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‘Hug The Monster’: Why So Many Climate Scientists Have Stopped Downplaying the Climate Threat

By Joe Romm on May 7, 2012 at 5:33 pm

"‘Hug The Monster’: Why So Many Climate Scientists Have Stopped Downplaying the Climate Threat"

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Journalist Bill Blakemore has a great piece on ABC’s website:

‘Hug the Monster’ for Realistic Hope in Global Warming (or How to Transform Your Fearful Inner Climate).

He offers advice to journalists in covering climate change — and advice to the rest of us in a world captured by denial.

The piece helps dispel the myth that climate scientists have long been overhyping climate impacts — when everyone who actually follows climate science and talks to any significant number of climate scientists knows that the reverse is true. As Blakemore writes:

Established scientists, community and government leaders and journalists, as they describe the disruptions, suffering and destruction that manmade global warming is already producing, with far worse in the offing if humanity doesn’t somehow control it, are starting to allow themselves publicly to use terms like “calamity,” “catastrophe”, and “risk to the collective civilization”….

A few years ago, this reporter heard a prominent climate and environment scientist speaking at a large but off-the-record conference of experts and policy makers from around the world who had gathered at Harvard University’s Kennedy School….

He told us that he and most other climate scientists often simply didn’t want to speak openly about what they were learning about how disruptive and frightening the changes of manmade global warming were clearly going to be for “fear of paralyzing the public.”

That speaker now has an influential job in the Obama administration.

Climate scientists have been consistently downplaying and underestimating the risks for three main reasons. First, their models tended to ignore the  myriad amplifying carbon cycle feedbacks that we now know are kicking in (such as the defrosting tundra).

Second, they never imagined that the nations of the world would completely ignore their warnings, that we would knowingly choose catastrophe. So until recently they hardly ever seriously considered or modeled the do-nothing scenario, which is a tripling (820 ppm) or quadrupling (1100 ppm) of preindustrial levels of carbon dioxide over the next hundred years or so. In the last 2 or 3 years, however, the literature in this area has exploded and the picture it paints is not pretty (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).

Third, as Blakemore (and others) have noted, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists are generally reticent and cautious in stating results — all the more so in this case out of the mistaken fear that an accurate diagnosis would somehow make action less likely. Yes, it’d be like a doctor telling a two-pack-a-day patient with early-stage emphysema that their cough is really not that big a deal, but would they please quit smoking anyway. We live in a world, however, where anyone who tries to explain what the science suggests is likely to happen if we keep doing nothing is attacked as an alarmist by conservatives, disinformers, and their enablers in the media.

Back in 2005, the physicist Mark Bowen wrote about glaciologist Lonnie Thompson: “Scientists have an annoying habit of backing off when they’re asked to make a plain statement, and climatologists tend to be worse than most.”

The good news, if you can call it that, is that the climate situation has become so dire that even the most reticent climatologists are starting to speak more bluntly. By the end of 2010, Thompson was writing:

Climatologists, like other scientists, tend to be a stolid group. We are not given to theatrical rantings about falling skies. Most of us are far more comfortable in our laboratories or gathering data in the field than we are giving interviews to journalists or speaking before Congressional committees. Why then are climatologists speaking out about the dangers of global warming? The answer is that virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.

Blakemore points out some other climate scientists who are starting to speak out:

A few days ago in the New York Times, a thoroughgoing front page article about global warming quoted a range of scientists on the overall effect of the global upheavals that can be expected from manmade global warming. Here are three excerpts — bolded highlights mine:

  • “‘The big damages come if the climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases turns out to be high,’ said Raymond T. Pierre-humbert, a climate scientist at the University of Chicago. ‘Then it’s not a bullet headed at us, but a thermonuclear warhead.’” (Recent scientific studies report the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases is proving to be higher than expected.)
  • “Ultimately, as the climate continues warming and more data accumulate, it will become obvious how clouds are reacting. But that could take decades, scientists say, and if the answer turns out to be that catastrophe looms, it would most likely be too late.”
  • “‘Even if there were no political implications, it just seems deeply unprofessional and irresponsible to look at this and say, “We’re sure it’s not a problem,” ‘ said Kerry A. Emanuel, another M.I.T. scientist. ‘It’s a special kind of risk, because it’s a risk to the collective civilization.’

‘A Risk to the Collective (Global) Civilization’

Global warming’s “risk to the collective civilization” (meaning global civilization) has been continually spoken of in secret or unofficial or private conversations among engaged climate scientists and government and policy leaders around the world.

