Scientific American: ‘Loss of Ice, Melting Of Permafrost And Other Climate Effects Are Occurring At An Alarming Pace’

Another day, another (accurate) apocalyptic review of climate science. Joining recent articles in the New York Times and New Scientist is a terrific piece in Scientific American by science writer John Carey.

Carey has collected an assortment of epic quotes and nightmare scenarios from leading climatologists. As he explains (behind a paywall):

The latest data from across the globe show that the planet is changing faster than expected. More sea ice around the Arctic Ocean is disappearing than had been forecast. Regions of permafrost across Alaska and Siberia are spewing out more methane, the potent greenhouse gas, than models had predicted. Ice shelves in West Antarctica are breaking up more quickly than once thought possible, and the glaciers they held back on adjacent land are sliding faster into the sea. Extreme weather events, such as floods and the heat wave that gripped much of the U.S. in the summer of 2012 are on the rise, too. The conclusion? “As scientists, we cannot say that if we stay below two degrees of warming everything will be fine,” says Stefan Rahmstorf, a professor of physics of the oceans at the University of Potsdam in Germany.

Looks like the 350 ppm crowd was right all along!

The X factors that may be pushing the earth into an era of rapid climate change are long-hypothesized feedback loops that may be starting to kick in. Less sea ice, for example, allows the sun to warm the ocean water more, which melts even more sea ice. Greater permafrost melting puts more CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, which in turn causes further permafrost melting, and so on.

The potential for faster feedbacks has turned some scientists into vocal Cassandras.

Well, let’s hope faster feedbacks haven’t turned climatologists into Cassandras. That would mean we are doomed to be seduced by the Trojan horse of fossil fuels with the civilization-destroying carbon pollution hiding inside, to extend the metaphor (see “Will Sandy Be Short For Cassandra, Another Warning We Ignore?“).

This isn’t the only blunt climate article in Scientific American. They just published:

Climate Change Threatens to Create a Second Dust Bowl

Rising temperatures, persistent drought, and depleted aquifers on the southern Great Plains could set the stage for a disaster similar to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, scientists say

Anyone who saw the grim, gripping Ken Burns documentary on the original Dust Bowl knows how disastrous that would be (see also “My Nature Piece On Dust-Bowlification And the Grave Threat It Poses to Food Security“).

Carey’s piece lays out one of the main reasons climate scientists are concerned about abrupt, catastrophic change driven by greenhouse gases — it has happened in the past:

Some changes in the past were incredibly rapid. Work on Red Sea sediments by [climatologist Eelco] Rohling shows that during the last warm period between ice ages—about 125,000 years ago—sea levels rose and fell by up to two meters within 100 years. “That’s ridiculously fast,” Rohling says. His analysis indicates that sea levels appear to have been more than six meters higher than they are today—in a climate much like our own….

Also surprising is how little extra energy, or “forcing,” was required to trigger past swings. For instance, 55 million years ago the Arctic was a subtropical paradise, with a balmy average temperature of 23 degrees C (73 degrees F) and crocodiles lurking off Greenland. The tropics may have been too hot for most life. This warm period, dubbed the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), apparently was sparked by a preceding bump of about two degrees C in the planet’s temperature, which was already warmer than today. That warming may have caused a rapid release of methane and carbon dioxide, which led to more warming and more emissions of greenhouse gases, amplifying further warming. The eventual result: millions of years of a hothouse earth.

For more on the PETM, see “Study: Carbon release to atmosphere 10 times faster now than 56 million years ago, the PETM, a time of 10°F warming and mass extinction.”

In the past 100 years humans have caused a warming blip of more than 0.8 degree C (1.4 degree F). And we are pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere 10 times faster than what occurred in the run-up to the PETM, giving the climate a mighty push…. “If we burn all the carbon we have access to, we’re pretty much guaranteed of having a PETM-like warming,” [earth and atmospheric scientist Matthew] Huber says.

