What Is Causing The Climate To Unravel?

by Jeremy Symons, via  the National Wildlife Federation

Answer: One trillion tons of carbon pollution.

40,000 heat records have already been broken this year across the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Here in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the signs of an unbalanced climate system have been felt in recent years not just in heatwaves, but increasingly in the form of unusually severe wind storms. This past weekend’s storm brought 80 mph wind gusts that snapped three trees in our backyard like pretzels, even though they were each a foot thick. Once again, my insurance company is teaching me new weather terminolgy to explain the latest climate disasters. A few years ago, the term was “micro-bursts” (not quite tornadoes, but similar impact). Now it is “derecho” (not quite hurricanes, but similar impact).

Whatever you call it, we need to face up to the fact that our weather has turned dangerous because our climate is breaking down.  Virginia has had 27 national disaster declarations due to storms in the past 20 years, three times as many as the prior 20 years. Meanwhile, wildfires and droughts are threatening people and wildlife elsewhere in the nation, particularly in the West, including the National Wildlife Federation’s staff in Colorado. More than two million acres have burned in U.S. wildfires already this year. Global warming has created longer wildfire seasons in the West due to heat and drought (warmer winters has also allowed pests to floursih, killing large numbers of pine trees that add fuel to the fires).

The current heat wave and climate disasters shouldn’t be catching us by surprise. Since the year 2000, we have witnessed nine of the ten hottest years ever recorded, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which tracks global surface temperatures. The first three months of this year has been the warmest first quarter ever in the United States, and March was an alarming 8 degrees warmer than average. As the planet heats, weather patterns are destabilized. Warm air sucks more water from the ground and holds more water (about 4% more for every 1 degree F increase in temperature). That’s one of the reasons our warming planet has been creating historic droughts out West and dumping torrential rains in the Midwest (in Iowa, for example, there have been four “100-year” flood events in the past 5 years, and 17 emergency disaster declarations for floods in the past two decades).

Scary Weather is a Warning:  We Need to Act

For the moment, we are paying attention to the weatherman, and the weather is scary.  But the media is still asleep at the switch when it comes to reporting the real story:  What is causing this climate to unravel?

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences completed an exhaustive review of scientific research and concluded more forcefully than ever in a landmark 2011 report that pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes is destabilizing our climate.  Here is how they put it in scientific terms:

“Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems. … The sooner that serious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions proceed, the lower the risks posed by climate change, and the less pressure there will be to make larger, more rapid, and potentially more expensive reductions later.”

Clear enough?  If not, here is a strong hint of what is going on: In the past 50 years, we have added one trillion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere from burning coal, oil and natural gas (Source: U.S. Department of Energy). Over this time, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased 23%, from 322 ppm to 397 ppm (Source:  Mauna Loa Record, Scripps CO2 Program).

We can’t do anything about yesterday’s weather, but we need to be responsible stewards of the world we shape for our kids and future generations. We want to pass on a natural world full of abundant wildlife, but wildlife species are increasingly at risk as climate change threatens the very existence of thousands of species. Pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes  is loading the dice and increasing the likelihood of more frequent and increasingly severe storms and heat waves.  If we don’t talk about the source of the problems, then we can’t do anything about it. The decisions we make today will shape the future for generations to come. Why? Because much of the heat-trapping carbon pollution we put into the atmosphere will increase CO2 levels for centuries and even millennia. According to the IPCC’s 2007 report on the state of climate science:

“About 50% of a CO2 increase will be removed from the atmosphere within 30 years, and a further 30% will be removed within a few centuries. The remaining 20% may stay in the atmosphere for many thousands of years.”

So What Can We Do?

All we lack is the determination and leadership to change course on energy. We need more businesses to provide better energy options than are currently available to families. Some companies are out in front, including automobile manufacturers who have embraced goals of doubling the fuel economy of their vehicles by 2025. But other companies, such as Dominion Power here in Virginia, are dragging their heels and doing more to block the march to cleaner energy than help.

The best and first solution to reduce our “carbon footprint” on the planet is to stop wasting energy. Energy has long been taken for granted by consumers and businesses alike; we waste far more of it than we need to. We need to each do our part and pay more attention to how we use energy. But we also need to get more ambitious as a nation to bring to market the abundant ideas and technologies engineers and entrepreneurs have to cut energy waste.

