CO2 to hit 400 parts per million next month, highest since the Pliocene
April 25, 2013 5:01 PM   Subscribe

Scripps Institute of Oceanography projects that next month its monitoring station will for the first time measure CO2 at 400 parts per million. Atmospheric CO2 has risen from 280 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution. 400 ppm is an arbitrary milestone that we'll blow right past on our way to 450 ppm within a few decades. This is an unprecedentedly fast rate of increase and it's getting faster. Not all measuring stations are exactly the same: A NOAA station in the Arctic measured CO2 at 400 ppm last year.

Just a post to give a nod to the "DANGER" sign as we drive off a cliff.
posted by Sleeper (127 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Huh, I thought 350ppm was our nightmare scenario but we were still years away from that happening? Wasn't that the basis of the Inconvenient Truth movie?
posted by mathowie at 5:05 PM on April 25, 2013


350ppm is considered the upper safe (long term) limit
info here from 350.org

A piece from Bill McKibben (co-founder of 350.org) from Treehugger "350 is the most important number on the planet".
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 5:09 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, we are currently in the territory where a catastrophic feedback loop could begin at any moment, if it hasn't already (see record-breaking arctic ice sheet breakup, worldwide reports of record-breaking methane release from permafrost and undersea clathrates, etc).

We are living in a nightmare scenario, it's just that the part where the floor disappears hasn't begun yet, and when it does, we aren't going to wake up before we hit the bottom.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:15 PM on April 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


But will dinosaurs come back? That's what I want to know.
posted by GuyZero at 5:16 PM on April 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wasn't that the basis of the Inconvenient Truth movie?

The truth was even less convenient than we thought.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:17 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, good, I'll just be over here learning how to make my body photosynthesize.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:18 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, scientists predict a tenfold increase in frequency of Katrina-size storms if the climate becomes 2C warmer and a 2-fold increase at 0.4C:
"We find that 0.4 degrees Celcius warming of the climate corresponds to a doubling of the frequency of extreme storm surges like the one following Hurricane Katrina. With the global warming we have had during the 20th century, we have already crossed the threshold where more than half of all 'Katrinas' are due to global warming," explains Aslak Grinsted. "If the temperature rises an additional degree, the frequency will increase by 3-4 times and if the global climate becomes two degrees warmer, there will be about 10 times as many extreme storm surges. This means that there will be a 'Katrina' magnitude storm surge every other year."
[Grinsted &al 2013. PNAS 110(14), doi:10.1073/pnas.1209980110]
posted by Westringia F. at 5:24 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Luckily in the very long run the Earth has a self-correction mechanism. The next hundred years should be interesting.

20 million years from now you won't even be able to tell we were here.
posted by Bonzai at 5:28 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't want to hear one god damned word from the naysayers and those who were bought whole cloth... when it all starts to come apart.

I did what I could during a different life. I tried to make the difference I could.

That is all any one of us could do.

Not a whisper.

Not a whisper.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 5:34 PM on April 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


20 million years from now you won't even be able to tell we were here.

Maybe the vast algae blooms that warming is going to create will end up as big crude oil deposits.
posted by junco at 5:36 PM on April 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's okay, our Republican controlled legislature will just pass a bill saying "Nuh-uh!" and then levels will return to where they're supposed to be.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:37 PM on April 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just popped in to say DOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMED!!!
posted by sexyrobot at 5:39 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


20 million years is a very long time. Even without climate change it is very unlikely anything of us will remain after that long.
posted by humanfont at 5:47 PM on April 25, 2013


I bet the measurement is a lagging indicator too, isn't it.
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:48 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


We are living in a nightmare scenario, it's just that the part where the floor disappears hasn't begun yet, and when it does, we aren't going to wake up before we hit the bottom.

I think the floor's dropped out already. We just haven't noticed because we're being all Wile E. Coyote.
posted by rtha at 5:49 PM on April 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


20 million years from now you won't even be able to tell we were here.

We call this the "polystyrene epoch" due to the thin layer of polystyrene dispersed in the crust of the entire planet during that period. Some hypothesize that a meteor made of styrofoam must have impacted the planet, releasing massive amounts of CO2 and wiping out the flightless bipeds.
posted by benzenedream at 5:52 PM on April 25, 2013 [64 favorites]


Goodbye goodbye goodbye goodbye goodbye goodbye goodbye...
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:55 PM on April 25, 2013


I think it's time for humans to start photosynthesizing again, just like our ancestors did.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:56 PM on April 25, 2013


Migrating trees may find their way barred by geology.

Translation: Trees try to follow the warming temperatures to higher latitudes and elevations, but do they like the soil in those areas? Not so much.

Ultimate conclusion: Uh oh
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:02 PM on April 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I didn't come from no algae.
posted by Bonzai at 6:03 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Someone might be around in 20 million years, in an unrecognizable form.
posted by ovvl at 6:06 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Algae have an impressive ability to adapt and survive in really unlikely and tough environments. You better hope you come from algae!
posted by rtha at 6:08 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh Cassandra, what did you know
You who bring bad news wherever you go
You had the gift to see the future
From Apollo so it's said
And he made no one believe you
When you would not share his bed
Oh Cassandra, what did you see
As you walked the lonely road of your certainty
Gazing at the ruined city
That your warnings could not save
Oh Cassandra, so still and so grave
- Al Stewart, Helen and Cassandra
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:10 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have come around to the conclusion that answer to the climate change problem will have to be some form of active solution involving large scale engineering (whether chemical, mechanical, or biological) rather than passive solutions such as reducing emissions. Yes, we must reduce emissions. But we're not going to reduce them far enough fast enough to solve the problem. Pretending we are going to do so is sticking your head in the sand.

Let's get DARPA started on solar mirrors or something.
posted by Justinian at 6:12 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nuclear power
posted by triggerfinger at 6:18 PM on April 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Building both those things requires vast amounts of CO2 to be released... even making steel is bad for the planet and they need that to make rockets or nuclear power plants.
posted by glip at 6:21 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


We seem to be approaching the "so how can we park a reaally big tinted window at L1?" phase of the problem. I wonder if our social institutions are strong enough to meet this challenge in a meaningful way, or whether they will fail and be turned against their purposes. I wish I was more optimistic about that.
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:23 PM on April 25, 2013


Nuclear power

Will take longer to build and deploy than renewables and by time it's ready is going to be not a little bit but actually far, far more expensive than renewables.

