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As Global CO2 Emissions Rise, Scientists Warn 2-Degree Target Is Nearly Out Of Reach: ‘We Need A Radical Plan’

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"As Global CO2 Emissions Rise, Scientists Warn 2-Degree Target Is Nearly Out Of Reach: ‘We Need A Radical Plan’"

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Global carbon dioxide emissions are set to rise again this year, putting the world on a path toward dangerous climate change and making the internationally-accepted warming target of 2 degrees Celsius nearly “unachievable,” say researchers.

According to a new paper published yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change, carbon dioxide emissions will rise by 2.6 percent this year, fueled by major increases in China and India. This follows a record year in 2011, when countries pumped 3.1 percent more global warming pollution into the atmosphere — making it very likely that the world will blow past the 2 degree C warming threshold that scientists and international negotiators agree is needed to avoid catastrophic consequences.

Some even call global warming of 2 degrees C, which is on the lowest end of projections, a “prescription for disaster.”

Here’s how one of the report’s authors characterized the problem when talking to The Guardian:

“I am worried that the risks of dangerous climate change are too high on our current emissions trajectory. We need a radical plan,” said co-author Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Britain and professor at the University of East Anglia.

Current emissions growth is placing the world on a path to warm between 4C and 6C, says the study, with global emissions jumping 58% between 1990 and this year. The study focuses on emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production.

“Unless large and concerted global mitigation efforts are initiated soon, the goal of remaining below 2C will soon become unachievable,” say the authors.

The findings come during the COP18 international climate talks in Doha, Qatar, where observers have low expectations for any agreements to reduce carbon emissions. The world’s two biggest emitters — China and the U.S. — are quietly setting up a framework for a possible international climate treaty after 2015. In the meantime, global warming pollution continues unabated and scientists warn that the window for action is closing fast.

“We are losing control of our ability to get a handle on the global warming problem,” said Canadian Climate Scientist Andrew Weaver, responding to the latest data on carbon emissions.

Last week, the World Bank issued a report sumarizing the latest climate science. It concluded that the world is on track for 4 degrees Celsius warming by the end of the century — an extremely dangerous rise in temperature that ensure “extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.”

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56 Responses to As Global CO2 Emissions Rise, Scientists Warn 2-Degree Target Is Nearly Out Of Reach: ‘We Need A Radical Plan’

  1. fj says:

    Most likely any radical plan must include broad and rapid deployment of net zero or zero carbon mobility solutions currently the “Lord Voldemorte” of this fossil fuel civilization and much of climate hawk advocacy; with the exception of Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute.

  2. Paul Magnus says:

    The probability of a 2C limit is so minimal that we should not be framing discussion and debate around it now.

    In any case 2C is incompatible with a survivable society. And that fact should be the basis of the context of the discussion. 1C should have been the target and now we are going to get 2.5C+.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      We are going to get four or six degrees, because the Bosses want it to happen. Every parameter of destruction is running off the scale, pushed on by the money power. It cannot be an accident, because they are advised by real scientists, not the dupes that they employ to spread denial. Make no mistake, this is no accident.

      • Mond from Oz says:

        (a) ONYA!

        (b) Do we in lotusland have anything like 350?

      • Superman1 says:

        Mulga,

        Along these lines, see my Comment #13 below. I also find it hard to believe this disaster is happening by chance, but would #13 offer a rational explanation?

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          I agree entirely. I did comment, but let my enthusiasm for outrageous speculation get the better of me, and ventilated opinions that might have brought this site into disrepute as a haven for loonies. Mea maxima culpa. I’ll behave better in future, and treat the crazy theory as a metaphor.

          • But Mulga,

            You are such a lovable looney! And, like most looneys, ypu’re right more often than you’re wrong, and far more often than most people.

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

            I just have to keep taking the medication, not get too over-excited and not make an embarrassment of myself. I need to take a break and get out into the garden. Thank-you for your kind felicitations.

    • JoeW says:

      YES!!! AND, we ‘The People’ can make it STOP–we have to take action together–We can envision and build a better, peaceful community, state, region or nation a person, a community, region, state & nation at a time!!! We call it a ‘Peoples’ Visioning’–it brings us all together!! A ‘Peoples’ Visioning can bring a new Peaceful Vision & future!!–Let’s all do this in communities in every country!! If you want to know more Join our Facebook Group & Event pages, search: ‘Peoples’ Visioning’

