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Open Thread Plus Classic Toles Climate Cartoon

By Joe Romm on February 4, 2012 at 7:49 am

"Open Thread Plus Classic Toles Climate Cartoon"

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A cybernickel for your thoughts — yes, I want thoughts that are 5 times as valuable as usual!

To inspire you, this classic Toles cartoon:

http://0.tqn.com/d/politicalhumor/1/0/6/p/3/Climate-Abyss.jpg

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78 Responses to Open Thread Plus Classic Toles Climate Cartoon

  1. Robert says:

    Look up a SCARY speech by Dr. Kevin Anderson, former Director of UK’s top climate research institute, the Tyndall Centre, The Brutal logic of Climate Change. He talks about how the minimum action to save earth is the Copenhagen promise of no more than 2°C rise and means we would have to reduce CO2 emissions to ZERO by 2030, at the latest, under the most optimistic scenario. Nitrous Oxides from fertilizers made from natural gas were largely to blame for blowing away 25% of the Arctic’s ozone last winter. A few cold winters like that would be bad. Other than that everything is A okay.

    Social Crisis + Economic Crisis + Energy Crisis + Environmental Crisis
    = Crises Confluence + overwhelms political process

    CO2, CO4, NO3 = $$$ = :) = u = me

  2. Chris Wiegard says:

    What did Barry Goldwater used to say? “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” or words to that effect? I was not a fan of that statement, but perhaps there was an element of truth to the concept that compromise and seeking a middle ground is only helpful when there in fact IS a middle ground.

    In the case of climate change, it has increasingly appeared that seeking a middle ground is a sort of slave girl to Inaction. Denialists have noticed this, and have donned the “middle ground” outfit as political camouflage in a rather insincere way. At this point, whenever I hear the phrase “middle ground” applied to global warming, I visualize Bjorn Lomborg, and I reject it.

  3. climatehawk1 says:

    I urge readers’ support for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and for H.R. 3242, the Save Our Climate Act, which they are advocating. H.R. 3242 would impose an escalating tax on carbon, with the proceeds distributed to all Americans as a dividend. Simple, easy to understand, but it needs your support!

  4. climatehawk1 says:

    Re Kevin Anderson, there is a good article on his work by David Roberts at Grist. Highly recommended for sharing.

    Re middle ground, agreed. Scary, e.g., that Dr. Socolow, the wedge guy, is now saying let’s aim for a 3-C increase because 2 C is out of reach. In the end, I guess, the weather will tell us what is politically possible. When people actually become afraid of it, the definition of “reasonable” and “middle ground” will change.

    • Belgrave says:

      Thanks for the link to that article – it makes scary reading.

      Locally, here in Tenerife, Canary Islands, our highest mountain, Mount Teide (3,718 metres/12,198 feet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Teide), is normally snow-covered for at least a few weeks in Winter (usually for longer and with snow on the surrounding lower mountains as well). This year, not a single flake.

      The Spanish met office website has details of precipitation and drought status (the desertification of Mediterranean Europe as a result of climate change is, I understand, predicted with a high degree of confidence). Lots of other info. e.g. state of the North Atlantic oscillation, ozone levels, general info. about climate change, predictions for temperature & precipitation changes for the next century under the various IPCC scenarios by region of Spain, etc. etc.

      It’s all in Spanish, but if you click on http://www.aemet.es/ and then (for example) on servicios climáticos on the sidebar, followed by vigilancia del clima & then vigilancia de la sequía on the sub-menus you’ll get to a map of the present state of drought in Spain (Canary Islands are in the bottom left hand corner). (Sequía is the Spanish for drought.)

      Find out more about climate change in the Western Mediterranean and improve your Spanish at the same time!

  5. You know the old saying: if you ignore a problem long enough it will go away.
    Here, though, it’s more like if we ignore this problem long enough we will go away

    • Chris Lock says:

      Nicely said.

      This reminds me of our PM, Stephen Harper, who said a few years ago that we won’t recognize the country when he’s through with it, referring to his right wing social engineering. I say that we won’t recognize the planet after Stephen Harper is through with it, after he has mined the entire Alberta tar sands.

  6. todd tanner says:

    Here’s your chance to stop preaching to the choir and do something that will actually make a difference. America has 40 million sportsmen – hunters & anglers. We’re kicking off a new organization this week that will educate sportsmen on climate change and help them speak with one voice on the most important issue we’ve ever faced.

    We’re called Conservation Hawks, and we’re on Facebook, and on the web at http://www.conservationhawks.org/ We need your help. Share our message and our website with your friends, family and colleagues. Hit the donate button and throw in a few bucks. If you’re a climatologist or a fisheries or wildlife biologist, please consider joining our Science Advisory Board.