Such terms — catastrophe, threat to civilization itself — have been commonplace in carefully worded private discussions among peer-reviewed experts that this reporter and other journalists have often experienced and sometimes engaged in.

I heard that from many, many  climate scientists in private as far back as 2005 and 2006, which is why I titled my book, Hell and High Water. Other journalists heard the same, which is why, for instance, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote at the time:

“It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”

So what does Blakemore mean by “Hug the Monster,” by his ”Metaphor to Change Fear Into Action and Extinguish the Panic and Despair so Deadly in a Great Crisis”? He explains:

“Hug the monster” is a metaphor taught by U.S. Air Force trainers to those headed into harm’s way.

The monster is your fear in a sudden crisis — as when you find yourself trapped in a downed plane or a burning house.

If you freeze or panic — if you go into merely reactive “brainlock” — you’re lost.

But if your mind has been prepared in advance to recognize the psychological grip of fear, focus on it, and then transform its intense energy into action — sometimes even by changing it into anger — and by also engaging the thinking part of your brain to work the problem, your chances of survival go way up.

Around the world, a growing number of people are showing signs of hugging the monster of what the world’s experts have plainly shown to be a great crisis facing us all….

Sooner or later, everyone who learns about the rapid advance of manmade global warming must deal with the question of fear.

What to do about this fear?

Blakemore quotes from “Hug the Monster: How Fear Can Save Your Life,” the title of a chapter in The Survivor’s Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life, a book written by ABC’s Ben Sherwood before he became president of ABC News:

Nowhere in the book does Sherwood mention climate change, but here’s a passage from the end of that chapter that struck this reporter for its relevance to the increasingly public questions about how our global civilization will deal with the advance of global warming:

Fear as a Security System — When Properly Used (Air Force Mantra)

“Without a doubt, fear is the most ancient, efficient, and effective security system in the world. Over many thousands of years, our magnificently wired brains have sensed, reacted, and then acted upon every imaginable threat. Practically speaking, when you manage fear, your chances improve in almost every situation. But if your alarms go haywire, your odds plummet.”

He concludes:

“For survival then, here’s the bottom line. If you’re scared out of your mind, try to remember this Air Force mantra: Hug The monster. Wrap your arms around fear, wrestle it under control, and turn it into a driving force in your plan of attack. ‘Survival is not about bravery and heroics,’ award-winning journalist Laurence Gonzales writes in his superb book Deep Survival. ‘Survivors aren’t fearless. They use fear: They turn it into anger and focus.’ The good news is that you can learn to subdue the monster and extinguish some of the clanging bells. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Indeed, with enough hugs, you can even tame the beast and turn him into your best friend and most dependable ally.”

And here is Blakemore’s advice for journalists covering this most important of stories:

As a growing number of professional journalists around the world are finding, the story of manmade global warming (and the other evil twin of excess carbon emissions, the rapid acidification of the oceans) is unprecedented in its scale, almost “too big to cover,” and frightening.

But there are now signs that, little by little, voices and personalities are beginning to emerge around the world who are starting to hug this monster, manage the fear, and turning the emotions it causes into action.

For us journalists, the core responsibilities of our profession include knowing how to report unpleasant but important facts — and to do so in ways that nonetheless engage groups small and large, even in a sense “entertain” them, as in entertaining the mind, and to try to win their tacit appreciation for doing so.

Obviously, when the news is horrendous, such as, say, a looming world war or the rapid climb in global temperature and ocean acidification, our job includes the very essence of what it means to hug the monster.

But as this reporter and a growing number of others now working the story can report, once we do so, manmade global warming transforms into “a great story” (in our profession’s term of art) — and even one in which it is possible to glimpse a number of reasons for “realistic hope.”

To be continued….

I look forward to Blakemore’s further writing on climate change, a subject that — considering its likely impact on humanit – has been woefully neglected by most of his fellow journalists.

Note:  Michael Tobis (and Stephen Ban) gave us the top figure. It is probably time to update that chart, since our inaction has shifted “most informed opinion” to overlap almost exactly with “Considered Unreasonable: Not reported.”

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62 Responses to ‘Hug The Monster’: Why So Many Climate Scientists Have Stopped Downplaying the Climate Threat

  1. Gareth says:

    To your list of three reasons I would a fourth: one of the most successful bits of framing by the inactivists was the use of the term “alarmist” for anyone wanting action on climate change, which has played alongside your third point about “natural caution” to make it doubly hard for science leaders to speak out.