To supply the energy we need, we have to rapidly accelerate the switch away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as wind, geothermal and solar—energy sources that don’t pollute and don’t run out. These homegrown energy sources create jobs installing and maintaining the technologies. America already has 2.7 million clean economy jobs building a healthier environment, and clean energy is one of the fastest growing sources of good paying jobs in the nation. In addition, we depend on America’s great outdoors for 6 million jobs in the outdoor recreation industries, contributing $730 billion to the U.S. economy.

Wishful thinking won’t make this happen. America has vast wind, solar and geothermal resources, and the affordability and efficiency of renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar have been improving by leaps and bounds. But solar, wind and geothermal still account for less than 3 percent of U.S. electricity. The growth of these industries is being held back by the entrenched fossil fuel energy companies who are quite happy selling us coal and oil. American families and businesses spend $3 billion every day on oil, coal and natural gas.

It’s up to each of us to do what we can, but we won’t get the change we need unless we hold the politicians we elect accountable to make sure that energy companies everywhere are doing their fair share.  Congress continues to dole out billions of dollars to oil companies while vital tax credits for renewable energy are set to expire at the end of this year.

But there is one bright spot that could mark a turning point in whether we are getting serious about carbon pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed clean air standards to limit industrial carbon pollution from new power plants.  Polluters are launching a fierce counterattack and spending lavishly on lobbying and campaign contributions. One thing you can do right now is to join the more than two million Americans who have written the Environmental Protection Agency to support their new carbon standards. More Americans have supported this rule than any other federal rule in history.

It’s only a start, but standing up now for a better future is the right thing to do. And who knows? Perhaps we can get some wind at our backs to take us where we need to go.

— Jeremy Symons is the Senior Vice President of the National Wildlife Federation’s Conservation and Education programs. This piece was originally published at the National Wildlife Federation and was reprinted with permission.

49 Responses to What Is Causing The Climate To Unravel?

  1. Peter M says:

    The climate is nearly shot- to hell. Our troubles will only become worse. Its a gradual process- but its like a snowball heading down a hill- good luck.

  2. Gail says:

    Climate change is making for more extreme weather, no question. And it will get much worse. Just for the sake of accuracy however, trees are snapping – and power is being lost – because trees are dying from air pollution.

    When trees repair injury done to leaves and needles that absorb ozone, less energy is allocated to roots. This makes them more vulnerable to drought, and likely to fall over. An overall loss in vitality leaves them unable to defend against attacks from insects, disease and fungus. Trees are aerodynamically designed to withstand winds – there is even formula for that, first postulated by Leonardo da Vinci and later used in designing the Eiffel Tower. If anyone is interested, google witsendnj doing the maths for the link.

    Why should this matter? Because the same process that is injuring trees is causing significant loss in crop yield and quality. Food is a motivator for people – perhaps, more than arctic ice and polar bears.

    Today, I was sent a video from Ohio. I suggest anyone who doubts the above take a look at it. The videographer says they have not been lacking rain, by the way.

  3. Lecoor says:

    How can the current administration ignore this?
    Clint Eastwood, in Dirty Harry, posed the question to the cornered adversary as he was pointing a “45” at him: “How lucky do you feel today?”
    Any experienced business person would consider the climate alternatives and their possible impact, then decide what to do.
    In this case it is clear that the “potential” downsides from business as usual approach are staggering, yet little notice is being taken.
    What will it take to get their attention and should they be held to account for their (lack of ) action?

  4. Ken Barrows says:

    How about administering a mild electric shock to any politician that mentions “growth?”

  5. SecularAnimist says:

    Jeremy Symons wrote: “… we won’t get the change we need unless we hold the politicians we elect accountable to make sure that energy companies everywhere are doing their fair share …”

    The basic problem is that for the fossil fuel corporations to “do their fare share” means that they go out of business.

    They stop extracting and selling oil, coal and natural gas. They leave trillions of dollars of potential profit in the ground. And they cease to exist.

