Arctic Assessment bombshell: “Global sea level is projected to rise by 0.9 to 1.6 meter by 2100”

A major new multi-country scientific assessment of the Arctic has concluded that on our current greenhouse gas emissions path, we face 3 to 5 feet of sea level rise — far greater than the 2007 IPCC warned of.  This is fully consistent with several recent studies (see “Sea levels may rise 3 times faster than IPCC estimated, could hit 6 feet by 2100“).

The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme — formed in 1991 to advise the eight Arctic countries on threats to the Arctic from pollution — has released the Executive Summary of their Snow, Water, Ice and Permaforst in the Arctic (SWIPA) assessment on their website [big PDF here].  SWIPA “brings together the latest scientific knowledge about the changing state of each component of the Arctic cryosphere.”

The report notes that, “The observed changes in sea ice on the Arctic Ocean and in the mass of the Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic ice caps and glaciers over the past ten years are dramatic and represent an obvious departure from the long-term patterns.”  I’ll have more to say shortly on the effort by the anti-science crowd to mislead on this key point.

Here are the “key findings” of this must-read warning to humanity:

  1. The past six years (2005-2010 have been the warmest perio ever recorded in the Arctic Higher surface air temperature are driving changes in the cryosphere.
  2. There is evidence that two components of the Arctic cryosphere – snow and sea ice  are interacting with the climate system to accelerate warming.
  3. The extent and duration of snow cover and sea ice have decreased across the Arctic. Temperatures in the permafrost have risen by up to 2 °C. The southern limit of permafrost has moved northward in Russia and Canada.
  4. The largest and most permanent bodies of ice in the Arctic – multiyear sea ice, mountain glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland Ice Sheet – have all been declining faster since 2000 than they did in the previous decade.
  5. Model projections reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 underestimated the rates of change now observed in sea ice.
  6. Maximum snow depth is expected to increase over many areas by 2050, with greatest increases over Siberia. Despite this, average snow cover duration is projected to decline by up to 20% by 2050.
  7. The Arctic Ocean is projected to become nearly ice-free in summer within this century, likely within the next thirty to forty years.
  8. Changes in the cryosphere cause fundamental changes to the characteristics of Arctic ecosystems and in some cases loss of entire habitats. This has consequences for people who receive benefits from Arctic ecosystems.
  9. The observed and expected future changes to the Arctic cryosphere impact Arctic society on many levels. There are challenges, particularly for local communities and traditional ways of life. There are also new opportunities.
  10. Transport options and access to resources are radically changed by differences in the distribution and seasonal occurrence of snow, water, ice and permafrost in the Arctic. This affects both daily living and commercial activities.
  11. Arctic infrastructure faces increased risks of damage due to changes in the cryosphere, particularly the loss of permafrost and land-fast sea ice.
  12. Loss of ice and snow in the Arctic enhances climate warming by increasing absorption of the sun’s energy at the surface of the planet. It could also dramatically increase emissions of carbon dioxide and methane and change large-scale ocean currents. The combined outcome of these effects is not yet known.
  13. Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland Ice Sheet contributed over 40% of the global sea level rise of around 3 mm per year observed between 2003 and 2008. In the future, global sea level is projected to rise by 0.9-1.6 m by 2100 and Arctic
    ice loss will make a substantial contribution to this.
  14. Everyone who lives, works or does business in the Arctic will need to adapt to changes in the cryosphere. Adaptation also requires leadership from governments and international bodies, and increased investment in infrastructure.
  15. There remains a great deal of uncertainty about how fast the Arctic cryosphere will change in the future and what the ultimate impacts of the changes will be. Interactions (‘feedbacks’) between elements of the cryosphere and climate system are particularly uncertain. Concerted monitoring and research is needed to reduce this uncertainty.

Yes, the findings are on the conservative side — we are all but certain to be nearly ice-free in the Arctic by 2030, and likely to be so by 2020, I think.  But that’s what happens when you a consensus-based process involving scientists from “eight Arctic countries (Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States).”

How do we know the findings are conservative — underestimates of what is likely to happen?  Consider this line from the report:

The climate models used for SWIPA do not include possible feedback effects within the cryosphere system that may release additional stores of greenhouse gases from Arctic environments.

Yet the feedbacks are likely to be large and positive — see “NSIDC bombshell: Thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s, releasing 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100.”

Here’s what the Exec Sum says on permafrost:

Permafrost – permanently frozen ground – underlies most of the Arctic land area and extends under parts of the Arctic Ocean. Temperatures in the permafrost have risen by up to 2 °C over the past two to three decades, particularly in colder sites (typical permafrost temperatures range from -16 °C to just below 0 °C, depending on the location). The depth of soil above the permafrost that seasonally thaws each year has increased in Scandinavia, Arctic Russia west of the Urals, and inland Alaska. The southern limit of the permafrost retreated northward by 30 to 80 km in Russia between 1970 and 2005, and by 130 km during the past 50 years in Quebec.

