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The coming climate panic?

By Joe Romm on January 1, 2010 at 9:38 am

"The coming climate panic?"

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Will U.S. conservatives usher in the era of permanently big government?

This decade will largely determine whether humanity gets on the path to a low-carbon economy fast enough to avert catastrophic climate change.  And the single biggest obstacle to action today is the same as it’s been for two decades — anti-science conservatives.

As Revkin explained in 2008 piece about a major conference of disinformers, “The one thing all the attendees seem to share is a deep dislike for mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gases.” What unites these people is their desire to delay or stop action to cut GHGs, not any one particular view on the climate  (see Krauthammer, Part 2: The real reason conservatives don’t believe in climate science).

It is nearly impossible to win an argument with anti-government conservatives and libertarians. Yes, you can try to point out all the great things the government has done (the Internet, anyone?) and try to point out that they invariably support government-led action for military security, and, of course, government subsidies and regulations to promote energy security, at least as it applies to oil industry and nuclear energy pork.

I have made a different argument in my book and on this blog “” if you hate government intrusion into people’s lives, you’d better stop catastrophic global warming, because nothing drives a country more towards activist government than scarcity and deprivation.  Small, relatively unintrusive democratic government works best when there is abundance and prosperity, so people and cities and states and countries aren’t fighting over critical necessities and other matters of life and death (see “Veterans Day, 2029“).

Thus the conservatives who oppose strong GHG reductions — who say humanity’s best strategy is just to try to adapt to climate change — are best labeled “big government conservatives.”  Adaptatation requires very, very big government “” incomprehensibly bigger and more expensive government than prevention does (see “Scientists find “net present value of climate change impacts” of $1240 TRILLION on current emissions path, making mitigation to under 450 ppm a must“).

If we allow CO2 concentrations to significantly exceed 450 ppm, as would be inevitable if we follow the do-nothing policies proposed by the anti-science crowd, then we will be moving to decades and decades of scarcity, where we have billions more people but much less potable water, food, energy, and arable land (see “Intro to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water“). “Big” government doesn’t adequately describe that future.  Only “huge” government can relocate millions of citizens, build massive levees, ration crucial resources like water and arable land, mandate harsh and rapid reductions in certain kinds of energy — all of which will be inevitable if we don’t quickly get on the sustainable path to below 450 ppm but instead stay on the long painful journey to 800 to 1000 ppm.  And that huge government could last for centuries (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).

Two long-time colleagues in the climate arena, Auden Schendler and Mark Trexler make a related argument in a recent post on Grist,”The coming climate panic?” which I reprint below:

One morning in the not too distant future, you might wake up and walk to your mailbox. The newspaper is in there and it’s covered with shocking headlines: Coal Plants Shut Down! Airline Travel Down 50 Percent! New Federal Carbon Restrictions in Place! Governor Kicked Out of Office for Climate Indolence!

The only thing your bath-robed, flip-flopped, weed-eating neighbor wants to talk about over the fence isn’t the Yankees, but, of all things … climate change.Shaking your head, you think: What just happened?

With a non-binding agreement coming out of Copenhagen at the same time that atmospheric CO2 creeps above 390 parts per million, it’s possible that a new feeling might soon gain prevalence in the hearts of people who understand climate science. That feeling is panic. Specifically, climate panic.

In the same way that paleoclimate records show evidence of abrupt climate changes, we think it’s increasingly possible that policy responses to climate change will themselves be abrupt. After years of policy inaction, a public climate backlash is already smoldering. When it blows, it could force radical policy in a short timeframe. It’s the same kind of cultural tipping point, often triggered by dramatic events, that has led to revolutions or wars in the past.

The backlash is brewing in the form of increasingly strident comments from respected and influential people. Economist and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman has called government indolence on the issue “treason.” NRDC attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has called it “a crime against nature.” Environmental journalist and author Elizabeth Kolbert has described “a technologically advanced society choosing to destroy itself,” while James Hansen and Rajendra Pachauri, perhaps the world’s leading climate scientist [and the head of the IPCC, respectively], have said inaction in the next several years will doom the planet.

Meanwhile, that very planet is visibly changing””epic droughts, fires and dust storms in Australia; floods in Asia, alarmingly fast melting of land ice in Greenland and Antarctica; the prospect of an ice-free summer on the Arctic Sea; raging, unprecedented fires throughout the world; and mosquito-borne illnesses like Dengue spreading to regions previously untouched. Measurements show that the oceans are rising and becoming more acidic, while the Earth’s average temperature was higher in the past decade than at any time in the past century.

At some point, even climate change becomes teenager obvious: “Well, Duh, Dad! Look around you!”

When the psychology of in-your-face warming gets combined with a shocking climate event””something like Hurricane Katrina on steroids””you end up with a witches brew that can result in what political scientist Aristide Zolberg has referred to as “moments of madness”"”unique historical moments when society challenges conventional wisdom and new norms are forcibly””oftentimes disruptively””created.

There are many historical precedents: the economic and political chaos in Weimar Germany that ultimately led to the rise of Hitler, the violence of the French Revolution, the sudden, peaceful collapse of the Soviet empire.