Lol, I mean honestly, at this stage of the game, geo-engineering looks more plausible than nuclear power as an answer to climate change, and dude that is really saying something.
posted by smoke at 6:25 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


We could build a nuclear power plant in a year, if we just drop the multiple lawsuits forcing complete redoes of regulatory requirements.

But global warming isn't imporatant to "environmentalists." Nuclear is evil and wrong and must be stopped, no matter the cost.
posted by eriko at 6:29 PM on April 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


We could build a nuclear power plant in a year, if we just drop the multiple lawsuits forcing complete redoes of regulatory requirements.

Untrue nonsense.
posted by smoke at 6:34 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


"It does not advance the debate when people make exaggerated comments that are not rooted in the facts. And he should know that."

(quote from Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, replying to former NASA scientist James Hansen's statements regarding the Canadian tarsands' potential negative effects on the environment)
posted by spoobnooble II: electric bugaboo at 6:36 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


To be clear the atmosphere's average concentration is not reaching 400ppm yet -- this is just the first instantaneous reading of 400. It's looking like an average of 400ppm will happen in a couple of years.

I, um. Don't quite know how to react to this. I follow global energy policy and I've seen what the techno-economic models are saying in terms of what choices we're going to make in the coming decades, and I've watched in despair as international climate negotiations collapse again and again. World governments agreed that 450ppm was our target, which would lead to a 2 degree rise, already committing us to cataclysmic climactic disruption, extinctions, sea level rise, extreme weather events, drought, starvation, human suffering. And we utterly utterly failed to reach any kind of political framework that would get us there. We're going to blow past it in a few decades and keep climbing at full speed. Current models have us at +4 or +5 degrees by the end of the century (fully accounting for massive expansion of renewables -- these are predictive models, i.e. what is expected to happen given best available data and forecasts) and at those levels we must talk seriously about the breakdown in global civilization, global ecosystem collapse, and perhaps even human extinction. And we are still building new coal plants.

The reasons why are stark: fossil fuels are plentiful and cheap. Peak oil wasn't wrong, per se -- conventional resources are running out -- but rising price signals unlocked vast unconventional reserves, just as the resource economists predicted. We already know there is more than enough cheaply available fossil fuel to meet demand for the rest of the century. And we also know that, absent some powerful disincentive, the world's people intend to burn those fuels. And we are ramping up renewables, but they're just too expensive and populations do not tend to support things like gasoline taxes. We need a real global carbon price and we need it now, or else we need a Deus Ex Machina technological miracle. And neither of these things seem to be coming.

I try to not to think about the future. I do things that make me happy. I sometimes am able to forget, a little, that this catastrophe is looming, and I let myself daydream about the future, feel optimistic about relationships and experiences waiting for me in the coming decades, imagining myself being happy and growing old the way my parents and grandparents and everyone before did, more or less. And then news like this, it's a punch in the gut, a little reminder that we are the cursed ones who live in interesting times. It takes that optimistic future away from me and I hate it for that. All I see is pain and suffering in the future and I don't want to see that. And I want to end on a high note but I can't. I want it all to be okay. And it won't.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:37 PM on April 25, 2013 [38 favorites]


But will dinosaurs come back? That's what I want to know.

No, but we'll be catching up to them soon, and you can say hello then.
posted by jamjam at 6:37 PM on April 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Metafilter users don't like carbon dioxide, but to me it's a gas.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:40 PM on April 25, 2013


It's kind of a pisser to envy anyone who is currently single, childless, and heavily inebriated 24/7. But here I am.
posted by emjaybee at 6:44 PM on April 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


I kind of wish the chemistry of the planet resulted instead in dangerous levels of nitrous oxide. At least we could laugh about that.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:47 PM on April 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


Naive question: what causes the annual saw tooth fluctuation of 5ppm? Is it deciduous trees in the Northern hemisphere shedding their leaves? What else?

It seems like more fun than talking about the long term trend.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:49 PM on April 25, 2013


Previously: CO2 makes you dumb
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:51 PM on April 25, 2013


I need Another World.... this one's nearly gone. Antony said it better than I could.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:56 PM on April 25, 2013


what causes the annual saw tooth fluctuation of 5ppm?

That was attributed to the northern hemisphere's growing season in Inconvenient Truth, I believe.
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:58 PM on April 25, 2013


We could build a nuclear power plant in a year, if we just drop the multiple lawsuits forcing complete redoes of regulatory requirements.

But global warming isn't imporatant to "environmentalists." Nuclear is evil and wrong and must be stopped, no matter the cost.


Global warming won't respect gubmint regulations, therefore we shouldn't have regulations.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:06 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


PercussivePaul: The reasons why are stark: fossil fuels are plentiful and cheap.

Don't forget to mention a well-funded fossil fuel/anti-climate science lobby, who claim that even if it is happening and is caused by humans, why hell, there's nothing we can do about it anyway.

Canada's Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Joe Oliver, for example, when he's not in his role as an oil industry lobbyist in Washington, gets his climate science information from Lawrence Solomon in the Financial Post. Mr. Solomon is a well-known climate change denialist. But as long as the FP is making money publishing propaganda against climate science, Lefties and the UN, everything is ok.

In my view, this issue represents the abject failure of modern politics to deal with a real world problem we've known about for over a hundred years. (I still harbour a tiny hope that either the Earth will surprise us, or we'll all pull together to build a low-energy, equitable society that will survive the next 1000 years of climate chaos. It's pretty tiny though.)
posted by sneebler at 7:07 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, who wants to start a solar- and wind-powered commune? I'll bring the tomato plants.
posted by BlueJae at 7:08 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


what causes the annual saw tooth fluctuation of 5ppm?

That was attributed to the northern hemisphere's growing season in Inconvenient Truth, I believe.


To expand on that, there is a lot more land mass (and plant life) in the N. hemisphere. Summertime we turn co2 to plant matter.

