McKibben Must-Read: ‘Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math’

“Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe — and that make clear who the real enemy is”

CO2 emissions by fossil fuels [1 ppm CO2 ~ 2.12 GtC, where ppm is parts per million of CO2 in air and GtC isgigatons of carbon] via Hansen. Significantly exceeding 450 ppm risks several severe and irreversible warming impacts. [Estimated reserves and potentially recoverable resources are from U.S. EIA (2011) and German Advisory Council on Global Change (2011). We are headed toward 800 to 1,000+ ppm, which represents the near-certain destruction of modern civilization as we know it — as the recent scientific literature makes chillingly clear.]

Climate hawk Bill McKibben has a terrific new piece in Rolling Stone, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.”

It is getting monster social media numbers of the kind usually reserved for pieces on HuffPost about Kim Kardashian in a bikini: 66k FaceBook likes and an astounding 6300 retweets. That means millions of people have likely been exposed to at least the headline and probably some of the opening text:

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice….

The three key numbers are:

  • The First Number: 2° Celsius [3.6° Fahrenheit]: The temperature rise we need to work as hard as possible to limit total warming to if we want to have our best chance of averting multiple catastrophes and amplifying carbon cycle feedbacks
  • The Second Number: 565 Gigatons: “Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon … into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. (‘Reasonable,’ in this case, means four chances in five, or somewhat worse odds than playing Russian roulette with a six-shooter.)”
  • The Third Number: 2,795 Gigatons: “This number is the scariest of all – one that, for the first time, meshes the political and scientific dimensions of our dilemma…. The number describes the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies. In short, it’s the fossil fuel we’re currently planning to burn.

The figure above from James Hansen yields a moderately lower number, but the point is if we don’t we don’t leave most of the proven reserves in the ground — and all of the “potentially recoverable resource” — we are boiled brainless frogs.

McKibben writes too thoughtfully to summarize — and too eloquently to paraphrase. You should read the whole thing, which ends:

The three numbers I’ve described are daunting – they may define an essentially impossible future. But at least they provide intellectual clarity about the greatest challenge humans have ever faced. We know how much we can burn, and we know who’s planning to burn more. Climate change operates on a geological scale and time frame, but it’s not an impersonal force of nature; the more carefully you do the math, the more thoroughly you realize that this is, at bottom, a moral issue; we have met the enemy and they is Shell.

Meanwhile the tide of numbers continues. The week after the Rio conference limped to its conclusion, Arctic sea ice hit the lowest level ever recorded for that date. Last month, on a single weekend, Tropical Storm Debby dumped more than 20 inches of rain on Florida – the earliest the season’s fourth-named cyclone has ever arrived. At the same time, the largest fire in New Mexico history burned on, and the most destructive fire in Colorado’s annals claimed 346 homes in Colorado Springs – breaking a record set the week before in Fort Collins. This month, scientists issued a new study concluding that global warming has dramatically increased the likelihood of severe heat and drought – days after a heat wave across the Plains and Midwest broke records that had stood since the Dust Bowl, threatening this year’s harvest.

You want a big number? In the course of this month, a quadrillion kernels of corn need to pollinate across the grain belt, something they can’t do if temperatures remain off the charts. Just like us, our crops are adapted to the Holocene, the 11,000-year period of climatic stability we’re now leaving… in the dust.

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42 Responses to McKibben Must-Read: ‘Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math’

  1. Solar Jim says:

    The online version has Bill dividing weight of carbon reserves by asserted allotment of carbon dioxide. This may be an error of factor 3.666.

  2. Reuben Deumling says:

    It is great to see McKibben acknowledge what is so obvious once you think about it: we need to leave the fossil fuels in the ground, probably very nearly all of those not already burned. It is hard to understand why it took us twenty five years to realize this. Or perhaps it was just easier to focus on squishier frameworks like energy efficiency that leave out hard targets, absolute numbers.

    But now the fun starts. How to operationalize the need to leave it all in the ground? What are the next steps?

    How about figuring out how to eschew fossil fuels? Reduce our consumption of them by 90% in the short run and 100% soon? This sounded crazy only recently, but now it’s, well, almost common sense. Compared to what climate change would likely bequeath us I think we’ll soon learn how much easier it is to get by without coal, oil and natural gas.