Stock market panics are another example: a rapid change in mindset that illustrates the dangerous unpredictability of human systems. On climate, such a response could mean sudden and painfully costly dislocations in the energy markets””and therefore the global economy””that wind up becoming the “worst case” scenario that few people had considered possible.

It is exactly these economic impacts that the Glenn Becks and the Rush Limbaughs fear we’ll impose on ourselves through restrictive government regulation of energy and carbon emissions. Ironically, a “no action” approach today actually makes a climate panic much more likely over time. What we’re describing would be popularly driven, not fueled by governments or policy wonks. It would be the direct result of free will, democracy, autonomy and the information superhighway. All these forces would accelerate, not mitigate, the greatest “Aha!” moment in the history of the human species. Imagine the sub-prime mortgage bubble pop multiplied a hundred fold.

Yet business and government planners continue to anticipate much less abrupt transitions to a carbon-constrained future. Even renewable energy policy and emissions reduction scenarios dismissed as crazily aggressive are based on relatively incremental change.

That’s a big problem. We believe that business leaders and politicians need to add a more radical scenario to their risk assessment: a climate panic that turns us from agents into victims, ushering in chaos. The only way to avoid this catastrophic scenario is a kind of backfire panic of our own: radical, rapid, and aggressive implementation of climate policy in the United States as a message to the world. In the end, as venture capitalist Eugene Kleiner has pointed out, “sometimes panic is an appropriate response.”

Auden Schendler is Executive Director of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company. He is the author of Getting Green Done: Hard Truths From the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution (PublicAffairs, 2009).

Dr. Mark Trexler is Director of Climate Strategies and Markets for DNV Climate Change Advisory Services U.S., a former member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and an internationally recognized expert on climate policy and market mechanisms.

Welcome to the 2010s — though I suspect the real panic and desperation won’t come until the 2020s.

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The NY Times starts 2010 pushing the same damn disinformation about climate science it did in 2009

51 Responses to The coming climate panic?

  1. ken levenson says:

    Today’s NY Times Opinion page provides a perfect example of what we are up against.

    My letter to the editor follows here:

    To the Editor:

    I want to report a mugging. I thought I was enjoying a quiet and safe New Years at home.
    Re “It’s Always the End of the World as We Know It” (opinion article, Jan 1).
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/01/opinion/01dutton.html?ref=opinion

    Mr. Dutton, provided an entertaining and benign exposition on human fascination with Apocalypse and it’s counterproductive nature, speaking of Y2K, religion, UFO cults and “Frankenstein” – noting: “Such end-time fantasies must have a profound, persistent appeal in order to keep drawing wide-eyed crowds into movie theaters, as historically they have drawn crowds into churches, year after year.” Mr. Dutton’s theme is clear. And having read 90% of his 1,332 word article, never once encountering climate change, Mr. Dutton decides to pivot, and magically concludes in 77 words:

    “This applies, in my view, to the towering seas, storms, droughts and mass extinctions of popular climate catastrophism. Such entertaining visions owe less to scientific climatology than to eschatology, and that familiar sense that modernity and its wasteful comforts are bringing us closer to a biblical day of judgment. As that headline put it for Y2K, predictions of the end of the world are often intertwined with condemnations of human “folly, greed and denial.” Repent and recycle!”

    Suddenly I was no longer reading at my dining table but felt as if standing in Times Square, just conned by a Three Card Monte street hustler – and the hopes for the New Year were just sucked out of the room. I sit, mugged by the New York Times.

    Yes, I realize Mr. Dutton has written an opinion piece and that he is a “controversial” libertarian figure – although the paper’s one line bio gives no hint. However, The New York Times must realize that this opinion piece does great damage to the public understanding of climate change.

    Mr. Dutton does more damage than just executing an “elegent” con on The New York Times and its readership in presenting what amounts to little more than a one sided political screed masquerading as observations of the human pyche. Mr. Dutton presents the BIG LIE.

    Perhaps other readers noticed as I, that in his 1,332 words, Mr. Dutton spends not a single one explaining why he thinks climate science is based on eschatology. One might expect such libelous assertions to be presented with some form of basic, sound, scientific underpinning. But no, he provides nothing to support his outrageously wrong-headed assertions about climate science. He instead leaves us to infer that “climate catastrophism” – the mainstream position of business-as-usual climate science – to be somehow deserving of categorization with the likes of Y2K, and End of Days cults and providing an almost sublime rhetorical service to climate change deniers the world over.

    I don’t expect The New York Times to be an advocate of climate change energy policy but at a minimum it would be nice to get from the paper a greater understanding of climate science and the catastrophic risks facing me and my family.

    Instead, on this 2010 New Years Day morning, the paper is a mule, smuggling counterfeit information into our homes.

    Ken Levenson
    Brooklyn, NY Jan 1, 2010

  2. INFIDEL says:

    This is not related to the post but a while ago I read a user on this blog, with the name Chad I think, said that 90% of Americans were for climate change action like cap and trade or whatever.

    Does anybody here have a link to that poll?

