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1 Charles Johnson  Sat, Nov 24, 2012 5:48:22pm

This is a very frightening article. Humanity really does seem to be intent on denying these scientific realities right up to the point of no return.

By the time the real crises start happening, it will be too late to reverse the climate catastrophe.

2 Charles Johnson  Sat, Nov 24, 2012 5:48:52pm

Hurricane Sandy was just a prelude to what's coming.

3 watching you tiny alien kittens are  Sat, Nov 24, 2012 6:05:03pm

So we go all the way to 11 degrees F. of temperature rise, whats the big deal? Just means we will have to run the A/C a little more, we have lots of coal to make all the electricity we need!!1!11

///

"Drill Baby Drill" seems kind of pointless when known reserves already represent five times more carbon than we can "safely" release. Like the article points out even if we stopped adding carbon today we are still on track to see another 0.8 degree Celsius rise on top of the 0.8 we already have. We have already used up 1.6 degrees of the 2 degrees scientists think we can get away with and still have "manageable" adverse effects.

To put it bluntly there is no way we are stopping at 2 degrees rise, less than 16 years just isn't enough time to change the way we power the planet. If all the nations did it on a crisis emergency footing and at hideous expense, maybe, but that is just not going to happen. The public at large just does not believe or understand the threat, much less understand tipping points.

Hopefully as the negative effects become more pronounced and verifiable we will be able to convince the public at large of the necessity of change. Maybe we will still be able to arrest the increase at a slighter higher number if too many tipping points are not fully realized. It doesn't look good though with methane release from the oceans and permafrost already occurring.

It's sad, but with all the monied interests in fossil fuels actively working against the acceptance of AGW we cannot convince enough people to demand change soon enough. The orientation towards short term profits and willful blindness are built into our system of business and without unified public pressure will not change. Stopping warming at the 2 degree target is realistically a hopeless cause at this point. Let us all hope that our planet is forgiving enough or that we are smart enough to allow us to survive our own stupidity with civilization still somewhat intact.

4 KingKenrod  Sat, Nov 24, 2012 8:04:52pm

Interesting - this article was published in July but mentions a "giant hurricane swamp[ing] Manhattan" as a possible opinion-turning event.

5 Henchman Ghazi-808  Sat, Nov 24, 2012 8:13:33pm

McKibben is the real deal.

6 Henchman Ghazi-808  Sat, Nov 24, 2012 8:34:44pm

I had my 'Oh Shit' depression about this time 2 years ago. Thanks Charles.

A significant portion of those in denial are doing it because it's just too fookin scary to acknowledge. Those are the ones you may be able to get through to.

The rest of em? Dogma zombies.

7 lostlakehiker  Sat, Nov 24, 2012 8:54:10pm

re: #3 watching you tiny alien kittens are

///

[...]

To put it bluntly there is no way we are stopping at 2 degrees rise, less than 16 years just isn't enough time to change the way we power the planet. If all the nations did it on a crisis emergency footing and at hideous expense, maybe, but that is just not going to happen. The public at large just does not believe or understand the threat, much less understand tipping points.

Hopefully as the negative effects become more pronounced and verifiable we will be able to convince the public at large of the necessity of change. Maybe we will still be able to arrest the increase at a slighter higher number if too many tipping points are not fully realized. It doesn't look good though with methane release from the oceans and permafrost already occurring.

It's sad, but with all the monied interests in fossil fuels actively working against the acceptance of AGW we cannot convince enough people to demand change soon enough. The orientation towards short term profits and willful blindness are built into our system of business and without unified public pressure will not change. Stopping warming at the 2 degree target is realistically a hopeless cause at this point. Let us all hope that our planet is forgiving enough or that we are smart enough to allow us to survive our own stupidity with civilization still somewhat intact.

It's not just "monied interests" and it's not just in the U.S. China is a very important player here, with a great many coal fired plants going, many more under construction, and a relatively inefficient infrastructure that means a lot of coal must be burned to get a KWH to the user.

Any sufficient response to the problem will require large scale adjustments by all the major players: US, China, Europe, India.

