IEA’s Bombshell Warning: We’re Headed Toward 11°F Global Warming and “Delaying Action Is a False Economy”

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"IEA’s Bombshell Warning: We’re Headed Toward 11°F Global Warming and “Delaying Action Is a False Economy”"

International Energy Agency:  “On planned policies, rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.”

“… we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F]….  Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”

The International Energy Agency has issued yet another clarion call for urgent action on climate.  Their 2011 World Energy Outlook [WEO] release should end once and for all any notion that delay is the rational course for the nation and the world.

The UK Guardian‘s headline captures the urgency:

World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns

If fossil fuel infrastructure is not rapidly changed, the world will ‘lose for ever’ the chance to avoid dangerous climate change

We must start aggressively deploying clean energy now through myriad policies, including a price on carbon.  That has been the conclusion of most authoritative studies, of course,  including the recent one by California’s independent state science and technology advisory panel (see “Study Confirms Optimal Climate Strategy: Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, Research and Develop, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy“).

The IEA report deserves the label “bombshell,” though, because for most of the past two decades, the IEA was the source of bland, conservative, business-as-usual analysis.  When I was Acting Assistant Secretary of Energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy in 1997, no one at DOE paid much attention to IEA reports.  And that perspective continued through most of the 2000s.

But in just the last few years they have woken up to the risks posed to peak oil — see IEA top economist warns (8/09): “We have to leave oil before oil leaves us” — and especially climate change. In releasing its 2009 WEO, the IEA warned,The world will have to spend an extra $500 billion to cut carbon emissions for each year it delays implementing a major assault on global warming.”

Now the IEA has done the calculation a different way, concluding, “Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”  Those who counsel waiting for breakthrough technologies are urging us on a path that is unsustainable, irreversible, potentially catastrophic, and economically indefensible, according to the IEA.

The IEA is one of the few organizations in the world with a sophisticated enough global energy model to do credible (i.e non-hand-waving) projections of the cost of different emissions pathways and the costs of delaying efforts to achieve them.  Their 2008 analysis of the 2°C warming pathway demonstrated that the total shift in investment needed to stabilize at 450 ppm is only about 1.1% of GDP per year — and that is not a “cost” or hit to GDP, because much of that investment goes towards saving expensive fuel (see “IEA report: Climate Progress has the 450-ppm solution about right“).

The new analysis shows that because of soaring emissions, we are running out of time for the “450 Scenario.” We are at risk of irreversibly “locking in” dangerous warming — a point I agree with mostly, but not entirely:

“[W]e cannot continue to rely on insecure and environmentally unsustainable uses of energy,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “Governments need to introduce stronger measures to drive investment in efficient and low-carbon technologies….

“As each year passes without clear signals to drive investment in clean energy, the “lock-in” of high-carbon infrastructure is making it harder and more expensive to meet our energy security and climate goals,” said Fatih Birol, IEA Chief Economist. The WEO presents a 450 Scenario, which traces an energy path consistent with meeting the globally agreed goal of limiting the temperature rise to 2°C. Four-fifths of the total energy-related CO2 emissions permitted to 2035 in the 450 Scenario are already locked-in by existing capital stock, including power stations, buildings and factories. Without further action by 2017, the energy-related infrastructure then in place would generate all the CO2 emissions allowed in the 450 Scenario up to 2035. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.

The IEA has created an intermediate scenario between 2C and 6C warming — “the WEO’s central New Policies Scenario, which assumes that recent government commitments are implemented in a cautious manner“:

In the New Policies Scenario, world primary demand for energy increases by one-third between 2010 and 2035 and energy-related CO2 emissions increase by 20%, following a trajectory consistent with a long-term rise in the average global temperature in excess of 3.5°C. A lower rate of global economic growth in the short term would make only a marginal difference to longer-term energy and climate trends.

Sorry, cautious governments, but warming greater than 3.5C doesn’t avert multiple catastrophes, it invites them (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).

So where do I differ from the IEA?  They write:

If internationally co-ordinated action is not taken by 2017, we project that all permissible emissions in the 450 Scenario would come from the infrastructure then existing, so that all new infrastructure from then until 2035 would need to be zero-carbon, unless emitting infrastructure is retired before the end of its economic lifetime to make headroom for new investment. This would theoretically be possible at very high cost, but is probably not practicable politically.

It is certainly true that shutting down existing fossil fuel infrastructure before the end of its economic lifetime is far, far more costly than not building it in the first place.  And it’s  also true that such shut downs would be politically very difficult.

But everything about the 450 scenario is politically difficult as I have been saying for years — see The full global warming solution: How the world can stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm.

The key point is that in the 2020s, the world is going to be considerably more desperate than we are now.  The evidence of human-caused climate change will be difficult for all but the most extreme deniers to ignore.  The Arctic will very likely be virtually ice-free in September by then.   The amplifying carbon-cycle feedbacks will probably have started to kick in (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“).

We will be subjected to increasingly devastating extreme weather, where the record-smashing superstorms of the last 18 months will increasingly just be the normal weather — and we’ll start to see what really extreme weather is like.  Dust-Bowlification will be setting in and it will be pretty darn obvious that feeding 8 billion people (and then 9 and maybe 10) will be the great task of humanity for the rest of the century (see “Nature Publishes My Piece on Dust-Bowlification and the Grave Threat It Poses to Food Security“).

In short, most policymakers will realize that we are on path to the self-destruction of modern civilization.  So things that are viewed as politically impracticable now will I think be taken very seriously in the 2020s.  That doesn’t mean the world will still get its act together in time.  Indeed, because of the higher emissions and feedbacks, the effort required to avert catastrophe will be considerably greater then.  That’s the whole point of the IEA statement, “Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”

But we may yet find our Churchill and that means we may yet adopt a World War II style and scale effort.  And as in WWII, we converted a great deal of manufacturing infrastructure to war time purposes before the end of its economic lifetime.  That can’t be considered a likely scenario for the 2020s, but it’s far from impossible and may be our only hope.

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106 Responses to IEA’s Bombshell Warning: We’re Headed Toward 11°F Global Warming and “Delaying Action Is a False Economy”

  1. Doug Bostrom says:

    Here’s news from an unimpeachable source confirming what we’ve suspected. On the other hand, just a day or so ago we received news that our C02 emissions are ballooning to historic highs. Why? Because there’s no price imposed on catastrophic deception.

    The costs and attendant risks of deceit campaigns targeting public policy responses to emerging threats– such as that run by the Koch brothers in the interest of extracting further financial gain from a failed, dangerous industrial model– need to be vastly increased. The external costs of calculated lying about matters affecting the safety and welfare of the global population should be accounted for through fines or imprisonment.

    Here the IEA has produced a reasonably detailed accounting of what the Koch brothers and other less than scrupulous colleagues in the fossil fuel industry will cost us through their conspiracy to deceive the public. We have precedents from other arenas of criminal and civil fraud of what sort of penalties are appropriate for given dollar amounts of theft. Here we’re talking about astoundingly high costs, demanding commensurately harsh punishment.

    All the components of a crime are present here, for all to see, in historically large magnitude. We just need to decide when and how to prosecute. What punishment would truly fit the crime we’re seeing here?