But Huber — and I — would appear to be optimists compared to Euan Nisbet, a professor of earth sciences in London:

Nisbet’s own “nightmare scenario” starts with a blip in methane emissions and a very warm summer that leads to massive fires, pouring carbon into the atmosphere. The smoke and smog blanket Central Asia and weaken the monsoons, causing widespread crop failures in China and India. Meanwhile a large El Niño pattern of unusually warm water in the tropical Pacific brings drought to the Amazon and Indonesia. The tropical forests and peatlands also catch fire, injecting even more CO2 into the atmosphere and putting the climate on the fast track to rapid warming. “It’s a feasible scenario,” Nisbet observes. “We may be more fragile than we think we are.”

Nisbet puts the “Hell” in “Hell and High Water.”

The time for rapid deployment of carbon-free energy is nigh (see “Study: We’re Headed To 11°F Warming And Even 7°F Requires ‘Nearly Quadrupling The Current Rate Of Decarbonisation’ “).

79 Responses to Scientific American: ‘Loss of Ice, Melting Of Permafrost And Other Climate Effects Are Occurring At An Alarming Pace’

  1. prokaryotes says:

    The last time sea level rose quickly, earthquake activity jumped 300% (McGuire 1997).

  2. prokaryotes says:

    McGuire conducted a study that was published in the journal Nature in 1997 that looked at the connection between the change in the rate of sea level rise and volcanic activity in the Mediterranean for the past 80,000 years and found that when sea level rose quickly, more volcanic eruptions occurred, increasing by a whopping 300 percent.

  3. Spike says:

    And UK mainstream media finally notices the polar ice melt

  4. Eduardo Vargas says:

    What are we going to do? If sea level rose by 2 meters in 100 years in a time period where the planet wasn’t warming as fast, is their any hope left for humanity?

  5. prokaryotes says:

    The hope and strategy should be to minimize the big impacts (high methane excursion). Thus we require actions on a global scale.

  6. Spike says:

    More on ice loss from Leeds University

    Remember Meltwater pulse 1A – sea level rose very rapidly then due to rapid ice melt

  7. Joan Savage says:

    Behind a paywall:

    A reconciled estimate of Ice-Sheet mass balance
    Science 30 November 2012:
    Vol. 338 no. 6111 pp. 1183-1189
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1228102

    BBC reviews it and includes a graph showing that both Greenland and Antarctica melt have contributed to sea level rise.

    (Take that, deniers.)

    I’d like to see an update on how much of sea level rise is from heat expansion and how much from ice melt.

  8. M Tucker says:

    Too bad the President is not influenced by the science or the suffering and death that have happened on his watch. Too bad House and Senate Republicans care nothing about the suffering of others, not even their own constituents. Too bad the Texas farmers and ranchers who have already lost their farms to the extended multi-year drought will not acknowledge the science of AGW. And what do we hear from the climate negotiators in Doha? Why it’s the same old BS that they have been going on about for the past 12 years. Oh, except the US claims to be making ‘enormous’ efforts. Enormous efforts to avoid doing anything meaningful that is.

    Another record melt in the Arctic and a super storm in New York City have no influence on the general public to agitate for action. We are doomed to suffer the very worst effects of climate change and the worst effects of all the catastrophes that result from climate change.

  9. David Kronner says:

    I have the utmost respect for Scientific American .I was a subscriber for several years and I don’t believe that nowone want’s ta know .saw ken Burns Dust Bowel,I’v read heard and iall I need to convince me of “global Warming” I only hope more of our leaders will take head and ,make monolithic changes Thanks for this report,and thanks to Scientific America for all they do

  10. Lou Grinzo says:

    Yet again, let me point out that if you look at the basic geography of the Arctic region, it should scare you spitless.

    Big, open ocean = area that can lose its ice cover relatively quickly and cause considerable additional warming due to Arctic amplification/albedo flip.

    Huge masses of land ringing the Arctic, where (in much warmer times) plant matter can collect, amounting to the current total of around 1,700 billion tons of carbon. As soon as conditions warm up enough, that carbon defrosts and begins to get turned into CO2 and methane, rapidly increasing the rate of warming.

    The fundamental layout of the planet guarantees abrupt warming cycles will happen with not much of a shove from a human-friendly equilibrium point — kind of like what we’ve been doing with our emissions for the last 2+ centuries.

  11. It’s all about the ice cap. Save the ice cap.

  12. catman306 says:

    How many exponential factors have to compound together before the curve becomes nearly vertical?

