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Climate Change, Peak Oil and other Limits to Growth

Challenge our Models of

Perpetual Growth, Business as Usual, and Economics
Compiled information by Steven Muschalik

The History of Climate Change Science............................................................................4

What Do Human Records and Proxy Data Tell us About Our Climate?.......................10
What Does Ice Core Data Tell Us About Earth’s Climate History?...............................12
What Climate Existed in the Carboniferous Period?......................................................15
Hows Does the Greenhouse Effect Work?.......................................................................18
What Are Climate Forcings?............................................................................................23
Is The Earth Out of Energy Balance With Space?.........................................................24
How do Milankovich cycles affect the sun-earth interaction?.......................................27
Do Sun Cycles And Its Flares Cause Global Warming?.................................................30
What Are Positive or Negative Feedback Mechanisms?.................................................36
How Much Energy Is Required to Warm an Entire Planet?..........................................38
What is the Carbon Cycle?...............................................................................................39
Is The Carbon Cycle Out of Balance?.............................................................................41
Which Mode of Transport Produces Less C02?..............................................................42
What Are Carbon Sinks?..................................................................................................43
How Much CO2 Equivalent Can Our Planet Absorb Naturally?..................................44
Does Climate Change Affect Precipitation?....................................................................46
Does Climate Change Affect Soil Moisture?...................................................................47
How Do Climate Models Work And Are They Reliable?................................................49
Why Should We Be Worried About a Warming of Just 1-5°C?......................................51
What Caused The Cooling Phase Between 1940-1980 Whilst CO2 Was Rising? .........52
How Long Does C02 Last in the Atmosphere?................................................................54
Is There Scientific Consensus on Climate Change?.......................................................58
Is The IPCC Report Unbiased Or Is It Political?............................................................59
Is There Evidence In the Past of Abrupt Climate Change?............................................64
What Is The Younger Dryas?...........................................................................................65
When Did Humans Begin to Change the Climate?........................................................67
What Is The Probable Resulting Climate For Given Emissions? .................................69
What Are The Chances of Exceeding a Range of Temperatures at a Particular Level of
CO2 Equivalent? ..............................................................................................................70
What Can Cause Sea Level Change?..............................................................................75
How Does Recent Sea Level Rise Look Like Over Time?...............................................76
How Does Sea Level Rise Relate to Temperature?..........................................................79
That's about four times faster than sea levels were rising most of the time during this
period, and at least 20 times faster than the sea level is currently rising. .....................80
What Kind of Sea Level Rise Can We Expect in The Future?.......................................81
How Long Will It Take For The Climate to Respond to Forcings..................................83
How Long Will It Take to Stabilise The Climate, and Sea Levels?................................84
What Constitutes Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference With Nature?.....................85
What Are Tipping Points?................................................................................................86
What Are The Uncertainties About Climate Change?....................................................88
What Is Happening To Our Species In Relation to Climate Change?...........................91
Can Climate Change Cause Conflict and Civil Unrest Or Even War?..........................95
What Can We Do To Save The Climate From Going Haywire?.....................................97
What Are The Limitations of Coal and Geosquestration?..............................................99
What Is Happening In The Arctic, and In the Oceans?...............................................101
Do We Need To Reconsider GDP Or Even Capitalism?................................................103
Is The Current Fossil Fuel Based Economy On a Crash Course With Nature?.........105
Will Environmental Policies Stifle The Economy?......................................................107
What Is Sustainable Development?...............................................................................113
What Are The Costs of Inaction?...................................................................................114
What Opportunities Do Businesses See In Taking Action on Climate Change?.........116
What Surprises Can We Expect?....................................................................................119
What is Humanities Ecological Footprint?...................................................................121
How Do Entropy, Economy and Environment Relate?................................................123
What Are the Equity Issues of Energy?.........................................................................130
Can Population Growth Be Mathematically Modeled?................................................131
Are There Limits To Growth?........................................................................................135
How Do We Know We Have Reached Overshoot?........................................................149
What Does Human History Tell Us About Civilisation and Equilibrium?..................150
Can The (R/P) Ratio Predict The Lifetime of Fuels?...................................................151
What is Peak Oil?...........................................................................................................152
How Long Does It Take To Prepare For Peak Oil?......................................................159
What Is The Creaming Curve?......................................................................................160
Does a Hydrogen Economy Make Sense?.....................................................................161
Is It Possible to Replace Declining Oil Production With Alterative Fuels?.................162
How Vulnerable Is Australia To Petrol Prices?.............................................................165
Can Taxes Help Improve Signals to Businesses to Save Energy?................................168
Does The Suburban Way of Life Have A Future? ........................................................171
Can New Technology Make Civilisation Sustainable?.................................................173
Net Energy Analysis with EROI.....................................................................................176
Will We Have To Rethink Our Current Economic System In a Low-Energy World?. 177
How Will Peak Oil Affect Food Supply?........................................................................179
How Will Climate Change Affect Food Supply?...........................................................179
How Will Climate Change Affect Electricity Production?............................................180
Is The Planetary Situation Urgent?...............................................................................182
Can We Believe Climate Skeptics?.................................................................................183
What TV Channels May Show Documentaries With Evidence of Global Warming?. 184
The History of Climate Change Science
Here are some milestones in the history of climate change science.