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      I agree entirely but not just monetary harm is being done. The denialist industry will, by its actions, I believe it is incontrovertible to say, cause millions if not billions of premature, unnecessary deaths. What I believe must be done is that an international Nuremberg style Tribunal be established to assess the culpability of the prime financers of the denialist industry and the chief propaganda disinformers. To allow those directly responsible for so much human suffering to come to escape judgment is not just morally repellent, but will only encourage the type in more such moral perfidy, if indeed we escape from the looming catastrophe.

      • Ron Sonntag says:

        You are completely right!

      • Some European says:

        Recently, I’ve greeted professional deniers at web forums with “I’ll see you at the Great Nuremberg Trial for Organized Climate Denial”. I’m confident the message hits home. They can call me whatever they want but they know perfectly well what they’re doing.

      • I call it “suborning murder” – in that we are induced to supporting carbon consumption.

      • Joy Hughes says:

        Something like the tobacco cases, but 100x bigger.

      • Trudy says:

        At the risk of sounding paranoid and branded as a conspiracy ‘nut’, I will postulate that the loss of human life does not concern the ultimate power Elite. Indeed, I will go further to state that in their ideal world, there would be FAR fewer of us to bother them. As long as they are ensconced in their gated estates and as long as their are still enough of us to grow their food, fly their private jets and manicure their massive lawns and gardens, (and of course tend to their persons) they could do fine with about 1 billion of us left on the planet. What interests of theirs does it serve to “save” the planet for “Humanity”? I ask this sincerely.

  2. Raul M. says:

    the last time I was in DC,I had ridden my bicycle from Fl. The night before I took a train ride back to Fl. The flag sounded like it was being whipped by the wind. And it was cold outside.

  3. David Fox says:

    “But we may yet find our Churchill and that means we may yet adopt a World War II style and scale effort. And as in WWII, we converted a great deal of manufacturing infrastructure to war time purposes before the end of its economic lifetime. That can’t be considered a likely scenario for the 2020s, but it’s far from impossible and may be our only hope.”

    WE may, by we I mean people in the West may find our Churchill moment. But what’s so depressing is, do we believe China or India will or even can? This is presupposing we do , which is a stretch to say the least.

    If I say that the human race has failed, is that fatalistic or am I being a realist?

    • Continuing to point to others who appear not to be pulling their weight as an excuse for not pulling your own will guarantee that we will be totally screwed.

      And the difference between pessimism and realism is a simple one of perspective, which is too often slanted by cognitive dissonance.

      • David Fox says:

        Who says I’m not pulling my weight, and what does that have to do with what I’m speaking about? I thought my point was clear enough, and its a valid one to consider.

        I walk 2 miles to work, don’t own a car, and vote for those who might make a difference. How about you Colin?

        • Paul Magnus says:

          David, he’s talking about the US, and in general. It was not on a personal level.

          It’s certainly true… The way forward is not to watch what others are doing but to do what is necessary.

          • David Fox says:

            I don’t know if the two of you are missing my point or ignoring it. Let us assume that we DO take all necessary action that it is within our power to make. Will that be enough? Ignoring the possibility that it won’t be is not helpful at all.

            Your comment really smacks of something the administration is using in reference to the past administration; we need to look forward not backward. This attitude is tantamount to sticking your head in the sand.

            YES, we must do something. I AGREE, and I’m actually doing things, doing my part. But doing my part doesn’t stop China from putting a new coal fired plant on line every week to ten days.

            Truth can be upsetting, but that’s no reason to ignore it.

          • Paul Magnus says:

            David, I totally accept the reality of the situation.
            In my opinion a 2C increase is catastrophic. Modern civilization will not survive this. And also a 450ppm will result in a more than 2C increase. We are looking at 3-5C rise for sure. And probably more. So you see things are going to be pretty bad. Lovelock is probably right in his prediction of a vast reduction in population before the end of the century. There are quite a few proment scientist and elders who see this as well.

            However, we can not give up for nothing is certain. Right now all nations need to reflect on the problem and take it on themselves to start reducing their emissions. Others will follow. All individuals need to do the also as it is as I see it a moral issue too.

            https://www.facebook.com/pages/Moral-Ground/137708889590934

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      David, the Chinese have 5,000 or so years of history and civilization, and have over those centuries produced numerous Churchills, and better. They are eminently capable of understanding science, and have a history of not allowing vested money interests to overwhelm the common good. I think that there is far more likelihood that a climate destabilisation hero, heroine or scores, indeed hundreds of them, will emerge from China, or Brazil, or India than from the moribund West, which has been rendered impotent, incontinent and incoherent by the death grip of neo-liberal, market fundamentalist high-tech neo-feudalism.

      • David Fox says:

        Yes, that is true. I don’t really mean to be picking at China as much as the developing world in general. Who are we to tell them they’re not allowed to have a lifestyle like ours? Its because of that fact, and that we have – according to the report in this post – 6 years to get off our collective asses that I say, it ain’t happening.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          I concur with your pessimistic realism. The West will again attempt to foist an unjust outcome on the rest of the world at Durban, just like Copenhagen, and more time will be lost.

      • J4zonian says:

        That suggests to me that we should be doing eveything we can to support the Occupy movement, including being a part of it.

    • Target0 says:

      I am at this moment in Shenzhen China. My impression is that China, like everywhere has split emotions about climate change. On the one hand they are frantically industrializing, building coal fired power plants and automobiles, on the other hand many Chinese people are concerned about the effects of climate change and the government has launched huge efforts to develop solar and wind energy manufacturing capability. As Americans we need concentrate on getting the US moving in the right direction. I think that if we do so there is a good chance that Asia will also curb their emissions.

  4. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Let’s be careful about casual viewers mistaking that chart! That’s not a temperature scenario! The greenhouse effect continues for more than a thousand years, more or less on a plateau from where we get our act together. Please don’t misinterpret.

    http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/File:Carbon_Stabilization_Scenarios_png

    • Joe Romm says:

      After 5C, it’s just the rubble bouncing, as they used to say. but I will be doing a post on this very subject in the not-too-distant future. You are quite right that in the do-nothing scenario, we get up to over 8C warming, which renders large parts of the planet simply uninhabitable for humans.

      • Christopher S. Johnson says:

        Right, what I mean, though, is that a fast skimmer of the article, from a casual reader, may see a temp number on that chart, sitting above a downward curve, and think to themselves, “oh, if we lower emissions, then we can lower the temps back too. We can ‘heal’ the damage after we get our act together.” But in fact, as you and I know from the Susan Solomon/NOAA 2009 study, we actually get locked into the world we make — at whatever level that may be.

        The chart looks technically correct but it shouldn’t give the impression that temps can go backwards. I’m thinking of the casual viewer.

        • Joe Romm says:

          Oh, I’m not worried CP readers would think that.

          • Christopher S. Johnson says:

            Great!

          • a nissen says:

            I am new to this site—sent by a link. Surely you consider confusing a newcomer? You should, because that chart did!

          • Joe Romm says:

            It comes straight from the IEA. I think it is clear enough if you read the post.

          • a nissen says:

            Settling for the technical caliginosity of others is not a valid excuse when the cause at this moment, if ever it did, cries for “a picture worth 1000 words.”

            For example, one that at least approaches the strength of the one posted later by NH (#27) from the work of Hall and Day (clarified by JS in #29).

        • Pangolin` says:

          The only way we get normal, as in 20th century, temperatures back is if we somehow get atmospheric CO2 and other GHGs to slightly below 20th century norms.

          Right now there is no known or proposed physical method that will do that. At least that I know of. We will have to mitigate emissions at the same time that we adapt to changing conditions.

