Climate Change Risk Underestimated

Climate change risk underestimatedThe climate change science keeps on getting clearer, and it is not pretty. A new study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [ark], updating a 2001 assessment by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change that looked at temperature changes and the risks they pose, found “the risks of negative impacts of climate change [search] on humans and nature are larger than just a few years ago”. The new study found that even small changes of global mean temperatures could produce the kinds of conditions singled out as “reasons for concern” in the 2001 assessment, such as damage to coral reefs or endangered species; and extreme weather events like cyclones, heat waves or droughts.
Humanity, the Earth, and our sister species are at a crossroads. We can continue to willfully downplay the dangers posed by climate change, or we can organize and resist in order to achieve the policies necessary to maintain our shared biosphere and thus our shared being. We know we must reduce human population and inequitable consumption. There is no future for logging old forests and burning coal. And energy efficiency, conservation and renewables are the only road to keeping the lights on. We can pursue these sufficient ecological policies with a revolutionary spirit of action, or we can roll over and die. We still have the power and time to stop this crisis, but just barely. Commit yourselves to a New Earth Rising.

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34 Responses

  1. Lance says:

    First paragraph of conclusion section of Helm article:
    “It is very grim. The trends are in the wrong direction, the timescale is short, and a Kyoto-style new agreement from 2012 is unlikely to make much difference to the underlying (upwards) trends in emissions. Without a fundamental rethink, we are likely to be doomed to significant increases in emissions, and the corresponding uncertain warming of the climate. The science suggests that it is probably more likely than not that rapid climate change will result later in the century with potentially quite catastrophic results.”
    It's hard to be glad that situation is finally sinking in when, for example, it was already pretty evident by the time of the quote just below — 1970, nearly 40 years ago. But, as the old adage says it, sometimes ya gotta whack the mule in the head to get its attention. Now we're seeing the first few whacks.
    — —————————————————————————————————————
    “The greatest disturbances of which we are aware are those now being introduced by man himself. Since his tampering with the biological and geochemical balances may ultimately prove injurious — even fatal — to himself, he must understand them better than today.”
    Bert Bolin. “The Carbon Cycle.” Scientific American, September 1970

  2. Lance says:

    #1 (journal article excerpts)
    “Our planet is already committed to anthropogenic warming in the range of 1.4 -; 4.3

  3. Jennifer Temple says:

    I think we may have passed the tipping point, what political types do not get:
    You are in a car traveling down the highway at 50 miles an hour. It seems a prudent speed but suddenly there is a huge abyss right in front of you. You hit the breaks hard but the car does not stop for 50 Miles! (The car is climate change / the miles are years, in other words what we are seeing today was caused 50 years ago, when I was two years old.

  4. Jennifer Temple says:

    See this video, it is a lecture with exactly the same info as the document prepared for the Government of Canada and presented last October, not that Harper took any notice.

  5. R. Gates says:

    I am in complete agreement that we ought not “roll over and die”, but where I part ways with some is exactly where we truly are on the “tipping point” issue. On this, I must fully agree with the man who coined the term “Gaia” James Lovelock. His latest analysis is dire indeed, and he believes that the time for preventing catastrophic climate change is past. The tipping point has been exceeded, and a positive feedback massive global climate change is already in the pipeline so to speak. If this is true, (and that certainly is a big if), but if it is, then the most responsible thing to do is to do exactly what Sweden is doing right now with their seed stock project, by putting tons of seeds of varioius feedstocks in storage to save for the future. The point is, yes, we should be reducing our carbon output now, to help future generations, but perhaps more importantly, we ought to be truly preparing for a vastly changed world, where perhaps, if they are lucky, the future decendents of most of us alive right now in N. America might survive by living in N. Canada. James Lovelock's new book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia, looks at this issue starkly and plainly, and makes for very sober, but realistic reading. I think he makes a strong case that rather than putting massive resources into preventing what is already inevitable, that we ought to do is begin to use resources to help as many humans and other species, both plant and animal, survive a much warmer world.
    So, yes, I have dramtically reduced my own carbon footprint, am recyling, reducing consumption, etc. but, to put it metaphorically, I happen to believe the Theatre is already uncontrollably on fire, and while some are noble in their efforts to throw some glasses of water on the flames, I am already trying to figure out how to get as many people and other species, safely to the exit, meaning, preparing for the coming much warmer world. Perhaps my Swedish background leads me to want to prepare…
    R. Gates

  6. zephyr says:

    Jennifer Temple, thank you for that excellent video link to the lecture by Thomas Homer-Dixon. I will be passing it around to everyone I know.

