Humans Are Not Like Slowly Boiling Frogs … We Are Like Slowly Boiling Brainless Frogs

Even though people keep using the famous simile — “the fatally slow human response to climate change makes us like a slowly boiling frog” — it is not quite right.

As Wikipedia puts it, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz “demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but his intact frogs attempted to escape the water.” Other 19th Century studies appeared to have different results, but modern experiments (!) show that frogs with brains are in fact smart enough to leap out of water as it is heated up.

James Fallows of The Atlantic, who I am quite certain holds the world record for boiling frog posts, has one from Michael Jones who cites “Sensation in the Spinal Cord” from Nature, Dec. 4, 1873:

“Goltz observed that a frog, when placed in water the temperature of which is slowly raised towards boiling, manifests uneasiness as soon as the temperature reaches 25° C., and becomes more and more agitated as the heat increases, vainly struggling to get out, and finally at 42° C., dies in a state of rigid tetanus. The evidence of feeling being thus manifested when the frog has its brain, what is the case with a brainless frog? It is absolutely the reverse. Quietly the animal sits through all successions of temperature, never once manifesting uneasiness or pain, never once attempting to escape the impending death.”

Even so, I am inclined to agree with Jones that this should not be fatal to the metaphor. It just needs to be tweaked.

Technically, we are the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens, as I’ve said before (see “Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme?“). Such are the privileges of being the only species that gets to name all the species, so we can call ourselves “wise” twice! But given how we have been destroying the planet’s livability, I think at the very least we should drop one of the “sapiens.” And, perhaps provisionally, we should put the other one in quotes, so we are Homo “sapiens” sapiens at least until we see whether we are smart enough to save ourselves from ourselves.

If we destroy a livable climate, which means “billions of people will be condemned to poverty and much of civilisation will collapse” and are renamed just plain Homo, then in fact we will have demonstrated we are dumber than frogs (who were, after all, doing just fine until we came along).

At that point, we will be brainless frogs.

Related Post:

This post is an update.

63 Responses to Humans Are Not Like Slowly Boiling Frogs … We Are Like Slowly Boiling Brainless Frogs

  1. Superman1 says:

    I think addiction is the better model, where people are willing to trade longevity for self-indulgence and gratification in the here-and-now. Applies to smoking, drugs, and most of all the high energy intensity lifestyle enabled by the availability of ‘cheap’ fossil fuel.

  2. Ken Barrows says:

    To add to Superman1, for most of us, it is lifestyle uber alles. So we either deny everything or think that technology alone will save us.

  3. Raul M. says:

    Consequential action roadmap? True danger recognition should help with a desire to stay on course and what should be the course using technology to add to comfort?

  4. prokaryotes says:

    These videos explain why we living in a consumer bitch world, which has no sense for the environment, the future.

    And everything you see there is dwarfed meaningless in face of the dangerous climate change we unleash on planet earth. We try to get everything but in the end we lose all.

  5. Paul Klinkman says:

    Frogs at some point have to deal with thriving a few yards from volcanic hot springs without cooking themselves in the hot springs. They would probably have evolved the ability to sense excessive heat and to escape to cooler nearby stream water. Cut-off mud puddles in extremely hot weather might also be slightly dangerous places for frogs.

  6. Jeff Huggins says:

    So Then … (and a Question for CAP)

    So then, let’s use our brains and begin — now — to ask Hillary Clinton for her answer to this concrete question: “If you were president today, how would you rule regarding the Keystone XL pipeline? Would you approve it or deny approval? Please be clear and concrete and decisive with your answer. Thank you.”

    As I’ve explained in earlier comments under other posts (so I won’t repeat it all here), it would be both wise and responsible to begin asking Hillary that question now, and to ask it repeatedly and passionately until it receives a clear answer. If Democrats and progressives want the NEXT president to be genuinely serious about climate change, and to be someone who is willing and unafraid to be a Leader in addressing it to the degree it demands to be addressed, then (for reasons explained elsewhere, but that should be clear — at least to anyone with a brain!) we should demand to know how Hillary would make the Keystone XL decision, and we should begin to demonstrate to any and all would-be Democratic presidential nominees that we will not take ‘no’, or vagueness, or mere hype, as an answer, AND that we will not support anyone who doesn’t have a clear and compelling and concrete stand regarding climate change.

