It’s Time to Freak Out About Climate Change

The heat this summer was our generation’s Hiroshima. Wake up, people! If you’re not terrified about the future, you’re an idiot.

Cycling home from work on a sweltering summer evening in August, I started to think about my scientific hero Richard Feynman and his reaction to the terrifying dawn of the nuclear era. Feynman had worked on the Manhattan Project, and when he returned to New York City to teach shortly after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he began imagining the effect of the Hiroshima bomb on the island of Manhattan. Everywhere he looked, he saw rubble. He began to pity the people around him building bridges, skyscrapers, roads, and other monuments to an imagined future, as if we had a future worth imagining or building toward. He could now see only the smashed remains left by what he felt was inevitable—nuclear annihilation. The insanity of going on with ordinary life in the face of what he believed to be the closing chapter of humanity gnawed at him, left him possessed by dread.

I'd begun to understand Feynman's experience a bit better recently and, oddly, my new understanding was aided by the Koch brothers. These funders of the Tea Party movement and leaders of the plutocrats' charge into US politics are, in addition to everything else, the American alpha family of fossil fuels. Their father made the family fortune selling oil equipment to Stalin—yes, that Stalin. They own about 4,000 miles of chemical, oil, and gas pipelines in the United States alone. Also in their portfolio: a good chunk of the US factories making asphalt, petrochemicals, and petroleum-based fertilizers, plus a product you've probably wiped your ass with before, the Georgia-Pacific brands of toilet paper (Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Soft 'n Gentle). In short, if it's an environmentally calamitous industry manufacturing a deeply desired product, the Koch brothers are in it—with a river of wealth flowing into their wallets as a result.

Confronted with piles of evidence confirming climate change is real, these guys did what any committed propagandists would do: They hired their own experts. Maybe they would endorse an alternate reality. At the end of July, the Koch-funded study on climate change was released, and it ended up offering the most dire assessment and predictions yet, confirming what others have been warning about climate change for years.

Richard Muller, lead author of the Koch-funded study, used to be perhaps the most outspoken US scientist skeptical of the consensus on climate change. Used to be. This summer, working on the Koch dime as fires and drought ravaged the nation, he was decisively convinced climate change is occurring, is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, and will cause dire consequences for humanity.

Muller was a laggard. Most scientists have long agreed with the predictions that emerged from the first scientific consensus about global warming in the late 1980s, and those predictions have generally been proved true by measurements and experiments conducted by the scientists of today.

They also seem to be confirmed by yet another source: daily news reports. The Arctic Ocean now reliably melts each summer, creating the first Northwest Passage in recorded human history. The glaciers of Greenland, of Glacier National Park—they're all dwindling. The oceans are acidified, imperiling the very base of all life in the seas. The melting arctic is belching out long-trapped methane, possibly accelerating the entire process. Global average temperatures are up about half a degree centigrade. Global carbon emissions continue to rise, and we are on track to double atmospheric carbon concentrations slightly ahead of an alarming schedule laid out in the 1980s. Three decades after people first started issuing dire warnings about climate change, those warnings are now our evening news reality.

Depressingly, even with all this, Americans' confidence in climate change walks in step with the weather: With droughts, heat waves, and hurricanes, the belief in climate change creeps up in the populace. Snowstorms bring skepticism. As I biked home, contempt for this ignorant hedging poured out of me, like the sweat running down my back in the heat. We are currently facing planetary doom, little different in scale or possible devastation from nuclear war, and our interest in it wavers with the thermometer?

There is no rational basis for wavering. The scientific models we use to see the future of our climate generally come to strong agreement: We're screwed if we continue to do nothing about climate change. And let's be honest, we're basically doing nothing. The Kyoto Protocol? A failure. In fact, most of what we've done politically in the last decade has made the burning of fossil fuels easier. We're exporting coal to China by the trainload—with plans on the drawing board to run even more toxic-dust-spewing coal trains from Montana to Washington's ports for export to that country. Drilling for oil has started in the Arctic. Hydraulic fracking is squeezing natural gas out of the earth, at the cost of flammable tap water in some communities. Even here in Seattle, we're building a massive tunnel for fossil-fuel-burning cars. Any reduction in carbon emissions in the United States is purely accidental.

If we continue to do nothing, and if we continue to burn every scrap of fossil fuel we can find, then by the end of this century there is less than a 1 percent chance of manageable levels of warming (less than three degrees). Most likely, if we continue to do nothing, our average global temperatures will increase by about five degrees. There is also a roughly 1 in 10 chance of devastating, humanity-ending warming (7 degrees or more). Sure, there is some uncertainty about these outcomes—but it's uncertainty between dire and deadly. Yet we still ignore it.

Unlike most climate worriers, it's not the melting glaciers that keep me up at night. It's rain. Hot air holds more water. As the average temperature increases, we can expect more clouds but less rainfall in all but the highest and lowest latitudes, as the atmosphere holds on to more of the available water. If we keep doing nothing, and the most likely climate change predictions hold true, the regular rains we depend on to grow our food will become more and more erratic. Let the planet's average temperatures rise by more than seven degrees, and we can expect a new desert in the United States extending from Kansas to California to form by the end of this century, joined by new deserts across Eurasia and the other breadbaskets of the world. We might still have rain in Seattle—but nothing to eat. Human civilization dies in this scenario, just like it would after a nuclear holocaust.

Which means, whether you can pin it precisely on global warming or not, the ocean of wilting grain that fills the middle of our country after this hottest of summers is just a dress rehearsal. Sure, this summer was a freak of probability, more to do with the randomness of weather than the slow processes that are heating up the only world we can inhabit, but still, it was a chance to see how we might adapt to what will slowly become the norm as the planet heats. And how did we do? We failed. For now, we'll pay more for food and eat our stored grain. In not too many more decades, we'll starve.

This was the vision in my head as I rode my bike home. What are now the richest farmlands will become endless dust bowls. Increasingly desperate, hungry, and thirsty, we tear ourselves apart. Humanity dies. Much of the complex life that makes our world interesting and beautiful dies. It's a hideous, vapid, lonely, and entirely predictable existence.

I looked at our current world: the wide alabaster lanes of I-90, filled with cars, bumper-to-bumper creeping to the Eastside suburbs. The lights on at Safeco Field. The construction equipment for the First Hill Streetcar (not a bad transit idea, but not nearly enough). It's so easy to imagine all of this 50 years from now—cracked, abandoned, devoid of people and life. I glanced up and saw the future of thick clouds, without rain, the sky and endless deck of ill-appearing yellow dust.

And then my premonition became even grimmer than Feynman's premonitions of nuclear holocaust. People, even in the 1950s, understood on some level what a nuclear bombing would mean—and their sense only became clearer through the aboveground nuclear tests. By the Cuban missile crisis, a plurality understood that nuclear war would mean the end of humanity as we knew it.

Climate change, unfortunately, is not like a nuclear bomb in this regard. Even though scientists are generally as convinced about the consequences of climate change as they were about the consequences of splitting atoms over a large city, there is no political or cultural consensus to do anything about the problem. It's easy to see why: Climate change is a far-in-the-future calamity on a scale none of us can really comprehend. At least the poor fools in the 1950s, '60s, '70s, and '80s had the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to make sure there were no delay-inducing illusions.