  7. Jennifer Temple says:

    R. Gates: I absolutely agree with you! We still need to fight the political wars or worse than learning how to survive, we could render the situation impossible to adjust to AND take the bulk of the natural world with us. It will be the greatest mass extinction of all time. As it stands today, we need immediate evacuation plans for all northern coastal people! It will be a massive effort to get all those people onto higher drier ground. I am so absolutely sure the Southern ice sheet will collapse much sooner than anyone imagined. WHY? Because everything predicted to happen to date has been decades earlier than predicted! We need to push every person we can to write every politician they can, party lines and national lines be dammed! By the way, news became a lot more dire, even since the Thomas Homer-Dixon report in October. When the effects are monthly news, we have to know its very late and urgent we act ASAP.

  8. Jennifer Temple says:

    THE GOOD NEWS!! It is true, we may soon be beyond the ability to keep living on this planet but the good news is, life is tenacious and will continue. As long as this earth exists, it will have life on it, it just won't be anything living here now. It just won't be us!

  9. R. Gates says:

    First of all, thanks to you Jennifer for the link to the excellent Homer-Dixon video. Quite well done and very thorough and right on target.
    For me, I am taking personal responsibility, both on an everyday level as well as trying to give input to policy makers, One thing that Homer-Dixon didn't put in his energy equation, but which is being worked on feverishly in many parts of the world is fusion power. While it is certainly a few decades away, if fusion can be developed before the societies break down that are supporting fusion research, then it could become the true salvation of the species. Here's why: with fusion, energy becomes very very cheap, plentiful, virtually inexhaustible, plus it has a Zero carbon footprint. Additionally, you could afford to put millions of carbon-dioxide pumps around the world (and even methane pumps) that reduce greenhouse gases back to acceptable levels until those pumps would be shut down. Fusion power would allow all this and much more. Best of all, the lessons we are learning now about the complete connectedness of the biosphere would be valuable in a fusion powered society to make sure we never go down the old path again.
    Though fusion would be the ultimate energy source, and could be the salvation of humanity (and the biosphere) it is race against time, and though I hold out hope, I strongly feel that hedging our bets and preparing for catastrophe is more than prudent. I think several tipping points (sea ice, methane release, ocean acidification) have already been passed, and we need to prepare for the worst. If however, there was a breakthrough on the fusion power front, everything would change overnight, and we could, within a very short time use the unlimited energy of fusion power to reduce the atmospheric greenhouse gases, and even put fusion power to work de-acidifying the ocean, repairing forests, etc. etc. Fusion power would be the tool we could use combined with our knowledge of the connectedness of the living Gaia to become true stewards of the planet without reducing the human population to mere tribes clinging to the northern latitudes, which is the direction we're headed now.
    R. Gates

  10. Jennifer Temple says:

    My guess is, anybody reading this blog has been working on their own environmental foot print! I ration my water, hydro and heat. Conservation on a passive model, because I am a renter. My heat is never over 65F, I reuse all of my water. First the dishes, same water on the floors & because I use only “green” cleaners, I use the water to water the gardens. I want a urinal but until then, I pee in the bath tum and “flush” with a cup of water. (Sanitize before the next bath!)All my electronics are on power bars and all a shut off when not in use. I sort all of my garbage meticulously etc…
    I also turn garbage into useful stuff, like rolled onion bags for scrubbers and sponge box liners as wash cloth sponge in the shower.(I bath weekly & sponge the other 6)Any way, you get the idea. I try hard to use no more than I NEED, of anything. In our home it has become almost a game. Eve4n my veg is “scratch & dent”, better that than trash!

  11. zembeauty says:

    If we want to save the planet we must educate the masses.
    Have them make a promise and act on it.

  12. Dear R Gates and Jennifer Temple,
    Please continue along the path fate seems to have set for you. The implications of your efforts to do the right thing are profound.
    Even though many people are following your examples, please note that there are people in high places who vigorously object to the acknowledgement of any truth that does not conform to the standards of economic expediency and political convenience. Gatekeepers of the global political economy and the status quo are not large in number; nevertheless, these self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe {Bilderberger Group and Trilateral Commission members are excellent examples} are so well-entrenched within the most recently reconstructed Tower of Babel {called the global economy in our time} that it is difficult to imagine how the family of humanity prevails against them. But prevail we shall because we must. Alternatives to our success would be ever so much more catastrophic and destructive than what is wrought in the process of voluntarily making necessary changes in the UNSUSTAINABLE ways human beings live today.
    Keep going.
    Sincerely yours,
    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001