    There is really no way around that. Those corporations — Koch, ExxonMobil and the rest — are not going to transition to renewable energy companies. They are extractive industries, who dig up and sell fuel for a profit, not technology companies. And the renewable energy economy makes fuel obsolete, and is all about technology — the technology to efficiently harvest ubiquitous, abundant free energy from the sun and wind.

    The “energy companies everywhere” of the post-fossil fuel, renewable energy economy will be technology companies, like the information technology corporations of today — not extractive industries.

    And that’s why the fossil fuel corporations are fighting tooth and nail to obstruct and delay the urgently needed, and ultimately inevitable, transition to a renewable energy economy.

  6. Ken Barrows says:

    SecularAnimist is right. We’re not going to have any kind of future if ExxonMobil, Chase, and Goldman Sachs are still around.

  7. @Peter M, @Gail, yes. Given the energy being kept on the planet, we’ve not seen anythin’ yet. Climate impact projections are conservative, although the point Has Been Made that whatever the median patterns are, there are quantiles which will be far worse. I have not seen many media pick up on this point. I guess the country is just like towns: Stop signs are put up only if enough people are carried away from an intersection in body bags. It’s really unfortunate. It will also be unfortunate and hard to explain when CO2 reduction is taken seriously, how we’re going to need to live with an uncomfortable level of extreme weather because of system lags. But people were warned, a long time ago. They did not listen. And they weren’t even curious.

  8. Doug Bostrom says:

    Effectively out of business, yes. SA sums up the fundamental problem.

    Given that we know for a fact what the fossil fuel companies must do and we’ve ample evidence that they fully intend to follow their narrow imperative, it then becomes incumbent on us to end their business plans on our own. That’s going to require that we break or change a myriad of our own habits via personal choices each of us can make.

    Once we recognize that the only means of changing the future of fossil fuel companies and hence the planet is by shaping the energy market through personal choices imposed from below, it’s then axiomatically rather strange and even hypocritical to continue focusing on fossil fuel companies as the authors of our downfall.

    Do something different today. Do two things differently tomorrow. Suggest the same to people you know.

  9. Anyone who argues that this is NOT a result of man made carbon is NOT dealing with a full deck. You can’t discount 40,000 new records in one year. Scientists have been predicting this for years. WELL, IT’S HERE! NOW WHAT?

  10. Lois Fornander says:

    So, do you remember the Opium Wars? (The British Empire declared war on China to force them to allow the Chinese people to purchase opium eventhough the Chinese government had outlawed the use of opium.) The Oil and Gas Industry is conducting a similar campaign against us. Rather than encouraging the development of alternative/green energy, we are being forced to support and consume more and dirtier forms of fossil fuels (Think Fracking), fouling our own environment–including air and water–and increasing our dependence on a devastating addiction.

  11. Steve says:

    That’s exactly right.

    1) Have at least one hybrid (or EV) in the household, and use it for all long distance travel whenever possible.

    2) Think about all trips so as to combine “missions” to the store, work, school, etc. in order to minimize trips.

    3) Drive economically — not like a sprinter out of the blocks in the 100-meter Olympic trials at every stoplight.

    4) Try to live closer to work if at all possible (and try to work at home somedays if possible).

    5) Look for carpooling opportunities.

    6) Avoid congested traffic periods for commuting (so as not to sit in traffic with engine running).

    7) Minimize or eliminate dependence on car air-conditioning.

    8) If someone just bought a new hybrid or EV, make a point of simply telling them they are a hell of a lot smarter than most people out there.

    9) Show Tillerson how we intend to “adapt” to what he now admits is scientifically true (making all his Heartland clowns and Senator Inhofe cronies look like he has been playing them as fools all along). In short, just get into a new gasoline purchasing habit so as to essentially boycott the Exxon and Mobil brands — and get two others to do likewise (boycotting the brand and enlisting two more). And when the extreme weather really hits home, put up a billboard quoting Tillerson’s adaptation speech, and suggesting that passing motorists to boycott the brand as well. Yes, cut back consumption of all brands, but affirmatively penalize the most visible culprits.