      We are doing this, in Columbia, MO, it’s exactly what has to happen, in every city, town or community across the world–pull everyone together, to take matters into our own hands at the local grassroots!! We’ll work with government when/if possible, but not wait on it!! We’ll change it or push it as needed!!We are looking at a plan to reduce our emissions 80% by 2015 (with an RES of 80% by 2015 and a plan that will make it happen!). We will create it withh a plan for the 99% to become ‘power producers’, in a decentralized model, then push our leaders to purchase the rest up to a 90-100% RES. We have an extensive plan we are at the beginning of enacting AND, YES, it does take getting into the neighborhoods, door-to-door, every last one of them, to educate in a well-thought-out specific fashion. It takes working/collaborating with public schools and interfaith communities!! We also are helping MU college students with a campus coal-free and divestment plan. We have an interfaith structure and will soon be talking to them about divestment as well as other large employee groups, etc… It will take all these things and A LOT of local grassroots organizing!!! I have talked to Bill McK. about this ‘thing’/program/model I describe–we call it a ‘Peoples’ Visioning’–start one quickly in every community and pull together, as many others as you can who don’t have their ego in the way!! Sometimes it does take a few of us doing slightly different things–sort of like a war with a front-line, mid-range troops/back-ups busily doing their part and the camps/with medics and triage…The only thing we can do is ‘stand-up’, start Doing something 24-7, light the candle in the middle!! Contact me and we will share everything we are doing/have ‘brainstormed’ and are implementing now! We’ll share our template/model so every community can ‘hit the ground running’ and ‘tweak’ to their community!!–Join our FB event and group pages/search: Peoples’ Visioning. Start a ‘Peoples’ Visioning’ in every city NOW!! We can offer this template/model –We are just starting ‘homemade’ PV panels (special details/contact us) as an almost Apollo-type project in our community!!! Each community can do this!! Of course, this is after energy-efficiency upgrades for each building that will receive them!! We have additional plans for ordinances for net-zero for EVERY new building and renovation, energy efficiency, conservation steps to prepare for these ‘homemade’ panels in collaboration as a teaching project with the public schools and community panel-making workshops every other weekend for however long it takes to get them–(or new ones for mid-upper income levels if they prefer)–on every roof!!! WE have plans for landlord incentives, local food and water security/’organic only’ community and neighborhood gardens and ‘food forests’, fruit, nut trees, berries…Also, infrastructure–working to elect new leadership and change codes/laws, budgets to fund mass public transit, make it affordable and ‘cool’ with a better bus system and a Velib-style low-rent bicycle program!! This is just what’s off the top of my head–Spread the word!! If all of us just started this intensive local work, definitely not travel to where we’re sure if Obama does decide to lead, it won’t be enough–in our heart, we all know this is true–so, let’s get out in the streets alright, but use that protest energy a different way!! Much like building a parallel ‘peoples’ movement and peoples’ government, as we are building and soon, when we go to city hall they WILL be doing and listening to what we want, because ‘they’ will ‘be us’…and, if every community starts this the state ‘will be us’ and so will D.C. Until then, we do these other ‘cool’ and very critically needed things to help and prepare our community, as quickly as possible, to beat, if we can, the closing window to act on climate change, winning and changing hearts and minds in the process!!! Visit: http://www.ColumbiaClimateChangeCoalition.org M. Welch– Join In!! Let’s start today–what do we have to loose–everything, so let’s push it, and don’t stop!! Some unifying Climate Change Movement music:
      http://www.singfortheclimate.com/NL/default.aspx Let’s all be singing together–AND, we started our ‘Peoples’ Visioning’ with that ‘connection’, call it meditation, prayer, centering, just a focus on the immensity of the task at hand, whatever you want to call it… and at our subsequent gatherings/meetings we have live acoustic music and recently have started each meeting singing Lennon’s Imagine!! This coming Monday, 12/10/12, we will start with BOTH of these…We also have vegan food/refreshments at our larger gatherings, as well (educational). All are welcome, we don’t judge–if someone eats meat or is a different cultural background—’we are one’!!! Our plans will bring jobs, help us heal old, deep wounds, bring justice, equity along with forgiveness and repentance…and build a better world/community, as we try to save our planet and our children and theirs!! It will, of course, take some time, so we must all get started immediately; but, it’s one of the few things worth spending time on–let’s do it together!! It’s better than a lot of time on our keyboards (some time there is very valuable and certainly needed!!)–Whether we ‘win’ this or not, it’s certainly better, as pointed out, than not doing/trying something—we have to try!!! We do need excellent, progressive journalists and media, like Think Progress, Nation of Change, Truthout, others…and the online social media and petitions…but we do need to do more way more out there!!!

  3. BillD says:

    Before we can be an international leader in colaboration with China and other countries, we need to develop a consensus at home. I have little doubt that public opinion would rapidly change toward favoring action if the President and the media started discussing the dangers of inaction and the strength of the scientific evidence.

  4. Paul Klinkman says:

    Just saying “We need a radical plan” without actually lifting a finger to look at anything even 1/10 radical is best described as reactionary.

    I tell you that my friends and I can drive down the cost of retrofit solar heat and hot water for most existing buildings to about a 20% annual return on investment. We displace about 80% of a building’s annual fuel use at this level.

    We can make fresh winter vegetables pretty cheap to grow locally. We don’t need diesel to import the bad stuff from Florida and California.

    We can drive the cost of biodiesel from algae down below the $5/gallon barrier. HEY! You in the back, stop snoring. Maybe folks up front want to listen.

    We can deploy Arctic Ocean thermal transfer devices for about $1 billion per year (a real bargain!) to chill the ocean in winter and restore the polar ice pack, reflecting sun back into space. We can deploy wind-powered standalone snowmaking machines to coat Arctic with snow in late spring and early autumn, and temperate lands in winter, again reflecting sunlight back into space the natural way. Maybe I’m just dreaming of a white Christmas.

