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If You See Something, Say Something

Filed under: — mike @ 17 January 2014

Gavin provided a thoughtful commentary about the role of scientists as advocates in his RealClimate piece a few weeks ago.

I have weighed in with my own views on the matter in my op-ed today in this Sunday’s New York Times. And, as with Gavin, my own views have been greatly influenced and shaped by our sadly departed friend and colleague, Stephen Schneider. Those who were familiar with Steve will recognize his spirit and legacy in my commentary. A few excerpts are provided below:

THE overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that human-caused climate change is happening. Yet a fringe minority of our populace clings to an irrational rejection of well-established science. This virulent strain of anti-science infects the halls of Congress, the pages of leading newspapers and what we see on TV, leading to the appearance of a debate where none should exist.


My colleague Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, who died in 2010, used to say that being a scientist-advocate is not an oxymoron. Just because we are scientists does not mean that we should check our citizenship at the door of a public meeting, he would explain. The New Republic once called him a “scientific pugilist” for advocating a forceful approach to global warming. But fighting for scientific truth and an informed debate is nothing to apologize for.


Our Department of Homeland Security has urged citizens to report anything dangerous they witness: “If you see something, say something.” We scientists are citizens, too, and, in climate change, we see a clear and present danger. The public is beginning to see the danger, too — Midwestern farmers struggling with drought, more damaging wildfires out West, and withering, record, summer heat across the country, while wondering about possible linkages between rapid Arctic warming and strange weather patterns, like the recent outbreak of Arctic air across much of the United States.


The piece ends on this note:

How will history judge us if we watch the threat unfold before our eyes, but fail to communicate the urgency of acting to avert potential disaster? How would I explain to the future children of my 8-year-old daughter that their grandfather saw the threat, but didn’t speak up in time?

Those are the stakes.

I would encourage interested readers to read the commentary in full at the New York Times website.

Constructive contributions are welcome in the comment section below :-)

606 Responses to “If You See Something, Say Something”

  1. 201
    Hank Roberts says:

    Many rhetorical questions are best answered by reference to the 11th Commandment, which is “You do too know what I mean.” Else they’re invitations to have an argument.

  2. 202
    SecularAnimist says:

    Dwight Mac Kerron: “… if wind and solar were more efficient, they would drive out petro. Solyndra or companies like it would have taken off, not crashed and burned.”

    As denialist propaganda slogans, “Solyndra” is to the solar energy industry what the “East Anglia CRU email scandal” is to climate science: what actually occurred is grossly misrepresented, and then those gross mispresentations are used to attack the entire field.

    This is not an energy blog, let alone an appropriate venue for financial analysis, but for those who think that how the solar industry is performing on Wall Street is an indicator of the potential of renewable energy to address the GHG problem, I suggest watching two exchange traded funds (ETFs) that represent a broad range of solar companies: Guggenheim Solar (TAN) and Market Vectors Solar (KWT). During 2013, the value of those two ETFs approximately doubled, and most analysts expect continued strong growth.

    As for wind and solar “driving out petro”, wind and solar energy are used to generate electricity, so they compete with coal, natural gas, nuclear power and hydropower. And given that most of the new generating capacity added to the US grid in 2013 was wind and solar, and given that coal-fired power plants are being closed and long-term contracts for coal-fired electricity are being canceled because of the plummeting cost of wind and solar power, it is arguable that they are already contributing to driving coal out of the electricity mix.

    The more important measure, of course, is the actual deployments of wind and solar generating capacity, which continue to grow rapidly.

    In the USA, little or no “petro” — ie. oil — is used to generate electricity. Oil is predominantly used for vehicle fuel. And that is certainly a tougher nut to crack than eliminating coal and gas from electricity generation, since it requires some combination of replacing the entire US vehicle fleet with EVs and/or alternative fuel (e.g. hydrogen) vehicles, combined with phasing out automobile use in favor of public transit and pedestrian-friendly land use. But given the increasing availability and rapid adoption of EVs and the cost-lowering advances in EV tech that are now being commercialized, it seems more doable today than many would have thought just a few years ago.

  3. 203
    Horatio Algeranon says:

    “Scientist Advocates”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    Scientists shouldn’t advocate.
    It simply is quite dumb,
    Especially when they throw their weight
    Like Einstein, on the Bomb.

    //end sarcasm (now!)

  4. 204
    Hank Roberts says:

    The problem explaining climate change:

  5. 205
  6. 206
    Walter says:

    If you see something … say something. OK, I can see a lot.

    The IPCC AR5 states: “A nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean (sea ice extent less than 1 × 106 km2) in September before mid-century is likely under RCP8.5 (medium confidence), based on an assessment of a subset of models that most closely reproduce the climatological mean state and 1979‒2012 trend of the Arctic sea ice cover. Some climate projections exhibit 5‒10 year periods of sharp summer Arctic sea ice decline—even steeper than observed over the last decade—and it is likely that such instances of rapid ice loss will occur in the future.” see page 12-5 Changes in the Cryosphere

    For the IPCC graphic of this see: (B) Nth Hemisphere Sept sea ice extent

    According to that graph an Ice-free summer Arctic does not appear possible until 2060-2080 (not 2050) under RCP8.5 or expected BAU emissions.

    However locate the years 2010, 2011 & 2012 in that graphic. Compare the Red Line RCP8.5 at that time is above 5 million km2. 2010 = 4.60m, 2011 = 4.33m, 2012 = 3.41m
    (ref )

    September 13, 2013, sea ice extent dropped to 5.10 mill km2 – the lowest extent of the year.

    OK, selecting individual years over the short term, plus noting the RCP8.5 is a range of possibilities taking into consideration ‘natural variability’ isn’t scientifically valid in itself. Nevertheless the last 7 years have each been the seven lowest Sea Ice extents in the satellite record since 1979. The trend is heading in one direction only since 1979 and before despite normal variability.

    NSDIC: “Summer weather patterns during 2013 were very different from those seen in 2007 to 2012. Overall it was considerably cooler. There was little evidence of the summer dipole pattern seen in recent years. Relatively cool conditions also characterized the Greenland Ice Sheet, and surface melt was much less extensive than for 2012. The year 2013 reminds us that natural climate variability is very strong in the Arctic.”