    I’m guessing it doesn’t exists and that Chad fellow is a deluded progressive living in his own world, but I’m curious.

  3. Interesting take. I see the opposite effect: that the rising number of states declaring disasters of one sort or another would gradually bankrupt the Federal government because the FEMA funding level needed would eventually become truly unsupportable.

    Selfishness would increase as states let other states drown and dry out, eventually dissolving the Untied states into little warring “nations” unable to muster the funding for any such projects.

  4. MikeB says:

    Good observation.

    I was thinking about this the other day, about the very nature of ‘conservative’ thinking. In general, conservatives want to preserve the status quo, to keep things more like an idealized past. However, by attempting to block action on climate change, they are actually pushing towards maximal radical change. It is the liberal position that we must take action in order to minimize disruptions to our society and culture (not to mention the worldwide ecology).

    How did that get reversed?

  5. Jeff Green says:

    Susan Kraemersays

    [Selfishness would increase as states let other states drown and dry out, eventually dissolving the Untied states into little warring “nations” unable to muster the funding for any such projects.]

    There already is a groundswell of states working together on both the east and west coasts agreeing to their own cap and trade.

  6. Chris Dudley says:

    Securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity always requires vigilance and often requires sacrifice. Those who would force adaptation upon the future by failing to mitigate now have no willingness to sacrifice to preserve liberty. And, ultimately, the energy independence that mitigation creates will enhance liberty and help to preserve the Constitution against foreign enemies. Joe, don’t look for philosophical integrity on the other side. Expose the greed and corruption that is behind their transparently false statements.

  7. Leif says:

    We need to constantly remind ourselves that when everyone is in a life boat there is no way only half the boat will sink. We either all make it to shore or none of us do…

    So… What do you say Anti-Science folks? You can wake up and start paddling in the same direction and we use science and reason to the best of our abilities to navigate to shore, hell, you can even pray if it makes you feel good, or you just stop and go along for the ride. I promise I will even listen to you should you happen to spot a peer reviewed lead. But please quit paddling toward the abyss.

  8. Leif says:

    New York Times, “It is always the end of the world..” I vote that we each take a minute and send an e-mail to the Times today and express our opinions. This is supposed to be a “Liberal paper of record”… We can not let them to keep getting away with this tripe!

    Hell, send two…

    Leif

  9. Derek Wall says:

    any thoughts on Elinor Ostrom’s take on climate change, she doesn’t reject a big plan but she stresses local action and indigenous knowledge.

    I think her Nobel Price win was the seriously good news of 2009

  10. espiritwater says:

    I loved Ken Levenson’s “Letter to the Editor”! That’s what’s needed– pushing back just as strongly (or stronger) against Liars Against Humanity as they push at us. That’s the only way we can win! Never giving up!

  11. Ruth A. says:

    What about facts? It says Rajendra Pachauri is one of the “world’s leading climate scientists.” He is not a climate scientist. He has PhDs in economics and industrial engineering.

    [JR: He heads the IPCC, so he supervises the hundreds of climate scientists that do the literature review. If that's your best reply to the state of the science, it's pretty friggin' lame.]

  12. Alex A. says:

    Great post Joe.

    If conservatives won’t accept a market cap and trade approach with incremental reductions… what exactly are they holding out for? (I’m looking at you Sen. McCain).

    Praying for a deus ex machina is not a legitimate means of governing.

    Happy New Year everyone.

  13. Leif says:

    #3:
    As pointed out above the “Right”- ” invariably support government-led action for military security, and, of course, government subsidies and regulations to promote energy security, at least as it applies to oil industry and nuclear energy pork.” The Military Brass are beginning to become aware of the National Security of sustainable issues however not to the point of being willing to syphon funds out of it’s budget for mitigation. It is difficult to get the Military to look at solving problems by means other than a “bigger stick” but perhaps this year will be their awakening. Thus vastly improving the prospects for us and the rest of the world. National Security in the truest sense of the word. How about it Generals? Fork over ~15 % of this years budget, one hundred billion dollars and get the ball rolling and society paddling in the same direction. It could be the best hundred billion you have ever spent. It might even secure your future. What function does a B-1 have when earth’s life support systems are red lined…???

  14. K. Nockels says:

    The higher up the comfort ladder a society is the more loth we are to give it up. The propaganda that a low carbon life style was far below what we had became accustom to was made much more persuasive when the high living credit/housing bubble burst. Look at how we have protested the drop in our comfort level just from that. Once again the economy was KING. Suddenly we had to restore it at all costs, we suddenly could not be bothered by other issues, until it was FIXED and to the big money boys that means status quo, we had to give it all our attention and track down the ones that made it happen. How is it that as a society we have not connected the dots, resource depletion, species extinction, un-natural disasters the loss of glaciers for fresh water, sea level rise, floods, droughts, whole coastlines ravaged by huge hurricanes as the biggest threats to our lifestyle far out striping the current state of our fossil fuel economy. We have managed to drive our planet to the edge of its ability to support us. HUMANS There are none so blind as those who will not see, past the end of their own comfort zone.