    We can implement a completely new transit system that aggressively competes with the current automobile/freeway mess. It uses 1/10 the energy, it’s all electric, it’s cheap to build and run, it has a huge carrying capacity so no more bad traffic, and we don’t kill 40,000 people a year on the roads. That has to be worth something.

    Ah, never mind. I see that I’m boring you. Angry Birds is calling for your attention. Bring on the heat and the winds.

    • catman306 says:

      “We can deploy wind-powered standalone snow making machines to coat Arctic with snow in late spring and early autumn, and temperate lands in winter, again reflecting sunlight back into space the natural way.”

      I like this better than my yesterday’s idea of flying snow making machines on air tankers to raise the tundra albedo.

      Thanks, this, too, is doable.

      • Paul Klinkman says:

        The beauty of wind-powered snowmaking is that the wind naturally scatters the snow crystals far and wide.

  5. Mark E says:

    Link the peer reviewed report please?

  6. fj says:

    Energy giants step up calls for 2030 renewables target http://t.co/YjUZLuI8

  7. Superman1 says:

    The gap between proposals and actions is so large that any hope of staying below 4 C is sheer lunacy at this point. The nations of the Earth are rushing pell-mell to discover and exploit all the remaining fossil fuel resources on this planet. Shell Oil couldn’t wait to start drilling in the Arctic as soon as sufficient ice melted. Canada can’t wait to open up the Tar Sands. The UK can’t wait to expand fracking of the country-side.

    Yet, what are the proposals we see to counter climate change? As the observations of the climate deterioration become more dire, the proposals become more extreme. Kevin Anderson proposes ‘planned austerity’ or ‘planned recession’, which I would call ‘planned depression’. Some proposers, including myself, call for immediate cessation of all fossil fuel use, if we are to have any hope of avoiding 2 C temperature increase (no feedbacks included).

    This is a surreal world. If we were reducing CO2 emissions at, say, 6% per year, and Anderson requires 10% per year to meet the target, then I would say the proposals have some semblance of reality. But, in a world where all the stops have been pulled out to exploit every ounce of remaining fossil fuels, discussing CO2 emissions reductions of 10% per year or greater borders on sheer lunacy or delusion or fantasy, or all three combined.

    • Paul Klingman II says:

      Myopic optimism remains in full force, so your factual logic will simply be ignored.

    • Mond from Oz says:

      Current predictions of climate disaster surely tell us nothing that has not been known or at least knowable for many years. The graphed atmospheric CO2 (from Mauna Loa, Hawai) shows an exponential increase from 313 parts per million in 1958 to 391ppm in 2012, an increase of 25%. Simple extrapolation , well supported by the United States Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) predictions, show that by 2035, without making any allowance for methane emissions we may expect 446 ppm, increasing by 2.7ppm per year, a rate of increase which itself increases steadily. This 2035 figure equates to a committed temperature increase of 1.9oC

      What makes this disastrous is the near certainty that the momentum of the carbon economy, amply supported by big money and associated politics, will take us far beyond this level. Unless that momentum, in oil, gas and (in particular) coal, is stopped in its tracks, in the next very few years, the future decades will be marked by an acceleration of events already in train: heat, drought, famine, rising seas, storms, and the chaotic movement of peoples seeking an illusory asylum.

  8. Mark E says:

    No mention of feedbacks in the piece, or real risk that the remaining “allowable emissions” will be eaten up via sinks releasing their carbon even without our help.

  9. David Goldstein says:

    It all may amount to futile gesture at this point, but…for a few years now, some of us have been posting on climate blogs and watching as the world simply goes even more quickly in the wrong direction. Has the time come to ‘put down our pens’? The scientists have done their good work. The politicians have NOT. The only possible bridge that I foresee (aside from scrambling responses to undeniable shock and catastrophe down the road) is this: For a critical mass of the people to bring pressure to bare- which means, essentially, getting out in the streets and, most likely, perform non-violent civil disobedience a la Vietnam war/civil rights. (along with financial pressure a la divestment campaigns) Here’s my question: If this is so, are you (the reader) willing to do this? Are you willing to ‘put your body’ on the line? Are you? To do so would be to ‘speak’ powerfully to your children and their children “I am doing what I can, though it may not suffice”. Lastly, I am not entirely naive- of course, this would have to occur as part of a sustained and well orchestrated campaign to have any chance of success. But- it IS coming to this. 350.org is calling a rally/protest/civil disobedience in Washington Feb 18th. Would you come…lay your pen down…and, as well, lay your body down?

    • DRT says:

      I’m planning on being there. If you are from near the triangle area of NC reply here please.

      • David Goldstein says:

        Hey DRT:
        good to know! I have a proposal into the 350 folks to come aboard and see if I can help ‘grow this’ event. Bill called for 20,000. I am wondering if we can begin to close the stunning disconnect between the gravity of situation and the attention it receives by generating a considerably bigger crowd!

        • Superman1 says:

          David,

          During the Vietnam era. I attended anti-war rallies in Washington that drew in the high hundreds of thousands. My perception now is that they amounted to essentially nothing, a safety valve at best. What really ended the War was the 73-75 recession, the refusal of Congress to fund anything further due to the dismal situation on the ground.