    That this is changing is great, and in no small measure due to the absurdity of the current denial campaign (cf Mann and the Serengeti strategy)

  2. Paul Magnus says:

    “leaves me with no alternative.”…

    Anti-coal protesters arrested in White Rock
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/05/05/bc-jaccard-coal-protest.html

    Mark Jaccard, a professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was arrested along with several others late Saturday evening following a day-long protest in the 15000 block of Marine Drive.

    “Putting myself in a situation where I may be accused of civil disobedience is not something I have ever done before,” he said.

    “But the current willingness of especially our federal government to brazenly take actions that ensure we cannot meet scientifically and economically sound greenhouse gas reduction targets for Canada and the planet leaves me with no alternative.”

    Jaccard went on to call government’s response to climate change concerns “entirely inadequate.”

    “I now ask myself how our children, when they look back decades from now, will have expected us to have acted today,” he said.

    “When I think about that, I conclude that every sensible and sincere person, who cares about this planet and can see through lies and delusion motivated by money, should be doing what I and others are now prepared to do.” 

    • Paul Magnus says:

      Jaccard won his Nobel as an author of the ipcc report.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      ‘Civil disobedience’ towards morally insane and omnicidal regimes whose sole loyalty is to their rich owners is an ethical necessity. Until they start acting like human beings (in their next incarnation as such, after they pay penance as cockroaches a few times)these people have zero, indeed negative, moral authority. All they have is the force of the coercive state.

  3. David Smith says:

    “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”

    Our technologically advanced society, I feel, is not making this choice. Certain individuals, a very small number, are making this choice and causing distortions so that the populations at large are complacent. The super-wealthy are experts at redistributing wealth into their own pockets and exploiting their billionare celebrity status but they are mediocre at best (“C” students or less)when it comes to getting out of their self interest to even acknowledge or deal with problems like AGW. This self interest of the powerful in the face of AGW is truely a great evil.

    Great post as always, Joe

    • Chris says:

      Never underestimate the stupidity of people.

    • Ironically, severe climate change is not in the interest of the rich any more than it is in the interest of the rest of us. When the poo poo impacts the propeller, everyone will be vulnerable and effected. There will be nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        The current crop will be dead and they have zero interest in humanity after they have returned to the carbon cycle. These are deeply unpleasant and destructive creatures.

  4. Solar Jim says:

    Just wondering:

    1) What if petroleum and other “modern fuels” were not actually “resources of energy” or “forms of energy” or “energy resources.” What if they were forms of matter?

    2) What if the evolution of life spent a billion years storing organic carbon underground thereby resulting precisely in the climate (plus or minus one degree averaged over the Earth) that makes today’s crops, wilderness and ocean levels possible?

    3) What if today’s climate is “spring loaded” via hundreds of billions of tons of methane generation potential from once-tropical but now frozen polar areas, as well as from “biospheric sinks” for man-made carbonic acid gas that we have “locked and loaded” (via mining and oxidation) over the recent century?

    4) What if James Hansen’s (NASA) reported global energy imbalance of 0.58 watt per square meter means the energy of several times the world electric generating capacity is now going into global ice melt? (N.B. Over seven million cubic miles of ice presently exists on land) What if this phenomena is represented by an exponentially increasing curve?

    5) What if what’s “in the pipeline” is already taking us “over the planetary limit” now toward, let’s call it, abrupt self-reinforcing meltdown?

    Perhaps we should come clean and get on with the great transition, that is if “we” believe in a future rather than the present distorted and fraudulent gods of Mammon, Power and War.

  5. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    The sooner we mitigate, the sooner we prepare the better we will end up. Wherever reality is on the above graph, we need to start preparing.

    If we are building a new road, we expect it to be in place hundreds of years. if it is on the coast we should be aiming to put it at least thirty feet above high tide if we can.

    The Navy has a problem, they see the future of sea level rise but need to be at sea level. A dock thirty feet above high tide is not going to work.

  6. I’ve also stopped holding back about just how dire things are. Might as well talk about it. Not talking about it hasn’t gotten us very far.

    One clarifying point: On this line “a tripling (820 ppm) or quadrupling (1100 ppm) of preindustrial levels of carbon dioxide” you can rely on the 2009 MIT no-policy scenario to calculate the increase in the CO2 equivalent concentrations for all gases by 2100, and state simply “the path that we are now on involves more than two doublings of concentrations of greenhouse gases, implying an ultimate warming of 6 degrees C (2 x 3 degrees C/doubling)”. The MIT scenarios show “only” 5 degrees C by 2100 because the climate takes a long time to equilibrate, but even that will result in a huge disruption to the climate and to civilization. The ultimate concentration in terms of CO2 equivalent is over 1300 ppm.