  13. Dave Moore says:

    Great comments especially from R Gates and Jennifer. I believe we need a 2 path approach, clearly defined.
    One. Try like hell to limit the BIGGEST causes of warming and CO2 release. Population control and reducing coal burning would top the list and heavy oils like tar sands and oil shale would be second. Stop burning the cleaner oils and natural gas up so fast so as to delay use of heavy oil. AND DO NOT FOCUS PRIMARILY ON HOW HOPELESS IT IS. REMIND MOST ADULTS THEY WILL BE DEAD BEFORE MOST OF THE TRUE DISASTERS HIT.
    Second as suggested, expect the 5 degree Celsius warming in a hundred or two hundred years, 600 ppm CO2 or whatever and see what life forms can be save with the seed banks mentioned above, etc. Dismantle chemical and nuclear plants near sea level and move them to higher ground so as to protect the future ocean. Plant fast growing trees like douglas fir and redwood farther and farther north. Plant more drought tolerant vegetation. Realize that humans will die and allow it to happen, even if the poor usually go first as it always has been.

  14. Laura says:

    How can people just give up on this planet? Yea, we're late. We should have started worrying about global warming and trying to combat it years ago, but we can't just roll over and the let the Earth die. There are too many species losing their habitats and the only species that can do anything about it is giving up? That's not fair. We have to teach future generations about what they can do to help global warming and do our own part. I found this expedition website for November. Andrew Regan and his team are going to Antarctica to study the warming that is occurring down there and not only can you follow their findings, but kids can follow them too. You can't just give up on a home, even if it is the entire planet and you probably haven't seen most of it.

  15. R. Gates says:

    I shall follow that expedition with interest…but let me make it clear…I don't think anyone is suggesting we “give up” on anything, but it is now a matter of triage…where do you put your efforts to salvage the future? If, as James Lovelock, and others believe, the tipping points has already been reached, then the best place to put efforts is in trying to deal with the climate change that is going to happen. Preparing for mass migration to the northern latitudes, getting populations moved away from low lying coastal areas in an orderly fashion makes sense now. If we wait to get these things done…the disaster will be far worse. At the same time, of course we need to educate ourselves, especially our young, on how this all happened, and how we can mitigate the effects through carbon footprint reduction.
    The point is, logical preparation for the warmer future is prudent, along side trying to reduce the causes that got us here. It is simply a matter of where to put resources, but I don't see any action that is done being a sign of giving up. If the theatre is on fire (meaning the tipping points have been exceeded), some may spend time trying to fight the fire, and some may help people to the exits, but both activities are far from giving up…
    R. Gates

  16. Jennifer Temple says:

    I mentioned a couple of my efforts to reduce my own waste and consumption habits, what I did not mention is my hobby. I make it my business to write EVERY MP in the Canadian Government at the very least once every 6 months and as a rule, every three. REMEMBER THIS: Every letter government and corps receive counts like 100! This is an old rule. There were a hundred that felt the same way but did not put it to print! SO WRITE! OFTEN! Tell those elected numb sculls what we the Canadian constituents expect on the environmental issue. We need a carbon tax! Why? Because as soon as carbon has a price, watch industries sprout up every where to try to capture it and cash in! There in lies the miracle on the flip side of a carbon tax. Our politicians and the CEOs are devoid of imagination and foresight. They do a lot of fear mongering about the costs but neglect the unlimited benefits. And yes, relocation plans must be in the works NOW! As well as many other plans for some kind of survival. Ourselves, we need courage, tenacity and determination. To the science deniers, who claim its all a conspiracy, ask you self, “Why?”, ”
    Who would benefit?”

  17. Chris says:

    VOTE EARTH on Saturday, March 28 from 8:30pm to 9:30pm by turning off your light switch(es).
    It's all part of what's being called Earth Hour and by voting with your light switch you will be 1 of the billion of votes which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.
    This conference will help determine official government policies to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol.
    We all have a vote, and every single vote counts. Together we can take control of the future of our planet, for future generations.
    VOTE EARTH by simply switching off your lights for one hour, and join the world for Earth Hour.
    Saturday, March 28, 8:30-9:30pm.
    For more info, visit

