NY Times Warns On Climate Change: ‘Fear Death By Water’, Rising Seas Likely To Swallow Up City If We Don’t Act Soon

The NY Times (finally) goes apocalyptic on climate change. Here’s the cover image of their big Sunday Review piece, “Is This The End?

The sub-hed of the print story is “Whether in 50 or 100 or 200 years, there is a good chance New York City will sink beneath the sea.” The story begins:

WE’D seen it before: the Piazza San Marco in Venice submerged by the acqua alta; New Orleans underwater in the aftermath of Katrina; the wreckage-strewn beaches of Indonesia left behind by the tsunami of 2004. We just hadn’t seen it here. (Last summer’s Hurricane Irene did a lot of damage on the East Coast, but New York City was spared the worst.) “Fear death by water,” T. S. Eliot intoned in “The Waste Land.” We do now.

There had been warnings. In 2009, the New York City Panel on Climate Change issued a prophetic report. “In the coming decades, our coastal city will most likely face more rapidly rising sea levels and warmer temperatures, as well as potentially more droughts and floods, which will all have impacts on New York City’s critical infrastructure,” said William Solecki, a geographer at Hunter College and a member of the panel. But what good are warnings? Intelligence agents received advance word that terrorists were hoping to hijack commercial jets. Who listened? (Not George W. Bush.) If we can’t imagine our own deaths, as Freud insisted, how can we be expected to imagine the death of a city?

Yes, there is a strain of fatalism in this piece. The media often treat global warming like a progressive illness whose ever-worsening symptoms have been ignored too long — which, of course, they share culpability for (see “Silence of the Lambs 2: Media Herd’s Coverage of Climate Change Drops Sharply — Again“).

A companion piece, “Rising Seas, Vanishing Coastlines,” does a better job of spelling out the choices:

There are two basic ways to protect ourselves from sea level rise: reduce it by cutting pollution, or prepare for it by defense and retreat. To do the job, we must do both. We have lost our chance for complete prevention; and preparation alone, without slowing emissions, would — sooner or later — turn our coastal cities into so many Atlantises.

Precisely. And the Times includes an excellent interactive graphic of the nation’s major cities with 5 feet, 12 feet and 25 feet of warming, “What Could Disappear.”

Still, the fatalism in the main piece is over the top:

When, on my way home at night, I climb the steps from the subway by the American Museum of Natural History — itself a monument to transience, with its dinosaurs and its mammoth and its skeleton of a dodo bird, that doomed species whose name has become an idiom for extinction — I feel more keenly than ever the miraculousness, the improbability of New York.

Looking down Central Park West, I’m thrilled by the necklace of green-and-red traffic lights extending toward Columbus Circle and the glittering tower of One57, that vertical paradise for billionaires. And as I walk past the splashing fountain in front of the museum’s south entrance on West 77th Street, I recall a sentence from Edward Gibbon’s ode to evanescence, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” in which “the learned Poggius” gazes down at the remains of the city from the Capitoline hill: “The public and private edifices, that were founded for eternity, lie prostrate, naked, and broken, like the limbs of a mighty giant; and the ruin is the more visible, from the stupendous relics that have survived the injuries of time and fortune.”

This is our fate. All the more reason to appreciate what we have while we have it.

All that is missing from this article is Charlton Heston slamming his fist on the ground and swearing:

Planet of the homo ‘sapiens’ sapiens?

63 Responses to NY Times Warns On Climate Change: ‘Fear Death By Water’, Rising Seas Likely To Swallow Up City If We Don’t Act Soon

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Using contiguous reef crests — the part of the reef closest to the surface of the water — as benchmarks, the researchers pinpointed a dramatic jump in sea levels that occurred 121,000 years ago. “We are looking at a three-metre rise in 50 years,” Banchon said. “This is the first evidence that we have for rapid change in sea level during that time.” Only collapsing ice sheets could account for such an abrupt increase, he added.

    The last interglacial period, when sea levels peaked six metres higher than current levels, was warmer than the world is today. But as manmade climate change kicks in, scientists worry that rising temperatures could create a similar environment, triggering a runaway disintegration of the continent-sized ice blocks that are already showing signs of distress

    Precautionary principle DEMANDS that we start cutting Co2 emissions immediately.

