Weekend Open Thread

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

103 Responses to Weekend Open Thread

  1. _Flin_ says:

    Interesting comparison of April 2010 and April 2011 with ESA satellite SMOS pictures, showing the soil moisture and the drought over Western Europe:

  2. Lewis C says:

    Joe, in case you’ve not seen it, a study by Patzek & Croft “A global coal production forecast with multi-Hubbert cycle analysis” was published last year in Energy (sub.n req.d):

    was promoted with a very incompetent review in National Geographic:

    and now forms the focus of an article by Dave Cohen on Energy Bulletin:

    From the abstract:
    “Based on economic and policy considerations that appear to be unconstrained by geophysics, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) generated forty carbon production and emissions scenarios. In this paper, we develop a base-case scenario for global coal production based on the physical multi-cycle Hubbert analysis of historical production data. Areas with large resources but little production history, such as Alaska and the Russian Far East, are treated as sensitivities on top of this basecase, producing an additional 125 Gt of coal.

    The value of this approach is that it provides a reality check on the magnitude of carbon emissions in a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario. The resulting base-case is significantly below 36 of the 40 carbon emission scenarios from the IPCC. The global peak of coal production from existing coalfields is predicted to occur close to the year 2011. The peak coal production rate is 160 EJ/y, and the peak carbon emissions from coal burning are 4.0 Gt C (15 Gt CO2) per year. After 2011, the production rates of coal and CO2 decline, reaching 1990 levels by the year 2037, and reaching 50% of the peak value in the year 2047. It is unlikely that future mines will reverse the trend predicted in this BAU scenario.”

    The authors achieve their goal of claiming a 2011 production peak first by accounting only ‘existing’ coalfields, second by ignoring the growing political constraints on coal output (as in the UK since the ‘80s), and third by pretending that in-situ gasification of inaccessible reserves is not in prospect.

    The upshot is a further potent strand of denial of the need to control coal production globally by international regulation, let alone by national legislation. The Peak Oil movement was initiated by Bush’s energy advisor, the late Matt Simmons, going from the oval office to provide an interview for the ultra-fringe blog “From the Wilderness”, evidently with official blessing as he never faced any character assassination despite his promotion of PO perspectives thereafter.

    While there are some PO proponents who acknowledge anthropogenic climate destabilization, it seems the majority do not, and still ASPO actively disputes IPCC credibility on grounds of its fuel-production projections while utterly ignoring factors such as methyl clathrates’ exploitation for energy, pipeline warming, aerosol parasol closure, multiple accelerating interactive positive feedbacks, etc.

    Given the rising tide of awareness of PO, and the predictability of its misuse by denial propagandists to trash both the IPCC and the need for decarbonization, a critical response particularly to the Energy Bulletin’s report of the Patzec & Croft study seems well justified. So I’m wondering if you’d care to do a CP post on it ?



    [JR: Count me half skeptical. We’ll look harder into this.]

  3. English Mark says:

    Permafrost retreating, tree line advancing across the Tundra – half may become forest by the end of the century

  4. MARodger says:

    Re #3 English Mark, you won’t have to wait for the end of the century for spectacular changes. The PIOMAS Arctic sea ice volume anomaly ( ) is down to minus 9,000 cubic kilometres for the end of the Arctic winter, about where it was for the minimum ice levels last September. Will this coming year be as spectacular as 2010? How many more summers can the ice survive without melting out completely?

  5. Stephen says:

    Top NY Times Headline: Obama Speeds Oil and Gas Drilling in the US. Once again, it appears we are in the third term of G. W. Bush. I cannot support another craven politician who refuses to take a stand, who presumably and ultimately just doesn’t get it, or worse… Let the public land rape begin. What a horrible spectacle, and all because my insanely greedy countrymen demand cheap gas… Implicit in this compact of devastation is the eventual death sentence of everything that matters: the entire realm of animal and plant being, the plenitude of species, birdsong and avian regeneration, habitat diversity, the experience of silence, of a free-smelling wind filling one’s lungs, of the ability to see and ponder brilliant stars in a dark and clear night sky, of something (anything) beyond the deathlike sterility of suburban lawns, fast food restaurants and interstate highways.

  6. paulm says:

    Obama does not get it!

  7. Roger Blanchard says:

    For what it’s worth, I had a commentary in the ASPO-USA newsletter this past week: A Case Study of Cellulosic Ethanol. It can be found here:

    If you’re gung-ho on cellulosic ethanol, you may not like it.

    Roger Blanchard
    Sault Ste. Marie, MI

  8. Mike # 22 says:

    “got science?” bumper sticker spotted a township fair!

  9. Roger Blanchard says:

    Stephan #5,

    As I’ve pointed out numerous times, opening every last acre of U.S. territory to oil drilling will at best only slow the general decline in U.S. oil production. Most Americans don’t want to accept that so they will see that in 10 and 20 years from now, U.S. oil production (crude oil + condensate) will be less than it is today and I would say considerably less.

    I am confident in stating that deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM) oil production peaked in 2010. There will be little or no oil off the Atlantic coast as well as in the Pacific from northcentral California north to the Canadian border. There will only be minor amounts in the eastern GOM and the remainder of Alaska will be dissappointing for those expecting lots of oil.

    The U.S. government is controlled be corporate interests and the politicians must placate those corporate interests or there will serious repercussions to those politicians.

    Roger Blanchard
    Sault Ste. Marie, MI

  10. chris wiegard says:

    I found this to be interesting reading, Joe:

    I was puzzled at first why anyone would argue to slap a tax onto EVs to replace the gasoline tax revenues of conventional vehicles. Then I said, of course, anything to destroy the new competition in order to keep on selling gas guzzlers. We should remember that Thomas Edison wanted electric vehicles to rule the roads at the start of the 1900s. His failure was mostly due to inadequate battery technology, but unfair practices from gasoline vehicle producers played a role- especially in the case of all the trolley companies that were bought up in order to shut them down and replace them with buses.

  11. English Mark says:

    I have just read Hansen and others’ latest paper on the action that needs to be taken – and soon. I haven’t seen it discussed on Climate Progress, but may have overlooked it. It is as lucid, cogent and succinct a summary of the hard reality we face as anything I have ever read.

  12. Leland Palmer says:

    Uh, Lewis C, post #3, I wouldn’t count on Patzek as a good source of information.

    Patzek formerly of Berkeley, now of the University of Texas, used to run the U.C. Oil Consortium funded by oil corporations. He might still run it, don’t know. The oil corporations seem to take turns funding this institute, but the bills always get paid, it appears.

    His background is in enhanced oil recovery using injected water and CO2. He’s a professor of petroleum engineering, a former employee of Shell Oil,and makes apparently large sums of money as an expert witness for various corporations:

    Professional Experience: Professor and Chairman, Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin (September 2008-present); Professor of Geoengineering (May 2002-September 2008), Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, U.C. Berkeley; Associate Professor (June 1995-May 2002) and Assistant Professor of Petroleum Engineering (1990-1995), Department of Materials Science and Mineral Engineering, U.C. Berkeley; Senior Reservoir Engineer, Shell Western E&P, Inc. (1989-1990); Senior Research Engineer (1986-1989) and Research Engineer (1983-1986), Enhanced Recovery Research Department, Shell Development; Research Associate, Chemical Engineering Department, University of Minnesota (1981-1983); Research Associate, Chemical Engineering Research Center, Polish Academy of Sciences, Gliwice, Poland (1974-1980).

    Other Experience: Consultant and Expert Witness for Shell Oil Company; Forensic Management Associates, Inc.; Chevron Oil Company; Baker-Hughes Company; Sutherland Resources, Inc.; Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company; Grippo & Elden; Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Decker; Lempres & Wulfsberg; General Electric, Inc.; PG&E; and Forensic Technologies International, Inc. President of PV Technologies, Inc., until 2008; Director of U.C. Oil Consortium at U.C. Berkeley; Assistant Scoutmaster for BSA Troop 206.

    Professional Societies: Member, Society of Petroleum Engineers; Member, American Geophysical Union; Member; American Physical Society, Member; American Chemical Society, Member.

    He has produced several very pessimistic outlier studies of ethanol. His studies, along with entomologist Pimentel, paint a very pessimistic view of ethanol, and also are far more pessimistic about ethanol from cellulose than the norm. In their studies, they make assumptions that various people have questioned, for example assuming that ethanol plants awash in combustible waste lignin will use commercial electricity to distill off the ethanol.

    “It’s abundantly clear that both corn ethanol and cellulose ethanol displace crude oil and save liquid fuels,” said Bruce Dale, professor of chemical engineering at Michigan State University. “Dr. Pimentel’s net energy argument is bogus. What counts is whether we can displace imported oil, and ethanol certainly does so.”

    Corzine said Pimentel and Patzek are the only researchers since 1995 who have found ethanol to have a negative energy balance. In fact, the nine other energy balance studies conducted since 1995 all found net energy gains of at least 25 percent. NCGA called into question the credibility of Pimentel and Patzek.

    “Maybe the problem is Pimentel is an entomologist instead of an engineer,” Corzine said, adding that Patzek was a longtime employee of Shell Oil Company and founder of the UC Oil Consortium, which has counted BP, Chevron USA, Mobil USA, Shell and Unocal among its members. Patzek also is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, making his ethanol energy balance analysis hardly impartial, Corzine said.

    “It’s interesting to note that Mr. Pimentel now has ties — direct ties — to the petroleum industry,” Corzine said. “We continue to offer the chance for debate and we continue to get no response from Mr. Pimentel. The facts are on our side and we will get the energy bill passed by the end of the month.”

    “Leading academics also discredited the work of Pimentel and Patzek. “In terms of finer details, Pimentel and Patzek use old data, improper data, and their methods of data analysis are wrong. For example, they don’t give proper energy credits to dried distillers grain, a coproduct of ethanol production,” Dale said.×48327

    Overall, it just sounds like more oil corporation funded nonsense, to me.

    Patzek also has performed the public service of briefing the Congress about energy issues.

    It’s so comforting to know that we’ve been “serviced”. :)

    Don’t get me started on Pimentel…he has a history which includes accepting money as a student from Cordelia Scaife May’s negative population growth Laurel Foundation, and now has direct ties to the oil corporations.

    Please look into this further, Joe. It’s a can of worms, IMO. :(

  13. Sailesh Rao says:

    Paulm #6: I think that it is we who don’t get it. There is a battle underway between the caterpillars and the butterflies and every human being is in the battle. The purpose of the caterpillars is to gorge on the planet, create pollution and scarcities everywhere while consuming endlessly, suffocate life on earth and kill it. The majority of human beings are unconscious warriors in the caterpillar army, while, behind the scenes, the army is being frog-marched by a few elite caterpillars who are building enormous survival cocoons to enable them to live out in eternity, despite the carnage around them. As long as we consume, wealth trickles up to the elite caterpillars.

    Eternity for the elite and extinction for the rest. That is Cata-pil-ism.

    Obama is the commander in chief of the caterpillar army. His job is to rev up the consumption engine so that the pillaging of the planet can continue. His puppeteers demand it or else he’s not going to get reappointed as commander in chief for another term.