Something I don't see discussed much is carbon sequestration via wood construction. I know Dyson reckons we only need a trillion more trees to reduce co2. But why don't we see more calls for wood construction? A mature forest is nearly carbon neutral. A growing forest is a carbon sink. A wood house is a bunch of co2 out of the atmosphere. It didn't occur to me until recently, but it bears repeating. (Virgin forests should remain untouched, of course, but there's a lot of 2nd growth forest.)
posted by karst at 7:17 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was a technique, back in the olden New Age days, where you would re-breathe your breath into paper bag ever hour or so for several days. The theory was that the larger carbon molecules would stretch your brain vessels, and when you were done with the technique, more oxygen would flow into your brain through the larger tubes.

There was another technique. You swim back and forth across the pool, underwater, holding your breath, as long as you can. The theory was that re-flow would recondition oxygenation through your system, and the larger carbon dioxide molecules moving through your system would increase arterial oxygenation.

Both of these techniques actually work. You can actually become smarter if you do some version of one of these techniques. No shit.

So that's what's happening now. Humanity is holding its breath and re-breathing it. Once we develop energy sources that don't dump a carbon load into the atmosphere, humanity will breathe a collective sigh of relief.

And we will be smarter for it.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:17 PM on April 25, 2013


.
posted by nowhere man at 7:22 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Alright, but how long ago was the Pliocene? Not long, right?

"Scientists estimate that the last time CO2 was as high as 400 ppm was probably the Pliocene epoch, between 3.2 million and 5 million years ago"

Oh.
posted by karst at 7:28 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who cares about their kids? Apparently not us....
posted by bottlebrushtree at 7:42 PM on April 25, 2013


I feel compelled to point out that the Pleistocene was much cooler.

You favourite epoch sucks.
posted by srboisvert at 7:56 PM on April 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


"An increase of 10 parts per million might have needed 1,000 years or more to come to pass during ancient climate change events. Now the planet is poised to reach the 1,000 ppm level in only 100 years if emissions remain at their present level."
posted by karst at 7:57 PM on April 25, 2013


The Pleistocene was a fairly long time period. There were parts that were warmer and parts that were cooler.
posted by humanfont at 7:58 PM on April 25, 2013


That part in Terminator when the young buck is hollering ¡Viene la tormenta!
posted by samofidelis at 8:02 PM on April 25, 2013


The Pleistocene also predates human civilization. My favorite epoch is the last 11,000 years or so. It totally rules.
posted by karst at 8:08 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The thing that scares me is the thought of how bad things will need to get before the world gets together for what is quite literally a civilization scale project of reducing our emissions, because by the time we can actually continually feel the damage, well-- it's way too late, and no-ones seriously talking about halting our emissions now and beginning to turn them down, only to reducing the rate of growth of them sometime in the nebulous future.

It's going to be problematic for any first world country to say to any developing nation when the time comes, "Hey, I know our people totally raped our land and planet for resources and that allowed us tremendous growth and power, but, well-- can you not do that please, I know there's a pile of coal right there, but.. please don't burn it, okay? Our bad."

The political way I see it happening without mass death is the richer/powerful nations getting together very soon and saying "Look, we're all fucked, we really need to work on skipping every nation, including ourselves over the CO2 hump into the renewable or nuclear energy age, like, now, yes, even China, yes, it's going to be the most expensive undertaking in humanity, and yes, it's probably political suicide." That or persuading your population that they don't actually need cars, air conditioning or beef.

Because the only other hope is science-magic--- that fusion reactors will suddenly start working and we'll just make a load of fusion power silos dotted around the world who just spend their days breaking the C out of CO2, turn it into diamond and build huge mountains of the stuff, and we'll put a big ol' sun-shade up in space for good measure too.

And sadly, my only real hope is in the latter.
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:17 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Pliocene is totally my favorite epoch.
posted by asperity at 8:18 PM on April 25, 2013


My favorite epoch is the last 11,000 years or so.

That kind of epoch-centrism is why no one from the Pleistocene can find a job today.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:19 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


We could build a nuclear power plant in a year, if we just drop the multiple lawsuits forcing complete redoes of regulatory requirements.

If Fukushima wasn't enough, Vermont should be a pretty good testbed of what happens when the nuclear energy industry dictates how NRC regulations are to be interpreted. If you live in or anywhere near that state, I hope you have good sunscreen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:19 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Honestly, Static Vagabond, I think what will kickstart human space exploration/colonization again is rich people deciding they need to get the hell off this rock when things get really bad. (Feel free to use that premise for your bleak SF story, PM for my address for royalty checks).
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:20 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Forgive my Portlandese, but if you're really concerned now's a great time to start putting your money where your mouth is--walking or biking, planting trees, consuming locally and vegetarianly. There'll always be time to blame big government and business, but if you're not already doing what you personally can, you can't really criticize them for not doing anything either. If private citizens stopped buying and burning fossil fuels, we'd be we'll on our way.
posted by perhapsolutely at 8:43 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nothing's going to be done in the face of more storms or increasing food crises in places like the Sahel. The only thing that is going to create the political will is when sea level rise starts inundating major cities and claiming huge chunks of coastline, and by then it will of course be far too late.
posted by edeezy at 8:56 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Forgive my Portlandese, but if you're really concerned now's a great time to start putting your money where your mouth is--walking or biking, planting trees, consuming locally and vegetarianly. There'll always be time to blame big government and business, but if you're not already doing what you personally can, you can't really criticize them for not doing anything either.

I think more Americanese than Portlandese. Those are all great things, but individuals will not stop climate change, and individual action does not hold a candle to collective, political, legislative action. I have maintained for years, and still maintain, that the most effective thing anyone can do for climate is to contact their local members, at all levels, and tell them it's the number one issue that will decide your vote - what are they and their party gonna do about it?
posted by smoke at 9:21 PM on April 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Honestly, Static Vagabond, I think what will kickstart human space exploration/colonization again is rich people deciding they need to get the hell off this rock when things get really bad. (Feel free to use that premise for your bleak SF story, PM for my address for royalty checks).

I think it's important to keep in mind that no matter how horrible and hostile to humanity the Earth becomes, it will still be a sweet paradise of honey and milk compared to the next best place in reach. The Earth is where we will make our stand or perish, because there is NOWHERE else that will ever be even remotely as habitable as this.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:51 PM on April 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


Maybe the vast algae blooms that warming is going to create will end up as big crude oil deposits.

I hope the cockroaches don't make the same mistakes we did.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:53 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Learn how to garden and secure a water supply if you can.
posted by Camofrog at 9:59 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Google the "Cornwall Declaration" and understand that that bullshit is what Canada's Prime Minister Harper and several of his key ministers believe with all faith — and thus accounts for their absolute support for tar sands extraction, fracking, and complete disregard for all factors environmental.

Religious "thinkers" will be our species' doom.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:07 PM on April 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


karst: "The Pleistocene also predates human civilization. My favorite epoch is the last 11,000 years or so. It totally rules."

Whatevs. The inflationary epoch is the greatest epoch ever.
posted by symbioid at 10:17 PM on April 25, 2013


five fresh fish: "Google the "Cornwall Declaration"...Religious "thinkers" will be our species' doom."


Jesus fuck. That is terrible.
"The Cornwall Declaration further sets forth an articulate and Biblically-grounded set of beliefs and aspirations in which God can be glorified through a world in which "human beings care wisely and humbly for all creatures" and "widespread economic freedom…makes sound ecological stewardship available to ever greater numbers.""
(Cuz the Bible is a Capitalist document, dontcha know)
"The world is in the grip of an idea: that burning fossil fuels to provide affordable, abundant energy is causing global warming that will be so dangerous that we must stop it by reducing our use of fossil fuels, no matter the cost. Is that idea true? We believe not. We believe that idea – we'll call it "global warming alarmism" – fails the tests of theology, science, and economics."'
The fucking shit does "theology" have a GODDAMNED THING to do with Global Warming.

I've got some fucking Theodicy for you fucks, though. Evil is what you are doing and your act of not giving a shit about our only home is a prime source of evil for all humanity.
posted by symbioid at 10:29 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I keep thinking about nanotech, and how it could save our asses so well. Then I realize that the whole thing is probably going to be outsourced to some drunken shady belorussians to save costs and pack big cat bonuses, and the 'bots are going to kill us all by turning all the atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia.
posted by Iosephus at 10:39 PM on April 25, 2013


Yes, symbioid. And because we use fire to cook food, CO2 can't be harmful, because God wouldn't design it like that.

Also, Jesus will be coming back Real Soon Now and will be performing maintenance on the natural environmental wear and tear from these past 2000 years, so it's all good anyhow.

Despair is about all the emotion I can dredge up in the face of such lunacy and terminal stupidity.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:44 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


If Fukushima wasn't enough

Consider all the deaths attributable to Fukushima and other nuclear power generation.

Now consider all the deaths attributable to fossil power generation. Remember to include the cancer and heart disease deaths due to air and water pollution, just like you did for nuclear.

Now consider all the deaths expected from global climate change. Remember to include all the wars and famines.

The number goes up by orders of magnitude each step.
posted by hattifattener at 10:59 PM on April 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


And yet we keep driving, and fracking, and flaring gas (N.D.), and digging tar sands ... as if everything was just peachy. Apart from Bill McKibben, who's consistently getting hot about it?

Our head-in-the-sand "leadership" seems determined to find some advantage in this. How can we turn the heat on them MUCH higher? We know for whom the bell tolls.
posted by Twang at 11:00 PM on April 25, 2013


Thinking about it from a political point of view, global warming is a very difficult problem because the atmosphere is a globally shared resource, but we don't have a global government. (And we're not likely to ever have one, no matter how bad things get. Based on our past experience with would-be conquerors, I think we can say that attempting to create a single world government would result in killing an unimaginable number of people, and also fail.)

That said, it's possible for independent states to negotiate agreements over shared resources. The rational way to deal with the problem would be to put a gradually rising carbon tax into place (William Nordhaus provides an overview). The two key actors here are the US and Chinese governments; Europe is already on board. I don't know about China (according to the Economist, China's planning a cap-and-trade system), but in the US, action will be very difficult, because 37% of US voters believe that global warming is a hoax. The most promising route would be EPA regulation.

If you're looking for something you can do, putting pressure on the Obama administration to act would be a good idea. Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan:
[Obama] answered with a story about the legendary 20th-century organizer A. Philip Randolph meeting with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Randolph described to FDR the condition of black people in America, the condition of working people. Reportedly, FDR listened intently, then replied: “I agree with everything you have said. Now, make me do it.” That was the message Obama repeated.
Of course, as historians know, people (in general) and leaders (in particular) don't always do the rational thing. (Barbara Tuchman wrote an entire book on this subject, The March of Folly.) If I had to make an estimate, I'd say there's maybe a 30% chance that we'll see a diplomatic solution (based on the three elements of diplomacy: persuasion, compromise, and threats) which keeps CO2 at a less-than-all-out-catastrophe level.

A fallback would be a technical solution: geo-engineering.

And if that doesn't work out? Then I think what will happen will be the less-rational way of resolving conflicts: namely, violence.

Economics is good for studying everyday life: a market of buyers and sellers, with prices determined by supply and demand. If demand increases a bit, or supply decreases a bit, prices rise a bit. A free market results in maximum efficiency.

But when there's sudden catastrophic changes in the supply of food, with no substitutes available? People aren't going to quietly starve to death when they can't afford to buy food. What happens next isn't in the domain of economics. It's the domain of power politics and war. People will overthrow their governments. They'll fight over what's left.
posted by russilwvong at 11:52 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had the most depressing conversation with my father recently. My dad has always been sort of a climate optimist - "oh, global warming is happening, but I lived through predictions of Soylent-Green style overpopulation and followed by predictions of nuclear winter, so I tend not to believe in apocalyptic scenarios, plus there must be some kind of planetary homeostasis effect or we will figure out the technology" - but when we last talked, he said he felt like global warming was unstoppable and going to be a huge, huge disaster. This is, of course, what I've thought since about 1992, but hearing it from my dad was a bit of a shock, since I still tend to assume semi-consciously that Dad Is Right and I'd always kind of relied on some kind of "ha ha Frowner is so negative, we beat global warming in 2015 with this convenient cheap method" scenario.