  12. Sailesh Rao says:

    In order to be effective, social change requires concerted action. That is, everyone should be doing the same thing in order to make a substantial difference. Think of the Swadeshi movement in 20th century India that put the Manchester cotton mills out of business. Gandhi persuaded Indians to wear homespun clothing as a sign of solidarity for Indian independence.

    Right now, if every eligible household maximized the free solar panel installations on their roofs that companies like Sungevity offer, that could make a difference. (And they would have their air-conditioning working in the event of power failures). If everyone went vegan, it would make an even bigger difference. But then, even Jeremy Lyons does not mention our food choices as a cause of climate change, which implies that denial is still deeply embedded in our society.

  13. Sailesh Rao says:

    Great analogy! The tactics honed by the British empire are still being employed today. In the past, the environmental destruction was out of sight, but now the energy companies are fracking, tar sands mining and blowing up the tops of mountains, all in brazen sight.

  14. Highschooler says:

    The ground level ozone( a GHG) is killing trees leading to more downed trees as well. I see it in my region in VT/NH as well. Fewer trees=more co2

  15. Doug Bostrom says:

    Steve paraphrased:

    Adaptation means choosing not to burn fossil fuels.

    Lovely! Turn Tillerson’s words back.

  16. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    It will be worse than that. There is considerable warming in the pipeline, but there is also considerable masking. Aerosol pollution masks about half the effect of the CO2 we have put up, but those aerosols will clear when we stop polluting.

    So there will be a fairly sharp spike when pollution ceases. The longer we leave it the worse that spike will be.

  17. Bill Goedecke says:

    How about attacking the idea that economic growth is a necessity? If our priority was on the restoration of the biological vitality of the soils, waters and atmosphere and not on the priorities inherent in a capitalist system then we would be halfway there.

  18. Superman says:

    “All we lack is the determination and leadership to change course on energy.”

    I don’t agree with your basic premise, as stated above. There are many stakeholders with an interest in climate change: fossil fuel resource owners and energy producers; fossil fuel energy workers; politicians; energy consumers. When the motivations and incentives of each group are examined, one finds they are all comfortable with the status quo. While one can understand the self-centered motivations of most of these groups, the real problem is the motivation of the energy consumers. Most Americans don’t want to give up their SUVs, their McMansions, their long commutes to quiet neighborhoods, their energy intensive toys, etc, and they are willing to sacrifice the survivability of their progeny to continue their profligate lifestyle. That’s the real problem, and since the politicians realize that only too well, they will do nothing to lead on this issue. Especially since most of them are in the pockets of the energy industry and energy intensive industries to start with. That’s why I don’t see a resolution to this problem, short of a Civil War.

    We may be beyond the tipping point already, but if not, I don’t see the will to make the drastic sacrifices that will allow us to dodge the bullet.

  19. Superman says:


    I think the gravity of the problem is being downplayed. We have a bunch of positive feedback loops, all going in the same direction, and reinforcing each other. The process is governed mathematically by nonlinear dynamics, whose basic thesis is that small changes at the boundary can result in very large changes in the interior. None of the models contain anywhere near the phenomena we already know, much less those that have yet to be found. Any of these additions to the models will make the projections far worse, and could be catastrophic.

    These models are lagging behind what the computers can handle, what is known observationally, and what is known about how to describe these phenomena mathematically. I have the uneasy feeling that neither industry nor government nor the journal Editors nor even the researchers want the full extent of the situation to be known. Perhaps they feel it would lead to widespread panic and chaos, or widespread depression, or revolution, or whatever. Or, maybe the researchers have been attacked by the skeptics and deniers for so long that they have become ultra-conservative in what they say and publish. But, it’s clear as crystal to me that the future effects of climate change are being vastly understated.

  20. This excellent new commentary in Nature Climate Change outlines a concrete way to get started:

    Bridging the Greenhouse-Gas Emissions Gap
    Kornelis Blok, Niklas Höhne, Kees van der Leun & Nicholas Harrison
    Nature Climate Change 2, 471–474 (2012) doi:10.1038/nclimate1602
    (subscription required)

    “Twenty-one coherent major initiatives could together stimulate sufficient reductions by 2020 to bridge the global greenhouse-gas emissions gap.”