    For details and some nice graphs summarizing these results, see my book Cold Cash, Cool Climate: Science-based Advice for Ecological Entrepreneurs (http://goo.gl/ekApS). The MIT reports give you most of the information you need to calculate this, but I had to pester the authors to make sure I captured all the nuances. No doubt they didn’t capture all the feedbacks mentioned above, but it’s very unlikely they are overestimating the effects of a business-as-usual path.

  7. James Cole says:

    Almost all the talk on consequences assumes a linear warming. The real monster out there lurking are the feedback loops and the trigger points for major shifts in climate. We now know from the climate records in ice cores and other records that sudden and severe shits can occur from just natural forcing, how much worse this is going to be with the massive forcing of fossil fuel burning and methane leakage.
    I am alarmist, but have ceased to argue the point or make a point of exposing the danger ahead. If I hear one more Rush Limbaugh head spew the garbage of the deniers and their oil company bosses, my head will explode.
    So I have had it! Let them learn the hard way. Tell me really, when you look around at all that is taking place, can you really say modern humans deserve to escape the global climate time bomb.
    Yes, societies know what is coming and they are expanding fossil fuel extraction as fast as possible in response to it. Tar Sands? Oil and Gas fracking? Ultra deep water drilling? More and more coal fired electric plants? Come on, who are we kidding. Humans have a death wish at the start of the 21st century. It’s like a bad science fiction novel isn’t it?

    • Sasparilla says:

      Sorry, James I was trying to reply to you there and it went into the main stream (see below).

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      ‘..sudden and severe shits..’, eh? Sounds like the malady I suffer whenever a denialist dingbat vents his or her idiocy, ignorance and misanthropy.

  8. Joan Savage says:

    “If you are going through hell, keep going.”
    - Winston S. Churchill
    Churchill grasped the concept of ‘hugging the monster’ that Bill Blakemore is encouraging. Churchill had enough experience as a soldier, journalist and war correspondent to keep his focus when presented with horrid news, but it also made him capable of ruthless decisions, such as the British attack on the French Navy.

    In humanitarian relief, instead of hugging the inner monster, it works to keep hugging the children, keep sharing, and to think as a community. When fear is shared, discussed and understood, a lot good can happen.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      I like Pablo Casal’s observation, ‘The situation is hopeless-we must take the next step’.

  9. Sasparilla says:

    Excellent article Joe, thanks for posting this and excellent observations as usual. I wish we were to the point of this happening at the normal news level, but it is going to happen at some point here (hopefully in the next 10 years).

    Great points by Blakemore – I just wish it seemed he wasn’t the only journalist thinking this…

  10. Sasparilla says:

    “It’s like a bad science fiction novel isn’t it?”

    Definitely, it is. How we’ve increased our CO2 release how a couple of fossil fuel related billionaires have taken over a politically party in the US and on and on….bad science fiction novel…we just need the aliens that need a warmer climate to show up and thank the turncoats who’ve been orchestrating this… ;-)

    • Fiona Mackenzie says:

      Indeed, it’s like one of Dan Brown’s nuttier novels.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Are you certain that the aliens haven’t already arrived, like cosmic cuckoos.

  11. Mike Roddy says:

    If we face the truth, and speak and act from the heart, good things will happen. Thinking too much about communication strategies leads to hollow results, and the people smell it.

    It’s become pretty obvious what we are up against. We must respond with courage and intelligence. Defeating them is easier than it looks. How would you like to be a hillbilly from Exxon trying to work the system, so you can squeeze out a few more bucks? They may have the money now, but they are losers.

  12. Raul M. says:

    They don’t really think they will be satisfied with nature being able to only produce less life?

    • Raul M. says:

      The lessening of nature to provide will help us all to see the depths of our self-interests at a survival level rather than just a comfort level or future comfort.

  13. Raul M. says:

    Apple’s fuel cell system power plant will use feed stock from landfill emissions?

  14. I stopped arguing about the basics of AGW a long time ago. Here’s my article called “Man made global warming is real: Get used to it!”

    http://www.ecotecture.com/man-made-global-warming-is-real/

    The basics of AGW are settled science. No point on wasting energy arguing about it. Let’s spend our time figuring out what to do about it.

  15. BillD says:

    Great article and very encouraging that it was produced by a mainline media journalist. Probably it won’t be too long before such points will start appearing in the public discussion. Now we need to see mainline media outlets not giving “equal time” to denialists.