    Were we hoping that he will turn coat and lead the Butterfly army instead? We were being naive then. Besides, the Butterfly army doesn’t need leaders, for living lightly and regenerating Life is our true nature. We just need to wake up, spread our wings and flit about pollinating…

  14. Joan Savage says:

    Chris Weigard (#10)

    The Netherlands has planned to start a vehicle-miles (per-kilometer) fee in 2012 to bring in enough revenue to maintain road infrastructure, and the fee’s fine-tuning does include the amount of CO2 emissions from a vehicle.,,4893141,00.html

    with a bit more detail from before the Dutch Parliament vote:

    “If enacted, it would assign each vehicle in the Netherlands a tax rate based on its size, weight and emissions – in essence proving as decidedly anti-carbon policy as a tax on gasoline,..”

  15. Esop says:

    UAH global temps are skyrocketing. Considering that this year has been affected by a very strong La Nina, next year will be brutal, especially if the predicted El Nino hits with full force.

  16. Michael T says:

    Met Office: U.K.’s Warmest April on record

    3 May 2011 – Provisional Met Office climate figures for April 2011 indicate that the month is the warmest on record with many parts of the UK seeing temperatures 3 to 5 °C warmer than normal. The month is also the 11th driest April in the UK. These records go back more than 100 years, to 1910.

    The UK average temperature was 10.7 °C exceeding the previous warmest April on record of 10.2 °C in 2007.

    NASA’s April 2011 global temperature anomaly map:

    Most land areas, especially Europe and Russia, were much warmer than average. Australia and Northern North America were cooler than average.

  17. paulm says:

    Sailesh @13, interesting analogy.
    If we dont get transitional leadership then we are probably toying with extinction.

  18. otter17 says:

    I’m new to posting here at Climate Progress, but I have a couple questions (no link to share this time).

    What is the most pressing problem to solve in order to reduce CO2 concentrations and avert damaging climate change or ocean acidification?

    From my study of the subject so far (lots of books, articles and journal papers), it seems that the top-down political leadership is missing as well as the bottom-up awareness of the issue. This seems to be the biggest impediment to getting seriously started in pursuing solutions. I’m a young engineer, working for a company that develops power conversion solutions, including renewable systems such as wind turbine drive trains and solar panel power converters. Lately, I have been feeling quite depressed, because it seems like I am not doing enough. The base technologies are available, but they need some serious attention and funding in order to deploy them and develop them further. Wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, wave, algal biodiesel, and efficiency tech need to be developed further in order to maintain some semblance of modern life.

    I have been thinking lately, that I have enough money saved up to take a year or two off work in order to travel around the USA on my bicycle, with a sign strapped to my back. I would talk with leaders to generate ideas on what to do while on the road, and talk to everyone I meet about the urgency of the issue (and encourage them to spread the same message to their sphere of influence). I would encourage people to read some of the introductory articles on the subject and study it themselves. I would try to listen to a wide range of people in order to see what their thoughts are on the issue. Does this sound crazy? Would it make a difference?

  19. Jeff Huggins says:

    President Obama’s Weekly Address

    Joe/CP, it would be great — very helpful — if you would share with us a credible, informed critique of President Obama’s Weekly Address today, the video of which is on the White House site. Please. Consider each line. Evaluate it within an informed context of the whole darn situation we face. Compare it to messages that (I thought?) the President should have been delivering over recent years and that he should be delivering now.

    At this point, I’m afraid to say, I’m coming to one of two conclusions: Either he doesn’t get it, or he is adopting a dramatically poor, insufficient, ineffective strategy for getting the necessary job done, including talking straight to the public.

    If you disagree, please correct me. If you think that he actually gets it, please explain why you think that. (I’m not talking about what he says: Alas, he seems to say just about anything that will ride the fence and “play well” with whoever wants someone to forever ride the fence.)

    To be clear, as I’ve said before, I voted for him, and I wish he would get his act together (on climate change, energy, and etc.) so I could vote for him again. But it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing so, if today’s message and other recent events are any indication. Again, please let me know if I’m wrong, and why.

    In any case, a credible, fact-based, honest, in-context assessment of President Obama’s Weekly Address today would be most helpful.



  20. catman306 says:

    Does anyone share this opinion?

    Obama has opened up the Arctic to offshore drilling. Just one major offshore drilling platform spill (like BP’s in the Gulf) may totally melt much of the Arctic ice by raising the albido of the ice and melt any oil blackened ice faster than clean ice by causing it to absorb more sunlight, heat and melt still further. When the blackened ice melts, the oil floats away to coat more ice and so the melting spreads like a cancer. Wave action and storms spread the oil far and wide. Oil doesn’t degrade fast in Arctic temperatures and may last, blackening ice, for years.

    Offshore drilling in the rough, frozen, and dangerous Arctic Ocean is a terrible and potentially catastrophic decision.

    Is there any record in the ice core samples of a natural oil spill occurring during the past million years?

  21. Jeff Huggins says:

    And More …

    In addition to my earlier point, I find it particularly striking (although none of the news I’m about to mention is really anything new, for someone who should understand the problem by now and has S. Chu working for him) that the President delivered the Weekly Address that he delivered today just days after the NAS issued its report saying “reduce CO2 now!” and even the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, of the Vatican, said the same thing.

    The President should be repeatedly telling us, the public, about what the NAS, the AAAS, the Royal Society, the ACS, (and etc. etc. etc.), and even the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, have all been saying, and what we need to do about it. Period. Face the problem. Acknowledge the problem. Explain the problem. Communicate SMART SOLUTIONS to the problem, and get the damn job done — or at least off to a credible and serious start!

    So now for some tough love, and I’ll apologize in advance, but here it comes: What the heck is CAP doing, if it has any influence whatsoever, that the President is so darn far off the mark? Actually, I should end that question with two question marks, ??

    I mean really. The very same week that the NAS and (even) the Vatican make strong statements about climate change, and the President gives us faster development of oil and gas in the U.S., even though those won’t make any difference whatsoever to current prices and will make barely a tiny dent in the supply-demand situation in the long-term, if any; AND those actions go against any attempt to credibly communicate to the public the real nature of what we need to be doing, and why.

    If I lived in or near Washington, I’d be in front of the White House today, with a sign. If I may ask, I’d like to understand CAP’s stance on all this.



  22. catman306 says:

    “Your beliefs become your thoughts,
    Your thoughts become your words,
    Your words become your actions,
    Your actions become your habits,
    Your habits become your values,
    Your values become your destiny.”
    — Mahatma Gandhi

    I believe we must stop burning fossil fuel now…

  23. Leland Palmer says:

    This paper is very, very important, I think:

    Strong atmospheric chemistry feedback to climate warming
    from Arctic methane emissions
    Ivar S. A. Isaksen,1,2
    Michael Gauss,1,3
    Gunnar Myhre,1,2
    Katey M. Walter Anthony,4
    and Carolyn Ruppel 5
    Received 13 April 2010; revised 4 November 2010; accepted 4 February 2011; published 20 April 2011.

    [1] The magnitude and feedbacks of future methane release from the Arctic region are unknown. Despite limited documentation of potential future releases associated with thawing permafrost and degassing methane hydrates, the large potential for future methane releases calls for improved understanding of the interaction of a changing climate with processes in the Arctic and chemical feedbacks in the atmosphere. Here we apply a “state of the art” atmospheric chemistry transport model to show that large emissions of CH4 would likely have an unexpectedly large impact on the chemical composition of the atmosphere and on radiative forcing (RF). The indirect contribution to RF of additional methane emission is particularly important. It is shown that if global methane emissions were to increase by factors of 2.5 and 5.2 above current emissions, the indirect contributions to RF would be about 250% and 400%, respectively, of the RF that can be attributed to directly emitted methane alone. Assuming several hypothetical scenarios of CH4 release associated with permafrost thaw, shallow marine hydrate degassing, and submarine landslides, we find a strong positive feedback on RF through atmospheric chemistry. In particular, the impact of CH4 is enhanced through increase of its lifetime, and of atmospheric abundances of ozone, stratospheric water vapor, and CO2 as a result of atmospheric chemical processes. Despite uncertainties in emission scenarios, our results provide a better understanding of the feedbacks in the atmospheric chemistry that would amplify climate warming.

    This is very important, and very scary, IMO. If the authors are right, indirect effects of methane emissions could be greater than the direct greenhouse effects of methane. Water vapor, ozone, and CO2 increases from methane production from melting permafrost and methane hydrates would be greater than the direct effects of the methane itself. Methane lifetime would also be increased, by decrease in hydroxyl radical concentrations.

    It’s another positive feedback mechanism, more fuel added to the fire of runaway global warming, as methane concentrations due to many different causes continue to increase. Especially worrisome are permafrost melting in the Arctic, methane production from shallow hydrates, and methane release from underwater landslides.

    One further beneficial effect of BECCS (BioEnergy with Carbon Capture and Storage) is that it would provide a way to minimize methane production from organic waste of many kinds including animal manure. This animal manure could be dried, and carbonized into charcoal or burned directly as biomass and the resulting CO2 deep injected.

    We need to urgently decrease emissions of methane from all possible sources. Garbage which would normally go into methane producing landfills could also be used as fuel for BECCS converted coal fired power plants. Any sort of woody or vegetable matter waste that would normally decay could be burned in BECCS plants, and the resulting CO2 deep injected into the earth.

  24. Jeff Huggins says:

    The Most Important Topic, at this point

    Joe, I think the most important topic of discussion (and requiring more discussion) at this point is the President’s (and his Administration’s) strategy and approach to the climate and energy issues.

    What can be done on CP to have and facilitate THAT discussion? Of course I know that that discussion periodically arises in the conventional way, i.e., via a post and then some comments. But it needs more. So …

    What about an ongoing dialogue in a comment string following a post that sets up the discussion? In other words, why not have a serious on-going dialogue in a comment string, engaging your active involvement (even more so than normal) in response to comments, arguments, and questions. And/or why not have a series of posts that build upon each other and that act as active assessments and critiques (including suggestions) regarding the President’s approach? A series of posts, combined with active comment strings and your own engagement in them, could move the dialogue forward and, possibly, lead somewhere.

    As you know, scientists will continue to refine and improve their understanding of climate change, and that’s vitally important of course (and needs your great coverage, as usual). And the Repubs and etc. will continue to deny, obfuscate, and fight against responsible change. And scientific organizations will continue to issue their assessments and calls for action — hopefully increasingly so. And if that’s all that takes place, in the world and here, the seasons will come and go, and come and go again, and not much will change (except the climate!). SO, it seems to me that the most urgent topic to face and address — in a way that allows real, ongoing, and productive discussion — is that of the President’s approach. THAT is the highest and best leverage-point for necessary discussion, it seems to me. THAT is the issue that needs raising until it is critically examined to the point that positive change results. THAT is the point on which CP can have the most impact — at least in the present time-period. How can that be an ongoing, cumulative, engaging, dialogue, intended to examine that question and hopefully lead to something productive?

    Again, in a week when the NAS issues its report, and the PAS issues its report, the President gives us the message he delivered today?! What more can I say? It is THAT issue that needs to be discussed and addressed, not the issue that the NAS was a bit soft in some of its wording and so forth. (Although both are helpful to address, of course.)

