A bedtime story for mankind.

The latest IPCC report is more than dry science; it’s our future!

Regular readers of Learning from Dogs will be aware that yesterday I published a post called A bedtime story for Jimmy.  It was prompted by learning of an eight-year-old who was offered the opportunity of shooting a wild turkey early last Saturday morning.  The penultimate paragraph read as follows:

If we care for nature then we care for the health of our lands, for our forests and for our seas. We are careful with how we live our lives. If we care for nature then as we live our lives we do our best to leave things better for those that come after us.

Little did I know when writing my post that on the same day of publication would be a chilling post from Patrice Ayme; a post that Patrice has generously given me permission to republish in full.

Indeed, little did I know that when I composed my preface to Jimmy’s story and included these words:

However, this eight-year-old lad is facing a future that demands that he and all his generation accept that embracing nature, totally and whole-heartedly, is their only hope of not being the last generation of humans on this beautiful planet.

That less than twenty-four hours later Patrice’s perspective on the latest IPCC report made that sentence of mine far from hyperbole!  Here is that essay from Patrice.


Terminal Greenhouse Crisis.


At the present rate of greenhouse gases emissions, within nine years, massively lethal climate and oceanic changes are guaranteed.

Such is the conclusion one can draw from the Inter Governmental Panel On Climate Change of the UN (the IPCC, with its top 300 climate scientists from all over the world). About 78% of the emissions have to do with heating, cooking, and basic, necessary industrial activities, such as making cement.

They are not elective.

As Bad As An Asteroid?
As Bad As An Asteroid?

Notes: CO2 FOLU = CO2 emissions from Forestry and Other Land Use. F-gases = Fluorinated gases covered under the Kyoto Protocol. At the right side of the figure: Emissions of each greenhouse gas with associated error bars (90% confidence interval).

Only a crash program of construction of several hundreds of new technology nuclear fission plants, an all-out renewable energy program, with massive solar plants all over the American South and the (similar latitude) Sahara desert, plus a massive hydrogen economy to store the wind and solar energy could allow us to mitigate the massive lethal change incoming.

In other words, it is already too late to avoid the massive lethal change.

What’s the problem? Simple mathematics. It’s evaluated that human activities in the last century or so released 515 billion tons of greenhouse gases. The IPCC and the best experts believe that 800 to 1,000 billion tons of such gases would bring a rise of global temperatures of two degrees Celsius.

At the present rate, that’s nine years to reach the upper reaches: one trillion tons of GHG.

Most of the temperature rise will be in the polar regions, melting those, and inducing worldwide climate catastrophe, especially if emissions of polar methane turn apocalyptic. The polar regions are the Achilles heel of the Earth’s present biosphere. By striking there mostly, enormous changes can be brought to bear, as they would destroy the Earth’s air conditioning and oceanic circulation.

In 2014, trade winds in the Pacific had four times the energy they usually have, creating abnormally intense ocean upwelling off the west coast of North America, thus a high pressure ridge (thus a drought there), causing a world wide oscillation of the jet stream that dragged cold polar air down the east coast of the USA, before rebounding as continual storms and rain on the west coast of Europe, and so forth.

Nobody can say the weather was normal: precipitation in England beat all records, dating 250 years, whereas most of California experienced extreme drought.

At this point, warm water is piling down to 500 meters depth in the western Pacific in what looks like a preparation for a massive El Nino, similar to the one in 1997-98. If this happens, global temperature records will be smashed next year.

Massively lethal means death to the world as we know it, by a thousand cuts. It means cuts to democracy, privacy, life span, food intake. Some of these are already in plain sight: the Ukraine war is already a war about gas, no less an authority as dictator Putin says so.

Tom Friedman in “Go Ahead, Vladimir, Make My Day.” takes the situation lightly. “SO the latest news is that President Vladimir Putin of Russia has threatened to turn off gas supplies to Ukraine if Kiev doesn’t pay its overdue bill, and, by the way, Ukraine’s pipelines are the transit route for 15 percent of gas consumption for Europe. If I’m actually rooting for Putin to go ahead and shut off the gas, does that make me a bad guy?

Because that is what I’m rooting for, and I’d be happy to subsidize Ukraine through the pain. Because such an oil shock, though disruptive in the short run, could have the same long-term impact as the 1973 Arab oil embargo — only more so. That 1973 embargo led to the first auto mileage standards in America and propelled the solar, wind and energy efficiency industries. A Putin embargo today would be even more valuable because it would happen at a time when the solar, wind, natural gas and energy efficiency industries are all poised to take off and scale. So Vladimir, do us all a favor, get crazy, shut off the oil and gas to Ukraine and, even better, to all of Europe. Embargo! You’ll have a great day, and the rest of the planet will have a great century.”