  13. aenoch says:

    If we’re still here in a hundred years it will look a lot more like “Farmers for Forty Centuries” than Star Wars. We need to put the best and brightest to work designing Photosynthetic Systems that maximize photosynthesis on the face of the Earth. Then give people a shovel and hoe and water hose and catch every bit of sunshine possible. Use sun powered Photosynthetic Systems to remove CO2 and human power to operate the systems. We’ve certainly got plenty of people that need work. It would be better than killing each other trying to maintain our zombie pop culture.

  14. prokaryotes says:

    Ice Sheet Loss at Both Poles Increasing, Study Finds

    Just a few years ago we thought the south pole is gaining ice mass… we were wrong and developments happen much faster than previously thought could occur.

  15. Seriously, as Joe concludes, the only hope we have — and, indeed, the only factor in the global warming scenario we can control — is the dramatic reduction of anthropogenic carbon.

    This can be done through a combination of energy-use reduction (including energy efficiency), rapid deployment of renewables (especially concentrated solar power with molten-salt storage), and biosequestration of existing atmospheric carbon.

    Whether it will be done, or even started before it’s too late is a the Seven Billion Person question. Time will tell, and not much time at that.

  16. prokaryotes says:

    The new estimates, which are more than twice as accurate because of the inclusion of more satellite data, confirm both Antarctica and Greenland are losing ice. Combined, melting of these ice sheets contributed 0.44 inches (11.1 millimeters) to global sea levels since 1992. This accounts for one-fifth of all sea level rise over the 20-year survey period. The remainder is caused by the thermal expansion of the warming ocean, melting of mountain glaciers and small Arctic ice caps, and groundwater mining.

  17. Paul Klinkman says:

    Brush and floss. What you do today will have a major effect on your happiness down the road. Every day you take care of your teeth is another day that you have your teeth.

    That’s how I would describe climate change efforts. Every small improvement helps you later. I don’t care for this “tipping point” sales job because we’re already tipping now. None of this “2 degree limit” line in the sand.

  18. Joe Romm says:

    Will have story Friday.

  19. Jack Burton says:

    This report confirms what I have seen with my own eyes over the last 30 years as regards Greenland. The last visit and overflight was in 2007, already behind the curve of the new more rapid warming. But I can say that an overflight of Greenland in 1984 as compared to 2007 would be clear evidence of a climate flip. There is no comparison between Greenland in Sept. of 1984 and the same period in 2007. The change is remarkable and something that I find alarming in the extreme. Yet I have seen the deniers gather their forces and deny and lie at a rate equal to the actual warming and loss of polar and glacial Ice. They seem to react to CO2 as much as the climate does.
    I hope and pray that posterity is taking historical note of who these professional liars and deniers are, they are a threat to all people and their children. They quite simply revel in trying to prevent any effort to save our kids and grand kids futures. They are sick individuals, their denial is hate filled and venomous. I wonder what truly is ticking inside their heads. Are they so filled with hate for people that they want our future to be a nightmare.
    But personally, knows the forces trying to prevent action and their wealth and political and military power, I think the game is over already and only the timing of the disaster is in question.

  20. rjs says:

    what actions?

  21. rjs says:

    dont worry, the Washington governor signed an executive order stopping ocean acidification..

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Only Asia? Surely not.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Above all else we require a new global politico-economic system. The madness of market absolutism has delivered nothing but suffering for the many and riches and power for the very, very, few and it is the root cause of all our travails.

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    How much is lost when extra water vapour is added to the atmosphere?

  25. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    If you start with Arrhenius, we’ve only had 120 years to prepare for Arctic temperature rises. You’ve got to give the Masters time to ponder the problem. Any decade now they’ll be ready, I suppose.

  26. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Restore the icecap.

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Beautifully sad, aenoch. Perhaps I meant ‘beautifully said’, but I like the mistake. I’d really love to spend my remaining span planting trees, and digging gardens, and making biochar etc. Then you can drop me in a hole, and plug it with a tulip tree, perhaps a Chinese one.

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The denialist imbeciles will be outraged. The ‘growing Antarctic’ ice-cover baloney was one of their faves. They will be grumpy.