I’ll have more to say when the full report is online.

Related Post:


54 Responses to Arctic Assessment bombshell: “Global sea level is projected to rise by 0.9 to 1.6 meter by 2100”

  1. Dickensian American says:

    In the wake of the killing of Bin Laden, I have had a slow revelation over the past several days that many of the people openly partying (not glad or relieved, but drinking all night, singing, dancing and chanting) over the killing are mostly aged 23 to 18. This means they were between 8 and 13 years old when the towers fell. Children. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that there is now an entire generation that has grown into young adulthood post 9-11 and have only know the US to be openly at war in the middle east.

    In a similar vein, with an imminent ice free in the Arctic Summer approaching at an accelerating rate, there will be an entire generation soon to follow who will have grown up with faint memories of a news item the first year it happened. But it will quickly become the new normal. Just as I had not given much mind in advance to how the young who were partying after the death of OBL, I feel I have very little capacity to understand how a post-ice generation will respond to climate change concerns.

    All of us are witnessing the end of a geologic era. This stuff should be more alarming to the mass culture than it apparently is. That first ice free moment will finally get the headlines. But after that, when we’ve had our fifth, sixth and seventh ice free moment? When nearly a decade straight of summers where the arctic sea ice goes away 95%+? Will it be back to business as usual once people normalize to this very extreme symbol of climate change?

    Yes. I know business as usual will be increasingly unusual by today’s standards: increased severity of weather events, declining food production, spread of tropical diseases, drought and flooding, etc etc. But the whole OBL thing really got me taking private stock of what has happened to our quality of life, our rights, etc. following the initiation of the GWoT. A helluva lot has changed. Yet 10 years on, we’ve normalized. And there are now folks of voting age out there that this new normal is the only normal they’ve ever really directly experienced.

    Just some thoughts on a rainy Wednesday morning.

  2. John McCormick says:

    Dickensian, a very astute observation about a young generation growing into a lifetime of lost summer Arctic sea ice and that becoming a norm in their conscious. Yes, we seven billion plus inhabitants are experiencing the shift from one era to the next at warp speed.

    John McCormick

  3. This will likely be another gross underestimate in need of revision (doubling) by 2015.

  4. Robert In New Orleans says:

    Way too conservative and way too underestimated.

    If Hansen is correct and I have no reason to doubt him, I see 2 to 3 meters rise by 2100 and I think that this estimate is far from a worse case scenario.

    By the later half of this century, the worlds coastal residents and population centers will be in major chaos and accelerating into economic and social collapse as people and governments see the sea level rising in visible yearly measurements.

  5. Leland Palmer says:

    Yes, but do they take into account methane from shallow methane hydrate deposits and lakes, especially the East Siberian Arctic Shelf?

    I don’t think so.

    So, it’s likely a low estimate…maybe a very low estimate.

  6. Paulm says:

    There is no way that sea level rise out to 2100 canbe arrested. It is locked in and it looks like Hansen is correct once again.

  7. Oale says:

    The rising sea level has taken some 20 years to notice personally, but then we have some rebound still. I expect this time is shorter on areas with subsidence and growing shorter pretty fast, so the adults remembering a beach visit from their childhood will notice the change. But that’s only if they visit your oil-sodden beaches, and not use those swimming pools that are clad with algae as the chemicals used to clean them are too expensive. Oops, some doomerism detected, I’ll stop.

  8. Scary stuff, I wonder how this can be reversed, or even if it can be! Any chance of superman sorting it :/

  9. George says:

    Dickensian American #1

    Yes I agree people are adapting and adopting thir thinking as to what constitutes “normal” in weather. This is what is preventing people from waking up to the reality of climate change and extreme weather events. Perhaps people just prefer to dream and not think about the choices we need to make to prevent a climate catastrophe.

  10. Greg N says:

    More bad news. Very bad news.

  11. David Fox says:

    What does one meter in sea level rise mean for Florida, or better yet New York City?

  12. Ian says:

    Response to Dickensian:

    Yes, my generation grew up in the shadow of the 9/11. The next generation will grow up thinking climate change is normal.

    Looking backward, I think it would be fair to say that the Baby Boomer generation (I’m guessing this is most people who read CP) grew up believing that the perpetual, explosive growth of our civilization is normal.

    I have mixed feelings about people in my generation celebrating OBL’s death. But it should be sad to everyone that the older generations have almost completely failed to accept reality.

    Yeah, us young people are really screwed up. But so is everyone is else.


  13. Icarus says:

    Arctic Ocean ice-free in summer in 30 to 40 years? That’s *wildly* optimistic. More like 5 years. There is very little multi-year ice left now, and the modelled ice volume is declining exponentially. I can’t see it surviving the next 5 years of rising solar irradiance combined with greenhouse warming.