    “The proposed initiatives build on actions that promise numerous benefits to the organizations and individuals undertaking them, and front-runners are already demonstrating that such benefits are real. These initiatives aim to take these benefits to the mainstream, drastically amplifying their impacts and showing all organizations involved that together they can play a leading role in solving the climate challenge. Many of the initiatives also generate significant ‘green growth’ benefits, stimulating economic development based on environmentally sound solutions and providing additional motivation to engage. We expect that working together on a grand coalition would serve as a catalyst for action, greatly enhancing the willingness of a range of sub-sovereign and non-state actors to contribute to greenhouse-gas emission reductions. This in turn would support the implementation and strengthening of the pledges for which national governments remain responsible, and eventually stimulate sufficient reductions to bridge the greenhouse-gas emissions gap.”

    The approach in this outline is aimed at the essential getting real progress by 2020.

    Some of the tactics may need further refinement given that 2020 is just the beginning.

    The main thing is, it looks quantitatively appropriate, and it looks doable!

  21. Zarrakan says:

    Switch to solar, and the environment pretty much fixes itself within 10 years.

    Continue doing what we are doing now, and we all die within the next 20 years.


  22. Paul Klinkman says:

    I don’t doubt that many of the world’s trees are unhealthy, dying or dead.

    In New England the maple trees aren’t orange anymore, they’re yellow in the fall. An orange sugar maple is a healthy maple.

    Air pollution and acid rain from sulfur dioxide pollution may be bad for trees, but climate change damages the trees too. They suffer from drought, of too much rain also, of pests not killed off by cold winters, and of sudden snowstorms snapping their limbs off before their leaves have fallen.

    One climate-accelerating effect may be the methane generated by single celled creatures after billions of trees die.

  23. Paul Klinkman says:

    Will the great god Halliburton ride to the technological rescue of the Earth’s peons?

    On the one hand, Halliburton has the billions to develop better solar equipment. Therefore it’s not worth ourselves innovating solar, because Halliburton can do it far better. Worse, they would be able to drive the independents out of business with their power.

    On the other hand, Halliburton makes its money drilling for fossil fuels. Why would they damage their own gravy train?

    So then the question to anyone who cares is, who on earth is going to innovate solar, and why?

    The answer to “why” is simple. No one on earth is doing it for the money, so it had better be for a love of community, or, equivalently, to serve God with all of your heart, all of your mind, all of your spirit.

    No one on earth is innovating against climate change for the money, except Halliburton is putting on a dog and pony show because that’s how our corrupt government works. Did you know that “BP” stands for “beyond petroleum”? That’s what their ads used to claim.

    Is there something fundamentally unfair and morally outrageous on this planet about physically preventing even the best inventors from innovating solar? Think about it. And while you think, crank up the A/C.

  24. Glenn says:

    We have not, as a species, learned to live without intentionally killing each other in war. How can we expect to stop killing ourselves unintentionally through climate destruction? I’ll believe we have a chance to stop taking lives unintentionally when we demonstrate the ability to stop intentionally taking our own lives.

  25. Sascha Tavere, France says:

    As an outsider, may I suggest that you might be more successful in changeing ‘things’ if you triple your efforts to wrest the financing of political parties from the ‘market’? (Horrible socialist idea of course, but political parties can be subsidized out of state and federal budgets.)

    Democratic USA being overgrown by corporatism is not a edifying sight. Unfortunately Europe follows your example but we got rid of an idiot like Berlusconi, grace to luck and recession however, not merit. You can do better.

    Newt Gingrich and others might be grateful to be able to return to their pre-election global warming stances freed from financial worries.

    Are there any current proposals that tend in the direction of decoupling politics from commerce?

  26. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Not just ‘business-as-usual’ but ‘business’ in any shape or form is the enemy. Capitalism is death to all that is living and diverse, as it ceaselessly strives to convert all life into dead, dead, money, accumulated in large sums in as few paws as possible. People who propose using ‘market nechanisms’ or business methods to solve the greatest problems ever, are, in my opinion, tragically mistaken, or worse.The only things that can save us are co-operation, careful over-all and large-scale planning according to scientific knowledge and real moral principles, human ingenuity and centuries of hard graft. We need societies as near equal as possible with every human talent harnessed to the task of repairing the capitalist carnage of the last few centuries. Without a revolution, social, moral and ideological, we are already dead.