That all these will agree to bear the costs of converting to the green tech that's available now, at today's price, is not in the cards. Not unless or until the damage everybody's taking is so severe that the need for action is inescapable. Unfortunately, at that point, we might not have the economic leeway to build all that. So many people's lives would be endangered short term that it would take a ruthless triage to free up the funds from saving their lives, so as to save the life of civilization itself. Even communist countries have a hard time with that kind of triage.

I don't see any way out except to improve the economics of wind/solar/nuclear/efficiency. Every improvement tips the balance in our favor. Enough improvement, and the use of coal can be abandoned without incurring any daunting penalty. Enough more, and we can even back off using natural gas. A bit more, and we can manufacture our motor vehicle fuel in a carbon-neutral fashion.

Along with these improvements, we'll have to clear away the regulatory underbrush. Power lines from sunny deserts or windy steppes, to energy-hungry cities, will have to cross national grasslands etc. without NIMBY vetoes. That sort of thing.

Economic and technical advances can be put into effect everywhere. We won't have any trouble persuading China or India to come on board. They'll do it because it saves money.

Ramp up R&D efforts. Keep building stuff, because if you build it, you'll learn how to build it so that when it's time to go to scale, you'll be ready. And keep on explaining the danger. Sadly, it'll be ever easier to find instances of punishing storms and droughts and heat waves and floods that can be tied to global warming.

8 watching you tiny alien kittens are  Sat, Nov 24, 2012 10:21:52pm

re: #7 lostlakehiker

China is already far ahead of us in both wind and solar energy installations. They are the worlds biggest maker of wind turbines and solar panels and enjoy the lowest cost on these items on the planet.

Meanwhile we do next to nothing and invariably when attempts are made to point that out, someone else always brings up how useless our efforts are unless China and India are doing even more. Whether or not they do anything does not justify our own lack of action, we should be leading the world on this, not China. I guess we will just continue to watch China take over world leadership especially as they get more and more low cost renewable energy.

The longer we sit on our ass and complain about all the reasons it would be hard to do something about this the further behind the rest of the civilized world we will be.

9 lostlakehiker  Sat, Nov 24, 2012 11:24:55pm

re: #8 watching you tiny alien kittens are

China is already far ahead of us in both wind and solar energy installations. They are the worlds biggest maker of wind turbines and solar panels and enjoy the lowest cost on these items on the planet.

Meanwhile we do next to nothing and invariably when attempts are made to point that out, someone else always brings up how useless our efforts are unless China and India are doing even more. Whether or not they do anything does not justify our own lack of action, we should be leading the world on this, not China. I guess we will just continue to watch China take over world leadership especially as they get more and more low cost renewable energy.

The longer we sit on our ass and complain about all the reasons it would be hard to do something about this the further behind the rest of the civilized world we will be.

Our efforts have their uses. But the most effective thing we could do would be to work harder at bending down the cost curve. The technology is hardly mature. China and the U.S. are toward the front of the pack in R&D here, though there are others in the running.

If China beats us to low cost renewable energy, I will wish we had got there even faster, but the getting there is the main thing. More likely, it will take a combination of advances. Designing and building green energy installations on a scale sufficient to run much or most of our industrial civilization is a big task, and there's work enough to go around.

We aren't that bad at renewable. We've got probably more wind power installed than anybody else. At least, that was what the director of the federal wind energy R&D center said at a talk I attended a couple of years back.

We're also reducing our carbon emissions. China is increasing theirs. This is not to say we're clean and they're dirty. We still use more per capita than they do. But there are things they could learn from us as well as the other way around. We really need to cooperate with China on this.

McKibben is, I fear, right that the world is just not politically able to grasp the nettle and switch over cold turkey to renewables, not while the scale of the disasters we must endure is still embryonic compared to what is to come, and not while the cost curve remains inconveniently high compared to coal. (Compared to coal with the true costs not counted, just the cost of mining, transportation, and burning.) So, building green on a heroic scale right now is just not going to happen. That leaves R&D and improvements to efficiency.

