sailesh Rao says “Meanwhile, most rivers and lakes are dead, the ocean is dying, billions of tons of pollutants including known carcinogens and radiation are raining upon the last remaining forests even as they are being razed down to meet our ravenous appetite for meat, dairy, cheap energy and high-tech gadgets. ”

    The natural system can handle a lot and sustain some forms of live existence. But mutagenetic and long lived substances contaminate the system for like forever. Things get washed down deeper into the earth but the damage is done and lasting to pose a threat for everybody who walks the earth in the future.

    When you read about the Fermi paradox you might have the expression that things are always sudden and abrupt, but long term “weak” developments within the building blocks of life itself are much more of concern.

    What if we already committed the race to an unhealthy future, because we threaten our DNA irreversible. For example rats fed with junk food had infertile offspring. Though in this sense of “unhealthy” and “unnatural” conditions our race is patient to keep up, we threaten the survival of every single species on earth.

    The human species with it’s habitat destroying abilities is a threat to the universe.

  39. David B. Benson says:

    Mond from Oz @33 — Q1: CH4 + 2O2 –> CO2 + 2H2O + (more energy than just oxidizing carbon).
    Q2: Coal is horribly dirty stuff, releasing not only NOx, but also SOx, mercury, cadmimum, uranium, … Burning natgas at least only releases NOx, an important component of photochemical smog and bad for lungs. Burning coal also releases black carbon, AKA soot, thought likely to promote artic ice melt; Burning natgas produces very little. … Summarixzing, burning natgas is vastly better than burning coal, but it would be far better to burn neither.

  40. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Sailesh #39. Well said and you have identified the problem as delayed or failed metamorphosis. The question then becomes what is causing the failure of metamorphosis?

    I believe you also have some part of the answer to that in your para mentioning the “top 100 human caterpillars”. It is this widespread use of the first design principle that orders everybody into ranks or status levels that automatically generates inequality.

    Once you have inequality, you automatically generate competition and hence self interested behaviour because you have to fight to survive. And once you have everybody fighting to survive or to get more to prove to themselves that they are just as good as the “Joneses’, the whole thing becomes a vicious cycle from which it is difficult to escape.

    And perhaps the very worst thing about this vicious cycle is that after years in this prison, you get the ‘old lag’ phenomenon where the long incarcerated glory in the status, wealth and power of their ‘top 100 human caterpillars’. They have long forgotten they were born as purposeful systems, butterflys, with dreams and ideals of their own.

    Some people can break out of that prison but most die in it, their beautiful human potential never having gotten a chance to show itself, ME

  41. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #30: Thanks, Peter M. The Hansen & Sato draft paper itself is here. Joe hasn’t covered it IIRC.

  42. Prokaryotes says:

    It was “one of the most loss-afflicted first quarters in the history of reinsurance in terms of natural catastrophes,” von Bomhard said. Munich Re had “about 14 times our average expenditure for such losses in a first quarter,” he said.

    The economic toll of the Japanese earthquake may be $200 billion to $300 billion, with the disaster costing insurers and reinsurers $21 billion to $34 billion, according to an April 12 estimate by catastrophe modeler Risk Management Solutions.

    Japan was an event that would occur once in 100 years, while Munich Re calibrates its business to events that occur once in 1,000 years, von Bomhard said today, adding that the reinsurer’s biggest risk exposure is to European windstorms.

  43. Prokaryotes says:

    Berkshire Net Tumbles More Than 50% to $1.51 Billion on Catastrophe Costs

    Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said first-quarter profit fell 58 percent as catastrophes led by Japan’s earthquake last month caused an underwriting loss at the company’s insurance units.

    Net income dropped to $1.51 billion from $3.63 billion the same period last year, Berkshire said today in a statement. Natural-disaster losses exceeded $1.6 billion. Operating earnings declined 28 percent to $1.59 billion from $2.22 billion. Buffett, 80, is Berkshire’s chairman, chief executive officer and largest shareholder.

    Earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and Cyclone Yasi in Australia lifted claims at reinsurers including Munich Re, the world’s largest. Berkshire is third-biggest by policy sales among reinsurers, companies that provide backup coverage to primary carriers.

    “We had some major catastrophes in the Pacific Asian areas, and that hit the reinsurance industry particularly hard,” Buffett said today at Berkshire’s annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.

  44. Prokaryotes says:

    Over 300 dead in historic tornado outbreak; one violent EF-5 tornado confirmed

    Rescuers sifting through the twisted wreckage of countless towns ravaged by Wednesday’s historic tornado outbreak continue to uncover bodies today, and the death toll has swollen to over 300 this morning, and may be as high as 319. Hardest hit was Alabama, with at least 213 dead. Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, and Virginia are each reporting 11 – 34 deaths. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center logged 211 preliminary reports of tornadoes between 8am EDT Wednesday and 8am Thursday, and 346 reports for the full 4-day period of the outbreak, from April 25 – April 28. Twenty-two of these tornadoes were killer tornadoes; deaths occurred in six states. Damage surveys will take another week to complete, but preliminary surveys indicate that at least one of the tornadoes was an EF-5–the Smithville, Mississippi tornado, which hit at 3:44pm EDT on Wednesday. That tornado killed 13 people and destroyed 166 buildings, and reportedly sucked fire hydrants out of the ground. Some well-built modern 2-story homes that were bolted to their foundations were completely destroyed, leaving only the foundation. This type of damage is characteristic of an EF-5 tornado with 205 mph winds. The Smithville tornado is the first EF-5 tornado in Mississippi since the Candlestick Park tornado of March 3, 1966. Three other tornadoes from Wednesday’s outbreak have been given preliminary EF-4 ratings, with winds of 166 – 200 mph. These include the Phil Campbell, AL tornado (26 deaths), the Ringgold, GA tornado (7 deaths), the Tanner, GA tornado (11 deaths), and the Apison, Tennessee tornado (13 deaths, and possibly the same tornado that hit Ringgold.) The violent tornado that ravaged Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Alabama, killing at least 46 people and injuring 600, has not yet been given an official rating. I expect this tornado will be rated an EF-4 (possibly an EF-5.) This tornado is likely to be the most expensive tornado of all-time, and damage from the April 25 – 28 outbreak is likely rank as the most expensive tornado outbreak in history. The current record is the $3.5 billion price tag, in 2005 dollars, of the April 3 – 4, 1974 Super Outbreak . According wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt in his post The World’s Deadliest Tornadoes, the death toll of 319 makes the April 25 – 28, 2011 tornado outbreak the fourth deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history, and the deadliest since 1936. It is the deadliest of the past 50 years, surpassing the April 3 – 4, 1974 Super Outbreak (315 killed) and the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak (256 killed.)

  45. Sailesh Rao says:

    Prokaryotes #41: “What if we already committed the race to an unhealthy future, because we threaten our DNA irreversibly.”

    I’m reminded of a line that Reb Tevya speaks in “The Fiddler on the Roof” after the Cossacks trash his daughter’s wedding and leave. He says to the wedding entourage: “Clean up! What are we standing around, waiting for? Clean up!” And, the best tool to clean up the mess we’ve created is to regenerate forests, since trees are natural filters that store our mess in their trunks while transpiring clean water and producing edible fruit. That requires mass lifestyle changes as you’ve pointed out, since just 2 billion of us are already eating up most of the planet while the other 5 billion are striving to reach the same level of consumption.

    With all due respect to Mr. Gore, continuing our mutant caterpillar lifestyles while changing our energy infrastructure isn’t going to accomplish that.

  46. Sailesh Rao says:

    Merrelyn #43: Agreed. A society of human butterflies will necessarily be organized under the second principle. To break out of our current predicament where the dominant culture is organized on a competitive basis, I suspect that the metamorphosis has to occur first among a significant fraction of the population.

