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Climate Change in a Nutshell: The Gathering Storm [pdf] (columbia.edu)
62 points by ramonvillasante 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 136 comments

Climate discussion now seems to come from Yes, Prime Minister. (1986). We appear to be at stage 3.

I don't understand US politics.. Most UK voters, of both political sides, agree there is an issue, and want constructive solutions[0]. Some more US-like differences at the margins, and differences in urgency, but there appears to be a broad consensus among the public. Less so amongst politicians themselves.

Does political consensus no longer exist on any issues in the US any more? Is all science politicised?

Sir Richard Wharton: "In stage one we say nothing is going to happen."

Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Stage two, we say something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it."

Sir Richard Wharton: "In stage three, we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there's nothing we can do."

Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Stage four, we say maybe there was something we could have done, but it's too late now."

[0] http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/news/the-public-suppo...

In the U.S. and apparently also in Australia, it's all politicized by the right wing climate science deniers, who have swallowed petrol industry propaganda, who view the embrace of basic science by anyone, regardless of their actual place on the political spectrum, as an Obama/Clinton/"libtard" hoax aimed at taxing their precious wallets and taking away their freedom. You can see it in the comments here denying climate science and making false claims about the existence of "many scientists" who disagree with the consensus and think there are other causes of climate change, ignorant nonsense about coming ice ages, and so on.

I'm in my thirties. I don't have kids, but want them. I don't want to admit to them that I did nothing about global warming when it counted. The thing is that I don't know what I should do; it seems so big, so intractable.

Articles like these stir me to action, but what action? Where's the mass movement on this? Where's the group, the party, the leadership?

Ignore the doom-and-gloom headlines. Climate change is still a solvable problem. We have all the tools we need.

1. Learn about the best ways to get carbon out of the atmosphere [0]

2. Help build the political will for carbon pricing, ideally via Fee & Dividend. The vast majority of economists agree that once GHG pollution costs are internalized, the problem will solve itself quickly. The most effective organization in this regard is Citizens' Climate Lobby [1] – I highly recommend getting in touch with a local chapter. We all tend to be much more cynical about politics than is warranted; I was surprised how rewarding it feels to participate in the political sausage-making.

3. (Optional) Learn about/work on/invest in future carbon removal technologies [2]

[0] Rank list of the Top 100 carbon removal strategies: https://www.drawdown.org

[1] Citizens' Climate Lobby: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/

[2] http://carbon.ycombinator.com/

I also found this one extremely interesting:

What can a technologist do about climate change? By Bret Victor: http://worrydream.com/ClimateChange/

The mass movement is getting there.

I just came home from a rally for a more climate friendly state budget in my home country of Norway. I'm energized and glad to find that there are many like-minded people in the world. I think I'll be volunteering for an environmental organization soon; turning my thoughts into action today felt good. I've been worried and waiting for change to happen. And now I've finally found somewhere to place my energy.

Extinction Rebellion seems the best chance of a movement that may actually achieve something. If they get critical mass. Early signs are promising (They only started this year).

UK: https://rebellion.earth/

Globally: https://xrebellion.org/

I think many people signal that they are against global warming, but very few are ready to give up any thing. Many people I know just think not using polyethylene is the only required thing(which emits less CO2 than reusable bag, even counting reusing), or at most using bicycles for intracity travel. I think here is few of the (hard)things you can do which actually does effect according to my research:

- Don't travel on planes(And definitely don't be like Leonardo Dicaprio using private planes after giving speech on climate change)

- Don't eat beef/pork

- Don't use AC or use it minimally

- Same with hot water

- Don't have lawn in your house

IIRC something like 70%-80% of CO2 emissions are industrial, not personal. By all means do whatever you can, but the idea that global warming is all about our individual habits is essentially a smokescreen. If we want to fix this, the most important thing is to force corporations and governments to take action.

this is a false dichotomy people use as an excuse to do nothing.

individual action and forcing corporations and governments to change are not in opposition, they are a feedback loop.


Edit: One reason I doubt this is, China emits half of US per capita emissions while manufacturing more(steel, concrete, most high volume products) per capita.

You can't do anything individually, other than vote for people who represent your point of view. The sorts of things that would make a difference, such as international agreements on CO2, can only be enacted by governments.

You can drive an EV, or stop eating beef, or pay the renewable-energy rate on your electric bill, and feel good about it if you want, but it won't make a bit of difference on a global scale.

Reading thru replies. Thanks for taking the time. I hasten to add that what I meant is more "what can I do with other people, perhaps collectively?"

The focus on our individual behavior is all well and good as far as it goes, but I agree with a commenter below that it can't be the only thing each of us does. I don't own a car, I live in an apartment building, I eat very little red meat, etc. But the hour is getting late, clearly, and it can't just be "let's make sure everyone recycles". Power is real: a small number of people in this world wield vast amounts of it, and they're dead-set on staying the course. My not eating beef will not make a dent in those peoples' behavior, so it's times like these when our/my American focus on "what we can do as individuals" feels maddeningly myopic. I want something more. I guess the good news is a lot of you feel the same way, maybe?

The most powerful thing you could probably do is vote for politicians who have made it a goal to fight climate change.

First of all, since this is a community in which many fancy themselves engineers, ground yourself in the numbers. The main ones being:

- number of gigatons emitted to date

- rate of ongoing emissions

- change in the rate of ongoing emissions

- what total emissions numbers correspond to what PPM in the atmosphere

- what ppm in the atmosphere correspond to what degrees of C warming (in various timeframes)

here is a nice infographic from the latest ipcc report that shows some of them: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2018/10/SPM1... pay particularly close attention to the one in the bottom left.

- what degrees C warming correspond to drought, desertification and crop failures in what areas/river-valleys (note: sea level rise won't actually be a problem until after the famines, focus on the famines)

Once you get a feel for the numbers the "what to do" becomes a fairly obvious "everything/panic/get-super-duper-radical". But I can't elaborate on that more here because it ranges from "borderline communist levels of leftism" to "out and out eco-sabotage".

