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Nobel laureate Rowland agrees with Climate Progress

By Joe Romm on May 30, 2008 at 8:01 am

"Nobel laureate Rowland agrees with Climate Progress"


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rowland.jpgI have been saying for quite some time that if we don’t act immediately to make deep cuts in CO2 emissions then we are headed towards the unmitigated catastrophe of 1000 ppm (see my August 2007 post, “Are Scientists Overestimating — or Underestimating — Climate Change“). Turns out that’s what Nobel laureate F. Sherwood Rowland believes.

Rowland is one of the world’s foremost authorities on atmospheric chemisty “who shared a Nobel Prize for his work revealing the threat to the ozone layer from CFC’s and similar synthetic chemicals,” as NYT‘s Andy Revkin explained (here). Wednesday, Revkin

asked Dr. Rowland two quick questions. The first: Given the nature of the climate and energy challenges, what is his best guess for the peak concentration of carbon dioxide?

His answer? “1,000 parts per million.

My second question was, what will that look like?

“I have no idea,” Dr. Rowland said. He was not smiling.

Readers of Climate Progress have an idea, since I have done my best to describe this grim future that scientists rarely model because they can’t believe humanity would be so self-destructive as to let it happen:

At 800 to 1000 ppm, the world faces multiple miseries, including:

  1. Sea level rise of 80 feet to 250 feet at a rate of 6 inches a decade (or more).
  2. Desertification of one third the planet and drought over half the planet, plus the loss of all inland glaciers.
  3. More than 70% of all species going extinct, plus extreme ocean acidification.

For more detail on the likely horror of 1000 ppm, see “Is 450 ppm (or less) politically possible? Part 0: The alternative is humanity’s self-destruction.”

For why we probably can’t stabilize at 550 ppm or 690 ppm, see “Tundra, Part 2: The point of no return.”

For how we stabilize below 450 ppm, see “Is 450 ppm (or less) politically possible? Part 2: The Solution.”

Science: Geo-engineering scheme damages the ozone layer

White House Report: Human Activity Is ‘Most Likely Responsible For Global Warming’

18 Responses to Nobel laureate Rowland agrees with Climate Progress

  1. JCH says:

    Of course, if this does not happen too soon, things will be peachy as we will have plenty of time to adapt!

  2. civil behavior says:

    The ocean is the key.

    We have not done enough research to account for the feedbacks that are occuring as a result.

    We are clueless how we have soiled our own nest.

    I live very near the ocean. I now take lunch there daily so as to enjoy the last days of waht peace on earth there is left.

    Humanity is a misnomer. There is no such thing anymore. A visit to a Walmart or Starbucks will assure you of it.

    I took your book to our local city commission meeting not long ago. Held it up. Repeated the name of it twice. Eight months later they are still voting on building non green condo/hotel towers.

  3. Aqua21885 says:

    The recent study released by the University of California on the chances of a massive methane gas release from the melting of the frozen soils at the upper Northern latitudes makes a future of 1000 PPM carbon dioxide a frighteningly close possibility

  4. Dano says:

    We should be careful to watch what the FUD purveyors and denialists say wrt permafrost melting and 1000 ppmv CO2, as CH4 will be a major driver as well, and I see the FUD purveyors and denialists studiously ignoring this fact.



  5. Robert says:

    “…this grim future that scientists rarely model because they can’t believe humanity would be so self-destructive as to let it happen:”

    Now that energy is getting expensive all thoughts of CO2 emissions seem forgotten. The UK news channels carried pieces today on fuel riots and schemes to subsidise domestic energy costs for those in fuel poverty:


    I am absolutely sure that “humanity” (whatever that is) will never address CO2 emissions in an effective manner. The final ppm will be determined solely by the extent of fossil fuel availability.

  6. curious says:

    I have read, awhile back like a couple of years, that if the oxygen concentration became 5% more that combustion would be almost automatic or that any combustion would be hard to stop. So, what ppm of carbon would that corrolate with in the % of oxygen in the atmosphere?

  7. Teryn Norris says:

    Rowland sounds like he agrees with Breakthrough, too:

    “Avoiding a lot of warming and climate change while heading toward 9 billion people seeking a decent life will require an utter transformation of the multi-trillion-dollar energy system, Dr. Chu said. An audience member wondered whether spiking gas prices would propel the change. Dr. Chu said higher energy prices would not be enough on their own, adding that the necessary energy transformation will also require decades of sustained research, development, and deployment of new technologies.

  8. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Hey Joe!

    What did Sherry Rowland really say? Essentially he said he has no opinion about any climate change and global warming. If he were concerned, he would have so.

  9. Eli Rabett says:

    Curious, you want to search for stuff by Ralph Keeling (Charles Keeling’s son) who specializes in finding the relationship between CO2 and O2. That, at least, is not a problem, but the work is very important in closing the circle on the carbon cycle.

  10. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    ATTN: curious

    That’s nonsense! Virtually all of the combustible organic matter on the surface of the is mostly water!

  11. Tom G says:

    What did Dr Rowland really say?
    If he wasn’t concerned he would have said so…and smiled…

  12. Nylo says:

    I’m happy that a sentence like “I have no idea” means “I agree with Climate Progress”.

    [JR: That would be funny if it weren't so lame. You can do better, I thought.]

  13. Tom G says:

    I suggest Nylo follow Joe’s “F. Sherwood Rowland” link and watch the interview there.
    Halfway through you will find Dr Rowland’s opinion on CO2 reduction.
    The whole interview is very interesting…well worth the 20 minutes spent…

  14. Nylo says:

    I just did, Tom. The terms “CO2″ and “warming” do not appear in the whole text, which by the way isn’t the interview but his autobiography. The term “carbon” only appears inside the terms “chlorofluorocarbon” and “carbon-14″.

    As for the other link “here” in Joe’s post, the only mention that the Nobel Prize does about the consecuences of the increase to 1000 ppm is “I have no idea”. Recommendations on what to do to reduce emissions were said by Steven Chu and not by Rowland. And Steven Chu also doesn’t speak about the specific consecuences of reaching 1000 ppm.

  15. sohbet says:

    That’s nonsense! Virtually all of the combustible organic matter on the surface of the is mostly water!

  16. Of course, if this does not happen too soon

  17. Chris Winter says:

    From the story above:

    My second question was, what will that look like?

    “I have no idea,” Dr. Rowland said. He was not smiling.

    It’s necessary to read between the lines on this. Of course, interpretations may vary. But mine is that Dr. Rowland had a pretty good idea of “what that would look like.” Also that Andrew Revkin’s last sentence means to imply a grim expression on Dr. Rowland’s face.

    I surmise that Dr. Rowland passed on giving details because a) he had no relevant research on the topic, and b) he didn’t wish to be labeled a fearmonger.

  18. Jim Pier says:

    If Malthusianism were a religion, would Climate Progress be the Vatican?