    So then, a question for Joe and Ryan and CAP: Do you support the idea, and will you encourage it, to begin asking Hillary the question quoted above — in the interest of finding out what she would do, and where she stands, and in the interest of showing all would-be nominees that we are serious this time? And in the interest of starting in a timely fashion so we don’t end up getting stuck having to choose between the lesser of two evils in the next presidential election.



  7. Ernest says:

    Politics and economic self interest has a way of making us “stupid”, even willfully so.

  8. David Hart says:

    The important part of the myth is that (as my suggest) the slowly boiled frog fails to appreciate its own peril. People who believe, for example, that climate change is a hoax are slowly boiled frogs.

  9. Joe Romm says:

    It’s kind of moot for Hillary.

  10. Mark Belgium says:

    Yes we are addicted to the black stuff. And all we do is blaming the dealers (politicians) and the mafia (big oil). We think methadone (renewables) is the answer because we are to scared to go cold turkey.

  11. catman306 says:

    Do we need to send in the climate change denier firefighters?

    “Study sees climate upside in greening arid regions
    Wendy Koch, USA TODAY4:49 p.m. EDT May 31, 2013

    Rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a “fertilization effect” on plants in arid regions that has contributed to the flourishing of foliage there, Australian researchers report.”

  12. Dave S. Nottear says:

    I really like the proposed Homo “sapien” modification to our nomenclature.

    Maybe it is time to add a Homo homer simpsonous – would be appropriate for most Industrial CEOs? Maybe?

    I think they have isolated themselves (reproductive-wise, reality-wise, you name it-wise)enough to earn their own sub-species name.


    Regarding the “symptoms” exhibited by the frog-with-brains:

    I have noticed these symptoms might coincide roughly with the Kubler-Ross stages of grief:

    1. manifests uneasiness
    2. more and more agitated
    3. vainly struggling to get out
    4. finally …dies in a state of rigid tetanus.

    I am hoping to avoid that last symptom ;)

  13. Superman1 says:

    Enough of the peripherals. The most important question for future President H. Clinton is: what is your plan to reduce CO2 emissions in the transition period to a level where the temperature ceiling (and climate cliff) can be avoided, and what is your plan to show leadership and exert pressure on other nations to do likewise, or even better?

  14. Jeff Huggins says:

    Hi Joe, thanks for your response. But what do you mean by ‘moot for Hillary’? Please explain. My point, of course, is not whether or not Hillary has been or is thinking about Keystone XL, nor is it that she can’t actually influence, via the State Department, the State Department reports or (directly at least) the President’s decision. Instead, my point is that — at least according to many of the news folks and pundits (some of whose shows you’ve been on) — she is the clear frontrunner for the next Democratic nomination, so much so that (presumably) many other would-be nominees are waiting by the sidelines to see what Hillary decides to do. So, the point of my comment is that WE(!) — members of the climate movement, Democrats, progressives, and responsible citizens — should WANT to find out ASAP where Hillary really stands as well as whether she can show enough leadership and verve to take a hard, clear, and strong stand on a vitally important and timely issue. Do you not think that we should do everything possible to find out where Hillary stands in concrete terms, asap and well, well, well before many people start thinking of her as the de facto nominee for 2016? I trust that you don’t want us to end up in the same position in 2017 as we are in today, that is, feeling like we may have elected someone who is either uncommitted to the task or deeply insufficient to tackling it.

    I hope this clarifies the question. Any thoughts?



  15. prokaryotes says:

    The headline is misleading, there are saturation levels, there are different plants…

    Plant defenses go down as carbon dioxide levels go up, the researchers found. Soybeans grown at elevated CO2 levels attract many more adult Japanese beetles than plants grown at current atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

  16. David F Collins says:

    She is a fuzzer. Remember her response when asked whether Mr Obama was a Christian, as he claimed: “As far as I know.” In other words, she says/does whatever it takes to satisfy her ambition.