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    They have to do the decent thing for the sake of humanity. If they refuse, their activities must be euthanased. And, after all, their accumulated wealth is in the trillions, which they could profitably invest in renewables and ecological repair. But they steadfastly refuse to so, and one wonders -why?

  28. Gail says:

    Some of us are trying, Sascha! I’m on the train now headed to protest the Koch $50k/plate fundraiser for Romney on Long Island

    anyone around Southamptom please join Occupy!

  29. Kim says:

    I don’t see anyone here giving the basic answer to the question. Too many people having too many children. What the heck happened to zero population growth anyway? When the phrase was in vogue the earth’s population was about 3.5 billion. We are at about 7 billion and counting. There’s your real answer.

  30. BJ says:


    The same public reticence for changing from fossil-fueled energy is entrenched in a large swath of the Australian public, and has been exploited to great advantage by Tony Abbott, the leader of the conservative opposition here. Abbott (who vehemently disbelieves the science of climate change) is ideologically welded to the promise of removing our nacent price on carbon for the several hundred of the county’s heaviest emitters, and instead taxing the public to pay big industry “incentives” to “improve” their carbon use efficiency.

    He calls it “direct action”, but all impartial expert analyses indicate that such “direct action” (should it ever actually be enacted at all) will cost the public much more, for far less benefit. However, because there’s no specific “carbon ‘tax'” in Abbott’s plan, a “tax” about which he has stirred up so much irrational fear, he is selling it with bells on to the somnolent Joe and Jane Public, and they’re buying double servings of it.

    The end result is that he will walk into the next election, in spite of the facts that:

    1) the current government steered the country almost completely unscathed through the global financial crisis: umemployment has been reduced to around 5% after blipping up to 6% at the height of the GFC, and RBA interest rates have fallen from just over 7% at the time of their winning the 2007 election, to 3.5% now, after blipping up to 4.75% during the GFC.

    2) the current government has tripled the tax-free threshold for a million Australian workers (out of a total national population of 22.5 million), enabling them to forego submitting tax forms, something about which Australians would usually be throwing parties.

    Now I’m personally no fan of the Australian Labor Party, and they certainly do not get my first preferences at the ballot box (thankfully we have a choice of more than two alternatives…), but Abbott’s almost inevitable election to the country’s leadership next time around will in all likelihood see him mash the economy as he tries to repeal the carbon price. Of course, there’s the not insignificant fact that it also puts Australia in the invidious position of doing exactly the opposite of what all sane scientists and economists are trying to urge the governments of the world to do… besides destroying any standing that Australia might have on the international stage, it will put back by years any chance of starting real, concerted global action on stopping the overheating of the planet.

    And all because the Australian voting public is, by and large, too intellectually lazy, and too wedded to their ‘stuff’ in a world where they are already some of the richest on the planet, to think beyond a tabloid headline and the sniff of getting a little bit more for nothing.

  31. Lionel A says:

    And yes Tillerson this is how people adapt – they die and this is only the beginning you buffoon:

    Media reports say many of the deaths were of elderly people stuck in homes without air conditioning because of the outages.

    Ten deaths in Chicago were blamed on the heat, and at least 10 each in the eastern states of Virginia and Maryland.

    Three each died in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and two in Tennessee.

    From US record heatwave leaves dozens dead – BBC.

  32. Dale says:

    Right now what needs to be done is to simplify the policy debates to two topics.
    1. A national moratorium on the building of new coal fired power plants.
    2. The Fee and Dividend policy on carbon proposed by the Citizens Climate Lobby.
    As long as power companies can build new coal fired power plants, the battle to reverse carbon dioxide emission will not be won. Regarding the second policy many families do not have the resources to invest in energy conservation. The dividend would provide both the incentive and means for families to invest in energy savings as well as provide incentives for corporations to invest in renewable energy technologies.

  33. Jan Freed says:

    “Are there any current proposals that tend in the direction of decoupling politics from commerce?”

    Something that comes close is the “carbon fee and dividend” – a fee on carbon would be collected at the source, returned to the taxpayer as lower taxes, and shift the market to lo C energy.