  2. Lore says:

    “Still, the fatalism in the main piece is over the top:”

    Over the top, maybe, or right on target for a world headed towards a possible +6C by the end of this century.

    It would seem we’ve run out of time statistically and realistically for the math to work in our favor.

  3. Jim Baird says:

    New York bills itself as the financial capital of the world. It would be in its interest to harness that capital in its own defense.

    Sea level rise can be addressed by converting heat to work, changing liquid volume to gas by electrolysis to produce the Hydrogen Economy and capturing melt water before it enters the ocean for irrigation.

    Or we can do nothing and let the un-inevitable swallow us whole.

  4. Ben Lieberman says:

    Other than the start, the literary piece is rather pathetic, presenting the humans who may want to live in or work in New York city as powerless observers of a past that has not happened yet. We’re almost like ‘barbarian farmers’ observing Roman ruins long after the fall of Rome.

  5. Ken Barrows says:

    The really dumb part of the article is when the author speculates that skyscrapers at NYC’s scale could pop up in Scarsdale. Me thinks the author is in thrall to the culture of perpetual growth.

  6. Steve Lounsbury says:

    Not to mention … incredibly toxic oceans due to the pollutants released. DEATH, DEATH and more DEATH

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Not over the top at all. The facts are plain, yet denial reigns. prokaryotes as ever has some pretty sobering truths from history which we close our eyes to at our peril. Hubris.

  8. Stephanie Liaci says:

    well fatalist or not it’s going to happen, right?

    we’re melting everything and we’re too stupid to stop, so there we are.

    what went under during sandy will stay under at some point in the very near future.

    unless the melt water shuts down the north atlantic current a la day after tomorrow, and we trend into a new ice age.

    either way, the future looks different than what we know now.

    so the fatalism is quite appropriate, imo

  9. fj says:

    Great graphic. Inspires the caption “Silence of the clams”.

    New York City Council Speaker Quinn and mayor hopeful proposes massive seagates doomed to fail while saying virtually nothing about massive mitigation initiatives with low eco-footprint agile resilient technologies and infrastructure to best weather approaching storms to build a better future in this most iconic town.

  10. Stephanie Liaci says:

    what we are is short-sighted, burdened by the foolish or frightened who like the comfort of denial. we can’t bring our collective power to bear on the forces who want to continue the very profitable status quo until enough people understand and can make their voices loud enough.if people really understood what we’re doing and what’s happening, and how little chance most species have for quick adaptation to new extreme climates, we’d be terrified. so we think of it as a “future problem” like dying. so obviously the folks don’t get it.

    as individuals there is very little we can do, that we actually WILL do. short of renouncing our lifestyle, powering off, moving to the country and growing our own food off the grid, making clothes by hand etc… and we won’t do that till we’re forced.

    the best course is to demand change from the lords of pollution, and demand mitigation plans from our govt. we will need many engineers on this, climatologists, and we will need money. and we have to get back to a more sensible lifestyle: less materialistic, less plastic crap, local food…

    right now i don’t see it happening, and i’m thinking this is going to be a worst-case scenario for our future. there is just too much interest vested in maintaining the lethal status quo. the worldwide pattern of extreme, violent, and frequent storms; the rising seas; the acidifying seas; the mass extinction of species failing to adapt to their changed ecosystems; and the historical chemical and weather records as found in ice cores all prove that we are running out of time.

  11. Stephanie Liaci says:

    there will come a point when sea gates are cheaper than the alternative, sacrificing all the threatened real estate (including Wall Street and the WTC site)

    they will have to think of a way to keep the sea out of the subway, or fill and abandon vulnerable tunnels. same goes for infrastructure like gas lines and underground electric instalations.

    but climate change is gearing up to devastate our economy: new jersey’s losses are at 30 billion now, not counting missed work and the hit to summer tourism that will be experienced. the shore is a huge part of our economy. imagine as these type of events wreak havoc on a region two, three, or four times a season!

    imo eventually the land will be abandoned to the sea. we will need to put our resources elsewhere as climate change takes a huge bite out of our food supply. especially if the govt doesn’t crawl out from the boulder of big business and stop co2 pollution. we won’t have the money to continue habitation in low lying coastal areas.