  14. Lionel A says:


    Does the following help answer your question? But keep in mind that a one metre rise is conservative as some above point out and with which I agree:

    Interactive map

  15. Dickensian American says:

    To Ian (and any other gen Y and younger folks),

    Sorry if my post came off as a slight. I’m actually a gen X-er, turning 40 soon enough. I was in my late twenties when 9-11 happened. When we first started using torture and rendition again openly. I think I was musing more on the notion that it feels like I’ve blinked and 10 years have gone by. I’m still outraged about much of what has come to pass in terms of policy, the erosion of civil rights, the STILL ongoing faulted wars that us on the left were told to shut up and not criticize.

    You’re right. The boomers and now my generation of Xers have failed to live up to what the best, brightest and most progressive of our youth strove for. Perhaps what I’m experiencing is something any citizen paying attention experiences each generation as they face middle age and realize there is a whole batch of cohorts (i.e. you and your peers!) now eating at the grown up’s table at Thanksgiving with wildly different life histories–even though we all lived through the same past 20 years together.

    But this realization definitely aggravates my optimism for the future. 10 years is a moment in geologic time. We are in a period of transition still into the full blown anthropocene. And yet 10 years seems to be enough to erode cultural memory and for the public at large to really settle in to how things are with an attitude of “well it ain’t soooo bad. so let’s get on living.” Things are changing too fast for most species (and maybe even civilization long term) to adapt yet slowly enough that if you cut yourself off from most informative media you may hardly notice it, despite the storms outside.

    So again it wasn’t meant as a jab at your generation but more my own thoughts about time and cultural memory. Has me wondering how long before walking on the North Pole in summer becomes the stuff of legend, comparable to the mile high glacier that once covered the island of Manhattan? 10 generations? 5? Only 2?

  16. Martin Hedberg, Sweden says:

    Add to everything said above that sea level rise will not stop either the year 2100 or when it has reached 1, 3 or 5 meters. it will continue until, and after, the energy balance to/from this planet is reached.

  17. Richard Brenne says:

    I don’t know about summer sea ice like I know about glaciers, but if my hunch is right the last 5% or so will be the hardest to lose in some especially shaded and shallow coves, bays and inlets, and where the wind has blown it into the deepest packs.

    When a glacier retreats up a valley up against the highest and most shaded headwall area on a north-facing (in the Northern Hemisphere) mountain, again the smallest remnant can last a long time after the glacier has effectively died in terms of providing a baseline run-off during the driest months and all other metrics.

    So losing 90 or 95% of all summer sea ice should be the metric used because it is in some ways more meaningful than complete loss of summer sea ice. And losing 90 or 95% of a glacier is similar.

  18. Mike Roddy says:


    The denier Chamber, politicians, and bloggers are still stuck on about a foot in 2100, and will ignore this, of course. Someone should monitor all of their reactions, collect them, and confront them with this evidence. An honest reply is unlikely, but the exercise may produce something unexpected.

  19. Richard Brenne says:

    After the most dire predictions about the loss of summer sea ice (without the word “summer” it would be easy for the public to misunderstand and think that we’re talking about sea ice year-round) during the record minimum late-summer sea ice in 2007, those projections were modified when 2008 and 2009 didn’t suffer such extreme loss, but then the projections have often become too cautious and often don’t include the dramatic losses in 2010.

    Hopefully the trend line can become more clear and projections can somehow be made without so much influence from individual years.

    And also the projections should be for the “loss of the vast majority of summer sea ice,” or 90 to 95%, as I discuss in comment #13 above, since that accomplishes the vast majority of the albedo shift, etc.

  20. Steve Bloom says:

    From the AP article:

    Now the AMAP assessment finds that Greenland was losing ice in the 2004-2009 period four times faster than in 1995-2000.

    That’s a doubling time of about five years, a continuation of which terminates the ice sheet by about the 2060s. This is exactly what Hansen was worried about in his recent paper. It’s true that there’s no paleo-analog for such a rapid collapse, but similarly there’s no paleo-analog for the unnatural forcing we’re applying. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet would disappear at least as quickly, and if both go that’s about 13 meters sea level rise. Continued thermal expansion, a relatively modest contribution from the East Antartic Ice Sheet and minor sources would likely push things into the 20 meter range.

  21. WorryBug says:

    Someone needs to update Wikipedia! :)

  22. John McCormick says:

    RE # 10

    Hello Ian,

    My take on Dickensian America’s comment was about all of us, in general and none of us,in particular.

    His comment reflects on that depressing image of frogs getting acclimated to the water in the sauce pan atop the burner.

    There is a real fear that repeated weather disasters also become common occurrences and are not considered abnormal any longer. Maybe we’re not too far from that point right now.

    And, Ian good to see you returning to CP. Hope you are well and busy.

    John McCormick

  23. Daniel Bailey says:

    @ David Fox

    Figure 2 on this link covers Miami (red is 1 meter rise, tan is 6 meter rise):

    Use the link to the visualization tool to view other areas.