    One way to upset the status quo is to make people realize that the current “top 100” people are simply overgrown mutant caterpillars in their billion dollar cocoons, consuming a heavy concentration of their own collective waste, to put it politely.

    These are Emperors with no clothes.

  47. Colorado Bob says:

    Clare –
    I am at Lubbock Texas, 2 of my only loves have appeared this week. Why they look for me after all these years , I have no answer.

    Ideas ….. I always dealt in ideas.

  48. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Sailesh #45. The city in which I live is called the ‘bush capital’ because it is a planned city with lots of areas left natural and zillions of trees planted but they are mainly ornamental, fantastic for birds but no food for people. I have long argued that we should also be planting the fruit and nut trees that are adapted to our climate [or now a warmer one], to no avail of course.

    With the coming (existing in some places) famine, we should be planting a diverse selection of fruit and nut trees in every available space as well as subsidizing the start ups of community gardens.

    In those countries where there is high unemployment, I can’t think of a better use of govt money than to employ thousands of these poor lost souls to work in nurseries, plant these seedlings of diverse forests and nurture them to maturity and beyond.

    If we organized this army in self managing groups, each taking responsibility for their little bit of forest and cooperating with neighouring groups, we would see learning and creativity on a scale we have forgotten could even exist, as well as generating a resource of knowledge about the land as well as putting a nutritous morsel in some of those hungry mouths.

    On its own, it won’t save us but it’s a complement to clean energy and it could be a start to a new appreciation of what being human means, namely that we belong to the Earth and can work in harmony with her, ME

  49. Calamity Jean says:

    In response to Mond from Oz at #31: Evans pulls out the old arguments about badly placed official thermometers, climate scientists are just in it for the money, and the hottest recent year was 1998. I’ve seen responses to all of them. The only thing he says that I don’t know the answer to is in this paragraph:

    “Weather balloons had been measuring the atmosphere since the 1960s, many thousands of them every year. The climate models all predict that as the planet warms, a hot spot of moist air will develop over the tropics about 10 kilometres up, as the layer of moist air expands upwards into the cool dry air above. During the warming of the late 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the weather balloons found no hot spot. None at all. Not even a small one. This evidence proves that the climate models are fundamentally flawed, that they greatly overestimate the temperature increases due to carbon dioxide.”

    Is it true that “The climate models all predict … a hot spot of moist air will develop….”? Is it true that “…the weather balloons found no hot spot….”? I don’t know. The rest of the article is the usual denialist BS.

  50. Richard Brenne says:

    Merrelyn, Sailesh, All – Great stuff! Beautiful truths, beautifully said.

  51. Floyd Smith says:

    The tornadoes, tragic as they are, are also a teachable moment. It’s ad to see it go to waste.

    My guess is that Obama will avoid climate change to win re-election. If he wins, he’ll then try to make it (as “clean energy”, “new Apollo project”) the centerpiece of his second term, to avoid the second-term blahs that afflict most Presidents. But that the blahs will win – they’re very powerful, and he’ll have low credibility on the issue, not having campaigned on it. So he won’t accomplish much, and that fifth spot on Mt Rushmore will be held for someone smarter (though Obama’s pretty damn smart) and braver (ditto, but somewhat less brave than smart.)

    I did a post on my revived “end of days” runaway climate change blog comparing the seeming competition between US and China to emit more to the MAD nuclear weapons theorizing of the Cold War; I’d love to see Joe’s take on the topic.

  52. Richard Brenne says:

    Colorado (or Lubbock) Bob (#46) – Maybe the visits are just the beginning because we all find you and your links and observations irresistible (mostly platonically)!

  53. English Mark says:

    The Scottish press latches on to a story about the duration of the CO2 spike after the PETM, suggesting that the half life of CO2 after was “only” 40 000 years in a bizarrely optimistic headline. Good to see one British newspaper at least reporting on this important confirmation of the duration of the problem.