Let this summer be our Hiroshima, then. Not just because of the heat, not just because of the fires, but because the last few scientifically relevant skeptics acknowledged what most of us already know: Climate change is real, it's happening, and it could destroy us all.

Because if we can't get alarmed about this the way we got alarmed about the nuclear bomb, then we're left staring at exactly the sort of slow-motion disaster humans seem particularly incapable of preventing: far off in the future, requiring a diverse set of countries to move together, with pain up front and benefits a generation or two out. Feynman's world only needed people to decide to save themselves, to act out of the easiest of imperatives: self-interest. We need to find a way to save our world for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, to act out of the most difficult of imperatives: forward-thinking generosity. It took the Cuban missile crisis, and the fear that Khrushchev wouldn't blink, to fully bring us to our senses—to become honest about what nuclear war would mean, to start the test bans, to begin slow disarmament and direct channels of communication that allowed us to survive the dawn of the nuclear era. If it takes fear stirred up by this summer's heat wave to fully come to our senses about climate change, so be it. Because if it takes some even more dramatic, definitively-global-warming-linked climactic event to get us to come to our senses about climate change—say, the center of the country actually becoming a barren desert—well, sorry, by then it will be too late to change course.

Yes, there is some good news out there about climate change, but even the good news from this summer had a grim edge. Americans' carbon emissions hit a 20-year low this year, completely unexpectedly—because we burned more natural gas in place of coal. Not exactly a long-term solution. Other news was better. Germany managed to produce a quarter of its electricity from entirely renewable sources. For the first time ever, solar panels cost about the same as fossil fuels, per kilowatt. Wind farms are sprouting up across the midsection of the country. Nuclear power technology—even after Fukushima—continues to become more and more impressive. But all this just reminds us that we're not waiting on some technological breakthrough; we already have all the technology we need to solve climate change. We just need to use the technology we have with more urgency, and if getting appropriately scared about the future is what it takes to get us to do that, then get fucking scared. We have to start thinking of the catastrophe of uncontrolled climate change as just as certain as the fact that a nuclear bomb dropped from above will fall to earth and destroy everything below.

Because if we don't, if we allow this slow-moving annihilation to keep heading humanity's way, despite having all the tools to stop it—if we allow that, then perhaps we deserve to be destroyed. recommended


Comments (104) RSS

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The DEBT this summer was our generation’s Hiroshima. Wake up, people! If you’re not terrified about the FUTURE, you’re an IDIOT...sadly, more people are willing to IGNORE financial calamity, vs. hyped up science. WAY TO GO STRANGER.
Posted by osage2112 on September 5, 2012 at 9:11 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 2
I'm going to kill myself. Clearly life isn't worth living any longer. Death is the only release.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on September 5, 2012 at 9:15 AM · Report this
It doesn't matter what Americans do. So long as the developing world does its thing, every American could ride bikes and live on farms and we'd still be screwed.
Posted by caltrop_head on September 5, 2012 at 9:36 AM · Report this
That new desert will be a great place for solar panels and wind farms!
Posted by ALEX37V on September 5, 2012 at 10:03 AM · Report this
Take a Xanax and relax. We had our usual 3 month summer that ends Sept 8th.
Posted by bdunham2369 on September 5, 2012 at 10:13 AM · Report this
This article is entirely America-centric. Caltrop_head is correct; we do not matter anymore in the grand scale. Our infrastructure is already built and emissions should continue to decrease.

China and India will produce the warming, and third world countries like China and India will likely pay a steeper initial price as well with fewer per-capita air conditioners and rations. Could we please include a few more numbers when talking about climate science?
Posted by CapHillGus on September 5, 2012 at 10:28 AM · Report this
translinguistic other 7
@1, Climate change is radically altering our possibilities for survival whether you believe in it or not.

On the other hand, money is an abstraction. When the nations crumble, the debt will be a quaint artifact of memory, until everyone eventually forgets about it.
Posted by translinguistic other on September 5, 2012 at 10:34 AM · Report this
You have to admit it would be pretty interesting to witness the end of humanity though.
Posted by cliche on September 5, 2012 at 10:46 AM · Report this
Of course the article is America-centric. Golob lives in America, and he's talking about Americans ignoring climate change.

"China and India won't do anything, so why should we bother?"

That is the laziest statement I've heard in a long time. Why should we base OUR planning for the future off of whether or not China and India are doing it?

Are international politics and policy really THAT much like high school?
Posted by Dahlielah on September 5, 2012 at 10:48 AM · Report this
It's ok, natural gas will save the day. Bonanza! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNdhFi3M…
Posted by leviathan on September 5, 2012 at 10:55 AM · Report this
Martin H. Duke 11
Jonathan's list of things to do is a good one, but avoiding a calamity of this magnitude requires subordinating other values to it. For instance, from a liberal point of view:

- Hydropower kills fish, but is better than climate change.
- Nuclear energy generates waste we don't know what to do with and brings some risk of radiation, but it's better than climate change.
- Very high carbon/gas taxes and reducing coal production will screw the poor badly, but that's better than climate change.

If environmentalists and liberals can't seriously evaluate how the crisis of climate change should change their values, then we can hardly expect conservatives to do the same.
Posted by Martin H. Duke http://seattletransitblog.com on September 5, 2012 at 11:07 AM · Report this
I agree with the article as far as it went. If any of you would like to read a great series on this subject, and one with lots of numbers, check out Gaius Publius on americablog.com. You can scroll down and put climate series in the blog search. It's one of the more amazing pieces I've read on the subject. For now lets just try to get the coal terminal at Cherry Point out of here. We can talk forever about the who's and the why's, but exporting carbon anywhere is not the thing to be doing at this point in the planet's history.
Posted by 40 pkrd on September 5, 2012 at 11:20 AM · Report this
The First Hill streetcar is "not a bad transit idea", and you want more of it?

If your idea of good transit service is the First Hill streetcar, we are truly fucked. Sound Transit and the city would have done better to spend half the money on new trolleybus infrastructure on First Hill and and feed the other >$50 million into the Seattle Steam boiler down on Western.
Posted by Reality on September 5, 2012 at 11:23 AM · Report this
I don't think we shouldn't do anything, what I'm arguing is that what we should be doing has to be globally oriented. The electric car is getting its due in America, we're cutting VOCs and emissions and pollutants, and we'll likely continue to do this. That's my point.

Magnitude matters. And the magnitude of change we're capable of in this country compared to others is minimal. Rising gas prices and stagnation in hosuehold incomes is going to do a lot to drive Americans to being more efficient and less polluting.

What we need to be working on is getting the rest of the world up to a reasonable standard of living without utilizing cheap, polluting energy. American investment abroad somehow, probably via gov. incentives, needs to be focused on developing clean energy and infastructure projects in foreign nations. That's the point. Being a snob about people driving, or buying from a supermarket is getting angry about someone pissing into the ocean. It's irrelevant.