    Arctic sea ice extent for December (start of winter 2013) was 12.38 million square kilometers. This is 700,000 square kilometers or 270,300 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average, making it the 4th lowest December extent in the 36-year satellite data record.

    In January 2014 79% of the Sea Ice is under 1 year old. Sea ice is also much thinner now than 1979 or before due to the greater amount of summer sea ice loss not only in extent but in it’s thickness across the Arctic area.

    Still, 2013 has ended the year in December with the 4th lowest modeled volume on record.

    CRYOSAT: The volume of ice measured this autumn is about 50% higher compared to last year. In October 2013, CryoSat measured about 9000 cubic km of sea ice – a notable increase compared to 6000 cubic km in October 2012.
    Over the last few decades, satellites have shown a downward trend in the area of Arctic Ocean covered by ice. However, the actual volume of sea ice has proven difficult to determine because it moves around and so its thickness can change.

    So Arctic Sea Ice extent increased markedly in Sept 2013 over 2012. This is well known by now. The deniers sure made a big issue about this. (global warming must have stopped – they say)

    See this next graph from PSC – PIOMAS Arctic Sea Ice Volume Anomaly
    Fig.3 Monthly Sea Ice Volume from PIOMAS for April and September.

    Please note the last 4 years Sept PIOMASS (volume) is between 3,400 to 5,000 km3. The trend rate of Ice loss is 3,300 km3/Decade.
    Therefore this would indicate an Ice-Free Arctic in the August-September-October period occurring sometime between 2023-2028.

    Now that is 40-50 years sooner than the 2013 IPCC AR5 Report projects.

    Here is an image superimposing actuals to 2012 over the IPCC AR4 2007 projections

    Significantly different.

    Here are two recent images showing potentially a Summer Arctic being Ice-free from 2015 onward using the existing exponential trend.

    A more complex version suggesting an Ice-Free Arctic winter from circa 2040 onwards

    According to IPCC AR5 consensus an Ice-Free Winter couldn’t occur until mid-22nd century… a difference in the above graphic of about 100 years. Which is more likely I wonder?

    In 2007 the IPCC did not expect the Arctic to be Ice Free at anytime until post-2100. In 2013 the IPCC do not expect the Arctic to be ice-free until post-2060 at the earliest. Already their data seems out of date. In the middle of preparing the AR5 report the Arctic ice volume fell off a cliff to a new record low.

    Current trends, as shown by several credible bodies, are presenting data like this:

    An even better visual graphic is this one: Arctic Death Spiral 1979-2013
    Data source via the Polar Science Center (University of Washington)

    An Ice-Free September Arctic now appears very likely(?) circa 2025.

    Surely this has implications for positive warming feedbacks – not included in any IPCC projections over the short or long term? Sooner and higher average surface temperatures? Increased potential for add-on feedbacks kicking in sooner then expected, such as Arctic Methane releases possibly occurring way ahead of the expectations of most scientists?

    All sooner and potentially more extreme than conveyed in the Sept 2013 IPCC AR5 WG1 report

    Is anyone else somewhat concerned about this credibility gap?

    Having looked at the current energy use projections to 2040 it also appears clear that the IPCC CO2e emission projections are equally as under-estimated as the Artic sea ice loss has been.

    It appears clear the science of global warming was already in and proven back in 2007 as to the implications on the climate of not significantly reducing CO2 emissions into the future.

    That the only thing that 2013 IPCC report has done is to reinforce the state of the known science, make some adjustments, but again to show how very conservative and not up to date their estimates are when compared to reality.

    The IPCC’s highest RCP 8.5 scenario appears extremely conservative when compared to current BAU as usual fossil fuel use already planned for globally and expected from now till 2040.

    What the IPCC suggests would be an RCP 8.5 timeline indicates a +4C world above 1900 temps by 2100. Given all the scientific papers released since 2010 and the ongoing BAU scenario of fossil fuel use globally this is actually looking more like a +4C world circa 2050.

    All other IPCC RCP theoretical scenarios appear to be null and void now.

    Kevin Anderson has recently mooted a ‘radical’ CO2e reduction program of 10% per year. That is clearly a Policy Proscription that scientists like Michael Mann suggests is unacceptable for scientists to be proposing. I totally disagree with Mann.

    I don’t see such a policy proscription as being radical. To me it is looking decidedly Rational and Sane. Unrealistic and highly improbable given the state of play, yes. But anything less sounds more like a denial of and disconnection from reality and quite disingenuous. At best utterly uninformed of the facts as they stand today.

    The projected and planned increases in renewable energy is pretty insignificant in the big picture. CO2 emissions will be rising year on year at an increasing rate into the foreseeable future. No doubt about that unless something massive in the world’s thinking changes unexpectedly.

    I can’t see touch hard edged Policy suggestions by Kevin Anderson or James Hansen nor anyone else making things any worse than they already are destined to be anyway.

    Being positive about the obvious potential of renewable energy is one thing. Ignoring the reality of business as usual (BAU) which is in the pipeline already with the political and economic realities as they stand in 2014 is not in anyone’s best interests.

    Survival planing sounds like a far better and practical option than arguing about AGW, Climate Change, or the science and people’s beliefs about it.

    Something has to give. And it won’t be Physics, the Earth, nor it’s climate. Leave you with it.

  7. 207
    Wayne Fowler says:

    Dwight Mac Kerron said, “I don’t worship the market, but I believe in it enough to “know” that if wind and solar were more efficient, they would drive out petro. Solyndra or companies like it would have taken off, not crashed and burned.”

    Dwight if you run a business you must be aware that there is a high rate of attrition in all start ups and that rate is especially high amongst new tech companies. While those who wish to diminish the success love to point to Solyndra, they rarely take note that the overall loan guarentee program it was part of was highly successful meaning there were far lower overall failures than was originally anticipated and budgetted for. Somehow I think the list of failed American autombile companies shows that arguning that if this company or that didn’t make it means the whole concept is not economically feasible just doesn’t cut it.