    The Yooper

  24. Susan Anderson says:

    Ian, while I sympathize with your point of view, some of us did a few things. For example, my life included:

    Martin Luther King’s March on Washington (I was 13 so my family took me)

    Protesting the Vietnam draft and war, not just the glamorous and dangerous part but the nuts and bolts

    Actively participating in the back to earth movement and setting up cooperative and organic stores

    Protesting the inferior status of women in society and making birth control more accessible. Remember Roe v. Wade was decided back then too! Also note that colleges had curfews and dorms were separated by sex, and you had to have parental permission to go out at night.

    We act within the context of our own experience. There were no PCs, just hulking mainframes, no cell phones, no ATMs. Television and air travel came in in the 1950s. Living was cheap enough to afford.

    We also created a backlash that you are suffering from today – this was the root of the “culture wars”

  25. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    RE: Cryoconite

    There is a really good article in the June issue of Nat Geo about the effects of cryoconite on the melting of ice and snow in Greenland. Cryoconite is a mineral dust that migrates into the Arctic from land in the NH and it greatly increases the rate of melting of ice and snow.

    Cryoconite forms varves in the annual layers of ice and allows the dating of ice cores.

    See the pics on pages 38 and 39. This evil stuff turns the melt water black.

    I keep asking: Since 1900, where have the billions (and billions and billions!) of pounds of fine rubber and asphalt dust gone? Nobody seems to know. I called the EPA a few years ago and ask the info lady about this. She didn’t know.

  26. Merrelyn Emery says:

    We have proven to be the most adaptable of creatures but perhaps this very ability to adapt to the ever new ‘normals’ may be our final fatal flaw?

    But then something inside me tells me that there will be a change, what Leif somewhere called The Awakening, ME

  27. David Fox says:

    @Lionel A & Daniel:

    Thanks for the links. Yeah I was just curious what the literal effect would be in those place – others too – but it seems that in this country, those two places will be effected early and by quite a bit.

  28. Phillip Y says:

    In connection to this article: I wonder if the mechanical motion of methane bubbles, as it ascends from a shallow seabed, may keep the water liquid even in freezing temperatures (analogous to “freezing rain” in an ice storm). If so, this may constitute a significant positive feedback in its own right. Is this speculation warranted?

  29. Michael T says:

    Dr. James Hansen: Facing the Truth About Global Warming

    On April 27, 2011, Dr. James Hansen received the Green Book Award from the Center for Science Writings at Stevens Institute of Technology. He then gave this lecture, “Facing the Truth About Global Warming.”

  30. dhogaza says:


    Looking backward, I think it would be fair to say that the Baby Boomer generation (I’m guessing this is most people who read CP) grew up believing that the perpetual, explosive growth of our civilization is normal.

    Well, we’re the generation that gave birth to the Zero Population Growth movement. More accurate would be to state that forward thinking educated progressive people of my generation made a strong case that perpetual growth would be unsustainable, and that there’s been intense blowback from the right for decades trying to undermine the obvious unsustainability of perpetual growth.

    From WikiPedia:

    “In the late 1960s ZPG became a big political movement in the U.S. and parts of Europe, with strong links to ecology and feminism. Yale was a stronghold of the ZPG activists who believed “that a constantly increasing population is responsible for many of our problems: pollution, violence, loss of values and of individual privacy.”[8] Founding fathers of the movement were Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, and Thomas Eisner. Ehrlich stated: “The mother of the year should be a sterlized woman with two adopted children.”

    It is no coincidence that Ehrlich has been a bogeyman to the Right ever since …

  31. Anne Marie says:

    It is worth noting that non-violent civil disobedience is beginning to garner more serious attention as a means to bring about urgently needed change in energy policy as it relates to climate change. Most recently the international peer-reviewed journal “Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics” devoted an entire issue to the topic. See

  32. Ian says:

    Joe, sorry for this comment string getting so off-topic because of me.

    Dickensian #13:
    I completely agree. Cultural memory is frustratingly short.

    John #20:
    Agreed as well. Thanks. You too.

    Susan #22 / dhogaza #28:
    Obviously every generation has its share of informed dissent. Susan, your personal actions and the work of Ehrlich and others were great. No denying the amount of very helpful work that has been done in the past.

    However, I don’t think it can be successfully argued that the efforts of previous (or current) generations have in any way been sufficient to meet the challenges we currently face.

    Yes, Ehrlich’s work was stellar. Yet, there are close to 7 billion people on the planet.

    Yes, the civil rights movement of the 50s/60s/70s was great and there were many triumphs. However, I see almost no parallels between the civil rights movement and what is happening now.

    We are currently tasked with remaking our entire global economy and collective human consciousness within a 10-20 year (or less) time frame and the consequence of failure is the possible collapse of human civilization. Assuming I’m correct in my assertion, how does that in any way compare to the challenges of the US civil rights movement? To me, it doesnt.

    What we have to do is far, far, far more challenging and urgent. I think we should all be careful not to point at individual, small successes in the past and assume they have relevancy to what is happening now.

    If we are looking for apt comparisons to right now then it’s better to look at WWII or the Civil War. There was a task that needed to be accomplished then a plan was executed no matter the cost or sacrifices required.