You want to stop global warming? Good. Guess what though, almost all of that is going to require changing what other countries do, and as pointed out earlier, it's going to require us as liberals to re-evaluate some of our positions. We're going to have make some concessions, but that's ok. Unlike conservatives, we can see shades of gray. Stopping global warming is really about bringing the rest of the world up without letting the rest of the world make the terrible decisions that scarred the Western world in the 1800's and 1900's.
Posted by caltrop_head on September 5, 2012 at 12:17 PM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 15
“[I]f we really want to help the planet--and we should want to, given that we live on it--we need to remember where that priority falls in the hierarchy of most people's decision-making. And we need to do everything we can to help everyone on the planet satisfy their basic needs--food, shelter, safety, and healthcare. Because it's only once those needs are met that people can reasonably begin to care about things that are as vague as ‘rising oceans’ and ‘healing the planet.’” - Henry Blodget

If Romney can convince people that he can help them with their immediate needs (finding work etc.) while scorning Obama for his “vaguer” concerns he could gain traction. If he can actually help them with those immediate concerns (Obama, for whatever reason, has failed to), that will be a good thing for the environment in the long run. Worrying about “rising oceans”, and, more importantly, being able to take effective action to combat them, is a luxury afforded only to people who do not have "more immediate" concerns.
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on September 5, 2012 at 12:17 PM · Report this
My takeaway from all this is that the rain forests and whales must be doing just fine now, and the hole in the ozone is all closed up.
Posted by Chali2Na on September 5, 2012 at 12:23 PM · Report this
Thank you for a well-written article, Jonathan!
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 5, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
The article was good as far as it went. If any of you would like to read more, and there are plenty of numbers, go to americablog.com, scroll down to 'search the blog', and type in climate series. Written by Gaius Publius it's a rambling but very good series on just what's happening to the planet as we discuss it all to death. Literally.
We also should all be paying attention to the coal facility in the works at Cherry Point. It isn't in the best interests of the planet or the species to be shipping carbon anywhere. Thanks for starting to pay attention to a very real catastrophe in the making.
Posted by 40 pkrd on September 5, 2012 at 12:27 PM · Report this
@3 etc: I think we can lead by example here, or at least not fail to lead by example. So long as we're not doing all we can, it makes it easier for everyone else to say: if the US isn't doing it...
Posted by So-called Claire on September 5, 2012 at 12:46 PM · Report this
Zebes 20
I like the illustration, but the block fill in the wheel spokes seems at odds with the clutter and wrinkles and clouds that fill other regions. I think that part could have been handled more gracefully; even a few radiating lines would have looked more complementary to the rest of the style.
Posted by Zebes http://www.badrap.org/rescue/index.html on September 5, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
raku 21
Very disappointing that you ignored the #1 cause of climate change - livestock.

The culture that makes this paper's "chow" section acceptable - pushing beef and dairy as if it wasn't incredibly irresponsible - is more damaging than all of the cars on the planet. If this paper can't even stop pushing the #1 cause of climate change, I don't see how there's any hope.

The low estimate is that livestock (beef & dairy) causes 18% of all climate change. The high estimate is 51%. It's true that livestock takes over 30% of the land surface of the planet, and causes the vast majority of global deforestation.

Posted by raku on September 5, 2012 at 1:20 PM · Report this
Germany's not even that impressive. Spain gets half from wind power, and Brazil 80% from hydroelectricity. Other countries are on to it, we just need to catch up.
Posted by redemma on September 5, 2012 at 1:31 PM · Report this
Only one comment before some idiot mocked not just the science of climate change, but science in general. Impressive!

This is why we can't have nice things.
Posted by Proteus on September 5, 2012 at 1:34 PM · Report this
Claypatch 24
@14 : Considering that The United States, with less than 5 % of the global population, uses about a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources—burning up nearly 25 % of the coal, 26 % of the oil, and 27 % of the world’s natural gas, it is incumbent on us to change our lifestyles. Your other points about working with 3rd World countries, of which China is not one, is correct. The best way we can influence the rest of the world is by getting our own house in order, which means cutting back on our consumption.

Statistics quoted from here:
Posted by Claypatch on September 5, 2012 at 1:51 PM · Report this
Proteus... Why is it you can't be happy unless everyone agrees with everyone of your liberal pipedreams??? Oh, thats right, youre smarter than ANYONE, and only you can save humanity. Do yourself a favor and escape the NW. You'll come around... Maybe. It's a brave new world...really.
Posted by osage2112 on September 5, 2012 at 3:07 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 26
Sadly we have past the point of no return, It is too late to stop climate change we must start working on situations to deal with it.
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on September 5, 2012 at 3:16 PM · Report this
Last of the Time Lords 27
Get yourself to higher ground and off the grid gang. You could stop every carbon emission on the planet completely right now and the damage is already in the ecosystem.

And it will take 20 to 40 years to work it's way out. Hell starts...NOW!!!
Posted by Last of the Time Lords on September 5, 2012 at 3:25 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 28

Listen to The Doctor.
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on September 5, 2012 at 3:31 PM · Report this
Fistique 29
@20: It's meant to indicate that the wheel is in blurred motion. I think Yamasaki could have gone with some Duchamp-style motion lines, myself.
Posted by Fistique on September 5, 2012 at 3:35 PM · Report this
Mr. Golob's article certainly got my attention. In fact, I've been thinking along the same lines for several years as warnings from climate scientists grow more dire and the consequences of our society's inaction look increasingly irreversible. I want to feel optimistic, but on some days that's impossible for me, especially in the wake of the record drought and high temperatures the United States experienced over the summer. Climate change is real, and we Americans are finally seeing and feeling its impacts up close. Some times I think the world will finally wake up, will finally "get it" about climate change and the need to take bold, dramatic action. But then reality kicks in and I start to fear it might be too late. Look at the recent Republican National Convention. The only time the issue came up was when Romney mocked Obama for "promising to slow the rising seas and heal the planet..." His glib, totally assinine attitude convinced me we're pretty much screwed.
Posted by MikeF1809 on September 5, 2012 at 3:56 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 31
I want a NEW car. Cars are the solution.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on September 5, 2012 at 4:27 PM · Report this
I love when people talk about "living off the grid" when they are using a computer.
Posted by indianaman on September 5, 2012 at 4:51 PM · Report this
Rotten666 33
Meh. I'm just going to buy waterfront real estate on the Olympic coast. If I'm lucky it will be like Santa Cruz in a couple of years.
Posted by Rotten666 on September 5, 2012 at 5:02 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 34
@20 - I like the illustration, too. So much better than most. But I agree about the solid fill in the wheels; he looks like he's trudging along in the oppressive heat at maybe 5mph, and not going nearly fast enough to render the spokes into a blur.
Posted by Free Lunch on September 5, 2012 at 6:23 PM · Report this
Poorly penned propaganda from a scientist working outside his field.

Global warming. Check. Human-influenced global warming. Check.

Relationship to current weather. Ch... No. That Golob even hints at it disappoints me. Future weather? Future climate? Even our super bestest guessiest models got nothing reliable to say beyond: sucks to be a small Pacific island but pretty neato for Russia and Canada. Maybe.
Posted by BLUE on September 5, 2012 at 7:17 PM · Report this
Yup, and we're seeing the effect of carbon released 30 years ago, so we're pretty much toast. It's time to quit jabbering about Priuses and recycling, and start getting ready for the impacts.

All things considered, we're pretty well set in the Northwest, as long as we can display the intestinal fortitude to protect our farmland and water resources from outside grabs and invading hordes.

Example: Right now, in the Skagit River Basin, the City of Anacortes is trying to sell off 2 billion gallons per year of the Skagit River to a shadowy company that says it plans to bottle the water, which seems a little unlikely since it would be more than a quarter of the existing U.S. bottled water market, and would be by five times the country's largest bottled water plant.

