350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth.
In this exclusive lecture for Sydney Ideas leading environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben talks about how climate science and climate politics are quickly evolving–and how we now have a much more specific idea both of the peril we face and the steps (large and difficult) necessary to solve it.
Even two years ago, scientists could offer only vague ideas of how much carbon in the atmosphere was too much. But in the wake of the rapid melt of Arctic sea ice in 2007, it's become clear that this is a problem not for the future but very much for the present.
In addition, McKibben describes the swelling grassroots global movement, 350.org, which looks set to coordinate the largest day of global environmental action ever, with actions from high in the Himalayas to underwater on the Great Barrier Reef.
Environmentalist Bill McKibben is a scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College.
McKibben is an American environmentalist and writer who frequently writes about global warming, alternative energy, and the risks associated with human genetic engineering. Beginning in the summer of 2006, he led the organization of the largest demonstrations against global warming in American history. McKibben is active in the Methodist Church, and his writing sometimes has a spiritual bent.
He is the author of The End of Nature (1989), the first book for a general audience about global warming. Recent books include Enough (2004), which critiques human genetic engineering and other rapidly advancing technologies; Wandering Home (2005), which catalogs his foot-travels across the Vermont landscape; and Age of Missing Information (2006), in which he compares his experience watching 1700 hours of videotaped TV to that of contemplating nature in the Adirondacks.
Deep Economy author Bill McKibben, co-founder and director of 350.org, emphasizes the immediate need for environmental reform, as well as the consequences of climate change that may already be beyond repair.
Deep Economy author Bill McKibben, co-founder and director of 350.org, presents the current concentration of carbon in the atmosphere, which has surpassed the redline of 350 ppm identified by scientists as the safe upper limit for C02 in the atmosphere.
Bill McKibben, co-founder and director of 350.org, talks about the sociological implications of fossil fuel dependence, including the weakening of societal bonds and a general decline in individual happiness.
McKibben foresees a return to localized economies as society is weaned from cheap fossil fuels.
MIT's Richard Lindzen, Harvard's Willie Soon, and now Princeton's William Happer
have all been shown wrong. Here is a recent article on Happer:
Have you noticed that a new kind of scientific expert has been born? It is the non-climate scientist "climate scientist," better known in the trade as the NCSCS....
What is a NCSCS? It is someone who is not a climate scientist but is nevertheless happy to speak authoritatively about the alleged scientific errors being made by the real climate scientists. A dead ringer for a NCSCS is one who begins with words to the effect of: "I am not a climatologist, but ..."
Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-c..._b_173422.html
Oh yes, I forgot about Dr. David Evans. Well here is an article on this clown:
Mucho bla bla bla. I remember these same clowns (or their parents) telling us that the ice age was coming back in the late 1970's. I was also taught in school that 20,000 years ago most of my home state of Ohio was covered with mile high glaciers so evidently we have been going through a process of global warming for the last 10,000 years - this global warming created the Great Lakes and (perhaps unfortunately) the island of Manhattan. If the arctic ice extended to the American midwest, then receeded without human intervention, the notion that I am supposed to be somehow frightened or alarmed now seems pretty silly. Besides, it's too damn cold. I like it hot. The oceans have risen and fallen throughout history. I am told now that where I live (Florida Coast) was quite a few miles inland when the first humans arrived due to the natural fluctuation of sea levels.
Climate change may be real but the notion that it is somehow "our fault" is clearly a scam and I don't buy it. On earth day I promise to start my motorboat, motorcycle and turn on my oven and all my lights because I will not be browbeaten by all these former hippies and granola types. By the way, many (but to be fair not all) of these anti carbon dioxide crusaders are also against nuclear power so I dont believe their real agenda is climate change, but they are basically resent free enterprise and are proponents of anything that retards or restrains private wealth. Anyone who REALLY was serious about cutting down on carbon dioxide would be leading the cheers for nuclear power.
This is outright comedy: "no credible model has been produced that questions the strong anthropogenic influence on climate in the past and future." This claim is either disingenuous or just stupid given that no one, not even the most devout skeptics (Princeton's Happer, Harvard's Soon, MIT's Lindzen, or the recently apostasized climate alarm king David Evans) denies anthropogenic "influence" on the climate. It's not a question of "if" - it's a question of how much and by what exact mechanisms. Skeptical scientists don't argue that there is no anthropogenic impact, but that it's negligible relative to other factors. Given the multiple confirmed periods in climate history when the atmosphere cooled while carbon levels increased (including the last decade) it wld seem that they might have a point.
But neither has any credible non-circumstantial evidence been presented that gives anthropogenic models any more traction than the alternatives. There is no greenhouse hotspot - thousands of radiosonde tests have come up empty in attempts to find the zone in the troposphere which EVERY carbon warming model depends on.
The Vostok ice cores - the only ice samples with strong enough time resolution to evaluate - show that carbon historically LAGS warming in the atmosphere.
The public conversation on this has been pathetically poor. So many assumptions have gone unexamined. But thankfully that's changing.
Rdallas1 & Quimson, I doubt we can go without fossil fuels entirely for a long time and the only way our lifestyle will continue improving is if we continue using MORE energy. So the solution is a CO2 free or almost free energy source with lots of raw material, very low risks and has the ability to provide 24/7 load following power at an economical price. It's NOT going to solar or wind. Only one satisfies all these requirements and it's NUCLEAR. Gen 3+ and especially Gen 4 reactors will give us virtually limitless power, will recycle waste, are very proliferation unfriendly and don't depend on unproven fantasy schemes of expensive storage for intermittent sources like solar or wind.
sactownjudge and Invictus, here is a link to the CO2 sensitivity and feedback issues which I'll reproduce below:
From "Responses to Questions & Objections
on Climate Change" By Dr. Brett Parris
14. CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas. Doubling of CO2 from its pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm to 560 ppm would only bring warming of about 1ºC.