It’s not so simple. The investments needed are massive, and all the massive investments so far have to do with fracking… Which is, ecologically speaking, a disaster. 3% methane leakage makes fracking worse than burning coal. And this leakage is apparently happening.

Unbelievably, some of the countries with coal beds got the bright idea to burn the coal underground. Australia, about the worst emitter of CO2 per capita, experimented with that. It had to be stopped, because some particularly toxic gases (such as toluene) were coming out, not just the CH4 and CO the apprentice sorcerers were looking for.

Carbon Capture and Storage does not exist (but for very special cases in half a dozen special locations, worldwide, not the thousands of locales needed). And CSS will not exist (profitably).

What technology exist that could be developed (but is not yet)? Not just Thorium reactors. The hydrogen economy is a low key, and indispensable economy. Water can be broken by electricity from wind and sun, and then energy can be stored, under the form of hydrogen. Nothing else can do it: batteries are unable to store energy efficiently (and there is not enough Lithium to make trillions of Lithium batteries).

The hydrogen technology pretty much exist, including for efficient storage under safe form (one thick plate of a material that cannot be set aflame can store 600 liters of hydrogen).

Another advantage of storing hydrogen is that oxygen would be released. Although it may seem absurd to worry about this, too much acidity in the ocean (from absorption of CO2) could lead to phytoplankton die-off, and the removal of half of oxygen production.

In this increasingly weird world, that’s where we are at.

Oh, by the way, how to stop Putin? Europe should tell the dictator he can keep his gaz. Now. As good an occasion to start defending the planet, and not just against fascism.

Patrice Aymé


I can’t add anything at a scientific level to what Patrice has written.  But I can offer this.  Each and every one of us needs to make sure the message is spread as far and wide as possible (you are free to share and republish this post) and then do something, however small it may seem, to make a difference. And do it now!

For the sake of all the Jimmys in the world – and all the turkeys!

24 thoughts on “A bedtime story for mankind.

  1. Thanks Paul for publishing my shot across the bow of complacency. I notice the ominous silence on the commentary front… That’s unfortunate, because I have lots of answers, and there should be lots of questions.


      1. People prefer to live in denial, greatly because they are lazy, and don’t want to make the effort of being leaders. Thus the seduction of climate deniers.


  2. 13.5 gt carbon emission per year current gets us to about 900 gt c in 30 years. That said, according to Michael Mann, we lock in 2C short term warming in about 3 years… IPCC is a bit conservative….


    1. Robert, welcome to this place and thank you for your comment. A little later on I want to refer to an opinion that runs counter to your comment and would love to have your reaction.


    2. Hi Robert! You are entirely right. Now multiply 13.5 Gt by 4. What do you get? About 54 BILLION TONS per year. This is what we are PRESENTLY emitting in Green House Gases CO2 equivalent. Just look at the IPCC graph carefully. It stops in 2010, but CO2 emissions have augmented considerably since (from China, Germany Energie Wende, switching to coal, and the USA fracking, and methane leaking).

      Now you just have to divide 30 years by 4…

      The IPCC is indeed absurdly conservative. The IPCC totally ignores the greatest threat, the clathrate gun possibility.


      1. The gt Carbon figure used by IPCC to assess progress toward the 2 C ECS mark doesn’t count the atomic weight in the gasses, just the weight of the carbon. That’s why the figure can be confusing at times. Using the same math, we’ve already emitted about 2060 gt CO2e into the atmosphere. But the number IPCC uses for its 2 C prediction (conservative) is the carbon portion which is about 515.

        So one figure is, essentially, an apple and the other is an orange. Gt C = apple. Gt CO2e = orange. The annual emission is 13.5 gt C (the measure that IPCC uses to track potential ECS warming) or 54 gt CO2e.

        Mann notes that all we need to lock in the 2 C figure is about 550 to 600 gt C or 2200 to 2600 gt CO2e. So we have three years under his assessment.

        Under IPCC, which in my view is in for a rude awakening, we have about 20 when we factor in current rate of emissions increase (assuming about 530 gt C in 2014 as the IPCC figure is about two years old).


    3. Robert: OK, if you believe the IPCC is confused, what about the EPA? The CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels ALONE is around 35 Teragrams of CO2/year.


      In other words, 35 billion tons per year.

      Look at it another way: with 500 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, we locked in one degree Celsius of GLOBAL warming (and around 5 degrees at the poles!). We are more than doubling that in the next nine years. Easily locking in another degree Celsius, GLOBAL (and probably much more, much sooner, as the oceanic temp rise has been relentless).


      1. Total global emission in CO2e has been around 2060 gigatons since the start of the industrial revolution. We will double that in less than 40 years at the current rate of emission and increase.

        The gigaton C figure is in carbon (515) only not CO2e which is a different figure (2060). People get confused by this all the time.