    It doesn’t matter if you’re a sportsman. It doesn’t even matter if you support hunting & fishing. We know our current approach on climate hasn’t worked. We also know our kids & grandkids will never forgive us if we trash the planet. Help us launch Conservation Hawks with a bang. Right now, America’s 40 million sportsmen don’t know what to think, or do, about climate change. We’re going to change that, but we need your help.

  7. Raul M. says:

    Do be careful of the stampede. They will probably come from both directions.
    Damb ball won’t bounce me to the other stampede side.
    A writer once wrote of the hypnotizing of the bull in a fight. He almost got that bull to just stand there before he was flung.
    Sad sad story.

  8. Chris Winter says:

    Chris Wiegard wrote: “What did Barry Goldwater used to say? “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” or words to that effect?”

    If I may do some nitpicking here (it always comes easy to me), I believe the line was “Extremism in the defense of liberty is not a vice.” (And Playboy, of course, mocked it by turning it around, pretending to have mis-heard it: “Vice in the defense of extremism is not a liberty?”)

    In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. also spoke favorably of extremism. “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be … This nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

    These two historical figures were nearly polar opposites in many ways, Yet they both touched a truth: There are times when moderation just gets you in deeper. Though I’m not religious, I like this take on the word “extremism.”

    http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/religion_theseeker/2011/01/martin-luther-king-what-kind-of-extremist-are-you-.html

    • climatehawk1 says:

      I heard it. Memory plays tricks, of course, but I’ll stick with “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice no virtue.” (later) OK, he is not quite so eloquent as I remembered. Here is a clip of the actual speech on YouTube.

    • Sailesh Rao says:

      Compassion that is anthropocentric is not enough as our environmental crises are caused by our lack of compassion for the “other.” It seems to me that the Rev. Robert V. Thompson needs to go one step further in his extremism.

  9. Susan Anderson says:

    Just finished a scary article about Philip Anschutz/Time Leiweke of the Anschutz Entertainment Group in The New Yorker. They are close collaborators with the Koch Brothers and all of their causes and organizations. Unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall and the abstract only talks about their huge worldwide success in building multipurpose stadiums.

    These guys are nasty of nasties, so why haven’t most of us ever heard of them? Can more publicity be given to this?

    New Yorker, 1/16/12 “The Man Who Owns L.A.: A secretive mogul’s entertainment kingdom” by Connie Bruck, page 46. To get the gist, please get a hard copy and read it right through. It’s the issue with a red elephant circus on the cover.

    • Chris Winter says:

      Susan Anderson wrote: “… the abstract only talks about their huge worldwide success in building multipurpose stadiums.”

      Bread and circuses.

  10. john atcheson says:

    When the Fourth Assessment was released, IPCC chair, Dr. Pauchuri, said that if humanity failed to take serious action to cut GHGs by 2012, it would likely be too late to prevent serious and irreversible consequences. Since he said that, actual events have tracked the worst scenario in the Assessment– or exceeded it.

    Happy New Year.

    There has to be something that will raise this issue to the level it demands. There has to.

    • todd tanner says:

      I can think of two ways to change the status quo. Billions and billions of dollars targeting politicians and policy makers, or large groups of passionate constituents targeting politicians and policy makers.

      Here’s an observation, and then a question. The NRA has around 4 million members, which is a little more than 1% of the U.S. population. When was the last time you saw a lawmaker from either party pass major gun control legislation?

      The NRA isn’t successful because it has 4 million members. The NRA is successful because it represents 4 million passionate gun owners. They’re the kind of folks who drive around with “You’ll take my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.” bumper stickers on their pickup trucks.

      I drive a pickup, I own guns, and I support our Second Amendment rights. I also happen to believe that climate change is the single biggest threat to everything I care about – my family and friends, my hunting & fishing, the natural world I love. What do you think will happen in DC if 2 million, or 5 million, or 10 million passionate sportsmen decide they agree with me? Do you think half the House of Representatives will vote down the science of climate change if they know it will cost them the next election?

      Preaching to the choir doesn’t do a damn thing. Educating people who can make a difference … now that’s a different story.

      • Mark says:

        On the local scene, some could (A) go solar at their own home (B) keep meticulous cost-comparison records, and (C) keep those records posted on line and in a mailbox by the sidewalk for anyone to look at. If more folks with a bit of savings really looked at ROI and the like, they’d put money into renewable energy at home instead of letting it do essentially nothing in their bank accounts. But most folks need real tangible evidence from their own streets and neighbors before they’ll take it seriously.

      • Leif says:

        A man can only be “educated” in so far as he is willing to learn.

        “Keep the company of those that seek the truth, but run from those that know it.” Valcav Havel.

      • catman306 says:

        I heat with mixed firewood and I haven’t needed much this “winter”. But I needed some pallets for kindling so I went to the usual places and found almost no pallets available. Business has been bad. Then I went by a local gun store, which was full of customers at 10 am, and filled my old pickup with two loads.

        Apparently the gun business is booming.

  11. prokaryotes says:

    Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world

    The analysis suggests that despite high-level statements to the contrary, there is now little to no chance of maintaining the global mean surface temperature at or below 2◦C. Moreover, the impacts associated with 2◦C have been revised upwards, sufficiently so that 2◦C now more appropriately represents the threshold between ‘dangerous’ and ‘extremely dangerous’ climate change. Ultimately, the science of climate change allied with the emission scenarios for Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 nations suggests a radically different framing of the mitigation and adaptation challenge from that accompanying many other analyses, particularly those directly informing policy. http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/climate/anderson_2011.pdf

  12. prokaryotes says:

    Summer floods swamp towns in eastern Australian

    Flooding in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales has forced thousands of families from their homes.

    It is the second year running that summer rains have caused serious problems in Australia.

    Widespread flooding in Queensland last year killed 35 people, damaged crops and infrastructure and hit coal production hard. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16889399

    Devastation in the country with highest per capita emissions..

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      Prokaryotes, what is your last sentence supposed to mean? I sincerely hope it doesn’t mean what it looks like, ME

  13. Will Koroluk says:

    A lot of folks on this thread might recall something Tim DeChristopher said awhile back. He’s the activist who is doing time in the slammer for nonviolent civil disobedience after he bid on an oil lease when he had no money to pay for it, or for drilling, or anything else. His intention was to disrupt the auction to make a statement about American fossil fuel consumption.

    And he said: “Those who write the rules are those who profit from the status quo. If we want to change that status quo, we might have to work outside of those rules because the legal pathways available to us have been structured precisely to make sure we don’t make any substantial change.

  14. Jeff H says:

    Bain, McKinsey, Booz, and etc.

    At the end of the day, our main problem is not really that we lack sufficient scientific understanding to recognize and begin to address climate change.

    There are many highly intelligent people out there, who understand that we have a problem or at least have the potential to understand that we do.

    In some very important and very real senses, anyhow, our problems have more to do with paradigms and views like this — “that’s not my responsibility”, “that’s not what we do here at [name your company, institution, or professional discipline]” — and problems of ethics.

    For example (and this gets practical in very concrete ways, in a moment), consider Bain, McKinsey, Booz, and so forth.

    Examine their websites and publications.

    They (the relevant folks, working on the relevant industries and relevant issues) in Bain, McKinsey, Booz, and so forth DO understand that climate change is real and that it’ll need to be addressed, or else. McKinsey, of course, has done numerous publications on the matter. And check out Bain’s website, in the sections related to their utility/energy practices.

    Some very smart folks at Bain, McKinsey, and Booz (and others) DO understand that climate change is real and problematic. Some of their own publications show that they do. So what is the problem?

    If Bain understands that climate change is real, and wants to (or at least is very happy to) help industries, companies, and governments find ways to reduce GHG emissions, then how can Romney credibly say, or imply, that he doubts climate change or thinks that we needn’t do much about it?

    CAP/CP, and the Dems, and anyone else who is interested, should search the Bain, McKinsey, and Booz sites for material having to do with climate change, GHG emissions reductions, clean energy, and related matters. Why? For one reason, because those materials can demonstrate that Romney, to the degree that he denies or doubts climate change, or to the degree that he thinks we needn’t do anything about it, or can’t do anything about it, is “way off” relative to his alma matter organization and others like it. Of course, we already know he’s “way off” relative to the actual science and scientists. But that’s not my present point. Instead, my point is this: There is a different sort of credibility and consistency issue — one that might be more “striking” or “convincing” to folks who don’t understand science or who think of scientists as some sort of left-wing scientific establishment — if Bain’s official work disagrees with, or implies disagreement with, what Romney is telling the American people. In other words, if Bain, McKinsey, Booz, and etc. all have publications that recognize climate change, that analyze ways to reduce GHG emissions (why do that, if climate change isn’t actually real?), and that pitch services to clients to help them do so, that fact demonstrates the problems with what Romney is saying — in an additional way.

    What’s more, in my view, folks at Bain, McKinsey, Booz, and so forth OUGHT to become a vocal and clear part of the effort to inform and educate the public, and businesses, about the reality of climate change and the wisdom and necessity of addressing it. Given the stakes, and the responsibility that comes with intelligence and knowledge, “that’s not my job” is not a sufficient excuse. Nor is “but we’ll upset some clients” a sufficient excuse. (As an aside, I was at a McKinsey alum party a couple years ago, and the leader of a major McKinsey office at the time, who understood the reality of climate change, basically gave me that as an excuse for why McKinsey, or at least he, wasn’t being more outspoken about the problem.)

    In any case, there are many intelligent people who DO understand that we have a big problem, of course, but they aren’t speaking up about it, and thus they are (in that very real way) letting humankind down.

    Check out the Bain, McKinsey, and Booz websites and publications.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

    McKinsey and Company, 1986-1990

  15. prokaryotes says:

    Where s Google’s inside search for climate change?

    http://www.google.com/insidesearch/

  16. prokaryotes says:

    After being part of entertaining films, Abhishek Bachchan is keen now to make a movie on climate change but says it is important to have the right story that can strike a chord with the audiences. “I want to make a film about saving the environment and bring about a change. I don’t know if anyone of you is willing to fund a movie like this, but I plan to act in it,” Abhishek, who is busy shooting for Rohit Shetty’s Bol Bachchan, told IANS. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Entertainment/Bollywood/Want-a-film-on-climate-change-Abhishek-Bachchan/Article1-806601.aspx

    Apparently all you will get from Hollywood is the same lame recipe for action plots as every year…

  17. prokaryotes says:

    Europe cold wave deaths hit 200; low-snow winter for the U.S. http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2027

    In this image it becomes evident that the arctic “cold air” is making holidays in Europe. And that the moderate warmer air masses from Europe are on spree in the polar circle.

    • Leif says:

      Open ocean is warmer than winter land as one approaches the Polar Region. Warm air rises, cold air sinks. No surprise here.

  18. catman306 says:

    Koch Brothers Convene Super-Secret Billionaires’ Meeting for 2012 Elections
    Some of America’s wealthiest Republicans flew into Palm Springs last weekend to update their stealthy political strategy for 2012.
    February 4, 2012 |

    At a retreat last weekend, dozens of wealthy donors convened in a large golf resort in Indian Wells, Calif. for a four day conference to raise money and plot out election year strategy, the Republic Report has confirmed. We traveled to the conference, and spoke to a few of the attendees.

    http://www.alternet.org/story/153998/koch_brothers_convene_super-secret_billionaires%27_meeting_for_2012_elections?akid=8214.276045.vpd2v2&rd=1&t=2

  19. David Stewart says:

    Some of the islands of Torres Strait, that separates Australia from the world’s second largest island New Guinea, are increasingly going under water whenever there is a king-tide. The locals are increasingly thinking about when they might have to leave.

    http://newmatilda.com/2012/02/02/rising-tides-torres-strait and http://newmatilda.com/2012/02/03/how-do-you-stop-king-tid

  20. One of the most common memes I hear repeated by climate change fence-sitters is, “2 degrees! So what? That’s no big deal…”. I think it’s time we created a new response to this dangerous idea.

    Imagine you are feeling well, with a normal temperature of 98.6 F (for our U.S. friends). Then, you start feeling feverish. You take your temperature and it’s 102.2 degrees F. What do you do next? Do you to the Doctor, or do you go out to a Party?

    Well folks, the Carbon party is nearly over. Humanity is middle-aged now, and just can’t party like it used to when it was young. Time to go on a diet, work-out, and start living well again.

    We’ll all feel better for it!

    • prokaryotes says:

      Missing the 2 degree target reflects devastating on human consciousness. It shows how incompetent we are, as a race. As the single most dominating species we know of. We drive the planet to new boundaries, destroying integral parts of our environment, the basis for all life.

      We have not developed the required swarm intelligence yet, to act swiftly enough.

    • KenL says:

      Describing climate change in terms of one, or two, or even five degrees of warming, is a nonstarter. It means less than nothing to too many people. (“3 degrees warmer? Great!! I can golf in February!!”)

      No less an enlightened and enlightening figure than Bill McKibben was on Colbert the other day, talking about how we’ll have X degrees of warming. Being on Colbert, he would’ve been preaching to the choir. Even so.

      Explanations of climate change for public consumption are going to have to focus on other things–on horrific consequences, in terms that anyone can understand.

      • Joan Savage says:

        I have been having my doubts if even horrific expectations are effective in turning modern minds.

        Who among us doesn’t secretly believe we will be the exceptions, we’ll migrate fast enough, the AC and the wind turbines would still function, the lifeboats work, insurance will cover the losses, food would be transported, and on and on?

        Numerous people alive today have never experienced what is it like to be a powerless, ineffective, abject victim of oneself and the inhuman forces of nature. The Jack London short story, “To build a fire” doesn’t resonate, not yet.

        “He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances.”

  21. David Stewart says:

    “Lord” Monckton at it again.