  54. Colorado Bob says:

    Here’s our basic problem –
    Madonna – Ray Of Light

    Who wants to leave this ? Not me, I love it this.

  55. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #52: Thanks, Mark. Obviously I did see it since I commented on it! So many papers…

  56. Colorado Bob says:

    If we and Madonna still ran on wood and whale blubber that clip would be a lot slower.

  57. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #48: Skeptical Science has a good article, Jean. Make sure to read the first comment as well.

  58. wili says:

    JR wrote: “There are multiple factors that drive the ideal conditions for tornadoes, making the link to global warming more complicated than, say, heat waves or droughts or deluges or even wildfires. I’ll do a post Monday.”

    Thanks. I look forward to reading it. And thank to all others to their thoughtful comments and helpful links.

    Someone on another site pointed out that the movie “Day After Tomorrow” started with multiple tornadoes, so even if we can’t prove a link, the sheer number and power of these things may be working on some level to make people wonder if they are starting to live through a (flawed and poorly plotted) Hollywood disaster film.

  59. Colorado Bob says:

    Richard Brenne @ 51 –
    On Buddy Holly Ave. is my mother’s garden, 75 yards due west of Buddy’s statue, the greenest postage stamp at the top of the Brazos this year.

  60. catman306 says:

    Mississippi flooding update
    Judge says to blow the levy near Cairo, IL.

    about the old river control structure

    About the Atchafalaya River

  61. Colorado Bob says:

    Richard Brenne @ 51 –
    That clip is 4 seasons old. It’s much cooler now, I’m working on a new one. When people speak of doing things local, we are in our 5th year here. I have great friends here, and we are making headway in our own way.

    We have a Tesla coil. It shoots a million volts into the roof.

    See Tony Greer.

  62. Colorado Bob says:

    Richard Brenne @ 51 –
    It’s a big nest of artists. Always has been, all the way back to the Clovis people. 11,500 years ago.

  63. catman306 says:

    @Colorado Bob:
    Better Madonna sound quality here:
    Ray of Light

    Added to More Earth Fail Warnings
    song/video playlist at YouTube

  64. Tenney Naumer:

    According to the update on Daily Kos, Anonymous has disclaimed any involvement in the data dump, saying that “this information was provided by an unknown party and may be an attempt to discredit Anonymous through a campaign of misinformation”.

    The plot thickens.

    * * *

    Calamity Jean: Evans might be referring to this, but I’m not totally sure.


  65. Sailesh Rao says:

    Merrelyn, on the question of delayed vs. failed metamorphosis, what if we were born with pre-formed wings, which were bound through praise and criticism to make us think that we’re born caterpillars? The trouble for the “top 100” reigning caterpillars of the world is that metamorphosis is a one-way street: no one who has cast off their mental shackles and experienced life as a butterfly can possibly regress into being caterpillars. Therefore, they have a vested interest in making us believe that we’re truly all mutant caterpillars and must work at jobs to serve other mutant caterpillars and participate in the prevailing global enterprise that is the trashing of the planet. If we truly believe Jim Hansen that exploitation of tar sands and tar shale makes the Venus syndrome a dead certainty, it is time that we throw off those mental shackles and take flight as butterflies, without waiting for the good green Giant Obama to make caterpillar food more palatable at the buffet.

    Regarding the planting of fruit and nut trees and vegetable gardens in human dominated landscapes, have you read “GardenWorld Politics” by Doug Carmichael at ? It is well worth a browse…

  66. Leif says:

    This little gem. Science has the ability to predict ecosystem collapse in time to preemptively act. It takes funding, but hay, wouldn’t it be worth it?