DO NOT fall for the false framing that a rump dumbass 20-30% of the population doesn't "believe" in global warming. That is smug nonsense that people use to justify a false-framing of some kind of stalemate. No society ever convinced everybody of the way forward. The real problem is the litany of excuses and magical thinking that the so called "believers" will come up with to do nothing. Such as:

- there's nothing we can do, give up, its too late

- magically innovative technology will save us just hold your breath till it comes along

- teh markat will provide! if we can just do this spreadsheet game with tax credits or something

- i can't do that thing i should do because even though I'm one of the richest humans on earth and that ever lived I've cast myself as a victim of the current economic order and cannot afford to do anything.

Now, all that said as context, here are the top 5 things, IN ORDER (assuming you're a middle class american), you can do to curtail your and your families carbon footprint:

1.) have a negative-population-growth number of children. that means somewhere in the <2.1 range (stupid joke about cutting parts of babies goes here).

2.) do not use a car on a daily basis. ideally don't even own one. if you must own one make it electric.

3.) live in a 5+ unit building. this cuts your heating/cooling/lighting footprint roughly in half, and ties into the car thing above (mid rise apts correlate strongly to walkable areas). no amount of solar panels and electric cars will make suburban-sprawl a sustainable land use or energy consumption model in your or your childs lifetime. this is the absolute hardest part for americans to swallow, they will pitch a temper tantrum fit and write off the messenger rather than grasp this one.

4.) fly (round trip) less than once a year

5.) don't eat red meat, or at least cows. even if you're not ready to give it up, you could deliberately replace red meat meals with chicken fish or vegitable alternatives more often.

However, I want to stress that viewing things through the lens of individualized personal consumption levels is a TERRIBLE focus. This is the the most universal problem humanity has ever faced. You want to do the 5 things above not because it will cut your footprint 10 - 20 tons per year (~50 - 80%, which it will), but because you will be contributing to building a society in which everyones footprint is cut. You want to normalize apartment dwelling, walking, public transit, avoiding unecessary flights, and avoiding red meat. That is how you contribute to building a sustainable future society. You need to walk the walk not for a few tons, but to show your children and neighbors the way forward.

Two thoughts related to your "what to do" paragraph:

- I vaguely recall a Fredric Brown (?) story where people turn to (conceptually, self-defense) violence against cars because they've reached the insight that the fumes are literally killing them, like cigarette smoke.

- Some people (hmmm, "some people I know") have chosen direct action and planned+participated in sabotage of pipelines and railroads (used for coal and oil transport). Several were arrested in multiple states, but the overall outcome was symbolic with limited media coverage; not really what I imagined as effective, direct action. Now, some have spent time in jail, and some are scared because they feel responsible to their young children, and what happens to the kids if their parents spend a long time in jail?

what happens to 10 million bangladeshi children when they go from having two or three rice crops a year to one or two?

Harsh but maybe fair. I readily admit that I don't have the heart to say that to my friends who have young kids. Do you say this in person?

I'm starting to wonder if telling people what they can personally change in their lives is actually counterproductive. The gains to be had there are not that great.

Sure it's good to minimize energy use as you outline. But where does it leave you in terms of tonnes of CO2/year?

AFAIK the Paris accord goals (inadequate as they are) imply a target of around 1500 kg of CO2 per capita yearly. Homeless people achieve that in the west. You won't get near those levels, hower much you try to reduce your personal consumption.

We're not going to individual-responsibility our way out of this, and I wonder if getting people to try will just give them a false sense of accomplishment.

you're not wrong but careful not to fall into the internet's favorite form of broken depressive reasoning: splitting

the way you get mass action is by getting a mass of individuals to act. there is technically no other way. thats why I left the 'individual' stuff to the very end and made sure to explain how its not really about your footprint as much as its pulling your oar in the overall solution.

I think recycling is also a misleading and false virtue, at least for most people I've encountered in the US. I've watched the thought-process: I'm recycling pizza boxes and tens of Amazon boxes every week, therefore I'm doing my part, therefore the environment will do well, and I don't need to do anything else or more.

I appreciate your clarity and honesty! The level of change required to completely stop CO2 emissions, reverse the process, and return the atmosphere to pre-industrial levels is enormous, and will require many sacrifices. It is not clear how many people are willing to commit to these radical goals and to the path leading there.

If global warming activists have few or no children, doesn't that mean only global warming apathetics will remain?

Since you mention it, the best thing you can do for future generations is not have kids. The evidence is crystal clear in that regard.

Don't be so cynical, any kid could be the next great innovator of progress, re-mediation, solution. And you don't know what the "average" kid of this generation will achieve.

It is possible to live net carbon negative. Or at least close to carbon neutral. https://www.ecowatch.com/this-country-isnt-just-carbon-neutr...

... in Bhutan.

But then how do you tell your kids what you did to combat climate change, since that was the question?

If you own stocks in companies or funds, you can take action as a shareowner.

I recently built a site to empower you to take action to Ask them to improve.

See here: https://www.yourstake.org/ask/vanguard-vanguard-tell-compani...

That's my main question. There are many many people. But no larger scale influence so far. In Europe there's the shift project, and shifters (associations related to that project) who tries hard to review regulations and educate people on weekends.

Buy emissions credits today, while they're cheap, and simply don't use them.

You could contribute and earn a living at the same time via capitalism, e.g. start a solar product sales / installation business. From an investment perspective it's a steadily growing industry with widespread unmet demand, rapidly decreasing prices and increasing efficiency, but still requires expertise even if the product costs nothing. From an ecological point of view such a business speeds up the displacement of carbon emitting tech. Politically it decentralizes the grid, redirecting political power from the energy industry toward your customers.

And running a business that's a significant part of your income creates an incentive to keep at it religiously and relentlessly. That incentive is weaker without the profit motive, when it's about making an uncertain contribution to other people over decades.