    We need to prompt change in the President’s strategy, period. If he doesn’t change his strategy, he’s not getting my vote, and I think there are growing numbers of people (all of whom voted for him last time) who seem to feel the same. The question is, will CP give that question enough continuous focus and “thought-time” to have an impact on that particular matter?



  25. Frank Zaski says:

    Joe, Lewis #2 is on to something.
    Peak coal is near, if not just for lack of easily accessible supply, but also for extraction and shipping costs which depend heavily on oil (Oil may have already peaked). EE and RE will look very attractive after coal prices go up just 20% – 30% more, and especially after it is common for forecasts to predict much faster (than inflation) rising coal prices. From the EIA coal report:

    Coal mining productivity dropped over the past 9 years.

    The price of utility coal went up 43% 2005 to 2009.
    Some commentary:

    And, the delivered price of coal almost doubled for utilities 2000 – 2009.

    From the 2009 summary:
    “Coal stocks were at record levels, reaching 233.0 million short tons at the end of 2009. Coal mine productivity decreased by 5.9 percent to 5.61 tons per miner per hour, slightly below the 1996 level of 5.69 tons per miner per hour.”

    Here is an explanation from the EIA 2008 summary:
    “Even though it was not a great year for coal consumption in 2008, domestic coal prices continued to increase in 2008 rising for the fifth consecutive year. Two factors drove the increase: increases in fuel surcharges by the transportation sector in response to the large rise in oil prices, and the dramatic rise in the eastern coal spot market prices in response to the increased demand internationally for U.S. coal.”

    An anecdotal example:
    The director of a medium sized Michigan municipal utility said they signed a contract in January which “doubled their transportation costs of coal.” He said “it was the case of one monopoly vs. another monopoly”. Burlington Northern (Warren Buffett’s RR) ships their coal from PRB to Chicago and Canadian National brings it Michigan.

    My take; with mining productivity declining, delivery (oil) prices increasing, the price of coal will increase at a rate double that of inflation. (It appears it has over the past 9 years.) Plug that into a 30 year financial model and see how competitive EE and RE look. frank (Frank Zaski, Michigan)

  26. Joan Savage says:

    Some dry comments about water and coal.

    Neither “clean coal” nor the notion of successive Hubbert’s peaks in coal deals with Peak Reliable Water.

    Coal extraction requires about 200L of fresh water per ton cleaned, though that’s a rather modal value, from Australian research. Water demand varies for coal transport. Peabody Coal’s Black Mesa operation has an aggregate annual use of 4000 acre-feet (~1.5 billion gallons) for both extraction and slurry-pipeline to deliver to power plants that supply electricity in Southern California and Las Vegas.
    A coal slurry pipeline has been proposed that would go from Wyoming to New Orleans.
    In China’s continuing drought, its hydro plants are not producing enough energy, so it is importing more coal.

    And its new coal gasification plant is shut down for lack of water.

    Queensland’s coal mines had the opposite problem in 2010, with flooding shutting them down.

    Without reliability of fresh water, the rest of the energy picture shifts.

  27. Richard Brenne says:

    Sailesh Rao (#13) – That’s a beautiful and useful metaphor, while of course I realize the limitations and challenges of all metaphors.

    So some questions to refine the metaphor further (or see its limitations):

    What is the dividing line between a caterpillar and a butterfly?

    Can any caterpillar become a butterfly?

    Will every caterpillar ultimately become a butterfly (most often in some future lifetime)?

    Thanks for this.

  28. Richard Brenne says:

    Joan Savage (#26) – Thanks for all your great comments. This one is excellent also. It fits a theme that I think is most useful.

    Most predictions in all areas are linear extrapolations of the 20th Century, when so many things are changing so fast that the 21st Century will increasingly look less and less like the 20th.

    The trick is to see what factor has the high hand around the poker table. Some would say Peak Oil and that might be true in the earlier games of poker about where we are now. Fresh water issues as you rightly say will often have the high hand as the games continue. Climate change that directly affects all fresh water issues will ultimately “win” the entire pot.

    Of course no metaphor is perfect and it’s infinitely more complex than a mere game or evening’s games of poker. It’s kind of like some three-dimensional chess game where every factor affects every other factor, their effects are cumulative, synthesized and often it’s as if affects and impacts are multiplied in consequence rather than merely added.

    I’ve been working on coming up with and refining the most useful metaphors over many years, and would appreciate your insights and those of everyone else here.

  29. Joan Savage says:

    French Wheat in ‘Danger Zone’ on Drought, Crops Office Says

    “The country produced 35.6 million metric tons of soft wheat last year and 2.53 million tons of durum wheat, ranking France as the world’s fifth-largest wheat grower after China, India, the U.S. and Russia. Five-year average soft-wheat production was 34.6 million tons.”

  30. Ziyu says:

    Mr. Romm, I found an interesting topic for a post that you might consider. A few months ago, the main GOP argument against a clean energy standard was that it picked winners and losers and set artificial targets that distorted the free market. Now their offshore drilling bill mandates oil and gas production to a certain amount. CP needs to call the GOP out on their hypocrisy.

  31. prokaryotes says:

    A new project of mine is to gathering climate science news in german/english language and help spread CP news.

    The site is still under construction…

    People are able to participate and post their own news items for example, or videos and comments on other contributions. Though if you register you get a facebook like user page.

  32. Ian says:

    To #18 otter17:

    Thanks for the post. I’m not sure I can be much help to you but I will try.

    To answer your questions: No, that doesn’t sound crazy. “Make a difference” is subjective. If you hope it will make a difference in terms of solving the climate crisis, then I think it would absolutely not make any difference. But, it could make a difference in terms of how you feel about yourself and possibly affect the lives of some of the people you talk with.

    I’m young (26) and I think you are right to be depressed about lots of things. I am really depressed too. Honestly, there’s pretty much nothing you or I can do in terms of affecting the global-scale consequences of this. I don’t mean that in a dismissive way either. I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time (not that you haven’t) and there isn’t any momentum where we actually need it.

    Yes, there are lots of small-scale things happening which are really positive but they aren’t sufficient. is great and has a lot of really nice people working for them but they’re not going to do it. They’re definitely trying, but the scale of this is just beyond their capability. Same goes for every other activist organization. The same also goes for thinking renewable energy will save the day. It could have 30 years ago but then Reagan was elected and nobody cared anymore.

    You and I thinking we can affect the outcome of this whole thing is like thinking we could affect the outcome of WWII. Pretty much the only thing we can do is contribute in some small way and hope don’t end up as cannon fodder.

    Yeah, I know this just sounds like a lot of conjecture, but just trust me when I say I have been doing a lot to figure out how to help in a truly substantive way. We can’t win this if the opposing team gets to play with completely different rules and owns the stadium and owns the fans and everything else. You know what I mean?

    We can do our small-scale stuff to help other people and ourselves, but its not going to make much of a difference on the large-scale. Hopefully this helps in some way.


  33. Joan Savage says:

    Richard Brenne (#28)

    “The trick is to see what factor has the high hand around the poker table.”

    So, we need to learn how to “count cards?”
    Private venture ownership of water is already part of that darned poker game. Check out who owns the water supplies of London or New Zealand.

  34. Richard Brenne says:

    Meteorologist Ed Hummel has blessed us with two incredible comments that communicate the mechanism of how global warming produces more extreme weather events. Basically the warming of the poles means the jet stream is less rigorous and less likely to be pushing storms and other weather systems across continents like North America from west to east.

    Instead the jet stream often becomes more sluggish, can dip from north to south and block storms or droughts in place for longer periods. With increased temperatures the droughts can become drier and longer because of increased ground soil evaporation. Increased temperatures also mean more water vapor that can cause more daily precipitation as well as longer storms because they’re stuck in one region for longer.

    That’s my own synopsis and a parrot could’ve come up with something similar (okay I admit it, one did). For the real deal look at Ed’s comment #6 in the “Hell and High Water” post 3 posts below. This is the most amazing and concise paragraph about this I’d ever read:

    For an equally amazing, longer and more detailed explanation, here is Ed’s comment #23 in the “National Academy” post 10 posts below. This is the most complete explanation I’ve read and I’m hoping this might be considered for a guest post here:

  35. dhogaza says:


    “I was puzzled at first why anyone would argue to slap a tax onto EVs to replace the gasoline tax revenues of conventional vehicles. ”

    Joan Savage points to The Netherlands, and this is the right approach, and it’s an approach commonly taken on toll bridges and roads. If you’ve traveled through parts of the US that have toll highways and bridges, you’ve probably noticed that the toll is based on the number of axles of the vehicle. This is a proxy for vehicle weight, a very imperfect one, but better than nothing. Road and bridge wear is largely a function of weight per axle (absent studded tires, but let’s not go there …)

    So The Netherland’s mileage/weight tax is a reasonably fair reflection of how much an individual vehicle wears out the road.

    All things being equal, there’s a weak correlation between fuel milages of ICE-powered vehicles and vehicle weight. Hybrids and EVs mess this up. We could decide that the societal benefit of hybrids and EVs are such that we don’t ignore the lower fuel tax revenue from hybrids and the total absence from EVs but … what happens as they get more and more popular? How does road maintenance and construction get funded? Obama’s raised CAFE standards modestly for the near future, without raising gas taxes (hard to do) this automatically reduces revenue for maintaining infrastructure. There’s talk of setting aggressive standards for the future – I’ve seen the figure of 62 mpg. This would deeply slash funding for road maintenance.

    So at some point we need to move away from financing roadwork through fuel taxes and adopt another system that fairly taxes road users for constructing and maintaining infrastructure.

    And no, the car’s not going away any time soon. I fervently support public transportation, high speed rail (having traveled widely on Germany’s ICE and Spain’s AVE systems), etc etc but I also recognize reality …

  36. Bill Raymond says:

    There is a new extended version of the “I’m A Climate Scientist” song at

    It makes reference to Fox News and Monckton.

  37. Mike # 22 says:

    Lewis @ #2, Frank @ #25, The Peak Coal issue is fairly well documented. It has been brought up at CP a few times since this:

    There is confirming information in the number of coal plant cancellations

    We’ve always been told that the US is the Saudi Arabia of coal, basically unlimited resources. Sounds like the Saudis when they boast of their own limitless supplies of oil. The message is that their is no need to even consider switching. Hah, then they rake it in when shortages happen, plus they don’t need to worry about competitors as much.

    Both the journalism and the science at CP are kept to high standards, which suggests that more papers will need to be published before Peak Coal makes it into the headlines. But what a headline.

    There are other sleepers, for example the temperature sensitivity of cereals. Major growing regions of the world will be heavily impacted by a temperature increase of several degrees C, according to the work of Schlenker, Lobell, and others. A recent paper shows that that very modest global warming to date is already having a negative impact.

    Climate Trends and Global Crop Production Since 1980

    “Efforts to anticipate how climate change will affect future food availability can benefit from understanding the impacts of changes to date. Here, we show that in the cropping regions and growing seasons of most countries, with the important exception of the United States, temperature trends for 1980–2008 exceeded one standard deviation of historic year-to-year variability. Models that link yields of the four largest commodity crops to weather indicate that global maize and wheat production declined by 3.8% and 5.5%, respectively, compared to a counterfactual without climate trends. For soybeans and rice, winners and losers largely balanced out. Climate trends were large enough in some countries to offset a significant portion of the increases in average yields that arose from technology, CO2 fertilization, and other factors.