    In Australia 70% of the daily newspapers are owned by Murdoch’s News Ltd/News Corp. Coverage of climate change and related subject matter is, to put it mildly, somewhat slanted. That is not enough however for the mining industry and other denialists.

    Gina Rinehart, personal worth estimated at about US$18 billion, Australia’s richest person, has recently started buying up shares in Fairfax Media, publisher of the only non-Murdoch broadsheets in Sydney and Melbourne. She has also bought in to one of the free-to-air TV channels. This should be no surprise as the video at the attached link shows. Not content with the support of the Murdoch media, the more extreme of the denialist mining lobby want to either take over the rest of the mainstream media and/or establish their own version of Sky News.

    https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/mining/monckton/monckton-speaks-to-mining-industry-share-this-video

  22. fj says:

    We’re now living in a heuristic state; recently read that the current climate and extreme weather is the result of emissions dating back to the late 1980s so, things are far from good and there seems a strong likelihood that things could be a lot scarier real soon and lasting decades at best depending how fast if-and-when we can get the things under control.

    The critical path will be to rapidly eliminate emissions while restoring the environment and surviving changes to stuff we’ve taken for granted far too long.

  23. John Tucker says:

    Dont really think its all bad or good necessarily just something to think about perhaps:

    Sierra Club took $26M from gas industry to fight coal-fired plants ( http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/208477-sierra-club-took-26m-from-gas-industry-to-fight-coal )

    • John Tucker says:

      An Unnatural Alliance – March 27, 2010

      ( http://prospect.org/article/unnatural-alliance-0 )

      I dont care about coal or how its shut down, as long as it is.

      But is this why the anti nuclear movement was able to marshal so much influence when the situation in Japan presented itself? Particularly in Germany where gas turbine technology and manufacturing excels?

      Certainly the motivation to install renewables was enhanced by the anti nuclear movement. But did they always make the best technological decisions for the markets and geographic locations that ended up reducing greenhouse gases as much as was possible with the funds available?

      I dont think you can make that argument successfully.

      Perhaps on some balance sheet the motivations realized from demonizing nuclear made a kind of sense, but at the price of avoiding unpleasant detail and technical arguments that are actually necessary for reducing carbon emissions substantially within current technology.

      Certainly many in the anti nuclear movement out blogging now think that climate change is not as important as shuttering all nuclear power. Go out and look.

    • John Tucker says:

      So it looks like Natural gas was made exempt to tax/German carbon trading too??

      “Member states may, in addition, apply CO2 tax exemptions to households’ and charities’ non-business use of heating fuels and an exemption to coal gas. CO2 tax
      exemptions to natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are intended to be phased out by 2023. Most other
      exceptions available for the current energy tax, such as the mandatory exemption for energy products used in the
      generation of electricity, will not apply to the CO2 tax.” ( http://www.freshfields.com/publications/pdfs/2011/apr11/30251.pdf )

      Highly efficient, combined heat and power plants pay a lower rate of tax and gas power plants are exempted for five years after first generation. ( http://climateanswers.info/2010/07/carbon-and-energy-taxes-in-europe/ )

      That didn’t raise a red flag?

      • John Tucker says:

        This kinda explains how a country so known for efficiency and engineering managed to deploy renewables so haphazardly and from questionable carbon footprint foreign manufacture.

        They didn’t care – it was about converting a country to a NG infrastructure.

        You can even see the mechanics of the deals made behind closed doors in a regional supply shortage occurring as of late:

        Freezing Europe hit by Russian gas shortage

        An EU energy spokeswoman said eight countries had seen a reduction in gas due to increased demand in Russia. ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16883560 )

        German VNG says Russian gas arrives at ‘full contract volume’ ( http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/NaturalGas/8885060 )

        I imagine the Germans are paying top dollar too, While the disadvantaged of Europe freeze – to keep the greens quiet and anti nuclear dream alive – You could write a book on this production.

        Titled perhaps “hook line and sinker.”

        • John Tucker says:

          Actually reading more I dont think it was anything so organized and contrived. Im being a bit paranoid there. I think every thing just kinda played into itself and for political reasons people didn’t speak up when they probably should have.

          On another note there may be some issues with feed in tariffs, infrastructure upgrades and financing, that could be coming to light along with some more insight in Germany’s degree of economic success.

          Id be very specific when discussing things you like and don’t about these.

  24. Solar Jim says:

    The international statement of avoidance of dangerous climate change, assumed to be 2C rise, could be thought of this way. We are coming up to 1C soon, with maybe another half degree C built in from past emissions and thermal delay. That totals 1.5C. Then there is about a half degree “hidden behind” the aerosols from coal,etc. (and additional factors) which should be cleaned up for air quality reasons, and as we move to “renewable” energy. That totals 2C, which means ANY further fossil development is contraindicated.

