Climate Crisis: Are we there yet?

28 11 2014

Published on Youtube 27 Nov 2014

A lively panel discussion with Dr. Guy McPherson, Dr. Rick Nolthenius, Joe Jordan, Dr. Carol Stoker, and a participating Santa Cruz audience reviews a wide variety of opinions on whether we are in a climate crisis.  At first, I thought this was going to be a Guy McPherson love fest, but it’s much better than that……  proper scientists putting McPherson into perspective.  Things aren’t great, but we still have time to stop the worst of it…

Joe  Jordan and Carol Soker needs to visit this site, however……  his optimism of solar power is well overcooked!  Let’s face it, everyone has opinions, and they all have something to say that adds to everyone’s knowledge.  So share the knowledge…


Are we already past dangerous climate change?

26 02 2014

Are we already past dangerous climate change? asks a Mark Cochrane follower over at Peak Prosperity dot com….. This paper (PDF) – not peer reviewed – he ads, is a critique of the AR5 WG1 SPM. David Wasdell lays out a case that the current situation is far worse than the AR5 posits. He uses a much higher value of Earth System Sensitivity to show that we have no carbon budget left, even for 2C. He also uses other sensitivity estimates to show that there is, at best, very little or no budget left to avoid dangerous climate change.

Wasdell is one of the climate scientists that Guy McPherson leans heavily on for his NTE scenarios, so this question is quite pertinent to How Guy McPherson gets it wrong..

Mark Cochrane

Mark Cochrane


Mark replied: Yes we are………But

I read through the 21 page document and it is a good expose of how the politics of the IPCC process shades an already conservative (consensus) representation of what the science indicates is likely to occur as a function of a given amount of greenhouse forcing. For those who do not know, the IPCC process requires 100% consensus of all the authors nominated by all the countries to agree on their interpretation of the data. This means that in the end, after marathon sessions of back and forth, the final interpretation depends on just how far the most skeptical scientists are willing to be moved. These are not ‘alarmist’ interpretations as some would have you believe. Furthermore, the public does not really look at the IPCC report, they look at the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) which is a short Cliff Notes version. The short version is wrangled over by political appointees (not scientists) who literally argue over every word and every figure. They produce a sanitized version of the report that all governments can support. Again, not conducive to ‘alarmist’ or even the most likely scenarios.

That said, the author (Wasdell) of the document you linked and the IPCC authors are talking about two different outcomes with regard to the made up 2C line in the sand for “dangerous” climate change. The SPM is focused on the so-called fast feedbacks (e.g. radiative forcing of greenhouse gases) and the likely temperature impacts within this century. Wasdell is making the case for including both fast and slow feedbacks and using a final equilibrium temperature as the metric of “dangerous” temperature changes. The slow feedbacks include things like changing albedo values from melting ice sheets and methane release from melting permafrost. These slow feedbacks stretch out for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years. So even if we manage to keep increases under 2C this century (unlikely), the planetary temperatures will certainly rise above that value over the following centuries. Though everything we see shows the 2050 and 2100 outcomes of the model projections the IPCC also does some analyses of “Long-term” changes out to 2300. Here is the figure from the AR4.

The unrealistic goal of 2C is pretty obvious even on the sanitized Figure 10 in the SPM of AR5 (AR5 SPM link; figure is on page 28). Every scenario but the fantasy RCP 2.6 blows past 2C  by 2100 and the trajectories are shooting even higher into the future.

The IPCC and especially the SPM make use of the Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) for a doubling equivalent of carbon dioxide concentration, which basically accounts for fast feedbacks and is taken to probably be between 2 and 4.5C, with 3C used as the most likely value (note some models show it to be >5C). Wasdell is arguing to use what is termed the Earth System Sensitivity (ESS) which includes both long and short term feedbacks. It is poorly constrained but may be twice as large as the ECS values.

In the near term there is not a huge difference in using one over the other and what needs to be kept in perspective is that both approaches are postulating an outcome for a doubled CO2 equivalent that is held constant which is not actually a realistic model of what is likely to happen. It does give a measure of sensitivity though. If you are going to try to make mitigating attempts, going after the fast feedbacks is the most reasonable approach since doing things like reducing methane emissions from fossil fuels (or cows!) could make meaningful changes in the short term that have long term significance, while trying to shade glaciers to mitigate long term feedbacks would be ludicrous.

Ultimately though, the 2C threshold is just a chimera created to give policymakers and the public a figure to hang their concerns on. Barring a miracle or a global catastrophe, we are not likely to reduce emissions by the >80% necessary before 2020 in order to maybe squeak in under 2C this century.  In any case, the climate change (0.8C) that we’ve already experienced has led to numerous extinctions and many thousands of human deaths (e.g. 80,000 in 2003 Europe, 50,000 in 2010 Russia). Surely this has already reached “dangerous levels”.

