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The New, New Climate Math: 17 Years to Get Off Fossil Fuels, Or Else


The New, New Climate Math: 17 Years to Get Off Fossil Fuels, Or Else

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Though it may not have seemed possible, climate catastrophe is even closer than previously thought, with new figures released Thursday finding that—when the wells already drilled, pits dug, and pipelines built, are taken under consideration—we are well on our way to going beyond 2°C of warming.

"If you're in a hole, stop digging," begins the study, put forth by the fossil fuel watchdog Oil Change International (OCI), in partnership with 14 other environmental organizations.


How many warnings from reputable scientists, do we tolerate before it is too late and there is no… OR ELSE?


You wish we had 17 years, McKibben. We went past the point of no return in 2007 and probably have only half that time until…


First of all, while the main goal of the Paris climate agreement is to stay below 2C it is expected that the temperature will actually go beyond 2C and then during the latter parts of this century projects will be carried out to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to get below 2C. So there is actually a little more wiggle room for using fossil fuels than is apparent from the 2C goal. The first thing that is needed is stronger pledges for the agreement. The pledges made so far would take us well beyond 3C. So if we can get stronger pledges then the next step would be implementing the pledges. So the order has to be stronger pledges and then implementation. One reason that pledges might be strengthened is a new study that collapse of East Antarctica ice (which was predicted to remain stable a very long time despite global warming) may occur this century and raise sea level by over 3 feet this century. This is a very scary prospect and adds additional urgency.

Another new study has found that Greenland is losing ice faster than was thought that this finding also should add urgency to the situation. The more studies are done the more it appears sea level rise is becoming an imminent threat.



17 more years to get off fossil fuels, or else. Do What You Can!


Saying that we have a 17 year cushion is not helpful, in my opinion. Many will read that headline and dismiss the urgency of our predicament. There is no time left to respond and that’s what should be communicated.


I agree that the headline doesn’t get at the main point of the study. The report says we have zero time left for new digging/drilling. They say even If we stop using coal instantly we can only hold to the 1.5 degree mark by using the oil/gas in the already drilled wells. No new wells period. If we keep using the coal we automatically bust through the Paris agreement goals - even the 2 degree mark.


As always, these articles omit the fact that half of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the animal slaughter industry. If people would stop eating meat, the problem would be gone immediately. Instead, they keep on eating meat and demand that governments tighten their pledges to reduce greenhouse emmisions.


Zenpractice - I was thinking the same thing. This is so true. People in general have a terrible time accepting this. Documentaries such as “Food Choices” say it all.


After Hillary finishes her second term in office we’ll all have only 9 years left to live.


I agree. I have been a vegan/vegetarian ever since I started practicing Yoga. Your point is well taken.


Livestock do contribute a good amount of greenhouse gasses - but the 50% figure is way over the percentages that most climate scientists believe. They put it between 10% and 20% like the FAO report cited in the article you linked to which put it at 18%. In the United States and other developed countries the percentage is smaller yet (around 6% in the U.S. according to an EPA report in 2009) (see also http://www.saiplatform.org/uploads/Library/AdvAgrClearingtheAirMitloehner2009.pdf)

The oil and gas and coal industries can’t get off the hook for giving us the vast majority of the problem.


Clearly We all cannot survive another Democratic or Republican president at this critical time. We need to vote out the old thinking, and get on with fixing things. Does anybody have a better program for moving forward than the Green Party? What policies will you give your consent to this November?


If a huge forest fire is heading for your city, can you stop it? The correct answer is, “somewhat”.

If we do nothing about climate change then the oceans will become acid, the wheat belt will become a dust bowl and the forests will mostly become dead sticks standing. Your firstborn won’t be slain. His/her grandchildren will probably be hungry. Not good.

We will probably be saved by solar and other new technologies. Your house will store and then use solar heat in January. Your “car” will use elevator technology, will travel above street level and will use 1/10 the electricity of your current car. Your nighttime and cloudy day electricity will probably come from solar heat stored in huge insulated rock beds of some sort, although I can think of several competitors here. Finally, we’re going to find an affordable alternative to losing half of Florida. I recommend, first, pulling heat out of the upper Arctic Ocean with thermosiphons, until the Arctic Ocean refreezes its ice pack to the usual depth, and second, coating tundras and ice sheets with new snow from wind powered snowmaking machines until they have their original albedo back. Faced with megadeath, yes already, we’ve got that pocket change.

Now for a piece of bad news: a really neat solar photovoltaic coop in Massachusetts sank $30,000 into prepping a solar field. They asked how much it would cost to connect to the local grid. The first answer: $10,000 to find out how much. They paid the $10,000. The final answer, $710,000, maybe more. Suddenly the solar field was no longer financially viable, so the coop ate their $40,000 investment and walked away. The general feeling was that the utility’s outrageous connection fee was entirely political retribution in its nature. It’s a free market, but free for who?

Bottom line: the practical research and B-corporation business development that will save your own great grandchildren is under direct political attack. You want to defend current solar R&D by companies that care because you are equally defending the lives of your own descendants.

If your state or region has foresight, you’ll come up with a pool of money dedicated specifically to solar and climate practical research and product development, and the recipients don’t have to be filthy rich to use the money, they just have to have a meritorious new idea. Then your particular state will almost certainly have created vast numbers of regional jobs, following in the footsteps of, to name a successful example, Denmark and their wind power industry.

If no such state has foresight, well, in the long term you’re just a dead man walking. The fire is coming.


Sadly, no matter HOW MANY clear, prescient, logical articles like this are written, there are many-some in my local community here in Florida-who proudly stand by that “cast-in-stone” “the climate has always changed, and it’s just doing what it always has”/“There AIN’T NO GLOBAL WARMIN’, DAMMIT!!” mantra. There is NO making so many of these people listen to REAL scientists or listen to/ read anything other than the crap from Sean Hannity, Rush Dumbo, and the F(Lumm)OX (ed) News crowd. I have NEVER in my life seen September temperatures, even here in Florida, as high as they’ve been this year. We used to have our own version of a “Fall”, as any native-born, over-50 Floridian will tell you. So things ARE way past critical. It’s just sad that so many people are so pridefully ignorant.


This report ignores the facts that if we would cease adding CO2 to the atmosphere, the (a) greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere would cause continued warming, and (b) as the particulate matter in the atmosphere now causing “global dimming” is removed, by natural processes, from the atmosphere, the global mean will increase by MORE than 2 degrees C. There IS no easy answer to this problem!


The dieoff predicted in the graphs presented in Limits To Growth (1972) starts about now (halfway through the 2nd decade of the 21st century) and peaks around 2030.

Our “last chance” to curtail the growth of both industrial output and population passed decades ago.

Just read the news. Famine. Poisoned aquifers. Floods and droughts. Record temperatures. Polluted ocean. Dying species. More war. More refugees.


The people in charge working in conjunction with the Corporations are totally out of control.


The Gulf Of Mexico is to be used as a place to dump fracking waste without restrictions. They are treating the entire living world as their personal cesspool.


We should never have brought those “billions” into existence in the first place! So now what?


"17 Years to Get Off Fossil Fuels, Or Else"

That would have been great 25 years ago.