  29. Sasparilla says:

    Unfortunately it seems we’re going to get to find that out through experience…

  30. nyc-tornado-10 says:

    Correct, we will have to compete with asia for food on the “free market”, and that’s not free!

  31. Paul Klinkman says:

    Design a system to drain heat out of the underlying ocean to restore (or slightly over-restore) the ice cap.

  32. paul magnus says:

    You cant keep the alarm out of the news these days… This was always the only way to have messages GW….

    Washington Post
    “….this is why President Obama should devote his next State of the Union address to climate change. He understands the science and knows the threat is real. Convincing the American people of this truth would be a great accomplishment — and perhaps the most important legacy of his second term.”.

  33. Joan Savage says:

    Apparently not much. The reported measures are net change, anyway.

    NASA’s fact page says that the average volume of atmospheric water is equivalent to a layer of 2.5 cm on the earth’s surface, if it all rained out. The four percent increase in atmospheric water that we hear about would be therefore about 1 mm, if taken equally from all the earth’s surface. Oceans are 71% of the earth’s surface, and contribute through evaporation, but plant evapo-transpiration also adds about 10% of atmospheric water vapor. I don’t want to draw a syllogistic conclusion when I didn’t find a full mass balance on the subject, but it looks like the increased atmospheric vapor isn’t much of a draw-down on the expanding ocean.

    NASA fact page:

  34. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    “Only floss the teeth you want to keep”, my dentist told me several years ago. That was about the same time James Hansen was first telling Congress that global warming was starting to affect the weather. I flossed them all. We didn’t act on Hansen’s early warning – a toothless response, one might say.

  35. “We are doomed to suffer the very worst effects of climate change…”

    Likely, but not necessarily. Just as climate change is non-linear and upon us much faster than we thought it would be, the response can also be non-linear. Attitudes can change rapidly, and the growth of renewable technology can be exponential.

    We’ll see what happens, but let’s not take the hemlock quite yet.

  36. Bernard J. says:

    I used to think that 350 ppm allowed a certain ‘wiggle room’ of at least a few dozen ppm.

    These days I am firmly convinced that James Hansen was right* all along, and that 350 ppm is the absolute maximum atmospheric CO2 concentration that the planet can have if humans and a large portion of the biosphere on which we depend are to have any hope of survival beyond another century or two.

    We’re in the red zone: we’ve been redlining for the last few decades. Ironically, we wouldn’t drive out GHG-belching vehicles constantly in the red zone, so why we are blithely pressing down as hard as we can on the planetary warming accelerator has me baffled.

    I think that there should be a Gold Darwin Award, minted for the sole reason of bestowing it on a whole species that willfully chose to remove itself (and many innocent species beside) from the timeline of evolution, purely because of its inherent greed and selfishness.

    [* And why wouldn’t he be – this is after all his area of expertise. He’s likely to have rather more of a clue than TV weather reporters and fossil fuel industry shills.]

  37. As goes the ice cap, so goes the climate.

    Having a liquid North Polar region is not merely different from having a solid one, it is opposite.

    The ice cap is one of Earth’s vital organs. The biosphere will not function without it any more than a human body will function normally without a liver or a lung.

    Spending money to “adapt” to the prospective loss of a vital organ instead of spending it on quitting drinking or smoking first is madness.

    The issue: how do we reduce GHG emissions by 80% or more in five or ten years? I don’t think the ice cap is going to last much longer than that, at least in summer. And once the summer shows open ocean, is ice cap “restoration” even possible? Or will we have crossed the line into a terminal feedback loop of further warming, further permafrost melting, further GHG release, and further warming?

    It’ll take a concentrated, WW2-style effort. Much sacrifice, centrally organized, legitimized by broad agreement. How do we get that agreement? How do we create the compelling visualization that it’s all about the ice cap? Can the absence of the ice cap be modeled? That would be a start.

  38. Bernard J. says:

    The magnitude of response that would be required to properly ameliorate the damage that we’re wringing on the planet will not be achieved by negotiated political means. Our leaders have proved that with every meeting between Kyoto and Doha.

    We’ve demonstrated that we’re too embedded in our paradigm of ‘consume and develop at any cost’. There is no hint of any action that will follow the trajectories, indicated by science years ago, required to stop the train before it reaches the cliff.