  15. SecularAnimist says:

    I cannot emphasize this enough: the so-called “conservatives” and “libertarians” and “right-wingers” are NOT ideologues. They just play ideologues on TV. In real life they are nothing more or less than bought-and-paid-for shills and propagandists for the fossil fuel corporations. Their fake, phony, trumped-up, focus-group-tested, Madison Avenue-scripted, corporate-sponsored pseudo-ideology is bunk, just as the pseudo-science spewed out by their phony “think tanks” is bunk.

    There is no legitimate, principled ideological basis, in any ideology of any kind anywhere, to deny the scientific reality of anthropogenic global warming. The very idea of such an ideological principle is incoherent and nonsensical. Anthropogenic global warming is an empirically-observed reality, and has nothing whatever to do with any “ideology” of any kind.

    There is, however, an enormous and glaring FINANCIAL reason to deny the reality of AGW, as a means of delaying action to phase out the use of fossil fuels: namely the hundreds of billions of dollars in profit that the fossil fuel corporations will reap from continued business-as-usual consumption of their products.

    And those corporations are gambling that they can profit just as much, if not more, in a world wracked and devastated by global warming, regardless of whether “big government” is required to cope with the mega-disasters. Those corporations don’t ANSWER to government — they own and control governments.

    And they don’t care whether a few billion of the world’s most vulnerable and impoverished people are killed off by global warming, either … because the “top one percent” are willing to gamble that they will have the resources, wealth and power needed to survive, even if the other 99 percent die off. Let them reduce the surplus population, as Scrooge said.

    That’s what we are dealing with here: not ideology but naked, ruthless, rapacious, reckless, monstrous GREED.

  16. Roger says:

    How clear and how cogent are these comments by heroes Joe, Leif, K. Nockels and more!

    Yes, the comments are clear and cogent, but we concerned citizens must get out the door.

    So, make your plans now to come to DC, Earth Day, April 22nd, it will be THE place to be!

  17. Robert Brulle says:

    Climate panic? Really? Exactly how would this occur? Somehow and suddenly, events will create a panic for action? What events? Why would this lead to panic? For me, this is a magic solution. Instead of engaging in wishful thinking, we need to do the hard and slow work of building a movement to create political pressure to make Congress act to really address climate change.
    Robert J. Brulle PhD
    Drexel University

    [JR: Panic is their word, perhaps too strong, but maybe not. I've said the 2020s will be the decade of desperation, but by the end of that decade at the latest, there may be panic. Hard to predict. If the Antarctic peninsula or part of WAIS collapsed over a period of weeks, raising sea levels 1 foot, that would do it.

    I don't think it's magic. I can't conceive of the world being ready to do what's needed for 450 ppm, let alone much less, until things get much, much worse.]

  18. Chris Dudley says:

    I read a tweet by Andy Revkin mentioning that Joe still thinks the drought in Australia is owing to climate change while climate scientists don’t. Don’t quite know how to link to particular tweets but he links to this abstract to contradict Joe. http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2009GL041067.shtml

    Now, it is pretty clear that Joe is quoting Auden Schendler and Mark Trexler here rather than making the assertion himself in this instance so Andy is not reading carefully today. But it is really really hard to tell from the abstract that there is a claim that warming plays no roll in the drought. I’d be interested in a close reading of the paper on this issue. It would seem to be very difficult to contradict the view that the drought is happening under warmer conditions and is thus having a stronger impact such as more powerful fire storms. And, this view has already had published support: http://www.wwf.org.au/publications/drought_report.pdf If anyone has a subscription to GRL, a report back here would be interesting to me. Thanks.

  19. hapa says:

    very weirdly, country-ish people might keep resisting climate action as “red fascist” without real fed money on job creation creating real jobs & better times. unemployment inspires distrust in current govt’s intents & capacities. feeding green money to shareholders won’t win hearts.

  20. Dan says:

    Speaking of the “Net Present Value” of climate change impacts link above, does anyone know what kind of discounting they use?

  21. Leland Palmer says:

    I’m all for panic, if it brings effective action.

    But human beings often tend to follow an stimulus/response curve, in which we get used to things, and have decreasing responses to the same stimulus. Thus the boiling frog analogy.

    Our mass media, with its obsession with trivia and profit, only reinforce the conceptual frames that tell the uninformed that nothing fundamental has changed.

    About the panic, well, I hope so. In some situations, and this is one of them, panic is an appropriate response, as somebody said above.

    Pray for panic.

    Root for revolution, of one sort or another.

    The Senate response to the problem is actually quite encouraging, though, and it is reassuring to know that many Senators actually will not sell their souls for money.

    The political response during the past year has been heartening, somewhat, and might decrease the need for panic and revolution down the road.

  22. Leland Palmer says:

    I hope that panic and retribution, if they come, will be directed against the corporations and super rich stockholders in the fossil fuel and banking corporations that got us into this mess in the first place. I favor a reasoned response- nationalization of corporations and confiscation of wealth of those corporations that derived much of their wealth from despoiling the climate.

    To do this we might need worldwide financial transparency laws, and universal openness of banking, under the threat of military action, if necessary.