    There presently is no leadership.

  17. Dave S. Nottear says:

    Sometimes, if you stare hard enough with squinted eyes, at the threads of the body bag being zipped up around you, you might mistake those threads for “silver linings.”

    “Wendy Koch”… hmmm, that name sounds familiar (just joking, no relation I’m sure).

  18. Joe Romm says:

    But it is Obama’s decision. Talk is cheap.

  19. Raul M. says:

    If there were people to take the innetiative to stop the methane plumes in the Arctic at least we would brainy frogs.

  20. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The fact that people choose renewables at roughly comparable prices shows the addiction argument is unadulterated nonsense. And as it is fossil fuels that lie at the heart of our problems, replacing them is exactly the right place to start, ME

  21. fj says:

    Actually, the comparison to slowly boiling frogs is not terribly accurate as even more frequent waves of extreme weather seem to be in the near future to compel the population and leadership to go into action.

  22. FrankD says:


    You talk a lot about temperature ceilings & climate cliffs, frequently citing Kevin Anderson’s 2 degrees and your own sense that 1 degree is probably more realistic.

    IMO, this conveys the wrong idea that there is some cut-off below which things are fine and above which we are boned. There is no 2 degree (or 1 degree or whatever) cutoff. 1.9 degrees is not problem free, but its better than 2.1. 2.3 is not the end of the world, but its worse than 2.1.

    If there is no “climate cliff” to be avoided, talking about it with reference to policy is counterproductive. I would argue that its planning to fail. The agenda should not be to decarbonise at a rate to avoid 2 degrees. It should be to decarbonise as much as possible, as soon as possible.

  23. Omega Centauri says:

    The addiction analogy imperfect as it is, applies at the level of the economic and political system. We have some people choosing renewables, even if the price is higher, and some not. We also have significant segments of society engaging in highly consumptive lifestyles, so the analogy at least partially holds.

  24. Dave S. Nottear says:



    “extreme weather seem to be in the near future to compel the population and leadership to go into action.

    That sentence sounds very, very similar to one I heard uttered by an indigenous person who promised to bring rain. I sheet you not.


    “the comparison to slowly boiling frogs is not terribly accurate”

    Have you seen a picture of the Koch brothers lately? (okay, not fair, but neither are they so there).

  25. Jeff Huggins says:

    Aahhh yes, it IS Obama’s decision; and yes, talk is cheaper than actual action. But it would be much LESS cheap, and much more consequential (in terms of at least learning something about Hillary) to pose the concrete question to her and see whether and how she responds. If the question is posed to her persistently and passionately, and if she avoids answering it, or answers vaguely, or (heaven forbid) if she says that she’d approve KXL, we learn something. If the question is posed to her persistently and passionately and she comes out clearly and forcefully and says that, if she were president, she would deny approval to KXL, and if she says that Before Obama makes his decision, that would “say” something, and that would at least show some Leadership and Verve and some degree of Courage. Although talk is typically cheaper than action, that sort of response on her part would tell us something and would be much better than nothing at all. On the other hand, if we don’t even pose the question to her (and thus if we don’t even ask something of her, to see how she’d respond) not only would we not learn anything potentially new and important about her, but we WOULD learn something revealing about ourselves — that we weren’t even willing to try, and that we rationalized not trying to ourselves. IF she is the presumed frontrunner already, then there is no reason not to — and every reason to — try to learn as much about her as possible, as it relates to climate change, and as soon as possible. Are you suggesting that we don’t bother to ask questions of her, or demand answers of her, until she is already the de facto nominee or until it is far too late into the process to pick another horse to ride? Why? I don’t get it. Or, by saying that talk is cheap, and thus implying that we should only consider her actions in office as relevant, are you saying/implying that we should already know that she’d be a terrible president with respect to climate change? After all, it has been “her” State Department that has been favorable to KXL all along. If we should begin to ignore her words (and not bother asking her concrete questions) and pay attention only to her past actions, then we should already conclude that she’s the wrong person for the job, and we should be working as hard as possible to get a much better nominee into the race. Thoughts?