  16. NJP1 says:

    However humanity got here, (and you can choose your theory on that one without bothering JR readers), we are doing what we have evolved to do, eating and procreating just like any other species. We can react instantly to any perceived and immediate threats to those activities, but we have no means of dealing with ‘maybes’. That’s why millions of people live in the shadow of active volcanoes. ‘Maybe’ it will blow anytime, but the local soil grows fantastic food and lots of easily available food keeps you strong and healthy and allows you lots of time for fantastic sex.
    Life as we have evolved to live it really is that simple.
    So it is in our short term interests to deny global warming, even though the ground is rumbling beneath us because the lifestyle most of us have is still too good to give up on a few ‘maybes’ no matter how loudly they are being shouted.
    I’ll probably be reading the Joe Romm blog when the lava comes through my door!

    • Bill G says:

      NJP1 – good post. You stress human basics – what drives us. Right you are. We are hard wired animals that will react to immediate threats of violence, loss of food, and sex.

      It took fifty or more years for the “maybes” that cigarettes cause cancer to be answered. The economic imperative won out for decades based on industry sown doubts. Same with global warming. America believes enhancing money making is the highest value in our nation – bar none. Its not bluntly stated, but it is our undeniable core value. We always come down on the side of enhancing the money making activity.

      Journalists first consideration when writing is their own career. They can’t get ahead of what the herd is saying and believing, or they risk being branded radical or irrelevant.

      Humans and the food we depend on can only exist in a relatively narrow temperature range. Emissions are certain to push us above that range, probably sooner than conservative calculations say. That is the simple, central fact we need to focus on.

  17. Raul M. says:

    I think teachers should allow the children to recess indoors if they want to as the UV ray index for Florida suggests extreme exposure out in direct sunshine.
    See, the children need to have good eyesight even when they get older.
    I forgot to bring my sunglasses is a viable reason, as well as, I don’t have a hat.

  18. We need to embrace the term “alarmist” with pride. Be an alarmist. Alarms protect the people from harm. They are everywhere; in our homes cars, where we work. Outside there is an alarm because I live 10 miles from a nuc plant. Paul Revere was an alarmist. So was Winston Churchill.

    Sound the alarm, identify the threat. The threat is certain individuals,certain interests, not the global environment.

    • Bill G says:

      UK capitalists were supplying Germany with scrap metal they used for armaments right up to the start of WWII. Denial was a factor. So was supporting the exporter’s desire to make money.

      Don’t count on our waking up before the start of the global warming “war” – whatever that will turn out to be.

  19. Spike says:

    In 2008 the UK’s Queen Elizabeth visited the London School of Economics, and was reported as below:

    The Queen spoke for the nation yesterday when she asked how the credit crunch could have taken so many economics experts by surprise.

    She described the financial crisis as ‘awful’ and inquired that, since the meltdown was so massive, ‘Why did nobody notice it?’

    Climate scientists may fear the attacks on their reputation and honesty that will come from the fossil fuel paid attack dogs in the press and Congress. But the public will at some point rumble that the warnings given by a courageous few like Mann and Hanson were both timely, accurate and important, and will no doubt ask the same questions as the Queen. why the media silence? Why did more scientists not speak out more prominently? Their anger when they realise that something far far worse than the depression has been unleashed will be considerable.

  20. Gail Zawacki says:

    Finally – Scare the Wits out of them! JR’s smoking analogy is perfectly apt. The doctor has to be honest about the diagnosis or the patient wouldn’t quit – and even then they don’t always! Our society is addicted to cheap energy and all it provides. It would require an enormous cultural shift for people to see the benefit in turning away from our current ideology of consumption.

    If there to be a new era of honesty , it should include the fact that “clean energy” isn’t going to EVER serve as a full substitute for the intensity of fossil fuels, and therefore sacrifices must be made by the most privileged elite. Nobody “needs” to fly in an airplane.

    And while I’m happy to see climate scientists, journalists and activists to start “connecting the dots” between CO2 emissions and the really terrible consequences that have already begun, I’m still waiting for the foresters to “connect the dots” between ozone and dying trees. Oh well.

    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2012/05/today-is-climate-connect-dots-day-and.html

  21. Dick Smith says:

    That is an awesome graphic. Attribution? Any quantitative data to back it up?

  22. I learned when in my Ph.D. program that the worst mistake a scientist can make is to say something is true that later is shown not to be true. A reputation can be ruined! Making the reverse error- saying you can not prove X, when it turns out later to be true does NOT harm your reputation. The scientific method as practiced today makes scientists put in escape words- “appears to be”, “reasonably certain”, etc- which makes it sound like scientists don’t know. This is a BIG PROBLEM!

  23. Elisabeth Goodridge says:

    Thank you for this solid perspective. I have a friend who treats me as incredibly ignorant for believing in human accelerated global warming. To deny the evidence has to be motivated by fear or greed.