  8. 208
    DIOGENES says:

    Wili #198,

    “Nicely put, Diogenes. Any idea what an adjustment of Anderson’s proposal would mean if we adopted the 1 degree target rather than the 2? Would that require a 20% annual reduction in industrial emissions? More? Less?”

    Anderson recommends about 10% decrease in global CO2 emissions annually starting in the near term in order to have a reasonable probability of not exceeding 2 C, which he, McKibben, Hansen and many others agree is dangerous. Steinacher et al, in 11 July issue of Nature state: ” For any given likelihood of meeting a set of such targets, the allowable cumulative emissions are greatly reduced from those inferred from the temperature target alone. Therefore, temperature targets alone are unable to comprehensively limit the risks from anthropogenic emissions.” In other words, Anderson is actually being optimistic, according to their computations.

    In direct answer to your question, suppose we take the extreme limit of Anderson’s emissions reductions: 100%. This is the immediate CO2 cessation case, on which I posted some studies a few weeks ago. I chose the most conservative (least temperature increase) studies, and showed they predicted a temperature increase about a decade or two past cessation of about 1.2 C total, an increase of ~50% over today’s 0.8 C. One quote by McKibben that I posted previously contained the following: “But, in fact, computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees, as previously released carbon continues to overheat the atmosphere.” This would imply an increase of about 1.6 C total after a decade or two. Other results I have seen show even higher temperatures after CO2 cessation, depending on assumptions about climate sensitivity and aerosol forcing.

    Thus, in Anderson’s extreme case of 100% reduction, which, let us remember, doesn’t include carbon cycle feedbacks, the temperature would exceed the 1 C target by at least 25% and more likely by 50% or more. Now, you can see why Anderson and McKibben ‘cherry-pick’ the targets for their computations. Cutting CO2 emissions completely won’t get us to a limit deemed by the experts as one we should not exceed. McKibben’s 565 GT remaining carbon budget disappears, and actually there is a deficit already. Anderson’s recommendations evaporate; you can’t get there from here (without possibly some extraordinary carbon recovery measures, or other magic to be invoked). And, you can see plainly why our resident foot soldiers don’t want to specify temperature targets, and call them un-necessary. Phasing in of low carbon technologies over a generation, even with improving energy efficiency, only adds to the carbon burden substantially if demand is not cut to the bone in parallel. Is the phasing in of low carbon technologies rapidly better than what we’re doing now? Let’s face it, anything is better than what we’re doing now. But, staying as close to 1 C as possible requires cutting carbon expenditures to the bone, as I showed for the money bankruptcy analog, and that can only be achieved by sharp demand reduction.

  9. 209
    SecularAnimist says:

    Walter wrote: “Kevin Anderson has recently mooted a ‘radical’ CO2e reduction program of 10% per year … I don’t see such a policy proscription as being radical … Unrealistic and highly improbable given the state of play, yes.”

    There are no real technological or economic obstacles to reducing GHG emissions at an even faster rate than 10 percent per year.

    The only real obstacle — the only thing that makes that program “urealistic and improbable” — is the wealth and political power of the fossil fuel corporations, which enables them to manipulate “the state of play” to obstruct and delay the phase-out of their destructive products.

    The meaningless and wholly inadequate “targets” that the USA, the EU and others are proposing have the fossil fuel industry’s fingerprints all over them.

    Walter wrote: “Being positive about the obvious potential of renewable energy is one thing. Ignoring the reality of business as usual (BAU) which is in the pipeline already with the political and economic realities as they stand in 2014 is not in anyone’s best interests … Something has to give. And it won’t be Physics, the Earth, nor its climate. Leave you with it.”

    Yes, something has to give. What has to give is the fossil fuel corporations’ death-grip on energy policy.

    Once you accept the premise that the hegemony of the fossil fuel interests is a “reality” that “won’t give” — once you grant the political power of one particular industrial sector the same immutable and unchallengeable status as the laws of physics — you have basically surrendered.

  10. 210
    SecularAnimist says:

    Diogenes wrote: “… that can only be achieved by sharp demand reduction.”

    As you are well aware, everyone advocates sharp reductions in the demand for fossil fuels, Diogenes.

    Your pretense that rapid deployment of zero-emission energy technologies and eliminating the outright waste of far more than half of the USA’s primary energy consumption are somehow antithetical to demand reduction is silly.

    And your insistence that sharply reducing demand for fossil fuels will necessitate unspecified, unidentified “severe” economic sacrifices is nothing more than Lomborgian fear-mongering.

    Diogenes wrote: “And, you can see plainly why our resident foot soldiers don’t want to specify temperature targets, and call them un-necessary.”

    Yes, anyone can “plainly see” why I call temperature targets unnecessary and irrelevant — because I have plainly stated my reasons several times. So there is no need for you to make up imaginary reasons and attribute them to me.

  11. 211
    Hank Roberts says:

    Have any of the climate scientists researching plankton feedback and iron fertilization figured what whales used to contribute to that effect? If so, please inform those trying to value whales:
    because it turns out whaling is on the rise again

  12. 212
    Alastair McDonald says:

    I agree with Rachel where she wrote:

    “The current belief in an ever growing economy powered by instant fossil fuels seems to be a belief system akin to a religion. It’s irrational …”.

    The problem is that it is impossible to convince someone, even it they aren’t Christian, that their beliefs are wrong.

    In an economy powered by burning fossil fuels, growth means producing more carbon dioxide. Even if we stopped emitting CO2 today temperatures would continue to climb and the Greenland ice cap continue to melt. That will eventually lead to a 7m (25 ft) rise in sea level. Is it really possible to build sea defences of that height around New Orleans, New York, Florida, the Netherlands, and Bangladesh?

    In other words the future is scary! But until ALL scientists recognise that their beliefs may be fallacious, that we are not heading for a Utopia, then they will not be able to convince the general public that the future is scary. The President will fail to get his measures through a sceptical Congress, and the planet will continue on its slippery slope towards the precipice.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  13. 213
    Devil's Advocate says:

    @wili 197, Jim 195, SA 200 :

    I have skimmed Lynas’s “Six Degrees”, and generally accept what he’s saying. Its not cheery; I picture a billion people starving to death, primarily in Africa and the Indian subcontinent. I’m taking as likely something around 3 degrees Celsius warming by 2100, with the consequences that entails. That will be a world quite different from the one we live in today. But even in that scenario I see an American middle class doing pretty much okay.