  12. prokaryotes says:

    Re Seagates, Seawalls etc, can give a false sense of security.

    Seawalls Offered Little Protection Against Tsunami’s Crushing Waves

  13. Devolving into fatalism is a mistake of epic proportions. We can still choose a different path, and while we are already committed to some climate changes, we can still avoid the worst of it if we act now. So by all means make the case that the crisis is now and urgent action is needed, just don’t succumb to fatalism–it benefits no one.

    And Bill McKibben has it right: start marching!

  14. Lore says:

    You should also be aware that like arrogant ignorance, blind optimism can be a dangerous form of denial. It’s not fatalism to look realistically at the numbers and arrive at the same conclusions a lot of the experts, and not so expert, are starting to realize as the likely outcome.

    Unfortunately at this point the worst we can expect, looks like the only choice we’re going to get. It’s pretty clear that there is no political will to move us towards a better position, at least for the next several years. Which translates to the unwillingness to sacrifice some of our current comforts for humanities long term sustainability.

    Maybe its time to look at how much life, optimistically, we can save given the situation.

  15. We have not yet run out of time if we act vigorously now.

    Practical roadmap to turn the tide on climate change by 2020

    Excess fatalism is little more than just yet-another stage of denialism – another misconceived refuge for the maintenance of climate business-as-usual.

    Love the NY Times climate flooding graphic. Only concern is that the times the state to reach each level of flooding are too conservative relative to latest research findings and current emissions trends. If we don’t change soon, it will probably happen much faster than the Times suggests.

  16. prokaryotes says:

    Sidenote: I think optimism and just world believe get confused sometimes in light of alarming findings.

    Interesting read @ visit wikipedia entry for world_hypothesis#Current_research

  17. peter whitehead says:

    UK going through major flood event right now – series of intense weather systems coming off the Atlantic has dumped huge rains especially on Cornwall and Devon, but in many other parts also. More coming tonight.

  18. Mike Roddy says:

    I don’t see how understanding the dangers means that we are fatalistic and therefore paralyzed. The future is not exactly binary. Whatever we can do to make it less horrifying will be well worth it.

    The danger of ignoring our predicament is far worse, and is the reason that the US is the laggard, effectively sabotaging global efforts to change.

    The NYT story was not a headline, but ran in their magazine, which usually runs highbrow cultural fluff or personality stories. Few people read it. Most Americans have no idea of what we are facing, thanks above all to media corruption and intransigence. This isn’t just true in Dallas and Tulsa, but is also the case in Phoenix and Miami, cities that will be uninhabitable by the end of this century.

    Some of us have always been crazy, but historically heroes have stepped up to save the day. It could happen this time, too, if we get started soon enough.

  19. Ozonator says:

    My Safari is at war with most of the internet for loading so I am missing most of TP’s graphics. I can only hope that Lady Liberty doesn’t have her womanliness enhanced for increased traffic. It would be like Marc ‘Mengele’ Morano’s pictorial $ gift from the GMO potato lobby in response to German aggression.

  20. Brooks Bridges says:

    Agreed. Bill has it right – almost:

    He says: “So we used this action to announce another one: next President’s Day, February 18, 2013, we’ll be back. This time, let’s make it 20,000. Will you join us next Februrary and help give Big Oil something to really be concerned about?”


    Wikipedia: “The Million Woman March was a protest march organized on October 25, 1997, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was founded and formulated by Phile Chionesu, a grassroots activist, human rights advocate, and Black Nationalist/Freedom Fighter.” Attendance:
    “Police sources gave numbers varying from 300,000 to 1 million”

    The Million Man March? Estimated to draw 500,000.

    Both marches were from a population representing 12% of the USA. Each march was unisex,so 6%. If you assume ages 20 to 50 predominating then it’s probably down to 3%. So they got 500,000 to attend out of a max possible country wide population of 9 million! That’s more than 1 in 20.