  26. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Some logic required. That people change their energy source so easily proves it is not an addiction as leaving an addiction has a severe physiological effect. Heavy consumption does not prove addiction, ME

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Uhhh??? How do you go ‘cold turkey’ on energy? I agree that we must radically reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency, but it will take time. Renewables are not like methadone, they are more like apomorphine.

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    They just bury themselves in the mud. Speaking of primordial ooze, ‘The Australian’ is in vintage Green-bashing and denialist form today (hatred of environmentalists is even surpassing hatred of Moslems on the Right here)pushing the ‘CFCs are the real cause of warming’ hoot as hard as they can.

  29. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    An excellent suggestion, Jeff, with only one drawback. The congruency between what politicians say, in order to gain votes, and their actions after being elected, is determined entirely by the quantum of loot that they receive from the rich capitalist elite. In the case of environmental concerns, and climate destabilisation in particular, the dissonance between pre and post election positions approaches totality.

  30. Mark Belgium says:

    Let’s talk about real figures here: the average energy consumption per household in my country.
    Electricity: 3500kwh
    Gas (heating): 25000 kwh
    Car use: 3750 kwh (7500km/y at 5l/100km)
    If I had the money: I could install PV to cover my electricity needs.
    If I had the money: I could build a zero energy home*.
    If I had the money: I could buy a Tesla and install PV to cover the power.
    If I had the money I would have a big garden where I produce my own food.
    I don’t have the money , I’m average.
    So I can talk about renewabels until I’m blue I don’t have the green . I am forced to use the black stuff for the larger part of my energy consumption (addiction).
    *(In Belgium we have very strict building codes: by 2020 every new home has to produce energy instead of consuming energy. Only the rich can afford to build such a new home. )
    It’s all about the money Mulga.

  31. Superman1 says:

    If you and Mulga would learn to read the comment first and then respond, instead of the converse, you would see the high energy intensity lifestyle is the addiction. Today, it is fueled by fossil sources, and since there is no immediate replacement, the lifestyle has to go if we are to survive the transition period.

  32. Superman1 says:

    As Anderson says, do you want to sacrifice now, or make the sacrifices that will be required in a 4 C or higher world?

  33. Mark Belgium says:

    Cold turkey = zero co2 emissions not zero energy

  34. Icarus62 says:

    As much as I agree that the Kochs of this world and their bribed politicians are the archetypal ‘Greedy Lying B*stards’ who are doing their best to promote doubt and denial about climate science, the fact remains that almost all of us are happily buying what they sell, and can’t live without it. The world is powered by fossil fuels, and everything else is small fry. This gives us two problems:

    First, we can’t simply choose to stop or drastically curtail fossil fuel use without crashing the world economy and probably having a few billion people die of starvation, thirst, disease, conflict and so on.

    Second, fossil fuels are finite and heading for decline anyway.

    My point is that it makes it really hard to know what to campaign for. We can see the problem but I’m not at all sure there’s a painless way out of it. If by some miracle everyone on the planet learned what was happening and had a religious conversion to wanting to live a low-impact lifestyle, we could certainly save significant amounts of carbon emissions by reducing discretionary travel, turning off our TVs, turning down the central heating thermostat etc., but with the best will in the world, we still need massive amounts of fossil fuels to run civilisation’s infrastructure – the food supply chain, factories for essentials, water supplies, sanitation, emergency services… quite a long list of things we can’t reasonably do without. Even substantially reduced anthropogenic emissions would still be vastly more rapid than the geological processes which lock away carbon in the Earth’s crust, so our emissions would accumulate in the climate system and we’d still have the same climate disruption, just a bit later.