The Future is Impossible…….

8 02 2014


Pr Kevin Anderson

I don’t know how this person managed to go under my radar unnoticed for this long, but following on from a discussion on the Conversation, some bloke who calls himself Trevor S gave me a link to the Cabot Institute Annual Lecture 2012 by Professor Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Centre…..

The lecture goes for 58 minutes, and a warning, it’s not for non doomers.

I have to say I have been struggling lately with how our future will turn out.  There have been loads of discussions all over the internet about whether CC will cause Near Term Extinction (the Guy McPherson camp), or whether we really don’t need to worry about CC too much because economic collapse is close at hand and it will put an end to the emissions nonsense,   All the techno optimists are out in force telling us they will save the day with Boron, Thorium, EVs, renewables, biomass, etc etc…….  while Gail Tverberg tells us it will never happen because Limits to Growth is at hand and none of this will occur….

You have to understand that I actually respect all these people very highly, I understand where each one of them is coming from, and I can see all their scenarios being possibilities.  Disappointingly, there was quite a spat recently between Nicole Foss and Guy McPherson over this, which I refuse to get involved in….  are we not all on the same side?  Throw in David Holmgren’s Crash on Demand discourse, and it all gets even more confusing.  Here‘s an excellent podcast of David and Nicole (not speaking at the same interview unfortunately…)  I had trouble with that link not working (might be fine for windoze users..), but instead downloaded the mp3 file to my laptop.

Kevin Anderson seems to be well aware of the stupidity of neo classical growthist economics, but his predictions of increasing emissions, and I mean exponential increases, are totally at odds with Peak oil and resources constraints as discussed by Simon Michaux……  Of course, he is absolutely right in pointing out that emissions actually grew faster than ever since the GFC started in 2008, in the face of Peak Oil no less, which he never mentions, and you have to wonder how this is happening.  I know I do….  Maybe I should arrange a conference with all these people present so they could thrash these points out for me!  Just imagine a dinner party with Nicole, Gail, Guy, David, Kevin, plus James Howard Kunstler for light relief…….  Oh and Chris Martenson too while we’re at it…  what a doozie that would be!

jumpEvery morning, I open my laptop in anticipation of a serious economic crash……  but it never comes.  Has anyone else seen news items about high flyers (or should that be fallers?) in Wall Street jumping off buildings..?

In a span of four days last week, two current executives and one recently retired top ranking executive of major financial firms were found dead. Both media and police have been quick to label the deaths as likely suicides. Missing from the reports is the salient fact that all three of the financial firms the executives worked for are under investigation for potentially serious financial fraud.

Nuclear Armageddon

26 01 2014

Nuclear Armageddon is here. We’ve bought a lie about the alleged safety of nuclear energy. The lie was promoted on the basis of another lie, one we should’ve recognized immediately under the auspices of, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” The latter lie is the promise of electricity too-cheap-to-meter.”>We understate risks and plough ahead with dangerously complex and transient nuclear projects because in one century we have become addicted to electricity. Ironically, the first two million years of the human experience indicate that electricity is an unneeded luxury.

What do we need? Like all organisms on Earth, we need habitat for our species. Notably, such habitat includes clean air, clean water, healthy food, the ability to maintain body temperature at a safe level, and — for most of us — a decent, loving human community. These few elements allow us not simply to survive, but to thrive.  Even the Hierarchy of Human Needs developed by celebrated 20th century psychologist Abraham Maslow reflects exactly the statement above.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Note the absence of electricity from this list of survival needs. I would go further and suggest that grid-tied electricity results directly from the patriarchy associated with men packing guns, but that would be off-topic for this essay.

The nuclear threat

Since I first learned about global peak oil and its economic consequences, nuclear catastrophe has been my constant nightmare. It’s easy to imagine the world’s nuclear power plants melting down catastrophically when the monetary system fails, and failure of the electrical grid follows. Assuming we can maintain economic growth forever on a finite planet has us headed straight for global-scale disaster.

Japan, as bad as it is suffering right now, is a harbinger of far worse events ahead. And ionizing radiation is only one of many adverse artifacts of industrial civilization.

Until recently, Japan had the second-largest industrial economy in the world. It’s a country so deeply terrified of nuclear disaster that it’s taken the strongest steps to insure against natural disasters of all kinds. Yet in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011 near Fukushima Daiichi, all 13 backup diesel generators failed in plant number one.