Joseph Fourier calculates that the Earth would be far colder if it lacked an atmosphere.

Tyndall discovers that some gases block infrared radiation. He suggests that changes in
the concentration of the gases could bring climate change.

Arrhenius publishes first calculation of global warming from human emissions of CO2.

Chamberlin produces a model for global carbon exchange including feedbacks.

Global warming trend since late 19th century reported.
Milankovitch proposes orbital changes as the cause of ice ages.

Callendar argues that CO2 greenhouse global warming is underway, reviving interest in
the question.

U.S. Office of Naval Research begins generous funding of many fields of science, some
of which happen to be useful for understanding climate change.

Ewing and Donn offer a feedback model for quick ice age onset.
Phillips produces a somewhat realistic computer model of the global atmosphere.
Plass calculates that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will have a significant effect on the
radiation balance.

Revelle finds that CO2 produced by humans will not be readily absorbed by the oceans.

Telescope studies show a greenhouse effect raises temperature of the atmosphere of
Venus far above the boiling point of water.

Downturn of global temperatures since the early 1940s is reported.
Keeling accurately measures CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere and detects an annual rise.
The level is 315 ppm.

Calculations suggest that feedback with water vapor could make the climate acutely
sensitive to changes in CO2 level.

Boulder meeting on causes of climate change, in which Lorenz and others point out the
chaotic nature of the climate system and the possibility of sudden shifts.
Emiliani’s analysis of deep-sea cores shows the timing of ice ages was set by small
orbital shifts, suggesting that the climate system is sensitive to small changes.

International Global Atmospheric Research Program established, mainly to gather data
for better short-range weather prediction but including climate.
Manabe and Wetherald make a convincing calculation that doubling CO2 would raise
world temperatures a couple of degrees.

Studies suggest a possibility of collapse of Antarctic ice sheets, which would sea levels

Budyko and Sellers present models of catastrophic ice-albedo feedbacks.
Nimbus III satellite begins to provide comprehensive global atmospheric temperature

First Earth Day. Environmental movement attains strong influence, spreads concern about
global degradation.
Creation of U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the world’s leading
funder of climate research.
Aerosols from human activity are shown to be increasing swiftly. Bryson claims they
counteract global warming and may bring serious cooling.

SMIC conference of leading scientists reports a danger of rapid and serious global
climate change caused by humans, calls for an organized research effort.

Ice cores and other evidence show big climate shifts in the past between relatively stable
modes in the span of a thousand years or so.

Serious droughts and other unusual weather since 1972 increase scientific and public
concern about climate change, with cooling from aerosols suspected to be as likely as
warming; journalists talk of ice age.

Concern about environmental effects of airplanes leads to investigations of trace gases in
the stratosphere and discovery of danger to ozone layer.
Manabe and collaborators produce complex but plausible computer models which show a
temperature rise of several degrees for doubled CO2.

Studies find that CFCs (1975) and also methane and ozone (1976) can make a serious
contribution to the greenhouse effect
Deep-sea cores show a dominating influence from 100,000-year Milankovitch orbital
changes, emphasizing the role of feedbacks.
Deforestation and other ecosystem changes are recognized as major factors in the future
of the climate.
Eddy shows that there were prolonged periods without sunspots in past centuries,
corresponding to cold periods.

Scientific opinion tends to converge on global warming as the biggest climate risk in next

Attempts to coordinate climate research in U.S. end with an inadequate National Climate
Program Act, accompanied by temporary growth in funding.

U.S. National Academy of Sciences report finds it highly credible that doubling CO2 will
bring 1.5-4.5EC global warming.
World Climate Research Programme launched to coordinate international research.