  24. M Tucker says:

    “He told us that he and most other climate scientists often simply didn’t want to speak openly about what they were learning about how disruptive and frightening the changes of manmade global warming were clearly going to be for “fear of paralyzing the public.”

    “That speaker now has an influential job in the Obama administration.”

    Would that be Holdren? I bet it was. I’m sorry but exactly who is paralyzed? All the polls that Joe puts up suggest the “public” wants action now. Not later. Now! So who exactly should we point to as the ones who are paralyzed?

    In 2008, before taking his post in the Obama administration, Holdren wrote an article saying “The Future of Climate Change Policy: The U.S.’s Last Chance to Lead” was up to either Obama or McCain (who at the time supported action). Since then no action and no real messaging. So was Holdren lying? Holdren said “human emissions must start to decline soon.” Seems like we have plenty of time to procrastinate. You cannot sound the alarm then shut up for 4 years. Sure others in the field have been letting the public know what to expect but we must search carefully for the information. Most main stream news organizations have not been accurately reporting on the subject so I have no illusions of hope that “professional journalists” will suddenly start accurately reporting on the magnitude and seriousness of this issue. I saw nothing about the “connect the dots” campaign in the broadcast media. Personally I am thoroughly disgusted with President Obama and Holdren and I have no expectation that “professional journalists” will suddenly change. I expect the professional climate scientists will continue to publish their research and I expect Dr Hansen to continue his activism. I expect Bill McKibben and Lester Brown to continue to speak, write and promote public action but I also expect most politicians to ignore them. I expect Henry Waxman and a few others in congress to continue to try to write legislation but I also expect continued obstruction from ALL Republicans in congress. I expect EPA to eventually enact CO2 regulations and I expect Republicans to hysterically react against it.

    I have been “hugging the monster” for years. The monster and I now have a close personal relationship and we are discussing cohabitation.

    • Joe Romm says:

      My guess, too.

    • AlC says:

      Let’s give the Obama administration some credit. They finessed an increase in gas milage for vehicles, and are in the process setting a limit on allowable CO2 from power plants that would preclude new coal-fired power plants. And so far President Obama is holding the line on Keystone.

    • Mark E says:

      Speaking of expectations….

      I expect every commenter on this blog to:

      (A) reduce to near-zero their consumption of industrial agriculture meat

      (B) at least once per week push their physical limit by walking to some engagement, appointment, job, or errand, at whatever distance is “a lot” for them

      (C) talk about A and B at every chance

      If Holdren ain’t doing what he should, at least we should be doing what we should

  25. Peter says:

    Climate Scientists are an interesting lot. They look for empirical absolutes. And when they find them, they still seem to argue if they are right. Forever introverted they seek redemption- forever being insecure.

  26. Tom says:

    While all the threats above are real, the one that most keeps me up is the trend towards antibiotic resistant microbes intersecting with a warmer, and friendlier-to-new-microbes world.

    When you site down that intersection, what do you see in the cross-hairs? Human civilization. You don’t have to take out even 30% of the population to end civilization.

    • Mark E says:

      Imagine the spread of such bugs if the NCAR drought projection maps Joe posted awhile back are close to true….. a huge migration would turn masses of people, including in the USA, into climate refugees, at times possibly packed into close quarters with inadequate sanitation

  27. Iver says:

    I am amazed that almost nothing is being done. It’s like we are deer in the headlights. The tornado season was like something out of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie this year. Hurricanes, floods and droughts. What more do we need? The Monster is here. All we have to do is step outside to hug it.

  28. Susan Anderson says:

    Terrific post, great comments, thanks.

  29. Makan says:

    Also blogged here (http://thisnessofathat.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/hug-monster.html) with comments about the limitations of bright-siding. Social change campaigns need two elements: the problem and a solution. Leaving out the problem is only half the story.

  30. What often gets me on the “Business as usual” scenario is that “Business as usual” requires immense effort on the part of the industrial system and the default scenario in the absence of that immense effort would be economic collapse (or rather the bubble reverting to its natural economic size). Maybe the name of the model should be “Catastrophic and intense industrial activity, a.k.a. Business as usual”. Remove the effort and you remove the threat to us all.

  31. Kent Otho Doering says:

    Love this website. Now for technologies.
    Treehugger recently posted an article about “Dinosaur Farts and Global Warming”- then going on to show how dairy and meat farming accounts for nearly half of the rottingmethane being released into the atmosphere every year.
    Have ya´ll realized the energy potentials involved in “global poop power”.
    Germany is shutting down about 20 nukes. And it will replace them by two strategies.
    One, converting the nukes to deep geothermal.
    And two, “poop power”.