          The 20,000 target reflects 350′s evaluation of the level of support for significant action on climate change. It is a drop in the bucket with respect to Vietnam. Most importantly, it does not address the real problem we face with respect to climate change. We, the people, in this country, the developed nations, and the developing nations, want the flexibility and ‘things’ that a high energy lifestyle will buy, and we get it today because of ‘cheap’ fossil fuels. So, a rally against the media, the energy companies, the deniers, the government, is focused on the ‘enablers’, but not the central problem. And, not focusing on the central problem will never bring us to where we need to be.

          • David Goldstein says:

            while I agree with you about the nature of the central problem- our cultural and national addiction to a consumerist lifestyle ‘greased’ by fossil fuels- focusing on trying to change THAT is simply…well…impossible. and the implications of that ‘impossibility’ are disturbing indeed.

    • Brian R Smith says:

      David, you point to the need for “a critical mass of the people to bring pressure to bare-” and rightly suggest that personal and collective action to create such pressure would only be effective if it were part of “a sustained and well orchestrated campaign”.

      I couldn’t agree more and have harped on the concept, here, more than a few times hoping to spark discussion on the kinds of collaborative actions, especially coordinated strategic media actions, that climate movement leaders could take. Because it’s clear that the sister fallback positions of Waiting For The President To Lead The Charge in time, betting on the sanity of political elites generally to tackle climate in time, and assuming the MSM will wake up in time, are risky notions that should by now be at the bottom of non-beltway activist’s lists of preferred tactics.

      My last mini-screed on this, Nov. 18, [http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/18/1210111/grantham-to-climate-scientists-be-persuasive-be-brave-be-arrested-if-necessary/#comment-570771] got one response: “So Brian, nominate yourself to lead the way.” Not a helpful comment but, OK, fair enough. Actually,I’m doing what I can. The point though is that ONLY bigger players in alliance can put together the national campaign vital to establishing baseline climate science credibility in MSM, laying out economic solutions and paths for public engagement, coordinating political actions across climate constituencies, etc.

      Anything I can do individually will be hugely magnified if part of a coordinated national response. Calling for unified climate movement leadership, a new umbrella, isn’t new. What would be new is that it happens. Meanwhile, we are a movement divided.

      • David Goldstein says:

        Yes, Brian, I actually remember that exchange you are referring to. I agree with all that you are saying. If you would like to send me an email: dagold56@hotmail.com I will send you a copy of the proposal I just sent to the coordinator of the Feb 18th rally for 350.org It is very much about putting together a coordinated, ‘multi-targeted’ national campaign. I am ‘just’ an ordinary citizen as are you. Bill Mckibben has put together 350 and is doing his work. Al Gore leads Climate Reality. There are other organizations. Like you, I am puzzled that nobody, not a big time philanthropist, not a big time celebrity…nobody has thought to put together the different elements into a unified ‘coalition’. So be it. Maybe it will take an ‘ordinary citizen’ or two to get it done.

        • JoeW says:

          We are doing exactly as you say needs to be done–pull everyone together–or working on it anyway–in Columbia, MO!! We are looking at a plan to reduce our emissions 60% by 2015 (with an RES of 80% by 2015 and a plan that will reduce us by 60% from where we are now). We will then push our leaders to purchase the rest up to a 90-100% RES. We have an extensive plan we are at the beginning of enacting AND, YES, it does take getting into the neighborhoods, door-to-door, every last one of them, to educated in a well-thought-out specific fashion. We also are helping MU college students in a coal-free and also a divestment plan. We have an interfaith structure and will soon be talking to them about divestment as well as other large employee groups, etc… It will take all these things and A LOT of local grassroots organizing!!! I have talked to Bill about this ‘thing’ I describe–we call it a ‘Peoples’ Visioning’–start one quickly in every community and pull together, as you say as many others as you can who don;t have the ego getting in the way!! Sometimes it does take a few of us doing slightly different things–sort of like a war with a front-line, the mid-range troops/back-ups busily doing their part and the camps/with medics and triage…The only thing we can do is start doing something 24-7, light the candle in the middle!! Contact me and we will share everything we are doing/’brainstormed’ and implementing now–join our FB event and group pages/search: Peoples’ Visioning. Start a ‘Peoples’ Visioning’ in every city NOW!! We can offer a template –we are just starting to build ‘homemade’ PV panels (special details/contact us) as an almost Apollo-type project in our community!!! Each community can do this!! We have plans for net-zero for EVERY new building and renovation, energy efficiency, conservation steps to prepare for these ‘homemade’ panels in collaboration as a teaching project with the public schools and community panel-making workshops every other weekend for however long it takes to get them–(or new ones for mid-upper income levels if they want)–on every roof!!! WE have plans for landlord incentives, local food and water security/organic only community and neighborhood gardens and ‘food forests’, fruit, nut trees, berries…Also, infrastructure–working to elect new leadership and cahnge codes/laws, budgets to fund mass public transit, make it affordable/’cool’ with a better bus system and a Velib-style low-rent bicycle program!! This is just what’s off the top of my head–Spread the word!! If all of us just started this intensive local work, definitely not travel to where we’re sure if Obama does decide to lead, it won’t be enough–in our heart, we all know this is true–so, let’s get ou in the streets alright, but use that protest energy a different way!! Much like building a parallel ‘peoples’ movement and peoples’ government, as we are building and soon, when we go to city hall they WILL be doing and listening to what we want, because ‘they’ will ‘be us’… Until then, we do these other ‘cool’ things to help and prepare our community and change hearts and minds!!! Visit: http://www.ColumbiaClimateChangeCoalition.org M. Welch– Join In!! Let’s start today–what do we have to loose–everything, so let’s push it, and don’t stop!! Some unifying Climate Change Movement music:
          http://www.singfortheclimate.com/NL/default.aspx Let’s sing together–and we started our ‘Peoples’ Visioning’ with that ‘connection’, call it meditation, prayer, centering, just a focus on the immensity of the task at hand, whatever you want to call it… and at our subsequent gathering/meeting we have live accoustic music and recently have started by singing Lennon’s Imagine!! This coming Monday we will start with both of these…We also have vegan food/refreshments at our larger gatherings as well. All are welcome, we don’t judge–if someone eats meat or is a different cultural background—’we are one’!!! Our plans will bring jobs, help us heal old, deep wounds, bring justice, equity along with forgiveness and repentance…and build a better world/community, as we try to save our planet and our children and theirs!!It will, of course, take some time, but it’s one of the few things worth spending time on–let’s do it together!! It’s better than a lot of time on our keyboards –whether we ‘win’ or not, it’s better, as you pointed out than not doing/trying something—we have to try!!! Contact me!!!