Hansen and others show that sulfate aerosols can significantly cool the climate, raising
confidence in models showing future greenhouse warming.
Some scientists predict greenhouse warming “signal” should be visible by about the year

Greenland ice cores reveal drastic temperature oscillations in the span of a century in the
distant past.
Strong global warming since mid-1970s is reported, with 1981 the warmest year on

Reports from U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Environmental Protection Agency
spark conflict, as greenhouse warming becomes prominent in mainstream politics.

Villach conference declares expert consensus that some global warming seems inevitable,
calls on governments to consider international agreements to restrict emissions.
Antarctic ice cores show that CO2 and temperature went up and down together through
past ice ages, pointing to powerful biological and geochemical feedbacks.
Broecker speculates that a reorganization of North Atlantic Ocean circulation can bring
swift and radical climate change.

Montreal Protocol of theVienna Convention imposes international restrictions on
emission of ozone-destroying gases.

News media coverage of global warming leaps upward following record heat and
droughts plus testimony by Hansen.
Toronto Conference calls for strict, specific limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
Ice-core and biology studies confirm living ecosystems make climate feedback by way of
methane, which could accelerate global warming.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is established.
Level of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches 350 ppm.

Fossil-fuel and other industries form Global Climate Coalition in US to lobby politicians
and convince the media and public that climate science is too uncertain to justify action.

First IPCC report says world has been warming and future warming seems likely.
Industry lobbyists and some scientists dispute the tentative conclusions.

Mt. Pinatubo explodes; Hansen predicts cooling pattern, verifying (by 1995) computer
models of aerosol effects.
Global warming skeptics emphasize studies indicating that a significant part of 20th-
century temperature changes were due to solar influences. (The correlation would fail in
the following decade.)
Studies from 55 million years ago show possibility of eruption of methane from the
seabed with enormous self-sustained warming.

Conference in Rio de Janeiro produces UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,
but US blocks calls for serious action.
Study of ancient climates reveals climate sensitivity in same range as predicted
independently by computer models.

Greenland ice cores suggest that great climate changes (at least on a regional scale) can
occur in the space of a single decade.

Second IPCC report detects "signature" of human-caused greenhouse effect warming,
declares that serious warming is likely in the coming century.
Reports of the breaking up of Antarctic ice sheets and other signs of actual current
warming in polar regions begin affecting public opinion.

International conference produces Kyoto Protocol, setting targets to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions if enough nations sign onto a treaty.

The warmest year on record, globally averaged (1995, 1997, and 2001-2006 were near
the same level). Borehole data confirm extraordinary warming trend.
Qualms about arbitrariness in computer models diminish as teams model ice-age climate
and dispense with special adjustments to reproduce current climate.

Criticism that satellite measurements show no warming are dismissed by National
Academy Panel.
Ramanathan detects massive "brown cloud" of aerosols from South Asia.

Global Climate Coalition dissolves as many corporations grapple with threat of warming,
but oil lobby convinces US administration to deny problem.
Variety of studies emphasize variability and importance of biological feedbacks in carbon
cycle, liable to accelerate warming.

Third IPCC report states baldly that global warming, unprecedented since end of last ice
age, is "very likely," with possible severe surprises. Effective end of debate among all but
a few scientists.
Bonn meeting, with participation of most countries but not US, develops mechanisms for
working towards Kyoto targets.
National Academy panel sees a "paradigm shift" in scientific recognition of the risk of
abrupt climate change (decade-scale).
Warming observed in ocean basins; match with computer models gives a clear signature
of greenhouse effect warming.

Studies find surprisingly strong "global dimming," due to pollution, has retarded arrival
of greenhouse warming, but dimming is now decreasing.

Variety of studies increase concern that collapse of ice sheets (West Antarctica, perhaps
Greenland) can raise sea levels faster than most had believed.
Deadly summer heat wave in Europe accelerates divergence between European and US
public opinion.

In controversy over temperature data covering past millenium, most conclude climate
variations were substantial, but not comparable to the post-1980 warming.
First major book, movie and art work featuring global warming appear.

Kyoto treaty goes into effect, signed by major industrial nations except US. Japan,
Western Europe, regional US entities accelerate work to retard emissions.
Hurricane Katrina and other major tropical storms spur debate over impact of global
warming on storm intensity.
Level of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches 380 ppm.