    Such is HR3242: Dirty energy would still oppose it, but perhaps people will get tired of what we have done to ourselves, and vote out the fossil tools in Congress.

  34. thanks for the heads up on HR 3242…hmmmm….so there is actually a mechanism- a House Resolution- that proposes what seems to be the only viable ‘market mechanism’ toward a lw carbon/non carbon energy economy. So, in all seriousness, it seems like it would make sense, for instance, to change our most effective activist group- – to Short of a government takeover and imposition of a carbon fee/tax- THIS is what needs to happen. The FF companies will, of course, fight it with their last drops of remaining blood. Might as well start making the public aware of the number: “Support 3242!”

  35. Jack Roesler says:

    I agree. This morning on the 10 am ABC morning show, George Will stated that there is no problem. He said, “it’s summer. Get over it”. Well, there ‘ya go. The famous climate scientist, G. Will has spoken. Unfortunately, millions of Americans agree with his ridiculous assertion.

  36. Sascha Tavere, France says:

    Is that similar to Jim Hansen’s proposals or the system which seems to work really well in California?

  37. Sascha Tavere, France says:

    I’d readily join you if I could, Gail

    The people suffering most from weather extremes seem to be your farmers. It’d be nice to rope them in but I guess you won’t be able to as long as you’re called ‘Occupy’ and farmers are tied hand and foot to their banks and insurers.

  38. wili says:

    My brief list of “positive” = exacerbating feedbacks (all of which feed back on each other as well):


    charney = “fast” feedbacks:

    –albedo change with loss of land and sea ice and snow (stops when all snow and ice gone)
    –water vapor
    –more clouds (though some of these are negative–damping–feedbacks)

    non-charney “slow” feedbacks:
    carbon feedbacks
    –forests and grasslands dry up and burn/die>CO2
    –“ “ get bugs/diseases, die>termites>methane
    –soils, already weakened from above, wash away with increasingly extreme downpours, leaving no medium for plant that could absorb CO2 to grow
    –terrestrial soils dry up>CO2 methane
    –permafrost melts—release CO2&methane from new bacterial activity/ free methane from deeper reservoirs
    –melting Greenland icecap uncovers same
    –sea bed C sources: permafrost, clathrates, pools of free methane
    –newly open Arctic sea surface increased activity of methanogens
    –newly flooded areas from sea level rise become new swamps—more methane


    –end of change of state–when all ice gone in a region, no more heat sucked up by its melting

    –warmer ocean absorbs less CO2

    –warmer (and more acidic?) oceans kill phytoplankton that sequester CO2

    within glacier/snow/ice dynamics:
    –accelerating albedo shift with black carbon (soot) consentrating on surface as melt goes on

    –accelerating albedo shift with more trees growing in the tundra; now happening faster than once thought, since many ‘shrubs’ native to and widespread throughout the tundra grow into trees as conditions warm

    –uplift from isostatic rebound as Gr icesheet melts changes angle to greater slope down which ice slides faster

    –Loss of GIS accelerating as highest areas melt down to lower, warmer areas, not only increasing sea level (see above), but also hastening the time when there will be no more ice cap to absorb hundreds of quintillions of joules of energy as it melts (see above)

    –More wild fires also means more soot in the air which further changes albedo of ice and snow, leading further to the effects mentioned immediately above

    –as tundra and GIS melt, they also allow deeper pools of free methane to be released into the atmosphere

    Human responses:
    –geo—engineering attempts gone bad
    –meat based diets
    –more and more people moving (in ff vehicles) to avoid consequences of GW
    –aerosols masking full extent of heating
    –rush to ever dirtier sources–tar sands…

  39. wili says:

    Yes, it is the trillion tons of CO2. But this year’s climactic ungluing may also be related to last fall’s reports of methane bubbling from the Arctic Ocean, reports renews this spring.

    Between this, forest fires raging around the world, drought devastating much of North America and other areas around the globe…major feedbacks have been set in motion.

    Of course, this just means that we must stop UN-sequestering carbon NOW and start sequestering it, mostly by planting trees in low to mid latitudes and native grasses in higher ones.