    I hope that panic and retribution are not aimed at blameless scientists, for example, as in the CRU hacking propaganda campaign.

  23. CW says:

    I agree with secular animist. This blog, often conflates corporatism and conservatism.

  24. Chad says:

    2.INFIDEL says:
    January 1, 2010 at 9:56 am
    This is not related to the post but a while ago I read a user on this blog, with the name Chad I think, said that 90% of Americans were for climate change action like cap and trade or whatever.

    Does anybody here have a link to that poll?

    It was a poll of economists.

    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/environment/2009-11-03-economist-climate_N.htm

    The polls for relevant scientists are even worse for the deniers.

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/12/97-climate-scientists-humans-causing-global-warming.php

    But don’t worry, Rush says it is all a lie, so therefore it must be, right? I listened to Rush’s show today (it was a rerun from a couple weeks ago), and he turned the quotes in this article into an denier screed.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2009-12-10-copenhagen_N.htm?csp=34

    Go figure

  25. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Panic is not good. How many times have we seen legislation go from one extreme to another. Just look at asbestos; one day we are cutting sheets with power tools, next day you need a space suit to handle a sheet of asbestos.

    What will cause the panic: Massive wildfire, Pine Island Glacier collapse, a super hurricane (say at the wrong end of a newly created cat 6) or maybe something totally unexpected. Probably not drought it is too slow starting.

    Possibly just the mass realisation that global warming is real and very serious. The sun is starting to fire up again and El Nino is underway maybe a few record breaking heatwaves will finally tip the balance.

  26. Dan B says:

    There are a number of events that could push a significant population towards panic. Tuvalu and the Maldives have not because they are working to migrate – although it might not be so swell if they arrive in Australia.

    It’s more likely that a panic will result if it comes in a place with strong media (new media as well, note Iran’s Green Revolution) or a large population with an ineffective government.

    In the US there are several things that could play out.

    Drought in the midwest as a result of loss of polar ice. (The two would need to be connected in people’s minds, hint: Media.) This would push food prices to a point that inflation and the inability to feed the poor would become serious issues affecting the hearts and pocketbooks of middle-class and working Americans.

    Massive firestorms in California – thousands of square miles over an extended timespan, perhaps months. Combined with depletion of water supplies, forcing rationing and overloading the ability to evacuate the affected, or supply water, food, and shelter.

    A series of massive hurricanes that strike Houston, Miami, DC, or LA. A strike on LA would be significant because it’s considered to be off the hurricane path. As long as these produce evacuations and devastation similar (god forbid) to Katrina in cities that were glued to the news about New Orleans we stand a good chance of a panic.

    If the catastrophe is in Bangladesh or if the forests of BC and Montana burn it is less likely to grab people’s attention. We’re hard wired with mirror neurons to understand what another individual is experiencing so it still depends upon what images we encounter. It’s more devastating to our psyche to see people jumping from the World Trade Center than it is to hear that 36,000 Americans die in traffic accidents each year.

    If the new, broadcast, and dead tree media bring us riveting images of individuals suffering as a result of catastrophe we may begin to arouse the emotions and imagination of a larger public.

  27. ken levenson says:

    it astounds me how checked out otherwise very well informed people are regarding the threat of climate change. people are in major league denial – if not deniers. i’m betting on the onset of panic by 2015 with flat out major motion picture panic by 2020….

  28. Mark S. says:

    [Alex A. says:
    Praying for a deus ex machina is not a legitimate means of governing.]

    I think it’s more of a “deus ex anus” they’re praying for (or to, rather). I wouldn’t expect them to pull their heads out any time soon to see what’s actually going on around them.

    To those who are suggesting that denialist shills don’t actually believe what they’re pushing – I think you’re mistaken (at least in general). It can be surprisingly hard to fake sincerity. Various entrenched interests can simply funnel money and/or air time to carefully selected true disbelievers. Sincere crackpots and the willfully uninformed often make better shills, IMO.

  29. Richard Brenne says:

    SecularAnimist (#15): Great comment! Perfectly and appropriately passionate!

    Does your name mean you worship animals who are not religious?:-)

  30. cbp says:

    Not sure if you were thinking about this when you wrote your post, but the utter confusion of right/conservative politics over climate change is currently evident in Australia, with the conservative government proposing non-market-based big-government style intervention as their alternative to an ETS.

  31. Ruth A. says:

    Hi Joe: I am surprised by your oddly tangential reaction to my pointing out a simple, objective fact that, left uncorrected, would weaken this line of argumentation.

    Mr. Pachauri is Chair of the IPCC, but he is not a “climate scientist.”

    (I regularly write in to websites to help correct errors of fact, grammar, formatting, etc. It would be good for you to have an “Eratta” section. Thanks!)

    [JR: Errata sections only make sense for print pubs or truly huge mistakes. On a blog, one simply makes the correction. Happy to do so. I get so many comments from the anti-science crowd pushing nitpicks that it can sometimes be hard to tell whose really just pointing out a simply mistake. That said, your line "What about facts?" suggested you thought this was a big deal. The authors are not scientists and so only didn't realize that the head of the IPCC wasn't actually a climate scientist -- but he heads the organization whereby climate scientists (and others) summarize the state of the science, so he has certainly more than any old economist and engineer, and certainly is more than qualified to summarize the state of our understanding of climate science.]