Our understanding of climate change began with intense debates amongst 19th century
scientists about whether northern Europe had been covered by ice thousands of years ago.
In the 1820s Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier discovered that "greenhouse gasses" trap heat
radiated from the Earth's surface after it has absorbed energy from the sun. In 1859 John
Tyndall suggested that ice ages were caused by a decrease in the amount of atmospheric
carbon dioxide. In 1896 Svente Arrhenius showed that doubling the carbon dioxide
content of the air would gradually raise global temperatures by 5-6C - a remarkably
prescient result that was virtually ignored by scientists obsessed with explaining the ice
The idea of global warming languished until 1938, when Guy S Callender suggested that
the warming trend revealed in the 19th century had been caused by a 10% increase in
atmospheric carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. At this point scientists were
not alarmed, as they were confident that most of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans
had dissolved safely in the oceans. However, this notion was dispelled in 1957 by Hans
Suess and Roger Revelle, who discovered a complex chemical buffering system which
prevents sea water from holding on to much atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The possibility that humans could contribute to global warming was now being taken
seriously by scientists, and by the early 1960s some had begun to raise the spectre of
severe climate change within a century. They had started to collect evidence to test the
idea that global temperatures were increasing alongside greenhouse gas emissions, and to
construct mathematical models to predict future climates.
In 1958 Charles Keeling began long-term measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide
at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. Looked at now, the figures show an
indisputable annual increase, with roughly 30% more of the gas relative to pre-industrial
levels in today's atmosphere - higher than at any time in the last 700,000 years.
Temperature readings reveal an average warming of 0.5-0.6C over the last 150 years.
Climate change sceptics have pointed out that these records could have been due to
creeping urbanisation around weather stations, but it is now widely accepted that this
'urban heat island effect' is relatively unimportant and that it doesn't explain why most of
the warming has been detected far away from cities, over the oceans and the poles.
Since the 1960s, evidence of global warming has continued to accumulate. In 1998
Michael Mann and colleagues published a detailed analysis of global average temperature
over the last millennium known as the "hockey stick graph", revealing a rapid
temperature increase since the industrial revolution. Despite concerted efforts to find fault
with Mann's methodology, his basic result is now accepted as sound. Then, in 2005, just
as the Kyoto Protocol for limiting greenhouse gas emissions was ratified, James Hansen
and his team detected a dramatic warming of the world's oceans - just as expected in a
warming world.
There is now little doubt that the temperature increase over the last 150 years is real, but
debate still surrounds the causes. We know that the warming during the first half of the
last century was almost certainly due to a more vigorous output of solar energy, and some
scientists have suggested that increased solar activity and greater volcanic emissions of
carbon dioxide are responsible for all of the increase. But others point out that during the
last 50 years the sun and volcanoes have been less active and could not have caused the
warming over that period.
By 2005 a widespread scientific consensus had emerged that serious, large-scale
disruption could occur around 2050, once average global temperature increase exceeds
about 2C, leading to abrupt and irreversible changes. These include the melting of a large
proportion of the Greenland ice cap (now already under way), the reconfiguration of the
global oceanic circulation, the disappearance of the Amazon forest, the emission of
methane from permafrost and undersea methane hydrates, and the release of carbon
dioxide from soils.
This new theory of "abrupt climate change" has overturned earlier predictions of gradual
change, and has prompted some scientists to warn that unmitigated climate change could
lead to the complete collapse of civilisation. Fears have been fuelled by the possibility
that smoke, hazes and particles from burning vegetation and fossil fuels could be masking
global warming by bouncing solar energy back to space. This "global dimming" effect is
diminishing as we clean up air pollution. As a result global average temperature could
rise by as much as 10 degrees Celsius by the close of the century - a catastrophic
A more conservative assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) in 2001 indicated that with unabated carbon emissions, global temperature could
rise gradually to around 5.8C by 2100. An increase of this nature would still threaten the
lives of millions of people, particularly in the global south, due to sea level rise and
extreme weather events.
Although some people still deny that climate change is a problem we can do something
about, last year the UK government indicated that it was on board. The Stern Review
showed that without immediate and relatively inexpensive action, climate change would
lead to severe and permanent global economic depression by 2050. There is now a strong
scientific and economic consensus about the severity of the climate crisis.
What Do Human Records and Proxy Data Tell us About
Our Climate?
Good weather records extend back less than 150 years in most places. In that time, the
Earth's global average temperature has increased by approximately 0.5 degrees centigrade
or 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

This figure shows direct observations of global temperatures since the 1850s.

Beginning in the 1970's, paleoclimatologists began constructing a blueprint of how the

Earth's temperature changed over the centuries before 1850 and the widespread use of
thermometers. Out of this emerged a view of the past climate based on limited data from
tree rings, historical documents, sediments and other proxy data sources. Today, many
more paleoclimate records are available from around the world, providing a much
improved view of past changes in the Earth's temperature.
What Does Ice Core Data Tell Us About Earth’s Climate
From paleo records, we know that the climate of the past million years has been
dominated by the glacial cycle, a pattern of ice ages and glacial retreats lasting thousands
of years. There have been four ice ages and intervening warmer periods during the past
400,000 years.

Atmospheric CO2 concentration is measured in parts per million by volume, or ppmv.

The concentration has varied in the past, quite naturally. In fact, for the last several
million years, during the transition of glacial conditions to interglacial, CO2
concentration typically increases from about 180 ppmv to about 280 ppmv.

It turns out that the current rate of increase is 2.1 ppmv/year. Recall that during a typical
deglaciation, the rate is about 0.02 ppmv/year, and that the fastest single change
measured in the last 400,000 years in the Vostok ice core date is an increase rate of 0.06
This means that the rate of increase is 35 times faster than the fastest rate observed in the
last 400,000 years — and probably a lot longer than that. In the past, CO2 concentration
has changed quite naturally, and living systems have adapted to the changes. But the
adaptation of living systems is a slow process, and when environmental changes happen
very rapidly, many species can’t adapt in time to survive. Over the last 400,000 years,
CO2 has gone up and down by as much as 100 ppmv, but never faster than 0.06
ppmv/year. During the modern industrial era, CO2 has already gone up (due to human
activity) by 100 ppmv (from a pre-industrial value of 280 ppmv to the modern value of
just over 380), but it has done so much faster.
And it promises to continue to increase. At the current rate (2.1 ppmv/year) we’ll see
another 100 ppmv increase in a mere 48 years; if the rate continues we’ll reach 480 ppmv
by 2055, and 575 ppmv by the year 2100. But if we continue with “business as usual,”
the rate won’t stay constant — it’ll get even faster.
The same is true of temperature. During a deglaciation, global average temperature
increases about 5oC. We don’t expect to see that much in the next century (although we
might!). But a deglaciation takes about 5,000 years, so the rate of temperature change is
about 0.001oC/year. The current rate is 18 times faster.

Below is a schematic representation of recent climate trends and future projections in

historical perspective. The 20th and 21st centuries are shown to the same (linear) scale.
Earlier periods are shown in terms of increasing powers of ten years ago but are linear
within each period.

Eighteen-thousand years ago, at the peak of the last ice age, scientists estimate that nearly
32% of the earth's land area was covered with ice, including much of Canada,
Scandinavia, and the British Isles. These glaciers developed because the earth was in the
midst of an ice age. Today ice coverage is about 10% of the Earth's land surface.
What Climate Existed in the Carboniferous Period?
Some 30 million years before dinosaurs appeared, known as the Carboniferous Period -
300 million years ago - a time when terrestrial Earth was ruled by giant plants and
insects, average global temperatures in the Early Carboniferous Period were hot-
approximately 20° C (68° F). Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the
Early Carboniferous Period were approximately 1500 ppm (parts per million).

Interestingly, the last half of the Carboniferous Period witnessed periods of significant ice
cap formation over polar landmasses-- particularly in the southern hemisphere.
Alternating cool and warm periods during the ensuing Carboniferous Ice Age coincided
with cycles of glacier expansion and retreat.

Lycopsid stomatal indices from the fossil records show low CO2 levels during the Permo-
Carboniferous glaciation are in agreement with glaciological evidence for the presence of
continental ice and coupled models of climate and ice-sheet growth on Pangea.
Moreover, the Permian data indicate atmospheric CO2 levels were low 260 Myr ago, by
which time continental deglaciation was already underway. Positive biotic feedbacks on
climate, and geotectonic events, therefore are implicated as mechanisms underlying

Late Palaeozoic evidence for

ice and atmospheric CO2
concentrations reconstructed
from paleosols and predicted by
a geochemical model of the
long-term global carbon cycle
(solid line). Red boxes indicate
CO2 estimates from the current
study. The dashed horizontal
line indicates the threshold
atmospheric CO2 level above
which theoretical studies
predict deglaciation on Pangea
and the maintenance of an ice-
free state.
We can determine the past climate of the Earth by mapping the distribution of ancient
coals, desert deposits, tropical soils, salt deposits, glacial material, as well as the
distribution of plants and animals that are sensitive to climate, such as alligators, palm
trees & mangrove swamps.