    Yeah, cultural memory is extremely short. I think most people have forgotten about the times in the past when great sacrifice was necessary to do the right thing. I’m not saying any generation is to blame and I don’t think there is any easy solution. I’m saying its all too easy for each of us to think we’ve done enough to solve this problem. None of us have.

    Sorry for the rant. I’ll get off my soap box now. Thanks.

  33. nyc-tornado-ten says:

    On this mapping of arctic sea ice for may 3, it shows large areas of ice breaking up around the north pole. some sections of ice appear to already be down to a 60 – 80% concentration. With more than 6 weeks to go until the first day of summer, there is alot of heat from the sun that could be absorbed at the north pole. I wonder if the mapping is correct, or is some correction needed? It seems very early to see this much broken ice around the pole. The breaks show up on this mapping also,

    Ice in the kara sea is already declining, and the northwest section of hudson bay seems to be starting to melt already.

  34. Ray Duray says:


    You wrote: “Since 1900, where have the billions (and billions and billions!) of pounds of fine rubber and asphalt dust gone?”

    In the San Francisco Bay there is a layer of sediment deposited since the early 1900s that consists of tire rubber and asphalt dust washed into the bay every time it rains. I’ve read this from a bona fide source.

    I would imagine you can extrapolate that to most of the planet.

    The point being that the tire rubber and asphalt tend to be too heavy to become aerosolized as is the case with diesel soot and cow dung smoke, a couple of the key agents darkening the upper latitudes these days.

  35. Peter M says:

    Michael 7 #27

    After listening to Hansen- he basically is restating (with more urgency) that we must begin to reduce carbon in earnest by 2014- or we will have crossed into the danger red zone.

    It seems, sadly not possible. Perhaps by 2020- more likely by 2030 (some reductions ) due to public unrest over increasingly erratic and destructive weather events- but by 2030 C02 will be over 425ppm. Making reductions by then very difficult to achieve a goal of back to 350ppm very far off into the future- a thousand years?

    We are simply in deep trouble-

  36. John McCormick says:

    RE #33

    Peter: “We are simply in deep trouble-”

    No denying that nor your estimate of CO2 concentration by 2030 and the impossible goal of 350 by 2050.

    So, when do we (the collective of humankind) gather around the table to begin discussing, then planning, then implementing WHAT???

    William P has been a CP contributor of some note and has repeatedly asked the same question.

    We believers of AGW cannot also be deniers of the fast approaching (or has it slipped past) turning point Hansen and others have been warning us not to cross. We believers, at some point and soon, must also be leading the discussion on international cooperation to fill the sandbags, plant the mangrove, move the infrastructure back from the shore and learn how to grow a thousand acres of corn using drip irrigation.

    No, that’s silly talk this morning. We aren’t ready to get into that conversation as long as we can mumble ‘green jobs’.

    Reading Joe’s May 4 news has put me in a lousy mood. Harper sweeps in Canada. Exxon going gang-busters for ‘oil sands’ (even mentioning it on network TV ads) China tapping into its shale gas resources (largest in the world) and Congressional Dems all getting exercised about big oil’s subsidies. Oh, I forgot to mention clathrates.

    When do we start building life rafts????

    John McCormick

  37. Daniel Bailey says:

    @ nyc-tornado-ten

    “I wonder if the mapping is correct, or is some correction needed? It seems very early to see this much broken ice around the pole.”

    It is very early when compared to historical. The fault in the comparison is that it is an apples-and-oranges comparison. The multi-year (MY) ice is essentially gone from the Central Arctic Basin. What remains is piled in windrows near the Canadian Archipelago and Greenland. And even that is scabrous and brittle.

    The warmer oceanic currents have combined with several years worth of record MY ice loss (through melt and advection out of the Central Arctic Basin), a thinning mixing layer in the Arctic Ocean (the coldest water is immediately underneath the ice, with the water progressively growing warmer with increasing depth; the result is that bottom-melt has gone from 40-50% of total sea ice melt to closer to 60%) and the most recent mild Arctic winter to precondition the sea ice cap for a near-record to possibly a record melt season.

    Translation: The Northern Hemisphere’s air-conditioning system is failing.

    It will be interesting to watch unfold, like a train wreck. Or a Curry post.

  38. Mike # 22 says:

    (more provocative writing from Ian) “Looking backward, I think it would be fair to say that the Baby Boomer generation (I’m guessing this is most people who read CP) grew up believing that the perpetual, explosive growth of our civilization is normal.” For most of us BBs the message back then was clear. The third world needed our help in many ways, food, medicine, and family planning. Population growth, environmental protection, endangered species, whales, you name it, we learned about it. None of it, in my recollection, was politicized. The message was not being confused by disinformation specialists of the type which emerged with tobacco, then Space Defense, then the Oil Club.