    But instead we continue furiously to un-sequester and burn into the atmosphere ever higher massive quantities carbon while burning down forests.

    Time to stop supporting the death machine that is our industrial culture, start fighting it with whatever you’ve got, and start healing the earth.

  40. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Hang on in there BJ – a year is a long long time in politics. Even 40% of business leaders believe we will still have a carbon price in 2020. Aussies usually don’t vote for extremists or dogmatists and Abbott is now starting to do a great job of advertizing his real nature, ME

  41. Merrelyn Emery says:

    It’s a part of the answer, ME

  42. BJ says:

    I desperately hope that you’re right Merrelyn!

    As much as I hate stroking his ego, even if it is in a negative way, Abbott is potentially in a position of perhaps some of the greatest global influence by an individual in history. He’s already sunk the ETS agreed to by both major parties prior to Abbott knifing Turnbull in the back, and this delayed the initiation of Australian action by several years – ironically, Gillard knifed Rudd in the back in order to return a carbon price.

    If Abbott repeals the current carbon price he’ll undo several more years of starting-up, in addition to the several more years after that of further inaction. All-up Abbott could be responsible for delaying Australian action by a decade or more, and given our example of being the highest-in-the-world per captia in carbon use, and given our conspicuousness on the global stage, this length of inaction at such a critical fulcrum in time could very well be the single individual action that most influences the fate of the integrity of the biosphere, for millenia and æons to come. We might be a small country population-wise, but our example is one closing watched by the rest of the world.

    Abbott has the capacity to do more damage than most political despots in history, if he follows through on his promises, and the only thing that stands in his way is the understanding of the Australian voting public. I do hope that they wake up.

  43. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The abridged version-‘We’re stuffed, good and proper’.

  44. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    No-one ever suffered in Australian politics by under-estimating the public’s intelligence and knowledge nor by over-estimating their greed. Under Howard, Abbott’s exemplar, the habits of selfish greed and fear and hatred of others were inculcated into the rabble as a sort of antidote to their ever understanding the true causes of their shrinking life prospects. To expect sacrifice, co-operation and rational behaviour from a population indoctrinated into the habits of puerile self-obsession and unquenchable greed is a very long shot. Abbott suits this country, and I can think of no-one better suited to be at the wheel as we proceed merrily to Hell.

  45. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You think Silvio has gone? Wanna bet?

  46. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Gillard didn’t knife Rudd in the back. It was a real group effort, like the assassination of Caesar, although Rudd was no ‘Big Julie’. He had so alienated his colleagues with his egomania, capriciousness, expediency and control-freakery that he had to go. That the Great Australian Mediocrity still love him comes as no surprise at all.

  47. Jan Freed says:

    I purchased a PV system last year. It will save about $70 K over a guaranteed life of 25 years. This assumes the typical annual rate increase of about 7%.

    But, in a power outage it would be switched off, for safety.

  48. Jan Freed says:

    Yes, David, it is. Dr. Hansen supports this idea. Citizens Climate Lobby describes the carbon fee and dividend idea on its website

  49. Dave Bradley says:

    To knock of the 40% of US CO2 pollution (from electricity production, and things related to electricity) it will need a minimum of $2.5 trillion invested in wind turbines (mostly) and in some transmission and pumped hydro electricty storage. Of course, this will be amortised over at least 25 years, and it will probably take 10 to 20 years to implement. That is also $2.5 tillion worth of made in USA jobs ifitis done right, too.

    If more PV than essentially 0% is employed, that $2.5 trillion grows to something like $12.5 trillion or more (all PV basis) with lots more electricity stoage in the form of pumped hydro needed. And since the going trend is to have slaves make the PV panels, a lot of the economic benefits to this are disappearing fast…

    Anyway, until we start pricing renewables so that investors (private and governments) can get their money back, essentially zip is going to get done on the climate front with the electricity portion.

    As for oil, Peak Oil will deal with that is a really brutal manner via demand destruction from the doubling of prices every 5 years.

    So, that’s what has to be done. Any chance of doing it? What do we have to lose but some of of our unemployment, at least witmh the wind option, which will also produce reasonably proced electricity. Unlike PV, at least on an unsubsidized basis…..