    Is that wrong?

  14. 214
    DIOGENES says:

    DA #212,

    “I’m taking as likely something around 3 degrees Celsius warming by 2100”

    Well, take something more likely if we continue BAU, say, nearer to 5-6 C as some of the more recent global climate models predict, and then tell me how well the American middle class fares.

  15. 215
    Radge Havers says:

    DA @ ~ 112

    “Is that wrong?”

    If what you’re saying is “I’ve got mine, screw everyone else,” then yes it’s wrong.

    If you think that the American middle class lives in some sort of charmed space-time dilation separate from the rest of the world both politically and physically, that’s probably wrong too. But I await your explanation of why it should be so– unless it’s just some feely-feeling you have in your gut, in which case don’t bother.

  16. 216
    Jim Eager says:

    DA wrote: “But even in that scenario I see an American middle class doing pretty much okay.”

    Does “okay” mean accepting that the southwest quadrant of the country would be pretty much uninhabitable?

  17. 217
    prokaryotes says:

    But even in that scenario I see an American middle class doing pretty much okay.

    I think we are not prepared for what is coming and that we will have problems to sustain our society. The notion that the developed world will do just fine is fantasy. Yes, some effects will be felt later in the developed world but it’s the small things, the shifting patterns and invisible impacts which will crush our systems. It’s also a psychological challenge and humans are not even aware of it. Just look how riots and violence rises in the world – much of it has to do with climate related woes. Yes, attribution is difficult but the moment you get scarcity people will start fighting and old problems will be channeled through this process. (Arab spring and food riots or Syria drought comes to mind)

    Our civilisation is about to break and with it all hopes for emissions reductions. There are solutions but it is science fiction to us. It begins with income equality, basic income, eradicating poverty, new forms of how we life our lives and how we work or how we use transportation – we require paradigm shifts on all levels. If we do not address our systemic problems today, problems will break free with the first hurdles from climate disruption.

    We can’t solve the problems today with the same mindset which created the problems in the first place.

  18. 218
    Alastair McDonald says:

    the Devil’s Advocate wrote:

    “… I see an American middle class doing pretty much okay. Is that wrong?”

    Do you mean factually, or morally? They are the ones who burnt most of the oil. Why should they get off scot-free?

    Factually, there are over a billion Chinese, and another billion Indians, both armed with nuclear weapons who will not be prepared to starve while the US basks in plenty, despite in their eyes, being the cause of the problem. With the Arctic ice gone, an invasion from the north will no longer be impractical.

    Moreover, starving South Americans could also invade from the south. meanwhile, will a well armed working class remain as docile as the did during the Great Depression?

    The middle class in Florida will lose their homes when Greenland melts and sea levels rise, but what is not realised is the the whole of the Mid West of the USA will be inundated if the Antarctic ice sheets melt and central North America reverts to being a shallow sea. However, that will probably only happen when CO2 exceeds 1000 ppm.

    Here is a map which shows the areas of the USA that are in danger of desertification: US Drought Monitor.

    So, no the middle class of the US are not safe.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  19. 219
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Devil’s advocate,
    Even with your scenario of 3 degrees per doubling (probably too optimistic), yields on wheat and corn will drop 40%, soybeans over 20%. The decline in corals will decimate seafood harvests. Now, also, keep in mind that we are talking a global population of 1.5 times our current population, maybe more. California, currently the leading agricultural state in the US will be hit very hard, and Florida, another major agricultural state as well.

    Now, I don’t know if you expect folks in the developing world to starve quietly, but the CIA doesn’t. So what does that do to our supplies of copper, tungsten, platinum and rare earths–necessary to keep our current economy functioning.

    We have already seen a 4x increase in damage due to climatological extreme events–an increase not seen in geological events, which we can take as a control. The rise has been super-linear with temperature.

    What is more, there is no prospect of things getting better for thousands of years. Doesn’t sound like fun to me.

  20. 220
    Tony Lynch says:

    The Americam Middle Class? See Krugman on the Pew survey today. Seems like the MC already gone for many. Maybe they aren’t really Americans, thought that’s where they live.

  21. 221
    Hank Roberts says:

    and –economics?

    … the newly non-crazy Heritage will now have a chief economist who is the equivalent, for the dismal science, of having a chief scientist who denies climate change and evolution. If this counts as a move toward sanity, think of what that says about the starting point.

  22. 222
    Edward Greisch says:

    216 prokaryotes: GW is not a liberal political cause. GW is a science. Science needs to be de-linked from politics completely for action on GW to have any chance. It is the same as the deal with religion and with energy. No other science has anything to do with politics either. RC doesn’t discuss these off-topic subjects for the obvious reason that fighting multiple wars at once is a sure-fire way to loose. Politics and religion are off-limits during working hours if you work for the government.

    If you want to push any political cause, do it on a political web site. This isn’t one.

    PS: Energy is an engineering subject, not a political subject and not a religion subject. Evolution is a science subject, neither a political subject nor a religion subject.

    PPS: If you box me into a political category, you are wrong.

    reCaptcha works on Firefox26.0 but not on Safari5.1.10.

  23. 223
    wili says:

    @DA @ #212–Enough people have said enough already. I’ll just add that if you actually read Lynas’s book, you will not be asking these questions. Even the “One Degree” chapter, pretty much where we are now, makes clear that much of the US west of the Mississippi is right on the edge of drying up and turning into something like the more desolate parts of the Sahara. The book was written in ’07 and most of the research is from well before that. We really do seem to be seeing that already underway.

    I do think that there are people in the upper middle and upper classes in the US who really do think that their gated communities will protect them from everything. It is true that most of the worst of GW will hurt the poorest (who did the least to create it) first. But droughts, heatwaves, sudden torrential deluges from ‘atmospheric rivers,’ spread of tropical diseases, bigger-than-Sandy mega-storms…these calamities mostly do not discriminate according to class, race, religions, sexual orientation…they are equal-opportunity conveyors of souls to the other side.