    We didn’t have a hundredth of the bandwidth we have now. The problems back then, they were far more distant, and imo not even comparable to Global Warming. The measures taken back then, while not enough, have been successful in areas which people growing up today might miss. Trillions have been directed to cleaner air, cleaner water, environmental protection, third world aid, and a hundred other sectors. These efforts have paid off in many multiples of the investment, and if the process began in the late 80s had been allowed to proceed normally, imo we would be dealing with CO2 now, as opposed to fighting over it.

    Some intrinsic differences between the 50s-60s and today. Bandwidth=flat earth. Disinformation specialists for hire who are committing crimes against the public. An inconvenient truth which is an environmental threat larger by far than all the threats America has faced, which has gone from being something very serious that we were working on solving (1999ish) to a full blown emergency in 2008, which has been what Ian has grown up with.

    Absent the disinformation campaigns, I think Ian and his cohort would have grown up learning about Global Warming and learning about the solutions. His parents would be talking about this issue openly with Ian, with coworkers, and with friends. Somehow, the disinformationists have made it very difficult to openly discuss the problem, and undermined the (well earned) respect for science.

  39. PeterM says:

    John M #34

    I hear your frustration. And I understand. Begin to realize that this country has never faced anything like this in our history (or for that matter neither has human civilization over the past 12,000 yrs)

    As a species we have been used to a stable climate.It is hard for people to adjust to something so radically different and profound as how AGW can effect them.

    I see no change till the warming in the pipeline (Hansen’s climate inertia) begins to really kick in and cause worldwide havoc ans chaos.
    And that is not likely till after 2030. C02 will likely peak at 650-700ppm before we begin to do anything. Disastrous.

  40. Mike # 22 says:

    A survey of tire dust research:

    July 30, 2008

  41. John McCormick says:

    RE # 37

    Peter, having worked for an environmental non-profit, I know the green groups worry about what they are paid to worry about. Foundations drive their agendas because it takes staff and infrastructure to start and maintain a campaign for or against any action or policy. So, I don’t count on citizen organizations to mobilize nations to prepare for climate change.

    Rather, I envision the G-20, UN, WHO and the World Bank (to name just a few institutions with budget and clout) to launch a global discussion about surviving the “turning point”.

    Since the US is the largest contributor to the multilateral development banks, the US Senate Appropriations Committee has a legitimate right to raise this issue of survival as a task the World Band, Asia Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank must undertake.

    World health and poverty alleviation groups can petition the UN and other global fora to begin to craft an approach to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable populations (Bangladesh, Northern India, Western China).

    I am not betting on anything of the sort but it does raise the question again, at least in my mind:

    Knowing what we climate hawks know about the reality of global warming, what responsibility do we have to push the topic of survival onto the world stage? I see that as a moral and ethical responsibility. After all, if we know the theater is on fire, shouldn’t we help to rescue potential victims?

    Lets keep the renewable energy strategy front and center while we admit there may be more complicated but essential challenges to add to our global warming campaigns (if only through the international institutions).

    John McCormick

  42. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Ray at 32

    These are the larger particles. The very fine particles do enter the air. I routinely clean “atmospheric sludge” from my house gutters and it looks like fine asphalt and contains small black and brown particles.

    Dab a Post-It note or Scotch tape on a dusty surface suchas the top of car until it ceases to stick. View the particles with ca 30x magnification.

    There are many fine black particles. There are also highly reflective flecks which are probably mica from concrete and soil. I have seen opaque spheres which are probably sand also from concrete. Soil particles are brownish.

    Dust from brakes are another sources of particles that can absorbed heat as well as rust which falls off or cars and is pulverized by tires.

    Check out leaves near a major road or highway. I have seen needles encrusted with black particles. Oil is constanly beening deposited on road surfaces and the rubber particles can absorbed some of it and become tacky which allow these to stick to surfaces.

    In arid regions rubber and asphalt dust would slowly accumlate on the land surface and increase absorption of sunlight.

    In southern California, fine rubber and asphalt dust could act as an accelerant for brush and roof fires.

  43. Mike Roddy says:


    Like Susan Anderson, I grew up in the sixties, and participated in political protests, mostly against the Vietnam war and militarization in general.

    Cautionary note: people like us were in the minority then, in spite of the media’s portrayal of us as a bunch of druggies and slackers, and we are now, too. Seriously progressive ideas are not often welcomed in this country, and lately we’re hearing about repeal of Medicare and allowing banks to return to disguising credit card fees and charges.

    Minorities win sometimes in the end, but it takes persistence and, unfortunately, dramatic events to drive change.

  44. PeterM says:

    We all have a moral and ethical responsibility to change the direction we are heading into as a society. The problem is when there is lots of money to be made, such noble aspirations fail.

    Only when it becomes morally imperative for us to make reductions in greenhouse gases for society to survive, will change come.