Buy up the cheap land that will become the next water front property.

I'm serious. If businessmen really are taking climate change seriously, we'd see them speak with their pocketbook, as there are numerous ways they can profit by being able to predict future massive global change.

The fact we do not see such a buy up of future water front property means they either don't think the evidence is there, or they are extremely optimistic about our ability to reverse climate change, or extremely pessimistic about the future such that humankind will be wiped out or something.

Don't worry about it too much. I did as much about global warming as I could find to do back when it counted, but I accomplished nothing. The planet is fucked, and there's nothing we can do about it now. The good news is that your kids won't know any better. They'll grow up in the desolate, unhealthy, ruined world we are leaving them, and they are going to love it - it'll be the only world they know, after all, and they'll grow up ready to find the beauty in it, just like kids have always done.

> Where's the group, the party, the leadership?

Humanity's failure to respond to the climate change crisis shows that groups, parties, and leadership are inadequate; we need some new way of organizing ourselves. Perhaps the kids will figure it out.

When it counted? Each degree the climate changes is worse than the last. The first .5 degree of climate warming was probably actually a good thing but going from 1.0 to 1.5 isn't and 2.0 to 2.5 is much worse than that. We don't know if low lying Pacific islands are doomed and if we'll have to be accepting a bunch of refugees but it's possible we can save them. What we almost certainly still have the power to prevent is tens of millions of people in India from dying in heatwaves where the dew point exceeds survivable temperatures without air conditioning. We don't actually know where runaway positive feedback loops might be.

so you're saying: "why bother trying to fix it. party on and let the next generation fix our problems"???


No that's not what s/he is saying, or anything like it.

I still remember watching TV in early 90's and seeing clips from Hansen's 1988 senate testimony and hearing first time the "Now is the last time to act on climate change." from someone in TV.

Key numbers to get the point across.

* Starting mitigation in 2000 would have required mitigation rate 4%/year. (1.5 C goal)

* Starting mitigation in 2018 will require mitigation rate 18%/year. 18 percent! (1.5 C goal). There is no realistic scenario where this can happen.

* Nine years from now complete halt of all manmade CO2 emissions is too late to prevent crossing 1.5C.

* Global fossil and cement CO2 emissions keep going up, not down: http://folk.uio.no/roberan/img/GCB2018/PNG/s09_2018_FossilFu...

* CO2 mitigation curve becomes steeper and steeper. http://folk.uio.no/roberan/img/GCB2018/PNG/s00_2018_Mitigati...

One thing I’d be interested to read is the difference between 1.5C and, say, 2.5C of warming. Do you know of any reports (or maybe just part of the IPCC reports) which lay out the incremental risks?

I just read for instance an editorial from nature which said that 10-30% of coral reefs survive at 1.5C but none survive at 2C. I’d like more of that kind of information to understand the risk profile.

carbonbrief.org has interactive comparison between 1.5C, 2C and 3C. https://interactive.carbonbrief.org/impacts-climate-change-o...

Perfect, sincerely thank you for the link.

I've long been in the camp that we worry about climate change more than makes rational sense.

I'm not saying we should ignore it, but we often overstate. It's worth remembering that the effects on QoL will be completely eclipsed by technological progress within that period and that the timescales that GW happen over (50+ years) are long enough that most people will hardly ever notice it. Gradual relocation will be our primary means of fighting it. Other cities will be raised, like Chicago was in the 1850s.

FUD is not a genuine approach to invoke action - which has sadly been the main approach of many. We should remain reasoned.

If the world was composed of countries living at the quality of life of Western Europe or America and with that level of technical and economic expertise this would I think be reasonable, but in fact billions of people are living hand to mouth. Look at the effect that Syrian migration to Europe or indeed Mexican migration to the USA has had on Western politics. Now imagine instead of 5 million people from Syria 100 million or 500 million are on the move? Is the population of Bangladesh going to gradually relocate, and if so where to? Its nuclear armed neighbour on one side, with their own hundred million to be displaced from subsistence agriculture, or the country conducting ethnic cleansing on the other? You have assumed a greater degree of stablity than is reasonable.

People will primarily move more inland within their own countries. Some cities will be raised. Neighboring countries will absorb some. Small border shifts may happen, as have happened for centuries.

You have no reason to believe this.

From: https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a25422366/trump-ambass...

"The fourth and latest National Climate Assessment put together by 300 scientists from 13 agencies of the U.S. government and released last month found that climate change is real, man-made, and will cost the U.S. 10 percent of its economy by 2100. Midwestern farmers will lose 75 percent of their crop yields, and trillions of dollars in coastal real estate will be at risk. The wildfires out west, already unprecedented in their destruction, will get worse. Hurricanes and typhoons will grow more ferocious. Epidemic diseases will flourish."

And that's just for the US. Large portions of Africa and the Middle East are predicted to become uninhabitable. The threat to human life on a time-scale of 100 years or more is gargantuan.

"Midwestern farmers will lose 75 percent of their crop yields"

and other farmers will benefit and have increased yeilds. I don't mind facts. But misleading ones I do mind.


Wow, by 2100 it will cost the US 10% of its economy? You mean a small size recession? And you all are such a fuss about? And for that you want to deprive 3rd world people from gaining the same benefits you get from energy?

This is alarmism on the grandest scale and a horrifying hypocritical at that. There is nothing we can do about CO2 right now. We can just continue to work on safer and cleaner ways to generate electricity (atomic mainly, fusion hopefully, solar for the local homes, etc.)

The predicted costs of tackling it are significantly lower, so why not just tackle it and avoid the recession.

Also, a permanent loss of 10% is not a small recession, most recessions lead to no permanent loss, just a demand shock which is made up afterwards. A permanent loss of 10% is more like the financial crisis, and I’d rather avoid that if I can. One brought Trump and Brexit, I’d rather not add another to the mix.

Alarmism was never so appropriate. We have so much to lose.