  3. Evan says:

    “McKibben writes too thoughtfully to summarize — and too eloquently to paraphrase”

    I can summarize:


  4. joyce says:

    This is the best piece Mckibben has ever written. He beautifully wove a compelling story, a perfect piece to distribute. He is knowledgeable without being a know it all. Thanks for finally posting. I hope it will generate both ideas and concrete actions.

  5. Let him know. The numbers are scary enough, but it’s important to be as accurate as we can when we present these arguments.

  6. I agree with Joyce (#3). McKibben’s essay was a masterpiece of analytical clarity. It can serve the environmental movement the way that Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” essay served the Patriots who were trying to rationalize and foment the American Revolution.

    One thing I got out of it Bill’s piece is an understanding of in-the-ground fuel as a company’s primary assets. (Duh!) Not being much of a business type, I would have described Exxon or Shell’s assets as their drilling rigs and refineries, computers and office buildings — maybe the oil they have in the pipelines.

    But of course all that’s nothing. Their real assets, and the real value of their companies, lies beneath the surface in the form of the fossil fuel reserves they own. No wonder they’re always doing more drilling and poking about. It’s not that they are low on oil, gas or coal at the moment, but that they need to constantly expand their asset base to keep their stock value up. It’s as much about futures and markets as it is about actually running cars and power plants — the physical machinery of civilization.

    So fossil fuel companies will be insatiable in their search for more assets, even if we’re burning less fuel, even if we can’t afford to burn any more fossil fuel. For them, it’s grow or die.

    But of course they must eventually liquidate those assets to realize their value and pay their stock dividends. So for the rest of us, it’s die if they keep growing.

  7. Jeff Huggins says:

    One Option to Necessarily Put on the Table

    I read Bill’s piece a day or so ago, and I applaud it. Bravo!

    Briefly, one option that ought to be put “on the table” for serious consideration is the nationalization of the U.S.-headquartered oil companies.

    I’ve written about this in a recent email and attachment sent to a few folks, so I won’t go into the reasons or details here, other than to say there are several very good reasons why that option should be put on the table for serious consideration, alongside the several other options that could accomplish the task — the task being the necessary reduction in our actual usage of fossil fuels, in concert with what science suggests would be safe.

    Also, given the nature, immensity, and urgency of the problem — Bill put it quite well in his piece — there is no reason that we should not be demanding that both President/candidate Obama and candidate Romney spell out, clearly, their views on climate change and what they propose and promise to do about it, if elected.

    At this late date, it strikes me as unfortunate, bizarre, and unacceptable that none of us can tell each other — with any credibility anyhow — where Obama genuinely stands on climate change and what, specifically, he proposes to do about it if reelected. I can’t tell you. Joe can’t tell us. Bill can’t tell us. The Sierra Club can’t tell us. Nobody here can say — on a factual basis, with credibility, in a way that we can trust — where Obama presently stands and what, specifically, he proposes to do about climate change if reelected!

    Do we not find that bizarre and unacceptable? This, after he made promises last time around and has been in office now for well over three years.

    So who is going to demand answers from President/candidate Obama, when, and how? Bill and Joe: you two will undoubtedly be on TV in the coming weeks; will you make a civil but crystal-clear (and firm) public demand that President Obama tell us his proposed program to address climate change, so we can have that information (as we should!) as we consider whether to vote for him again? You two will have TV platforms: will you make that request/demand, or not? The situation is serious, as Bill’s article points out.



  8. Bill McKibben gets it mostly right, but wrong on a crucial point.

    The value of those fossil fuel deposits will go up with less production, not down. Therefore, the fossil fuel companies should be natural allies of the climate movement, not enemies.

    That’s just basic market theory. If the fossil fuel companies sell less of their product, the price (and their profits as well as the value of their deposits) will go up.

    McKibben would only be right if we went from zero regulation to zero production, and even then it overlooks the 14 percent (in the US) of oil used for non-fuel purposes, which mean that the value of the deposits can never go to zero, as McKibben asserts in his simplistic analysis.

  9. Wonderful that Bill is taking the essential concept of a fixed carbon emissions budget, and hope much smaller that is than the fossil fuel reserves, to a broad audience.

    Given the numbers, how can one really justify any further expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure? How can one justify any further gas and oil exploration? Further leasing of fossil fuel extraction rights on U.S. public lands?

    Any new net lane miles of highway in the U.S.?