No way this is anything but a speculative water grab.


Right now, right here, there go the resources we'll need to survive climate change.

How about a little help up here, limousine liberals of Seattle?
Posted by Upriver Joe on September 5, 2012 at 7:58 PM · Report this
Exactly. The global climate instability we're seeing now is the result of emissions 30 years ago. We're toast.

Time to stop nattering about Priuses and recycling, and start getting ready for the impacts.

We're pretty well set in the Northwest, if we have the intestinal fortitude to protect our farmland and water against outside grabs and invading hordes. This ain't some future thing, folks.

Right now, in the Skagit Valley, the City of Anacortes just spent over $60 million on a new plant to suck water from the Skagit River, and is trying to sell off TWO BILLION GALLONS of Skagit River water per year, to a shadowy company than says it plans to bottle the water.

Pretty effin unlikely, since that amount of water would mean the largest bottled water plant in the country by five times, and would be more than a quarter of the US bottled water market share.

No way this is anything other than a speculative water grab.


Mental musing while riding your bike are super neat, but how about a little help up here from the limousine liberals and babbling bobos of Seattle?
Posted by Upriver Joe on September 5, 2012 at 8:11 PM · Report this
Occupy Seattle 38
Fuck climate change. What about all that pollution and oil in our water and air? I don't want to end up like those places in Montana or Colorado, that look nice on the outside but everything and everyone is dying from water poisoning. Because some Koch Brother company drilled here and destroyed our mountains and rivers.
Posted by Occupy Seattle on September 5, 2012 at 10:00 PM · Report this
devinderry 39
I'm surprised nobody else has recommended this, but Bill Mikkibin's July Rolling Stone article Global Warming's Terrifying New Math easily shows how deeply fucked we all are --> http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/new…

The broad strokes are that, best case, the amount of carbon dioxide we can put into the atmosphere before the planet goes all apocolypsy (565 gigatons) is only 1/5 of the amount that would/will be produced by fossil fuel resources already listed as ready-to-drill assets of fuel companies (2795 gigatons).

Uber geeks refer to Mikkibin's source: http://www.carbontracker.org/wp-content/…
Posted by devinderry on September 5, 2012 at 10:21 PM · Report this
And recall the time lag problem, that we are experiencng the effects of emissions 30 years ago.

If you think we are going to get the oil companies to stop pumping just because we have reached a threshold with future impacts, you're dreaming.

Better to start preparing. Perhaps it isn't yet time to start hoarding food, but it is certainly time to start transitioning into local sufficiency, and stop giving away out precious water to speculators like Anacortes is doing. In the not so distant future, we will need it to grow food.
Posted by Upriver Joe on September 5, 2012 at 10:44 PM · Report this
JensR 41
Hey I just wanted to comment on the "We americans don't matter" - you are aware that this statement exists outside of the US. Here in Sweden one of the arguments against active work against climate change and pollution is "well look at America, if they don't change why should we even bother?". This argumenation exists everywhere. It only change who "they" are in "if they dont change".

As for the random climate-change-denier I have basicly just two things to say:
1) When the overwhelming majority of leading experts on the subject agree I tend to side with them instead of "some dude on the internet".
2) Even if they are wrong - the idea that we should do nothing is basicly the logicly dumbest thing available. Just open a damn book on game theory and set up a basic table of scenario and eventuall effects and you'll see the very central problem with the "do nothing" crowds argumentation.
Posted by JensR http://ohyran.se on September 6, 2012 at 4:39 AM · Report this
This popped into my head after reading.

"It has to start somewhere, It has to start sometime
What better place than here, what better time than now?"

-Rage Against the Machine
Posted by Lwood on September 6, 2012 at 5:52 AM · Report this
GeorgieGirl 43
I'm all for cutting back on green house gas, but apparently this guy isn't a local. The last two summers around here have been so mild, they've been relativly non existant.
Posted by GeorgieGirl http://cam4/georgiegirl on September 6, 2012 at 10:16 AM · Report this
devinderry 44
@41 - Not that I don't agree w/the sentiment, but keep in mind that for the past few years China has outpaced America in CO2 emissions...
Posted by devinderry on September 6, 2012 at 10:17 AM · Report this
Relax, Al Gore says we have another 10 years until we are all vaporized. But did'nt he say same thing in '92. Damn, I missed the ending of the world in 2002.

Did anyone else see it?
Posted by Jim_MAY on September 6, 2012 at 11:37 AM · Report this
It is way too late to stop a 3*C rise in temps. The time to freak was during the first Bush administration.

Just my opinion, but as a scientist who has read the primary literature and understands the probabilities of the models and consequences, hope went out the door in 2000.
Posted by TaterBug on September 6, 2012 at 3:18 PM · Report this
9. "That is the laziest statement I've heard in a long time. Why should we base OUR planning for the future off of whether or not China and India are doing it?

Are international politics and policy really THAT much like high school?"

This has got to be the laziest possible rebuttal to a legitimate statement. Do YOU not understand that the U.S. is one of 215+ nations, and that it has virtually no control over the actions of those nations?

China and India and dozens of other countries will pollute the fuck out of the Earth and there is nothing the U.S. can do about it, let alone yourself... regardless of what the U.S. chooses to export to these countries. Literally NOTHING.

What will probably happen is this: The doomsday scenario plays out over the next several decades despite our best efforts, and people around the world just die as a natural byproduct. Not everyone... just a good portion of the world's population, those who can't adapt and overcome.

With several billion less people existing and polluting, the ecosystem eventually normalizes and whoever is left continues on.
Posted by Gomez http://misterstevengomez.com on September 6, 2012 at 3:54 PM · Report this
Westlake, son! 48
I like @6's point. The worst polluters happen to be in the hottest parts of the world already. When they realize they're killing themselves and their customers they'll be forced to slowdown and, having seen what it did to them an example the rest of us can avoid it.
Posted by Westlake, son! on September 6, 2012 at 4:06 PM · Report this
Westlake, son! 49
Also, god damn can the Port of Seattle plant some shade? And City of Seattle too. Why is Lake Union Park a barren wasteland? All that open grass just seems to draw the in the geese anyway. No one's out playing frisbee, locals could do that at Cascade Playground/Park.

I really like the shade in Denny Park.
Posted by Westlake, son! on September 6, 2012 at 4:12 PM · Report this
What Muller actually said:

"I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.

Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago, during the “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum,” an interval of warm conditions known from historical records and indirect evidence like tree rings. And the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous."

But go ahead and freak out - summer's almost over.
Posted by boondox on September 6, 2012 at 4:22 PM · Report this
"Global average temperatures are up about half a degree centigrade."

Much more of this and I'll need to apply another layer of sunblock.
Posted by Cletus on September 6, 2012 at 4:28 PM · Report this
Puty 52
I don't know if reading the comments on this story is a good idea--bet there are packs of lunkheads committed to ignoring climate change, minimizing the problem, pretending there are more important problems (uh, no, the environment is the base everything's built on and when it's fucked we're fucked). So I'm not gonna read the comments. But I'll read the article!

I'm so glad to see this feature in The Stranger. Thanks Stranger and thanks Jonathan! Science journalism IS alternative media!
Posted by Puty on September 6, 2012 at 4:29 PM · Report this
Puty 53
I read a couple of comments. It WAS a mistake!