People living in Western cities doing desk jobs, living in a globalized flexible economy can just be moved inland, and their food supplies can shift from one commodity food producer to another. That is, assuming these commodity food producers remain stable and invested in the global trading system. People who are subsistence farmers rely on their land to live. You cannot just move those people ‘upland’ away from the agricultural land which feeds their continued existence.

what what what? that is a nightmare scenario.

If anything like countries needing to move inland happens it will mean that the world is already in economic ruin and the survivors are in a roadwarrior/madmax style existence.

if this needs to happen, the world will in a such a state that YOU will not be able to buy a beer or watch tv.

I think very few people actually worry about it. That's not representative of the people who post here, but just looking around at how people live and the cars they drive and the homes they build and businesses running 24x7 with all the lights on, parking lots lit up all night after stores are closed, towns wasting many kilowatt hours on Christmas lighting, etc. I see no real evidence that anyone but a small minority of people are even thinking about it, much less worrying.

"Gradual relocation" of several billion people will be extremely challenging and unfathomably expensive even on a half-century timescale. Barring a way to physically transport entire cities along with buildings, roads, and infrastructure, I don't see any way that "technological progress" can substantially change that.

Buildings don't last forever. "Ideally, the average lifespan of any concrete structure is 75-100 years. But, it is considered that the average life of an apartment is 50-60 years while of a house it is 40 years." [1] Older buildings have been actively maintained.

Designing new cities without the cruft of older ones is a huge opportunity. However, it's likely that most building owners will just add couple extra meters of dirt below when it comes time to rebuild a given structure. Even skyscrapers do not last forever.

[1] https://www.makaan.com/iq/buy-sell-move-property/what-is-the...

[2] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-life-expectancy-of-a-Skysc...

Moving a city is not as simple as saying "any time a building wears out, rebuild it 100/500/1000 miles away, repeat until finished." At the very least, there's logistical issues and economic disruption at both ends. It may be possible in theory, but, again, extremely challenging and unfathomably expensive. And humanity has a well-established track record with anything that involves committing vast amounts of money now to save a bunch of people, mostly strangers, in a few decades.

Moving to better cities does not require intervention. People will do it naturally over time.

Are you now claiming that climate change isn't a big deal because the billions of people whose homes are flooded, or too hot to survive, or otherwise uninhabitable can just...go somewhere else?

In today's world, we see (much smaller) groups of people trying to relocate as their homes become intolerably dangerous. The press calls it "the refugee crisis" and it's causing massive tension all over the world. What do you think will happen if the flow of refugees continues increasing, year after year, for decades?

Yes. That’s pretty much what I said in my first comment.

It’s not a huge deal. It’s a moderate deal.

Moving cities is not a huge deal. I’ve personally done it 3 times. It’s not a small deal either, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not a mayday scenario.

Even my ancestors who made 1/100th the income I do moved multiple times.

You don't see the difference between you trying to find a new place to live, and you plus 100 million other people trying to find a new place to live all at the same time? I'm starting to think you're just trolling.

You really dontgey what the problem is.

And no, it has nothing to do with income

> Gradual relocation will be our primary means of fighting it.

That highlights what's wrong with your PoV. If sea-level rise were the only issue, your comment might actually make some sense ... but that's not the case. Climate change will also lead to droughts, floods, famine, conflicts over water, species extinction, possible collapse of entire ecosystems, and a host of other ills too numerous to mention. Normal technical progress isn't going to solve biodiversity problems we barely understand, or human-society problems that will be driven by warming. It would require a major leap on par with the birth of atomic physics or molecular genetics. Maybe more than one. You want to talk about what's rational? Faith in the modern equivalent of miracles is not rational.

Yesterday's false cry of "Wolf!" is the worst enemy of action today. Will today's cry of "Wolf!" inhibit action tomorrow? It pays to be correct -- and hurts to be incorrect.

FWIW I'm convinced that it's serious this time, but history abounds with examples of breathless malthusian doomsday predictions that failed to pass.

When has happened"cry wolf"?

If we were truly concerned, we should work on eliminating water vapor, since that accounts for much more of the greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide.

Or, pump out even more carbon dioxide to increase the warming and water vapor, and hence increase cloud cover to cool the earth.

Provocatively worded... but intriguing from an engineering POV: if it is too late to limit CO2 levels and return to pre-industrial levels, what levers do we have to control water vapor levels?

Nothing. Water vapor is always in equilibrium with oceans on the timescale of weeks. In other words, any excessive water vapor you manage to put into the atmosphere will simply rain down.


Not so fast, please. The very link you provide refers to the Pinatubo eruption that caused a significant multi-year cooling. It is well-known that cloud albedo changes in response to the addition of aerosols, which ultimately changes cloud water content (rapidly adjusting equilibrium with changes in global sea-surface temperature). Thus, there is at least one lever of action that we know of.

Some constructive criticism: I think this document is written backwards and does not contain what CEO's are interested in. The disastrous effects should come first and preceding that should be forecasts of the effect on the bottom line (profits). The business implications of climate change are what might capture their attention. Market disruptions for example, trends in adoption of EV cars, growth in solar and wind, tech industry use of alternative energy, costs for pollution being added to government and other plans, current problems with changes in forests and their effects on industry, plans to deal with coastal changes. Changes in behavior from industry and government are more likely to sway them. They attempt to control those, but a list of existing trends that are outside their control could be persuasive. They have hired scientists to confuse the issue, so they are not going to be swayed by a scientific argument. Leave that as an appendix for their subordinates to read. It's unfortunate, but I think you have to speak their language.

My experience is that CEO's don't need persuading on this issue, they are convinced but their fiduciary duties limit the scope of their actions. What they would like is sharp, clear regulation that provided a level playing field. The people who need persuading are voters.