False - twice. The warming effect of CO2 in the atmosphere diminishes logarithmically as its concentration increases, as Svante Arrhenius confirmed in 1896. It has been claimed by some who accept this logarithmic relationship, that a doubling of CO2 would only bring warming of around 1ºC and that since we have already experienced about 0.76°C of warming there is only a very small amount of benign warming still to come. But this claim is false in two different ways:
Firstly, basic radiation calculations show that for a doubling of CO2, surface temperatures would warm by around 1.2ºC (not 1ºC) if, and only if, the structure of the atmosphere and all other factors remained fixed. So the assertion that doubling CO2 would bring warming of only 1ºC is already about 0.2 ºC wide of the mark in this purely theoretical calculation.
Far more serious is the second way in which this assertion is false, namely that in the real world, the structure of the atmosphere and a host of other factors are not fixed at all. There are a large number of feedbacks in the climate system which reinforce the warming. If the logarithmic relation between CO2 concentration increases and temperature increases is accepted, and it is accepted that the 35% increase in CO2 concentrations from 280 to 379 ppm up to 2005 led to the approximately 0.76°C warming we have already experienced since pre-industrial times, then it is easily shown that a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels would likely lead to at least about 1.74ºC of warming.
This calculation however, presumes that we have already experienced the full effects of the increase in CO2 concentrations to 379 ppm. We haven’t. We have experienced some of the feedbacks from this increase, but by no means all. The climate system has momentum and delayed feedbacks, due to factors such as the immense volume of the oceans which take a long time to warm up. So there would have been a further ‘committed warming’ already guaranteed from the increase to 379 ppm even if all emissions had ceased in 2005. In other words, the 1.74ºC figure applies only if we ignore the committed warming we will get from past emissions and their feedbacks on the climate system – or if we presume (on the basis of a climate model?) that the feedbacks cancel out. Once those feedbacks are properly taken into account however, the temperature increase resulting from a doubling of pre-industrial CO2 levels (referred to as the ‘climate sensitivity’) is “likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C.”
The most recent assessment of climate sensitivity by James Hansen and his team, based on empirical geological evidence, is even more disturbing. Hansen argues that the figure of 3°C for the sensitivity of the climate to a doubling of CO2 used in most climate models only accounts for ‘fast’ feedback effects, such as cloud formation, water vapour, and sea ice. Once ‘slow’ feedback effects are accounted for (on timescales of centuries or less), such as ice sheet disintegration, vegetation changes, and CO2 and methane releases from soils, tundra and ocean sediments, the climate sensitivity for a doubling of CO2 above pre-industrial levels is likely to be more like 6°C. This higher climate sensitivity suggests that a 300-325 ppm CO2 target is what we need for a safe climate with sea ice restored to its area of 25 years ago. Since CO2 levels are now approaching 390 ppm, this implies not only drastically reduced emissions but an extended period of actually removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
Furthermore, even ignoring these feedback effects, emissions projections at current trajectories are likely to see CO2 levels of 1000 ppm by 2100, leading in turn to temperatures well over 3°C. What is the highest level of CO2 that those who are opposed to strong emissions reductions would consider safe? Is there any level of CO2 concentration they would agree is too high?
Let’s allow for the moment the argument that human greenhouse gas emissions have not contributed much at all to warming so far, and that the warming we’ve seen (which is not in dispute) is mostly of natural origin: What then is the policy implication? Well, the evidence from both theoretical physics and empirical data collected over more than 100 years show that these gases do contribute to warming, so if we’re already being subjected to natural warming, does that in any way lessen the case for reducing our emissions? Hardly. That argument only follows if, for sound theoretical reasons, we believe that the greenhouse gases we emit will have no significant impact on the climate. But such a judgement has no sound basis in science and could only be arrived at by use of a climate model, none of which show negligible impact from rising greenhouse gases.
It should be remembered then, that when critics spurn climate models as ‘voodoo science’, asserting that the sensitivity of the climate to a doubling of CO2 is just 1ºC or less, they must be implicitly adopting a climate model which either ignores all feedback effects, or which presumes that the feedbacks cancel out. To say anything about the effects of greenhouse gases on climate, there is no alternative but to use some kind of model – and any model that arbitrarily assumes either that there are no feedback effects or that they all cancel out, is scientifically unjustifiable. As Reto Knutti from the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich wrote recently in his evaluation of climate model projections,
No credible model has been produced that questions the strong anthropogenic influence on climate in the past and future. I, therefore, argue that the large-scale model projections are very likely robust and accurate within the stated uncertainties.
i totally agree
i dont understand why oil company's are not investing on other sources of fuel
investing in hydrogen fuel cells or something eco friendly something that does not emit carbon
if they do they will be the richest company because, everyone is trying to find a better fuel source. investing is something other that oil will be the greatest economical and environmental decision yet!
i hope they see this soon
Eglasgow, I totally agree with you that going without fossil fuels will lead to a higher quality of life. I think it is inevitable that climate change will have catastrophic effects on the planet and although we are making some progress with the environment, at this point we would have to make huge changes in the way we live in order to make enough difference in preventing this.
McKibben makes a good point in Will Dwindling Fossil Fuels Strengthen Community Ties? - whether or not you believe climate change will have catastrophic effects on the planet, going without fossil fuels will lead to a higher quality of life.