          • Bob Carver says:

            There is a technological way to eliminate excess heat and that’s to convert it from the infrared spectrum into the microwave spectrum and beam it into space. That will lower the temperature of the Earth if done on a global scale. I’m hopeful such a methodology will be mature enough to demonstrate before next boreal summer. I’ve been assured by the principal scientist on the project that it will in fact be ready by Spring.

          • J4zonian says:

            Pangolin et al,

            There is a way, and it’s very simple. Increase organic matter in the soil by organic methods, and reforest the world, including establishing food forests as a, if not the, major mode of food and materials production.

            This only takes care of already-emitted CO2, of course, so we have to also drastically reduce current emissions. There is no technical reason why we can’t do that, only political ones.

            Once evidence of warming is so overwhelming it’s undeniable even by the denialists it will be a race for the exits in the republican party; eveyone will be trying to be the first to denounce others as denialists and to seem like they knew it was coming all along.

            It will also be a race between the conservative/elite impulse to discipline, punish and attack under authoritarian government, vs. the liberal/commoner tendency to band together, help each other and even take some rational action to prevent worse damage.Which way we go depends largely on the educaton we do now for the general public; and how available we are in each village and neighborhood to help people through the difficult adjustment to a harsher life and doing things ourselves.

    • Mike Roddy says:

      Want to hear something scary?

      The IEA projections use basic physics, and do not include feedbacks. Warming far higher than 11f is more than plausible.

      Since this scenario cannot be quantified- we have no decent paleo or current data on Arctic methane releases etc- people don’t bring it up, including IEA. Credit pressure from the deniers, who dispute highly probable truth, and would use predictions with big probability bands as an excuse to discredit all of climate science.

      This has intimidated scientists, showing again that the Right has better tacticians.
      Lefties and scientists take comfort in verifiable truth. That is a good place to pick an intellectual battle, but not a good game theory strategy for preparing for a range of possible and even likely futures.

      • lasmog says:

        Agreed, the projected warming trend is terrifying without considering natural feedbacks. If you try to factor in methane releasing from thawing tundra you end up in a fetal position mumbling to yourself.

  5. Joan Savage says:

    An emotional tipping point, and possibly political, can hit when the headline shifts from the Guardian’s and IEA’s future-oriented, “World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns”

    to a present-oriented headline, like

    World headed for MORE irreversible climate change in five years, organizations warn

    • Adrian says:

      Well put. We are living with the effects now, and since humans have a propensity for procrastination, best to bring the news emphatically, unavoidably, into the present.

  6. Raul M. says:

    Long lasting moral said something like judge not that you may be not judged.
    We each need to look at our own actions so that we each may judge ourselves.
    Maybe a nice task maybe not.

  7. John McCormick says:

    David Fox, you asked

    “If I say that the human race has failed, is that fatalistic or am I being a realist?”

    I agree that you are being a realist but I do not agree that the human race has failed. Only about one in seven of us have failed and are the architects of the climate chaos and destruction that will follow.

    I could blame Ralph Nader for delivering the shrub to the White House. I will.

    But, moving ahead 12 years, here in VA and after weeks of the brave souls occupying Wall Street and other streets, we Virginians just lost the state capital to the rethugs. With a rethug gov and redistricting coming at us, the rethugs have a good chance of controlling the politics of this state long after the 400 ppm CO2 mark has been crossed.

    They are in this to win and the Karl Rover plan is in place and well funded.

    Why?

    Because non-rethugs are lazy, not focused, getting on with our lives and concentrating on retirement.

    It is not so much that humans have failed, we Americans are the failures and the world sees us as fools and dupes.

    • lemmonmc says:

      Quote from CommonDreams poster I agree with:

      “Americans use 10 times the resources of the earth as any other country, and produce 10 times the amount of garbage, etc. So some tribe on an island in Indonesia now watches as their island sinks due to global warming, and they contributed hardly an iota towards that outcome. Not all of humanity shares the blame equally. YES we all need to work to reduce our “carbon footprint,” but let’s be fair about where the finger should be pointed, and who needs to work the heardest at reducing their over-large footprint. America and the other industrialized nations first.”

      • Lou Grinzo says:

        “10 times the resources of the earth as any other country”? Really? That’s a good example of why it’s often so hard to communicate with people on the political right — you mention the environment or climate change or peak oil or whatever sustainability topic you choose, and they instantly think of some overblown statement like that and you’ve lost them before you even try to say something of substance. I’ve been the victim of that kind of broad brushing more times than I can count, and it’s extremely damaging.

        As for assigning blame for our mess, I could not care less. Did the developed countries put us in this mess? Absolutely. Are China and India poised to shove us over the cliff? Absolutely yes. Or, to use an even more graphic image, the rich countries loaded the gun and pointed it at our head. The slow response by the US, the EU, et al. is holding it there. China and India are in a race, it seems, to see who gets to pull the trigger. You can argue until the sun burns out over the root vs. proximal cause of the approaching disaster, and it won’t mean jack to the atmosphere.

        The bottom line is that the only way we avoid hell and high water is for the developed countries to dramatically reduce their emissions and for the developing countries to avoid following our recent path. If we fail in either part of that formulation, we’re in unimaginable trouble.

        • lemmonmc says:

          We are you talking about? This was a quote I lifted from another web-site and from what I understand the United States uses 25% of all the world’s resources, so how can this be grossly overstated?

          “You can argue until the sun burns out over the root vs. proximal cause of the approaching disaster, and it won’t mean jack to the atmosphere.”

          Professor Kevin Anderson of energy and climate change in the School of Mechanical, Aeronautical and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester, made this presentation which in part covers this very subject. Whose responsible and how much of the total emissions percentage are they responsible for?

          http://www.slideshare.net/DFID/professor-kevin-anderson-climate-change-going-beyond-dangerous

          Mr. Anderson does such a wonderful job at
          44minutes36seconds destroying the point of your little temper-tantrum there’s little use of me adding in.

          People in Somalia don’t have to make a drastic change in carbon emissions, people like you and me do, period. We are far more responsible for this than anyone else, any intelligent sensible solutions as Professor Anderson states should be aimed directly at us. Your fragile ego doesn’t bode well for the rest of our “resource privileged” class to understand this and act accordingly.

        • Mike Roddy says:

          Good one, Lou.

    • a nissen says:

      Is there no escape anywhere from the great divide? Both parties are each barking up the wrong tree(s) (restores one’s sanity somewhat just imagining that) and the reason for this is their common master.

      To get over Karl Rove, et al. try reading “Death of the Liberal Class” by Chris Hedges (2010) and when the wind howls this winter stick your nose in Howard Zinn’s classic “A People’s History of the United States.” You don’t have to believe a word of either one of those books— they make you think different nonetheless, which is what making peace with ourselves is going to take.

  8. Sasparilla says:

    Wow, bombshell indeed. Wow what a report, considering the source – the emphasis on the expenses for dealing now or later is very important (for use in convincing that action needs to be done now).

    I wish we were some place close to heeding the wisdom contained in the report, but we’re still falling back(wards) here in the US – this report will be very important when we reach the inflection point where retreat on climate change action turns into progress (although that seems very far away here in the USA). 2017 for international action seems out of the realm of possibility in the US given the current political conditions and trends.

    That said, I salute the IEA for having the courage to call it like it is (the fossil fuel industry will not be happy.