Why were there even 13 backup diesel generators? Because, contrary to myth, nuclear power plants require external power to keep them running.  And they need to keep running because if they stop running, they begin to melt down. It’s a real-life hamster-wheel, except no one gets off without serious consequences.

Imagine the horrors when the diesel stops flowing to the world’s nuclear power plants, which number more than 400. Many of these plants are found in countries with infrastructure and safety records far worse than we find in Japan. This is truly the stuff of nightmares, and the only way out is to forgo sleep.

How bad is it?

I often hear we have nothing to worry about. Ionizing radiation isn’t that big a deal. After all, people are living in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, and some have proclaimed the area a haven for wildlife. Sure enough, the exclusion zone has abundant wildlife. However, no significant sampling effort has been undertaken to determine animal numbers, and a quarter century after Chernobyl melted down many species exhibit high levels of abnormalities, including potentially lethal mutations.

And just when some people thought it was safe to commission more nuclear power plants, Fukushima splashed across the headlines. The mainstream media, Japanese and American governments, and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) tell us not to worry. It’s all firmly under control. On the other hand, people with more incentive to tell the truth than these entities indicate otherwise.

Four months after nuclear disaster struck Fukushima, MSNBC tried to protect “those in power” by stifling news anchor Cenk Uygur. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson pointed out in October 2013 that governments were withholding the truth about stillbirths, deformities, and health defects, and were suppressing studies on deformed animals.

The scientific evidence continues to grow, with abundant signs pointing in the wrong direction for survival of humans and other species. Dr. Timothy Mousseau, with his horrific overview of nuclear nightmares in March 2013, documents the destruction and demise of animals in the Chernobyl exclusion zone as severe as extirpation (i.e., local extinction). Mousseau had this to say on Fukushima in early September 2013: “Given the vast amounts of material that was released I think there will be measurable amounts of radioactive cesium hitting the West Coast, blanketing the West Coast for some time to come.” In an interview with RT from August 2013, nuclear fallout researcher Christina Consolo indicated that billions of people could die from release of ionizing radiation from Fukushima alone. The following month, Yale professor Charles Perrow concluded that events at Fukushima could lead to fission of fuel rods and, “all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years.” And in October 2013, Canadian scientist David Suzuki added his voice to the conversation, calling Fukushima, “the most terrifying situation I can imagine.”

The situation is already terrifying for the 71 sailors assigned to the USS Ronald Reagan who responded to the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan for four days. They’ve reported radiation sickness and will file a lawsuit against TEPCO. At least half the sailors have contracted some form of cancer.

In early January 2014 Gordon Edwards, nuclear expert and president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, concludes that four of the six reactors at Fukushima exploded, and three of the four melted down: “They found a pool of water beside the tank that was leaking, that pool of water — they measured the radiation levels — if a person stood beside that pool of water for 1 hour, they would die of radiation poisoning.” Days later, an overview of the situation at Fukushima Daichi concluded: “There is little reason to expect anything but  worsening conditions, slowly or suddenly, for years and years to come. And there is even less reason to expect anyone in authority anywhere to be more than minimally and belatedly truthful about an industry they continue to protect, no matter how many people it damages or kills.”13

Fukushima Daichi represents a single nuclear plant. More than 400 plants exist throughout the world. They require decades to decommission, and more are being commissioned each year.

Absence of leadership

In my dreams, world leaders would act to decommission nuclear power plants instead of commissioning more of them. I’ve lived long enough to expect otherwise.

If I were king of the world for a decade — or even a day — I would immediately order a rapid but methodical shutdown and then closure of all nuclear power plants. The alternative is emergency shutdowns in myriad ways, all of them hasty and unplanned, as the world’s industrial economy continues its ongoing demise while the effects of climate change wreak daily havoc hither and yon. The results of decline and disaster are completely predictable and unimaginably horrific, and they include numerous core meltdowns and huge releases of radiation.

Perhaps we will avoid causing our own extinction via ionizing radiation in the wake of worldwide nuclear catastrophe. But such a positive outcome will only result from careful planning and strong leadership. The nuclear industry is a microcosm of industrial civilization, favoring short-term monetary profit over life on Earth. At some point, the result is carved in stone. I suspect that point draws near.

Equal inheritance

The consequences of huge unplanned releases of radiation into Earth’s atmosphere include death to many land-dwelling species on the planet. Considering the interdependencies between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, the extinction of many aquatic species would follow on the heels of extinction of terrestrial species.

Radiation is impartial. Radiation doesn’t discriminate. In short, the near-term consequences of nuclear catastrophe likely to result from collapse of the world’s industrial economy are unthinkable.