Hansen does say in the document "My target is the level of a Chief Justice or a fossil fuel industry CEO", so I was thinking of fossil fuel industry CEO's (who probably have never experienced a level playing field). Voters need someone already persuaded to vote for; I think polls show the voters themselves weigh on the convinced side. Fiduciary duties are only part of what a CEO should be concerned about, but certainly major changes in what other industries are doing should be part of fiduciary duty. Like VW saying they are going to drop internal combustion engines in the near future, forest blight affecting logging, Apple and Google going solar, real estate trends in coastal areas, cities creating climate change plans, and more.

Skimmed through this, but I can't make it all the way. It's so jarring and too depressing.

I lump climate change deniers into the same category as flat-earthers. Although I have more respect for the latter, as at least they aren't blindly swallowing self-serving nonsense spewed by ignorant politicians and certain news outlets.

I don't think there are scientists who deny past or present climate change. Do you mean to disparage the many scientists who research the causes of past climate change, and who hypothesize that the current changes are, like all past changes, caused by other factors than the man-made, industrial-age rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide?

> the many scientists ... caused by other factors than the man-made

How many of those are in climate related sciences?

"many"? The consensus amongst scientists in the relevant fields is quite compelling.

There are very few such climate scientists. Scientific skeptics mostly dispute the degree of warming projected, or some of the anticipated consequences.

"Do you mean to disparage the many scientists who research the causes of past climate change, and who hypothesize that the current changes are, like all past changes, caused by other factors than the man-made, industrial-age rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide?"

There are no such scientists, let alone "many". And it doesn't matter what people "hypothesize".

I know the names of the handful of "lukewarm" climate scientists who don't hold the consensus position; none of them take the position that you put forth, and I can be certain that you can't name any of these "many" scientists.

There is overwhelming consensus that the current rate of climate change, which by the way is totally unprecedented in history, can be from no other source than anthropogenic CO2. You can read the research and see how thoroughly and completely every possible confounding variable was accounted for.

The scientists who claim "current changes are, like all past changes, caused by other factors than the man-made" are not taken seriously by the mainstream, form an unimaginably slim minority and frankly are dangerously wrong.


Let them be wrong then. But science is not a democracy. You can have overwhelming expert consensus and still be completely wrong. You can get experts to hold a vote and agree some new idea is complete garbage but that vote does not change immutable truth. It's happened countless times in history.

For example, Ignaz Semmelweis (from wiki):

> Despite various publications of results where hand washing reduced mortality to below 1%, Semmelweis's observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time and his ideas were rejected by the medical community. Semmelweis could offer no acceptable scientific explanation for his findings, and some doctors were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands and mocked him for it. In 1865, Semmelweis suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to an asylum, where he died at age 47 of pyaemia

I agree, but I think you know the answer to the question you asked. It's a little sad to me for "the side of science" to fall into such religious belief.

Especially when the "side of science" has become so extremely tied to the idea that the only real solution is taxes that one political side has come up with and of course voting for them. And if you question the tax side of things, you're a filthy denier.

Invariably, climate science deniers talk about politics and economics.

Thanks for proving my point that to some people who say they are “interested in science” actually just see black and white / filthy-deniers and true-believers.

The article itself mentions Trump twice. Tell me all about how it’s not political.

> I lump climate change deniers into the same category as flat-earthers

> there are no inconsistencies in my testimonies against the government, against the fossil fuel industry

I lump climate change blamers into the same category. The moment you start talking about individual country (or any specific body) per capita and cumulative, you're making a political statements that someone is responsible and needs to be accountable because of their history (back to the 1750s in this one). ie These people are bad because there's metrics that fit my message and all other people are good because they have different metrics.

Seriously, how is the regional political accounting relevant to the objective analysis of what the correlation, causation and projections are?

I guess the idea is something like: "you're historically the worst (even if you're not the worst today) and you have resources, so it's up to you to try to fix it but we're not gonna even suggest how, but just sayin'". It reads like a lack of confidence in their own conclusions.

> "so it's up to you to try to fix it but we're not gonna even suggest how ..."

More like "So you deserve a larger responsibility for fixing this and we're suggesting, maybe start with stop mining coal and not electing a president who calls climate change a Chinese hoax?" but sure, same thing.

You know that you won't get anywhere with these climate science deniers, who have no intellectual honesty ... they're not worth the aggravation. (And the response to my comment is exactly what I'm talking about.)

There's no denial, as much as it is what you would ironically believe. There is likely intellectual dishonesty, which was my point.

I'm going to save this. Very much agree.

>so it's up to you to try to fix it but we're not gonna even suggest how,

That's the thing though, they are saying how. And it's to give money to the rest of the world and curb your production to allow them to pollute in your place which is "fair".

> I lump climate change deniers into the same category as flat-earthers.

At least the flat-earthers are harmless. The climate-change deniers are preventing necessary action on issues of life and death.

I invite everybody to watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaiZ5BHaUMY

A calm, collected, scientific representation of both sides.

There are literally no 2 sides. There is a ~97% scientific consensus, then there are these people: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_who_disagre....

John Christy (the other side in your video) represents the ~3%. His research was shown to be wrong over and over again. Most recently in 2017: https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JTECH-D-16-0121.... https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97...

Please watch the video before commenting. All of this is addressed and you are missing the big picture with policy and costs. As you can see from the video there is a lot of agreement in terms of science. You have to be very careful defining the sides here. Christy is in the 97% for the actual poll that was made. It really comes down mostly to probabilities, what can be done about it and at what cost to human life. Because raising energy prices is not harmless either as recently seen in France.

Check out this wikipedia page that casts scientific consensus in a slightly different light:


"John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together"


A bit over half a century ago, the scientific consensus in Germany was that Jews were subhuman. They also believed in a mystical ice planet orbiting the earth that possessed all sorts of wonders, the knowledge of which was suppressed by the anti-Arian cabal. Consensus bears a funny sort of relationship with the truth.

The scientific consensus in a single country is very different bar than a scientific consensus for the whole world.

