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.

Comments

1
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.
2
I'm going to kill myself. Clearly life isn't worth living any longer. Death is the only release.
3
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.
4
That new desert will be a great place for solar panels and wind farms!
5
Take a Xanax and relax. We had our usual 3 month summer that ends Sept 8th.
6
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?
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.
8
You have to admit it would be pretty interesting to witness the end of humanity though.
9
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?
10
It's ok, natural gas will save the day. Bonanza! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNdhFi3M…
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.
12
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.
13
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.
14
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.
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.
16
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.
17
Thank you for a well-written article, Jonathan!
18
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.
19
@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...
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.
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.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?ne…
22
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.
23
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.
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:
http://www.worldwatch.org/node/810
25
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.
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.
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!!!
28
@27

Listen to The Doctor.
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.
30
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.
31
I want a NEW car. Cars are the solution.
32
I love when people talk about "living off the grid" when they are using a computer.
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.
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.
35
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.
36
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.

http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=27699

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?
37
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.

http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=27699

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?
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.
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/…
40
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.
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.
42
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
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.
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...
http://daily.sightline.org/2012/06/18/co…
45
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?
46
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.
47
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.
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.
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.
50
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.
51
"Global average temperatures are up about half a degree centigrade."

Much more of this and I'll need to apply another layer of sunblock.
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!
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.
54
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.
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.
56
@38
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.
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":

http://klurgsheld.wordpress.com/2011/05/…
58
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
59
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.
60
By the way, I believe in global warming. But stop with the bullshit melodrama. It's not helping anyone.
61
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.
62
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.
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.
64
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.
65
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.
66
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?
67
So I won't be able to sell Doge Vipers to the rich and well to do in China rats e pooh.
68
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.
69
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.
70
obviously we need more bombs to tell china and india to knock it off.
71
Gosh, jeekers,,,

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

Ooops, hey where ARE they ??
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.
73
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.

74
@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.
75
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.
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.
77
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"...
78
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?
79
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.

80
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

81
Davis

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.

82
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.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/articl…).
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.
84
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.

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
86
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.
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.

http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/…
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.
89
@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.)?
90
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.

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.
92
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.
93
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. :)
94
Great article.... Feynman is one of my favorite people of all time.
95
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.
96
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.
97
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.
98
Thanks Jonathan. Excellent article.

I rarely bother to read the comments, but this collection is truely instructive.
99
Summer 2012 in Seattle = Hiroshima?
Why not = the Holocaust?
Some people have no sense of proportion, or shame.
100
Humans don't deserve this planet, and you're about to prove it. Die, all of you, and good riddance.