So let’s put our hearts and minds together to think of something else. Something much better. Unless you’re really into peeling skin, deformed babies, and glowing in the dark.



Reality Check……

25 12 2013

Merry Christmas from Guy Mc Pherson.  And me.


Arctic Death Spiral and the Methane Time Bomb

18 11 2013

I wasn’t convinced about Guy McPherson’s assertion of Near Term Human Extinction…….  but now I’m not so unsure.  This really scary movie made me feel like blowing up coal railway lines and assassinating a few dickhead politicians. We are TOAST. IF you haven’t got the download bandwidth, let me know;  leave an address in a message, and I’ll send you a CD…. but the time to revolt has well and truly arrived.

The start’s a bit crap in my opinion, they even misspelled SPIRAL in the title…….  I recommend skipping the first ten minutes.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse…..

6 11 2013

When Dr Helen Caldicott says “If there’s another earthquake and building four collapses which contains the cooling pools with fresh fuel, I’m going to evacuate my family from Boston”, you know it’s getting serious……

But wait, it gets worse……..  and I really don’t know what to make of this one, because my expertise is limited; but I feel the need to report this.  If anyone can refute the below, I would be eternally grateful…

On ‘The Conversation’, from where I occasionally glean some of their more interesting articles, someone called Alex Cannara who declares himself knowledgeable about nuclear power and Thorium declared:

We’ve burned >500 billion tons of fossil carbon in the last 150+ years, making >1.5 trillion tons of CO2. About 30% of that has dissolved in seas.

Even if we “stopped using energy” today, that remaining CO2 in air will continue to dissolve in seas. Ocean pH has already dropped 0.1 in the last 150+ years, and even more in the N. Atlantic. Another 0.1 drop and the sea life forms that are the base of most food chains begin to fail, as some already are in the N. Atlantic.

There’s more CO2 in air that can still dissolve in seas to reduce pH below the survival point for all the species that form the natural carbon cycle’s end game (limestone) and the base of ocean food chains that supply ~20% of all human food protein.

Crossing that pH point means extinctions. Even if we were able to correct pH later, “extinction” has a kind of permanence to it, eh?

So, in order to protect oceanic chemistry (pH) from the inevitable further dissolution of our CO2, we must actively make benign alkali to add to seas at the rate of billions of tons. A marine biologists & chemist can explain suitable chemicals.

But, these chemicals require processing at higher temperatures than available from present ‘green’ power, including nuclear. They need this because we must effectively reverse much of the combustion that produced the CO2 by removing CO2 from, say dolomite, and adding the result to seas, while splitting the CO2 , releasing the O2 to where it was and then storing the C safely, forever.

This must effectively occur before about 2035, where the ocean pH begins to fall below 8,0.

This is not news, and was effectively explained by Arrhenius in 1896, 1905… And, the need for advanced nuclear heat has also long been known:

We humans just love to be lazy and create unnecessary tragedies.

Long, is not the term I would use regarding that report at the above link……  it was written in 1962, when I was ten years old!  A lot of things have changed since then.

Regardless of Cannara’s enthusiasm for nuclear power, I don’t believe for one minute that we will ever build the nukes he desires in the numbers required, even if it was to ‘save ourselves’ from extinction.  Civilisation will be swamped with dealing with the retirement of those plants that already exist – if we even survive Fukushima.  We, it seems now, are doomed if we do, and doomed if we don’t.

If this acidification of the oceans is indeed irreversible (at least in short human terms), and its effects are as bad as Cannara says, and we experience the methane releases Guy Mc Pherson is discussing everywhere, then it is indeed all over.

What bloody idiots we are………


Our resident scientist Dave Kimble had a look at this, and this is what he thinks:

Making an alkali out of something that is neutral takes A LOT of energy and produces an equal amount of acid.

For example:
NaCl (common salt) + H2O (water) => NaOH (caustic soda) + HCl (hydrochloric acid)
delta-H: (-411) + (-285) + E = (-469) + (-167)
E = 60 kJ/mol
E = 60 kJ / 20 gm(NaOH)
E = 3,000,000,000 J / tonne(NaOH)
E = 833 KW.h / tonne(NaOH) – not counting inefficiencies

2NaOH + H2CO3 => 2NaHCO3 + 2H2O
2(11+8+1) tonnes(NaOH) neutralises (2+12+24) tonnes(H2CO3)
1 tonne(NaOH) neutralises 38/40 tonnes of H2CO3, which was 26/40 tonnes(CO2)
E = 541 KW.h / tonne(CO2)
E = 61 GW.year / billion tonnes(CO2)

So I don’t reckon nuclear power could do it.