So anyway, we went on to basically agree that I was reasonable not to want kids. They've long since accepted that there won't be any grandchildren, but I know they've always kind of wanted some and it was a bit scary to realize that my dad the climate optimist had switched over into "just as well that Frowner isn't having any kids really".

Then we shared our respective worries - him for my generation (although honestly I am rising forty and although I'd like to live another thirty, thirty-five years, I've at least had a decent time) mine for my friends' young kids. I mean, I have friends whose kids are two. They may not even be that old when we're at 4 degrees and high-tech human global civilization is firmly impossible.
posted by Frowner at 11:59 PM on April 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Justinian: "I have come around to the conclusion that answer to the climate change problem will have to be some form of active solution involving large scale engineering (whether chemical, mechanical, or biological) rather than passive solutions such as reducing emissions. Yes, we must reduce emissions. But we're not going to reduce them far enough fast enough to solve the problem. Pretending we are going to do so is sticking your head in the sand.

Let's get DARPA started on solar mirrors or something.
"

I've been saying the same thing for years now. (To the bathroom mirror and in threads like this one.) The time when emissions reduction alone might have worked was the early 90s, after the Soviet Union fell and Chinese industrialization was just getting started. That time was like the chapter break in a history book, but we're living in 2013 now and this era is well and truly in progress. Billions of people are in the process of lifting themselves into a better way of life and no treaty to reduce emissions will ever be enforced until that process is done, or disaster intervenes.

This is a technological problem now, and the big question is how bad things have to get before we seriously start looking to solutions. It can be fixed, or mitigated, but we should be spending billions of dollars studying this, in every nation. Fighting battles over things like the Keystone pipeline is almost a form of denialism itself at this point, by people pretending that emissions reduction will happen in time.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:09 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I (apparently) once did an FPP about a documentary from the future.
posted by maxwelton at 1:08 AM on April 26, 2013


Carbon capture is the future. If we can get CO2 out of the atmosphere, we stand a good chance at stopping, even reversing these really terrifying trends.

We have to do carbon capture. Along with cutting emissions, sure, but...what if what if what if...

What if we develop cc technology to the point that we can take out of the air more than is being put in? (Even if it's more than what we output now; renewables notwithstanding, it will be.) That might not be enough to solve the warming problem, but then again it might be. In all our lifetimes to boot.
posted by zardoz at 3:00 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's worth pointing out that the presumption that the right "disbelieves" in climate change is certainly incorrect. The smart people on the right trust science as much as the left does. They know the CO2 levels are rising and the world is going to warm and change dramatically and dangerously in the next century.

The key truth is that they don't care. Why? Because they have the money to survive it, and they don't give a shit about the people who don't. (Have you heard this song before? It's the song of the libertarian a.k.a. the song of the blessed/entitled. There is no free lunch; if you can't pay for something, you can't have it. That includes fresh air and a planet that was more or less as habitable as we found it. Never mind that they're the ones driving up the price.)

So why all the noise in the media about how false climate change is? Because they have to quell the revolution that would happen if Joe Six Pack and Jane Apple Pie in Flyover, NB started to pay attention to the science. That's why science is repressed. That's why authoritarianism and religious beliefs are encouraged. Because that's how you keep the people quiet: you lie. Lie so loudly and so often that there is no headspace for a challenging thought much less and opposing point of view.

And then it's too late, and then the lies will change about who was responsible. And the oil-igachists will have plenty of money to live in comfort in the newly temperate Siberia and Nunavut, and so the world will continue as it should, with maybe 250 million people, most of them subsistence farmers on the high plains near the (former) Arctic Circle, and a couple million in scattered walled fortresses, which will eventually fall into warring fiefdoms over rare earths.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:25 AM on April 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ark II was set in the 2400s tho honestly I think the 2100s are a much more likely scenario.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:27 AM on April 26, 2013


You know, I thought this shit was gonna get real a while after I was dead. So, fuck, is what I'm saying.
posted by angrycat at 4:29 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Azolla ponds? Worked in the Paleocene-Eoceme Thermal Maximum... (The Pliocene was downright chilly compared to that)
posted by grajohnt at 4:30 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's something to keep you up at night.

If we had invested the $2.2 trillion in wind and solar, the US would be generating 21% of its electricity with renewable energy. If we had invested the $3.9 trillion that the war in Iraq will ultimately cost, we would generate nearly 40% of our electricity with new renewables. Combined with the 10% of supply from existing hydroelectricity, the US could have surpassed 50% of total renewables in supply.

However, this is a conservative estimate. If we include the reasonable assumptions suggested by Robert Freehling, the contribution by renewables would be even greater.

Freehling’s assumptions raise to as much as 60% the nation’s lost potential contribution by new renewables to US electricity supply by going to war in Iraq. With the addition of existing hydroelectric generation, the opportunity to develop as much as 70% of our nation’s electricity with renewable energy was lost.


Woulda, coulda, shoulda. The solution is right there in front of us. I can't help but think if the US had weened itself off Arab oil we would have bankrupted "those who hate freedom" and set an economic example to the rest of the world.
posted by karst at 5:12 AM on April 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


The utter uselessness of political institutions has never been clearer than in the face of this shit. They have completely failed at their putative purpose of making possible large-scale action to address large-scale problems. Every party, every politician, every polity.

It's like if in Deep Impact Morgan Freeman had decided, hey, this comet has got everyone distracted, those suckers, perfect time to invade Canada!
posted by enn at 5:38 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


The key truth is that they don't care. Why? Because they have the money to survive it, and they don't give a shit about the people who don't.

Yup. Geoff Berner has a fun song about it: Higher Ground (song starts at about 45-50s)
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:34 AM on April 26, 2013


Because they have the money to survive it

They don't of course. Money is only worth what people decide it's worth.

If they think the rent-a-cop at their gated community is going to stop the mobs of starving people with pitchforks and torches from burning their McMansions down, they are delusional.

But they're going to live on a private island? Yes? And who will be picking the Tomatos and slaughtering the swine for their BLTs in this post-apocolyptic beach resort?