    The only way now to stop that train going over the cliff is to blow it up. In practice, this means either engaging in global (probably nuclear) war in order to remove energy-consuming infrastructure and large numbers of people, or by suffering (either naturally or with GE help) global fatal pandemic.

    As parent with young children I’m not by any means an advocate of human death and suffering. But the fact is that this is the corner into which we have painted ourselves. Our only choice these days is how badly we will permit future devastation to be – “not too bad” through to “Armageddon” – and currently we still seem to be firmly choosing “as bad as we can make it: Armageddon with cherries on top”. If we fiddle at the edges as we’ve done to date, the token actions will accomplish no more than providing us with the illusion that we’re acting when we’re actually doing SFA.

    I weep for my children, and for the biosphere that they will inherit.

  39. Bernard J. says:


    The Arctic ice cap is the global climate Keystone.

  40. paul magnus says:

    “As scientists, we cannot say that if we stay below two degrees of warming everything will be fine,”

    Shouldn’t we be prudent and careful since the consequences are death of the species?

    Scientists should now be saying categorically that anything over 1C is unacceptable as a target.

    Well they should have been saying this 15yrs ago.

    (Anger and frustrations surfaces and overheats my soul)

  41. paul magnus says:

    “Carey’s piece lays out one of the main reasons climate scientists are concerned about abrupt, catastrophic change driven by greenhouse gases — it has happened in the past”

    Even if it hadn’t happend in the past it is pretty obvious that its happening now.

    From the data we should assume this unless otherwise proven not to be so.

    I mean just look at this graph….

  42. Spike says:

    They will cherry pick the bit about East Antarctica

  43. Spike says:

    The rate of ice loss from Greenland has increased almost five-fold since the mid-1990s according to one of the authors of the new study, and the curves shown on the BBC website look exponential upwards. So Hansen was right (again) it seem about the potential for non linear ice loss increases.

    If all Greenland’s ice melted in the 3-4 centuries some people state as an allegedly outside possibility that alone would give us around 2m sea level rise per century.

  44. Mike Roddy says:

    Interesting thoughts, Bernard.

    I’m headed to the AGU meeting, and it will be interesting to get a sense of how apocalyptic the members are feeling these days.

    Your scenarios are not far fetched, but they are a few decades away. I don’t think it will help to blow up infrastructure and people, but more serious and focused efforts are needed against the main perpetrators.

    Humans are such weak and selfish creatures that the fates of our descendants are considered abstract. I wish there were a way to change that. And I weep for my child and his children, too.

  45. Mike Roddy says:

    Nice that maybe WaPo is having an epiphany, but they are being naive. Obama is going to celebrate “energy independence” through more drilling in his State of the Union. His actions have been, and will continue to be, clueless. Government will have to be challenged and overruled by the people. Anyone who thinks the Democratic Party will wake up and do what is required at scale has not been paying attention.

  46. Mike Roddy says:

    We’ll know within three years whether humans (especially Americans) have fully functioning brains or are, in fact, psychotic lemmings.

  47. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Thank-you for lessening my ignorance.

  48. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    No more Keystone Kop-outs!

  49. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Just wait until it turns back on itself, as a spiral.

  50. Mark E says:

    Despair is natural, but must be moved through or else the fossil fuel guys win.

    If we weep and wring our hands instead of deploying the wedges then the fossil fuel guys win.

    Expect them to start funding weeping and hand wringing, as a tactic to make middle-roaders not face the issue.

  51. Icarus62 says:

    I love that scenario too, but I don’t think it will be enough in itself. Hansen has been right all along – with the Earth’s current energy imbalance of 0.6W/m² we would need to reduce atmospheric CO2 to 345ppm to stabilise the climate (assuming we haven’t already triggered off major carbon feedbacks). We can’t draw down 350 billion tons of CO2 with plants. The natural world today is absorbing around half (15 billion tons) of our CO2 emissions every year, and those sinks are projected to fail in the next few decades. Any additional growth we promote would surely only increase that by a few percent, wouldn’t it? Not that it isn’t worth doing, but it won’t be enough, or fast enough. Also we would have to convert all that new biomass to biochar to keep it out of the atmosphere – lots of work, agreed, but who’s going to pay people to do it?