  9. And Obama is leasing drilling rights in the Arctic.
    What is the matter with people?

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Obama is just following orders, fulfilling the prime directives of those who recruited him at college, provided his first job, and started and then financed his political career. I’m afraid that you (and we)no longer have any other type of politician but the slavish robopaths controlled by the money power. To have believed that Obama would be different was, I regret to say, simply self-delusion.

  10. Paul Magnus says:

    Is some one suing Obama for contributing to the down fall of humanity?

    We desperately need a Churchill!

    • Belgrave says:

      My fear is that instead the necessary action may be delayed so long that a leader arises who decides that in order to implement the necessary action quickly and decisively the first action needed is the elimination of democracy! And I’m not totally sure that we wouldn’t have deserved that outcome.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        They’ll try geo-engineering first, then it will be war with Russia and China and God knows who else, and then you’ll get open, undisguised, fascism.

        • Belgrave says:

          Actually, one thing I fear is war between China and Russia. If, as many models predict, large areas of southern China become dust-bowlified (Hey, if Joe can invent the noun, surely I can use the past participle form), and parts of Siberia become more temperate, I can envisage millions of environmental refugees moving north. Both Russia and China are very proud, nationalistic countries with nuclear weapons…

    • Joy Hughes says:

      The kids at iMatter are suing the government over climate.

  11. Lou Grinzo says:

    I was very glad to see the IEA emphasize climate change, the cost of inaction being so much higher than investing in clean energy, and the infrastructure lock-in effect.

    That last point — e.g. a new coal plant will be in operation for several decades — combined with the very long atmospheric lifetime of CO2 emissions paints a very grim picture, to say the least. Add in China’s and India’s plans for adding immense amounts of new, non-CCS coal fired generating capacity over the next 25 years, and we’re closing in on bad SF movie territory.

    But will we listen to this report? Of course not. We will do what short-term economic calculations tell us to do. Which means the Koch Brothers and their kind will continue to warp public policy wherever they can via the sheer throw-weight of the bags of money they can assemble, which in turn means that the economic landscape won’t shift in favor of the right kinds of energy as quickly as we’d like. Just preventing the US from putting a price on carbon emissions creates a gigantic hurdle between where we are now and where we need to be.

    Paul Gilding pointed out in The Great Disruption that we haven’t listened to the message from real world events yet because we’re not ready to do so. I think that’s exactly right. We won’t leap into action unless [1] we have the sea change of mentality first, or [2] something so monumentally bad happens, a “Climate Pearl Harbor” event, that it kicks us from one mental state to the next. While I’m not optimistic about [1] happening, I think it would be far preferable to waiting another 5 or 10 or 20 years for something like a collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to sound the alarm.

    • WyrdWays says:

      For [2], I would put my money on the complete loss, during summer, of the Arctic Ice Sheet as the wake-up call.

      Based on the trajectory of the volume of sea-ice (rather than area) that is an event that is already on the radar. And the North Pole missing it’s ice-sheet is something that even the most blind-sided deniers will find impossible to explain away.. though of course they’ll try.

      But as with a collapse of the WA ice-sheet, by then the problem will have gone past the point of actually being able to do anything meaningful about it. Our only hope is for a decade-long stagnation of the world-wide economy.

      Oh wait..

      • Tom Lenz says:

        I’ll bet on undeniably horrific crop failures several years in a row and food price inflation so radical it sends even a few one percenters into the streets, before 2020. When it begins to hit average household budgets with a sledge hammer minds will start snapping left and right.

        • Target0 says:

          Texas (The Rick Perry Desert) is where it’s at. When all those farmers who have been riding around on their tractors listening to Rush Limbaugh find out that Al Gores’ hoax has hit them where they live there will be some changes.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        Wyrd, the Arctic sea-ice doesn’t rate. The denialosphere already has it penciled in as ‘Nothing new-it happens all the time. Why you could sail over the Pole in the 15th century, as the Chinese did, yada, yada, yada’. You and I might know that this is bunkum, but the Dunning-Krugerites lap it up, because it comes covered in their favourite sauce, hatred for Greens, ‘water-melons’, ‘know-it-all’ scientists and all the other usual suspects that the Right lives to hate. In fact, this type will NEVER ‘get it’. The economy will collapse, society will implode and they will just blame the reds, pinks, greens, Yellow Peril and God knows who else. Never themselves and never, ever, the rich parasites that they have been brainwashed into adoring.

  12. Matt Beer says:

    As a person who has been spending time making notes of the 2010 edition of the World Energy Outlook I have spent a lot of today trying to see where the release of the 2011 version has been mentioned in the British Media. Besides the mentioned Guardian Article, I have seen nothing else. I have even watched the 3 most likely news broadcasts and again not even a mention.

    I’m not sure which is scarier, the fact that the conservative IEA after the last couple of years of edging the finger towards the alarm button has now firmly pressed it or the fact that no one seems to be listening.

    I can only presume that it will be a very similar story in the US. My only hope is my homebase of Australia can redeem some of my faith in humanity in a few hours once they have woken up.

  13. peetee says:

    The IEA 2011 World Energy Outlook report is being ‘spun’ just a tad differently across Canadian Post-Media outlets; e.g., http://business.financialpost.com/2011/11/09/oil-sands-key-to-global-energy-growth-iea/

    • Chris O'Dell says:

      Yikes. People really see what they want to see. That is perhaps the scariest thing I’ve seen in this whole post.

  14. Merrelyn Emery says:

    ‘In the 2020s, the world is going to be considerably more desperate than we are now’ – I will take this as a statement from the USA perspective. There are plenty of small island nations that are desperate to survive already!

    And more and more countries are taking serious action every day, including China, both technically and at the diplomatic level as we saw from the News posting yesterday.

    Given the rate of acceleration in your $1b disasters published here a couple of days ago, I expect the USA to be pretty desperate long before 2020. The real question is what level of desperation will be required for the US to substitute global cooperation for competition? ME

    • Mike Roddy says:

      Merrelyn:

      The Texas drought, Midwest tornadoes, and Rocky Mountain forest deaths changed nothing. If it’s in the news at all, it’s a throwaway, and if climate change is cited it will be with a disclaimer: “Some scientists believe that there may be a relationship between weather disasters and climate change”.

      We are a tube nation, with crappy schools, so most Americans son’t know any better. We are being lied to every day, all the time.

      All of us may only answer to pressure from outside, so thoroughly rotten are our political leaders.

  15. Belgrave says:

    Just to depress everybody even more:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/07/koch-brothers-database-2012-election?INTCMP=SRCH

    The Koch brothers have created a vast database of conservative leaning voters.

    Lee Fang, a blogger at the Center for American Progress, thinks the combination of the Kochs’ capital and their new voter files could have an immense impact in 2012. “This will be the first major election where most of the data and the organising will be done outside the party nexus. The Kochs have the potential to outspend and out-perform the Republican party and even the successful Republican candidate.”

    In other words, the election may effectively be decided by the Koch Brothers & other like-minded billionaires, given that, following the Citizens United ruling, their spending power is now effectively unlimited.

    Rather depressing wouldn’t you say? But of course they themselves know perfectly well that AGW is real. After all they and their plutocrat friends are planning to drill for oil in the Arctic, knowing that the ice is disappearing.

    • Mimikatz says:

      Ohio vote against the union-stripping measure shows e limits of campaign momey and the ability of a solid progressive grassroots effort to counter The Koch money.

      But people,have to perceive it in their interest to support a shift on energy first. They have to see business as usual as the job killer not new sour sec of energy and conservation.