Science is real. Climate change is real. This story is not hyperbole. Poor grasp of the facts and an inability to cope with scary things is sad.
Posted by Puty on September 6, 2012 at 4:55 PM · Report this
That's OK, Puty. It will basically mean a big die-off, just like any species that overtaxes its habitat. James Lovelock says about 700 million is the Earth's long term carrying capacity. Deniers, Ostriches and the unprepared will go first. Might as well be them. Democracy is probably going to be a necessary casualty too, as well as a whole lot of stuff liberals hold dear.
Posted by Upriver Joe on September 6, 2012 at 5:02 PM · Report this
Puty 55
But that doesn't sound "okay" to me at all, Joe!

Climate change can't be stopped now but it can and must be mitigated. But for that to happen in the U.S. (which needs to lead the charge in this crisis), there's going to have to be a few more science-literate politicians elected and a LOT more public engagement.

Easier said than done, but must be done.
Posted by Puty on September 6, 2012 at 5:11 PM · Report this
What a nimrod.

Do you happen to know that students study a SCIENCE called Petroleum Engineering? It's the SCIENCE of managing a well as a closed, PRESSURIZED system. Once you deal with a closed system, any changes can be quantified. You don't get your degree in Petroleum Engineering from the local OCCUPY drum cirle jerk. Oh, and did you know that most plays are tens of thousands of feet below the water table...whens the last time you heard of a water well being 15000'????

You're dealing in ignorance my friend...now scoot back off to your drum circle jerk.
Posted by osage2112 on September 6, 2012 at 7:28 PM · Report this
P_Orin_Zack 57
The staggering scale of this problem is one reason why people deny it or try to ignore it. We're talking about nothing less than the ability of our species to continue to live on this planet. The global net of ecosystems is in balance with what the climate had been until we humans started mucking things up faster than it could accommodate. But we've pushed things out of balance, and the entire structure can come crashing down around us.

I use short stories to get my own head around issues of the day, and this was no different. But to grasp the magnitude of what is really at stake, I had to look at our world through other eyes. The story is called "Eulogy":

Posted by P_Orin_Zack http://klurgsheld.wordpress.com on September 6, 2012 at 8:36 PM · Report this
Climate change is caused chemtrals also known as geo engineering that is pumping out aluminum and barium onto the population with no regard for life or health all around the world. It is weather control that is tied in with the harp program in Alaska and some wealthy people are funding this massive spraying operation to make even more billions of dollars and ruining the environment .He who controls the weather controls the world . Just look up in the sky and you will see the haze. Wake up ! go to infowars.com coalition against geo engineering
Posted by enviro man on September 6, 2012 at 10:27 PM · Report this
The heat this summer? We live in fucking Seattle. There wasn't even a summer.

Several of your talking points are credible, but the problem with pieces like this is that you exaggerate to no end, making any legitimate arguments seem illegitimate.
Posted by LMNOP on September 6, 2012 at 10:58 PM · Report this
By the way, I believe in global warming. But stop with the bullshit melodrama. It's not helping anyone.
Posted by LMNOP on September 6, 2012 at 11:07 PM · Report this
I take issue with one of the premises of your essay. You say that with a warmer world, we will have more clouds, but less rain. Vietnam, Philippeans, Uganda and other such places are quite warm. Their clouds drop plenty of rain.
Because water evaporates faster at higher temps, then we should have more clouds forming from the evaporation of a warmer ocean. More clouds means more rain. It will fall somewhere. Where it falls we can grow food. Rivers will carry some of that water to where irrigation ditches can support farms on dryer land. Farmers in North Dakota and Saskatchewan will have longer growing seasons.
What causes deserts is not clouds not dropping rain. It is wind patterns preventing counds from blowing over the deserts.
Even if I were to accept the premise that our fossil fuel contribution of 4% to the natural carbon cycle has any affect whatsoever on the climate, I am skeptical of the humanity will be destroyed predictions. A warmer climate does not mean an uninhabitable world. We are the future generations of the people of Atlantis. We are fine, even if Atlantis is beneath 50 fathoms of sea.
Posted by Roger Knight on September 7, 2012 at 3:31 AM · Report this
You might be right LMNOP. It might not go down like Golob writes. Then again, it might. It's sort of like tossing your kid into the River without a life jacket for a swim. They might drown, and then again they might not, but the possibility sure seems pretty effin high not to start making some reasonable preparations. Since half the people in this country don't believe in the concept at all and believe Jesus will snatch them out of their underwear to Stay-Puff theme park before any of this becomes a problem, the preparations are going to have to be pretty local.
Posted by Upriver Joe on September 7, 2012 at 6:40 AM · Report this
Rich Jensen 63
Despite all the cynical chatter above, there have been reasonable global CO2 reduction frameworks offered and discussed internationally, frameworks that include the developing world and have had the support of China and India. Unfortunately, the US has intervened repeatedly to disrupt the process.

It's the political climate that needs to change radically.

In Washington state, we have a constitutional amendment from the late 1940's that requires all fuel tax revenues to be spend on roads, not mass transit or other structural carbon reduction reforms. We should reverse this amendment and use market forces to both fund and encourage more socially responsible use of carbon locally.

A couple of years ago the Puget Sound Regional Council singed off on a regional transportation plan through 2040 that used weak carbon reduction targets. These should be revised.

Carbon progressives need to get serious at every level of policy and enforce the (weak) carbon targets that have been agreed to by local jurisdictions like Seattle, King County and the state.

On the national level, the best thing one can say about the Obama administration is that it is not as bad as Bush. He's still pro-drilling and "clean coal".

Still, change is possible. Because of initiatives in Germany over the last 15 years, they are now drawing 25% of their electricity from Solar, Wind and other non-nuclear, non-carbon-producing sources.

It's time to get beyond panic, denial, cynical nihilism and just, you know, be smart and insist on leading our leaders to do the right thing.
Posted by Rich Jensen http://bit.ly/donateSAWANT on September 7, 2012 at 7:49 AM · Report this
Ah yes. If only government were full of wise, forward looking people, they would overcome human nature. Then we wouldn't have to face reality or be responsible for ourselves.

Rich, has it occurred to you that maybe our globalized-permagrowth civilizational model is flawed and there are just flat too many fucking apes in the zoo?

Seems like a lot cleaner explanation.
Posted by Upriver Joe on September 7, 2012 at 10:10 AM · Report this
The only reason why climate change will be a catastrophe is if we prevent the adoption of effective engineering solutions for this crisis -- e.g., drought-tolerance GM crops (yes, they're safe; no, most GM technology is not sufficiently different than conventional breeding to justify draconian measures like California's Proposition 37), advanced materials science (yes, nanotechnology will have some downsides, but they are likely to be fewer than the upsides), advanced gas extraction and nuclear technologies, and the like.

What's peculiar about the whole climate change discussion is that the stratum of the population that is most alarmed about climate change is also the stratum that is most engaged in preventing the adoption of technologies that will help us adapt to climate change. Which we will do. Now, cue the rabid Rachel Carson-vintage "environmentalists" who will heap invective on this argument. The new environmentalists will be technology agnostic and will actually validate environmental impacts before ruling out new technologies.