  32. Antoni Jaume says:

    “(I regularly write in to websites to help correct errors of fact, grammar, formatting, etc. It would be good for you to have an “Eratta” section. Thanks!)”

    your eratta is a joke, I hope.

  33. From Peru says:

    Well, History tell us that the Dominant Class (I said “class”? I should say a bunch of greedy people) will resist until the end.

    In late 1700s the Absolutist-Feudal System had a lot of chances to reform itself, bringing basic Freedom and Equality. There was even the example of the United Kingdom. No one did it. At least, there were the so-called “Illuminated-Absolutism”, but that were just some moderate social reforms that even increased the Absolutist Autocracy.

    Meanwhile, the People continued to starve and any dissent voice crushed.

    What bring Change?

    A Violent, Massive People’s Insurrection: The French Revolution, that destroyed the Old Feudal Regime.

    The Aristocrats doesn’t surrendered. In the few countries they still dominate, declared war to France.
    The French People resisted with epical heroism, but ultimately the Revolution was defeated by an internal Counter-Revolution bring by so-called revolutionary leaders with extreme greed for power: first the blood-thirsty Jacobins, then the Directory burocrats and finally Napoleon that re-build the Monarchy making him Emperor.
    Finally the weakened Revolution was defeated by Russia and the UK.

    Aristocracy tried to restore the Old Regime, but failed, as new Revolutions overtrown them finally in the 1830 and 1848 Revolutions.

    Some Absolutist Regimes survived. A new Revolutionary Wave (1917-1918-1919) triggered by the Horrors of WWI overtrown them in Russian, German, Ottoman and Austro-Hungaric Empires.

    All this Revolutions were triggered by events like wars and famines that put People’s Pacience to the point of breakdown.

    Frankly current resistance of Big Business to Change really follows the example of the Feudal Aristocracy.

    When a series of Catastrophes, like:

    - CAT-4 and CAT-5 Hurricanes wipe out cities like Washington, New York, Beiging, Shangai, Calcutta.
    - Droughts and Massive Fires destroy cities like Los Angeles and collapse Agricultural Production in the US, Indian(this is happening right now) and Chinese Plains.
    - Massive pieces of Ice-sheets in Greenland and WAIS began to disintegrate.

    That will be People’s Panic,then People’s Anger, and then Revolution.
    Capitalism will follow Feudalism in the Dustbin of History.

    Peaceful of Violent Revolution?

    That will depend on the willingness of the Dominant Class (Big Business and the Governments that them control) to change.

    British Empire in India(after WWII) and Soviet Union Burocratic Class(1989-1991) accepted to leave power. No violence.

    French(1789), European(1830-1848) and Russian(1917) Aristocracy resisted Change. The extreme violence that followed is known to all.

  34. Leif says:

    From Peru:
    Oh Boy! I can hardly wait!
    History repeats it’s self for those who fail to learn the first time around.

  35. INFIDEL says:

    Chad,

    Thanks for the links.

    I’m not a climate denier nor a fan of Rush, though.

  36. From Peru says:

    Leif:
    If you can’t wait check what’s going on in INDIA right now:
    (WARNING: a lot of POLITICAL VIOLENCE is showed)

    http://indianvanguard.wordpress.com/
    http://southasiarev.wordpress.com/

    India’s Big Business intransigency had put the country on the edge of CIVIL WAR and HUMANITARY CATASTROPHE.

    For some Political background in Maoist Theory and Organizations, search:

    1)Protracted People’s War
    2)Maoism, also called “Mao Zedong Thought”

    3)Revolutionary_Internationalist_Movement (The main Maoist international organization)
    4)Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties andOrganisations of South Asia (South Asia, i.e. the INDIAN SUBCONTINENT)

    5)Communist Party of India (Maoist)
    6)Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)

    NOTE: I am not a follower of Maoist Theory. Their violent methods and the fact that Mao was a Stalinist and made quite big mistakes (like the Stalinist-like 5-Year plan called “Great Leap Forward”(1958-1962) that triggered an agricultural crisis that lead to the worst famine in Chinese history, with killed between 15 and 40 million people) are totally at odds with my personal beliefs about moral and social justice.

    But in India it seems they are the only way out for the Indian People, because the mainstream political parties have completely abandoned the Poor peasants.
    Even the main left-wing progressive party, the Communist Party of India(Marxist), or CPI(M)in short, have betrayed their electors, as is painfully clear with their role in this brutal episode in the town of Lagharl in the CPI(M) governed state of West Bengal:

    http://indianvanguard.wordpress.com/videos/
    “Inside Maoist land, Lalgarh: CNN IBN Special Report” (CNN is not certainly ruled by Maoists)

  37. David Cross says:

    Seeing the comment trail I’m worried my question will be out of place… I am in the research stage of starting a carbon credits company based on CO2 scrubbing technology. I need to gather estimates on CO2 content in the air but since I’m not a climatologist it’s hard for me to make sense of the numbers. Our local CO2 level is averaging over 400ppm (bad inversions). The pumps that I’m looking at are all rated in gallons per hour… How can I calculate or who could I talk to to help me get to the calcluation of: how much CO2 is there in a gallon of air that contains over 400ppm of CO2?