    Is there any existing technology and energy source (nuclear?) which we can combine to remove carbon permanently from the climate system?

  52. Lou Grinzo says:

    In fact, a bunch of them did say exactly that. There was an early, kind of proto-IPCC effort that published a book in 1972(!) that said:

    Clearly man has had nothing to do with these vast climatic changes [moving in and out of ice ages] in the past. And from the scale of the energy systems involved, it would seem rational to suppose that he is not likely to affect them in the future. But here we encounter another fact about our planetary life: the fragility of the balances through which the natural world that we know survives. In the field of climate, the sun’s radiations, the earth’s emissions, the universal influence of the oceans, and the impact of the ice are unquestionably vast and beyond any direct influence on the part of man. But the balance between incoming and outgoing radiation, the interplay of forces which preserves the average global level of temperature appear to be so even, so precise, that only the slightest shift in the energy balance could disrupt the whole system. It takes only the smallest movement at its fulcrum to swing a seesaw out of the horizontal. It may require only a very small percentage of change in the planet’s balance of energy to modify average temperatures by 2C. Downward, this is another ice age; upward, a return to an ice-free age. In either case, the effects are global and catastrophic.

  53. Joan Savage says:

    Back to you on that, it is an interesting question.

  54. Brooks Bridges says:

    Way to late. Arctic ice is toast, so to speak.

    I saw an exponential curve fit – PIOMASS – which extrapolated to 0 thickness in next few years – I think the 1 sigma upper bound was 2020. This is “just” for month of September. Looking at curves for months around September showed them ice free in just a few years beyond 2020.

    The thickness data is far less variable than the extent data which is affected by storms and such.

  55. Brooks Bridges says:

    I think this perspective – the climate as a delicately balanced seesaw – is chillingly brilliant and important.

    I don’t know whether to say thank you or damn you Lou.

  56. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    I’m still hoping that AGW is causal… Unless, of course, I can hop into Dr. Brown’s DeLorean, set the date to November 30, 1965, charge the flux capacitor to 1.21 gigawatts, and accelerate to 88 mph. But who would believe me?

  57. M Tucker says:

    Deploy the wedges…so they are like lifeboats ready to be put in the water? Whatever we eventually do to limit carbon pollution will not happen for several more years. Does anyone here really think that the globe will not continue to warn in that time? Do you feel comfortable with the heating and the melting and the heat waves and the multi-year droughts and the extreme weather we have had so far? More delay means more heating and more radical climate changes and that will result in more severe climate changes. That will bring other consequences like pestilence and disease to just name two. Being overly optimistic seems to me to be just another way to tuck your head in the sand. Either we begin to agitate and demonstrate for change or we will face a climate no human has ever had to deal with in our entire history and it will certainly cause changes that our modern civilization will not be able to adjust to.

    Hand wringing and weeping is free and can be done at home. If we do not feel as motivated to agitate, to get in the streets, as the occupy movement did, we will simply become another example of passive victims walking off to the death camps that we have seen before in history.

    Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!

  58. Solar Jim says:

    Not to mention Mulga that Earth may lose the required oxygen concentration in air for respiration (animal breathing) if forests and phytoplankton reduce further in extent due to harmful effects of carbonic acid and carbonic acid gas (aka “carbon dioxide”).

  59. Philip Pease says:

    It is not that they (the fossil fuel corporations) hate people; it is that the love money more than anything else. Just like the tobacco corporations lied about (denied) the fact that tobacco smoke causes cancer and other bad health conditions in humans all in order to protect profits. It is corporate greed that is doing all it can to NOT cut fossil fuel use that is blocking action to deal with the climate change problem. Unfortunately, for us humans, our politicians are so greatly influenced by corporate interests that they choose to ignore the seriousness and urgency of this climate situation. They think they can continue to let greenhouse gas concentrations to rise for another 10 years and then let the private industry solve it when the price is right. I think most scientists are very worried that we will reach a tipping point (a runaway greenhouse effect that will be impossible to prevent utter catastrophe) if we do nothing for another decade.