For those of you with a huge, paralyzing pit of dread in their stomach with regard to the future in a changed climate: the climate shifts from one equilibrium to the next. We can adapt to the new equilibrium, but adaption will only be successful if you don't let yourself be terrorized into a depressive stupor by speculative articles like these.
Posted by Contrary Mary on September 7, 2012 at 11:18 AM · Report this
And by the way LMNOP if you look at the past century of warming, it's warmed very little here in the coastal Pacific Northwest. The warming and the impacts will be elsewhere, particularly the continental plateuas. You know, where most of the world's food is grown. The problem we'll face here is the hordes coming from elsewhere. It's OK to keep hope that nice progressive politicians (clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!) will save the day by making those bad bad oil companies change their ways, maybe we also ought to start thinking about how we're going to deal with that. Blow the bridges, maybe?
Posted by Upriver Joe on September 7, 2012 at 11:43 AM · Report this
So I won't be able to sell Doge Vipers to the rich and well to do in China rats e pooh.
Posted by flipx on September 7, 2012 at 12:17 PM · Report this
The government has shown us they will not rise to the occasion. We, the people need to get organized and start planning for the world we want. We can provide the future a foundation that is survivable. Begin looking into methods to sustain humanity like Permaculture. Begin to plant and rewild. Learn how to make the future.
It's not going to be survival of the fittest, it's going to be survival if the smartest.
Posted by picot verde on September 7, 2012 at 2:57 PM · Report this
How dare you title a column with this statement? You obviously have no idea what effect the total decemation of two japanese cities had on that country, it's people and culture. Millions of people died, suddenly. Millions of other people died, gradually, from radiation poisoning. I don't care how relevant or informed this column is, I believe you should apologise to the descendants of Hiroshima survivors for this statement.
Posted by Sequoyah on September 7, 2012 at 8:12 PM · Report this
CodyREly 70
obviously we need more bombs to tell china and india to knock it off.
Posted by CodyREly on September 8, 2012 at 12:38 PM · Report this
Gosh, jeekers,,,

This sounds like a job for someone from the Department of HOMELAND SECURITY!

Ooops, hey where ARE they ??
Posted by rpauli on September 8, 2012 at 4:09 PM · Report this
velotron 72
There isn't much to argue about in terms of increased global average temperatures if we continue business as usual, or in a more likely scenario, increased release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. But one hot dry summer in Seattle is not a valid data point in this argument. Local variability has existed since the dawn of the atmosphere. Hyperbolic arguments like this only serve to weaken the efforts of scientists who understand a greater scope of this complex problem than you do. The best thing we can do to help mitigate this potential calamity is to give voice to the trusted voices of those who dedicate their lives to technically understanding this complex problem. Political grandstanding like this only serves to cloud our civilization's best science.
Posted by velotron http://velotronheavyindustries.com on September 8, 2012 at 8:01 PM · Report this
The problem lies not in science but in the basic philosophy. "Support the scientists and progressive politicos," you argue with less conviction than hope, "and it'll all be ok."

Bullshit. Humans and their livestock account for more than half of all greenhouse gas emissions. Our agricultural model = pour oil on depleted dirt to create unsustainable levels of food production, the beimg to feed unsustainable levels of homo sapiens in its habitat.. That all these people really want to drive oil powered cars and light stuff up with coal powered electricity is just icing on the damn cake.

Humans have been around for a blink of an eye in geological terms (190,000 yrs or do), and our current civilizational model is about the equivalent of a gnat fart on that timescale. Theres nothing about it that should suggest permenancy to the ratIonal person. iThe fact we've managed to leverage our way around hard ecological limits doesn't mean they dont exist, it just means the overshoot will be bigger and more painful.

Until politicians start talking about a strategy for controlled global depopulation, they're wasting our time.

Posted by Upriver Joe on September 9, 2012 at 7:30 AM · Report this
@69 - I believe that you should take your manufactured outrage over something that didn't happen to you and stick it straight up your ass.
Posted by Rip City Hustle on September 9, 2012 at 9:38 AM · Report this
Was this considered a hot summer? It was better than last year, for sure, but didn't realize it was unusual. So now I'm afraid of what a cold summer means in these parts.
Posted by jussmbdy on September 9, 2012 at 10:47 AM · Report this
OutInBumF 76
As my BIL states: Humanity cannot damage Earth any worse than a comet strike, and life has returned after every one of those. Might not be human life, but who's counting.
Humanity's survival looked doubtful during the cold war, and seems unlikely with global warming.
Eat, drink and be merry- tomorrow we die.
Posted by OutInBumF on September 9, 2012 at 12:32 PM · Report this
OutinBum - that's a fine idea, so just dont expect me to share any my food. Re-read your childhood copy of "The Grasshopper and the Ant"...
Posted by Upriver Joe on September 9, 2012 at 2:01 PM · Report this
Relax, Al Gore says we have another 10 years until we are all vaporized. But didn’t he say same thing in '92.

Damn, I missed the ending of the world in 2002.

Did anyone else see it?
Posted by Cheffy on September 9, 2012 at 3:26 PM · Report this
Good article, and there should be many more like it.... In fact, this should be a constant topic of intelligent and urgent discussion at all levels of media and society. But that would be on some other planet, right? ....

Science has been looking at this question for over three decades now, and the scientific consensus is well-established. The writer wisely does not take on the task of spelling out the science once again -- there are hundreds of articles that do that effectively. He is looking at the human response, and judging from many of the comments here, and the political landscape, we're screwed. Some people think a cool summer in Seattle means we have nothing to worry about... wow. Just stay under that rock, you'll be fine.

Posted by JR77 on September 10, 2012 at 12:27 AM · Report this
Thanks for running this. I was glad you included a list of things that folks can do. Despite the cynicism, denial, and despair that such an article all too easily provokes (see above), I’m not willing to give up.

Another thing that folks can do is to lobby their representatives for a carbon tax. Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is working on this at a national level (they have a Seattle chapter). Their proposal would levy an annually rising fee on all carbon-based fuels at the source, pushing the market toward clean alternatives. The revenue would be returned to consumers to offset the rising price of fossil fuels, allowing them to choose whether to spend the money on carbon or non-carbon sources. Over time this will push the energy sector away from greenhouse-gas-producing fuels. Jim McDermott’s Managed Carbon Price Act and Pete Stark’s Save Our Climate Act both incorporate elements of this proposal, though they use some revenue for debt reduction.

Political pressure is indispensable for making the large-scale changes needed. True, climate change is already happening, but we can still act to prevent more, and worse. True, there is lots of ignorance, denial, and self-serving obstructionism, but there is also a large and growing body of people who realize action is needed, not just on the left. One virtue of the CCL proposal is that it appeals to conservatives with its revenue-neutral approach (i.e. no new money for big bad government) and progressives (offseting the regressive effects of a consumption tax).

And, yes, our industrial lifestyle is not sustainable in thelong run, as Upriver Joe keeps pointing out. But that does not mean that action within the political system is pointless, as a way to guide the change rather than just waiting for the collapse. It’s impossible to be hopeful about politicians or the system, but if the people themselves don’t have the power to effect change, why do they keep spending so much time and money to try to bamboozle us?

Davis Oldham

Posted by Screeve on September 10, 2012 at 11:00 AM · Report this

You are of course right theoretically, but in reality it seems like your hope for change is unfounded.