    Thanks!

  38. Leif says:

    David,#87, I am sure that someone will be along to assist, I am cognitively impaired at the present or I might try. What the heck! Depends

    It dependes how accurate you need to be. I did do a calculation few weeks ago and if memory serves me correct try this. You can even do the numbers with a calculator and google.
    three drops in a quart is about (~)300 PPM, 4 = ~400 ppm. Try some food dye. See the difference. Check my math.

  39. Leif says:

    #2:
    From Peru: In my youth I knew of a person that would tie the tails of two cats together put them in a burlap bag and throw them off a high bridge in the area. I like cats, he didn’t… Humanity reminds me of those two cats. I do not have the answers, nor does anyone for that matter , near as I can tell, however I continue to believe that collectively mankind does have the capacity for rational self government. Got to admit it don’t to promising most of the time.

  40. Mark S. says:

    Quick BOE calculation:

    ppm CO2 is usually reported by volume

    So, 400ppm=400/1,000,000 = 0.0004 or 0.04% by volume

    1 gal air has 0.0004 gallon CO2

    At sea level atmospheric pressure and 25C, the molar volume of an ideal gas (good enough for this approximation) is about 6.5 gallons. So 0.0004 gal CO2
    is 0.0004 gal/6.5 gal/mole = 6.15 x 10^-5 moles.

    1 mole CO2 is 44 grams, so 1 gal of air at sea leve and 25C has about
    6.15×10^-5 moles X 44 g/mole = 0.0027 g

    A bit less than 3 milligrams/gallon. Might be a bit higher because of nonideality.

  41. From Peru says:

    Leif, I also hope that.

    But remember what Einstein once said:
    “There are two infinite things, the Universe and Human Stupidity, and I am not sure of the first one”

    This is our last chance. We have to overtrown these greedy buch of people that rule the world.

    And we MUST NOT permit that another buch of power-greedy traitors betray the Revolution, as the Jacobins did in late XVIII century(and then people began losing their heads, quite literally) and the Bolsheviks did in 1918 (establishing a one-party repressive dictatorship).

    If we fail this time, there will no be second chances. We will precipitate into a Post-Industrial Middle Ages that will last thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands years.

  42. Logic Deferred says:

    42. The Truth,

    How clownishly predictable that you choose such a name for yourself.

    Following your identical line of argument:
    “It is obvious that no one has ever crossed the Atlantic Ocean in an airplane. Because, after all, no one ever crossed the Atlantic in an airplane in th 10th C., or the 15th or 16th. No one ever crossed the Atlantic in airplanes in the 17th, 18th, or 19th Centuries either.

    Since it is obvious and beyond the possibility of reasoned dispute that nothing could possibly be different now from any time in the past, then clearly it is impossible that anyone has ever crossed the Atlantic in an airplane.”

    Thanks for sharing your inability to engage in elementary logic, or bother to read any actual science. Very helpful.

  43. Leif says:

    From Peru:
    Your comments made me flash on the ultimate Dooms Day scenario. We win, maybe we all win, we lose they are toast. We do not have to lift a finger. They get to count there money while life support systems red line. I am rooting for our side.

  44. Danny Bloom says:

    Joe, you’re wrong. The real panic won’t come for another 500 years…… 2020 will be just like today…..in fact 2100 will dawn, same same……the Great Interruption will begin around 2499 AD……. the next 200 years are a piece of cake, just more blue state red state meshagus……. relax and stop your scaremongering….2020 is nothing.

  45. Leif says:

    Danny Bloom: Well I am here to tell you that you are wrong for what ever that is worth. My take is that you will not recognize 2020 even.. You do yourself a disservice by not paying more attention to science. After all, If you get sick do you talk to a “man of science,” perhaps even 2 or 3, or to the locals at the corner pub?

  46. Wit's End says:

    comment at the Grist article:

    There will be a panic, but probably not over climate change per se. Even a disastrous event, like Katrina, will be dismissed as weather or poor government planning, rather than climate change.

    What’s going to cause panic is the fear of starvation.

    Most of the public debate is about the greenhouse effect and CO2, which is destabilizing our climate. Swept under the rug are the even more noxious effects of the “other” emissions such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide that mix high in the atmosphere to eventually fall or rain down as ozone and acid rain.

    These compounds are virulently poisonous. In humans, they cause lethal cancers, asthma and emphysema. They acidify waterways and lakes, killing fish. All over the world, they are destroying vegetation. The damage can be acute, but is also cumulative, so long-lived species like trees are being killed at an accelerating rate. Soils are leached of essential minerals to maintain roots, and foliage is unable to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll. The trees are starving to death and with weakened immunity they are prey to insects, fungi and disease.

