HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » Good Reads (Forum) » Global Warming's Terrifyi...
Introducing Discussionist: A new forum by the creators of DU

Tue Jul 31, 2012, 01:50 PM

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719

Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe - and that make clear who the real enemy is

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the "largest temperature departure from average of any season on record." The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet's history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world's nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn't even attend. It was "a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago," the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls "once thronged by multitudes." Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I've spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we're losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn't yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers.




20 replies, 2368 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 20 replies Author Time Post
Reply Global Warming's Terrifying New Math (Original post)
hue Jul 2012 OP
JoeInNy Jul 2012 #1
broiles Jul 2012 #3
The Stranger Jul 2012 #6
GreenPartyVoter Jul 2012 #2
qb Jul 2012 #4
AverageJoe90 Jul 2012 #5
NickB79 Aug 2012 #10
AverageJoe90 Aug 2012 #12
NickB79 Aug 2012 #13
AverageJoe90 Aug 2012 #14
NickB79 Aug 2012 #15
AverageJoe90 Aug 2012 #16
demwing Aug 2012 #20
demwing Aug 2012 #17
NickB79 Aug 2012 #18
demwing Aug 2012 #19
Uncle Joe Aug 2012 #7
canEHdian Aug 2012 #8
NickB79 Aug 2012 #11
davidpdx Aug 2012 #9

Response to hue (Original post)

Tue Jul 31, 2012, 01:59 PM

1. Obama didn't attend

 

" Last month the world's nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn't even attend. "


That's because Obama has been all talk and no walk since he took office.
He has become a living example of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to JoeInNy (Reply #1)

Tue Jul 31, 2012, 02:59 PM

3. Perhaps a new troll.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to JoeInNy (Reply #1)

Tue Jul 31, 2012, 06:03 PM

6. Why should he? He can't do everything. And, besides, . . .

. . . it's too late.

It is no longer a question of stopping the extraordinary changes we have wrought. It is now and forever more will be a question of what those changes will be.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to hue (Original post)

Tue Jul 31, 2012, 02:27 PM

2. Excellent piece!

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to hue (Original post)

Tue Jul 31, 2012, 03:47 PM

4. A great article, with one inconsequential gaffe:

"3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe"

The number quoted is extremely small. Its inverse is extremely large.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to hue (Original post)

Tue Jul 31, 2012, 05:02 PM

5. It's never totally hopeless........

This is a decent piece, to be honest, but parts of it come off as a little too pessimistic.

Are we in danger? Yes, undoubtedly so. Could global civilization potentially go thru some shrinkage? Yes. Could hundreds of millions of people, especially in South America, Africa, and Asia, face starvation(or even more of it if it's already an issue)? Yes.
Does something need to be done? Yes, undoubtedly.

But is humanity going to become extinct, as some have claimed? Absolutely not. Is Earth going to turn into Venus? Of course not.
Is Nature powerless? Absolutely not.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #5)

Sun Aug 5, 2012, 01:11 AM

10. Too pessimistic?

If we hit 6C by 2100 (which is now looking to be the most likely outcome), we'll be lucky if we maintain a population of 1 billion people globally by then. It also makes it unlikely most of global civilization will survive as more than tribes living in the wild.

Hell, one study found that at current rates of warming, HALF the planet could be completely unlivable for humanity within 300 years: http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/half-of-earth-will-be-uninhabitable-by-2300-study-says.html

Much of the climate change debate has been about whether the world will succeed in keeping global warming to the relatively safe level of only two degrees Celsius by 2100. But climate change will not stop in 2100, and under realistic scenarios out to 2300, we may be faced with temperature increases of 12 degrees or even more. If this happens, our current worries about sea level rise, occasional heat waves and bushfires, biodiversity loss and agricultural difficulties will pale into insignificance beside a major threat - as much as half the currently inhabited globe may simply become too hot for people to live there.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to NickB79 (Reply #10)

Sun Aug 5, 2012, 03:30 AM

12. We don't know that yet.

While it is indeed an unfortunate possibility that cannot be ignored, there is also the possibility that things may finally start getting done again, and we may be lucky enough to indeed not go far beyond 2*C (3-4*C may occur, though, if the feedback theories come into full fruition).
Even better, there are indeed ways that we can reverse the temperature trend, without having to resort to geo-engineering(which is itself, risky) or other extremes....though sadly, it may take a long time for governments across the planet to get that memo......

And, do keep in mind these scenarios were presented as 'worst-case'.........

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #12)

Sun Aug 5, 2012, 10:21 AM

13. The Arctic will be ice-free within 8 years, maximum

This year is looking to be a new record low for ice volume and extent. And when the Arctic melts away entirely, the methane frozen in the tundra, billions of tons of it, will begin to percolate out. Well, more than it already is, since they've found lakes BUBBLING with escaping methane already in Siberia and Canada.

And when all that methane, which is 20X as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2, hits the atmosphere, it will create a positive feedback loop from which no amount of fossil fuel cutbacks or geoengineering (short of a nuclear-war induced nuclear winter) could stop.