    As Bill McKibben says: Do the math. If only 20,000 show up Feb 18 and we assume the same 1 in 20 then only 400,000 people in the US is what I’d call really serious about climate change. That’s a bit over 1%

    Yes, it’s all loaded with assumptions, apples to oranges, etc.

    Regardless: Does the math not say “Shame on Us”?

    Don’t look to the big orgs: I see nothing about protest marches on Sierra Club, Earth Day, or Green Peace.

    So, I’d like to attend Bill’s march – along with another 480,000 or more.

    Something in Joe’s blog last Wed was a sort of last straw. I’ve got to do something.

    Since then I’ve been pacing, thinking, making notes. I’ve been building a sort of mission statement. Also considering ideas like immediately reaching out to women’s and civil right’s groups. Coordinating donnors(people who can’t attend) with marchers who otherwise couldn’t go.

    And of course looking to work with Bill McKibben.

    I’d appreciate a little feedback from people here as to whether they’d be interested in helping turn Bill’s Feb 18 event into something Obama, the press, etc., could no longer pretend wasn’t important.

    Right now, just some responses here for inspiration would be appreciated. Or, via email – bridges.brook and gmail.

    Regardless, I’ll have a web site up and running in a day or so and start soliciting inputs and help.

    It’s the old: If not me, who? If not now, when?

    I consider myself woefully inadequate for this task and my main goal is to shame an incredibly adequate person into taking over.

    Brooks Bridges

  21. Joan Savage says:

    Over a hundred years of severe weather, the food-growing and other production regions could shift their locations as remarkably as the coast line.

  22. Aaron Lewis says:

    The real problem with flood gates is that we do not have a good basis for engineering. The IPCC and the community climate models give us academic insights, but they provide no estimate of sea level rise from ice dynamics.

    Current forcing is greater than what drove 3 meters in 50 years, so our best guess of sea level rise under BAU is a few meters in a few decades. (Which would come down the road after decades of centimeters/ decade SLR.)

    If the gates are going to cost us billions of dollars, how long are we going to expect them to protect the city? How much sea level rise is expected in that period?

    Is it worth protecting NYC, if we do not also protect DC, Miami, NO, Houston, LA, & the SF Bay water infrastructure that supplies drinking water to 26 million people in Southern California?

    It is cheaper to put some real effort into keeping the sea level where it is.

  23. I follow your column regularly, but I have to say I cringed when you called the piece “Over the top”.

    How do you know?!

    So many of your articles on projected temperature rise/sea level rise, etc., have an asterisk at the end saying something like “We didn’t add the possibility of positive feedback loops to these projections”. Aren’t we kidding ourselves by not including positive feedback loops into the equation?

    I’m afraid you’re being “UNDER the top”, and by adding the “over the top” comment you almost sound like, forgive me for saying this, Andrew Revkin.

    That said. I’m so grateful for your blog!

  24. rollin says:

    Looking at the other side of the coin, maybe this fatalism is covering the fact that not many people really care if New York City exists or not. It’s just buildings, streets, bridges and other constructs. Maybe deep down people are not as materialistic or as attached to the current state of things as they are portrayed to be. This could be a good sign, one of acceptance and adaptability. Better to withdraw and adapt than to think of the calamity of total collapse which many people are contemplating.

  25. Merrelyn Emery says:

    If or when NYC goes under, it will reach various degrees of uninhabitability long before then. e.g. The corrosion by sea water and the tons of gunk washed through the tunnels plus the rising water table will make the subways a crumbling and risky proposition. Rather than flipping between one extreme and the other, the media SHOULD be educating for the understanding and patience required as attempts at prevention and alleviation of the misery proceed, ME

  26. Lore says:

    I agree, sometime early next decade New York City, like many low lying coastal metropolises, should roll out the plans for an orderly relocation of its remaining population. The worse thing to let happen is for events to take control of the situation.

  27. Joe Romm says:

    Clearly we are on a path for the very worst — but to suggest it is our fate, well, that is over the top.

  28. Joe Romm says:

    The NYT story ran the full page in their Review.