  10. Nell says:

    IMHO the world would need to turn its collective back to the existing global economic system to get us out of this fix.

    Since money rules in almost any political system we currently have on this planet, it would be political suicide to even suggest it.

    My only hope right now is that we discover an affordable carbon capture technoloy.

  11. shochin says:

    only question left is Stratospheric sulfur aerosols, ocean fertilization, or Carbon sequestration etc etc? a combination of several?

    of course feedbacks may make all of that akin to clawing at the coffin lid with our finger nails…….

  12. Alex Smith says:

    Dr. Guy McPherson says the radical and necessary plan is the collapse of our fossil-based economy.

    Of course that’s also the conclusion of scientist Timothy Garrett from the University of Utah, as published in the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Science in 2011. No reduction of emissions without a reduction of “wealth”. Nobody wants to hear that. We’d rather make believe until we go over the climate cliff.

    Here is McPherson’s 29 minute speech from the Bluegrass Bioneers conference November 2nd in Louisville.
    http://www.ecoshock.net/affiliates/20121205EcoshockPart1.mp3

    We can disagree about his predictions for an economic Depression, but I fact-checked his climate statements and he’s right about those.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      We need only reduce the wealth of the 0.01% who control trillions. The other 99.9% need only suffer a reduction in ‘living standards’ back to those that pertained in the rich world in the 1930s, hardly a disaster. We get to keep modern medical and other technological advances as well.

  13. Prof. Dan Harding says:

    Carbon Pollution 2.4 million pounds per second

    There is ZERO chance we can limit to just 2C in other words. Time to stop pretending.

  14. Superman1 says:

    There’s something about the total climate change scenario that’s not hanging together. It is rather obvious that if we continue on our present consumption path of fossil fuels, we face catastrophic climate change. It is inconceivable to me that the DoD, the intel agencies, the energy company CEOs et al do not realize this fact. And, it is inconceivable that the power-brokers don’t realize that they and their progeny will suffer if this catastrophe occurs.

    It is also obvious that to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, we need to terminate use of fossil fuels ASAP, reforest, and use some form of geo-engineering, and we need to do this rather quickly. It is also obvious that these drastic measures would never get done in the required time period through democratic approaches. It is crystal clear that the only way the climate change bullet can be avoided is implementation of these measures under wartime conditions, with the severest restrictions on any use of fossil fuel.

    Now, why was this situation allowed to develop? I am sure the DoD and intel agencies have ‘black’ programs that have been studying this issue for years; they have had ‘black’ programs that studied issues orders of magnitude less important on the priority scale. They must have known about the problem, and made recommendations to the powers-that-be.

    It may very well be that whatever they planned to do about the problem was overtaken by the rapidity of events. The climate appears to be changing more rapidly than anyone seems to have predicted. Could it be that this climate deterioration we are witnessing was/is not an accident, but a planned climate Pearl Harbor in the making?

    In the Summer of 1941, shortly after Germany attacked the Soviet Union, President FDR seized all Japanese assets in the USA, and effectively deprived Japan of its access to oil. For all practical purposes it was an act of war, and culminated in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

    Is this what the present lack of action on climate change is leading to? I don’t know what a climate Pearl Harbor would be, but some catastrophic event that could be tied more directly to climate change, or some chain of events, might suffice. It might lend global support to the type of action that would be unthinkable through democratic means. The all-out push by the energy companies to open as many fossil fuel sources as they can might be a ruse, or might be a last-minute grab for all the money they can acquire before the clampdown on use.