So no, there really is nothing left we can do at this point to stop global warming from becoming an unprecedented disaster. All we can do is prepare as best we can and hope for the best.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to NickB79 (Reply #13)

Sun Aug 5, 2012, 10:16 PM

14. I'm not quite buying into this particular methane feedback theory.

In fact, it kinda smells off to me(I honestly don't care who may have written it!), and we don't need any more overly crazy quantum theories considering that our enemies and their denier cohorts still have plenty of resources.....no, what we need are cold, hard, facts, and nothing but facts. We give up on this now, and we WILL see a worst-case scenario of global warming.
If you think I've been too optimistic, I don't think hundreds of millions of people possibly dying from famines all over the world or parts of cities(or even whole cities!), like Miami, Calcutta, Copenhagen, or Sydney possibly sinking into a shallow ocean counts as any sort of optimistic, but the last thing we need is defeatist attitudes, because the conspirators WILL take advantage of that; and unfortunately, this includes the attitude that we can't stop this, which, frankly, just isn't true, and in fact, I hate to say this, but this problem has significantly contributed to our lack in progress in halting and reversing unnatural change, especially in a time where it's been sorely needed.

Perhaps you may have lost hope, and that is understandable. But again, if we give up now, then the bad guys will win for sure, and at least some of the realistic worst case WILL come to pass. We have to keep fighting, no matter the cost, or however hopeless things may seem.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #14)

Sun Aug 5, 2012, 10:24 PM

15. Believe what you want. I look at what the science says

The fact that methane is 20X as potent as CO2 is undisputable.

The fact that methane levels in the atmosphere have risen dramatically is also undisputable: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2009/04/25/204015/noaa-methane-levels-2008/

Sharply rising methane levels have been implicated in most every major rapid warming spell in Earth’s history, as Nature (subs. req’d, excerpted below) explained in a report last month. The report, on what they called “a ticking time bomb,” warned the “vast stores of methane “” a potent greenhouse gas “” could be released from frozen deposits on land and under the ocean.”


And based upon the fossil records, there is more and more evidence that the Permian Mass Extinction, in which 90% of all life on this planet went extinct, was due in large part to a massive methane outgassing that caused global warming on an unprecedented scale: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/08/030828071722.htm

Methane Thought To Be Responsible For Mass Extinction

ScienceDaily (Aug. 28, 2003) — EVANSTON, Ill. -- What caused the worst mass extinction in Earth's history 251 million years ago? An asteroid or comet colliding with Earth? A greenhouse effect? Volcanic eruptions in Siberia? Or an entirely different culprit? A Northwestern University chemical engineer believes the culprit may be an enormous explosion of methane (natural gas) erupting from the ocean depths.


Those are the cold, hard facts, as unpleasant as they are.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to NickB79 (Reply #15)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 02:18 AM

16. So do I.

I don't, of course, doubt that methane is more powerful than Co2, or that it may have played a significant role in the last major extinction.
But is a Permian-type feedback really all that imminent, or unstoppable for that matter?

TBH, though the main problem I had with you reply was that you seemed to imply that we can't stop global warming now. We CAN. We already have solutions, in fact. It's just that our government is still too bought out by certain interests to do anything full-steam, and that HAS to change, or we are in bad trouble.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #16)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 07:51 PM

20. + a bunch /nt

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to NickB79 (Reply #15)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 01:41 PM

17. "A Northwestern University chemical engineer believes..."

does not fall in the realm of facts.

The article you cite is full of "might" and "could" and short on ""did" and "proven"

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to demwing (Reply #17)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 04:02 PM

18. There's plenty of peer-reviewed data if you care to look

For example:http://www.livescience.com/3807-global-warming-worst-mass-extinction.html

The evidence for a warming planet back then is pretty solid based on studies of continuous volcanic eruptions in an area known as the Siberian Traps. As the planet warmed, large amounts of frozen methane gas under the ocean might have been released to trigger runaway greenhouse warming, Ward said.

"It appears that atmospheric oxygen levels were dropping at this point also," he said. "If that's true, then high and intermediate elevations would have become uninhabitable. More than half the world would have been unlivable."

Atmospheric oxygen, now at about 21 percent of the content of air at sea level, dropped to around 16 percent during the Great Dying, evidence suggests. The effect would be like trying to breathe atop a 14,000-foot mountain.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to NickB79 (Reply #18)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 07:50 PM

19. I'm not contradicting any science

but even your supporting evidence is filled with vague terms. "might have"s and "if true"-isms dominate.

In the end, I side with DUer AverageJoe90: "the main problem I had with your reply was that you seemed to imply that we can't stop global warming now. We CAN. We already have solutions, in fact."

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to hue (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 02:48 PM

7. Kicked and recommended.

Thanks for the thread, hue.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to hue (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 05:52 PM

8. Don't Worry

 

We'll give you great deals on food as the breadbasket moves north.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to canEHdian (Reply #8)

Sun Aug 5, 2012, 01:12 AM

11. Too bad you don't have nearly enough fertile land

I don't think we'll get very high yields growing corn in the thin, rocky soil of the Canadian Shield or the Rocky Mountains

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to hue (Original post)

Thu Aug 2, 2012, 08:34 AM

9. Here in Korea we have had one of the warmest driest summers ever

The monsoon season was almost non-existent. Temperature have been in the 90s for a week and we are suppose to continue to have the same weather for the next few weeks.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread