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Why the Earth Is Heating So Fast: On the Dangerous Difference Between Science and Political Science


Why the Earth Is Heating So Fast: On the Dangerous Difference Between Science and Political Science

Bill McKibben

President Obama is visiting Alaska this week — a territory changing as rapidly as any on earth thanks to global warming. He’s talking constantly about the danger that climate change poses to the planet (a welcome development given that he managed to go through virtually the entire 2012 election without even mentioning it). And everything he’s saying is right: we are a nation, and a planet, beset by fire, flood, drought. It’s the hottest year in earth’s recorded history. July was the hottest month ever measured on planet earth.


Dr. Hansen and many other climate scientists have as your well aware openly questioned the 2C goal and stated that it's in fact way over the line. I'm afraid were more likely already on the road to something closer to 5C or higher in which case were toast no matter what we do in the short. Once the methane bomb goes off in the Arctic it's probably curtains anyway. The feedback loops are kicking in now as the Arctic sea opens up. There's no stopping it now.


Which is why we actually DO need something very close to the "shut down all use of fossil fuels overnight" that McKibben opines we "obviously can't... though in terms of climate change that would be smart."

Which is why we DO need to be working seriously to USE LESS ENERGY overall. NOW. And ongoing.

The low-hanging fruit, like END ALL WAR NOW, should be at the very top of the climate agenda.


Good article, I won't argue any of its points. Another thought that occurs to me is that the Russians, in particular, are supposedly making a play for the arctic, thus it helps to have some assets in place to exert squatters rights. Shell wants to go up there to drill, and Obama needs American business interests to protect. It's win-win, in that regard. From a political standpoint, this deal probably addresses a lot of different peoples' "needs" in varying degrees of importance.


A physical presence (drilling rigs/platforms) are also a de facto military presence. In case of a big world war like WW2, the oil reserves in the arctic would allow either superpower independence of movement for vast quanties of war materiel like warships and tens of thousands of military vehicles. While this scenario may be unlikely to occur, it does play a factor in the thinking of the Pentagon and its Russian equivalent.

I think the fossil fuel industry wants to establish a commercial precedent presence where they can argue in the future, that since the wells have been discovered and are in operation it makes no sense to increase prices by not using them. So it is paramount for the fossil fuel industry to access arctic oil eve in a glut market simply to be able to claim that it is available for use later and let the price of oil do the arguing for them.


"So — and here’s the money quote — “Maybe that means we’re in the right place, given that people on both sides are unhappy with us.”

Plausible deniability from the organization that MADE disinformation what it is in the world today. As if an HONEST assessment (or quote) could come from the NSA!


For God's sake: Learn how to write!

I'll do the grammatical corrections for you under the faint illusion that you MIGHT just learn something:

"Dr. Hansen and many other climate scientists have, as you're well aware, openly questioned the 2C goal and stated that it's in fact way over the line. I'm afraid we're more likely already on the road to something closer to 5C or higher... in which case we're toast, no matter what we do in the short run."

And what is the utility of you and Robert pushing the minutiae as per temperature differentials? It's not of material value that scientists dicker on details. The point is that POWER--in the form of big money and the Big Energy behemoths behind it--don't WANT to stop drilling. THAT is the seminal issue.


Easy words to SAY "End all war now" when largely the same mechanisms that fuel the current fossil fuel enterprises (and related empires) also tie in directly with militarism. If People Power had the tools to stop one, they could stop the other. Currently, both are out of decent peoples' reach. However, global contractions to the Energy and Commodities (copper, aluminum, steel) markets ARE driving down prices in ways that are bringing stoppages to these enterprises. So one could say that certain laws built into nature (and cosmos) are working in alignment with all of the decent people of the world (who would readily adapt better energy systems if given half a chance) to shift the usage and extraction metrics.


The State Department would be proud of you parroting its preferred Talking Points. How quaint.


It is high time we all begin to question the 2 degree C limit. We just passed the 1degree mark and look what is happening. Record heat waves. Droughts. No ice in the arctic much of the year. A never ending train of typhoons marching across the pacific. All these things, and the fact that we are breaking temperature records every month on the month, should be a great big fucking claxon call to all that 1 degree increase this fast is too much. Add another degree to that, possibly in the next 20 years (just look at how quickly the CO2 level is rising now, we should be at 450 in less than 20 years now) and it could be the sign we all need to start building spaceships, because we will have terraformed the earth into a place where human life, and most other life for that matter, can no longer exist.
I personally believe it's already too late. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. After all, the next earth like planet is quite a few thousand years away.


Yup - let the markets decide, eh?


So Bill - a bit late with this, aren't we? Weren't you still in O's corner in '12 when he "wasn't even mentioning it"? Golly gee, didn't "push" him hard enough? Oh yeah, it's the Reps fault, right? They put that cig in his mouth and lit it, right? But they didn't smoke it for him ....


Why are you so insulting towards others SR. You are like an antagonist to everyone and yet you claim to be a progressive. You are so demeaning over the use of two commas and an apostrophe? Really SR? You grading papers?

What about rambling dissertations that veer off subject entirely and long expositions of tangential side issues that would earn you an F grade had you included them in an answer on any essay test.

Why do you consistently put down progressives SR? it appears to be a psychological issue and too revealing a one at that.

Stop trying to hurt everyone who is a progressive please.


Overly histrionic not historic. By what physical mechanism would Our species become Extinct by the way? Heat? not really... Bad news for many for sure but extinction? Unlikely. Canada might end up feeling like Japan in terms of being crowded but ...hey... rents are high everywhere.

2030...15 years? Tell me the actual mechanism involved in the demise of 8 billion (adjusted for the 5 years before it starts for real I assume).

2040...25 years...well there you've got potential however deindustrialization would surely have started to occur as climate catastrophe ramped up into high gear. In 25 years things will be messy ...I agree there but extinction?

BTW...what actual mechanism was that? Sea level rise? A big pain but hey we move inland and annoy new neighbors. Drought? well yeah a biggie but we move north and annoy new neighbors. Dead oceans..yeah not cool but oh I guess we'd throw caution to the winds and do something to make sure that oxygen production keeps functioning even if there aren't any more fish and for some reason we began glowing in the dark like the jellyfish we eat.

Things get bad and civilization ends up in the toilet but due to the collapse of civilization the toilet doesn't actually work anymore and so it goes.

Big mess, not fun but the end of the world and extinction of the species? Nah! Human beings hate em or love em... we are adaptable.

Sixth extinction yes. WE are adaptable but generally stupid and in many cases even stupid enough to think being stupid is actually smart. What can I say.

Sixth extinction yes - Human extinction no.

Who took paradise and put up a parking lot? So parking lot living it is then... that's us ... all the way.


Invoking God as well, for God's sake! Therefore (according to her own oft-repeated paradigm) intentionally promoting memes that uphold the Patriarchy in the mass consciousness.

One could point to her own faulty grammar: "POWER... don't WANT to stop drilling." i don't want to, and you don't want to, but power DOESN'T want to.

Typical hilarity for SR to use faulty grammar while she berates others for faulty grammar. She never grants anyone the respect to recognize that grammar is not a significant personal failing. Why should anyone grant her such respect? Such respect should be universal.


I will not join in a bash someone session. Anyone. I am sure you don't need me to add to your comments when you address them to her and I was not looking for support or agreement when I posted mine to her. I just found that perhaps she might need to be made aware that she is bashing progressives and that is divide and conquer trolling at the very least which is something she says she dislikes.

Sometimes people don't realize that they do something until it is pointed out to them. But feel free to comment to her or anyone on your own dime please.

The problem is that tit for tat becomes this or that and on and on into a running feud and the troll in us all wins.

Mutually Assured Disrespect is about as dumb as Mutually Assured Destruction.

Mutually Assured Peace or MAP is better.


Right! It would be terrible if the climate and climate justice movements took up ending war as a movement goal!

And no one with access to energy should consider using less energy. To even THINK such a thing is "blaming the people." Just sit back and wait for "better energy systems" to be given to us by The Powers That Be.

Like you say, if people could actually accomplish anything, they could accomplish something, but as you always repeat, people can't accomplish anything. To imagine we could accomplish something is "blaming Susan Rose." We'd all better just sit back and wait.

Your underlying and overt messages are always so inspirational!


Well that's great. The problem in this case is, these problems have been "pointed out" a thousand times, but the person just keeps repeating the same personal offenses against others here.

Cool that you took a second to point this one out. Don't expect anything other than vituperative personal attacks aimed at you. It's a pattern.


Tit for tat = this for that.

We can only try... Peace


I am fairly sure that I think things are worse than you think they are but that isn't the point. You expect a linear process of A plus B equals a billion kick the bucket. I do not. So a few billion move to the arctic circle. So huge tankers cart off and tow Icebergs or sea tugs push miles of ice shelf north to provide drinking water. So we build huge desal plants (ejecting the salt saturated brine into our already dead oceans). So we eat GMO plants that grow where no plant has a right to grow using salty water etc.

So we live under solar shaded streets awnings that provide exterior air conditioning during the day and the rising heat column provide updraft for wind turbines on buildings.

Is life lousy? Well hell yeah but...

... what's on cable tonight?