  67. Michael T says:

    The month of April has set a record for the most tornadoes (Over 600) ever recorded in the U.S. for any month, breaking the previous record month of May 2003 which had 542 tornadoes . NOAA released a video and website about the strong tornado outbreak:

    April 2011 Tornado Information:

    NOAA video:

  68. Joy Hughes says:

    Heartrending story of sea level rise in Bangladesh – rice fields turned to shrimp farms, kids going to school on a boat, families cooking in a foot of water. Environmental refugees, border fences, cyclonic storms…

  69. JK says:

    Any ideas for costumes for the May 15 Bay to Breakers in San Francisco? (Incidentally, it’s the 100th anniversary of the run.)

  70. John Mason says:


    wili says:
    April 30, 2011 at 8:48 am

    My understanding is that our collective understanding of tornadoes is not sufficient to say for certain that GW definitely would cause an increase in their intensity and/or frequency.

    Is that the case? Is this just and under-studied area? Why exactly is this so hard to predict?

    It seems to me that an increase in intensity of storms should also mean an increase in intensity of tornadoes. What am I missing?

    [JR: There are multiple factors that drive the ideal conditions for tornadoes, making the link to global warming more complicated than, say, heat waves or droughts or deluges or even wildfires. I’ll do a post Monday.] /Quotes

    Looking forward to reading that post, Joe. Tornadoes are something of specific interest to me as a member of TORRO – the UK-based Tornado & Storm Research Organisation. In the UK, unlike the U.S., most post-tornado site investigations are undertaken by the network of TORRO members. The most interesting one I did was at Bow Street, a village near Aberystwyth, in 2006 – though nothing like the catastrophes visited upon the Southern States, it still got up to about F2. Link to report:

    I’ve been away in Aberystwyth lately, attending a conference organised by the Climate Change Consortium for Wales, or C3W as it is called. Over two days, all PhD students in the Welsh universities who work in climate-related areas gave presentations of their research (plus there were keynote speakers like Sir John Houghton – good to see him again – it had been a while). What an inspiring two days! I’ll be doing a post about it on my own site in due course, but for anybody interested, their website is:

    It was really good to actually discuss the ins-and-outs of aspects of the science without having to keep debunking tired old denialist talking-points: it was most refreshing, even!

    Been busy sorting out a very dry veg-garden since then (and the UK is experiencing some bad brushfires right now) so still catching up with matters online. Have to say the details of the 27th April superoutbreak cornered most of my online attention Friday-Saturday, and the news posted on here today that the GOP see fit to reduce the nowcasting facilities is disturbing – no, perhaps utterly crass is a better term. I just hope there are still some sensible people in that party who have so far remained silent, but may now speak out forcefully in the coming days and weeks.

    All the best – John

  71. espiritwater says:

    Jeff, I think we need to forget about finding our Roosevelt and move on. We need to be the leaders we are looking for– in our communities or whatever capacity available. We are forming a small global warming/peak oil group in our town. It’s small but it’s a start. If everyone does this, then eventually we can all connect and force our government to move in the right direction. Maybe.

    The point is, we need to do whatever we can because we don’t have much time and I don’t think the rich, powerful elite gives a hoot. According to Mike Ruppert in his book, “Crossing the Rubicon” the elite WANT a mass die off– there are too many people anyhow. As Kissinger said, “the problem is not oil, the problem is there are too many people.”

    Basically, we are at war: the white blood cells (us) against the rich corporate elite (parasites). We may not have much but we are all the Earth has and we need to get busy because we don’t have much time.

  72. espiritwater says:


  73. espiritwater says:

    The following is from the website:

    The mass media, politicians and most environmental groups do not want to ask why our society largely ignored the warnings about climate change. Few of them also consider how Peak Oil and global warming are two ways of looking at the same problem of overconsumption, since our monetary system is predicated on ever increasing growth.