  16. Peter Mizla says:

    2017 as the deadline for emissions to peak? Perhaps by 2037- and by then we are locked into 4 degrees C warming.

    The weather extremes are becoming increasingly burdensome to the economy.

    see http://www.courant.com/business/connecticut-insurance/hc-outage-personal-income-1109-20111108,0,4577837.story

    The real question is when will enough extreme weather events, economic impacts, and other chaos be enough for massive change?

    Increasingly capitalism as it is now will cause a climate catastrophe.

    There’s been a lot of talk recently that the world is finally facing an economic reckoning — a final past-due bill for those years of living so far beyond our means. The truth is we’re facing a climate reckoning as well. The two are fatally intertwined — and they’re going to be impossible to solve separately, if they can be solved at all.

  17. M Tucker says:

    Nothing really new here in the IEA report. The only new thing is that lame headline:
    “World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns”

    Good New Republicans! Just another 5 more years of fending off climate legislation…after that it is IRREVERSABLE so no legislation, no amount of efficiency, no socialist green / clean technology can possibly save us; it is irreversible. Just 5 more years.

  18. John Tucker says:

    From the report:

    Fukushima Daiichi has raised questions about the future role of nuclear power. In the New Policies Scenario, nuclear output rises by over 70% by 2035, only slightly less than projected last year, as most countries with nuclear programmes have reaffirmed their commitment to them. But given the increased uncertainty, that could change. A special Low Nuclear Case examines what would happen if the anticipated contribution of nuclear to future energy supply were to be halved. While providing a boost to renewables, such a slowdown would increase import bills, heighten energy security concerns and make it harder and more expensive to combat climate change.

    • John Tucker says:

      Existing commitment to nuclear and renewables is totally inadequate. Thats the bottom line and it wont be fixed by anti nuclear sentiment or anti renewable sentiment – aka the two sides of the American solution.

  19. Gnobuddy says:

    “Irreversible climate change in 5 years” is very bad news indeed. But the horrifying reality is that this may actually be an excessively optimistic claim.

    After all, just about ever major metric of global climate change so far has arrived “ahead of schedule”, because our climate models are still too conservative and still missing too many fundamental pieces (such as the effect of positive feedbacks).

    So our ice caps and glaciers melted faster than we expected, deadly floods and droughts arrived faster than we expected, the oceans acidity rose faster than we expected, coral reefs will be extinct sooner than we expected, and stunningly high human-made C02 emissions arrived sooner than we expected, and are still climbing.

    Given that every climate-change-driven horror has arrived “ahead of schedule”, meaning ahead of our inaccurate predictions,
    is there any good logical reason to believe the window to irreversible climate change has not ALREADY closed?

    I hate to say it, but it seems all too obvious that our species is literally incapable of responding to a challenge so abstract and so all-encompassing as global climate destruction. Heck, we can’t even stop obvious human-created problems like war, or end obvious human suffering such as famines. How the heck could we possibly agree to try our hardest to end something much less obvious, like global climate change?

    Sure, people in the top 1 percentile of IQ and education get it, but they’re not the ones running the show, never have been, and never will be. And not once in the roughly 135,000 year history of our species have we ever managed to all agree on one course of action.

    I still think James Lovelock has it right. We (humankind) picked up a loaded gun, pointed it at our head, and pulled the trigger, quite innocently, and without realising what we were dealing with. Now the bullet is flying toward our skull, and the consequences of our innocent but ill-advised action are about to become terminally obvious – but sadly, it is too late to do anything about it.

    My suggestion is to enjoy the sunset, and appreciate what is left of our environment while it is still here. And yeah, do what you can to cut down your carbon footprint, even though it is tantamount to spitting into the wind.

    -Gnobuddy

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      I’m with you Gnobuddy. I decided about five years ago that it was too late, and nothing I’ve seen since convinces me otherwise, I also think that many climate scientists think so, too, but keep quiet lest they demoralise people. I remember seeing a news story about scientists working in the Antarctic. Their favourite movies were post-apocalyptic stories, because, after considering the results of their research and the political response so far, they saw them as documentaries, more or less. Gallows humour. Which reminds me, have you heard the story, apparently true, of the condemned man, whose last words on approaching the trap, were ‘Are you sure that this thing is safe?’

      • Gnobuddy says:

        Thanks for your reply and opinions, Mulga! If the earth as we knew it is indeed in its terminal illness, perhaps it’s time at least some of us moved past denial and on to the stage of acceptance, eh?

        I think my timeline has been somewhat similar to yours, by the way. By the time the 2007 IPCC reports came out it seemed fairly clear that things were broken beyond repair. And when I realised that we humans have had unambiguous experimental data about ongoing climate change starting in the 1950′s – meaning we had already been ignoring the biggest problem humankind has ever faced for over half a century – it was difficult indeed to believe that a happy outcome was possible.

        So where do we go from here? People with terminal illnesses often join support groups. Do we need a “Climate Failure” website that becomes the support group for those of us who think “Climate Progress” is no longer a plausible outcome?

        -Gnobuddy

        • Christina Hansen says:

          Personally, I’m at a point now where I would like to start focusing on saving *something*, no matter how little. Essentially, building a metaphorical ark. (Not that I think that that will assure my own survival; that’s not what I’m primarily interested in. I just want some of the better aspects of humanity to get a chance to continue existing; and maybe some small parts of nature, if that’s possible.)

          There is no group around focused on that kind of thing (yet), though, as far as I know. The Long Now Foundation has some of the right ideas, but seems sort of based on the idea that we have lots of time. Then there’s the Polar Cities guy, but I think that wasn’t a serious project yet, either.

        • Raul M. says:

          not sure of course,but the bouncing rubble senerio points to the mineral assimilation of co2 being a major eearth force. excepting for the exotic GHGs’ contribution because as destabilization of culture occurs so much more of the exotics enter earth reactions.
          Just thinking

  20. Wes Rolley says:

    To those looking for another Churchill in the war on climate change… what we have now is a Nevile Chamberlain.

  21. PAUL DONOHUE says:

    Hi Joe,
    This is probably totally inappropriate. I wrote this for my humanist group and some came to my house affraid I was going to end it all. But, I have a very saddistic toughness, but I am sorry for us all.
    Paul D.