  60. M Tucker says:

    If we could pull the magical temperature brake now would that stop the melting and extreme weather? Clearly the answer is no. With the modest average increase of only 0.8 degrees we have seen what the result is. The melting and extreme weather is here to stay. Obviously more warming just means faster melting and even more extreme weather. I’m just glad that New York was not hit by a real hurricane. A real hurricane of say cat 2 or 3 (the cat numbers measure wind speed) would have brought serious flooding, power loss and death. I’m just glad New York dodged that terrible outcome. What, they did have flooding, power loss and death? But the wind speeds were nowhere near what a serious hurricane can generate. What will happen when a sustained 100 mph or more wind combines with high seasonal tides and really floods the coastal residents and businesses? How long will it take to recover from that? For how many weeks after will they still be pulling bodies out of the wreckage? All those who have lost their livelihoods or died due to extreme weather, all those who have lost their farms to drought, all those who have lost their property rights due to eminent domain grabs by the Keystone builders, should be memorialized and THAT should be added to Obama’s and the House and Senate Republicans legacy.

  61. Solar Jim says:

    Militant masters and their nation-state-sanctioned “economics” have already nuked the climate via “cheap” fossil carbonic acid gas. Today’s impacts are time lagged by decades from past contamination. Their strategy of competitive advantage is one of MADness. MAD stands for mutual assured destruction. They have succeeded thanks to uranium and fossil carbon explosives and “fuels.” Which are fuels of war, and lethal contamination.

    Have a nice multifarious meltdown.

  62. paul magnus says:

    We are effectively toast as a civilization even if the GTR stays below 2C as most of the Greenland ice sheet will melt.

    And as we can see from the current rate of melt, its not going to be slow.

    The east antarctica is also going to collapse. So our coasts are gone. And probably within this century. (Unless something quite extra ordinary happens out of the blue.)

    We have so many nuclear plants on the coast which are going to be inundated – its going to be a pretty messy.

    And this is just one aspect of the whole sordid affair.

    Lets not give up hope though. Lets keep at it and do our best. Nothing is for certain.

  63. paul magnus says:

    that should read Western Antarctica !!!!!!!

  64. paul magnus says:

    #Boom Boom! #Climate action #delayer #Obama

    Obama sets of 2 climate bombs!

  65. Bruce Turton says:

    Follow the money!!!!! Who has been buying agricultural land in Africa, Latin America, South America, Canada, and the U.S.A. – corporations, countries? Who will go without when Joe’s Dust Bowls come back with a vengence – surely those who have no more access to arable land and water resources. Sad and dangerous, and the people with the $ know what the future will bring!!!

  66. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Mark – there’s a difficulty with the maths of the ‘best case’ of emissions control, which I’d set at ‘near-zero GHG output by 2050’, which as I recall is a bit more stringent than the wedges Joe lists.

    0.6C of emissions during the phase out,
    plus 0.7C timelagged in the ‘pipeline,
    plus 0.8C realized,
    gives a first total of 2.1C of warming.

    But Hansen reports that ending fossil emissions will end our fossil sulphur output and thus our maintenance of the cooling ‘Sulphate Parasol, which will raise warming by 110% (+/-30%). 2.1C is thus raised to 4.41C by ending sulphur outputs, which would be realized after the 30 year timelag in about 2080.

    Meanwhile, six out of seven mega-feedbacks are already observed to be accelerating at 0.8C, and by 2080 would have had 68 year of continuosly rising warming to push the temperature up to and maybe well over 5.0C. And that is from the ‘best case’ of Emissions Control.

    Joe includes a couple of minor efforts on geo-engineering in the portfolio – on forestry and painted roofs, but I suggest that we shall have to put huge effort into more effective techniques of geo-e alongside emissions control if we are to avoid warming that causes global crop failures and geo-political destabilization.

    We don’t appear to have other choices in this matter, though I keep looking, as the very scale of what is needed is quite something.



  67. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    This gives a clear timescale as to how soon Albedo Restoration needs to be applied in the Arctic summer to avoid greatly increased albedo loss feedback warming – and perhaps in the North Atlantic in winter to cool the tail of the Gulf Stream that enters the Arctic.

    Better late than never !



  68. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Icarus – on the potential effectiveness of biochar you’re mistaken. Given time, available non-farmland, UN backing, and several other factors, it can be used to cleanse the atmosphere of anthropogenic carbon during this century.