    I realize this may come across as the ravings of a madman (and maybe they are), but before I view an illogical situation as pure serendipity and happenstance, I always try to ascertain whether there is a method behind the madness. It’s just hard for me to believe that the DoD, the intel agencies, the Executive Branch, and the energy company executives and their allies would allow themselves and their progeny to face such a catastrophe in the future. If only other countries were to suffer from the catastrophe, then I would not put it past these organizations to allow the climate disaster to occur. But themselves, no way! Does anyone else see the likelihood of this scenario, or some other planned scenario, or do you think it is a pure free-for-all money grab for which the rich and powerful are willing to sacrifice their own lives and those of their children?

    • wili says:

      At some level, nearly everyone understands that we are in the midst of something very bad that is about to get very much worse. But essentially no one has made major changes in their lives of the kind that, if everyone made them, could possibly make it so we may perhaps have some remote chance of avoiding utter catastrophe (like reducing to ~1 planet level on the http://www.myfootprint.org quiz).

      How many people do you know who have given up:
      >flying,
      >meat eating (not to mention dairy),
      >nearly all driving,
      >eating anything they don’t grow themselves or buy local,
      >shoping (except for absolute essentials),
      >living in a (by modern standards) ‘normal sized’ house,
      >heating or cooling that house beyond the bare minimum…?

      So if most of us ‘normal’ people are in this kind of denial, even though most of us know on some level, what is at stake, why do you think the elites would be any less in denial?

      Don’t you remember Bush’s ideas about making his own reality and his scoffing at ‘reality-based’ people? This is common thinking among much of the elite. Elite everywhere, after all, are characterized by being remote from what most people take to be reality–heck, that’s nearly the definition of ‘elite.’

      It’s denial, it’s habit, it’s also basically addiction–how many smokers do you know who actually don’t think their habit is likely to kill them? Yet they still smoke. Same with using fossil fuels. Of course, both industries do everything they can to keep you/us addicted, through direct advertising, by spreading misinformation, by pouring tons of cash into lobbying to affect legislation, and through many other open and covert methods.

      Some of their (and our) kids may, perhaps, be reachable, and perhaps they may become persistent enough to change their parents’ behaviors.

      But really, they (and we) are all stuck inside a whole system that is driving us over the precipice. Corporations must by law be driven only by profit, and most of the time most of the easiest profit can be made by raping and poisoning the earth (or by simply ripping off the public, directly or indirectly).

      • mike says:

        i agree. Very few people want to make those sacrifices. Me personaly i dont believe something bad is going to happen anytime soon. No global warming last 16 years with all this extra co2. I have very small co2 print. I like warm weather better than cold so im not worried at all !!

    • Gillian King says:

      Superman1… that’s an interesting train of thought. The situation certainly baffles sane logic. However, that doesn’t take me along the path you take. To me, it appears that a small proportion of people (mostly rigid thinking ideologues (libertarians, fundamentalists, etc.) decided a few years ago that it wasn’t happening … and now they are stuck in that view. They are supported by a handful of fossil fuel corporations that will wither and die in a low-carbon future. Their very existence depends on ‘deny and delay’.

      These corporations (Exxonmobil, Shell, BP, Peabody, etc) are the same as tobacco companies. They can’t deny their products cause damage, but nevertheless, they keep selling them. It’s all they know how to do.

      Like you, I anticipate that the world will go on war-footing eventually. That will happen when it is widely recognised that climate change is a security issue not an economic/ financial issue. It will be too late to prevent the worst damage.

      I’m sure you’re right that various security agencies are doing scenario planning, but I don’t think it has translated into a plan to make things worse in order to trigger a crisis. I guess that could happen one day, if democratic govts get nervous enough about impacts on their own people and education campaigns aren’t working. Autocratic govts don’t have to do that – they just dictate ambitious renewable energy targets and implement carbon pricing as China is doing right now.

      What might trigger the US to go on war-footing? Maybe when 100 million Bangladeshis are displaced by rising sea level, and 50 million Pakistanis are displaced by drought and/or flooding and India resorts to nuclear weapons to protect its borders – then the US govt might go on war footing to cut its GHG emissions FAST. They’ll be trying to get them down to the Bangladesh gold-standard emissions of 0.3 tons per capita.

    • Übermensch Uno,

      I don’t think you’re nuts, but I think you are giving the Powers That Be too much credit. They are not that together. Like the rest of us, they relied on science, mostly the now largely discredited IPPC reports, that told them that we had a generation or two to “solve” global warming. And, technocrats that they are, they assumed the solution would pop out of a lab like a rabbit out of a hat.

      Oops! The climate system is far more sensitive to forcing than we thought! Some, like Hansen and Romm saw it, but nobody wanted to believe them — especially the status quo defenders.

      Do yourself a favor and google CSP and biochar and think about the exponential power of crowd sourcing. Hope springs eternal…

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Have you seen how Gore Vidal, who was well acquainted with Washington in his youth (DC, not George) said that the attack on Pearl Harbor was anticipated, and everyone was just waiting for ‘the blow to fall’. The USA had, as we know, broken the Japanese naval codes, so the attack must surely have been allowed to occur. It makes you think about the ‘Project for a New American Century’s’ ‘New Pearl Harbour’, too, don’t you think?

      • Superman1 says:

        Mulga,

        Here’s my reading of the situation in 1941, and how it relates to the climate change problem of today. By 1940, it was obvious the USA would have to get involved in the ongoing global conflicts. Japan was conquering large parts of Asia, Hitler had conquered much of Western Europe, and effectively controlled much of Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union controlled the remainder of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Empire. This left the USA increasingly isolated from a commercial and military standpoint.