    5% per year reduction in combined footprint, for the rest of our lives. Anything much less is mutually assured destruction by climate change.

  10. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Nationalizing the fossil fuel companies is one option for all countries, not just the USA. However, in a country where even looking after the health of its people is disputed, how much chance would you give it?

    In the short term, perhaps the best we can hope for is an extremely severe crash in the global economy, something much much worse than the GFC. It is inevitable anyway as the planet slowly crashes so perhaps we should stop trying to prop it up.

    The ecological disasters will continue to intensify and with some of the big engines of economic growth out of action, we will have little choice but to start substituting alternative social and economic systems for those that got us into this pickle, ME

  11. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yep, that’s the theory. But it has never actually been applied- look at the subsidies, tax breaks, etc etc. Those squillions of advertizing dollars aren’t spent for nothing – methinks they know time is rapidly running out for their little adventure so its maintain the productive facade while feathering the bunks in the bunker ready for the final retreat, ME

  12. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It has been apparent for years that we had to totally decarbonise as fast as possible. In recent years it has further become plain that we must reduce the CO2 already present in the atmosphere and head back to 350 ppm or less. Unfortunately this leads to radical cognitive dissonance because the only way to avoid auto-genocide involves the greatest human collaboration and co-operation in history, the end of petty nationalistic self-interest (ie the end of the US global imperium), the end of the capitalist system that ensures the continuing suicidal burning of carbon (because capitalism is based on the tens of trillions in fossil fuel assets)and the end of the concentration of the planet’s wealth in the hands of the 1%. Only by radically distributing the planet’s wealth will we achieve the necessary balance required to survive a long period of subsistence existence as we reduce energy use, without billions dying of want or in wars of survival.
    Of course when you look at the prospects coolly and dispassionately you see a recipe for violent repression by the elites and global civil war between the haves and have mores and the have nots. So most people in the rich world, living under the additional burden of years of Rightwing brainwashing to reject sharing with Others, simply refuse to even contemplate reality. They pretend technology will save us, or some political Messiah (lawks a’mercy!)or..something will ‘turn up’. Just our collective toes, I fear.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Phillip. that’s the very nub of our predicament. Without those thirty trillion or so of fossil fuel assets, factored into share prices, bonds, future business plans etc, capitalism collapses. Say that thirty trillion suddenly disappears, turned from money back into rocks and sludge, and the unraveling of stock prices will be catastrophic, as will be the knock-on effects, even more so today when global debt is so huge, and totters on a relatively tiny base of ‘real assets’ of which fossil fuels are the greatest sum. Unless and until we accept the truth that saving ourselves requires doing away with capitalism, plutocracy and sham democracy, we will get nowhere.

  14. A question and 2 comments;

    1) Is Solar Jim indicating in comment #1 that Bill McKibben’s calculation should be approx 2,795/565 times 3.666 yielding a multiplier of 18 and not 5 ?

    2) Ending slavary in the US faced a similar problem to the issue discussed above. Individual slaves were a significant financial asset that the holders of same could not allow to be devalued without great personal loss.

    3)to MM; I don’t think the end of capitalism is necessary to resolve this matter. Adding this to the mix makes this problem (AGW) more unsolvable.

  15. Mike Roddy says:

    If consumption (and demand for) fossil fuels goes down, their value also decreases. That’s why they are working so hard to keep us addicted, along with the banks and the media that are on the gravy train.

  16. Paul Magnus says:

    The only hope really is to nationalize the ff industry and then use their emense resources to provide green energy and to comeup with solutions to reducing ghg concentrations.

    I think we should realize we r at a stage were ghg rationing is nececeary. Each person, family organistion should have a quota.

    The fact that we, us here included, accept that soft approaches will be enough is unfortunate.

  17. Joan Savage says:

    To combust less than 1/18th of the proven carbon reserves over four decades is a more clear and stringent requirement.

  18. Demand for fossil fuel is rather inelastic (the term economists use to say that it won’t go down much with prices going up). That means that even a modest reduction in production (maybe one third) would lead to massive price increases.

    It is of course correct that reducing demand will, all things equal, reduce prices. But reducing supply (which I was talking about) will have the opposite effect. It certainly won’t have the effect to reduce the value of the reserves to zero. That would only happen if supply was reduced to zero by anti-global warming policy, which won’t happen anytime soon, and on top of that all non-fuel use would disappear.