  38. Mike says:

    International Climate Panel Announces Reforms on Conflicts, Errors

  39. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi, Mike at #38.

    How much fossil fuel do we have?

    Enough to destabilize the climate system if we burn it.

    We’re going to have to stop.

    Peak oil has always been overblown. A small increase in price opens up massive heavy oil and tar sands reserves. Better extraction and location technology has kept up with declining reserves. And of course, there are likely huge reserves of oil in the Arctic, which will become more available as the Arctic sea ice melts.

    Peak coal is an even worse argument, because there is much more coal around than oil. Yes, the coal will get dirtier and of lower quality as time goes on, but the energy content of low grade lignite is not that much lower than the energy content of high grade anthracite. And a small increase in price opens up increased reserves.

    I wouldn’t believe Patzek if he told me the sun would rise tomorrow- he takes too much oil corporation money. It looks like maybe he’s branched out into taking coal corporation money, to me. Either way, it’s paid propaganda, IMO.

    It’s actually a familiar pattern, among academics who have sold out to industry, IMO.

  40. Celia Schorr says:

    Otter17 (#18) – Your idea does not sound crazy at all; in fact it’s quite admirable! One point to consider, if you decide to go ahead with your travel plans: Is there a way to use your trip to reach people who haven’t quite got it yet? While hooking up with other 350 activists is a good, productive thing to do, we need to have conversations with people who aren’t engaged in this issue at all, but are simply confused about it. If you plan it right, you’ll be able to generate local media coverage about your trip at each stop, which will give you an opportunity to spread the message. Anyway, something to think about as you mull over your options! Also, be sure to check out Joe Romm’s solutions page, which lays it all out:

    Best of luck, Celia

  41. Lewis C says:

    Mike at 38 – The Energy Watch Group’s report on a future peak coal has been of interest to me since its publication in 2007. It projects a possible global production peak by around 2025 at about 30% above the 2007 output, and that it will
    “then reach a plateau and will eventually decline thereafter.”
    Note “eventually”.

    Note also that the EWG report neglects to address the potential energy and carbon outputs of the emerging in-situ coal-gasification technologies. These would intendedly gasify the huge innaccesible global coal stocks in situ, with crude fuel-gas being vented to surface power stations. If this option is permitted, it might potentially justify the more complacent projections of usable global coal stocks.

    Why you would propose that the linked US coal plant cancellations offer a confirmation of Patzec’s assertions on peak coal is beyond me – particularly in view of his academic record and its sponsors.

    My interest in proposing that the Patzec study might warrant a critique here on CP is due only to the author’s discernable goal of manufacturing newsworthy conclusions that can be used, dishonestly, to discredit the IPCC and to undermine the case for terminating fossil fuel dependence asap. Given that the relatively obvious case for peak oil is already being abused in this way, refuting Patzec’s assertion on coal before it grows legs as a meme seems well worthwhile.

    Mind you, I’d well agree that there are both known and unsuspected sleeper issues that will form traumatic surprises for many – not least for the likes of Patzec et al.



  42. Joan Savage says:

    Aren’t there several definitions of peak oil (or peak coal) kicking around?

    Hubbert’s peak is rate of extraction.
    Another peak is maximum energy return on investment (EROI).
    Yet another peak is maximum energy return on energy invested (EROEI).
    And a peak profitability (not ! BTUs) is somewhere in the list.

    Although it mostly works to assume peak consumption is the same as peak extraction, consumption might not always be for energy.

    One of the interesting things going on in China is the effort to use coal not as energy, but to make chemicals. That suggests some economic point of inflection, if not a peak, a kind of paradigm shift about what something is “for.”

    I tend to think that coal is “for” storing the earth’s carbon and it does a good job, as long as it stays in the form of coal.

  43. Sailesh Rao says:

    Paulm #17 and Richard Brenne #27: The lack of transitional leadership won’t necessarily lead to extinction. While the caterpillars are on the march everywhere and Life on earth appears to be in real trouble, there are three reasons why the caterpillars are likely to lose in the long run:

    1) Every human being is born a butterfly. For evidence of this assertion, I point to my six-month old granddaughter, Kimaya.

    2) It is through social and parental indoctrination and peer pressure that the butterfly is raised to believe that it is just a sullen, hungry caterpillar and that its purpose in life is to clamber up the economic ladder to try and reach the elite rung. The prize that is offered is immortality, at least in name, with buildings, streets and cities named after the caterpillar and at best physically, with the steady, surgical replacement of body parts as decay occurs. Its butterfly wings are bound and it is cajoled and coerced through praise and criticism to march and fight in the caterpillar army.

    However, what scares the caterpillar elites the most is the cloth that is used to bind the butterfly’s wings are made of the same material that was used to stitch the parading Emperor’s finery. It is completely imaginary. Every caterpillar can become a butterfly at any time. That entire army can simply fly away today and poof, that would end the funneling of wealth that the caterpillar elites are counting on as the precarious edifice that they have built for the funneling comes crashing down over their heads.

    3) Once a caterpillar tastes life as a butterfly, it will never revert back to its over-consuming caterpillar past. Metamorphosis is a one-way street.

    The caterpillar army is just as ascendant today as the Nazi army was in the late 1930s. Through their competitive, hierarchical organization, caterpillar cultures are ideally structured for developing advanced weaponry. Now, the caterpillar culture has gone global and there are no more butterfly cultures left to colonize, consume and decimate. However, the caterpillars are perpetrating a holocaust on Life in general and there is stirring in the ranks, especially among young caterpillars, even as uneasy caterpillars are participating in the carnage just as the Germans did in the 1930s.

    It is time to snap out of it. It is time to stop looking through the radio telescopes searching for Life in other galaxies, while perpetrating a holocaust on Life on Earth. It is time to wake up.

    The main difference between a caterpillar and a butterfly is its purpose in Life. The caterpillar is an ego-driven consumer intent on ascending to be one of the elites, while the butterfly is working to regenerate Life and undo the holocaust. That is the dividing line: is Life in general better off because of your existence?

    Caterpillars are intent on pollution, despoliation and carnage. Butterflies are intent on beautification and regeneration.

    Caterpillars are all about creating scarcities so that there are a steady stream of workers to produce the junk that they consume. Butterflies are about fostering abundance.

    Caterpillars are driven by their Fear of Death. Butterflies are driven by their Love of Life.

    Incidentally, in my talks, I’ve never met a single person who wished to volunteer for the caterpillar army.

    Of course, if you don’t believe that a holocaust is already occurring on Life in general, please feel free to ask the Tiger. Or the Lion. Or the Elephant. Or the Bluefin Tuna. Or the tree frog. Or the…

  44. 6thextinction says:

    6thextinction Says:
    May 14th, 2011 at 8:35 pm
    # 18 otter17, #33 ian
    otter17, your succinct summary of the problem in tackling climate change–-“top-down political leadership is missing as well as the bottom-up awareness” lacks another deficit: our generation has failed your generation. unfortunately, there are massive numbers of us compared to you, and we don’t have as much at stake. collectively, we have more money and political power than you. even those who are concerned about it are hoping for political and scientific solutions, which of course is sensible, but the latter depends on the former, and so will not occur.

    i will update what i posted last week: “the (political and scientific) situation is hopeless–we must take the next step.” (pablo casals) and that is exactly what you want and need to do. my own advice would be to work close at hand, where you have some support and encouragement rather than exert such a huge physical effort, but different strokes for different folks.

    so take your year or two and focus on your generation in your actions. contact both peaceful uprising and because their numbers are increasing, unlike the long established enviro groups. there are some good people in those, but many are burned out and reinventing the wheel. don’t pay much attention to ian’s advice; try to recruit him; your kind is the world’s species last hope. talk to everyone who has not given up; check out derrick jensen and chris hedges; leave no stone unturned. check frequently with your gut and heart. i have full confidence you will have success beyond your wildest fantasies.

    don’t forget to check in here and tell us how it goes. we need the inspiration.

  45. 6thextinction says:

    i have no idea how that last 6 inches got in my post. maybe the ghost that put it in will take it out.

    otherwise, my bad.

  46. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Thank you once again Sailesh. You are so right in every point, ME

  47. Frank Zaski says:

    Peak Coal
    “Global coal reserve data are of poor quality, but seem to be biased towards the high side. Production profile projections suggest the global peak of coal production to occur around 2025 at 30 percent above current production in the best case.”

    Coal Dust Problem
    From Burlington Northern:
    “The amount of coal dust that escapes from PRB coal trains is surprisingly large. While the amount of coal dust that escapes from a particular coal car depends on a number of factors, including the weather, BNSF has done studies indicating that from 500 lbs to a ton of coal can escape from a single loaded coal car. Other reports have indicated that as much as 3% of the coal loaded into a coal car can be lost in transit. In many areas, a thick layer of black coal dust can be observed along the railroad right of way and in between the tracks. Given the high volume of loaded coal trains that move each day in the PRB, large amounts of coal dust accumulate rapidly along the PRB rail lines.”

  48. Ian says:

    @ 6thextinction: I have no idea what I said that warrants me being ignored. I would love to know why you think that about me. If you don’t feel like posting it on CP then please email me so we can discuss it further. Thanks.


  49. Sou says:

    UK conservative government – Cabinet has approved historic climate change legislation to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, legally binding to 2027. Probably the best legal target of any nation to date, and by a conservative government.

    If only all conservative parties were as risk averse with regard to the dangers of global warming.

    Good timing of course, with a record hot April in the UK, drought, heat and early summer all over Europe.

    Now for other countries to follow suit or do better.

  50. Mickey says:

    It seems on this site they use lots of examples of unusual to prove global warming. My problem with this as those on the other side could easily counter it with weather examples that go against global warming. A better solution would be to use global temperature maps and in most cases over the past decade the amount of the globe with above average temperatures has exceeded, often by large amounts the areas with below average temperatures. Also in the case of floods and droughts, those have always happened, but rather if a once in a hundred year event is becoming a once in a ten year event, that would make a more compelling case.

    Also, it is important to focus on things like rising sea levels, tornados, floods, droughts, and hurricanes. After all, people generally speaking tend to like warmer weather more than colder weather, especially those in the Northern US, Canada, and Northern Europe where winters can get rather harsh and summers are rather short. True, people don’t like extreme heat, but often people rarely think about weather globally, but rather what it is in their backyard.

  51. 6thextinction says:

    ian #49

    i wrote, “don’t pay much attention to ian’s advice; try to recruit him;” meaning don’t pay much attention to your advice, which was, “it would absolutely not make any difference,” and “its not going to make much of a difference on the large-scale.” no one knows what the result of an action might be. i indicated he should pay attention to you by trying to recruit you to join him in whatever he decides to take on, which doesn’t mean you need to start training in cycling, but that you could be a good addition to his effort.

  52. paulm says:

    Whats really happening at Fukushima…meltdown.

    “Dont think about and it will be allright….”

  53. paulm says:

    Echos of climate denial…

  54. paulm says:

    @44 Sailesh, the caterpillars are there, but the reason we are in the situation we are is because as a race we have totally missed the boat on man made climate change.