A thriving, functioning, stable economy for the masses is what gives their obscene wealth value. If they think they have what it takes to be an Eritrean warlord, bully for them. But I think that's not quite the comfortable retirement that most have in mind.
posted by j03 at 6:52 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


McMansion people are barely half a step up the food chain from people starving in the streets of Kolkata and are just as irrelevant when it comes to global issues.

Unless, of course, they all get mad and actually do something dangerous about it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:02 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


And the massive amounts of energy required to smelt rare earths, manufacture carbon-sinking devices, and power those devices—where' isthat going to come from, that it won't create more CO2 and more problems than it solves?

Hawking is right: GTFO and find a new planet. We done wrecked this one up.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:02 AM on April 26, 2013


Salvor Hardin: there is NOWHERE else that will ever be even remotely as habitable as this.

Plus how are we going to get there? So far, travel to other parts of the solar system is prohibitively expensive, and there's growing evidence that humans can't spend long periods of time in space without serious and permanent health effects. The idea that we're just going to magically lift off and fly away, leaving the wreck of Earth behind is just that - magical thinking.
posted by sneebler at 7:09 AM on April 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Or, Hawking be damned! ;-)
posted by sneebler at 7:10 AM on April 26, 2013


This is indeed depressing as all hell. I think the solution to, or at least our approach to dealing with, climate change will either be a technological silver bullet (safer fission or fusion nuclear power plants running some efficient carbon sequestration 24/7 and dumping the carbon in the sea) or a rapid increase in empathy worldwide that would make political solutions like a severe tax on carbon tenable.

I'm not sure which of the two is less feasible.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:56 AM on April 26, 2013


My deepest hope for a "magic bullet" is new battery technology. There is a trillion dollars on the table at a minimum for anyone who can develop a fast-charge battery with even just 5x the capacity/density of current lithium products at a comparable price. That would turn an electric car from a joke/toy at a 200 mile range to an amazing product with a 1000 mile range. And imagine if they had a 10 or 20x battery. Yes you need to put electricity in it, but all of our best renewable technologies these days generate electricity, not carbons.

I keep hearing about new 10x batteries just a couple years away now. I am hoping. So much hope. Hope hope hope.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:43 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, it seems to me there is an easy solution: Nuclear winter. When Krakatoa happened it made the climate cooler for several years. I'm sure the world's militarizes have enough explosives to buy us time, right? You could even get the rednecks on board, because, you know, big freaking explosions.

And if that doesn't work. Well, who wants to have a giant metafilter orgy as we watch the world go to hell? I'm sure we could get in the Guinness book of world records for the geekiest orgy, and since it would be the final edition, we'd hold it for all time.
posted by Canageek at 10:07 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


There isn't anything we can do. But that's alright. As noted above, even despite climate change, the human race doesn't have long (geologically) anyway. We should focus on making things livable, not savable.
posted by agregoli at 10:29 AM on April 26, 2013


Solution: Giant Project Orion spaceships. The giant ships can move a respectable amount of people to the surface of Mars and the cloud tops of Venus, and all the dust they kick up blocks sunlight and lowers the temperature on Earth.

Badda bing badda boom, problem solved, for a slight increase in global cancer rates from nuclear fallout.

(I kid, but it actually isn't that crazy of a plan in 100 years or so, given current projections.)
posted by BeeDo at 10:36 AM on April 26, 2013


seanmpuckett: "My deepest hope for a "magic bullet" is new battery technology"

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have designed a low-cost, long-life battery that could enable solar and wind energy to become major suppliers to the electrical grid.

Developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the new microbatteries out-power even the best supercapacitors and could drive new applications in radio communications and compact electronics.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:23 AM on April 26, 2013


five fresh fish: "Hawking is right: GTFO and find a new planet. We done wrecked this one up."

That should only be reserved for species that have proven they won't actually fuck up a planet. We don't fucking deserve a new planet. (I say this as a former "Cosmist"/Transhumanist/Extropian)
posted by symbioid at 12:07 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Asia Times: World enters a resource-shock era
Essentially, climate change will wreak its havoc on us by constraining our access to the basics of life: vital resources that include food, water, land, and energy. This will be devastating to human life, even as it significantly increases the danger of resource conflicts of all sorts erupting.

We already know enough about the future effects of climate change to predict the following with reasonable confidence:
Rising sea levels will in the next half-century erase many coastal areas, destroying large cities, critical infrastructure (including roads, railroads, ports, airports, pipelines, refineries, and power plants), and prime agricultural land;
Diminished rainfall and prolonged droughts will turn once-verdant croplands into dust bowls, reducing food output and turning millions into "climate refugees".
More severe storms and intense heat waves will kill crops, trigger forest fires, cause floods, and destroy critical infrastructure
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:16 PM on April 26, 2013


Really - it's a brilliant Systems approach to killing off the virus of humanity. Oh - you pushed the capacity too far? Well, I guess you'll just have to die off since you clearly can't manage responsible resource usage, and it will be by your own hand. Karma. Plain and simple. No need for a god, no need for a spiritual force. Plain simple chemical processes and aggregate motions of things over millennia based upon very simple rules.
posted by symbioid at 12:22 PM on April 26, 2013


oh good, creepy genocidal misanthropy

for fuck's sake, you're a couple tax brackets and a copy of "Atlas Shrugged" away from literally being the people about whom everyone is complaining
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:46 PM on April 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


I can't help but think if the US had weened itself off Arab oil we would have bankrupted "those who hate freedom" and set an economic example to the rest of the world.

We can blame Ronald Reagan for putting the U.S. mindset 30 years behind. Back in the late 70s solar was in its infancy but people were really serious about it. We should've started then with the solar race; the U.S. would now be on top in the solar industry, not Germany and China.

Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House. Reagan came in in 1980 and took them down. That one action set back solar for decades, at least in the U.S. It actually made people anti-solar.
posted by zardoz at 1:28 PM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


LOL wut? How the fucking hell does my misanthropy make me anywhere NEAR Ayn Rand levels. Look - if we actually succeed in turning shit around, then fine, but there is nothing that says we deserve to have a goddamned planet, let alone inherit the universe in some sense of hubristic self-righteousness if we don't manage to not fuck up the one we live on in the first place. I'd argue that it's up to us as a species to prove ourselves to do the right thing. Ayn Rand doesn't give two fucking shits about anyone else but Ayn Rand (and the same goes for her fucking acolytes).