Illustrated below is how geologists believe Earth's landmasses were arranged 306 million
years ago, during the Late Carboniferous Period.
Following the Carboniferous
Period, the Permian Period
and Triassic Period
witnessed predominantly
desert-like conditions,
accompanied by one or
more major periods of
species extinctions. CO2
levels began to rise during
this time because there was
less erosion of the land and
therefore reduced
opportunity for chemical reaction of CO2 with freshly exposed minerals. Also, there was
significantly less plant life growing in the proper swamplands to sequester CO2 through
photosynthesis and rapid burial.

Our plucky planet has survived at least two runaway greenhouse events, one of them just
barely. About 55 million years ago, a tremendous methane burp trapped enough sunlight
to heat Earth by as much as 13° Fahrenheit (7° Celsius), disrupting the climate for more
than 100,000 years. [NASA/Goddard EOS Project Dec 12/01]

An even bigger global warming hiccup occurred 250 million years ago, when a carbon-
clogged atmosphere melted all of Earth’s ice and methane. The ensuing “Great Dying”
nearly extinguished all life.
When plants shrivel, says paleontologist and extinctions expert Peter Ward, “everything
dies.” Aquatic creatures suffocated from lack of oxygen. As the ocean turned sterile,
gasping land animals fled rapidly rising sea levels from a global meltwater tsunami.
Over the ensuing 500,000 years, a few species struggled to find a foothold in Earth’s
alien environment. It took another 20 million to 30 million years for the first coral reefs
to re-establish themselves, and for forests to regrow. More than 100 million years passed
before ecologies reached their former healthy diversity. [University Of Wyoming Jan
Ward’s team found no residues from a comet or asteroid impact. It looks like volcanism
and methane releases caused this greenhouse cull. [Washington Post Jan 21/05]
Hows Does the Greenhouse Effect Work?
The greenhouse effect, first discovered by Joseph Fourier in 1824, and first investigated
quantitatively by Svante Arrhenius in 1896, is the process by which an atmosphere warms
a planet. Earth, Mars, Venus and other celestial bodies with atmospheres (such as Titan)
also have greenhouse effects.

Our sun, which is reasonably hot (surface temperature of 6.000 °C), sends us a mixture of
various rays which is composed for (percentages represent the proportion of the total
• 10% of ultraviolet
• 40% of visible light
• 50% of infrared

Our star, the sun, sends us every day a considerable amount of energy: the whole
humanity's energy consumption for one year represents only 3% of what the Sun delivers
to the surface of our planet every day.

Earth, which is not very hot (average temperature: 15 ° C), emits only infrareds (which
are not the same than that of the sun).

Greenhouse gases allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere freely, but trap the heat in the 
atmosphere, like a greenhouse, hence the name. The earth's atmosphere is generally 
transparent to short­wave radiation, which means the sunlight enters the atmosphere
freely. Hence most of this energy passes through the atmosphere and strikes the earth's 
surface. The portion of incoming solar radiation that reaches the Earth's surface, is either 
absorbed by the land and the oceans or is reflected back toward space by water, snow, ice, 
and other reflective surfaces (the measure of an object's reflectivity is called its albedo). 

Energy absorbed at the Earth's surface is then re­radiated into the atmosphere as infrared 
radiation (heat). Some of this infrared radiation is in turn absorbed and re­emitted by 
"greenhouse gases", which acts as a blanket, resulting in a warming of the earth's surface 
and lower atmosphere. 

Without greenhouse gases, over time, the amount of energy sent from the sun to the
Earth’s surface should be about the same as the amount of energy radiated back into
space, leaving the temperature of the Earth’s surface roughly constant. Without
atmospheric absorption and reradiation of infrared energy the average surface air
temperature of the Earth would be about 30° C lower.
This is a simplified diagram illustrating the global long­term radiative balance of the 
atmosphere. Net input of solar radiation must be balanced by net output of infrared 
radiation. About a third of incoming solar radiation is reflected and the remainder is 
mostly absorbed by the various components of our planet (continents, oceans, 
atmosphere). Outgoing infrared radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases and by clouds 
keeping the surface about 33 °C warmer than it would otherwise be.

Reflected solar radiation accounts for 30% of the Earth's total radiation: on average, 6%
of the incoming solar radiation is reflected by the atmosphere, 20% is reflected by clouds,
and 4% is reflected by the surface.