    It would be nice to think that ‘renewables’ are the answer. Of course the energy gathered is inexhaustible (sunlight, wind, wave etc.) but the resources we use to gather that energy are finite, and the energy is much more diffuse and much less convenient than fossil fuels. At the moment, all the ‘renewable’ energy infrastructure we’re building is being done with fossil fuel energy. Can we ever rely on solar panels and wind turbines to entirely power the factories making solar panels and wind turbines? It’s not clear to me that we can… and of course there is also the location of raw materials, mining, transport, refining, transport of finished products, installation, repair, dismantling, recycling… pretty much every part of that is powered by fossil fuel energy. I don’t know of any analysis showing that renewables can ever possibly supply all of the energy we use today to run civilisation *and* renew themselves as well. I worry that renewables are a dead end, and a waste of resources.

    In any case, ever more studies are showing that it’s already too late for emissions reductions alone to avert massive climate disruption. We need active sequestration of CO2 from the free atmosphere to quickly reduce and eliminate the planetary energy imbalance and stop global warming before natural feedbacks take over and the warming runs away from us, which could be in as little as 50 years. What method and resources are we going to use for this sequestration, which would have to be on the order of 100 billion tons of CO2 per year? What energy source are we going to use to power it? Obviously not fossil fuels, and surely not renewables.

    So, what’s the ‘doable’ answer? What radical changes do I demand in my letter to my Member of Parliament? What will actually be (a) technically possible, (b) effective, and (c) tolerated by the electorate who are in love with freedom of travel, iPads, big screen TV, central heating and air conditioning etc.?

  35. Turboblocke says:

    Mark Belgium: you could always chose for “Green” electricity. I believe that there are a number of suppliers in Belgium.

    And doesn’t PV have a payback period of 4-5 years, so it makes economic sense to install it?

  36. fj says:

    Yes, people keep talking about rising sea surface heights and temperatures but these are relatively slow coming compared to the extreme weather and climate events happening allow over the world — right now — caused by much more heat in the system.

    Heat is just distributed kinetic energy, which is the energy of motion — all over the world — existing for the taking by global and local natural conditions to concentrate into more obvious forms: winds, currents, rain, etc.

  37. Raul M. says:
    This is a nice take on the use of drones to help protect nature. View methane plumes this summer from a safe distance aboard a ship.

  38. Raul M. says:

    Thanks fj,
    That is such a quick summation.

  39. Sasparilla says:

    Perfectly said Mulga, as the current U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize winner (for his 2008 pre-election climate change action talk/promises no less) has shown unequivocally.

  40. Gingerbaker says:

    Please – we could replace all carbon fuels with renewables in five years if wanted to. The replacement for fossil fuels is ready now, today – as hundreds of posts here have demonstrated.

    But that message does not comport with your Anderson doomsday rantings about how we all must suffer because we are “addicted” to an immoral lifestyle.

  41. Dave S. Nottear says:

    I really hope you are right fj, I really do.

  42. rollin says:

    So where do the smart frogs escape to since they know they are boiling? Outer space?

  43. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I absolutely agree, Mark, with one caveat. It is about the money, and the inequality. While people cannot afford energy efficienct and consumption reduction the cost of energy must be subsidised, by de-privatisation, and some really existing ‘public sector efficiency’, and tax rebates etc to make them affordable, and by that process I unfailing assert is essential to human survival-economic and social justice, massive wealth redistribution and the liquidation (financially only, of course) of the great kleptocratic fortunes, behind each of which, as Balzac observed, lies a forgotten crime.

  44. fj says:

    Re: “We can’t simply choose to stop . . . ”


    The price we continue to pay for feeding at the fossil fuel trough is far from worth it and the transition is much easier than they would have you believe.

    In fact, the transition is much easier than continuing the same very difficult wasteful way.

    It is pretty amazing how easy it is for people to get used to such stuff and fear change.

  45. fj says:

    The price we continue to pay for feeding at the fossil fuel trough is far from worth it

  46. Raul M. says:

    Well, some smart ones who may have huge storm shelters built in the next few years will need many smart ones to keep the storm city going. Once there was even the idea that seniors will be needed to teach the young and give wise counsel.