  19. david g swanger says:

    Thanks for getting the comments back up.

    Does anyone else have a problem with Rolling Stone’s site? It cuts off the left side of the article on my computer, leaving only 3/4 of the article. If someone could tell me what’s happening and how to fix it, I’d be deeply appreciative.

  20. LGCarey says:

    A key point not mentioned is McKibben’s “fourth number” – in dollars. “John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today’s market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you’d be writing off $20 trillion in assets.”

    Any wonder that Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry have bought (or rented) just about every politician in sight?

  21. Sailesh Rao says:

    Bill McKibben is focusing on winning the battle of Stalingrad in the War on Nature. But the War on Nature is itself an absurd undertaking.

    It’s time to orchestrate the Normandy landings and free the concentration camp victims in the factory farms instead.

  22. Mike 22 says:

    I say we should just make them a decent offer for the fossil fuel assets and get on with things.

    Its expensive, and its on top of the other investments that need to be made, but I don’t see any other solutions that are fast enough and sweeping enough.

    These fossil fuels are just too valuable for the owners to walk away from. They’ve proven so far that they can make most of the media and most of the politicians act like climate change idiots, and most of the country has followed in that stupidity.

    Even if it doesn’t end up being the solution, it gets the dialogue out into the real world.

  23. Jeff Huggins says:

    Any Comments on This Policy Undertaken By The President Who Told Us He’d Address Climate Change?

    From a recent article on ‘The Hill’:

    “The administration’s recently announced five-year strategy for offshore oil and gas leasing makes areas containing more than 75 percent of estimated, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in our oceans available for exploration and development — including all of the highest resource areas on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS),” the White House said Monday.

    Where is our leadership, in the movement itself?? Why isn’t it posing direct questions to the President and demanding clear answers?


  24. America is especially vulnerable to a reduction in FF supplies because we’re so spread out — far too much suburban development, too many single-family dwellings, too many cars and so on. We need to rebuild our inner cities and turn the suburbs into ecocities connected by mass transit.

    Unfortunately, neither the leadership nor the finances exists for such a publicly-spirited endeavor. Which means that things will continue more or less on their present course until AGW gets far worse. At that point, there might not be sufficient resources remaining in the global economy to address the situation.

    Batten down the hatches!

  25. Sailesh Rao says:

    Mark Hertsgaard reports that when asked what Shell and the Obama administration will do with any oil spills in the Arctic leases that Shell plans to start drilling this month, Ken Salazar, the Energy Secretary, said that “there will be no oil spills in the Arctic.”

  26. M Tucker says:

    I am not convinced that we “…can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon … into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees.” for two reasons. First, the research that is being done on the Pliocene warm period by the USGS (PRISM project) suggests that we are already at the atmospheric concentration of CO2 that will bring 2 to 3 degrees of warming. Second, the Antarctic drilling project (ANDRILL) seems to back that up. I am more influenced by actual research than by models and we all know the models underestimate the danger. Actually I don’t think Bill believes that either. I’m pretty sure he does not play roulette with loaded guns.

    One comment that I have seen repeated quit a bit is the “we had better get the atmospheric CO2 level back to 350ppm or less” admonishment, as if it were similar to losing weight. Just cut down a bit, get to that optimum weight, then try to maintain that weight. But it doesn’t work that way. As long as we pump CO2 into the atmosphere the concentration will only go up. If we cut emissions by 80% it will still go up. WE MUST END emissions in order for the atmospheric concentration to go down. All this 350 stuff is a nice slogan, it is probably the correct amount to avoid Antarctic ice sheet disintegration, but it is not something we can actually control. We either end fossil fuel use and eventually, over a very long period of time (human time scale), come back to preindustrial levels or watch the concentrations go up. You cannot maintain 350 ppm and continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere.

  27. DRT says:

    Your comment makes my question moot, but I’ll ask anyway. How much of the 565 ‘available’ gigatons of carbon will it take to power the transition to not pumping CO2 into the atmosphere?

  28. M Tucker says:

    Oh, I have no illusions that we can get out of this mess without continuing to use fossil fuels. But we are not doing that. We are not even trying to get out of this mess. And the so called WWII effort would of course result in the same thing: a continued use of fossil fuel until the transition is accomplished. So actually we are going to suffer much more than we already have because we will continue to dick around with less than half-hearted efforts while the BRIC nations continue to expand ff consumption. My actual feeling is we are so far from any optimistic future it seems futile to even try…but that is unacceptable to me so I am at war with my feelings. Sort of like fighting to save the Titanic by repairing the damage even as all the crew drowns in the effort, the ship sinks anyway, and the survivors attempt to find their way to some kind of safety.