The remaining 70% of the incoming solar radiation is absorbed: 16% by the atmosphere
(including the almost complete absorption of shortwave ultraviolet over most areas by the
stratospheric ozone layer); 3% by clouds; and 51% by the land and oceans.

Only about 6% of the Earth's total radiation to space is direct thermal radiation from the
surface. The atmosphere absorbs 71% of the surface thermal radiation before it can
escape. The atmosphere itself behaves as a radiator in the far infrared, so it re-radiates
this energy.

The greenhouse gases

Some greenhouse gases occur in nature (water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and
nitrous oxide), while others are exclusively human-made (like gases used for aerosols).
Water vapor (H2O) causes about 60% of Earth's naturally-occurring greenhouse effect.
Other gases influencing the effect include carbon dioxide (CO2) (about 26%), methane
(CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and ozone (O3) (about 8%). Collectively, these gases are
known as greenhouse gases. The greenhouse effect due to carbon dioxide is specifically
known as the Callendar effect.

It should be noted that the surface of the Earth is in constant flux with daily, yearly and
age long cycles and trends in temperature and other variables for a variety of causes; thus
these percentages apply on average only.

The sun plays a vital role in the earth's climate system, providing the energy which drives 
both atmospheric and oceanic circulation, and ultimately driving the climate system. This 
solar energy reaches the earth's atmosphere in the form of electromagnetic radiation 
(infrared radiation, radio waves, visible light, and ultraviolet rays)

Like the Sun, the Earth is a thermal radiator. Because the Earth's surface is much cooler
than the Sun (287 K vs 5780 K), Wien's displacement law dictates that Earth radiates its
thermal energy at longer wavelengths than the Sun. While the Sun's radiation peaks at a
visible wavelength of 500 nanometers, Earth's radiation peak is in the longwave (far)
infrared at about 10 micrometres.
The wavelengths of light that a gas absorbs can be modelled with quantum mechanics
based on molecular properties of the different gas molecules. It so happens that
heteronuclear diatomic molecules and tri- (and more) atomic gases absorb at infrared
wavelengths but homonuclear diatomic molecules do not absorb infrared light. This is
why H2O and CO2 are greenhouse gases but the major atmospheric constituents (N2 and
O2) are not.

This diagram comprises two curves that represent the energy carried by each wavelength
for incoming solar radiation of 6000 Kelvin and outcoming terrestrial radiation of 255 K
as well as the absorption of these radiations by the greenhouse gases. The light that
comes from the sun consists of fairly shortwave, i.e. high-energy light. A large part of this
light is in the visible range of the spectrum, but some has a shorter wavelength, i.e.
ultraviolet radiation, and some has a longer wavelength, i.e. near infrared light.

Water Vapour (H2O)

Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Ozone (O3)
Methane (CH4)
Nitrous protoxyde (N2O)

Between the absorptions of water vapor and those of carbon dioxide, there is an
atmospheric window where, prior to the industrial era, no infrared radiation was trapped,
lying between 8 and 15 micrometres. Compounds such as perflurocarbons (CF4, C2F6
etc.), chlorofluorocarbons, halons and SF6 absorb very strongly in this window. This
means that they are extremely potent greenhouse gases, especially given the absence of
natural sinks to remove them. Perfluorocarbons can have a lifetime of 50,000 years.

72% of the totally emitted greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide (CO2), 18% Methane
(CH4) and 9% Nitrous oxide (NOx). Carbon dioxide emissions therefore are the most
important cause of global warming. CO2 is inevitably created by burning fuels like e.g.
oil, natural gas, diesel, organic-diesel, petrol, organic-petrol, and ethanol.

Water vapour in the troposphere, unlike the better-known greenhouse gases such as CO2,
is essentially passive in terms of climate: the residence time for water vapour in the
atmosphere is short (about a week) so perturbations to water vapour rapidly re-
equilibriate. In contrast, the lifetimes of CO2, methane, etc, are long (hundreds of years)
and hence perturbations remain. Thus, in response to a temperature perturbation caused
by enhanced CO2, water vapour would increase, resulting in a (limited) positive feedback
and higher temperatures. In response to a perturbation from enhanced water vapour, the
atmosphere would re-equilibriate due to clouds causing reflective cooling and water-
removing rain.
What Are Climate Forcings?
The temperature of the Earth is determined by a balance of the energy entering the Earth-
atmosphere system and the energy leaving the system. An energy imbalance imposed on
the climate system either externally or by human activities is termed a climate forcing.
Persistent climate forcing cause the temperature of the Earth to change until an energy
balance is restored. The amount of change is determined by the magnitudes of the climate
forgings and the feedbacks within the climate system that amplify or diminish the effect
of the forgings.
Climate during the last ice age, which peaked 20,000 years ago, was dramatically
different than it is today. Global climate forcing was about 6 1/2 W/m2 less than in the
current interglacial period. This forcing maintained a planet 5 °C colder than today,
implying a climate sensitivity of 3/4 ± 1/4 °C per W/m2.