    One of those other factors is Emissions Control aiming for near-zero output by 2050.

    Another is the fact that biochar is an exceptional soil moisture regulator and fertility enhancer, and so has a substantial value to commercial farmlands worldwide – as well as a potentially huge demand among poor subsistence farmers.

    Yet another factor is that while the charcoal is produced in a retort, about 28% of the wood’s energy potential is released as hot crude woodgas, which is readily converted to methanol. The ratio works out at about 5.0 barrels of petrol-equivalent per 10.0Ts of carbon sequestered.



  69. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Philip – under a ‘best case’ emissions control scenario of near-zero output in 2050, the ealiest I can get a model of Carbon Recovery to start making a real difference is about 2040, (due to the long lead-time for sufficient feedstock afforestation) with the atmosphere cleansed by 2100. And even this needs some fairly optimistic assumptions about our successors’ culture.

    So is there some other technique or feedstock you’re looking at that could match that scale but with a minimal lead-time and early completion date ?

    I ask because we should have to cleanse the atmosphere very fast indeed, certainly within twenty years, if we were now to hope to halt the feedbacks’ ongoing acceleration without deploying Albedo Restoration. With a twenty-year cleansing and the 30-year time lag on effect we’d see full cooling sometime after 2062, which might be fast enough.

    One of the key problems is that several feedbacks are emitting carbon in increasing volumes. This means that without Albedo Restoration to cool the planet and halt them,
    then, short of some incredibly swift (and scaleable and affordable) technique,
    under the ‘coppice forestry for biochar’ option we’d be in a plainly hopeless race to sequester carbon faster than those interactive feedbacks accelerate, and doing so while also rigorously ending our fossil fuel dependence.



  70. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Professor Salter, with a 30yr track in the engineering of new wave energy devices and teaching many of the present generation of WE engineers,
    after being ignored by govt for years,
    got swindled by the Thatcher gang on a brilliant shore-based design.

    He then switched to working primarily on albedo restoration technologies, as he foresaw they were likely to be needed.

    He estimates that a fleet of around 2,000 small wind driven vessels equipped for the ‘Cloud Brightening’ option that he researches would be sufficient to restore the natural global temperature within a few years.

    This would have the notable effects of halting the interactive mega-feedbacks – of which at least six are already accelerating under 0.8C of warming – and of ending current climate destabilization.

    If it can be made to function, the only shortcomings of this proposal that I’ve seen – which he entirely accepts – is that it doesn’t in any way diminish the need ASAP to end our fossil fuel dependence and to cleanse the atmosphere of anthropogenic carbon.



  71. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    You mean what they will call “the real Antarctica”

  72. Preservation of intact natural forest and other intact ecosystems is by far the most cost-effective (in terms of both money and energy) means for carbon sequestration.

    Yet in the western United States and Canada, we continue rapid clear-cut logging of native and regrowth forest today – carelessly liquidating ecosystem carbon storage services capacity greater per acre than tropical rain forest.

  73. In other words, we need to stop polluting, now, not later.

  74. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    No, not really Kevin. If all we achieved was Emissions Control, we’d not avoid catastrophic climate destabilization.

    To have a serious prospect of stabilizing the climate, we have to achieve Emissions Control alongside Albedo Restoration and Carbon Recovery. (The numerical rationale is laid out above).

    Fortunately these additional measures provide at least five significant incentives to the agreement of the requisite treaty – meaning that we could move forward faster with them than without them.



  75. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    I’d take the termination of abusive commercial forestry practices as a given; not only the clear fell emissions and process & disposal emissions, but also the loss of carbon sink makes this a central part of any viable global agreement.

    Yet it needs saying that the natural sinks such as native forest are not remotely sufficient for recovering the airborne anthropogenic carbon within a relevant timescale. Moreover, if Albedo Restoration were not applied to moderate global temperature, we should expect to lose all but a few remnants of extant forests to pest-booms, droughts, rampant wildfires and ozone-related fungal vulnerabilities in the coming decades.

    We need both Carbon Recovery (to clear up the mess we’ve made) and Albedo Restoration (to control the warming due to that mess while doing so). Ending our emissions ASAP is entirely necessary, but it is not remotely sufficient as a commensurate response to our predicament.