  24. 224
    patrick says:

    #169 is not an ad hominem attack. It contains a snide remark or ironic pun–namely, in the last sentence–but it is not an ad hominem attack.

    I think the comment is relevant (along with the reference it links) and I think that it belongs here, on this thread.

    It sums up the argument of the referenced document as ‘…AGW can’t be happening because…God wouldn’t allow it.’ I think this is a perfectly good brief tag for the general fallacy of the document and the movement it represents. I am quite familiar with it by now. It is common sense to point it out.

    The attack on climate science–which includes the attack on Dr. Mann and others–has been conducted often-enough for perceived religious reasons (among others) that are not clearly disclosed.

    This is where religion-where-it-doesn’t-belong starts, regarding climate science.

    If one regards this blog, and related conversations, as education–then Neil deGrasse Tyson is relevant:

    “If you have a religious philosophy that is not based in objective realities that you then want to put in the science classroom, then I’m going to stand there and say no, ‘I’m not going to allow you in the science classroom.’”

  25. 225
    Rachel F says:

    #216. Your solution – “basic income, eradicating poverty, new forms of how we life our lives and how we work or how we use transportation” – I couldn’t agree with more. It sounds like a Scandinavian model of left-leaning democracy.

    I wish the UK had gone in that direction, but we have followed Canada and Australia back into the linear economic model of the 20th century, with Cameron tearing up any green legislation he can get his hands on and trying to leave the EU. Abbot undoing the carbon taxes and Canada and Japan leaving the UN agreements. Going backwards.

    I fear that more climatic instability will bring more reactive, retrograde politics rather than visionary leadership for a more sustainable future. When we need to work together, there’s just more push for “I want mine”. Like the poster who finds the American MC to be somehow special.

    I’m all for a pardigm shift. We need a positive vision of how we can live on a finite world.

    Who can provide that vision? Climate scientists? Bill McKibben is trying but it doesn’t work. Not sure why. He just doesn’t have that magic that Mandela or Churchill had. Gore tried but fell victim to denier ridicule.

    I think we need someone, or a group of people, with a vision, knowledge, charisma, and a very, very thick skin.

  26. 226
    Rachel F says:

    Some topical music from one of the most inspiring songwriters who ever lived.
    Thanks Pete Seeger for helping us to sing together. RIP

  27. 227
    prokaryotes says:

    Edward Greisch, all these things are connected and when you discuss the middle class, we discuss income. If we discuss the problems we need to discuss the solutions (Basic 101 of messaging bad news). The solutions are new ways of transportation and the switch to carbon neutral, less, negative forms of energy – which require relative income or subsidies. As a scientist you ought to point out the implications from subsidising fossil fuels, because it directly affects the science. The only off topic comment i see here is yours.

    Captcha: ountsrad doctrines

  28. 228

    #225–Rachel, thanks for passing that along. OT, I know, but Seeger was a great human being.

  29. 229

    #224–Rachel, having recently read a dual bio of Churchill and Gandhi–this one, actually, if anyone is particularly intrigued:

    –I can assure you that neither Al Gore nor Bill McKibben has so far spent nearly as much time out in the political cold as did Mr. Churchill–let alone Nelson Mandela! So don’t give up! (It would hardly be Churchillian, would it?)

  30. 230
    prokaryotes says:

    It sounds like a Scandinavian model of left-leaning democracy

    Rachel, if you look up the different topics you will see that they come from a broader political spectrum. Basic income for instance is a liberal idea. However, when it comes to climate action we should be guided by science not an political agenda.

  31. 231

    A number of folks have already expanded in a pretty able fashion on the domestic reasons why thinking the US middle class will be ‘pretty much OK’ under a 3 C warming regime is, well, foolish. (Though I note that ‘devil’s advocate’ nowhere states this is his actual opinion–perhaps he is looking for ammunition to counter a perception he, too, thinks is foolish.)

    Be that as it may, there’s the international dimension, which I think has been mentioned in only one comment so far. If millions are dying, then economic value is being lost–be they never so impoverished. It’s a globalized economy, and one of the fastest-growing regions today is sub-Saharan Africa. What happens to the rest of the world’s economy if Africa, India and tropical South America are all on the economic ropes? Hint: “Shaky economies and plunging currencies in the developing world are fueling a global sell-off in stocks.”,0,2693832.story#ixzz2rhclzhOV

    And that’s just a demand slowdown in China, not the evisceration of most tropical economies.

    Then there’s the political fallout. It’s pretty well established that people tend to get more violent as the misery index increases. And it’s also pretty well established that the developed nations, and particular the US, have done the most to create climate chaos, while the developing nations will bear the most immediate burden. (Indeed, that’s been a major them at just about every COP since the framework convention, UNFCCC, began them.)

    So: with millions dying, with whole regions in upheaval, with massive migrations of those desperate to survive, and with bitter resentment toward ‘the West’, what do you think the odds of political peace look like? What happens when terrorism isn’t the just province of religious wacko minority (albeit propped up by some governments for short-term tactical advantage), but a nihilistic impulse shared by vast swathes of the population? When resources are scarcer, when commercial activity is much harder due to multidimensional instabilities in financial, political and physical environments?

    I don’t think they are at all good. And that’s not just my opinion; it’s the opinion of most major military establishments around the world:

    No–the only way in which ‘the American middle class’ could potentially be considered ‘pretty much OK’ in the 3 C (let alone 5 or 6 C) world is by comparison with those tropic millions. By comparison with today’s middle class, they’ll be living in a hell of food shortages, internally displaced persons (those Western water shortages), more frequent disasters, terrorist threat, persistent war, and extreme economic dislocation–and probably much, much less democracy. Folks will be much more willing to accept (and even to clamor for) a ‘strong man on a white horse.’ The desire for that in times of crisis is one thing, at least, that won’t change. But in the America of the 3 C world, most other things will.

  32. 232

    Hmm, wrote my screed on America in the 3 C world, then navigated away to come across this:

    “Just last month, the bubonic plague killed 20 people in Madagascar. A squirrel was also found carrying a strain of the plague that is a descendent of the Black Death in a Los Angeles park last year.