    The best analyses of Peak Oil and of global warming each conclude that the problem would have to be addressed a decade or two before it manifests at full strength – yet both problems are here, now. Perhaps the truth is that the shadow government (corporations and the military industrial complex) did not want to deal with these problems because the solutions are inherently decentralized and would require relaxation of centralized power control systems. Since we missed the opportunity to solve these issues as gently as possible, governments are instituting a global surveillance police state to suppress dissent as the oil that runs the show becomes more scarce and expensive, and climate change reduces available food and water supplies.

  74. espiritwater says: (Graphic pictures of concentration/internment camps in the U.S.) They are also mentioned in Mike Ruppert’s book.

  75. Daniel Bailey says:

    Frauenfeld, Knappenberger and Michaels’ 2011 paper is addressed over at Skeptical Science:

  76. Anna Haynes says:

    In the “one investment, 3 benefits” department:

    If you’re familiar with the story of Tim DeChristopher (link), you’ll probably want to contribute toward finishing the documentary, which will yield you a fine “Bidder 70” hat (link), which, when worn, becomes a reminder of a perspective, dedication and integrity to live up to.

    (wearing it now…)

  77. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Sailesh #69. Thanks for the reference and good thinking. It gets me thinking about the attrocious way we ‘bring up’ our children these days. They are so cossetted and over-protected to within an inch of their lives, they never have a minute to run free and discover they are actually butterflys. Quite unconsciously they absorb an atmosphere of insecurity and an attitude that encourages servitude. This is part of the vicious cycle that is operating.

    We ran wild when we were kids and so did my kids like all the other kids. The streets were playgrounds so nobody speeded because nobody wanted to hit a kid. Now every kid is driven to school to keep them ‘safe’ because people believe the world is a dangerous place. The streets are empty so people speed so of course, we must bring in more speed vans and cops.

    In some aboriginal cultures, children are not criticized in any way until they are 7 years old. They are allowed to learn through their own perceptions and experience rather than have rules and ‘boundaries’ shoved down their necks, seemingly from birth. These ‘boundaries’ prepare them for a life in those bureaucratic monsters that will keep them passive and dependent catterpillars until their proto-wings just wither and drop off, ME.

  78. catman306 says:

    Andy Revkin talks about Population to Treehugger mp3 audio

  79. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Sailesh #48, ‘just clear up’ reminds me of Pablo Casals’ apothegm, ‘The situation is hopeless-we must take the next step’. The situation is indeed far, far, more dire than in Casals’ day, but we must take the next step. I’m planting a few more trees today, and mulching the garden.

  80. Oale says:

    At serendipity Steve Easterbrook reports of a workshop on climate modelling, which is of potential interest to software developers/scientists.

  81. Anna Haynes says:

    An update/correction re my comment#80, re the “Bidder 70” hat –
    I checked with Gage & Gage (filmmakers) & they said: “Our Indiegogo campaign is over so the best thing would be to go to our website (link) and make a donation through Paypal. Anyone can also contact us at [email address from Contact page for] –
    We’ll get them a hat for a donation while they last.”

  82. Raul M. says:

    The storm shelter or bunker sustainability model
    is interesting in that having progressed from the
    missile crisis concept to the concept that the
    need for a shelter could come from unintentional
    consequences, some find that the remodeled basement
    is more comfortable temp wise in the summer.
    But to take the shelter model to the realm of
    sustainability for the long haul is beyond average
    abilities. hence, the concept of sustainability
    should be included to the world view of daily living.

    Even if it allows the concept that improvements in ways
    and means of operation are necessary or that there are
    limits to the natural world.
    My guess is that the average limit for storm shelter
    suggestion from the gov for preparedness is a very few
    days of previsions.

    Such is a long way from sustainability in case of inadvertent
    disaster or of natural disaster. In looking at US nuclear
    plant disaster it looks as though the same is still the
    way stay in the shelter with a few days of provisions.

  83. Leif says:

    A storm shelter for a tornado will function quite differently for a flood. And visa versa.

  84. Raul M. says:

    As frustration as it may be, from a climate perspective
    natures blessings may well go to the practitioners of

    Thinking that last will should be biochar me.