My point is that we, AS A COLLECTIVE SPECIES, better do something but so far we haven't proven ourselves capable, and there is a feedback system in effect that you can't argue against. You put CO2 in, the temperature rises. This is a scientific fact (simplified, of course), but to act as if hey - let's build a spaceship since we fucked up this first one, without showing that we've gained any wisdom to not do the same in the future doesn't bode well for a space faring species...

My point was that I used to be a transhumanist and though hey let's all upload our brain into computers yada yada, and I'm so far away from that now. In fact, the dominant political philosophy in transhumanism would be egoist individualism (that's not the only one, of course, but it definitely does have a dominant position -- or at least did in the 90s when I was considering myself as one). I've moved into Communism. Explain how I'm "one trashy novel away from ...?"

I don't understand what's so hard to say that these are very natural and real forces that have an actual effect on feedback cycles in complex systems, and because I deign to say that we caused this effect ourselves, we'll end up suffering the consequences if we don't change our act, and that we don't particularly deserve to inherit the universe if we don't act to reverse this process, I'm on par with Egoist Ayn Rand? Pull the other one.
posted by symbioid at 2:52 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jejune nihilism never makes anyone to smooch you after second quarter of sophomore year.
posted by samofidelis at 3:57 PM on April 26, 2013


And yet we keep driving, and fracking, and flaring gas (N.D.), and digging tar sands ... as if everything was just peachy. Apart from Bill McKibben, who's consistently getting hot about it?

In Gasland sequel, fracking saga’s pressure ratchets up
posted by homunculus at 5:52 PM on April 26, 2013


More severe storms and intense heat waves will kill crops, trigger forest fires, cause floods, and destroy critical infrastructure

Fires Burn More Fiercely As Northern Forests Warm
posted by homunculus at 5:55 PM on April 26, 2013


There will be no magic bullet. Your science and gods will not save you. The sea will rise, and the rain will fail and fall in abundance. The great forests will burn. You will come to know hunger until the last shreds of mindfulness are obliterated. Your works and the works of every generation will be swept as dust by great wind. Nothing will remain but the Voyager probes traveling until the end of time through space, cold and alone as the pale blue dot it left behind turns ash gray like a corpse. The fires of a million forges were used to cast that die.
posted by humanfont at 6:06 PM on April 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'd like to take a moment on behalf of this generation to thank everyone for their stellar performance this past century.
posted by forgetful snow at 6:18 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've moved into communism
you cant be a communist if you consider the workers a virus
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:46 PM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Frowner: So anyway, we went on to basically agree that I was reasonable not to want kids.

The future is inherently uncertain. Yes, it's possible that things will be terrible. But we don't know that for certain.

I'd say that there's a good chance of famine and war in the medium-term future (say 50 years). But it's not like history isn't full of famine and war.

Looking back only 100 years, large parts of the world went through terrible times during the 20th century. Thinking of China, for example, there was civil disorder, followed by revolution; warlords; the Japanese invasion; civil war; the Korean War; the Great Leap Forward, during which 15-30 million people starved; the Cultural Revolution. And the 20th century isn't even the worst. The German states lost 25-40% of their population during the Thirty Years' War. France lost half its population during the Hundred Years' War.

Of course we should do everything in our power to prevent catastrophe. But we also shouldn't assume that if we're unsuccessful, the world will literally end. It'll just be a much poorer, hungrier, and more violent place.
posted by russilwvong at 10:25 PM on April 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


In other pollution news: Toxic BP oil clean-up chemical sickening those exposed
posted by homunculus at 10:48 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the perspective, russilwvong. I agree. Global warming is critical, but we don't need to automatically just start bemoaning how doomed we are. We need to figure out what to do about it and start bugging people to at least acknowledge the fact that we're making large-scale changes to the planet itself.

Humanfont: Awesome and well-written. Very poetic. But I think you inappropriately mixed the metaphors in the last sentence there: To "cast a die" is to throw a die; it isn't the same as to "cast" something in an oven. The last sentence doesn't work.
posted by Sleeper at 11:44 PM on April 26, 2013


Nothing will remain but the Voyager probes traveling until the end of time through space, cold and alone as the pale blue dot it left behind turns ash gray like a corpse.

Someone's been watching Melancholia: The Musical!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:45 AM on April 27, 2013


for fuck's sake, you're a couple tax brackets and a copy of "Atlas Shrugged" away from literally being the people about whom everyone is complaining
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:46 on April 26

God dammit, this happens every single time.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 7:53 AM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


But we also shouldn't assume that if we're unsuccessful, the world will literally end. It'll just be a much poorer, hungrier, and more violent place.

Yes, of course. And then, all the human and animal life will die. This is inevitable. The only question is when, and yes, it will be a long way off. But the world doesn't end. Nothing ends.
posted by agregoli at 8:07 AM on April 27, 2013


@Pyrogenesis

not every time, but you do sort of start to get the feeling that people are looking for something new now that zombies aren't a thing
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:38 AM on April 27, 2013


Thanks, in my defense. Cast a die also applies to manufacturing, not just games of gambling involving dice. Fate is sealed in both cases.
posted by humanfont at 10:42 AM on April 27, 2013


@This, of course, alludes to you

My joke may have resulted in us talking past each other or maybe I'm just confused, but I meant that your nickname here in MeFi just catches me off guard every single goddamn time. Your nickname is one of the most pitch-perfect metacommentaries about whatever you're commenting on and catches me off guard ever damn time. Your comment I responded to was just hilariously perfect in that sense. It just comes off as "Y'know, speaking in general and not referring to anyone in particular" posted by This, of course, alludes to you. I just love it.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:13 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mark Zuckerberg’s New Political Group Spending Big On Ads Supporting Keystone XL And Oil Drilling
posted by homunculus at 3:45 PM on April 27, 2013


Snowshoe Hares Can't Keep Up With Climate Change
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:10 AM on April 29, 2013


Plants moderate climate warming: As temperatures warm, plants release gases that help form clouds and cool the atmosphere, according to research from IIASA and the University of Helsinki.
posted by homunculus at 1:19 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting link, homunculus, but not as rosy sounding as it may seem from the wording of the link.