  29. Paul Klinkman says:

    The first study giving evidence that the ocean can rise 30 feet in 50 years or less was done in Mexico. A hotel cut a canal through layers of sediment out to the ocean, and scientists took samples at several places along the fresh cut into the earth. Samples in geologic time showed a relatively sudden sea rise.

    The danger of permanent sea rise is featured but that danger takes a while. The real danger is another Sandy some day, or perhaps 10 feet higher or 50 mph stronger winds.

    In the picture, some of the fish look to be about 30 feet long. Apparently a nuclear power plant was flooded out.

  30. Paul Klinkman says:

    All of this month, we’ve been in record low territory for Arctic Ocean ice cover. More open ocean means that it’s dumping more moisture into the air. Also, parts of the Atlantic from New England to Greenland are 3 degrees Celsius above normal. With all of this excess atmospheric moisture we should expect windier, rainier and slower-moving storms.

  31. Paul Klinkman says:

    This scenario assumes a caring and rational FEMA.

    The U.S. has a long history of coping with disasters of all kinds, from beef that makes you sick to workplace deaths. Government progress towards reducing the overall deaths of its citizens runs in extremely slow fits and starts, with reforms often taking decades to implement.

  32. Charles Almon says:

    Hi rise apartment buildings blocks away from the beach had to be evacuated because SALT WATER entered the basements and even lobbies knocking out electricity and plumbing. First sign of trouble: toilets wouldn’t flush.

  33. Charles Almon says:

    I forgot to add locations Coney Island and the Rockaways.
    One may not drown, but you’ll still be evacuated and homeless.

  34. syd bridges says:

    When I was a child in the 1950s I attended a school in Seaford, Sussex on the English Channel. They were very proud of their new, curved, concrete sea wall, which replaced the old one destroyed in the early fifties. Parts of it were still visible in the sand. A local man told us it was expected to last at least fifty years.

    Years later, in October 1987, a fast Jet from Hurricane David collided with a deep depression in the Bay of Biscay unleashing the worst storm over southern England in living memory. A couple of days later, I heard on the BBC that the new sea wall, built at the cost of 10 million pounds, that the Queen had opened offcially on the previous Monday had been destroyed by the storm. Three “50 year walls” gone n 30 years or so. They’ve rebuilt it I believe. And that was before climate change really got revved up.

  35. Greg L says:

    No, not Gibbon, again! When writers – Atlas, in this case – evoke him, and the received wisdom of his narrative hubris and collapse (most of us haven’t actually read Gibbon), it almost begs the culmination of the tale we imagine ourselves in. But the comparison of our civilization with a down-at-heels Rome is easy, lazy, ready-to-hand: we’re not in a state of classical decadence, we’re not those benighted, practically provincial (relative to us) Romans. We live in a world suffused with self-knowledge–not subjective knowledge, but instead the result of data analysis. We can indeed change, but only if, for one thing, we stop savoring the idea of our world’s decline (as if it’s a science-fiction movie, a cultural trope) and conceive of our future in real, constructive terms…

    But if that’s to be the case, we of course need a new politics unmoored from bottom-line capitalism…

  36. David Goldstein says:

    Brooks- thank you and yes- I have also felt called to the Washington action in February. I have, as well, sensed that this could possibly turn into a ‘watershed’ climate protest event and I, like you thought “20,000?- that seems way too unambitious.” I wanted to respond here so you would at least get one comment on this thread :) My name is David Goldstein, I live in Oregon and am from Philadelphia. I have been a climate activist for about 1.5 years. Let’s talk. My email is Cell (267) 210-9891

  37. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    All this ‘speculation’ about future inundation is, in my opinion, a form of denialism. For we know that the melt is on, with montane glaciers disappearing, Greenland melting at accelerating rate and nasty surprises from the Antarctic. The thermal inertia of the vast quantity of heat stored in the oceans guarantees centuries more melting. Albedo flip in the Arctic may be thrown in for sado-masochistic emphasis. And the progress in politics and economics so far is near nil. Technology may be the one bright spot. The coastal cities are doomed, and it is just a matter of when. Turning around the climate from here is like turning the Queen Mary, as they used to say.

  38. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Seawalls, against sea-level rise, mega-hurricanes and mega-tsunamis from submarines landslips caused by melting clathrates!!?? God’s bodkin! The Cnuts never learn!