    The tipping point was probably about 10yrs back when we all just did not understand what we were doing, unleashing.

    You could probably blame leadership failure. Because some did know what might have happened but they could not motivate themselves and others to do the right thing.

  55. From Peru says:

    R.I.P. La Niña:

    La Niña near its end

    See the SOI, that is already below the La Niña treshold of +8:

    And the SST anomalies in the tropical Pacific are becoming neutral:

    According to Australian POAMA model, an El Niño will develop in the second half of the year:

  56. Roger says:

    Otter17 @ #18, You have, IMO, really hit the nail squarely on the head as far as causes: “…the top-down political leadership is missing as well as the bottom-up awareness…” (Obama isn’t leading & ~nobody gets it.)

    Your proposed solution sounds like fun, so you might want to do it. But, unless you find some way to be the darling of the media while you do it, generating daily or weekly stories about your journey, don’t expect much.

    If you really want to have an impact, let’s try to figure out a way to get Obama to lead, and also a way to get him to use his powers to spread awareness of climate change to the misinformed general public.

    You can also sign our petition asking Obama to educate and lead on climate change at
    We have over 7,000 signatures and hope to have 10,000 by Sept. 24th.

    Finally, we’re spreading awareness of a NVDA approach that could give climate hawks the power to effect change, if enough of us can agree to cooperate using a form of fossil fuel jujitsu. See

    Warm regards,

  57. Roger says:

    Clarification to my above comment: We have two petitions to Obama relating to his need to lead on climate change. Together they currently have 7040 signatures, from more than 7000 worldwide GWEN supporters.

    Also, I fully agree with Jeff at #19 and beyond: What’s really up with President Obama and climate change? Since he’s the one man who has the personal power to change things overnight, he deserves our full attention.

    Yes, the man who can ‘drop in’ to another country, kill OBL, grab all of his stuff, and leave with no problem, could also figure out a way to inform misinformed citizens about the honest-to-God mother of all problems.

    Can anyone seriously refute this? No. Informing Americans would be easy. Put me in the White House and I’ll have it in motion overnight. There are folks on Madison Avenue who would have a field day with it.

    So here’s the real question: If Obama ‘gets’ AGW and all the hell and high water it implies–and I have it on good authority that he does– then what the heck is the game plan? (If it’s secret, just email me:

    Warm regards,

  58. paulm says:

    Time to stop referring to IT as climate change when using it in general terms…. Some thing more accurate is necessary….

    Climate crisis is a good one.

  59. Richard Brenne says:

    Sailesh Rao (#44) – All profound points, beautifully said! Thank you!

  60. Marion Delgado says:

    I want to bring up Brave New Climate. They ran (and ran) a completely fabricated “article” that purported to teach you more about Fukushima than “all the journalists on Earth put together” and claimed it was by an MIT scientist (actually, someone who studied business supply lines there and was, basically, cloaking himself in MIT’s scientific reputation dishonestly). Before, after and during their promotion of that BS article, they put other claims up. They excoriated the mass media for any detail they got wrong about Fukushima, even reporting hours after the reactors were struck, if they didn’t fit their nuclear corporate PR message.

    And yet, they were pushed all over the science blogs world. And the climate blog world in particular.

    And now, as every day literally brings up yet another fact they got wrong, and in some cases, that the media, in the confusion and chaos of a frigging real-time disaster got RIGHT – there has been NO ACCOUNTABILITY. None.

    This blog and Greg Laden’s blog (and his thing is really evolution) are about the only two places in climatedom that even seem to know there was a reactor meltdown at a Fukushima reactor site.

    If people who don’t think nuclear power plants – especially as they currently exist, because the nuke corps love to trail vaporware as a bait-and-switch – had gotten as many things wrong as BNC did, we would hear about it for decades.

    But, again, no accountability at all.

  61. Ian says:

    @ 6thextinction:

    I guess you didn’t read the other parts of my post where I encouraged him to do something? Whatever. I’m trying to be realistic and also helpful and it seems like you’re shooting me down for it? I don’t really get it.

    Google ‘climate change bike ride’ and you will be hit with lots of different events over the past few years. How many of them have made an impact on the large-scale global effort to stop climate change? None of them. How many were great on a small scale and raised local, temporary awareness of climate change for those involved? Probably all of them. I think that’s a pretty rational assumption, right?

    The implication in your post: “no one knows what the result of an action might be,” is that otter should do the bike ride because its possible his actions will completely solve climate change? This doesn’t seem like the most rational assumption to me honestly. Maybe I’m wrong?

    Sorry, otter17, I was trying to be as helpful as possible but also honest. Didn’t mean to sound discouraging. I guess don’t listen to me because I am realistic and honest about stuff??? I’m always starting trouble.


  62. Mark says:

    Human population trending toward a whopping 10 billion by 2001! I suppose they’ll all want SUV’s and suburban garages to park them in, too.,0,4170294.story

  63. David F. says:

    Another insurance company concludes weather patterns are changing. Maybe when people feel the effects of the increase in extreme weather on their bottom line in the form of higher premiums, they will be more willing to combat climate change.

    Severe weather-related incidents have become a growing concern for Allstate in recent years. CEO Tom Wilson has said he believes there have permanent changes in weather patterns, with a growing number of incidents such as hurricanes, floods and hailstorms.

  64. Mike # 22 says:

    Lewis, Leland and Frank

    No doubt all of us have heard the following from nice people we are trying to reach on energy and climate “there’s plenty of oil, there just ripping us off” “we have two hundred years of coal, no worries”.

    The public is told that there is plenty of oil, plenty of cheap coal, and plenty of other commodities. This induces complacency about the current situation, and makes people comfortable with the meme that technology will provide wonderful solutions sometime in the future. People are angry about gas prices being “jacked up”, but do not understand that conventional liquids peaked already.

    If the average person understood that the amount of oil available each year has plateaued, and that a billion new users are on the way, then they would be more likely to look with favor at alternatives. Put another way, the illusion of plentiful oil prevents people from seeing the available alternatives. I’m against that, so I am for publicizing PO.

    If the average person realized that coal in this country is not limitless, and that, “mining companies report at least 19 billion tons of Recoverable Reserves at Active Mines (EIA, 2006a), and the coal industry reports about 60 billion tons of reserves held by private companies (NMA, 2006a). If recoverable reserves on private, federal, and state lands are added, there is no question that sufficient minable coal is available to meet the nation’s coal needs through 2030” (NAS 2007 publication ISBN 978-0-309-11022-8), I think they would be more open to all the alternatives to burning coal. Put another way, the illusion of endless coal prevents people from seeing all the readily available alternatives. I’m against that, so I am for talking about Peak Coal.

    Opening new coal mines to replace existing will get more difficult and expensive, hence imo that coal generation industry has already responded by backing away from new generation.

    I’m not aware of anyone saying the concepts of peak oil or peak coal means it is somehow self-limited in a safe CO2 sense. Please provide any examples if you have them. It is abundantly clear that even with the most pessimistic view of conventional coal reserves, we are ruined, before even considering the follow on technologies like in situ reformation.

    Also, the Patzek ethanol studies have somehow made their way into the coal conversation. I was a big fan of the rice straw to ethanol plan 12 years ago, and have kept up with cellulosics ever since. Two main problems are that it is too expensive to get the sugars out and fermentable, and the beer is too weak to make distillation profitable, even with ideal starting materials like wheat straw. I can’t recall if Patzek pointed that out, but others have.

  65. Richard Brenne says:

    Ian (#63) and Otter17 (#18) – I think you’re both very sincere and earnest and I think that’s a great thing. Ian I like your honesty and agree with you that solutions appear to range from exceedingly difficult (and using the word “solution” for something as systemic as our entire species’ overshoot seems a little simplistic to me) to more so. Anyone who would call you “defeatist” for being honest appears to want to become the Global Minister For Everything That Is Thought Or Said By Anyone (GMFETITOSBA) and I don’t believe they’re hiring for that position just yet.

    At the same time I agree with Mulga and so many other great thinkers here that we need to do everything we can, and just as every negative act (like burning fossil fuels in a car or for electricity) has a negative cumulative effect, every positive act (like teaching, writing or talking to others about climate change as well as setting a positive example by cutting your own carbon footprint, ideally at least in half) has a positive cumulative effect as well. Then we need a positive political movement as well that Joe is leading here at CP.

    I’d never become too cynical or give up on this because Frederick Douglas, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela all began with what seemed like very small and powerless movements. I’d especially direct you in this thread to consider Sailesh Rao’s beautiful metaphor in his comments at #13 and #44. At the very least we can all improve our own personal karma (with a k, not c), which I feel has a positive impact on our species-wide karma as well.

    Otter17, I produce and moderate panel discussions addressing climate change and related energy issues and I’ve done series at two universities and tied into the national radio show E-Town with panelists and featured guests Bill McKibben, James Howard Kunstler, Kevin Trenberth, Al Bartlett, Diane McKnight, etc.

    I have a background as a screenwriter and a sportswriter so I know a fair number of well-known people in those areas as well.

    So my ultimate goal in this area was a 1 year bike tour through all 50 states of such events including panels, talks and appearances by climate scientists, energy experts and concerned entertainment and sports celebrities, accompanied by a traveling Green Fair including all electric cars, plug-in hybrids, solar, wind and geothermal systems for homes and all other buildings, etc.

    I have a fair number of friends who’ve won Tour de France Stages, gold medals and other big bike races who now lead bike tours who expressed interest in joining us. I met with Gert Boyle, Chairwoman of Columbia Sportswear, and many others like her (actually no one’s like her) who seemed interested, though no relationships or funding are currently official.

    The entire project is on hold while I finish my book/screenplay that addresses climate change and might reach a larger audience or the same size if you count my sister.

    I can’t guarantee that the Tour will ever happen so if you’re itchin’ to get out on your bike, I wouldn’t necessarily wait for me. But my own advice is that it sounds like your engineering job and company are quite positive, especially when compared with the average job and company. I would do everything you can as an engineer, maybe bike tour on weekends, holidays and vacations, and team up with me or far better someone like me who’s really got it together and then go.

    If you could get some time off around September 24 you could bike at least 350 miles and support 350 and their bike-movement on that day. I’m sure you could get together with a lot of folks with concerns and passion like yours if you centered your initial ride around that date.

    Because I’ve never had any real funding for the tour, I’ve never asked anybody to quit their day job, in fact I think everyone and especially you might consider holding onto your day job for as long as you can. If you ever did go for a year ideally maybe it could be a sabbatical.

    Depression about this is normal and shows a healthy psychology (psychologists have found ultimately far healthier than willful, unrealistic, unrelenting optimism which inevitably collapses) and with concerted actions like your job and maybe helping organize a tour like this (ideally with many others in one way or another) I’m sure you’ll make a positive contribution and never lapse permanently into despair.

    If you’d like to talk more about this you can e-mail me at

    The bike Tour would end up with a different name, but everyone involved (okay, me) liked the joking working title “The End of the World Tour.”

  66. Sailesh Rao says:

    Paulm #55: Climate change is a symptom. The daily, breathless reporting of the stock market, the new iPad, the new steak burger, the latest SUV etc., is another symptom.