    Trees are the foundation of terrestrial life, just as coral reefs are the foundation of life in the sea. Without trees, all animals and understory plants that are dependent upon them for food and shelter will go extinct. Soils will wash away and the earth will become a gigantic dust bowl. Crop failure and famine are already the result in many parts of the world. To take comfort in thinking the developed nations will be the exception is a fantasy.

    This has been a slow emergency for decades that has suddenly reached critical dimensions. It requires nothing less than immediate collective action if humans are to preserve anything near a habitable environment and an ability to grow food. The rapid ecosystem collapse is evident from a cursory inventory – but the US agencies, the FDA, the EPA, the DEP, the Forestry Department, Interior Department and Geological Survey refuse to confront this topic because the only way to resolve it is to curtail the burning of fossil and biofuels through urgent government regulations.

    Oh, and they’re afraid of mass panic, hoarding, and civil unrest.

  47. Leland Palmer says:

    The Australian bushfires, the destruction of the coral reefs, the melting polar sea ice, the apparent beginnings of dynamic destabilization of both Greenland and West Antarctica, apparent mass loss from East Antarctica centuries ahead of time, ocean acidification, and so on, should be causing panic right now, of course.

    The lack of panic is mainly because the news media has endless amounts of time to talk about who Tiger Woods is sleeping with (and why we should care) but no time to report on these things.

    This could cause a little panic:

    The Storegga Landslides: Catastrophic Underwater Natural Methane Explosions

    The complex consists of three very large underwater landslides known to have taken place during the last 100,000 years. The landslides departed from the destabilized slope and “flowed” into the deep ocean crevasses below. The Second Storegga Slide was large enough to have caused a megatsunami around 7,100 years ago that triggered widespread coastal flooding in Scotland, Norway and other coastlines bordering the eastern North Atlantic and North Sea. (4) For example, at a number of localities near the eastern coast of Scotland is a sand deposit as deep as 25 feet above sea level that has been dated to about 7,000 years ago. One researcher in 1989 proposed that this sand is a megatsunami deposit resulting from the sediment displacement associated with the Second Storegga Slide. (5)

    This may be dated information, the latest interpretations may disagree with this webpage.

    But a huge, flashy event associated with global warming, a tsunami, and a large obvious release of methane might get the attention of the public.

  48. Wit's End says:

    Leland Palmer, something to look forward to! Pass the popcorn!

  49. Hank Roberts says:

    Say, Joe, can I leave a message here for Andy Revkin?

    This:
    http://www.ccrc.unsw.edu.au/PDF/Ummenhofer.etal_2009_GRL_clarification.pdf

    Which begins:

    Clarification of results of GRL paper Ummenhofer et al. (2009) What causes Southeast Australia’s worst droughts? Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L04706, doi:10.1029/2008GL036801

    The implications of our work (Ummenhofer et al. 2009) have been misunderstood in some media commentary, with some reporters asserting we have discovered that south-eastern Australia’s recent “Big Dry” is not related to climate change. This is not correct….

    [JR: Thanks. I'll try to blog on this soon.]

  50. independthinker says:

    This is a trick the people on the other side of an issue play by trying to discredit you, calling you anti-science and such. I welcome science, just not junk science with an agenda (money, money, money).

  51. Leif says:

    Leland, #47: A huge flashy event you want, How about this? Before Christmas I began a quest to understand just how much energy we are talking about when the “energy imbalance of the earth is now about 0.75 W/m2. So I asked the question. Supposed we melt something BIG? The first thing that came to mind was a modern aircraft carrier. Nimitz Class. ~100,000 tons. I attempted the math with the help of GOOGLE and my 4 year old grand son as a fact checker. The math is not hard but the numbers are big. I am a retired boat builder with a dubious grasp of reality but what the hell. Well the number I came up with was ~4,000 / day every day! Wow! That seemed like a lot and considering holiday induced impaired cognitive thinking I cried for help among the CP readers. I also promised an additional check under improver quality control of the researcher. Second attempt was made and posted on, CP, Dec. 31, “The Hottest Decade….” #50+ Well this time I came up with about 19 million aircraft carriers / day! Double Wow! Faced with error bars big enough to throw you hat thru, another plea for help. Enter Mike#22. He approached the problem from different, (and independent!) perspective and apparently more background and came up with yet another number, (Same site, further down.) Also added a twist of his own. H-Bombs… To summarize: Melt 11 JFK Class Aircraft carriers every second! ~950,000/day! Vaporize 2 carriers/sec! As for H-Bombs… ” Biggest ever detonated” one every 210 seconds, ~400/day! or a standard US W87 warhead? Ta-Da… one every 1.3 seconds or ~66,000 per day!
    Being polite to myself and calling that about 1/2 way between my error bars and awaiting more checks I am going with those numbers. Richard Brenne has sicked his teaching assistant on the problem as well. Perhaps assigning it to their class? So more checks coming in due time. One more thing. If you take an average for the last 50 years? 66,000/2 x 365 x 50 = 602,250,000, give or take, standard US W87 nuclear warheads since 1960!!! Do you think that that might be enough energy to stir up the weather on a global scale from time to time?
    Well what do you think Leland, is that enough “FLASH” for a Tuesday morning?