    The Human Flower
    Paul Donohue
    “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste it’s sweetness on the desert air” Thomas Gray’s Elergy written in a country churchyard.
    How does one like me reconcile the conviction that the human race will be gone in less than a hundred years due to global warming, resource depletion, population increase. I have studied the issues carefully and concluded that there is no hope. Climate scientists at MIT and Hadley in England project a 10 degree F rise in average temperature by 2100. If that happens, the human race will die.
    My first reaction was to condemn the human race as inadequate to the task of survival. From an evolutionary perspective, we are not fit . We have succumbed to myths that we are immortal and this world and life is only a stepping stone to eternal life. Religions have won the day by promising things that can never be proven wrong. But they have compromised human survival by promoting endless growth of population and resources believing that God will provide.
    But then I developed a new less critical view. Considering all of nature, the universe is indifferent to survival. There are billions of lifeless galaxies and stars. Galaxies collide, stars explode wiping out any planets. Most planets are lifeless balls of stone and gas. Where life has evolved, countless animals and plants suffered painful existence and became extinct. The universe or any god does not care. I have often thought that if there were a God who made it all, then it is very inefficient and wasteful or just not all powerful. So, I don’t believe there is one.
    And so it is with humans. The universe does not care. We are products of nature and nature does not care. We can flower and show a brief flourish and be gone. Humans struggled for centuries in a difficult existence. Our numbers barely grew for thousands of years. Many died painful and horrible deaths. The universe did not care.
    About 200 years ago, we discovered that carbon sequestered over the millions of years by plants and animals could be burned to produce heat energy. We harnessed that energy in engines and it made all the difference in human advancement. Food increased, which led to population increase which led to knowledge explosion and to great progress and the flowering of humanity.
    So now we are a beautiful flower and the universe could be thought of as pleased. Are we wasting our sweetness on the desert air, never to be observed by any other possible intelligences? Will we flourish and quickly die as the forces that have propelled us become exhausted? I think so. It’s too bad, but it is the nature of the universe.
    But, is it possible that humans with our intelligence can rise above our natural fate? It’s possible, but if we are to succeed we better get moving. We will need political leadership in the U.S. to switch to renewable energy. So far, the U.S. which emitted the most CO2 has retarded progress by not cooperating with international efforts. Change seems impossible in today’s political climate. Most Republicans and energy companies are against action on global warming. Nothing will be done until some bad things happen like severe heat waves or famine.. Hopefully it will not be too late. Survival will require a world view based on rationality and science which so far, we do not have. We will have to abandon our hope for an afterlife and face the reality that this is it. Our main ethic must be to keep humanity going for the benefit of this world and future generations.

    • Dennis Tomlinson says:

      Captain: Ladies and gentlemen we have lost engine #1. There is no need to panic, as this plane can maintain straight and level flight on the three remaining engines.

      [5 minutes later]
      Captain: Ladies and gentlemen I regret to inform you that we have lost engine #2. Would you all please move to the right-hand side of the plane. We have trimmed the rudder and ailerons, and should be able to safely land in the next ten minutes.

      [5 minutes later]
      Captain: Ladies and gentlemen I have the regrettable task of informing you that we have lost engine #3. Those of you who are religious should immediately make peace with your maker. Others should now place your heads between your legs and kiss your asses good-bye.

  22. Colorado Bob says:

    The Bering Sea storm ….. wind gusts to 89 mph., an observed pressure of 24mb, lower than the 74′ storm. 945 mb.
    But the freakiest item about this storm, the highs and lows at Nome the last 2 days have been 11F above average.

  23. Andy Hultgren says:

    Joe, I just wanted to say how sincerely I appreciate the outlook you describe in the last four paragraphs of this post. I know it is grim, but it is also hopeful.

    And hope is very powerful.

  24. Bob Geiger says:

    This is all the more reason that we need to delay the Keystone pipeline. The more this type of science comes out the more likely the pipeline will eventually be killed. And in the few years it takes the oil barons to find another cost-effective way to get the carbon out of the Canadian ground, people and leaders may finally come to their senses. We can hope, and carry on.

  25. Wes Rolley says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq3EZhT3G7U

    David Bowie:
    Pushing thru the market square, so many mothers sighing
    News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in
    News guy wept and told us, earth was really dying

  26. nosoyyo says:

    O.K., the year’s 2026. In the U.S. we have the same corporate-run media and government as we do today. And the same religious fundamentalism. Disasters are becoming more and more frequent. However, as terrible as the drought already is in Texas, and as terrible the maps for the hell awaiting us in the US are, we will be the “lucky” ones compared to much of the world. The effects of both hell and high water will be drastically worse, sooner, in practically all of the global south.

    When Exxon and Apple or whatever the biggest corporations of the day are, carry out their government “lobbying” (order-giving) and media propaganda, they will not be lobbying for saving the planet. They will be talking about saving we, Americans (and meaning, but not saying, only the 1% or 10% or whatever). And they will be acting in the interests of their shareholders. As they must.

    Yes, peak oil will be undeniable, and there will be some pressure on government for regulations so they will invest in solar and what-not, but we will not have anything like shutting down usable coal plants and other actions needed to avert catastrophe.

    And when Koch Industries uses the religious fundamentalists as puppets for their own gains, it won’t be to save the Maldives or Bangladesh or China — there will be talk of rapture or talk about those bad Muslims (terrorists) or whatever.

    It will be us against them — and this is before the “Climate Wars” begin. Hell, there’s already us against them here at Climate Progress. (The US and Great Britain have the highest compounded amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. China will never reach our per capita emissions. The US can’t even sign pass any sort of legislation or treaty to reduce emissions. We could save civilization and if things continue on the current course, we won’t. That is pulling the trigger in my book.

    And included in corporate-run government is of course corporate-run military. We have alleged “progressives” defending extrajudicial assassinations by top-secret drones of US citizens based on secret evidence meeting secret criteria in secret memos now. Can you imagine what we will accept when billions of starving people want some bread from our basket? And when those billions point out that they are starving and drowning because of us? We will expend WWII efforts on protecting our food, borders, and way of life. We will expend it on wars, real or against a tactic (terrorism or whatever).

    So the only chance we have for our species is for there not to be the same corporatocracy in place in the 2020′s, and really the sooner it’s gone, the better. For the first time, there is at least a glimmer of hope for major change. (And an answer if some young person comes here asking what he or she should do with his/her life: Occupy!)

  27. Nicolas Huillard says:

    Maybe this (from there) is an appropriate poster for your house and community…

  28. Goffers says:

    I don’t see the human race dying out as quickly as some people here envisage. More probably it will be like Easter Island writ large.

    • John McCormick says:

      Geoffer, I accept this.

      How can I process this information and still chatter on CP about mitigation and wedges?

    • nosoyyo says:

      I think maybe you’re taking people too literally. I know that I for one talk about saving our species — but I don’t mean that I fear literal extinction in any time period worth talking about. But Easter Island (or Katrina to bring it closer to home) on a super-grand scale with some global wars mixed in, and still enough technology powered to know what’s happening around the globe is not survival worth talking about, either.

  29. Alan Larkman says:

    At last! It really seems as though people here are beginning to grasp the breadth and the depth of the environmental mess we have made.
    Thank you, NH, for drawing attention to the Limits to Growth projections pointing to the likelihood of ‘overshoot and collapse’, which were formulated essentially without reference to the effects of climate change. AGW is only one of many threats to the future of human and other life on this planet. It may be one of the greatest threats, but it may also prove to be one of the more tractable.
    It seems likely that were are now well into the overshoot phase, and we will have to crawl back down the curve to avoid (or minimise) the collapse. Business as usual, albeit with wind, solar or nuclear energy replacing fossil fuels, will probably not be anything like enough to achieve this. If we ever wake up and make a ‘wartime effort’, we must make sure that it addresses all the factors pushing us towards societal and environmental collapse.
    Reading even this blog, I sometimes get the impression that the big issues are creating more jobs, increasing economic growth, and the superpower rivalry between the US and China. Of course we must move towards more sustainable sources of energy, but the challenges we face demand far, far more than this.

    • Joan Savage says:

      A bit about the graph – Nicolas Huillard’s link is to an oildrum post by Gail the Actuary who took it from Charles A. S. Hall and John W. Day, “Revisiting the Limits to Growth After Peak Oil” American Scientist, May-June 2009, Vol. 97, p.230-237
      Full text: http://www.esf.edu/efb/hall/2009-05Hall0327.pdf

      I doubted that Charles Hall and John Day would ignore climate change. They didn’t.