    All it takes for the disease to spread are fleas that feed on rodents infected with the plague to then feed on humans, Poinar said — though thanks to much cleaner cities than fourteenth-century Europe and modern antibiotics, a widespread plague like the one that swept across Europe is unlikely, Poinar said.”

    Hmm, starving tropical millions in a still semi-globalized world still using air travel, filthy refugee camps (yes, perhaps in America, too), and an economic system under stress already. Add a novel strain of Y. pestis and stir… what could possibly go wrong?

    In general, the medical community has not been very, er, enthusiastic about the public health implications of climate change:

  33. 233
    prokaryotes says:

    Re Kevin McKinney

    The plague is rare in the US, but not totally unheard of. Cases of the disease, often caused by flea bites, pop up a few times every year, according to the CDC.

    You should be more worried about Lyme disease and the various others vectors which will rise with climate change. However, this is all OT.

  34. 234

    #233–Yes, plague is just one of the splashier nasties–hence my link to more sober possibilities.

    However, OT? I think not. There’s literature, and not just a bit, on climate change and disease, and I’m just “saying” so to remind d.a. of it. Seems directly on point to me.

  35. 235
    prokaryotes says:

    “However, OT? I think not.” – Agreed, i was abit too quick with my response.

  36. 236
    David Hellstern says:

    Mike – I’d love to read the piece in the NYT but many do not have access – is there an alternative site.

  37. 237
    DIOGENES says:


    Two issues. First, do you have any comments on my response (#208) to your request (#198) for what is required to stay under 1 C?

    Second, further on that point. David Spratt is one of the most readable and straight-forward authors on the reality of climate change. For any newbies on this site, I highly recommend the following document ( Spratt, who it appears is Australian, has published a very interesting think-piece today ( I highly recommend it.

    His article contains ten points. In his point #6 (Scale of Task), he states:

    “Scientists describe warming of two degrees Celsius (2C) not as the boundary for dangerous climate change, but as representing a BOUNDARY BETWEEN DANGEROUS AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CLIMATE CHANGE, pointing to a safe boundary as being under 350 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalent (ppm CO2e), more than 120 ppm CO2e below the current level. Our stated purpose is to prevent dangerous climate change, but the current level of greenhouse gases is already extremely dangerous. Even for 2C, THERE IS NO CARBON BUDGET LEFT IF ONE WANTS A LOW RISK (LESS THAN 10%) OF EXCEEDING 2C…… As the graph shows, based on a chart from Mike Raupach at the ANU, at a 66% probability of not exceeding 2C, the carbon emissions budget remaining is around 250 petagrams (PtG or billion tonnes) of CO2. However this “carbon budget” also has a 17% chance of exceeding 2.5C and an 8% chance of exceeding 3C, which is clearly a risk we would be mad to accept. If one wants a 90% chance of not exceeding 2C, there is NO “carbon budget” left”.

    Thus, if we want to minimize risk, which makes sense given that our survival as a species is at stake, THEN THERE IS NO CARBON BUDGET LEFT EVEN FOR STAYING UNDER 2 C!!!

  38. 238
    patrick says:

    # 233 prokaryotes and Kevin McKinney: on ‘various…vectors which will rise with climate change,’ I’m painfully aware of reduced ability to work outdoors. I saw expert comment on this in passing–perhaps in an insurer or re-insurer’s assessment of the warming world–but I fail to place it now.

    In any case, this is huge for the economic impacts of a warmer world, should anyone care. Add heat stroke to epidemics and health care disabilities coming due.

    A ‘science and sports’ segment (ESPN) when outdoor play at the Australian Open was shut down by heat said human physical efficiency falls by up to 30% within the range of temps being hit by the heat wave, and critical reaction times are significantly impaired–if I am not mistaken.

    Johnathan Swift where are you now? ‘Air conditioning’ was always a pathetic euphemism. Now it’s an allegory. The worse it gets the worse you make it to make it better.

  39. 239
    Devil's Advocate says:

    Thanks for the replies all.

    @RH 215, AM 218, wili 223: I think the moral responsibility question is actually complicated. The big problem to humanity in the coming century is the collision between climate change and overpopulation. We number 7 billion today, probably already more than our planet could sustain for the long term, with perhaps 3 billion more added by the time of peak population. People in poor countries who expect a dozen or more grandkids are the ones who can expect some of those grandkids to starve. Should any of the blame lie with those most responsible for the overpopulation?

    @JE 216: yes, I count as “okay” outcomes where people are regionally displaced, but still able to participate in a functioning
    industrial society. (If you’ve got your health and your family, a roof over your head and food on the table, with stable prospects to maintain these, you’re okay.)

    @KM 231: you are convincing. War is likely, and among the most threatening of the direct and indirect consequences of climate change.

  40. 240
    prokaryotes says:

    Re #237 #238 Inaction and denial are bringing us each day closer to dangerous climate change. So we are on track for rapid collapse and a world which no longer favours our species. We have a global emergency and most governments are still sleepwalking.

    More people need to speak up and say something in face of inaction and climate wrongs.

  41. 241
    Hank Roberts says:

    Yeah. Maybe if we were quiet for a while, some more people would speak up. Hard to do though.

  42. 242
    wili says:

    Diogenes, I agree with pretty much everything you wrote in 208. Mostly what you see here and elsewhere is people at various levels of Kubler-Ross’s spectrum of reactions to loss–bargaining is particularly prevalent here, along with anger. All that is understandable. I still think it is worth a last rallying cry: reduce by at least 10% this year. Then let’s see if we can do even better in the immediately following years.

    But, yeah, we are locked into our current temperature and almost surely something a good bit higher, even with total immediate cessation of all further emissions. And yes, those are not the conditions that have been conducive to human life on the planet, much less to global civilization. I’m sure we will get more anger, denial and bargaining directed our way for writing such things.

    Are you listening, DA? A 400 ppm CO2 is not the atmosphere that human beings evolved in. It is likely to breed a climate that is hostile to our very existence. And we are going way way past that level very very quickly. If you are worried about over population, don’t have a kid and do what you can to support women’s rights. But really your own personal contribution to the problem is almost certainly more than that of a whole village of folks from, say, Tanzania; so it might be a bit easier for you to have an immediate effect on that than on what people on the other side of the world are doing in their bedrooms. Just sayin’.