  18. Good people,
    Let us agree never to give in and certainly not to ever give up.
    At no time prior to recent days can I recall a more vibrant and worthwhile discussions of humankind's distinctly human-driven predicament. For me, this group is a microcosm of what needs to be occurring ubiquitously. This work, the work of other groups, organizations and institutional instrumentalities, alongside Glen's effort with Climate Ark, appear to be necessary parts of an overall effort that simply has to continue, I believe, because our efforts will eventually lead to change.
    Change from unsustainability to sustainability is the goal of the human community, I suppose.
    It seems that if our leaders keep doing precisely what they are doing now and the family of humanity keeps getting what it is getting now, then the chance of some sort of unimaginable collapse of human civilization at some point in space-time appears likely……….perhaps sooner rather than later. On the other hand, if we can determine what human behavior changes need to be achieved and then move forward boldly to encourage policy formulation and implementation of the changes, perhaps the mere perception of the necessary behavior changes would be experienced as tantamount to another sort of crash, one that would accompany the unwelcome change of worldviews, expectations and lifestyles. While in the former instance, Nature would be in control of the fate of the human species, in the latter circumstances perhaps the human family could assume at least a modicum of control, initiate behavioral changes and, by so doing, take some degree of control over its fate.
    Please recall that I am a psychologist. For a moment imagine a patient that is suffering from an addiction to a patently unsustainable way of living in the world. You ask the patient, “As you see it, what can you do about your addiction?” The patient replies, “If I keep doing precisely what I am doing now and have been doing for a long time, I am sure to be dead soon. On the other hand, if I choose a different way of living in the world, then I am afraid I might die.” The avoidance of an actual danger exposes the patient to a perceived danger. Behavior change would also mean that the patient's experience of comfort would be exposed to the time-limited experience of subjective discomfort.
    Let's keep going and hope others will choose to join us by doing the same.
    With thanks to all for what you are doing here and elsewhere,
    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on the Human Population,
    established 2001

  19. Jennifer Temple says:

    Say, folks. Have you looked at Cuba's efforts at sustainability. I swear, they have done more than any place on earth! The USA trade embargo of the last decades & then the Ruskies left them cold after the fall of the communist government. They lived through 10 years of hell and near starvation but it caused them to say NEVER AGAIN! The set out to make Cuba as independent and sustainable as possible. If we are to have a future, it will look like Cuba's model.
    I beg of you, check out Cuba's answers because this is what we need to harass our own MPs to implement A.S.A.P.

  20. Jennifer Temple says:

    Below is a link to Cuba`s “special Period” when they engineered a sustainable way to run things. I was looking for an old Fifth Estae Doc but can not locate it, having searched all day. I hope the following videos will help.

  21. Patrick Troup says:

    Hey all. Have you heard of the Transitio Towns? A movement out of the U.K. spreading virally around the World. They are a network of towns, communities entire regions. They focusing on resolving climate change and Peak oil simultaneously. They resolve them using localization, community building and permaculture principles.
    This is the greatest movement I know of right now. They deal with these issues in a very real, and also positive way that empowers each community to create their unique resolve to these issues.
    Localizing food, water, energy, transport the whole gammit.
    This is the most profound thing I have ever read.
    #1 (journal article excerpts)
    “Our planet is already committed to anthropogenic warming in the range of 1.4 -; 4.3

  22. Jennifer Temple says:

    For the present, I suspend my disbelief in humanity's inability to vastly influence our future, or lack there of. I am desperate in my willingness to believe that voices similar to those I read here and with the knowledge and expertise to re-engineer not only our present conditions but find a way to work backwards. We have used our supreme mental capacities to get us to this terrible place in time, I am agnostic, but I still pray to the real powers that be, “let us act now, when it is still possible to suspend disbelief! Please.”

  23. Desperate times give rise to desperate needs, that in turn call out to us for ubiquitous expressions of desperate courage and desperate love, I suppose.

  24. Dave Moore says:

    Todays grim reading link on Climate Ark makes one vital point. If China and India cannot be brought aboard these efforts, they will have little effect. China's emissions (about the same as the US currently) are expected to double over 2002 levels over the next 2 decades even with
    maximum cleanup and efficiency efforts. India should be expected to be similar. They must be brought in now.

  25. Jennifer Temple says:

    Steven Earl Salmony:
    I am not sure I understand your response to my post. “Desperate times give rise to desperate needs, that in turn call out to us for ubiquitous expressions of desperate courage and desperate love, I suppose.” to put my feelings an other way, in the depth of my heart I feel we are too far gone for salvation to be ours. I just simply do not believe we can quit the fight. …To the last man standing we must never give in or up! It is the most important war we will ever fight! Thus a willing suspension of my disbelief.
    Our challenges are unprecedented in the history of life on this planet. We are the first to have been here to act in such a manner that we will cause not just our own extinction but all the rest will fall with us through no fault of their own. The list of walls we face by include: Consumer driven economies that depend on a constant acquisition of debt, only to dump goods as trash a few weeks or months later, population growth exploding exponentially, co2 & global warming with ALL that entails, the death of oceans, the depletion of other species here to such a degree that their numbers are at best representative but hardly populations, and ozone depletion IS STILL a problem!, even the outer limits of our atmosphere are full of our floating trash. We go into outer space and leave trash behind EVERY TIME. Nothing is safe from human activity.