    At the moment, three thousand German farms are equipped with “manure methane recapture systems”. That is, they recapture manure methane, and burn it on fuel cells for providing power and heat Combined heat power CHP systems. The average output per farm is 100 kWh. ´That is, “poop power” is already providing 300.000 kWh of 24/7 power in Germany. That is the equivalent of a big coal burning power plant, or one quarter output of a nuke. “Poop power”.

    Now, take the scenario to 2025- when all 200.000 German farms are equipped with “poop power”. That will mean a full 20.000.000 kWh of 24/7 “poop power” or “rotting cellulose waste – cesspool sludge power” going onto the grid. That is the equivalent of the 20 nukes we have shut down or are shutting down.
    Of course, we will follow the suggestion of Frenchleft candiadate Melanchon, and convert all nukes to deep geothermal, retaining the “poop power capacities.”
    Now, add solar p.v. and wind co-ops to those German farming areas, and we get villages like Wildpoldsried (see Search Engines on Wildpoldsried) that produce 2.5 times as much power as they need.

    Local co-op wind, solar heat, solar voltaic, and “methane recapture systems” in every farming village in the entire E.E.C. will provide close to 40% of European stationary energy needs. Then, add “concentrated solar power” systems- in North Africa, the mediterranean basin.

    Check out “Stan Meyers Water as Fuel Beach Buggy” on YouTube. Believe me, the Europeans have noticed. Now imagine German consortiums like VW/Lichtblick Utilities going in and replacing all ten million oil heating units in Germany with SMART grid coordinated aqueous fuel system internal combustion engine- driving generators- CHP systems, average output. per unit – 20 kWh. That will eliminate 45 billion litres of heating oil per annum in Germany alone, the equivalent of close to 880 million barrels of crude a day the country will no longer be importing. And- eliminate close to 75 billion kilograms of co² annually being released into the atmosphere. That will also provide another full 20 billion kWh – in reserve potential p.g. for the German grid. (the investments per aqueous fueled CHP unit are rapidly self amorting- faster than wind or solar.)
    Cow fart – poop power, and aqueous fuel CHP systems alone will change a few energy equations in addition to solar heat, ground heat, deep geothermal, wind. The goal for Europe is a 100% fossil fuel free- macro-economy by 2025! (And a booming economy based on “sustainability.”) Europe is gearing up for a “General Mobilisation”-in “The Global War against Global Warming”.

    Germans have also cracked “quantum gravity”- the relationship between atomic level matter, ie. positron and electron functions of the atom, and gravity. This opens up p.g. by by direct conversion of gravity to a positron current muc in the same way that solar p.v.captures the electron wave function of photons. One wonderful spin off of that is a new form of mass desalinisation or brown water remediation system- literally powered by gravity. Now, one big unit pumping out 1 cubic meter of fresh water per second will suffice to directly irrigate 40 square kilometers of North African desert land. 5000 thousand units around the northern coasts will get up 5000 cubic meters a second up on the parched lands, irrigating them, greening them, and cooling them. Of course,there is a lot of evaporation involved, so those five thousand units will create a tropical inversion effect every afternoon across North Africa, effectively irrigating the entire Sahara. We can do the same with Arabian peninsula, Iran, Southern Pakistan, NE India, – etcetera. Like combat rising sea levels caused by polar cap meltdown by literally soaking the world´s deserts with inexpensive gravity field retransformation desal and brown water remediation systems. We can do the same with Australia to feed the burgeoning Asian population.

    Now,that GFR based mass irrigation on the West Coast of Africa- part of the European”Desertec Program”- will also cause more storms crossing the Atlantic early in the year, decreasing the energy potential of storm intensity, ie. chpping hurricane force.
    The melting of the polar ice caps is what causes all those massive cold fronts coming down over warm areas- with very destructive “super tornados” as the result. (Tornado warnings in Europe are someting new.) With special submarines, the EEC and Russia will cooperate in placing GFR based ionisation units on the sea floor of the arctic ocean. These radically ionize water – which then has a ion crystallisation effect as the water rises. I.E. fresh water from below will collect and freeze under the ice cap, and refreeze the coastal arctic waters. That refreezing cuts cold water evaporation and northern storm formation, slashing- tornado damage in the U.S. (which is currently getting worse year by year due to the arctic coastal water melt down.)