  39. Moving to the country and growing our own food won’t work. There are too many of us. We’ve either got to solve this problem together or fail and be destroyed by it and, alas, by each other as we go down.

  40. BROOKS!



  41. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    All roads lead to resistance. Ruling regimes that do not even guarantee the right to life of their populations, and economic systems that are designed to sacrifice everything in pursuit of wealth concentration, are morally, spiritually and intellectually impermissible. This is a fight against a viler foe, and for an even greater good, than the war against Fascism. Of course, the Bosses know this, and that is why they erect an Iron Wall of intransigence that makes peaceful, plaintive, imploring resistance futile, and, for them, contemptible. As violence is their preference, therefore pointless, only mass refusal will work, Refusal to spend, refusal to pay tax going for immoral purposes, refusal to get off the road, railway etc. Which, of course, means going to gaol, being fined into penury, being blackballed in employment etc. But, in all truth, what other alternative is there? Obama, Cameron, Rudd etc have proved that those who talk the Green talk are invariably angling for votes, and the Right (in the Anglosphere at least) only grows more lunatic by the day. It

  42. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    And today the Australian ‘Financial Review’ the mouth-piece of the local business caste publishes a letter from William Kinninmonth proclaiming Arctic summer sea ice loss another warmist scare. Why its happened often before and temperatures haven’t risen for fifteen years blah, blah, blah…

  43. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I fully agree. It is, in my opinion, a form of soft denialism not to acknowledge the truth, that, if things do not change radically, in a manner unprecedented in human history, within a few years at very most, then humanity is finished. Certainly we could yet save ourselves, and we know how, but how do we sweep away the dead and insatiably greedy souls who are standing in the way?

  44. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Not only cheaper, but there are hundreds of billions to be made from renewable technologies.

  45. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    They care more for some citizens (the rich) than they do for others (the usual victims).

  46. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I know many had hoped that the sudden death of a big city would provide that Pearl Harbour or 9/11 moment that would shock the USA into action. But Sandy and the NYC experience illustrates that it is more likely to be a story in slow motion where recoveries are made and appearances maintained while the real costs accumulate below the surface (so to speak). The superstructure of our top down socio-technological society is now huge, but its fragility is patently obvious and I can only hope now that we can put away our multiple conceits, and ‘horror’ of biological facts, in the interests of survival, ME

  47. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Most people start out as children believing in justice, truth and the good. Unfortunately a little experience shows them that it ain’t necessarily so, and that the world is actually dominated by creatures in human guise who care more for money, power and dominating others. How they become thus is a mystery, whether of nature, nurture, peer pressure or some combination of them all, God alone knows. But one thing is certain. The unjust worlders are empowered and advantaged by the omnipotent capitalist socio-economic system which rewards greed, unscrupulousness, bullying, intimidation, egomania and, inevitably, violence.

  48. Mike Roddy says:

    I’m a NYT online subscriber, and this story does not appear in any of the headings. You have to go to the trouble of clicking Sunday Review option on the left column, one of a few dozen choices.

    The piece was for locals. National readers are part of the rabble, and can’t be trusted with valid scientific data.

  49. Mike Roddy says:

    Overly large and complex societies often suffer the same fate as big species such as sabertooth tigers and giant sloths- extinction. If you look in ancient ruins in the Americas, the most ingenious hydraulic systems are found in locations where the people disappeared. There are many examples.

  50. john c. wilson says:

    Sandy arrived fourteen months after Irene.

    When is the next storm coming? What track will the next storm follow? Will the next storm be as big as Sandy? Bigger?

    If you want to spend a single penny on rebuilding after Sandy you are betting that you know the answers to all those questions and you know the answers with some precision. And all your answers are rosy. That is a definition of denial.

    If we cut carbon emissions to zero instantly our weather will still worsen for decades. It will take decades to build any sort of sea defences around NYC. Writing off a few trillion in real estate is not palatable. It is however inevitable. Place your bets.