I am pretty sure that if you looked at North Korea today, you could find some weird scientific national consensus, which obviously does not mean anything.

Is it true this is the consensus of the whole world?

It seems to be the consensus of a portion of the scientific establishment, which is certainly not representative of the whole world.

And, if, for sake of argument, we grant this scientific consensus represents the perspective of the world, it still does not follow this somehow precludes faulty reasoning and groupthink. "Science" is not a magic wand that automatically eliminates the normal sources of human bias, especially as recent news illustrates the rampant fraud and unreproducible results in the scientific establishment.

It's a good thing that theories are superseeded, as they are supposed to be testable and falsifiable. Our understanding of climate change is being superseeded literally on a daily basis. That's what the ~97% represents. It's like Newtonian physics.

The people who say that climate change is a hoax either don't follow the scientific method or make predictions that are being falsified over and over by the ~97%.

It's not the consensus that matters, it's the testability.

It'd be pretty interesting to see a comprehensive view of the falsifiable claims made and what the results are. In fact, a completely open data source and algorithm repository with full documentation on how all data is gathered and processed would certainly help persuade skeptics like myself.

A number of years ago when the engineer leaked the internal data dump from the climate researchers, it certainly did not change my view in a favorable direction seeing that material :P

Are you refering to the two email leaks from the University of East Anglia (Climategate), the one in 2009 and the 2011 one to Russian servers?

There was no scientific misconduct there, only climate denialists taking messages out of context. Even then you have to be a conspiracy theorist to see anything into it.

I don't think anyone ever stashed (or could stash) a whole century of research into a single Github repository, but around 95% of what you seek is out there.

For the data source I would start with the Global Historical Climatology Network (https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/ghcnd-data-access).

Yes, the 2009 leak. Did you look through the material yourself?

And if this is such an important issue, and so many people remain to be convinced, wouldn't it behoove researchers to make their research as transparent, clear and reproducible as possible? Seems that can only help the debate move forward in a productive manner.

UPDATE: I followed your link, and things that stand out to me:

- Images showing station concentration shows only in fairly recent history that stations are global. Before then they're mostly concentrated in the US and Europe, and the station data only goes back to the mid 1800s, and is pretty sparse up until the last few decades. It is unclear how such sparse temperature data can give us a clear understanding of how world temperatures have changed over the past few centuries due to industrialization.

- The unfiltered 'all' category is not easily accessible. I'd either have to download a whopping 2.9G tar, or visit the directory that does not seem to load very quickly. I'm thinking it is just a flat dump of the files without hierarchical organization, so FTP tries to fetch everything.

- The accessible 'yearly' category readme.txt states the data is not raw, but 'merged together' and subjected to 'quality assurance review' just like the monthly counterpart, which I assume is the 'all' category. So, even if I did download the 2.9G tar, I cannot get the raw readings from the ground stations.

This is the sort of lack of clarity and transparency that does not improve the skeptic's perception on the matter.

Please abstain from propagating the "both sides" nonsense.

One can admit to degrees of model uncertainty without insinuating that climate change is a matter of opinion.

How can you even say that? Climate science has uncertainty. There are definitely still things being debated.

Climate change has uncertainty, but climate change itself or that it is caused by human activities proved to be very certain. We are quite far beyond that.

Would you be willing to play Russian Roulette with a revolver with four bullets in the chambers just because there's uncertainty about whether the gun would go off when you pulled the trigger? Yes, there's a chance that climate change is going to no big deal. The most likely future occurrence is that things go the way the sober scientists at the IPCC give in their median prediction - a disaster but an eminently manageable disaster. The bit threat is that uncertainty goes both ways and climate change could very well end up being much worse than our median estimates. That's what keeps me up at night instead of urging more efforts go towards mitigation.

Just watch the video. They talk about all of this. I don't understand why I am getting so many nasty comments especially when those points are addressed in this video. Both guys are serious scientists and respect each other while feeling completely embarrassed by the zealots.

You talk about the russian roulette with climate, but the issue is far more complicated. There are bunch of other russian roulettes to consider with policy and society. What if society needs carbon to run the economy and keep the jobs and peace? What if oil-dependent countries collapse and turn to war, terrorism or mass-migration? Those are substantial risks that can kill many people and affect the quality of life for the worse globally too. You see what happened in France when they raised the fuel tax. It's not hard to imagine some worse scenarios.

Ok, I finally watched the video and I don't think it was worth my time at all. It was nice that they were polite to each other but really we have understood the basics of how increased C02 causes global warming for about a century. Current detailed climate models are kind of crap, Nate Silver went into why in some detail in his book on modeling, The Signal and the Noise, which I recommend but that doesn't change the anything I said in the above post - climate models are as likely to undershoot the dangers of warming as they are to overshoot them. Christy basically seemed to be arguing that there's uncertainty so he was permitted to believe what he wanted to. That's not a rational way to approach problems, especially given how he exaggerated the nature of the uncertainty.

I think you need to watch it again, because your summary sounds just wrong. Both scientists agreed completely that humans caused CO2 raise and it caused warming. All the actual arguments are way way past those basic facts that are agreed upon.

Did you listen when they agreed that proposed measures will not stop ocean water levels from rising? Did you listen to the cost-benefit analysis and socio-economic impact? Why are you ignoring this point? You don't think it's important?

If climate models are as likely to undershoot then how do you explain that ALL the best models in consideration overshot the last 30 years and not a single model undershot? If it was just as likely shouldn't we be seeing some models undershooting?

No, obviously ocean waters can't be stopped from rising. The question is all about how much they're going to rise. It really annoys me when people treat global warming as an all or nothing quantitative affair.

Yes, every climate model overshot air warming leading up to 2014. But they also all undershot ocean warming. That's because, for some reason nobody understands, from 1998 to 2014 all the extra thermal energy caused by CO2 forcing went into the ocean. But since 2014 air temperatures have shot up very rapily and now we're back on the trend-line predicted by models.[1] But really, you could just as easily have argued that models were undershooting because they all predicted cooler oceans than we got. And Ocean warming is the important part for determining sea levels. Christy was dishonestly cherry picking stats to make it look like errors only go in one direction when really they go in both.