    Then there is the global warming factor of uncontrolled building, forest, brush, and prairy fires which destroy plant life vital to taking co² out of the atmosphe and rlease co² into it. Fire releases more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere every year than all the combustion energy processes combined.
    Again, German developed Gravity Field Retransformation has the solution for that. What is it. Very simple, we have patent applied for “Beta Laser beams” powered by gravity field retransformation. Aimed into the base of an open flame, the beam reverses the combustion “quantum EPR effect”, creating more cryogenic Beta particles than thermodynamic photons… the combusting gasses suddenly coldly combine into their products, and the fire literally implodes, creating no new hot combusting gasses.
    “Poop power”, wind,solar heat, ground heat, deep geothermal, concentrated solar, waste incineration power heat CHP systems, solar p.v., internal and external combustion “aqeuous fuels systems /see the Stan Meyers Water as Fuel Beach Buggy on YouTube as an example.) emerging gravity field retransformation systems- for mass desal and swater remediation systems – are all part of a formidable arsenal we are putting together for a “Global War Against Global Warming.” It can be done, and we are already getting started on it here in Germany.

    Germany started two wars in the last century, and now it is starting the next one in the 21st- the global war against global warming- where nobody gets killed, and we are able to conserve the planet´s life giving properties. Orbis Domini.

    All the best- we can do it. Thanks for running the best “Green Blog” in the U.S..

    Kent Otho Doering, Munich

    • Kent, Your conflation of desalinization with quantum gravity sounds, to this physicist, absolutely ridiculous and/or insane. Can you provide some information on this?

  32. Russ Hunt says:

    “Ironically, severe climate change is not in the interest of the rich any more than it is in the interest of the rest of us. When the poo poo impacts the propeller, everyone will be vulnerable and effected. There will be nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.” Actually, I increasingly believe that the deniers think they’ll be okay in their bubbles, and that climate change will wipe out everybody else (especially all those inconvenient hungry brown people).

    • Anne van der Bom says:

      And then the conservatives will say they died because of fossil fuel deprivation.

      You see, they blame the communist eco-hippies for everything.

  33. Don Sakers says:

    Maybe we should start putting conspicuous flood markers in low-lying populated areas: “Sea level in 2030,” “Sea level in 2040,” etc. That might help scare people.

  34. N Docherty says:

    The ringing of alarm bells doesn’t put the fire out. Either people are shown how to put the fire out or they will watch it burn till some that does know will come and do it for them. For this fire its not ‘how to use a bucket of water’, its becoming ‘how to use a fire engine’.
    Its probably about time the shouting started but if you cant start shouting usable, effective, simple, (money making) solutions at the same time everyone will just continue the ‘headless chicken dance’.

  35. scissorpaws says:

    We are doomed. If you imagine all the nations of the world will manage to get together on anything, especially this big, costly, you’re pathologically optimistic. Just look at the cock-up on something fairly obvious and reasonable: the Euro. Still. Still, the denialists are preaching the gospel as they understand and likely will no matter how much evidence stares them in the face or hits them over the head or kicks them in the balls. Sure, Not-In-My-Backyard, but it’s all my backyard as in our backyard. But then you have to ask yourself, what’s James Lovelock about?

  36. jrs says:

    What’s to stop one from putting conspicious flood markers? Why wait for the authorities? Do it.

  37. Ed Weber says:

    Dan Sakers’ idea has great merit. A well-funded and volunteered campaign to put up a vast number of such signs could be very powerful. Each sign should contain the names of scientifically valid web sites to which a viewer could learn about the basis for the claim made by the sign.

  38. RH factor says:

    I blame World Journalism for choosing catastrophic ignorance on reporting nation debt and on not giving equal time to Eco-debt. Hey question for all – which one do you think will affect first hah? You all suck. If one one of your grand children would come back in a time machine – they would not take you out dinner, they’d take you out. the evidence is there continuing to choose to ignore makes YOU serial.

  39. ML says:

    Mark E,

    Personal lifestyle changes are all well and good as a symbol of one’s commitment to the cause, but they’re not going to solve the problem. Only changing the global energy system will prevent catastrophe.

  40. glen says:

    Reminds me of the Vonnegut/Kilgor Trout story where two pieces of bacteria, dieing as they discuss the meaning of life, a only to find out they are making champagne.

    In other words, as we try to get the world on this hyperconsumer model (recall as krugman and most others say, we lacking in final demand) producing/consuming somewhat useless goods, we our “drowning” in our waste (i.e. champagen)

  41. janinsanfran says:

    This may seem too ignorant to mention, but I think it has impeded progress in the United States. When warming impacts are stated as degrees centigrade or meters, you might as well be speaking Chinese to the average American. One of the more useful trends lately has simply been to journalistic translations in degrees F.