    What is our true “remaining” carbon budget? Zero. This is an impossibility so we are already in for, in a phrase, dire straights.

    Time for global revolutions for justice and survival. Thanks to all global revolutionaries. Thanks to Occupy. Can America remember it was founded on a first principle, The American Revolution? Time for another. One second revolution.

  25. Tramey says:

    Meteorologist Stu Ostro at weather.com has an interesting discussion “What Happened to Winter?” — he talks about the “elephant in the room,” global warming. And how do you explain the US’s uber-mild winter and Europe’s uber-cold and snowy winter and how they both demonstrate global warming. He finishes his commentary with the following, “Weather extremes have existed for as long as there has been weather on Earth. That’s a fundamental reason why as a meteorologist who is routinely observing them, I was so skeptical for so long that anything was out of the ordinary.

    “However, increasingly during the past decade or so, the extremes have been so frequent, and so extraordinary, and sometimes even at the same time and in such close geographical proximity to each other, that I have become convinced that something ain’t right. That while there have always been extremes, their nature is changing.

    “This winter convinces me even further.”

  26. Martin Palmer says:

    Hi All-

    David Archer of the University of Chicago has just posted an online model capable of modeling methane release scenarios from methane hydrates, at Real Climate.

    Archer is one of the world’s foremost experts on methane hydrates.

    He also co-authors scientific papers with ExxonMobil chief scientist Haroon Kheshgi:

    ExxonMobil Contributed Papers on Climate Science

    17. Archer, D., Kheshgi, H., and Maier-Reimer, E. 1997. Multiple Timescales for the Neutralization of Fossil Fuel CO2, Geophysical Research Letters, 24: 405.

    19. Archer, D., Kheshgi, H., and Maier-Reimer, E., 1998. The dynamics of fossil fuel CO2 neutralization by marine CaCO3, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 12:259-276.

    35. Kheshgi, H. S. and Archer, D. 2004. A non-linear convolution model for the evasion of CO2 injected into the deep ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research,109, C02007, doi:10.1029/2002JC001489.

    13. Kheshgi, H. S., and D. Archer, 1999: Modeling the Evasion of CO2 Injected into the Deep Ocean, in Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies, edited by B. Eliasson, P. Riemer and A. Wokaun, pp. 287-292, Pergamon.

    Archer also works for the Rockefeller founded and funded University of Chicago, and the Rockefellers have traditionally controlled ExxonMobil, which is the descendant of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. So, that’s two known connections that Archer has to ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil has of course made many documented efforts at influencing climate science and climate scientists.

    David Archer’s model apparently has one major flaw- it leaves out secondary CO2 from methane oxidation. For small releases of methane, this doesn’t mean much.

    For major releases of 100 Gton or more, though, this is actively misleading. The secondary CO2 from large releases of methane would persist for thousands of years, and would tend to lock in warming. Past apparent methane catastrophes have also occurred in stages, and likely some of these stages have been caused by secondary CO2 setting off new rounds of methane release from deeper levels of methane hydrate.

    But the main thing wrong with David Archer’s model, IMO, is a companion article, outlining a “worst case scenario”. In this so called worst case, Archer has as his worst case a release of 200 billion tons of methane over one hundred years.

    Unfortunately, there is a large amount of consistent science pointing to methane releases in the Earth’s past ten to twenty five times that large. That’s 2000 to 5000 billion tons, other scientists are talking about, working from the hard evidence of carbon and oxygen isotope excursions in the sedimentary record.

    The methane release theory of mass extinctions remains the lead theory to explain several past mass extinctions, including the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) of 55 million years ago, and the End Permian mass extinction of 250 million years ago.

    A 2011 paper strongly defending the methane catastrophe theory of the PETM extinction event has been published:

    Down the Rabbit Hole: toward appropriate discussion of methane release from gas hydrate systems during the Paleocene-Eocene
    thermal maximum and other past hyperthermal events

    Enormous amounts of 13C-depleted carbon rapidly entered the exogenic carbon cycle during the onset of the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM), as attested to by a prominent negative carbon isotope (δ13C) excursion and deep-sea carbonate dissolution. A widely cited explanation for this carbon input has been thermal dissociation of gas hydrate on continental slopes, followed by release of CH4 from the seafloor and its subsequent oxidation to CO2 in the ocean or atmosphere. Increasingly, papers have argued against this mechanism, but without fully considering existing ideas and available data. Moreover, other explanations have been presented as plausible alternatives, even though they conflict with geological observations, they raise major conceptual problems, or both.

    As well as Archer’s efforts, there have been several new, smaller estimates of the total mass of methane hydrate under the oceans.