  29. Peter Murtha says:

    Not to worry — Bill’s analysis is correct. He was comparing “apples to apples” — the additional CO2 that could be put in the atmosphere and still stay within a 2 degree temperature rise with the CO2 equivalent (i.e., not carbon) of the proven reserves. (Yes, the sentence in the article concerning the carbon in the proven reserves was unclearly written and begged the question that Solar Jim asked. But the underlying facts were readily available on the interweb.

  30. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Hole in one Sailesh – but it is much worse than absurd, ME

  31. The 2,795 Gigatons – How many years would it take to consume this reserve in a business as usual scenario?

  32. Solar Jim says:

    Yes, I am suggesting that the numbers used in the online version are inconsistent and actually indicate we are at the end of the road, end of our rope, have basically zero allotment for staying under two degrees. Furthermore, based on Hansen et al. work this temperature will not be stable and will be globally disastrous. Look what the reported 0.8 C is beginning to do, and the planet’s response seems to be delayed from time of emissions and exponential, not linear.

    565 billion tons of carbon dioxide contain 154 “gigatons” of fossil carbon. Oxygen from air adds the rest (it’s atmospheric concentration is decreasing).

  33. Solar Jim says:

    RE: “I am not convinced that we “…can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon … into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees.”

    Any such assertion is that from a madman. 565 billion tons of oxidized carbon exceeds two trillion tons of carbonic acid gas (CO2).

  34. CW says:

    I gotta say I did not find this article “terrific”.

    No, I found it generally very demotivating.

    Wonder how many have reacted to this piece as I have.

  35. Solar Jim says:

    David, I am afraid that from here on out there will be no such thing as a business as usual scenario. It used to be exponential, so your question is unconstrained, if not nonsense.

    Now instead we can begin to witness the four horsemen of contamination galloping ever faster on the four fuels-of war (three of fossil plus “enriched” uranium).

  36. Steve says:

    The Facebook likes and the re-tweets are important here.

    A few weeks ago, there was an important article here that did nothing more than summarize what people were personally experiencing in terms of unnerving climate change impacts, albeit in different locales and in different ways. Most of it related to the Midwest and Atlantic Coast heat waves at the time.

    And, as several commentators here have been saying for some time — as I have fully agreed — real action on reducing emissions is unlikely to occur until actual climate/weather impacts prompt people to connect dots and get nervous about what is happening.

    I think the observations and the dot-connecting need, at a minimum, to “go viral” in the social media, and as I have said before, anyone who knows how to take “it’s happening now” stories (unsaddled with politics) into the Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr realm ought to try to be doing so. It was very effective in the OWS movement… especially with respect to incidents of police misconduct… even though it eventually faded out.

    The next critical step involves going from creating viral awareness of the climate change problem to prompting actual action (not just talk, blame, and hand-wringing).

    So… while the government in DC fiddles around counting campaign dollars it plans to piss away on idiotic television ads, all of those organizations in this battle ought to use their funds to 1) create a highway billboard and/or television advertising campaign calling for personal action on reducing personal and business GHG emissions in each and every manner available; and 2) providing website links (without any blogging option) that provide information on the gravity/urgency of the problem while spelling out concrete things — large and small — that people can and should be doing.

    In California, during water shortages caused by unusual droughts, state and local officials have run similar billboard and television educational campaigns with links to websites with detailed tips and suggestions on “water-wise” actions. Electrical utilities in California already have websites and advisors with abundant information on energy efficiency and conservation.

    The weather (and, soon, the food prices) are prompting interest and curiosity, even worry and fear, on a greater and greater grassroots level. Viral stories or video clips can raise the awareness even further. And informative websites can starting showing the way for collective meaningful action… then maybe Congress and the White House will wake up and start saying, “wait, wait, me too!”

  37. A.J. says:

    Too bad it’s attracting lots of denial and bile over at RS, with relatively little defense of McKibben last I checked.

  38. David Lewis says:

    McKibben writes as if a policy, i.e. the fee and dividend carbon tax, where “most people would actually come out ahead” would be enough to “make a real difference – to keep us under a temperature increase of two degrees”.