  51. Consider the Connection of this article to:
    Environmental Communications CTC1 [FACTS & ACTION]
    Katrina evacuee from New Orleans now living in Hattiesburg Mississippi
    Please read: INTRODUCTION

  52. John McCormick says:

    Lore, that is when America’s economy is wheeled into the intensive care ward and diagnosis is…………….

  53. Concerning the hopeless/helpless vs. can do issue, here’s a comment I posted on Dot Earth yesterday:

    It can still be avoided, but it will take radical action — specifically radical decarbonization.

    Cut energy use (55 mph federal speed limit, stop using clothes dryers, solar cookers, etc.); improve energy efficiency; convert to solar energy using concentrated solar power with molten-salt backup for 24/7 electricity delivery (worldwide from the deserts — google “Desertec”); and biosequester existing atmospheric CO2 and turn it into biochar and biofuels.

    I know, easier said than done. But, way easier than the alternative.

  54. Jacob says:

    One person’s fatalism/pessimism is the next person’s realism. The climate system has not yet reached equilibrium from emissions of decades ago and is now changing rapidly from such emissions (how long will it take to reach equilibrium from earlier emissions?). It will not reach equilibrium from emissions of today for a few more decades. As I understand it, in the distant past at current GHG levels, sea level was many meters higher than it is now. So doesn’t that mean that we are already locked in to a similar level of sea-level just based on current GHG levels. If so, we are already locked into the disappearance of the coastline as we’ve known it. Unless this information is false, it isn’t fatalism to conclude we can kiss New York and other cities good-bye, it is just realism. Since there isn’t any movement to reverse our emissions, the above becomes truer everyday, and the eventual climate equilibrium will turn out to be worse for us than we currently know it will be. I’m not saying humanity shouldn’t take action immediately, or yesterday, etc., because humanity should, but we also should recognize changes are locked in regardless of what we do. The maps will require redrawing in any case, whether any water remains to be locked up in remaining ice fields depends upon whether we take action now or not, and will determine how much we will have to continue to redraw the maps.

  55. Mark E says:

    Jim is selling his own patent rights in OTEC, but he is deceptively claiming OTEC would remove extra BTUs from the climate system. In reality, some would be rapidly transported from the ocean surface to the largely unknown ocean deep, and others would be borrowed from the ocean for awhile before ultimately finding their way back there again.

    It is a out-of-sight/out-of-mind plan to throw away extra BTUs in the ocean depths, which is precisely the same sort of thinking that gave rise to smokestack and tailpipe emissions at the dawn of the fossil-fuel era.

    I wish climateprogress would do a geoengineering post sometime, and I wish Jims covert self-enrichment advertisement for the tech he has patented would get filtered out…. because it is ecologically deceptive, IMO.

  56. Mark E says:

    doing something is great. Question, what will YOUR website do that no one elses is ALREADY doing? Will it help to make a redundant thing? Compare the time/energy/money doing your own site with return on that investment doing something else (training as speaker, doing direct actions, making education videos for other websites to post)

  57. Brooks Bridges says:

    I really appreciate the replies and encouragement.

    Mark E, an excellent question.

    After my initial post, my intent became much more focused:
    Request people to make a serious pledge that:
    1) they will either attend, or donate so someone can attend in their place.
    2) That they will persuade at least one other to do the same.
    3) To record these pledgers, particularly zip codes, and share them with so we can get the car pool idea implemented.

    The purpose of the web site will be to provide support for people reluctant to approach people to ask them to pledge. Support including plain old salesmen fundamentals like actually asking them to buy your product. Also 7 Habits: First seek to understand, then be understood. I’d also like to create a brief presentation, in both paper and for a laptop – help needed here.

    In other words, Mormon/Jehova’s Witness style door knocking – which I hate – but as I’ve absorbed the urgency of this situation I’m seeing from the perspective of banging on someone’s door to ask for help when your child needs emergency help. I want to help others internalize this sense of urgency – help needed here too.

    Then, as soon as I’ve gotten an initial list to show credibility I’ll approach Bill McKibben to get buy in.

    Finally, I want to reach out to all constituencies, not just the usual suspects; women’s groups, civil rights, religious. Women in particular – they, as usual, will be getting the brunt of the coming disasters.