    The total mass of methane hydrates is probably the most important scientific question of all time- literally. The total mass of hydrates could easily determine the difference between a biosphere destroying methane catastrophe and a survivable methane catastrophe.

    From Down the Rabbit Hole:

    The total mass of carbon stored as CH4 in present-day marine gas hydrates has been estimated numerous times using different approaches as reviewed in several papers (Dickens, 2001b; Milkov, 2004; Archer, 2007). Prior to 2001, several estimates converged on 10 000 Gt, and this “consensus mass”
    (Kvenvolden, 1993) was often cited in the literature. However, the convergence of estimates was fortuitous because different authors arrived at nearly the same mass but with widely varying assumptions; an appropriate range across the studies was 5000–20 000 Gt (Dickens, 2001b). In the last
    ten years, estimates have ranged from 500-2500 Gt (Milkov,2004), ∼700–1200 Gt (Archer et al., 2009), and 4–995 Gt(Burwicz et al., 2011) to 74,400 Gt (Klauda and Sandler,
    2005). The latter is almost assuredly too high (Archer, 2007).The others are probably too low.

    Of the four low recent estimates mentioned in Down the Rabbit Hole, at least two have oil corporation connections. Archer co-authors papers with ExxonMobil chief scientist Haroon Kheshgi, and Milkov works for British Petroleum, America. I’m still researching the other two.

    If the total mass of methane hydrates is the most important scientific question of all time, why are we paying attention to scientists with oil corporation connections when they make such estimates?

    What’s up with Archer’s low “worst case scenario” estimate, when the consensus scientific worst case scenario seems to be much, much, worse?

    • prokaryotes says:

      Methane at the stratosphere is breaking down to water vapor, which at that location is a catalyst for ozone depletion. This accounts to about 1/3 of the ozone lose, in the last 35 years or so.

      Can we test past ozone levels, when analyzing UVA/UVB/UVC impacts – are there any proxies? We have the south pole ozone hole, since last year the northern ozone hole and also one above tibet.

      • prokaryotes says:

        Several catalytic chemical reactions have been identified as ozone destruction mechanisms. The chemicals that start these reactions are called catalysts because they are not used up by the reaction. Rather, they are regenerated by the reaction and therefore are capable of reacting with ozone over and over again. Each of them can destroy thousands or even hundred’s of thousands of ozone molecules before being destroyed itself by some other process. The chemicals involved in these catalytic reactions include chlorine oxide, hydrogen oxide, and nitrogen oxide. Relatively recently, human activities have introduced large quantities of these catalysts into the atmosphere. http://www.ozonedepletion.info/education/part3/ozonesources.html

    • prokaryotes says:

      Why would he downplay the worst case? There are several answers.

      • Martin Palmer says:

        Yes, Prokaryotes.

        You’ve got it.

        Why would he downplay the worst case?

        There are indeed several explanations, and some of them are not scientific explanations.

  27. Martin Palmer says:

    Correction: make that 3 out of 4 of the new lower methane hydrate mass estimates having oil corporation connections, if you count Archer (2007) and Archer et al (2009) as separate sources.

    • Martin Palmer says:

      Or two out of three, if you count the two papers from Archer and Archer et al. as from the same source.

      Archer’s collaborators seem to have no obvious connections to the oil industry, that I could find with a quick Google search.

      The remaining revisionist estimate mentioned in Down The Rabbit Hole of total hydrate mass comes from Kiel University, in Germany. This group continues to maintain that methane releases from the Arctic will not be significant over the next hundred years:

      Rising Arctic Ocean temperatures cause gas hydrate destabilization and ocean acidification

      • prokaryotes says:

        Apparently they do not account for Methane-driven denitrification within methane dissoluted in seawater http://ecogenomic.org/methane-driven-denitrification

        When suboxic waters (oxygen essentially absent) occur at depths of less than 300 feet, the combination of high respiration rates, and the peculiarities of a process called denitrification can cause N2O production rates to be 10,000 times higher than the average for the open ocean. http://www.underwatertimes.com/news.php?article_id=85403791012 This is also a feedback with thawing permafrost. And nobody is assessing this so far!

        • Martin Palmer says:

          Yes, a lot of the alternate explanations for events like the PETM are of the form “the available stocks of methane hydrate are insufficient to cause this amount of warming, therefore there must be another explanation”. As Down the Rabbit Hole points out, though, alternate explanations ignore known geological data or suffer from logical inconsistencies, or both.