    I wonder who actually believes this. Who still thinks it is possible to dismantle the fossil infrastructure quickly enough to prevent warming greater than 2 C, never mind doing so in a way where most people come out ahead economically?

    According to the Tyndall Center’s Kevin Anderson, for various reasons, scientists who know better aren’t speaking out.

    “I think the climate scientific community has hugely underplayed the size of the problem, knowingly, because its very hard to come up and say what you really think, because people don’t want to hear the message”

    According to Anderson, “all” studies that declare that a limit of 2 C is feasible and achievable at moderate cost are based on inaccurate or impossible assumptions, fudged data, and especially on ignoring what’s happening in China and India.

    “That ship has sailed” is one way Anderson talks about any hope anyone might have of staying under the 2 degrees C limit. He says we’ll be lucky if we are able to stay below 4 degrees:

    “There is a widespread view that a 4 degree C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond adaptation, is devastating to the majority of eco-systems and has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4 degrees C would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher temperature)”.

    “…this is not a message of futility, but a wake-up call of where our rose-tinted spectacles have brought us. Real hope, if it is to arise at all, will do so from a bare assessment of the scale of the challenge we now face”

    I think McKibben’s analysis would benefit if he seriously thought about whether Anderson is right.

    An Anderson lecture where he explains his views is here.

  39. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    By comparison with Anderson’s brilliant expositions, Bill McKibben’s article seems distinctly odd to me. While providing only a small fraction of the critique the 2.0C goal warrants, and undoubtedly knowing the critiques very well, he then urges us to strive to achieve it.

    The fact that we have close to 1.6C realized or already in the pipleline, and that the 565GtC budget proposal would, if achieved, add close to another 0.6C, implies that at best we’re committed to around 2.2C.

    But it gets worse. First, as Bill knows full well, Hansen reported that cutting the worst of our fossil fuel usage will end our maintenance of the cooling Sulphate Parasol, and unveil an additional 80% to 140% of warming. (As JR posted here on CP). Multiply Hansen’s median finding of 110% by 2.2C and you get 4.66C of warming – as the result of fully successful efforts at global emissions control.

    Second, there are the feedbacks. Bill mentions three as symptoms of warming – raised airborne water vapour, forest combustion and cryosphere decline, but doesn’t describe them as interactive mega-feedbacks with the potential to dwarf our emissions, and doesn’t allude to the fact that these three, like four others, are already accelerating and contributing significantly to additional future warming over and above 4.66C.

    Instead he urges people to pour their hearts into a disinvestment campaign, quoting S Africa,
    – despite the scale of wealth of the global FF industry being at least several hundred times greater than the apartheid govt controlled,
    – and despite cutting emissions ASAP being demonstrably insufficient to avoid catastrophic warming,
    – and despite the plain fact that it is politicians, not industry tycoons, who are lamentably failing to lead on the climate issue. And that means Obama, front and center.

    At a guess, Bill’s maybe trying to take some popular heat off Obama’s dismal climate record (being appalled by the GOP candidate) and, maybe, while he’s well aware that both forms of geo-engineering – Carbon Recovery and Albedo Restoration – are now plainly essential to resolving the climate predicament, he simply has yet to see the merits and strength of an honest campaign that promotes their responsible usage in a troika with rapid emissions reduction. Maybe.

    Since people are mostly not idiots, being told a sanitised version of the problem – when better information is all around, and being urged to a no-hoper campaign objective, is liable to have a pretty demoralizing effect on quite a number of well-informed people. Which is a real pity.

    I’m all for getting more vocal than it has been to date – changing its title to would be a great start – but sadly this article doesn’t do much to advance that change.



  40. Bill Goedecke says:

    If we no longer have growth in the world economic system we will begin to see a reduction in carbon emissions. To point out that we need to reduce carbon emissions yet not talk about the economic system and its inherent requirement for growth is an exercise in futility.

  41. Martin Vermeer says:

    Actually the 886 Gt number (of which 565 remains by 2011) seems to come from Meinshausen et al (2009):

    See Table 1, first row

  42. Davd145 says:

    I have the same problem with Rolling Stone’s site: on the left side it cuts off characters, maybe 10-20% of the column.

    I’m using Firefox (updated), and this does not happen on any other website I have encountered.