  26. Jennifer Temple says:

    Bert Bolin: I have tried a number of times to study the carbon cycle, even the great Asimov could not make it simple! What I do know is even the basic photosynthesis is impossibly difficult for me to follow. I tell you this, because I am sure our PM & MPs understand it less than I do and it is very important for them to learn about carbon. After all, co2 is our enemy but carbons ARE ALSO the building blocks of life! CARBON IS NOT BAD. Air pollution is. On earth, all of life is based on a fine balance and this old boat is starting to list badly, we are way off balance!

  27. Dear Jennifer Temple,
    Keep going. Keep telling what is true for you. While your communication skills exceed mine, I do so want to believe that we share equally a commonly held, enduring commitment, as you have put it so well, “never {to} give in or up.”

  28. zephyr says:

    Re: the carbon cycle, you might want to take a look at David Archer's excellent short book, “The Long Thaw”, published 2009 by Princeton University Press. I'm reading it now and am finding it very illuminating.

  29. zephyr says:

    Hi again Jennifer,
    I listened again today to the video presentation by Thomas Homer-Dixon and think it is truly exceptional. He reminds me quite a bit of Kim Stanley Robinson who wrote the Mars Trilogy and more recently an extraordinary climate change trilogy. Here is a presentation he gave in December 2007 on the matter of climate change:

    I personally agree with you that it is too late to do what we really should have started doing some thirty years ago but I'm trying very hard to move beyond a chronic state of anguish in that regard and thinking in terms of what of our awareness and experience we can pass on to our children and grandchildren. I do feel we need to give them hope.
    Kindest regards,

  30. Jennifer A. Temple says:

    I belong to many groups, web sites and pages devoted to environmental responsibility, over time I realized no one is doing a head count and I think if I do it, I could push my site up to the top of Google search and that I hope will send a very clear message to all of our power brokers!
    I am attempting to compile a census of concerned global citizens. I wonder if you could take a couple of seconds to sign my guest book at the following site:
    It would al;so be nice if you could encourage others to sign in also.
    I just put the site up last evening but will continue to try and make more attractive with a little time. I think it not bad so far.

  31. Deborah: I am not in a “constant state of anguish”, because, working a little each day to get more people on board and searching for yet more ways to improve my own impact gives me reason to hope! If I sat around worring I am sure Id be a mess!

  32. Jennifer A. Temple says:

    Deborah: Many thanks for that video link. Its now up on my website at climatEelf, that was great.

  33. Beyond what is known about greenhouse gases and the climate system, however, lie great uncertainties: How much warming will occur, at what rate, and according to what geographical and seasonal pattern? What secondary processes will the warming trend induce, and what might be the physical and biological impacts of such processes? Will some areas benefit while other areas suffer, and who might the winners and losers be? And, if such damages are unavoidable, what can be done to adapt or modify our systems so as to minimize or overcome them? These are important and complex questions, and we have only begun to understand them and to develop methods for their analysis.
    Climate change is a real and serious problem. But the problem with the recent media frenzy is that some seem to believe no new report or development is enough if it doesn't reveal more serious consequences.

  34. Wawan Pembengo:
    Your points are well taken. I have been writing ALL MPs in the Canadian Government to point out that we may have passed the tipping point and plans must be made NOW! The first problem I see as being MAJOR is a collapsing southern ice shield. That could be anywhere from 10 – 40 years BUT it is going to collapse in the foreseeable future and all the people in the Northern hemisphere who live in coastal areas will need to be moved to higher ground, about 6M higher! After the first 1M rise in coastal waters, we can expect 1M per year from there on. I write the MPs about every 3 months. (it takes me about a month to write each of them. I can not say this often enough! WRITE YOUR MP & GOVERNMENT REPS!!! Every letter counts as a hundred AND THEY DO OF TALLY issues the public is harpping about. WRITE THEM, Please, WRITE THEM. If you contribute to forums, it takes no longer to write a politician. LAWS NEED TO CHANGE! WE NEED A CARBON TAX. See Climate to read about why a carbon tax is GOOD for the public and good for the planet.

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