      They mentioned Garrett Hardin’s prediction that people would not leave flood-prone areas of Bangladesh, “because they had no other place to live in the very crowded country,” as that prediction proved correct in the floods of 1991 and 2006.
      That staying-in-place may be a useful topic to explore at CP, particularly as counter point to commentators who assume that other peoples have as many options as Americans.

      In the conclusion of Hall and Day’s review of energy scarcity, they wrote:
      “If we are to resolve these issues, including the important one of climate change, in any meaningful way, we need to make them again central to education…”

      • Joan Savage says:

        Hall and Day’s Fig. 7 comes with a caveat about anything beyond 2000, “the future will tell about the wild oscillations predicted for upcoming years.”

      • Raul M. says:

        guessing at what individuals here in US will do after a storm event.
        Won’t drive much on roads that are impassable.
        Won’t do as much business as long as the bands etc. are not doing.
        Won’t use as much elec. from power plants as long as the elec. isn’t on.
        Won’t buy as much food when the debit card won’t scan.
        For power co’s though, the places at the ends of the lines get the power back on last, if I remember right.
        Nice to think that power co’s will always be able to keep up with needed service.

        • Gnobuddy says:

          I don’t think I follow you, Raul. Are you suggesting mostly good things will follow after major storm events?

          Keep in mind the other side of the coin for each of your ideas: if the roads are impassable, sick people can’t get to hospitals, firefighters can’t get to burning buildings, food cannot get to your supermarket.

          If the electricity isn’t on, some people will be unable to cook. The food in the ‘fridge will go bad. With impassable roads and no food supplies arriving at the local supermarket, people will go hungry. This is manageable for a day or two for a healthy adult, but what happens after that? And what happens to children, the elderly, and people who are delicate or sick?

          If you’re not buying too much food now, then “Won’t buy as much food” equals going hungry, no? The useless debit card will mean hunger for many people.

          Power companies rely on coal arriving to keep the boilers going. If the railways and roads go, the coal supplies stop, and so does the electricity. Also the power companies can only run if their infrastructure is dry – if there is flooding at the power station, all power will be off. So I don’t think they will be able to “keep up with needed service”.

          As I write this, the massive snowstorm that hit Connecticut has knocked out power to over 100,000 people for EIGHT DAYS and counting:
          http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57319370/power-outages-plague-conn-for-8th-day/

          -Gnobuddy

          • Raul M. says:

            Gnobuddy, Hi I’m sorry so many have feel the discomfort of the snowstorm.
            In that you went through the list of obvious problems I’m guessing that the infrastructure concerns up north are similar to a badass hurricane down south.
            Sorry to hear that so many people were not prepared at all for the storm.

      • Alan Larkman says:

        I didn’t mean to suggest that the Limits to Growth authors had ignored climate change in the sense of turning a blind eye to it. It simply wasn’t high on the agenda at the time the report was written.
        My point was that the problems caused by AGW will add to (or maybe multiply) the problems of exponential growth that their projections highlighted. Even if we manage to massively reduce the carbon intensity of energy production (which I think is not impossible), these other problems will still have been grinding away at the planet, and may on their own be sufficient to cause collapse.
        The Limits to Growth projections have been revisited several times, by the surviving original authors and others, and have proved to be remarkably accurate over their first 40 years. I’m not sure it adds much to the debate to say that time will tell whether the projections will turn out to be accurate in the future.
        The Limits to Growth report was subjected to a vigorous denial campaign, with many features in common with present climate change denial.

  30. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    The situation is alarming. Nations should act fast.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

  31. Bill G says:

    Same old comments. It is terrible! It is a crime! The Koch brothers should be jailed. All kinds of dates for ice disappearing. We need a WWII sized effort. Can’t somebody do something, please. Or “the graph was faulty in this and this aspect”. Etc. Etc.

    Does anyone feel in his or her gut we will ever curb CO2 as long as Big Oil and Coal are around? Anyone that does, respectfully, would you place a serious-sized wager on it? I would be interested.

    We need to stop the hand wringing. It does no good. We should suck it up and look at a Plan B and a Plan C.

    Plan B might be what a Washington Bipartisan group is doing – looking into ways to cause more solar dimming by putting materials that reflect sunlight into the atmosphere. Please don’t mock them. Don’t attack them. At least they are thinking of doing something!

    A Plan C would be starting thinking and planning for moving some part of the population north where some scientists believe temperatures will sustain agriculture. Too dismal and scary a thought for you? OK, what is your Plan C? In light of what has NOT happened, please don’t say, “cut CO2 emissions.”

    We have a lot of good folks invested heavily in reducing CO2 emissions who will be the first to cry, “Defeatist thinking! Negative thoughts never help, etc.” These people are solidly wedded to the reduction of CO2 route – no matter what its odds of happening. To my knowledge all our efforts on such reductions have produced a 6% increase in emissions last year. Not a promising track record, would you say?

    After all, we claim to be the ones based in reality – right? Does reality dictate we go on forever banging our heads against the CO2 reduction solution wall? I don’t think so.

    Reality says – it ain’t working. We need to think along new lines. We need to get busy working along new lines and fast. Or else we find ourselves blindsided by severe food shortages and drought here in the US with no ready responses. We are caught flatfooted again as we were with this rise of global warming so far. Again, no plans, no idea which way to turn, fear, chaos, loss of democracy, military rule, nations threatening each other (probably with nukes) over water and food.

    It all sounds so far fetched because we have not allowed ourselves to think the unthinkable. We are in our own progressive form of denial. Let’s not be too quick to mock the other side my friends. If we are the smart ones, the realistic ones, the “can-do” people, let’s get busy today. There are ways to deal with failing to curb CO2 emissions.

    Respectfully, can we put away our false security blankie of thinking CO2 emissions will be curbed?

    Thank you.

  32. Gnobuddy says:

    Bill G – your plan C will happen automatically if the circumstances require it. No normal person wants to die, so people will inevitably do what is necessary to try to survive. If that means migrating polewards, that is what people will do.

    Keep in mind, though, that for the forseeable future the areas around the north pole aren’t going to be a lush meadow fit for agriculture and housing, but rather a slushy half-frozen stinking bog spewing millions of tons of poisonous methane from rotting vegetation.

    The fact that the methane comes from thawing dead grass and vegetation that once lived in those now arctic regions tells us that maybe one day there will once again be lush grass fields and vegetation in those areas, but it may be a long time coming – all that frozen tundra has to melt and stabilise before fresh vegetation can grow on it, and who knows how many centuries or millenia that might take.

    Either way, there is zero likelihood that 7 million or more people will successfully survive in the polar regions, or for that matter get there in time to avoid dying as their own countries collapse, so inevitably there will be massive loss of life.

    As for geo-engineering, my gut feeling is that it will turn out to be humanity’s biggest blunder ever, exceeding even the stupidity of the last two centuries, where we have chosen to destroy our only liveable environment.

    When it comes to the process of climate change, we are dealing with an indescribably complex set of processes happening on an unimaginably large scale. When we try to interfere (and I think it is inevitable that someone will try it as a last desperate measure), the most likely outcomes are that we will either undershoot (there will be no effective mitigation of climate change, and the effort will have failed) or overshoot (we set in motion climate feedbacks that end up with too little C02 and too cold a world to support human life). The chances that human-controlled engineering processes will actually manage to balance the entire earth and its atmosphere on the incredibly narrow razors edge of thermodynamic equilibrium that allows human civilisation to exist is, in my opinion, zero.