"The effect of enhanced plant gas emissions on climate is small on a global scale – only countering approximately 1 percent of climate warming, the study suggested. “This does not save us from climate warming,” says Paasonen."

I was hiking in the rainforest a couple of days ago and it was profound how much cooler it was when we left the forested area and walked out into farmland.
posted by karst at 4:00 PM on April 30, 2013


‘Banana Republic’ In North Carolina: GOP Committee Chair ‘Approves’ Bill To Gut Clean Energy Without Counting Votes
posted by homunculus at 1:15 PM on May 2, 2013


Jonathan Chait: Why Obama Might Actually Be the Environmental President.

Chait discusses Obama's record so far:
What has he done? He has done quite a bit, probably far more than you think, and not all of it advertised as climate legislation, or advertised as much of anything at all. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was many things—primarily, a desperate bid to shove money into enough Americans’ pockets to prevent another Great Depression—but one of them was a major piece of environmental reform. The law contained upwards of $90 billion in subsidies for green energy, which had a catalyzing effect on burgeoning industries. American wind-power generation has doubled, and solar power has increased more than six times over....

The stimulus had the misfortune of absorbing the brunt of the public’s dismay with the economic crisis, and Republicans successfully turned Solyndra, an anomalous case of a green-energy subsidy that went bust, into a symbol that rendered the whole law so unpopular Democrats quickly grew afraid to tout it. Even a close observer like [Nicholas] Lemann has forgotten that it was indeed “major environmental legislation.” And yet, the wave of innovation—new fuels, plus turbines, energy meters, and other futuristic devices—will reverberate for years. Envia Systems, a stimulus-financed clean-energy firm in Silicon Valley, has developed technology for electric-car batteries three times as efficient as the technology in the Volt, capable of shaving $5,000 off the sticker price of an electric car when it comes to market in 2015. Just a few weeks ago, the Times reported on a new stimulus-financed research project to increase the energy content (and thus reduce the emissions) of natural gas.

The administration has also carried out an ambitious program of regulation, having imposed or announced higher standards for gas mileage in cars, fuel cleanliness, energy efficiency in appliances, and emissions from new power plants. In aggregate, they amount to a major assault on climate change. Some environmentalists judge them to be insufficient—a fair critique—but many more Obama supporters aren’t even aware that they exist. This is likely because none of these regulations produced any political theater. There was no legislation, no ponderous Sunday-morning talk-show chin-scratching, no dramatic wrangling of votes on the House floor. Just the issuing of a new regulation, a smallish one-day story.
More speculatively, Chait thinks that the Obama administration will regulate emissions from existing coal-fired power plants:
So far, there is one hole in his regulatory agenda: power plants that currently exist. This is, unfortunately, a very large hole, as these plants, mostly coal, emit 40 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions.

... a few weeks after last year’s election, the Natural Resources Defense Council published a plan for the EPA to regulate existing power plants in a way that was neither ineffectual nor draconian. The proposal would set state-by-state limits on emissions. It sounds simple, but this was a conceptual breakthrough. Much like a cap-and-trade bill, it would allow market signals to indicate the most efficient ways for states to hit their targets—instead of shutting coal plants down, some utilities might pay consumers to weatherize their homes, while others might switch some of their generators over to cleaner fuels. The flexibility of the scheme would, in turn, reduce the costs passed on to consumers. Here is a way for Obama to use his powers—his own powers, unencumbered by the morass of a dysfunctional Congress—in such a way that is neither as ineffectual as a firecracker nor as devastating as a nuke: The NRDC calculates its plan would reduce our reliance on coal by about a quarter and national carbon emissions by 10 percent.

... New regulations would have to withstand a certain legal challenge from the energy industry—though, crucially, implementation would not have to wait as cases wind their way through the courts. The EPA’s authority has withstood several high-profile challenges before, because the law is so broadly written; on the other hand, the challenges to Obamacare remind us that precedent cannot fully predict the behavior of agitated conservative judges. Also like the Obamacare challenge, the legal fight will play out against the backdrop of political war. Republicans in Congress have proposed barring the EPA from using its powers—in Senator James Inhofe’s formulation, “Put Congress, not unaccountable bureaucrats, in charge of deciding the nation’s energy policy.” The Wall Street Journal editorial page has described Obama’s threat to regulate carbon emissions as something akin to the action of a “dictator.”

So the administration and its allies have been mobilizing for combat....

[Dan] Lashof predicted the following sequence of events. The agency will finish drafting its regulation scheme by the end of the year. It will then take about a year of public comments and revisions, at which point it will finalize its rule. That will be the end of 2014, just after the midterm elections.
Chait suggests that this timeline would give Congress a chance to pass its own climate legislation (even though it won't).
posted by russilwvong at 8:13 PM on May 9, 2013


Carbon Dioxide Level Passes Long-Feared Milestone
Carbon dioxide above 400 parts per million was first seen in the Arctic last year, and had also spiked above that level in hourly readings at Mauna Loa. But the average reading for an entire day surpassed that level at Mauna Loa for the first time in the 24 hours that ended at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday, according to data from both NOAA and Scripps.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:41 PM on May 10, 2013


No Need to Worry About Global Warming, Folks: More Carbon Dioxide Will Be Awesome
posted by homunculus at 4:06 PM on May 10, 2013


New thread.
posted by homunculus at 11:24 AM on May 11, 2013


Zombie climate sceptic theories survive only in newspapers and on TV: Study finds overwhelming scientific consensus that humans have caused global warming, but media still hasn't caught up
posted by homunculus at 10:39 PM on May 18, 2013


The Climate-Change Wars Begin This Summer
posted by homunculus at 11:03 AM on May 25, 2013


Is Australia the Face of Climate Change to Come? Extreme weather Down Under may foreshadow events on a global scale.
posted by homunculus at 11:04 AM on May 25, 2013


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