    Cata-pil-ism is the disease. Democratic catapilism, Republican catapilism, Socialist catapilism and Communist catapilism are all manifestations of the same disease.

    Switching out our energy infrastructure to renewable sources will address the symptom of climate change, but it simply switches out the elite from the Kochs of the world to the Khoslas, while leaving the disease intact.

  67. Mickey says:

    # 64 – I’ve heard most studies project the earth will peak at around 9 billion by 2050 and then decline. In fact many projections show the world’s population being smaller than today by 2100. In most developed countries, birth rates are well below replacement levels while as developing countries develop, their birth rates should fall due to greater access to birth control as well as costs rise, it becomes more expensive to have children thus why people tend to have fewer children in richer countries. Also, if the climate changes are as disastrous as some are predicting here, it could be like the Black Death in the 1300s which caused the population to dramatically fall to widespread deaths. Hopefully the first scenario is true and not the second.

    [JR: New projections say no peak in 2050.]

  68. Leland Palmer says:

    Concerning “peak coal”:

    The U.S. has around 486 billion tons of known reserves. Around 260 billion tons are listed as recoverable. So, we have that much, without looking very hard. Not counting Canada. Probably, not counting most of Alaska.

    We burn about a billion tons of coal per year, and that is way too much.

    “Peak coal” is industry funded nonsense.

    Yes, they need to be regulated, or forced to shut down altogether.

    No, they won’t stop burning the stuff on their own.

    Certainly, we can’t bet the future of the world on “peak coal”.

  69. David Koch Theater pwnt for an hour:

    Last night [11 May?] the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City went through a process of identity correction.

    1,000 people gathered to launch Koch Brothers Exposed — a new project of Brave New Foundation and The Other 98% — by projecting a short film about the billionaire Koch Brothers onto the front of the Kochs’ own building. Simultaneously, a small team of pranksters placed the giant sticker pictured above on the front of the theater. The boisterous crowd featured a live marching band, free popcorn, and — most importantly — the truth about the Koch Brothers.

  70. Ziyu says:

    An interview on the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists with an engineer trying to build a solar system cheaper than coal.

  71. Frank Zaski says:

    “If you f__k with MOTHER NATURE, Mother Nature will f__k with you.” This is a quote from a Tea Party type person when I suggested that global warming might be causing the bad weather. I heard this concept expressed “don’t mess with Mother Nature” by others.

    Perhaps environmentalists might want to consider using the words “don’t mess with Mother Nature” more often in our explanations of global warming and pollution. These words can help personalizes the problems for many. And as with real people relationships, there is often understandable payback, revenge and consequences.

  72. June R says:

    The Fukushima Daiichi reactors are still unstable and the latest news is not good. Arnie Gunderson, from Fairewinds Associates, has regular substantive video updates that are detailed and well worth watching.

  73. Roger says:

    On Death and Dysfunctionality.

    It’s rainy and gloomy here in Boston, and so a good time to bring up a somber problem for CP readers to ponder. Statement of the Problem: We’re dysfunctional, and this dysfunctionality will lead many of us and our loved ones, plus many others, to an early grave.

    In medicine, “dysfunction” is defined as “malfunctioning, as of a body organ.” As applied to the current situation, relating to climate change and our ability to effectively deal with it, this definition could be applied to the malfunctioning of the human brain (not having experience with a problem of this nature), or it could be applied to the body politic (not having experience with a problem of this nature). To paraphrase Dr. James Hansen’s related-to-climate comment, “Democracy isn’t working.”

    So, as I see it, we have a choice. We follow the example of the MSM and simply describe what is happening, as long as we are able, all the way to the end, or we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and do what humans have done in past crises: Collect ourselves, take stock, and plow to a solution.

    In coming comments, if there are no major objections, I will put on my consultant’s cap, draw on a few decades of experience with problem assessment, forecasting, and problem solving, and see if I am able to trigger enough functionality to help preserve our climate to a better degree than now seems likely.

    This is obviously no small task, so I’ll welcome all the help that other CP readers might be able to offer. I’m not doing this because I think that I have the answers. It’s just that I refuse to continue down the path we’re on without “putting up a fight.” As with Dr. Hansen’s recent law suit, this is not so much about the impacts on us who know, it’s about the children of the world, and their right to a future.

    Warm regards,

  74. Roger says:

    For the latest example of dysfunctionality, in our media, and in our climate-related thinking, have a look at what should have been the cover story (about the Mississippi River flooding) in the current issue of TIME magazine:,8599,2070994,00.html.

    In the fifth paragraph of the article, the author says,

    “It’s not just bad luck that the modern Mississippi seems to have 100-year floods every few years.” (Notice how the bad luck is treated as a very clear fact–as if it were something that we can count on to be true.) “It’s because of what we’ve done to the river, to the floodplain and MAYBE to the climate.”

    I’ve added the emphasis, because, as a scientist, knowing what we know, it IS climate change–and most scientists don’t believe in bad luck.

    Later on the article mentions, if you do the math, that in the past 28 years Hannibal, MO has had something like two 500-year floods, three 200-year floods, and 13 once-per-decade floods. That’s a lot of “bad luck!”

    We, as a society, are still in denial about climate change. Our news media, our TV weatherpeople and our government are doing too little to change our dysfunctional course of inaction. This has got to change.

    Warm regards,

  75. windsong says:

    Ian, #33– Depression is anger turned inside. It’s like an energy… you can either dissipate it by projecting it onto others (and lose friendships!), hold it inside (causing depression and eventually other health problems), or… you can focus it. The question to ask is, what are you angry about? and then act in a postive way to USE that energy, focus it. Then it becomes your friend and elevates you. Another way to deal with it is to become physically active– jogging, bike riding, etc. This won’t totally solve the problem but sure helps!

  76. Mike # 22 says:

    Regarding Real World Coal Reserves the USGS is working on an assessment of economically recoverable coal in the Powder River Basin. Two studies have been produced, showing 1% (in one area) and 6% (another area) of the coal is economically recoverable.

    There is often confusion concerning the use of the terms coal “resources” and “reserves.” Although the two terms are frequently used interchangeably, there are significant differences. Coal resources include those in-place tonnage estimates determined by summing the volumes for identified and undiscovered deposits of coal of a minimum thickness (14 inches, 36.6 cm or more thick for anthracite and bituminous coal; 30 inches, 76.2 cm or more thick for lignite and subbituminous coal) and under less than a certain depth (6,000 feet, 1828.8 m). Coal reserves are a subset of the coal resources. To be classified as reserves, the coal must be considered as economically producible at the time of classification, but facilities for extraction need not be in place and operative.

    The next generation of U.S. coal assessments will not only be a refinement of the coal resources, but also the systematic determination of the regional coal reserve base in all the major coal provinces in the U.S. The first U.S. coal basin to be evaluated in this new assessment phase is the Powder River Basin, WY (PRB). The PRB is the single most important coal basin in the U.S. production-wise, supplying over 37 percent of the total coal produced in the U.S. in 2003.

    The Gillette coalfield, within the Powder River Basin in east-central Wyoming, is the most prolific coalfield in the United States. In 2006, production from the coalfield totaled over 431 million short tons of coal, which represented over 37 percent of the Nation’s total yearly production. The Anderson and Canyon coal beds in the Gillette coalfield contain some of the largest deposits of low-sulfur subbituminous coal in the world. By utilizing the abundance of new data from recent coalbed methane development in the Powder River Basin, this study represents the most comprehensive evaluation of coal resources and reserves in the Gillette coalfield to date. Eleven coal beds were evaluated to determine the in-place coal resources. Six of the eleven coal beds were evaluated for reserve potential given current technology, economic factors, and restrictions to mining. These restrictions included the presence of railroads, a Federal interstate highway, cities, a gas plant, and alluvial valley floors. Other restrictions, such as thickness of overburden, thickness of coal beds, and areas of burned coal were also considered.

    The total original coal resource in the Gillette coalfield for all eleven coal beds assessed, and no restrictions applied, was calculated to be 201 billion short tons. Available coal resources, which are part of the original coal resource that is accessible for potential mine development after subtracting all restrictions, are about 164 billion short tons (81 percent of the original coal resource).

    Recoverable coal, which is the portion of available coal remaining after subtracting mining and processing losses, was determined for a stripping ratio of 10:1 or less. After mining and processing losses were subtracted, a total of 77 billion short tons of coal were calculated (48 percent of the original coal resource).

    Coal reserves are the portion of the recoverable coal that can be mined, processed, and marketed at a profit at the time of the economic evaluation. With a discounted cash flow at 8 percent rate of return, the coal reserves estimate for the Gillette coalfield is10.1 billion short tons of coal (6 percent of the original resource total) for the 6 coal beds evaluated.

    Coal reserves are the portion of the recoverable coal that can be mined, processed, and marketed at a profit at the time of the economic evaluation. With a discounted cash flow at 8 percent rate of return, the coal reserves estimate for the Northern Wyoming Powder River Basin assessment area is 1.5 billion short tons of coal (1 percent of the original resource total) for the seven coal beds evaluated.

  77. Ian says:

    @ #67 Richard Brenne:

    Thanks. I’m glad you appreciate honesty. Your work on that bike tour sounds great.

    I’ll be a jerk and say I don’t think every act has a positive cumulative effect. If that were true the past 40 years of the environmental movement might actually be in a position to “solve” the climate crisis, water crisis, pollution crisis, energy crisis, etc. Turns out they have extremely little influence on any of these things. People often forget about lots of things so many positive actions are lost to time. Meanwhile negative actions accumulate in the atmosphere and won’t just go away.

    I’d also argue the movements started by those leaders have almost nothing to do with our situation. The connection to civil rights movements is often made but I don’t see it. Yes, they started small. But, they were fighting for incredibly clear, black and white, human rights issues. Our movement to “solve” climate change is directly tied to human rights but I think you would agree that its far, far, far more complicated / less clear than those past civil rights movements. When you say, “we should stop those white people from oppressing those black people,” its very easy to understand and rally behind. When you say, “we should stop filling our atmosphere with CO2 by controlling population, reducing consumption, focusing on energy efficiency and renewables and by the way scientifically we may not have enough time and resources to fix this,” it’s much harder to make people care.

    Also, the people who fought in those movements were the ones having their lives seriously affected. Those people were fighting out of necessity and also many of them died while fighting. I’d like for you to find one person in the “mainstream” environmental movement who is ready to fight and die for the cause of climate change. In those civil rights movements, dying for your cause was not an abstract intellectual concept but merely assumed because they felt like they had no other options. Watching An Inconvenient Truth and reading CP is very different than having your life threatened. Yes, MLK and Gandhi preached non-violence but the reality was far from non-violent. Again, this does not sound anything like our movement and we are a long way from it reaching this level.

    Yes, I get very depressed and one of the reasons is that even “us” who have a really good understanding of our environmental crises still don’t understand how serious this really is. Yeah, anything to raise awareness for climate change is great. But it seems completely dishonest to compare ourselves to past civil rights movements when many people died and also think a bike tour will have any serious, lasting impact.

    Also, I hope you aren’t really waiting for karma to solve this for us. The climate doesn’t know what karma is.