    Thank you Joe Romm for allowing this. I’d like to make one final post when the web site is up.

    I’m checking my domain with a number of people for comments. I’ve built a WordPress site for my wife so expect to have something up in a day or so.

  58. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yep, the planet always wins, ME

  59. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Writing as one who has actually read Gibbon, I find the parallels as more than a coincidence and slinging off at people who fear for our future as you appear to be doing does you no credit. If our self-knowledge was that good, surely we would have stopped destroying the planet that we depend on a long time ago, ME

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  61. Is it over the top to suggest it’s our fate? Many of the most celebrated climate activists I know have already given up, they’re trying to save the world “for the billion that survive, not the 7 billion who are here today”. I know that scientists, cautious by professional principles, don’t include feedback loops into their projections, but considering the wild climate swings we’ve had in geologic history (that must have been the result of natural feedback loops), it’s naive to look at temperature projections based just upon emissions and project that as our future. The feedback loops are far and away the scariest thing about climate change! We just may be looking at a catastrophe that decimates global human populations and creates a 75% extinction event. If that doesn’t qualify as “our fate”, I don’t know what does. No one knows how this will unfold, so yes, it might be “over the top”, but one can’t say that with any certainty.

  62. Kent Doering says:

    As an ex-pat in Germany, I get frustrated at the U.S. discussion about climate change- Europe is going beyond that and had been doing so for a long time. The next set of questions should be – “what technologies and techniques do we have, and which we can implement to cut fossil fuel consumption as fast as possible.
    Since the year of reunification, Germany has managed to cut fossil fuel consumption and emissions by a full 50%. That´s a 2.5% annual reduction rate.

    Germany is exiting nuclear by the end of 2022. And many German city utilities here intend to have their power generation – completely shifted away from fossil fuel to renewable by the end of 2025. Munich has announced it will the first city of over a million inhabitants to have 100% sustainable energy generation by the end of 2025 with a broad range of synergetic “renewable measures”.
    (Actually, “Red-Green” Munich swapped its participation in nuclear for hydro-electric back in 92 at a substantial “loss” at the time. That turns out to be a major asset now as it generates about 40% of the city´s power needs. As most of the gnerators in that hydro-electrtic “fleet” are older generators of d, e, and c rated efficiencies, simple repowering with A +++ rated generators will double its hydroelectric output. Then there are the mandated feed in tariff purchases of solar, its own solar, long distance participation in Iberian Andasol, and participation in Baltic and North Sea coastline and offshore wind.
    Several new 100 MW deep, dry hot rock power plants feeding the long distance heat hot water lines are going up. Sewage sludge methane recapture, firing two large furnaces-incinerating Munich garbage eliminate greenhouse gas methane emissions and generate 400 mw of power. while also feeding the extensively built out and intensively connected long distance heat hot water system.
    Agrarian manure methane recapture will be built out to counter global warming. When built out with storage tanks so it will be used as back up baseline power SMART GRID coordinated- that alone will provide up to 40 GW of back up baseline power to the rapid build out of solar voltaic and wind.
    Thanks to the FIT- feed in tariff program, Germany has 29 GW of solar capacity installed- with the last five GW installed this year. New breakthoughs in heat recapture lower the costs of materials in solar panels which further slash costs- and efficiencies will be cost effecively boosted from 15% to 30% or even 43.9% efficiency (the maximum possible.) – so that means an additional 10 GW of solar power going on the German grid between 2014- and the end of 2025- i.e. an additional 120 GW in addition to the 35 GW that will be installed by the end of 2013. (150 GW of solar voltaic in the daytime summer mean whatever remaining fossil can be ramped down to minimum heat “wait states”- only going on line at night.)

    In building combined heat power systems are mandated in all new buildings, in addition to shallow geothermic and rooftop solar heat.

    dual pane one inch wide vacuum windows are örrety much starndard,with south facing larger window s for pasive solar heat, and oll down shutters at night for pasive heat ention.

    The Thermodul system is the best insulation system out to met new requirments. it is a .lost mould poured concrete mould system used instead of wood whih cuts costs by shortening construciton times- and slashes heat and air conditioning energy needs by 90%.