1. Whenever there have been major changes in the atmosphere and temperature it correlates with mass extinction. End of the Permian etc.

2. We are clearly experiencing major changes in the atmosphere and temperature. When it will manifest itself, and how, remains uncertain.

3. The human brain evolved specifically to deal with immediate, clear and present problems. Humans are essentially incapable of reacting to inchoate future threats when their scope and impact are uncertain. (Give me an example and I'll happily be proven wrong.)

4. There's a time lag of perhaps three decades from the behavior to the problem.

5. Any meaningful response will require letting go of the idea of permanent growth, economic and otherwise. This is the principal foundation of our civilization, so it isn't going to happen very easily.

6. Only a handful of people in our society are even talking about this. Over half the country still believes in some version of being snatched up to heaven by God as a sort of contingency plan.

So I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just saying it probably isn't going to happen.

Posted by Upriver Joe on September 10, 2012 at 1:29 PM · Report this
Summer 2012 in Seattle = A-bomb over Hiroshima? Have you no sense of proportion, or shame?

(Never mind the CO2, it's the nanobots that will get us in the end.
Posted by Paula C. on September 10, 2012 at 1:46 PM · Report this
Slam1263 83
Am I too late to add that I am loving the warmer weather?

Thanks Mother Nature, for releasing CO2, and your other assorted gases, or is you're from the south, vapors, on a scale that humans cannot compete with.

Thanks Mr. Sun, for entering the warming part of your natural solar cycle.

Thanks Environuts, for the laughs.

And remember to waste pure drinking water to rinse your recylables, that will be tossed into the regular landfill as nobody wants it.
Posted by Slam1263 on September 10, 2012 at 2:48 PM · Report this
Slam is an example of one more reason that a response won't happen: He is a scientifically illiterate idiot and thinks 7 degrees warmer means a better day at the beach, not Apocalypse for the human circus as we know it.

A law allowing forced sterilization of his ilk...now that would be cause for hope.

Posted by Upriver Joe on September 10, 2012 at 5:32 PM · Report this
heavyhebrew 85
Who ever said we deserve to survive? No one. Jonathan paints a pretty bleak picture but you know what, fuck it, I ain't quitting.

"A nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself." - F.D.R
Posted by heavyhebrew on September 10, 2012 at 9:25 PM · Report this
heavyhebrew, now there's the spirit. Give a godamn about future generations. Build local resiliency. Take care of yourself. Save and be frugal.

In other words, tell the Me Generation that their shit has got to go.
Posted by Upriver Joe on September 11, 2012 at 9:44 AM · Report this
internet_jen 87
Time to freak about Human Habitat Design:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are more than 100 million exit signs in use today in the U.S., consuming 30–35 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually. That’s the output of five or six 1,000 MW power plants, and it costs us $2-3 billion per year. Individual buildings may have thousands of exit signs in operation.

Posted by internet_jen on September 11, 2012 at 10:16 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 88
The best thing we can do to slow down climate change is not to ship coal to China, or oil from Canada's tar sands.

This forces them to invest more in alternative energy.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on September 11, 2012 at 10:59 AM · Report this
@81: Joe, I agree with a great deal of your analysis, though perhaps not all. We might quibble, for example, about reasons for hope. But what I'm really interested in is, what concrete steps do you propose to deal with the situation, accepting all your premises (lack of political will or even awareness, the dire situation of the climate, etc.)?
Posted by Screeve on September 11, 2012 at 11:57 AM · Report this
Screeve, I guess that depends on what time horizon you want to plan for. If you don't really care what happens to the children now being born, chances are you'll escape the worst of it by dying, of old age if you're lucky...

I see no particular reason for hope in the longer horizon, though.

Since the basic problem is overtaxed habitat in the first place, it would seem pretty illogical to advertise my own personal response.

But here are a few more vague suggestions:

1. Pretty much all problems come back to too many people. So stop breeding. Breeding should become a heavily taxed and licensed activity. Why do you need a license to cut hair but not make people? Heavily subsidize and promote population reduction initiatives abroad. We can let the air out of the balloon in a controlled way, or it will happen on Gaia's terms. Either way. I realize it's unconstitutional to do these things, but, well, so what. At one point, the Constitution said most blacks were 3/5th of a person. It can be changed if the collective brain changes.

2. Along those lines, start teaching children that growth is the enemy of their future. (Try selling that to the Chamber of Commerce!) We suffer from the baby boomer mantra disease - you can have it all, baby. Actually, no you can't. We get to be the first that has less. Get over it.

2. Protect geographical lifeboats, like here in the Northwest.

-Local/regional food self-sufficiency. That means agriculture, for the benefit of those Walter Mitty Rambos that hallucinate about fleeing the city for some piece of forest with their bug-out bag, to live under a tarp and snare squirrels, at some unspecified moment in the multi-generational downslope we're probably facing.

- Transition to a localized economy. It's fun to know the guy who grew you food, made your clothes, and brews your beer, anyway.

- Build community resilience. Buzzphrase alert, but that basically means thinking about how to stand on our own two feet when the magic container vans full of stuff stop showing up.

-Not advocating for militias just yet, but it's probably a good idea to start thinking about how we maintain security since things don't have to go very far downhill to find ourselves in a world where the cops don't come running the second you pick up the phone. If you've spent time in various places in Africa or Central Asia you already know what that looks like.

I realize that this is still pretty vague, and that's because it's a philosophy more than a series of policy moves. But you get the idea.

We have a model: what happens when a highly globalized centralized economy starts to collapse under its own weight over a long time horizon? That's what happened to Rome, and there are lots of parallels.

We should start looking for the stuff that worked then, hopefully with a plan for keeping around the stuff that would be nice to keep that we have now(like the internet and health care). Because, really, who wants to be a Dark Ages peasant that dies at 35 of an infected hangnail.

Not me, so I guess I don't really want it for my genetic descendants.

Posted by Upriver Joe on September 11, 2012 at 2:41 PM · Report this
Slam1263 91
Wow, SuckRiverJoe, sterilization for those that don't kow tow towards your stupid ideas.

I guess I am not narrow minded, or mean spirited enough to be as leftist as you are.

But keep hating so, it makes the Right, and Center, laugh.
Posted by Slam1263 on September 11, 2012 at 3:02 PM · Report this
Many people are saying "we could do this" and "we should do that," but the simple fact is that none of that stuff is going to happen. Even if everyone woke up tomorrow and screamed "oh no, we've got to do something," still, not much would be done. In part because all our major institutions are paralyzed, struggling for their own survival, they have little ability to adjust and act creatively.

If youre looking clearly at the way things are going to develop, we should either be doing what we can as individuals to build life-boats, or just relaxing and enjoying what we've got, prepared to starve gracefully when the time comes. Or maybe a little bit of both.
Posted by s1 on September 11, 2012 at 3:47 PM · Report this
I study mediated framing patterns regarding global climate change and I want to send a big ol' high five over to to Mr. Golob for this article. Studies have shown that when climate change is framed with a scary, but honest narrative AS WELL AS a hopeful, let's get sh*t done narrative that it is more likely to cause concern in the audience than either of the frames alone. Both were present in this article and I love it. I can only hope it will be effective and I believe it will be. :)
Posted by Karyn B on September 11, 2012 at 4:03 PM · Report this
Great article.... Feynman is one of my favorite people of all time.
Posted by AudreyH84 on September 11, 2012 at 11:18 PM · Report this
The elephant in the room that is constantly ignored is population growth. If each person cuts their energy use by half, and the population doubles again, which it's predicted to, we've accomplished nothing.
Posted by sfguy on September 12, 2012 at 7:04 AM · Report this
Climate models uniformly exaggerate the effects of CO2 by claiming a "multiplier effect" in the form of clouds. Go back and look at modeled predictions from 15 or 20 years ago. All of them predicted higher temperatures than exist now.