If we can drive the cost of "green" down to half what it now is, (that should be doable in 10 years), then the time it will take to build on a major scale should be more or less halved. Plus, the political difficulty of getting everybody on board would be much reduced.

Committing now to building a few trillion dollars worth of current-technology stuff would be a mistake. Most of it would be obsolete before we ever got it built. The point of our current efforts is partly mitigation, but mostly, it's so we can move up the learning curve. We should be spending billions on the effort, and tens of billions. Or more. But not trillions. Not just yet.

It's just like not building a mass of battleships for an upcoming carrier war. They'd be useful, a little, and you do need the shipyards to remain going concerns, but carriers is what you really want. And you have to build some starter models to learn how that should go.

10 Obdicut  Sun, Nov 25, 2012 4:02:10am

re: #9 lostlakehiker

There is easily trillions of dollars in current tech spending to be done. A lot of it is simply retooling things to not be so wasteful, especially rebuilding houses to be energy-efficient.

11 Destro  Sun, Nov 25, 2012 4:25:52am

re: #1 Charles Johnson

This is a very frightening article. Humanity really does seem to be intent on denying these scientific realities right up to the point of no return.

By the time the real crises start happening, it will be too late to reverse the climate catastrophe.

Humanity is not denying these scientific realities right up to the point of no return - rich oligarchs are funding fake science to deny scientific realities right up to the point of no return because they don't want to be taxed more or have their industry regulated out of existence, etc. Then after they fund the fake science, paid for mouthpieces push the fake science out to a voting block to prevent laws and actions being passed so we do not do anything to mitigate human made global climate change's effects.

12 Obdicut  Sun, Nov 25, 2012 6:00:11am

re: #11 Destro

It's not that simple. There's plenty of people who understand the danger, who aren't oligarchs, and who still aren't doing shit to change it. The truth is that our economy is stuck making goods that people want to buy right now, and it's woefully inadequate for dealing with long-term needs like anti-AGW stuff. This is why we need to have a much larger segment of our economy be a command economy; too much money spent on worthless crap, not enough spent on stuff that's vital for the survival of humanity.

13 Obdicut  Sun, Nov 25, 2012 6:23:47am

Actually, we already have a large segment of our economy that's a command economy anyway, that we could turn to this purpose: Defense spending.

14 Destro  Sun, Nov 25, 2012 7:17:28am

re: #12 Obdicut

The short term gain of the US economy's focus has been something that is now well documented. While overseas companies accept and understand long term investment as a business philosophy, the USA has for some reason ditched this so that they can show quarterly profits.

15 Obdicut  Sun, Nov 25, 2012 7:38:45am

re: #14 Destro

The short term gain of the US economy's focus has been something that is now well documented. While overseas companies accept and understand long term investment as a business philosophy, the USA has for some reason ditched this so that they can show quarterly profits.

That's nice, dear.

But it has nothing to do with what I said: We, as a world, manufacture too many widgets and gizmos and frivolous crap, and not enough things that will actually help us weather AGW. That includes the other countries in this world. I know you have like a nervous tic where you can't engage with any issue without turning it into anti-Americanism, but you're completely missing the point.

16 Destro  Sun, Nov 25, 2012 8:32:49am

re: #15 Obdicut

The USA x% of the world population yet uses x% of resources? Look it up, sweety. That's the problem. And the other problem is the USA has a class of people not wanting to mitigate that. Newly emerging economies are trying to move over to green and renewable (China) while in the USA we have a political party that thinks that is evil. Reality and facts are un-American.

17 Obdicut  Sun, Nov 25, 2012 8:35:05am

re: #16 Destro

The USA x% of the world population yet uses x% of resources? Look it up, sweety.

I know it already: We consume huge amounts. So does Europe, and Japan, and every other first world country.

Newly emerging economies are trying to move over to green and renewable (China) while in the USA we have a political party that thinks that is evil. Reality and facts are un-American.

China is building shitloads of coal plants too.

It's really funny how adamantly you stamp your feet about the US being anti-facts and reality, and yet you fail on facts constantly.