  45. Cinnamon Girl says:

    I worry a bit that this week’s Canadian election could be the beginning of an increasingly military, and thus conservative-leaning, Canada as the Arctic melts and border/resource defense becomes a higher priority. The big melt also bodes ugly for Russia’s access to petrol in the permafrost. I think DA’s comments understate the future non-recognition of climate changes. The distractions of an increasingly complex, econo-stratified, and resource-strapped society, turbocharged by the bitter effects of AGW, will leave future gens next-to-no spare time or mental energy to contemplate climate issues and the strife/war caused by them. Not only will the devastated climate and ecology appear to be BAU, but people won’t even have the time/awareness to notice that it is BAU or that it’s BAD. Maybe microchip brain implants will increase processing capacity, but I foresee a Big Bang in the world of H. ordinalis.

  46. Lewis C says:

    John at 39. – we differ on points of strategy though not on final aspiration.

    For me keeping renewable energy “front and centre” is an officially-supported diversion from the critical priority of ending the US govt’s inherited policy of climate brinkmanship with China. Without a climate treaty any fossil fuels locally displaced by renewables are being, and will be, bought and burned elsewhere.

    In the absence of the global climate treaty those renewables might at best, over a couple of decades, grow globally to the point of exceeding rising energy demand, and thereby start depressing fossil energy prices – assuming the projections of Peak Oil and Peak Coal are simply wrong.

    My support for the very rapid development of non-fossil energies that are ecologically sustainable, globally replicable, and locally legitimate rests on their capacity to raise confidence of continued energy supply among those negotiating the climate treaty. I suggest that currently they have no other significant net-benign effect.

    For me the term ‘Adaption’ is merely a euphamism for triage and genocide on a global scale. It ignores the fact that climate destabilization is not predictable in its impacts on food production and infrastructure on any particular region in any particular year. Thus there is simply no prospect of identifying a ‘safe haven’ where people of wealth and foresight can run away and hide in safety. Nor is there any prospect of mounting effective defences against the rising impacts of unmitigated climate destabilization in its many forms, including permanent inundation of the world’s coastal farmlands and cities, long-term dessication of much of its inland agriculture, and random mega-impacts that will make 2010’s hits in Russia and Pakistan look puny.

    Beside the sheer scale of climate impacts from unmitigated warming making ‘Adaption’ an impractical non-starter, the economic outcomes are already impoverishing society, reducing the wealth available for its requisite investment even this early in the curve of global warming. For example, just Cyclone Yasi swamped sufficient Australian iron mining capacity to push world prices to unprecedented levels, thereby helping to bankrupt an increasing numbers of enterprises, and further stressing the global financial system.

    The theatre-on-fire that you remark is the whole world – and there is nowhere to get people out to – Thus we have no choice but to fight the fire within the theatre. There is clearly no certainty of success, but there is the possibility of applying the necessary and sufficient mitigation in terms of GHG output contraction, airborne carbon recovery and interim albedo restoration. Agreeing that each of these fulfills an indispensable role will be the starting point of global campaigning for viable mitigation.

    In every campaign I’ve seen in over four decades the opposition’s primary propaganda has been the ‘inevitability’ of their prefered outcome. In this light, declaring that successfully mitigating GW is a lost cause directly serves the fossil fuel lobby by its impacts on the morale of those campaigning, and massively impacts their capacity to recruit among the young, whose rising activism is critical to the prospects of success.

    Given that the proponents of ‘Adaption’ cannot offer either a practical explanation of how it provides anything other than triage in the absence of successful mitigation under a climate treaty, and cannot explain how even early attempts would be reliably funded on any significant scale, I really wish you’d reconsider your support for this diversionary option.

    With my respect and regards,


  47. Susan Anderson says:

    Thanks for the info on ice, dust, and clathrates. Along with my rantaceous hobby, real specific information and observations are why I spend way too much time on these blogs. Double thanks.

    — back to OT 60s:
    One takeaway on the 60s, aside from several thoughtful comments on both sides, is that somehow we managed to mobilize millions of people and make a difference, and also that we created the backlash that Palin/Bachmann and their barbarian hordes (I’ve always liked Palin as Attila the Hun) are playing like a violin.

    I think it was because of the draft. The draft got a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise bother to think about things like “Be the first one on the block, to have your boy come home in a box” (Country Joe). Once the draft was eliminated the air went out of the balloon.

    It was also a time when it was possible to survive on very little money and jobs were easy to come by, so people had a lot more freedom.

    Another newbie from the sixties – the pill!

    And our biggest legacy – Ronald Reagan (fed on the backlash)

  48. Aaron Lewis says:

    Re #18, Steve,
    Correct as far as it goes, but it neglects such issues as feedback from methane from clathrates and CO2 from tundra. Models that neglect carbon feedback are optimistic.

    An open Arctic Ocean changes everything. Models that neglect feedbacks from loss of Arctic sea ice starting NOW are optimistic.

    The physics of ice near its melting point allow large ice structures to collapse mechanically without completely melting. Thus, models that require ice sheets to melt in situ prior to sea level rise are optimistic.

    Thus, I would consider your 13 meters of sea level rise by 2060 a very good planning case scenario. Such sea level rise might come a few years earlier or a bit later, but it is a good planning case estimate.