CO2 definitely affects climate, but not nearly as much as many claim. Current temperatures are entirely within natural variation--the only difference is we have more CO2 from mankind. If this raises temps slightly (e.g., 1 or 2C over 100 years), so what?

Alternative energy research should continue, but let's not destroy our economy and infrastructure based on rank speculation from chicken littles. There is NO science to support the notion that CATASTROPHIC climate change will occur. In fact, recent flattening of temps indicates such theories are flat out wrong. Shouting that the sky is falling doesn't mean that it is. We have much bigger fish to fry--pollution, disease, hunger, poverty--than the idiocy of non-existent catastrophic manmade climate change.
Posted by unclezeke on September 12, 2012 at 7:14 AM · Report this
The IPCC states that we’re in for a roughly 1.2C temperature increase based on a doubling of CO2 in the next 100 years. But what about those dire predictions of hellish warming?

Climate models all rely on various "multiplier effects" in the form of clouds, etc., that conjecture positive feedback will greatly enhance the warming effect of CO2. Let me be clear: no one, not even the IPCC, disputes that the effect of CO2 alone will be fairly minimal. For warming to be a real problem, we need big multiplier effects to exist.

There isn't any good evidence for large multiplier effects. Go back and look at modeled predictions from 15 or 20 years ago. They predict higher temperatures than exist now. This is because of incorrectly stated multiplier effects. These multiplier effects remain the fundamental basis for all dire predictions that concern citizens of our fair nation today. But these multiplier effects are largely unknown (and to the extent relied upon by previous catastrophic models, simply incorrect). Dire predictions all rely on positive multipliers, but negative multipliers also exist (e.g., increase CO2 uptake into the oceans and biosphere).

While CO2 affects climate, its impact isn’t nearly as large as many think. Current temperatures are entirely within natural variation—the only difference is that we have more CO2 from mankind. What looks likely is that CO2 may raise temps slightly (e.g., 1 or 2C over 100 years.) Predictions of 3C (or insane predictions like 6C or 7C) of warming are simply unsupportable conjecture. There is no good science to support the notion that CATASTROPHIC climate change will occur. Please wipe the flecked spittle from your face, outraged reader—a computer model that makes a future prediction for 75 years from now aren’t science. These models all rely on totally unproven multiplier effects. Remember, doubling CO2 alone (which will take a LONG time) will only increase temps about 1C! And it could be even less if multiplier effects are negative, for which there is reasonable evidence (e.g. increase carbon uptake in the biosphere).

Alternative energy research should continue, as should climate research. But let's not destroy our economy and infrastructure based on rank speculation from Chicken Littles. Shouting that the sky is falling doesn't make it so. One hot summer (or a cold winter) also doesn’t mean that life as we know it is ending. We have much bigger fish to fry on this planet—combatting pollution, disease, hunger, poverty--than fighting the non-existent spectre of catastrophic manmade climate change.

So, stop freaking about 1C of warming over the next hundred years.
Posted by unclezeke on September 12, 2012 at 7:52 AM · Report this
Thanks Jonathan. Excellent article.

I rarely bother to read the comments, but this collection is truely instructive.
Posted by StephN on September 12, 2012 at 12:49 PM · Report this
Summer 2012 in Seattle = Hiroshima?
Why not = the Holocaust?
Some people have no sense of proportion, or shame.
Posted by tuttiquanti on September 12, 2012 at 1:58 PM · Report this
Humans don't deserve this planet, and you're about to prove it. Die, all of you, and good riddance.
Posted by woof on September 12, 2012 at 2:45 PM · Report this
I hate to be a wet blanket here folks, but an article that just appeals to emotion (Fear) does a great injustice. I'm all for getting rid of pollutants, heck, I'm one of those organic 'freaks'. But, CO2 is something we all exhale. So, basically you are being told that you exhale a poison. But the plants love the stuff, in fact they all give out more oxygen with more CO2. Remember the days of the dinosaurs? The world was much warmer than the dire predictions of climate change, and guess what most of the earth was covered with lush jungles.

If you want to know the real reason the 'Fertile Crescent' is a desert nowadays it's because of Monoculture of crops. Yes, acres and acres of wheat or corn (nowadays) eventually kills the soil off, when the plants all die the rain will no longer come. Monoculture is not a naturally occuring thing throughout nature. That is why we are in risk from starvation. Check out Permaculture for a real solution.

I too, look forward to a future without the need for gas guzzling cars. Cars used to run on Alcohol until the Big Oil interests took care of that problem. ;)

In closing, please remember that many very Rich people who (who favor Corporatism/Fascism and Plutocracy) think they know what's best for us (and would like us all to live in Third World conditions) (Ever hear of Neo-Feudalism?) fund the climate change researchers on both sides of this game. You can't lose if you control both sides of the game. So, the next time you're squabbling to be taxed for the very air you breathe, you might consider what these rich men had to say years ago at The Club of Rome (look it up for yourself):

"It would seem that humans need a common motivation, namely a common adversary, to organize and act together in the vacuum; such a motivation must be found to bring the divided nations together to face an outside enemy, either a real one or else one invented for the purpose.

New enemies therefore have to be identified.
New strategies imagined, new weapons devised.

The common enemy of humanity is man.

In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.

The old democracies have functioned reasonably well over the last 200 years, but they appear now to be in a phase of complacent stagnation with little evidence of real leadership and innovation

Democracy is not a panacea. It cannot organize everything and it is unaware of its own limits. These facts must be faced squarely. Sacrilegious though this may sound, democracy is no longer well suited for the tasks ahead. The complexity and the technical nature of many of today’s problems do not always allow elected representatives to make competent decisions at the right time.”
Posted by Misc. on September 14, 2012 at 4:33 AM · Report this
osage2112: Just as long as you're aware that the GOP and their Tea Party pawns STARTED this Hiroshima.
Romney / Ryan: Just Say NO!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 15, 2012 at 4:18 PM · Report this
I believe our world and corporate leaders and general public are so ignorant and self absorbed that no matter how bad it starts getting, people will do nothing. Like they are right now, when things have never been worse for the environment and the signs of doom never clearer.. As sad as this may seem, the only way I believe emissions will stop ravaging Earth is by a disease deadly enough to wipe out humanity and do it for us.
Posted by boarderbro on December 7, 2012 at 2:56 PM · Report this
Human societies always fail and exceed their ability to reflexively modernize the unintended consequences of their meager technology and innovation. Failure races against education and reflexive steps to ameliorate unintended consequences of previous forms of social organization, energy use, agriculture and technology. This society is failing bc it chooses to fail. You can't have this many people tuning into "American Idol" and a technologically advanced civilization that has its shit together. It is, essentially, a stupid culture and voices of reason are weak against it.
Posted by fgH on May 12, 2013 at 10:13 PM · Report this

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