        But, because of the ‘deniers’ of those days, the ‘America Firsters’ and the Bund, and their fellow travelers, there was no easy way to get the USA involved in the War in a significant way, other than supplying some materiel to the combatants. Roosevelt needed a major shock to arouse the nation from its lethargy and isolationism.

        The opportunity came at the end of June, 1941. At that time, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. It appeared that a rapid victory was possible, given the major advances after the attack. If Japan entered the War on Hitler’s side and attacked the Soviet Union from the East, then the Siberian Reserves could not be used for the defense against Hitler.

        In early July, FDR took a bold step that would be beyond BHO’s wildest dreams. He froze the assets of Japan, effectively cutting off most of their oil supply. It was for all intents and purposes a declaration of war! It forced the Japanase to relinquish all thoughts of aiding Hitler against the Soviet Union, and they instituted a series of events that ultimately led to the attack on Pearl Harbor. This was the shock that neutralized the ‘deniers’ of those days, and allowed the USA to formally enter the conflict. Germany and the Soviet Union would exhaust all their resources in the struggle, and the USA would end Japan’s domination of Asia by complete destruction of their military and industry.

        So, Roosevelt, probably by design, was able to eliminate the major industrial powers as competitors for a decade or more by one brilliant stroke.

        I believe that’s the only hope we have for even an outside chance of stemming the climate catastrophe on the horizon. We, the people, will not control our energy ‘addiction’ by choice, but might in the event of a major catastrophe and possible stronger government control. I would have hoped that Hurricane Sandy would be that catastrophe, but it now appears that the damage will be rebuilt, perhaps a little stronger, and we will have business as usual. Unfortunately, any catastrophe of the magnitude required to awaken the citizenry out of their apathy may signal that it is too late for any hope.

        I don’t see the Roadmap that leads to victory. If you do, please inform me.

        • Lewis Cleverdon says:

          S-man,
          it’s good to see questioning of the received wisdom that the whole establishment are clueless and irrational on AGW. I think your dead right that they’re not.

          A point worth considering is that FDR’s goal was of achieving US global economic dominance, for which the WW1 model of staying out until the great powers were badly depleted was still recent menory. I suggest he was in no rush to take the US to war.

          Obama faces a related but different problem – If present trends hold then by the end of his second term China will take over global economic dominance. There is no arms race under way such as was applied to breaking the USSR economy to put down its bid – and there’s no way that Washington and the US corporations have resigned themselves to losing the lion’s share of world resources.

          So what options are being pursued ? More to the point, given that China’s rise has been obvious since the ’90s, what chosen options have been inherited from Cheyney & Bush ?

          Berlin’s use of Lenin as an ideological virus (delivered in a sealed train) to destabilize Russia during WW1 was an example of the potential effectiveness of non-military means to control an opponent. Russia collapsed in revolution and called a withdrew from the war.

          In China’s case there is some potential for civil unrest, but nothing near the level needed to destabilize the government and break its bid for global economic dominance.

          But, if AGW is not mitigated by an early global treaty mandating Albedo Restoration, we’re now within perhaps a decade of an unmitigated warming imposing crop failures and potential food scarcities for the Chinese people. Add to this widespread web access as in the Arab Spring, and the potential for subversion via astroturf and autobot messaging, and the focus of global media onto coverage of ordinary Chinese peoples’ concerns over working conditions, corruption, pollution, land-seizures, human rights, etc, and maybe the government would be vulnerable.

          Assuming the maintenance of global economic dominance remains Washington’s paramount priority, what other choices did Cheyney, and does Obama, have than to impose a Brinkmanship of Inaction over a global climate treaty, and await developments ?

          It perhaps needs saying that the neocons were demonstrably piss poor optimistic strategists, and that the policy that Obama inherited was actually based on badly flawed assumptions that were conventional wisdom in the ’90s:
          - that developing nations like China would be far harder hit by extreme climate impacts than developed nations,
          (in fact extreme impacts are rising faster in the US than anywhere else on the planet [says Munich Re]),
          - and that wealthy nations like the US would be far better able to afford climate damage costs and food price rises than developing countries like China,
          (with China growing at 7% while the US economy is relying on printing money, and with Sandy and the drought costing up to 1.5% of GDP, this was about as far wrong as imaginable).

          If we fail to expose and overturn that bipartisan US policy of brinkmanship and fail to get a timely treaty of mitigation, then the outcome of the contest seems unpredictable. Either or both the nations could decide the game is not worth the candle, or they could end up in matching national trainwrecks – along with many other nations. Which rather emphasizes the importance in my view of exposing and overturning the prevailing US climate policy as the first step to an equitable and efficient climate treaty.

          Regards,

          Lewis

  15. adelady says:

    My feeling is that we should use that ‘need for greed’ that’s currently getting in our way to help us along. Emissions reductions are necessary but they’re not going to do the job. We have to have concentration reductions. 350 sounds good but we really should be aiming for 300 or less.