        Current warming at the poles is consistent with a 1 C increase globally. And, yes, we’re warming the world very rapidly. At least 30 times faster than at the end of the last ice age.


      2. Dear Robert:
        OK! I stayed silent for a few days, as I was doing other things and reviewing the numbers. I admit to be slightly confused myself. The exact numbers are very confusing. Only the graphs are clear and eloquent… Because they depend upon relative quantities, not the absolute one.

        I confess I made the sin of confusing somewhere the “C” in “CO2” and “CO2”, and the IPCC, EPA, etc, are certainly culprit of the same sin. I even wonder if they don’t do it deliberately, to understate the problem.

        Certainly 515 billion tons of “Carbon” in 2010 in the atmosphere, is less frightening than 3,000 billion tons of CO2. Because it’s apparently 3,000 Gt, + not 2,000…

        Moreover what counts is the GHG (Green House Gases) CO2 equivalent… Not the soot (!!!!!!!!). Oh, when they speak of “Carbon”, they don’t measure that! (Although it comes in with a minus sign for the greenhouse effect!)

        Now the real number is 6,000 billion tons of CO2 (half went into the ocean). Moreover, that has to be scaled up further, from the other GHGs… Including water vapor.

        Doing all the math, one gets a sort of doubling of the catastrophe in ten years, rather than 40 (as a simple doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere would lead one to think).

        I should certainly make that explicit in a further essay, and I thank you for pointing out my apparent sleight of hand (which was not deliberate)…

        As you said, the IPCC is in for a rude awakening… They will eat coal…


    4. I agree with Patrice and Robert.

      The IPCC is and always has been overly-optimistic, as the result of an unfortunate combination of scientific caution and political interference (e.g David Beillo writing in the Scientific American magazine in 2007).

      The really unfortunate thing, however, is that the Laws of Physics do not respect ideological boundaries. They are not altered by what we believe (or would rather not believe).


      1. Dear Martin: You are right. These are not so much “ideological boundaries” than plutocratic boundaries (fossil fuels favor centralized power, hence dictatorship; see Saudis, Putin, Kochs, Algeria, Libya, Gabon, …Harper’s Tar Canada, etc.)

        I ought to make my reasoning more explicit (see my comment above). If I am right (and I am!) we are in for interesting times. Who is this Michael Mann Robert talked about? Kosher?


      1. Like I said to you in an email yesterday: With regard to WUWT, it takes an expert cherry-picker to selectively quote from IPCC reports in such a way as to invert the headlines presented by the lead authors at Press Conferences (and of course a belief that the lead authors were being wilfully deceptive in presenting contradictory headline messages to the Press).

        Your friend is not a skeptic, Paul. He is rejecting science for ideological reasons. True skepticism is the basis of modern science: It is a willingness to revise your opinions on any subject in light of emerging evidence. This is what the Catholic Church refused to do 400 years ago when faced with overwhelming evidence that the Earth is not at the centre of the solar system (let alone the Universe).

        Thus, labelling your friend’s position on this subject as one of ‘climate change denial’, is not to compare it to holocaust denial… It is to equate it with the ideologically motivated rejection of science that afflicts a very large proportion of US citizens who believe the Earth was created in 6 days six thousand years ago (and who reject any person or evidence that suggests otherwise as part of an insidious conspiracy).


      2. This is all about managing crafty lies. Example: “There has been no warming in the last 13 years”, say the fossil fuelists. As long as one ignores the ocean (with about1,000 times the heat capacity of the atmosphere), In other words, that’s a HORRENDOUS lie. Lies like that are little different from raving madness.


  3. Conspiracy theories are bedtime stories we tell ourselves when we do not like reality. The ideologically-motivated rejection of climate science (more often than not by people who also reject evolution and the age of the Earth) being a case in point. However – since the last 30 years have witnessed an 80% reduction of Arctic sea ice, a 30% increase in ocean acidity (i.e. just a few tenths of point on a logarithmic pH scale), and a tenfold increase in rates of glacier melting and sea level rise – such a conspiracy theory seems to require the co-conspirators to have found a way to control Nature itself.


  4. Martin, your lengthy replies are very much appreciated. I shall forward the link to my friend and await his reaction. If in the form of an email I shall paste it as a comment.


    1. You probably don’t need to to both. Taken together, the above two comments encompass all of my email. I am sorry if I have stated my opinions as facts (again). However, the opinions stated are not just mine; they are those of the vast majority of relevantly qualified scientists (and all opinions are not equally valid). 🙂

      Your friend could do a lot worse than to start by considereing what the American Institute of Physicists have to say about the history of climate science (i.e. as opposed to a Communist-inspired conspiracy to over tax and over-regulate people) at http://www.aip.org/history/climate/summary.htm


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