  47. Superman1 says:

    “The replacement for fossil fuels is ready now, today – as hundreds of posts here have demonstrated.” Sorry, but these arm-waving posts devoid of any analysis that shows emissions and temperatures in the transition region convince me of nothing. The only thing they are ‘ready now’ to do is lighten the contents of our wallets as we go over the climate cliff.

  48. Superman1 says:

    “we could replace all carbon fuels with renewables in five years”. Refresh my memory again; with what would you replace airplane fuel?

  49. Superman1 says:

    “It should be to decarbonise as much as possible, as soon as possible.” I agree with the general premise, but at some point we will need to set targets. especially if governments get involved in the solution. Also, with nonlinear dynamical systems, small changes in the boundary conditions can result in large changes in the outcome, so I wouldn’t draw premature conclusions about the existence or non-existence of fine lines at this point.

  50. Superman1 says:

    BTW, 2 C is a number used as the basis of international agreements, which Anderson uses for his published computations. The 1 C is Anderson’s number as well, which he believes reflects the opinion of many climate scientists. I’m more comfortable with 0.5 C for reasons I have stated in other posts, and adding in a safety factor produces a temperature ceiling about an order of magnitude below the 2 C.

  51. Superman1 says:

    Based on that conclusion, I believe we have no room for maneuver. We are in the danger zone, where it is highly uncertain whether we have passed a point of no return, and ANY further expenditure of fossil fuel puts us further into the danger zone. That’s why I cannot support anything but the most draconian sacrifices on fossil fuel use starting NOW, and agree with your conclusion only in that context.

  52. Superman1 says:

    “I agree that we must radically reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency, but it will take time.” Ah, weasel wording at its best. If Mother Nature is telling us quite clearly that time is about to run out, then your excuses are meaningless. Either we give Mother Nature what she wants when she wants it, or we pay the ultimate price!

  53. fj says:

    “Refresh my memory again; with what would you replace airplane fuel?”

    When dedicated high performance net zero transport and transit is seriously considered all sorts of opportunities will abound; as well as the broad deployment of offshore and possibly transoceanic floating wind turbines as mentioned in 4 June 2013 Climate Progress (pardon my hand waving).

  54. Superman1 says:

    You have stated the essence of the problem. As you imply, even under the best of conditions, where everyone is on-board, it is not clear that we can extricate ourselves. Given the most credible predictions, which reflect the worst of conditions, it is clear that extrication is a fantasy.

  55. Superman1 says:

    “First, we can’t simply choose to stop or drastically curtail fossil fuel use without crashing the world economy and probably having a few billion people die of starvation, thirst, disease, conflict and so on.” I don’t know what we ‘can or cannot do’. If you’re in a lifeboat that is sinking because of overload, do you throw 20% overboard to save the remainder, or does everyone stay and eventually go under? At what point does our biosphere crisis resemble this lifeboat?

  56. Calamity Jean says:

    “I don’t know of any analysis showing that renewables can ever possibly supply all of the energy we use today to run civilisation *and* renew themselves as well. I worry that renewables are a dead end, and a waste of resources.”

    What? I don’t know where you are, but in the United States there is enough potential wind power alone to supply all of the nation’s electricity needs 35 times over. That’s not considering solar, geothermal, wave/tidal or hydropower. I have no idea where you get the notion that renewables can’t be enough to power civilization. We just need to hurry up and install them.

    What’s a dead end is continuing to pursue fossil fuels.

  57. Calamity Jean says:

    You’re not required to be average.

    “If I had the money: I could install PV to cover my electricity needs.
    If I had the money: I could build a zero energy home*.”

    Do you rent or own? If you rent, then yes, you’re SOL. If you own your home, install better windows, insulation, and more efficient heaing equipment (furnace or boiler) to reduce your heating gas use. Yeah, it won’t reduce you to zero heating gas, but using less does help. Since you can’t afford solar panels to cover all of your electrical demand, can you afford to cover part of your electric use? Solar panels are a much better investment than anything you can find in the stock or bond markets. Install some soon and more later when you’ve saved more money.