I guess you're just trying to prove that Americans are hypocrites and ideologues who refuse to face reality using yourself as the example.

18 Obdicut  Sun, Nov 25, 2012 8:38:26am

To be clear: Europe is doing a little bit better than the US on the AGW front. A tad bit. A smidgen. It's nowhere near good enough. Nowhere at all near.

19 Destro  Sun, Nov 25, 2012 11:47:31am

re: #17 Obdicut

Guess which nation killed the carbon swap tax that would have offset those Chinese carbon emissions as they transit to green energy? The USA thanks to the ruling GOP at the time.

The USA is still the world leading consumer economy so it is on America to push for this not the other way around. That may sound like anti-Americanism to you but that is reality.

20 Obdicut  Sun, Nov 25, 2012 12:02:12pm

re: #19 Destro

Guess which nation killed the carbon swap tax that would have offset those Chinese carbon emissions as they transit to green energy? The USA thanks to the ruling GOP at the time.

They're not transitioning, though. They're building a lot of 'green' stuff but they're also building hella shitloads of coal plants. I don't really blame 'em, but calling it transitioning isn't true. And swap taxes are nice little bandaids, but they're bandaids.

The USA is still the world leading consumer economy so it is on America to push for this not the other way around. That may sound like anti-Americanism to you but that is reality.

Sure, it's for the US to push for. It's also for Europe and Japan and all the other first-world nations to push for.

In a weird way, your obsessive anti-Americanism does something that would swole the heart of the most American-flag-t-shirt-wearing, Bud-lite-drinking, stuffed-eagle-owning, shotgun-toting redneck: it pretends the US is in charge of the world.

As I said, Europe is doing marginally better than us. Marginally. And the Democrats are marginally better than the GOP on AGW. Marginally. This isn't a 'they're all the same' argument, this is a reminder that the Democrats are largely a corporatist party and cannot be depended on to do good progressive shit without being pressured into it. Nor can any other country in the world. Except Bhutan. Bhutan is cool.

AGW is a global problem that needs global solutions. The US has a huge part to play because we're a huge part of the problem and we have huge resources, but the rest of the world matters too. It is the entire nature of the global economy that is the problem, not a particular brand of it espoused in the US.

And it all has to change.

21 lostlakehiker  Sun, Nov 25, 2012 5:21:09pm

re: #10 Obdicut

There is easily trillions of dollars in current tech spending to be done. A lot of it is simply retooling things to not be so wasteful, especially rebuilding houses to be energy-efficient.

Agreed. Some part of efficiency technology is fairly mature. There, we should just get right to work. (It's high time and then some that every house should be properly insulated, for example. Some efficiency steps make good money sense, never mind global warming, right now. There ought to be a mechanism by which consumers can buy such improvements from their utility company, which will do the improvements, guarantee them, and charge less for the same temperature, while charging more per BTU or KWH to cover the expense of the modifications. The consumer is better off every day both with regards to utility bill and with regards to comfort, and the utility makes its cut of the money saved gradually, over the long run.

Other parts of efficiency technology will go mature in the near future. LED bulbs, for instance. I'm phasing those in in my house as CF bulbs burn out, but most people will want to wait for the price to drop by another factor of two.

What I was saying was that the time is not yet ripe to spend other trillions on building stuff that in my opinion will shortly be obsolete. Many of the wind turbines now in operation across Europe are first-generation things. It was a learning experience, but having learned, they and we can now do better. The same will probably hold for whatever we build right now. We must keep our hand in, for the practice and so as to encounter whatever glitches lie ahead in good time to learn the way around them. But the big build should be scheduled for a decade or two down the road, after we've moved another generation up the learning curve.

Same thing with solar. Al Gore has a recent essay, perhaps in the Atlantic (I forget, sorry) that was eminently reasonable and made the observation that there's a sort of Moore's law going with solar. Hence, you can expect to get a lot more bang for your 10-20-year-later buck than you will with today's. I know you'll throw it in my face that I've not been a fan of Gore very often, but that doesn't stop me agreeing with him when he nails it.


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