  43. 243
    Mal Adapted says:

    Dwight Mac Kerron:

    Possibly Mal Adapted is free-associating somewhat ponderously to all things religious.

    Possibly, and I probably should have focussed on this part of Dwight’s comment:

    …questioning/challenging the very EXISTENCE of who we are and how we live…

    which he agreed meant “questioning/challenging the prosperity that has resulted from economic development powered by fossil fuels”. To question that, one just needs a course in Environmental Economics.

    Have you heard of “externalities”, Dwight? Allow me: to an Economist, externalities are costs of producing a good that the producer avoids paying directly, and can therefore be kept external to the price charged to consumers of that good. But because there’s no such thing as a free lunch, those external costs must be paid by someone, sometime. When external costs are shared across part or all of society, they are referred as socialized costs.

    AGW is a cost that has been externalized by the producers of fossil-fuel-derived energy for 300 years. Along with other socialized costs of energy production, it has kept the dollar price of energy low enough to permit historically unprecedented economic development, for long enough that its beneficiaries may consider the resulting prosperity a gift. Now that the external costs of development are increasingly difficult to ignore, it’s all too easy to deny that they are due to us. Nevertheless, we will all pay them one way or another; some more, some less, but none will be wholly exempt. Proposals for a government-imposed carbon price are intended to internalize the external costs of fossil-fuel consumption, so that consumers are encouraged to consider alternatives with lower external costs.

    Now, the signatories to An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming may claim that (per article 1 of “What We Deny”) the external costs aren’t real, because (per article 1 of “What We believe”) material prosperity is divinely provided. However, on closer analysis the other articles reduce to the argument from consequences:

    2. We believe abundant, affordable energy is indispensable to human flourishing, particularly to societies which are rising out of abject poverty and the high rates of disease and premature death that accompany it. With present technologies, fossil and nuclear fuels are indispensable if energy is to be abundant and affordable.
    3. We believe mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, achievable mainly by greatly reduced use of fossil fuels, will greatly increase the price of energy and harm economies.
    4. We believe such policies will harm the poor more than others because the poor spend a higher percentage of their income on energy and desperately need economic growth to rise out of poverty and overcome its miseries.

    2. We deny that alternative, renewable fuels can, with present or near-term technology, replace fossil and nuclear fuels, either wholly or in significant part, to provide the abundant, affordable energy necessary to sustain prosperous economies or overcome poverty.
    3. We deny that carbon dioxide—essential to all plant growth—is a pollutant. Reducing greenhouse gases cannot achieve significant reductions in future global temperatures, and the costs of the policies would far exceed the benefits.
    4. We deny that such policies, which amount to a regressive tax, comply with the Biblical requirement of protecting the poor from harm and oppression.

    Concern for the poor is hard to criticize, and may even be sincere on the part of all the signers. Many AGW deniers self-consciously boast of their concern for the poor, without explicitly religious justification. It has no bearing on whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant, Earth’s climate system is vulnerable to “dangerous” alteration because of “minuscule” changes in atmospheric chemistry, or recent warming was abnormally large or abnormally rapid; or whether the scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing “dangerous” global warming is convincing.

    If Science is a way of not fooling yourself, then the signatories have announced their willingness to be fooled by logical fallacies, whether the argument from divine providence or the argument from consequences, rather than accept the consequences of AGW. That is what scientific advocates for the acceptance of climate reality need to explain to the public.

  44. 244
    Walter says:

    Oh Dear. Such a sad state of affairs it is.

    This is by Tamino:

    Ends with: UPDATE: Judith Curry has responded to my response to her response. Not. curryja | January 28, 2014 at 5:52 pm |

    “I don’t see any further point to this exchange. The temperature of the entire Arctic region is unknown, owing to the lack of observations over the Arctic Ocean. The IPCC’s statements were made with regard to publications that looked at various regions in the Arctic. If you think the IPCC is incorrect in its statements regarding Arctic surface temperatures in the 1930′s, I encourage you to submit to the IPCC an error notification, and see what kind of response you get. If you think you have something publishable in your analyses, by all means try to get them published. If you think I mischaracterized what the IPCC said in my Senate testimony, write a letter to the Senate committee.”

    “In the mean time, Arctic climate scientists will continue to do research on this problem. And people in the climate blogosphere will continue to argue over what does ‘comparable’ really mean, what does ‘recent’ really mean, etc. Go for it.” end curry quote.

    The main issue being the IPCC AR5 (5th Assessment Report) said:
    “Arctic temperature anomalies in the 1930s were apparently as large as those in the 1990s and 2000s.”

    Appears that Tamino shows the IPCC statement of Sept 2013 is incorrect, and provides some evidence for that. I find Curry’s response curious, yet not surprising.

    Still, many people wonder why so little progress has been made in the public and political spheres of the science about global climate change issues and the most likely solutions to alleviate at least the man-made causes as soon as possible.

    I find this also quite curious, and yet not at all surprising. So, “go for it”.

  45. 245
    Walter says:

    #225 Rachel F says: “I think we need someone, or a group of people, with a vision, knowledge, charisma, and a very, very thick skin.”

    I pray for “a very, very thick skin” emerging as the essential ingredient first if at all possible. The rest is a skill that can be taught and acquired fairly quickly.

    #209 SecularAnimist says: several astute things.

    I agree with all you have said thank you. I have not surrendered though in certain circumstances it is appropriate to face reality square on and be rational enough to make a tactical retreat in order to survive and fight another day.

    Things are somewhat still fluid at present, but they are not looking good at all. If I may repeat myself current global long term plans and expectations for continued Fossil Fuel Energy use to 2040 are significantly above the RCP 8.5 scenario of the Sept 2013 IPCC AR5 Report.

    The short and long term planned and expected renewable energy use is significantly below both the technically feasible and far below the hopes and dreams of those seeking even below a +4C world this century.

    When I finish compiling these numbers in a way that is consumable for the average wood duck, I will pass them on. Keep an eye in the Borehole though, for that will likely be where such information will end up. A pretty sad state of affairs.