If all you know about the global warming debate is what was in that video I can see how you found it convincing but it's actually a very shallow treatment of the whole topic. It's really hard to get into depth in a video, that why so many of us are reluctant to watch them when someone links to one.


EDIT: And in the future, can you try summarizing things from a video like this you found persuasive rather than just telling people to watch the video? If you had mentioned the "Overshot for the last 30 years" thing it should have been immediately obvious to people who follow climate science what was happening and how you'd been mislead. Then I wouldn't have had to wade through an hour long video trying to figure out what you found persuasive in it. I'm generally reluctant to watch videos linked off of Hacker News because they usually aren't worth it and after this I think people are going to find it even harder to persuade me to do so without better evidence.

I am sorry but this is ridiculous, ignorant and condescending. Every single thing you said was addressed in the video already and all facts are agreed upon by both parties. You keep bringing up things that are well agreed upon by both scientists. You keep ignoring the socio-economic topic which is the central idea here.

You can't just say Christy was dishonestly cherry-picking, because those data points are what was represented in the IPCC reports as concerning. They are the important data points that dictate the policy, not the undershooting data points. IPCC already cherry-picked these data points with the overshoot to raise the alarm.

Things I found persuasive? You are suggesting the the video represents only one side. This is a debate and both sides raised valid questions. You are exactly what they talked about when asked if they feel embarrassed by the tribal behaviour on either side.

Everything has uncertainty, even the reality of the world. We usually don't debate things which are "certain enough".

Not ever detail of climate change is certain. Some details are still up to speculation.

The big picture seems pretty certain tho

>both sides

i'm still to hear the "other side" of CO2 molecules absorption spectrum, specifically in infrared. 200 years and still no such "other side" ...


"Beginning with work by Joseph Fourier in the 1820s, scientists had understood that gases in the atmosphere might trap the heat received from the Sun. "

Should people eat broken glass? let's hear from both sides!

There are many scientists that believe solar forcing is responsible for temperature increases on Earth, Mars, Triton, Jupiter, and Pluto.

While CO2 promoters point out the fact that solar irradiance changes are relatively small over time, they ignore that those same irradiance changes correspond to changes in solar magnetism, which means changes in cosmic ray incidence on planetary atmospheres. It is well known that cosmic rays effect cloud formation.

It's really not as clear cut as you have been taught.

"There are many scientists that believe solar forcing is responsible"

The solar constant in the past 400 years has varied less than 0.2 percent.

"It is well known that cosmic rays effect cloud formation."

Not well known, because the research is still ongoing. Henrik Svensmark's research in a dust- and impurity-free atmosphere contributed to our understanding of aerosol microphysics, but others agree that the effect in the real, present-day atmosphere is very tiny.

"Cosmic particles would be negligible compared with the background aerosol and the aerosol humans are adding by burning things, tilling soil, etc.”

"If clouds were affected by cosmic rays, they would have been affected a hundred times more strongly by human air pollution, and the world would have cooled over the past century, rather than warmed."


From your quoted article.

    This work offers a new understanding of global particle 
    formation as based almost entirely on ternary rather than 
    binary nucleation, with ions playing a major but subdominant 
    role. Our results suggest that about 43% of cloud-forming 
    aerosol particles in the present-day atmosphere originate 
    from nucleation
This is a major effect, confirmed by your own article. I'm not certain why you linked it, since you are arguing against cosmic rays effecting cloud formation.

I don't know why I linked it if you just end up making your very own conclusions.

This paper is part of the CERN CLOUD project (http://cloud.web.cern.ch/), an experiment trying to model our atmosphere to find out how much aerosols affect cloud formation and climate change.

The conclusion so far is that cosmic rays can charge aerosol particles, and produce big enough particles to contribute to cloud forming. This represents less than 10% (several per cent) of the total particle formation from nucleation, a major, but subdominant role. Nucleation (the creation of big enough particles) itself plays a 43% role, the rest is particles already in the atmosphere. So cosmic rays is less than 10% of 43%.

In any case if cosmic ray created aerosols would have such a large effect on clouds, so would other aerosols, such as those from air pollution.

Clouds themselves play a less than 10% role in climate change, so it's like 10% of the 10% (cosmic ray nucleation) of 43% (nucleation), as I said a tiny effect. Clouds also not just trap heat, but reflect sunlight back, cooling the planet.

As Ken Carslaw, one of the authors of the paper suggested: "It’s a tiny effect and previous studies suggest it will not be important". https://cosmosmagazine.com/climate/cosmic-ray-theory-of-glob...

Even if we were to stipulate his 10% number, that's 4.3% of cloud formation based on cosmic rays. Not insignificant.

Your repeated contention that pollution aerosols are of equal magnitude to cosmic rays contribution requires a large helping of evidence to back it up, given the huge quantity of cosmic rays that impact the troposphere.

"requires a large helping of evidence to back it up"

Those are available at http://cloud.web.cern.ch/content/publications. The experiments are started back in 2009.

See Wikipedia for a simplified description of the results so far. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CLOUD_experiment

Even if you think that cosmic rays are the bread and butter of cloud formation, the net effect would be global cooling. Clouds reflect more energy back into space than they do back to the ground.

I would also like to mention that this cosmic ray climate change denialism started with the media misreporting Henrik Svensmark's paper. The Daily Express itself said "Winter is coming: Exploding stars could lead to ICE AGE warn scientists" https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/894696/ice-age-weathe.... Most of the media attention was on the sensationalist claim that cosmic rays are causing climate change, from which the various Facebook people extrapolated cosmic rays = global warming. Just so you know, this is the original source of this claim. The paper itself is about aerosol microphysics, but that's not as exciting as "Giant EXPLODING stars FREEZING Earth".