    However, so far we have not seen much real action in sea level rise. That means that we are going to have a very sudden onset of sea level rise events. I expect to see sea level rise events (inches in months) from the Greenland Ice sheet within 5 years after the start of substantial summer melt of Arctic Sea ice. By 2021, I expect that we will have seen enough “sea level rise events” to know that they are not just isolated events, but the new reality of climate change.

    Everybody will be surprised that sea level can rise so fast.

  49. Lewis C says:

    Aaron –

    I’d entirely agree with the assessment you provide of SLR in the coming decades, but only in the absence of effective mitigation under a climate treaty.

    Even under that treaty, neither GHG output contraction nor airborne carbon recovery can be sufficiently swift or sufficiently potent to halt the cryosphere decline that would drive the SLR you describe. Effective albedo restoration could achieve that goal while the lead-times and time-lags on GHG contraction and carbon recovery are being endured.

    To avoid giving new readers the impression that runaway warming is inevitable, and thus campaigning for effective mitigation is not worth the effort, maybe we need to qualify damage projections with the words:
    “would, in the absence of mitigation”,
    rather than “will” ?



  50. Steve Bloom says:

    Hansen shows a graph assuming a melt doubling of 10 years (rather than the 5 years recently observed). It leads to 5 meters SLR in 2100, but interestingly is still less than half a meter by 2050. Taken alone, the change through 2050 is not readily distinguishable from linear. After that, things start to happen very fast. Surprise!

  51. John McCormick says:

    RE # 44

    Lewis, I appreciate your comment in word and in spirit and offer a defense of my ‘diversionary option’

    I believe we can both agree that the wind and solar renewable technologies will have no impact on demand for transportation fuels but could diminish coal and gas demand in the electric generation sector (at least in the US) if the challenge of storage is achieved. So, I do not see renewables growing globally to the point of exceeding rising energy demand (where liquid fuels are concerned) depressing oil prices; perhaps coal demand will diminish when the storage infrastructure is solidly in place and feeding into a smart and overhauled national grid.

    With regard to a global treaty, the April meeting of the Major Economies Forum, in Brussels, ended with a consensus opinion that Kyoto 2 was not going to be accomplished in Durban and the Kyoto gap was a certainty (with its renewal or some form of it being accomplished when the Annex 2 countries agree to the same commitments as Annex 1 countries. Without US action on serious implementation soon, the likelihood of Annex 2 countries climbing aboard the Kyoto Treaty is near unimaginable.

    I hold great hope that China will act in its own interest and continue making huge and long term investments in a more efficient transportation fleet to avoid the cost of massive imports. Its power sector cannot sustain itself on Chinese coal and imports from Australia and US will add huge costs to power generation. Its renewable industry will continue to capture a majority share of world demand because it holds most of the rare earth minerals.

    Thus, China will do what is best for China while the US will stumble and crawl ahead with our poisoned politics dictating business as usual. Could an Obama second term change things? Maybe, if the Senate doesn’t flip to the repugs.

    What I am coming to is, again, a call to face the damning reality of this time-related problem and the certainty that the US will not lead in time to influence Annex 2 countries to join hands with us to go to war with climate change.

    We are watching (wasting) precious years go by without any serious discussion on surviving climate change in 2030, 2040, 2050. The ‘death by a million weather events’ cannot be avoided while the serious global planning and established cooperation to survive (as long as is humanly possible) is long overdue.

    I am not preaching adaptation here. Since we have already contributed to our children’s burdens we should, at a minimum, begin to identify the tools and techniques they will need to survive the impacts (and we can both list where the most vulnerable populations reside).

    Dr. Hansen is setting down his mark of 2014 to begin real mitigation. That time will come and go and the needle will move further into the danger zone.

    What can be threatening about a global preparedness for those impacts of which we are now certain?

    John McCormick

  52. Susan Anderson says:

    Personally, I think 90% (for all intents and purposes, ice-free) Arctic melt by 2020 is pretty much given at this point. I would not be surprised to see it sooner or less possibly a year or two later. And death by a million weather events is correct. Unless some kind of unpredicted cooling feedback occurs, which seems unlikely.

    No doubt the anti-regulation, anti-world-government faction will find further ways to recreate primitive conditions in order to preserve their elite status for a few more years, forgetting that they too have families.

  53. Richard Brenne says:

    Susan Anderson – All your comments here are great! I love it when I want to make a point and then I see someone like you made it (actually many points) far better than I could have. We look forward to hearing more from you!

  54. Calamity Jean says:

    To David Fox at #9: The financial part of Wall Street is about 30 feet above sea level. If a big hurricane goes up the East Coast, the Stock Exchange could have sea water in it’s basement from the storm surge.

    The White House is about 50 feet above sea level.

    To Icarus at #11: We heard it here first: . That prediction from last year was for an ice free Arctic no later than 2019. (2016 plus or minus 3 years.) My father, born in 1916 but still going strong, may live to see it.