  78. American_Idle says:

    Obama gets it. Too many voters don’t. He needs more ground level support and political pressure. Activist organizations should work together to deliver one petition signed by millions.

    My experience has been that only extended discussions – individualized to match each person’s personality, ideology, knowledge and accumulated misinformation – can convince people that the climate crisis is an urgent problem. If there’s an effective one size fits all speech, please post.

  79. Ian says:

    @ #77 windsong:

    Thank you for your concern and advice.

    You’re right, I can get pretty angry and depressed. It is not dangerous or constant, but its there and shows up in waves.

    But I do not think that is bad at all. I would rather be angry and honest than happy and clueless.

    I am angry at human beings for acting very stupid for a long time. I’m angry at all of us for not facing reality about what we really need to do. There is lots to be angry about and I think that means I am paying attention to reality. When I stop being angry that probably means I’ve stopped caring or stopped looking at the world around me.

    (Also, this is silly for me to say, but I exercise pretty much constantly and use it as my stress reliever. So I am already taking your advice. Haha.)

  80. John Mason says:

    UK Conservative/LibDem coalition makes apparent progress on carbon cuts:

    Wattsy is unhappy about that. Didn’t have a spare head-vise to hand so skipped the comments from his congregation…. I won’t post a link as we all know where to find it if we really have to!

    Here there is good news with a day of steady light-moderate rain, just the type that is best for the garden. Localised though. And SE England, where my sister lives, has seen very little rainfall since the winter: that could well start to become a real problem soon.

    Cheers – John

  81. Lewis C says:

    Frank at 73. –

    I think you make a very good point – it may be over-anthropomorphic for scientific tastes, but the fact remains that there is a legacy of personalised regard for nature whose origins precede this aberrant industrial culture by aeons.

    A valuable fraction of populations in the cultures I’ve seen around the world retain a quiet awe of nature’s power once it is aroused and focussed, and as your report indicates, this perception cuts clear across party politics. Activists would do very well to appeal to that fraction’s awareness with the idea of “Don’t mess with Mother Nature.”

    In addition, if the term ‘Fluker’ can be established in common usage to characterize those who (sincerely) deny that AGW is causing the obviously increasing frequency of extreme weather events, with their only argument being that such events “are just a fluke,” then we’ll be well on the way to energising a large new cross-party constituency of strongly motivated support for the re-orientation of climate policy.



  82. Richard Brenne says:

    Ian (#80) – You make many good points that I agree with.

    I guess I’d just like to hear what you feel we should do, what would be positive and what would really begin to change things.

  83. Sailesh Rao says:

    Ian #79: Strange, but climate is Karma. Karma simply means that Actions have Consequences. It is what Newton stated as his Third Law of Motion.

    No act is ever ignored by the Cosmos. Every act matters, no matter how insignificant it may seem when you are doing it. And, the sum total of our past actions is leading up to our current Climate.

    It is time to start acting in concert with the Cosmos. Nurturing instead of Killing, etc..

  84. Steve Bloom says:

    A suggestion for a post, Joe:

    Ever since the “trillion-tonne” carbon paper (CP discussion here) came out a couple of years ago I’ve been wondering about the correctness of its central premise, that it’s total emissions that matter and not the shape of the curve. Putting it in the form of a question, can a short-term spike in GHGs lead to significant new and added feedbacks in addition to those likely to occur if the same emissions are spread over a longer period of time?

    At the time the paper came out, I wondered if the atmosphere’s ability to process methane emissions in particular really would scale so conveniently, and now I see that there’s a paper showing that it doesn’t, the upshot being that the more methane there is the longer it persists in the atmosphere, with some pretty bad consequences in the case of the sort of large emissions we’re worried about from both the permafrost and clathrates. Hopefully Schaefer et al. are taking these results into account in their new permafrost paper (CP discussion of prior one here), but it seems ripe for a post now.

    Given Schaefer et al.’s conclusion that even without methane emissions and feedbacks the permafrost is already locked into a self-sustaining melt and the depressing likelihood that the forthcoming Liefer and Joye East Siberian Shelf clathrate results aren’t going to improve the picture, this is all starting to look like a passed tipping point. Let’s hope not, although I’d much prefer science to hope.

  85. Mike # 22 says:

    Statement of the Problem:
    We’re dysfunctional, and this dysfunctionality will lead many of us and our loved ones, plus many others, to an early grave.

    Roger, my question on this is why is Germany showing so much sense on this issue, and the US isn’t.


  86. Ian says:

    @ #85 Sailesh Rao:

    Sure, actions have consequences and if you want to use the word karma then that’s fine. But I just hope you are not invoking the supernatural connections with that word. Relying on the supernatural will get us nowhere.

    Not sure what you mean by, “acting in concert with the Cosmos. Nurturing instead of Killing.” Last time I checked “the Cosmos” is 99.99% empty space and rocks and gases. Planet Earth is an unbelievably tiny part of “the Cosmos” and our time on it has thus far has also been incredibly small. What did the dinosaurs do that made them deserve annihilation?

    Yeah, “the Cosmos” has created lots of life on Earth. But it has also “decided” to kill 99.99% of all life that has ever existed. In a few billion years our sun will expand and wipe out all life in our solar system. This is nurturing? Based on your logic, “the Cosmos” gave rise to human beings and we are killing a lot of stuff so couldn’t one argue that “the Cosmos” created us just for that purpose?

    Based on readily available, comprehensive evidence, your assertion that “the Cosmos” favors nurturing over killing is highly suspect. Someone might claim that I am taking a pessimistic view of things, but it seems I’m being merely realistic.

    @ #84 Richard Brenne:

    What I feel we should do (we being people on CP): Stop thinking there is or ever will be a total solution to this mess. Thinking we will “solve” this is like thinking we will “solve” racism or economic oppression or violence. I would agree with Sailesh Rao when he says climate change is a symptom, not a true problem in itself.

    What would be positive: Stop thinking “positive” solutions will solve this. It wasn’t “positive” to send thousands to die on D-Day or at Gettysburg but thats what we did because we had no other choice. I’m not suggesting wars are the answer but thinking we can “solve” this and not get our hands dirty isn’t a solution either.

    What would really begin to change things: When you and all of us rich people on CP and elsewhere (we don’t like to think we are rich but we really are) have our backs against the wall and we truly feel the fear of desperation. We are in a desperate situation right now but so long as we are deluding ourselves thinking that bike rides will be effective then I really don’t know how we will get out of this mess.

    I don’t know if this is what Joe currently thinks, but I remember him saying he thinks humanity will engage in some sort of mad dash to fix climate change in the 2020/30’s. This seems like a very realistic scenario to me, but I don’t think this could be described as an effective solution. When people are battered by constant storms and droughts and start to run out of food, then we can probably expect some real momentum to change the US Government, but even then who knows if people will care about climate change?

    I will guess that your criticism thus far is that this sounds like a lot of rhetoric with no concrete, real-world solutions. If this is what you are thinking then you’re right. I think all of us could list many concrete real world solutions. The real question is why are none of them being implemented? If we just take a look at human nature / human history then its plain to see people don’t bother to solve problems until the last possible moment.

    Yeah, we should all keep doing what we can to help. But let’s stop thinking that peaceful protests or creating a climate hawk party will solve this. If those are the only options available to us, then we need to create new options. Again, if we are just deluded and don’t have the courage to create those new options then I really don’t see this ending very well.

    We can all agree this isn’t easy.

    Let me know if I’ve gone wrong somewhere. I don’t think I have all the answers, so I would like to hear if I’m not being clear. Hopefully this answers your question in some way, though. Thanks very much.


  87. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Sailesh Rao #68, I agree utterly. I love your description of caterpillarism, and concur completely that all the disasters unfolding are symptoms of the underlying malignancy of caterpillarism. The caterpillarists will just consume everything in sight and leave nothing but excrement behind. I find it easy to catch the caterpillarists caterpillaging my salad vegies by following the shit trail. The blighters themselves are experts at camouflage, and the birds don’t come close to the back-door to eat them, so I seek ’em out and-joy of joys’ squash ’em between my fingers. I know that this bloodlust is not nice, but they can have the rest of the garden, and I love seeing the butterflies(we had a bumper crop this year, and bugs of all descriptions-indeed when it comes to crickets and millipedes, a surfeit)on the buddlejas and lantana.

  88. Sailesh Rao says:

    Ian #88: There is nothing supernatural about the doctrine of Karma. Every action provokes a reaction. In a chaotic system like the Earth, even the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings is capable of stopping a hurricane from forming over the Atlantic. That is what I meant when I said that no act is ever ignored and every act matters.

    I should have used the phrase “in concert with “Life”” instead of “the Cosmos” as that was what I meant. Sorry that it led you to rant over the unfairness of Existence.

  89. Richard Brenne says:

    Ian – You make many good, deep and nuanced points that I agree with. I’ve come to many of the same kinds of conclusions over decades of thinking about this as well. Several of your points here are rarely made anywhere and they’re unpopular even among many here, so you also have the courage of your convictions, which is admirable.

    There are only a few places where I don’t think your points were as strong as they were elsewhere. Out of a few dozen paragraphs discussing many of the deepest issues relating to climate change, your overall batting average is quite impressive.

    At #79 you say to me that “it seems completely dishonest to compare ourselves to past civil rights movements. . .”

    I was using those movements as inspiration and a metaphor for what we need to do. There is nothing dishonest about that and so your using that word is inaccurate and insulting (but not dishonest).

    At #88 you write to me “so long as we are deluding ourselves thinking that bike rides will be effective. . .” when the only delusion is that you appear to be deluding yourself into thinking you know how I’m deluding myself. I delude myself plenty (spouses can be especially helpful in pointing out the ways) but that is not one of the categories where I do so.

    Elsewhere you say to Otter17 (who appears maybe overwhelmed by the whole thing as if he might be saying “Geez I just wanted to go ride my bike. . .”) that you and he could have done nothing to affect the outcome of WWII. That is true if there were only two of you on the Allied side, but untrue if there were millions of you, as there were. If each of those millions had your same attitude and went AWOL as a result, then yes, millions couldn’t have defeated the Axis powers. So while each of us alone might not be very effective, the right actions in the right context by enough millions can be effective.

    (By effective I don’t mean “solving” problems that are so systemic, a point I made in my first paragraph in comment #67 and that I’ve been making at least since I heard Al Gore talking about “solving” climate change in An Inconvenient Truth in early 2006.)

    At #88 you write to Sailesh Rao “Relying on the supernatural will get us nowhere.” Since you’ve already demonstrated your omniscience about who is deluding themselves in the earlier statement, in this statement you appear to have set yourself up as a kind of omniscient god who knows all good (what you think) and evil (what certain others think).

    I find excessive certitude on either extreme of the most complex questions similar to each other. Those who deny science and consensus reality because they believe in something supernatural defined by laws and rules that are completely illogical seem about the same to me as those who are absolutely certain that the rules of the known Universe they can see, hear, touch, taste and feel comprise the only reality there is because they say so. Every great thinker I respect in human history pondered these questions deeply enough to have a more nuanced view.

    Again, I applaud your many valid and unpopular points. In general you are quite a precise thinker and writer, and as your fellow-traveler I only note the few statements I regard as imprecise.

  90. Sailesh Rao says:

    Otter17: I have read that Gandhi had no idea that the Salt march would go down in the annals of history as a momentous event. He had marched plenty of times before that without much fanfare from the reporting public.
    Also, MLK had no idea that the “I have a Dream” speech would resonate with the public and turn opinion decisively. He had given hundreds of speeches before that without eliciting such resonance.

    Based on my personal experience, I suggest that you follow your heart as it will make you feel better about yourself. If you do undertake the bike ride and want a place to sleep in the SF Bay area, I would be delighted to put you up at our home. Please let me know.

  91. otter17 says:

    Thanks to all the folks that gave me suggestions in this thread.

    Ian, don’t worry about sounding discouraging. I realize that riding my bike around the USA like some Forrest Gump or John Muir character would likely have some limited local effects. I figured that global warming needed a few more traveling spokespeople. Al Gore does his best, but I think a small army of Average Joes/Janes advertising for climate action would help him do even better in the public perception.

    Lately, I have been trying to come to grips with my mortality, the possible death of modern civilization, and the possible extinction of our species. I think the best mindset for me is to simply accept that these things happen to living beings, but at the same time try my absolute best to address the issue, no holding back. In part, I have been ruminating over riding my bike across America because I am so frustrated that the climate change mis-information is currently winning in the public and political sphere.

    I’ll think about it some more. Heck, it may be a good opportunity to get out there and figure out what I want to do with my life from this point forward. Sometimes it is best to just jump into something and figure out the details on the way.

  92. Richard Brenne says:

    Otter17 – You’ve got a place to stay in Portland as well. As I said in comment #67, my e-mail address is

    I would see if you can somehow team up with others – I think that maybe the most fundamental flaw of all movements but especially now climate change is when everyone wants to do their own thing rather than work together.

  93. paulm says:

    Slave Lake Alta. residents ‘landlocked’ by forest fires

    Slave Lake, a town of about 7,000 located 250 kilometres north of Edmonton, was the epicentre of a sudden spate of forest fires that erupted across the province over the weekend. Winds gusted up to 100 km/h, spreading the flames quickly and leaving officials little time for preparation.

  94. paulm says:

    More than three dozen fires were out of control province-wide. The effects were wide-ranging – thousands of people in several small communities scattered across the north of the province were ordered evacuated and states of emergency were declared. Cleanup at a major oil spill was put on hold due to evacuation.

    “It’s changing by the minute. The wind is so strong, it’s chasing the fire in all kinds of directions,” Valerie Tradewell, a councillor in Slave Lake, said earlier in the day.

    Alberta already had 1,000 firefighters on watch throughout the central part of the province, but they were outmatched. Another 200 will arrive as soon as Monday, with more on the way, Mr. Knight said. “Our crews are fighting not only fires, but weather,” he said.

    The province was forced to prioritize – throwing resources at Slave Lake while letting other out-of-control fires burn until they pose a threat to people.

  95. Leif says:

    A few words from a soon to be 70 year old that has been in the fight since the early 60s.

    Lives were lost at Kent State, the Mississippi civil rights efforts, women’s rights, union protection, G&L equality, and if one considers the innocent lost to date from extreme climatic disruption around the world many thousands more and counting. I have been a pacifist all my days and do not see any future for violent resistance even now. Though I believe the GOBP would love to provoke the left as they only appear to understand violence in turn.

    In my view this battle will only be won on the merits, which are all on our side. We must continue to turn the other cheek and continue the march. The youth are justifiably impetuous and I admit progress is painfully slow in light of the evidence presented.

    From a personal perspective, it is important to do something even if it is wrong. Life is full of mistakes, you will make many. As every one of us have. On the other hand success only comes by doing something and mostly you will not or can not know before hand.

    So Ian, be strong, be proud, be true to your beliefs. Be a warrior for justice, equality and a sustainable future for all life.

    Don’t let the Bastards get you down,

    An Elder…

  96. Ian says:

    @90 Sailesh Rao

    That makes sense to me. But I think you will grant me that karma could be interpreted many different ways, not all of which are helpful or rational. Maybe I’m just not familiar enough with the concept. The definition you’ve presented makes a lot of sense to me, though.

    No need to apologize but thank you.

    @91 Richard Brenne

    Thanks for your kind words. Also, thank you for taking the time to find specific places where I might not make sense. Its really helpful for me (and everyone) to hear where I could be going wrong.

    1) Typically when past civil rights movements are referenced in the context of climate change its not for inspiration or metaphor. They’re referenced as a 1:1 analogy without any regard for highly specific historical/political/cultural circumstances that might completely invalidate the analogy.

    Yeah, I have no problem with using anything for inspiration, but we just have to be really careful not to apply blanket solutions to complex problems. Didn’t mean to be insulting. That’s a bad assumption on my part.

    2) Again, I was not trying to be insulting, but thats why I used “we” instead of “you.” We (the environmental movement) are delusional, not Richard Brenne is delusional. Maybe my use of the word delusional is extreme but I think my point still makes sense.

    3) Yeah, I just don’t like using analogies for this reason. They are just always wrong. They can be helpful to illustrate points but can always easily be broken down and distorted. So, yeah, you’re right if you interpret me as being a soldier who goes AWOL. But, I could just change the analogy and say that everyone in the environmental movement already is AWOL. We should be out there doing much, much, much more and we aren’t. So, yeah, I’m wrong but I can just change the analogy and make you wrong, you can change it again, etc.

    I did not intend to be offensive or suggest you are delusional. I am too about lots of things and I’m always trying to rid myself of them.

    Anyway, the point I was trying to make for otter17 is that he shouldn’t expect to change the world with one bike ride. He seems like an exceptionally smart person (as do you) so its an obvious point I shouldn’t have bothered making.

    4) Honestly, I’m not following you on this one. I never referenced good or evil or said I am omniscient, nor do I feel like the implication is there in my original statement. It seems perfectly rational to me to expect nothing from the supernatural and to be very cautious of those who would rely on it to solve our climate crisis.

    To me, its not a “complex question.” It is a very simple one. Should we be relying on the supernatural to help us “solve” the climate crisis? We have absolutely no evidence of supernatural intervention in any context/setting/event in human history. Why should we expect it now? I’m not saying everyone should abandon their religion. But I really want to make sure we aren’t waiting for some deus ex machina because that mindset feels dangerous to me. My position doesn’t feel like certitude; it feels like I’m being very careful to make sure we human beings are doing all we possibly can.

    Yeah, I should have done a better job clarifying my original point, but I feel like I am making sense on this one. Maybe not?

    Hopefully this clarifies some of my points. Thanks again for this great discussion.

    @93 otter17:

    You sound like a really smart person. I hope the best for you with whatever you decide. If you decide to travel, I live in Los Angeles and you’re welcome to stay at my (small) apartment.

    @95 Leif:

    I’m trying to do my best, but I feel afraid it will be not be enough. Hopefully I can make enough mistakes and end up doing some amount of good. Thank you very much for your words.

    Thanks again, everyone. Great conversation.


  97. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Mike (#22)

    Regarding “peak coal”:

    U.S. coal consumption is about a billion tons a year, and we export some, import some, and use some to produce coke for steel making.

    So, nice round numbers, let’s say that the U.S. coal industry injects about 800 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere, equal to roughly 3 billion tons of CO2.

    Worldwide human caused production of CO2 is about 30 billion tons.

    So, the U.S. coal industry alone is about 10% of the worldwide CO2 greenhouse problem, and a slightly smaller percentage of the entire global warming problem.

    I don’t care what the industry or the USGS says right now. Historically, the industry has acknowledged that they have hundreds of years worth of coal supplies, and have in fact used this fact as a talking point, emphasizing the reliability of coal. If the U.S. has half a trillion tons of reserves, it’s hard for me to see how we’re going to be so limited in supply that we can’t produce a billion tons of coal per year. If there is a demand for coal, simple economics will fill that demand. Technology will improve, if there is a demand for it. Prices will rise, and this will spur innovation. The USGS methodology does not include technological improvement, for example- and assumes that prices will not rise.

    The USGS is part of the Department of the Interior, and this is widely known as the most corrupt department of the government, because of the corrupting influence of so much money for fossil fuel leases, among other reasons.

    The oil industry periodically claims that they are running out of oil, and justifies tax breaks other special treatment because of it, not to mention aggressive military invasions of the Middle East. I remember such scare talk back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and so far it just hasn’t happened.

    The coal industry just has “peak” envy, IMO. They see how the peak oil scare has afforded the oil industry political cover for doing whatever they want, and they want a piece of the “peak” action, I think.

    If we have half a trillion tons of reserves, and we only produce one fifth of one percent of that per year, it’s hard for me to see how we are going to run out of coal. It’s also hard for me to see why the Chinese would be so interested in buying American coal mines, if 90 plus percent of our coal reserves are destined to be forever non-recoverable.

    The U.S. coal problem is ten percent of the entire worldwide global warming problem, Mike.

    We can’t just assume that the U.S. coal problem is going to evaporate.

    It’s much more likely that the coal industry has just arranged for some biased estimates, as part of a “peak coal” paid propaganda campaign, I think.

    U.S. corporations have entire public relations departments that think up such lies, and pay millions for lobbyists to relay such lies to the Congress. It’s their business, and they do it very well.

  98. Our religious vocabulary is not serving us well when it comes to battling – or discussing – climate change:

  99. Sailesh Rao says:

    Mulga #89: Thanks! However, I hold the view that caterpillars, even the elite, are deserving of our compassion because I choose to see them as frightened beings seeking immortality in the impermanent.

    Ian #98: The many “interpretations” of Karma remind me of the story of the elephant and the 5 blind men. The blind men are touching the elephant and describing what it is. The first man touches the tail and says, “Ah, the elephant is like a rope.” The second one touches the trunk and says, “No, you fool, the elephant is like a tree.” The third touches the body and says, “The elephant is like a wall.” The fourth touches the elephant’s ear and says, “It is like a fan,” while the fifth touches the trunk and says, “It is really just a snake.” And not one of the five truly grasped the essence of the elephant.

    So it is with Karma. And, so it is with climate change. And catapilism. In the larger picture, the hamburger munching NASA scientist agitating for governmental action on climate change is just as much a blind man seeking the essence of the elephant as those who are taken in by the “Great Global Warming Swindle”.

    Personally, I feel that you belong to a lucky generation of human beings which gets to work on a common purpose that is infinitely larger than yourselves: the resurrection of Life. For the majority of my life, I had been working on causing the problem for which I beg your forgiveness.

    You can email me at in case you or Otter17 wish to contact me.

  100. There is a need for new and better bumperstickers.


    Climate change — we all live downstream.

    Someone somewhere has probably made a list —


  101. Anna Haynes says:

    Now that everyone’s moved on from this thread…:

    Folks, if you could provide harsh but constructive criticism, on a
    6m20s audio interview (my first) with Ben Santer, about how citizens
    can get reliable information on climate change, it would be most

    It’s meant for listeners of a small town community radio station.

    Good suggestions so far: add some music for intro/extro, put Santer’s
    “anyone who has children, or grandchildren…” quote at the front, &
    do something about my plosive P’s.