This is new. Coauthored by a NASA scientist. Check it out, I think you'll be interested. ;-)


    4 Conclusion
    We have shown a strong correlation between solar and 
    tropospheric variability, in that swings from El Ni˜no 
    to La Ni˜na are related to the phase of the solar 
    cycle’s “fiducial clock,” and that that clock does not 
    run from the canonical solar minimum or maximum, but 
    instead resets when all old cycle flux is gone from the 
    solar disk. While the exact mechanism remains to be 
    elucidated, changes in cosmic ray flux appear to the be
    the driver of these ENSO swings.
    Finally, in the absence of sensitivity to solar-driven CRF 
    variations in current coupled climate models, we have a year 
    or so to wait to see if this indicator pans out. However,
    should the coming terminator be followed by such an ENSO 
    swing then we must seriously consider the capability of 
    coupled global terrestrial modeling efforts to capture
    “step-function” events, and assess how complex the Sun-Earth 
    connection is, with particular attention to the relationship 
    between incoming cosmic rays and clouds/ precipitation over 
    our oceans.

This is a great paper actually. It depends directly on the premise that cosmic rays cause drastic changes in cloud microphysics. The proof presented for this is a statistical correlation between termination points of sun activity and ENSO (El Nino, La Nina).

They plan to establish causation by predicting ENSO changes based on solar activity, which is good. Once they do that, they will need to prove that cosmic rays are more important in cloud microphysics than the CERN CLOUD experiments suggests so far.

This is what real science is. Great find.

it really is.

I'm not certain how to respond to such a non-argument in such a biased forum as this one. I would respectfully just point out that on this subject, you are in a filter bubble, which you obviously have made no attempt to escape from.

After solving global warming, should we be more concerned by the approaching end of the current interglacial period? The next glacial period of the current Ice Age is going to be terrible for our stage of technology and civilization.

If we are serious about the current issues of climate change, and about potential asteroid impacts, why should we not also be planning for the mid- to long-term risk of the return to an Ice Age?

This is an interesting question. Haven't there been much warmer periods in our planet's history that were followed by an ice age?

It is hard to sort out exactly what climate change means.

Those warming periods are either local, are much, much slower and they are not supposed to be in sync with human activities either.

This one is much faster. Not everyone sees it of course. Change blindness is what they call it.


This is not a correct description of past climate changes. The glacial and interglacial periods of the last 2.5 million years have been global and swinging temperatures by 6-9°C in either direction, with periods between 40-100k years.

During the last interglacial (Eemian, ca. 129–116k years ago) sea level was 6-9 meters higher than today; Scandinavia was an island. The water temperature of the North Sea was about 2°C higher than at present; hippos lived as far North as the Rhine and the Thames. The onset of the Eemian took just a few centuries, during which global temperatures shot up >5°C.


The Eemian was caused by reduced North Atlantic ocean circulation, a courtesy of the previous Saale glaciacion period, too much fresh water, and continued transfer of heat from the south.

It produced abrupt effects localized to high altitude areas. Most of what you described occured in the later stages of this 15000 year long period.

The Eemian cannot be really compared to the current global warming, a potential AMOC (Atlantic meridional overturning circulation) instability is just one out of the thousand problems we are facing.

The problem with many discussions around global warming is not scientific, but cultural. Advocates of change often take a sanctimonious attitude toward anyone expressing the slightest doubt.

Have a look at the episodes of the Netflix series "Bill Nye Saves the World" on climate change. If you can watch without cringing, congratulations. I can't. Or take this interview Nye did with Tucker Carlsen:


Nye, and those who share his intolerant attitude toward justified skepticism do their cause more harm than good.

Every hypothesis should be questioned. The more sweeping the claims, the more pointed the questioning should be. Science is not immune to groupthink. The problem is magnified when a scientific hypothesis takes on a political dimension.

Take this quote from the article:

Climate has always been changing, but humans are now the principal drive for climate change, overwhelming natural climate variability.

I challenge any reader of the article to find a clear, logical, undeniable chain of evidence from hypothesis to the conclusion that humans are responsible for rising planet temperatures.

Challenge accepted. Proof that humans are responsible for rising planet temperatures: https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/. Follow the references.

"every hypothesis should be questioned."

It is, constantly, literally on a daily basis. That's how we know.

What does pop culture (Bill Nye) has anything to do with this.

Also many of us are a bit beyond just theoretical discussions. It's 2018. We are increasingly affected by climate change to the point that many of us are packing, because the shit already hit the fan. What's a fun theoretical discussion for you (at the moment) is actually life and death for many.

Thanks for the link and response, but I was talking about evidence in the OP article. Like far too many pieces, it fails to highlight the evidence between human activity and rising temps, taking it instead as an article of faith.

Even the link you gave fails to enumerate the evidence for a human cause, and itself links to another article.

I realize that some have made up their minds, but the extraordinary claim of a mainly human cause requires extraordinary evidence. And that evidence is hardly discussed, nor are alternative hypotheses given their due.

This is the problem I'm trying to highlight. The discussion has veered from scientific to religious.

If this was 1980, then I'd be right with you. But it's 2018.

We've had 40 years of unmistakable data, and at this point, anyone pushing this "the science isn't settled" talking point – adopted from the tobacco industry – either has a vested interest in denialism or simply falls really far left on the Dunning-Kruger curve.

Indeed it's 2018. The shit already hit the fan. We suffer unsustainable ecosystem losses on a daily basis.

Who cares what Bill Nye says or thinks.

Science has very few recognizable public faces. Nye, and Niel Tyson are two of them.

When these people say something about science, for better or worse, they speaks for science in many people's minds.

A lot of people would take advice from someone who played a doctor on tv. Bill Nye is a childrens entertainer. His opinions I’m sure are not well founded, but it simply doesn’t matter. His opinion either way should be totally irrelevant to your judgment of the case.

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