          There are a whole suite of chemical effects of methane not taken into account by most current modeling, both for oceanic and atmospheric chemistry. For oceanic chemistry, there is the nitrous oxide producing mechanism you mention, and also modeling from LBL and LANL that shows that the ability of the oceans and methanotroph bacteria to oxidize methane would be overwhelmed over a 30 year period by sustained large methane releases. For atmospheric chemistry, there are for example Isaksen’s results, showing that atmospheric chemistry effects of methane would quickly become bigger sources of greenhouse forcing than methane itself is at the current time- up to 400% more forcing from these than from the methane itself at its current atmospheric lifetime, for large releases.

          And the fossil record is clear: these probable methane release events released huge amounts of carbon from a once living source, and did so very rapidly:

          Warming the fuel for the fire: Evidence for the thermal dissociation of methane hydrate during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum

          We present new high-resolution stable isotope records based on analyses of single planktonic and benthic foraminiferal shells from Ocean Drilling Program Site 690 (Weddell Sea, Southern Ocean), demonstrating that the initial carbon isotope excursion was geologically instantaneous and was preceded by a brief period of gradual surface-water warming. Both of these findings support the thermal dissociation of methane hydrate as the cause of the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum carbon isotope excursion. Furthermore, the data reveal that the methane-derived carbon was mixed from the surface ocean downward, suggesting that a significant fraction of the initial dissociated hydrate methane reached the atmosphere prior to oxidation.

          So, how long is “geologically instantaneously”? Some say less than 500 years. There is an upper bound to this, but no lower bound that I know of. So dissociation of methane hydrate could have occurred in a century or less- the fossil record does not seem to be detailed enough to distinguish between a century and five centuries.

        • Martin Palmer says:

          We’re not even sure what is going to happen, Prokaryotes, as we both know.

          How can anyone, no matter how scientifically astute, predict the rate of a snarl of positive and negative feedback processes the details of which are simply unknown?

          We don’t even know which atmospheric and oceanic chemistry effects will occur!

          How can we possibly determine the rate at which unknown processes will occur, in a situation with so many potentially reinforcing positive feedback loops?

  28. Raul M. says:

    the Y2K history shows the paths people may take when they think conveniences may disappear.
    Some people used the situation to decide in advance what they would undoubtedly need.
    Some actually thought that money would become unavailable at the banks.
    Personally, I think that that would be the stimulus for the common stampede if it does happen.
    So what would the storm and ag. disasters total to before the common banker would doubt resumption of services within 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year?
    And how often would reoccurring disasters of the magnitude of the starting disasters preclude resumption of service within time frames.
    As business and services are interrelated it could be quite a study to determine how dependent a service is to the infrastructure for the service to continue in some form.

  29. John Tucker says:

    So I was indeed wrong in predicting power outages for Germany this winter after shuttering much of its nuclear.

    They had a deal with Russia for gas that allowed heating for the poor in other countries to be cut off first.

    Clever, who would have thought.

    Oh oh – look look – Greenpeace is expressing “serious concerns” after a fire at a Russian nuclear research facility occurred.

    “Sergei Novikov, spokesman for Russia’s state nuclear agency Rosatom, said there were no open flames, only smoke that came from an area housing power cables ” Reuters

  30. prokaryotes says:

    41 years ago today – Alan Shepard & Ed Mitchell land on the Moon. What did the Apollo 14 crew do there? http://go.nasa.gov/wM2L2B

  31. John Tucker says:

    Surface low forming up in the gom. Its not tropical – but still its a tad out of the ordinary :

    [ http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/gtwo_atl.shtml ]

    …A
    SURFACE CIRCULATION CENTER IS GRADUALLY BECOMING BETTER DEFINED.
    SHOWER ACTIVITY HAS BEEN SLOWLY INCREASING AND HAS BECOME BETTER
    ORGANIZED TODAY…AND IF THIS DEVELOPMENT TREND CONTINUES…THEN A
    SUBTROPICAL DEPRESSION OR A SUBTROPICAL STORM COULD FORM DURING THE
    NEXT DAY OR SO BEFORE THE DISTURBANCE MERGES WITH A COLD FRONT….

  32. Joe and all,

    Two suggestions:

    1. Create a weekly press release that covers all the global warming damage of the previous week or month/year/season–storms, floods, droughts, heatwaves, fires, etc. This could be sent to community (i.e. not oil controlled) media such as Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now. This could be a regular feature on these programs. Is anyone already doing this? If not, how about Climate Progress?

    2. Work with progressive cities to have them require that gas stations put a warning on all gas pumps that burning gasoline increases the risk of serious (catastrophic?) climate change. Here is a suggested wording:
    “WARNING: Burning Gasoline Increases The Risk Of Serious Climate Change. The City Of ________ Urges You To Economize On The Use Of Gas, To Walk, And To Use Low Carbon Biofuels, Public Transit, Bicycles, And Electric Cars.”