  58. Superman1 says:

    ” I have no idea where you get the notion that renewables can’t be enough to power civilization.” Which renewable e.g. is going to power your airplane on an overseas flight?

  59. Martin Gisser says:


  60. Brooks Bridges says:

    Not trivial. Try:
    We have cars that run on methanol. Why not airplanes?

  61. Brooks Bridges says:

    “I don’t know of any analysis showing that renewables can ever possibly supply all of the energy we use today to run civilisation *and* renew themselves as well. I worry that renewables are a dead end, and a waste of resources. ”

    1) “we use today” is key. And “we”? Talk to a serious sailboat cruiser. They typically use probably 1/10 the energy or less of most Americans. We CAN have happy lives using far less. You NEED a gallon of water a day to live. You don’t NEED 3 to 5 gal for every toilet flush (and multiple toilet flushes per day). You don’t NEED to drive an hour a day by yourself to go to work. Etc.

    2) There is no other way than renewables (and more) IF humans are to continue to exist past 100 years.

    3) Homo Sapiens and possibly virtually all life on the planet will die if we don’t wake up soon and do the things you say can’t be done. Superman1’s lifeboat analogy applies.

    4)What alternative do you see to renewables?

    5) I’ll guarantee the Amish, for instance, manage quite well on less than 10% of typical American energy use.

    6) But, OMG, it would be so F*cking INCONVENIENT. Let’s face it, Al Gore nailed it.

  62. FrankD says:

    I don’t discount non-linear responses, but talking about a threshold figure (0.5, 1, 2 degrees, whatevs) implies that we know that that figure is the boundary at which one or more of those non-linear responses kicks in. But we don’t know what the actual figure is for any of those. And even if we did know, different responses have different thresholds – personally, I believe we have already passed it for Arctic Sea Ice, but that we (might) have not yet passed it for the collapse of the Greenland Ice Cap. No one threshold covers all responses.

    My issue with nominating what are, lets face it, entirely arbitrary numbers is the psychology of the issue – such figures form the basis of no-action justifications. We’ve already passed 0.5, and will pass 1.0 soon, so there’s no point in acting to avoid those targets. I believe 2 degrees is generally agreed because it is seen as just-about-achievable with agressive policy, not because it is meaningful in a climatological sense. Even if it was being seriously addressed as a target (and mostly, it isn’t), it stifles consideration of the cost-benefits of more aggressive cuts, say to hit 1.8 rather than 2. And if we miss 2, then what? I would rather 2.5 than no policy.

    I fear that pushing for “draconian cuts” (as you put it) to hit an arbitrary target will simply result in pushback and no action at all. Smart policy that gets up, even if the pace is too slow, is better than bad policy that fails. Australia is about to overturn poorly-delivered policy in an election that will ensure that they will take no meaningful action for another decade. Essentially this is because the little that was done was successfully messaged by opponents as punishment. Better outcomes could have been achieved by encouraging alternatives.

    Calls for “draconian cuts” will fail, ensuring catastrophe. And since 3 degrees is better than 4, I would rather less-than-optimal policies to none at all. I see anti-smoking campaigns as analogous. Those that encourage quitting (help, support, benefits) engage the target demographic. So do the ones that say if you won’t/can’t quit, cutting back is better than nothing. While the results are sub-optimal, they deliver some benefit. The ones that say “Quit or Die” just get tuned out.

  63. Mark Belgium says:

    Jane, I invested in insulating my home: Floor, walls and roof are insulated beyond what was required by the building code. I invested in double “high efficiency” glazing. This was my top priority because heating is by far the most energy consuming part. If I use 10,000kwh for heating the place instead of the average 25,000kwh than this has double the effect of installing pv to cover 3,500kwh of electricity. I am planning to cut my electricity needs by using low energy appliances. I also have a rainwater tank with a 10,000 liter capacity. That rainwater is used for toilets, garden, washing and cleaning. With a filter system I can even use it for showering and even cooking. If I had the money my home would be off the grid in no time ;-)