    If we don’t geo-engineer, then, civilisation as we know it may end with a whimper and not a bang. If we do geo-engineer, we might succeed in ending it with a bang instead.

    In the long term, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that human civilisation has been the most destructive thing to ever appear on this planet, and perhaps an end to human civilisation as we now know it will in fact be a long overdue correction to the planetary stock-market, a correction that will allow life on the planet to resume its normal processes, free of the most destructive way of living that has ever appeared.

    I don’t think it is likely that humanity will become altogether extinct, unless the entire planet becomes so hot that no vegetation at all can survive. If even some of the plants make it, some humans will, too. We are an incredibly adaptable species, and our ancestors have made it through more than one major climate shift already.

    -Gnobuddy

    • Bill G says:

      Gno Buddy, Thanks for your response. I agree trying to engineer the atmosphere is filled with danger. But this Bipartisan Washington group is just starting to think about it and will undoubtedly have top scientific input.

      My point is planning is better than just waiting to see what will happen to us. Read James Hansen and James Lovelock whose latest books both present some highly educated views about what will happen.

      We can concurrently go on trying to reduce CO2 emissions, but look at the almost total lack of progress. Will it happen? We will have a lot of alternative energy up and running soon, but it will make a small dent to world wide energy needs.

    • Bill G says:

      Gnobuddy, Let me expand on my response to you. If we wait for Nature to force action on us as you suggest, it will be much to late. Migration may happen, but unplanned it could well be a bloody, Mad Max kind of migration. Lawlessness would quickly take over. Everything could break down in the panic.

      We need to work on a Plan B (solar dimming) and a Plan C (migration) NOW to get ready for the inevitable. Just more hand wringing about CO2 emission reduction does not good.

      We were told clearly in the 1950′s by a stunningly intelligent scientific prophet – Alvin Weinberg, Science Adviser to President Kennedy, that global warming was a serious, oncoming threat. He laid it out in no uncertain terms. But we did not listen and did not plan. We reap the consequences today.

      Is that experience a harbinger to what will happen next if we have no plans beyond hoping CO2 emissions will be curbed?

  33. Snapple says:

    The Russian Academy of Sciences just had a conference on mitigating climate change. They were going to present information about their experiments putting aerosols in the atmosphere. However, this sort of approach doesn’t help the acidification of the oceans.

    Maybe Climate Progress could comment on that conference. Here is some background.

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2011/10/russian-academy-of-sciences-hosts.html

  34. Snapple says:

    It seems to me as though the Russians are considering making a small, artificial “nuclear winter.” The Russians are saying that global warming is real now.

    I read that nuclear winter expert Alan Robock was scheduled to give a talk called “Smoke and Mirrors.”

    Dr. Robock has a power point on his site (left column) about Geoengineering (April 16, 2011) that is also called “Smoke and Mirrors.”

    http://envsci.rutgers.edu/~robock/

    Probably that is pretty much like his presentation in Moscow.

    I would like to know all about this conference. Maybe there could be some posts about this conference. They had some video on their site, but it didn’t work for me.
    http://www.pacc2011.ru/

  35. Snapple says:

    I believed Colin Powell when he said Iraq had WMD, but maybe if we had spent all our money on developing renewable energy for the real WMD–CO2–we would have a good start.

    I believed a lot of what the Republicans said, but since Climategate I don’t believe them any more. They just want all power to the fossil fuel industry.

    I do think that America has to show the way. Others will follow if we are doing the right thing. I don’t believe in defeatism.

    I didn’t vote for President Obama last time, but I plan to vote for him next time. Politicians can only do so much. They need public support.

    Many Republicans now are really radicals, not conservatives. They aren’t conserving anything. They aren’t leading the way and showing us how to protect our country at all.

    • Bill G says:

      Snapple – you are right about Repubs. Just think – Nixon was an intelligent environmentalist. Richard Nixon!! Today he would be relegated to the very back benches of the Party for his “liberal-socialist” ideas.

      Now instead we have Michelle Bachman proposing to eliminate all federal taxes. Or Romney saying he “absolutely” agrees with the Mississippi measure to declare a fertilized egg “a person”, until the public votes it down – they he is dead set against the idea.

      Sensible Republicans must still be out there. They should come forward because we need them badly for a workable government. I feel the very large right wing propaganda media are behind most of our problems with a government that cannot function to address national problems.

      This media is a true cancer on the American body politic.

  36. The campaign has begun to expand the mandate of the International Criminal Court to prosecute ecocide the large scale long term destruction of our environment by Polly Higgins a UK lawyer and author or Eradicating Ecocide Laws and governance to prevent the destruction of our planet. http://thisisecocide.com/
    The destabilisation of our planet’s climate and the subsequent destruction of the web of life are a new class of crimes motivated by the fear of the loss of economic and national security but also ruthless murderous greed using fraudulent science to justify inaction. The CEOs and Board of Directors of Corporate tobacco got away with manufacturing an epidemic of ignorance, addiction, illness, anguish, cancer, financial ruin and death. And filled the cemeteries of the world without criminal prosecution so far. That must not happen again if we intend to live sustainably. The evil heart of capitalism must not win.
    Demand Republican presidential Candidates, is the destabilizing our planets climate a crime against life on our planet and to reveal the scientific evidence they are using to support that position. Because using fraudulent science on a global scale is like financial accounting fraud in that it is rewarded by billions in profits and will be even more devastating than the sub prime scam.
    Gordon Chamberlain
    Founder Ecocide Prosecution Canada

  37. As I consult my chart of climate consequences at http://localsteps.org/howbad.html – I fail to see any discussion of costs or economics.

    Could it be that Thermodynamic Laws fails to respect the dollar and jobs and political freedom? Just who ARE these Thermo-dynams?

  38. Joy Hughes says:

    Exponential adoption of solar PV will cause a much more rapid decarbonization than this presentation predicts. We will just have to learn to live with the intermittency.

  39. CW says:

    After the Obama experience, I’m wondering if one person can really get this ship going in a constructive way (point taken that the future might change that, and of course one person can easily steer things in a destructive direction). So, I’m not sure it’s a Churchill we need, though that wouldn’t hurt of course. Instead, I’m wondering if the polls show that we need an democratic system that actually expresses the will, or reflects the desires of the majority. The polls show after all that majorities on both sides want mostly similar things on energy and the environment. And majorities of voters for both parties want money’s influence out of politics (I was astounded to see the totals from Citizens for Tax Justice). In that limited and not-typically referred to sense, might we be the people we’ve been waiting for after all, and we just can’t get the system to reflect this?

  40. So, let’s just roll the dice and hope for the best, right? Wrong. People need to wise up and make some lifestyle changes like: setup rainwater recapture systems, pressure their local government or state government to mandate solar roofing on ALL structures within 5 years, and mandate, through local ordinances, trade up programs for gas driven vehicles to electric vehicles; We,(we the people), have to move things along as the oil companies have no incentive to change anything – they are the global pushers of oil and all industries related to oil. I worked 25+ years in the auto industry – my dad 37 years. He said back in the 70s there were patents bought up by the Big Three that would have revolutionized cars, but…the incestuous relationship between the oil industry and auto industry precluded any such major changes that would have reduced the usage of oil/gas. The problem lies in a vacuum of leadership, not only politically, but in our industries. We,(we the people), will have to demand new technologies to implement real, measurable change.