    Seeing as the “advanced” economies are responsible for that initial increase, international agreements should be reframed along the lines of everybody having much the same responsibilities for emissions controls, including offsets, but the advanced economies have a separate obligation for reducing concentrations of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.

    To start with, it might have to be as simple and crude as blowing up holes in the ground or mountainsides/tops where the rock is the right kind for weathering/ absorption/ sequestration on steroids compared to the natural process much like our release of CO2 has been on steroids. We might then find China and a couple of other countries that have been on the ‘point the finger at the West’ bandwagon wanting to be counted in the advanced group to get their hands on the contracts for such activities. There’s a whole new, worldwide industry available for the keen and eager to get in on the ground floor.

    And it just might be a sobering process that gets people into the mindset that emissions reductions/offsets are not and never will be enough to get us out of this mess. We have to reduce concentrations.

    • Google “biochar” and the International Biochar Iniative.

    • Artful Dodger says:

      Hi Adelady,

      It’s not clear that returning to atmospheric CO2 levels of 350 ppm (or even below 300 ppm) will lower the Earth’s temperature.

      If we go deep enough into the red, for long enough, we will not only lose the Arctic sea ice in Summer, but all year round.

      The albedo flip associated with a perennially sea ice free Arctic ocean would provide enormous additional heat to the Oceans. Further, if unfriending coal lowers the masking effects of atmospheric sulfates, we will be subject to the full force of the greenhouse effect.

      This is why NOAA says the effects of climate change are largely irreversible for 1,000 years. Much like the country song, you can not unbreak an egg.

      • wili says:

        But just because the climate is now racing down hill on its own steam doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop racing along after it to push it yet faster.

      • Superman1 says:

        Do you see any way out of the impending catastrophe, or has the Fat Lady sung her song?

  16. Spike says:

    Came across an interesting report from 1983 of all times, which really shows how little progress we have made given the extent of our knowledge at the time:

    http://books.google.co.uk/books/reader?id=zYkJAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&pg=GBS.PP5

  17. Rich Cowan says:

    The problem with everything I have read so far is that no one has addressed one of the main “root causes” of unwillingness to cooperate in reducing carbon pollution in the US and several other key countries. And that is the way that capitalism is defined here.

    A corporation under US law (actually Delaware law in most cases) is obligated to maximize the return on its shareholders’ investment. So if Exxon were to reduce its contribution to global warming denialists and support carbon taxation, agreeing that global warming was a real problem, a group of shareholders could sue the board of directors and insist that the company change its posture to one that would contribute to short term profit.

    It it not necessary to eliminate capitalism altogether to change this (and of course noncapitalist countries have there own problems related to pollution). But it is possible to change the laws regarding the responsibility of a corporate board to allow the board to consider workers, consumers, and the environment, as has been the norm in many European countries.

    Io stop global warming, it may be necessary to initiate campaigns in Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, California, etc. to change the corporation laws so that no corporate board can be sued for taking a more environmental stance. Or even a more targeted “corporate responsibility” provision that would force a corporation to consider long term survival of the planet over short term profit.

    Just the threat of such a sweeping change to corporation law will result in a change in corporate practices and political contributions with respect to the global warming issues.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Nice post, Rich, but, may I ask, where, now, are these ‘non-capitalist’ countries? Not on this planet, surely? If you mean China, well that, in my opinion, is state capitalism plus private capitalism, with a high degree of central planning, which seems to have worked pretty well over the last few decades, and which, I believe, now represents the last hope for concerted technological and industrial action in the mass production of renewable energy. The classic ‘liberal’ capitalist states are train-wrecks taking everybody down in order to protect their ruling elites.

    • Gillian King says:

      Does the law specify a timeframe within which returns on shareholders’ investment needs to be maximised? Companies often pay reduced dividend, or defer them in order to expand, or pay down debt, etc. It wouldn’t be too hard for a company to argue that it was reducing dividend payments in the short term with a view to increasing long term return on investment. Or with a view to staying in business at all over the long term.

      Unless oil companies diversify out of oil, or invest heavily in CCS, they won’t have a future in the longer term.

  18. wili says:

    We already have a radical plan that we (or at least the ff industries) seem to have every intention of carrying out:

    Dig up and burn every ounce of geologically sequestered carbon that we can possibly find and thereby cook the planet and ourselves.

    NOT carrying out such a radical plan should not be considered the ‘radical’ position.

    • Superman1 says:

      Wili,

      “Dig up and burn every ounce of geologically sequestered carbon that we can possibly find and thereby cook the planet and ourselves.”

      You have described the team effort that is taking place as we speak. The ff industry digs up the carbon, and we burn it. A symbiotic relationship that requires the active participation of both members of the symbiotic relationship. If either one does not cooperate, problem solved. So, why are we focusing all our attention on the partner digging up the carbon, and essentially none on the partner burning it?

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  20. mike says:

    im not an elite or CEO. Im enjoying the warmer weather we are having now in the detroit area. People the world is not coming to an end. I know it makes you feel good to think that you can save the Planet but be real you Chicken littles.

    • Superman1 says:

      I am not a Chicken Little, I am an Alarmist, in the grand tradition of Paul Revere sounding the Alarm. If Paul Revere rode through town today, he would be called a Chicken Little. That’s how the world has changed.