    Walter “And that’s the way it is” Cronkite

  46. 246
    Walter says:

    An interesting study that seems related to many of the comments arising in this thread of “if you see something”.

    National contributions to observed global warming
    Abstract – There is considerable interest in identifying national contributions to global warming as a way of allocating historical responsibility for observed climate change.

    Bias is as human as breathing. Everyone does it. There were many media reports about this Paper. Here is one:

    Some of the ways the paper was presented was:
    “They found that, since 1750, the United States has been the largest single contributor to global warming, responsible for nearly 20 per cent of the rise in average temperature. Second in the list was China, followed by Russia, Brazil and India in the top five.”

    “The picture changed dramatically when the team calculated the contributions to global warming on a per capita basis [..] The figures show that the UK comes top of the list, responsible for an increase of 0.54 degrees Celsius per billion people, narrowly ahead of the USA (0.51 degrees). Next in line were Canada, Russia, Germany and the Netherlands, with Australia, Brazil, France and Venezuela rounding out the top ten.”

    “..the team of scientists acknowledges that future temperature changes will depend on emerging economies adding to the current levels of emissions. ”

    The report concludes: ‘If we are to have a chance of staying below 2 °C while also addressing fundamentally important issues associated with international equity, it is imperative that developed countries do not allow their greenhouse gas emissions to continue increasing at historical rates.’

    In the abstract the Study says: “However, the sources of these emissions have and continue to vary dramatically between regions and individual countries, with countries in the developed world responsible for the vast majority of historical emissions (Bolin and Kheshgi 2001, Raupach et al 2007, Matthews and Solomon2013).
    “While some rapidly developing countries have begun to overtake developed countries in terms of current emissions—China, for example, is now the largest national emitter of carbon dioxide (Peters et al 2012)—there remains a general pattern of disparity between countries in the developed and developing world with respect to total historical emissions, and consequent contributions to observed global warming.”

    So I dug a little deeper which I’ll summarize briefly:

    Highest Per Capita emitters *historically* are in order: UK, USA, Canada, Russia, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, France, Venezuela, Argentina.

    Highest emitters were all the Empire building nations 1800-1990 including UK, USA, Russia, Germany, Netherlands, and France, with Japan close but it like China had a delayed industrial development vs the West. See a pattern here?

    This information relates back to a previous comment of mine yesterday
    Total OECD Pop. 2012 = 1,250,403,059
    CHINA = 1,354,040,000
    INDIA = 1,210,193,422
    GRAND TOTAL = 3.814 Billion = 55% of Global Population

    Of those nations in the Study’s top 20 list (see Tables) that are also in the OECD their combined Temp contribution is 0.35 C
    China is 0.063 India is 0.047

    The grand total for ALL OECD nations Temp. contribution is circa >0.50 C
    This is about 5 times that of India and China combined.
    Russia = 0.059 Brazil = 0.049
    The BRICS nations combined = ~0.22 C to 2005
    The Temp. total of all warming noted 1906 to 2005 ~0.8 C

    So, who is responsible to date and into the future to 2040 for the majority of the Global Warming and Temp. increases?
    Answer is the 1.25 Billion people of the OECD nations!

    Especially the first 24 nations who joined the OECD in the 1960s, and in particular, from the empire building nations, the Colonial powers, of 1800-1990 the UK, USA, Russia, Germany, Netherlands, and France, along with all the other western Colonialist powers from ~1800 such as Austria, Belgium, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, & Turkey (Ottomans).

    The only BRICS nation in the above is Russia. But where is the focus so often placed upon in the public discourse?

    Onto the BRICS nations by saying: “Second in the list was China, followed by Russia, Brazil and India in the top five.”

    Isn’t 21st century Climate Science really an issue about media framing, about logical fallacies, about bias, about the politics, about cognitive dissonance, and also still very much about the science, aka scientific facts?

    The old saying about statistics comes to mind.


  47. 247
    DIOGENES says:

    Wili #242,

    Thank you for your response; as usual, well-conceived and well-taken. After re-reading my excerpt from Spratt’s latest document in #237, the following occurred to me. Spratt states: “If one wants a 90% chance of not exceeding 2C, there is NO “carbon budget” left”.” Think about that. If someone gave you a meal, and said there was 90% chance you would not be poisoned after you ate, would you be comfortable with that? If they offered you a car, and said there was 90% chance that one of the wheels would not come off in the next 100 miles, would you be comfortable driving that car? So, even with no carbon budget left, if there’s a 10% chance of exceeding 2C, with potential implications of heading toward the Apocalypse, would you be comfortable with that? Oh, wait a second; that’s where we are! Are you comfortable? Given that survival of our species is at stake, I would be comfortable only with well over 99.9% of not exceeding 2 C, with a few more decimals added on. Now we can understand why the Koch brothers don’t want these target numbers to be advertised or even mentioned at all, due to their implications.

  48. 248
    Mal Adapted says:


    I think we need someone, or a group of people, with a vision, knowledge, charisma, and a very, very thick skin.

    We also need media outlets with enough market share to compete with the deniers. They’re outshouting us on Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the Daily Mail, the Australian, The National Post, and all the other megaphones owned by self-interested obstructionists. Meanwhile, less-obviously-biased organs like the New York Times are careful to provide “balanced” coverage. When climate realists can reach an audience as large and as motivated as this Capitalist Tool enjoys, we might begin to make headway. It will still be a hard sell, though.

    BTW Rachel, welcome to the RC community. We may not have the strength of ten Koch brothers, but our hearts are purer ;^).

  49. 249
    Alastair McDonald says:


    re your #236, Mike’s OpEd can be read by clicking on the link in his post. You don’t need to log into the NYH site.


    Just seen this All Dry on the Western Front, so I am saying it!

    Note, although the primary concern is a drought which may continue into desertification, it is not the fate of the farmers that is my main concern. It is all of us. when they can no longer produce our food.

    And besides, middle class Americans will have to go without their Californian wine! :-)

    Cheers, Alastair.

  50. 250
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Stewardship

    They’re doing it wrong.
    It doesn’t mean bringing to a slow boil.
    That’s “stewing”