Precise data are available for trends of the long-lived greenhouse gases (GHGs) that are
well-mixed in the atmosphere, i.e., CO2, CH4, N2O and CFCs.
The growth rate of the GHG climate forcing peaked in the early 1980s at a rate of almost
0.5 W/m2 per decade, but declined by the 1990s to about 0.3 W/m2 per decade (Figure 8).
The primary reason for the decline was reduced emissions of CFCs, the production of
which was phased out because of their destructive effect on stratospheric ozone.

Is The Earth Out of Energy Balance With Space?

Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) measurements show the reflected solar
radiation (left) and emitted heat radiation (right) for January 1, 2002. In both images, the
lightest areas represent thick clouds, which both reflect radiation from the Sun and block heat
rising from the Earth's surface. Notice the clouds above the western Pacific Ocean, where there
is strong uprising of air, and the relative lack of clouds north and south of the equator. The
animation, created from daily data, shows how rapidly these measurements change. (Credit:

At present, planet Earth is out of energy balance with space by 0.85 watts per meter
squared (W/m2) and will reach a new equilibrium by warming up another 0.6 degrees
which is committed from past emissions. This is equal to a 1-watt light bulb shining over
an area of one square meter or 10.76 square feet. Although seemingly small, this amount
of heat affecting the entire world would make a significant impact. To put this number in
perspective, an imbalance of 1 W/m2 maintained for the last 10,000 years is enough to
melt ice equivalent to 1 kilometer (6/10ths of a mile) of sea level.

“The greatest danger of a positive planetary energy imbalance is its effects on the fringes
of Greenland and West Antarctica. As these areas are softened by melt-water and rainfall,
they begin to discharge icebergs into the ocean more rapidly. As warming continues the
ice sheet area with surface snow-melt increases and the melt season becomes longer,
bringing positive feedbacks into play, including reduced ice sheet albedo (wet ice is
darker, absorbing more sunlight), warming coastal waters and rising sea level that remove
grounded coastal ice shelves that previously had impeded movement of glacial iceberg
streams to the ocean, and sinking of the ice sheet that increases the temperature at its
surface. The potential result, if this process is allowed to proceed beyond a critical point,
is much more rapid discharge of ice into the ocean.”
How Sensitive Is our Planet’s Climate To Forcings?
NASA scientist James Hansen explains, “Climate sensitivity is the response to a specified
forcing, after climate has had time to reach a new equilibrium, including effects of fast
feedbacks. A common measure of climate sensitivity is the global warming caused by a
doubling in atmospheric CO2 concentration. Climate models suggest that doubled CO2
would cause 3 °C global warming, with an uncertainty of at least 50%. Doubled CO2 is a
forcing of about 4 W/m2, implying that global climate sensitivity is about 3/4 °C per
W/m2 of forcing.”

"Paleoclimate data show that the Earth’s climate is remarkably sensitive to global
forcings. Positive feedbacks predominate. This allows the entire planet to be whipsawed
between climate states. One feedback, the ‘albedo flip’ property of water substance,
provides a powerful trigger mechanism. A climate forcing that ‘flips’ the albedo of a
sufficient portion of an ice sheet can spark a cataclysm. Ice sheet and ocean inertia
provides only moderate delay to ice sheet disintegration and a burst of added global
warming. Recent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions place the Earth perilously close to
dramatic climate change that could run out of our control, with great dangers for humans
and other creatures. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the largest human-made climate forcing, but
other trace constituents are important. Only intense simultaneous efforts to slow CO2
emissions and reduce non-CO2 forcings can keep climate within or near the range of the
past million years. The most important of the non-CO2 forcings is methane (CH4), as it
causes the 2nd largest human-made GHG climate forcing and is the principal cause of
increased tropospheric ozone (O3), which is the 3rd largest GHG forcing. Nitrous oxide
(N2O) should also be a focus of climate mitigation efforts. Black carbon (“black soot”)
has a high global warming potential (~2000, 500, and 200 for 20, 100 and 500 years,
respectively) and deserves greater attention. Some forcings are especially effective at
high latitudes, so concerted efforts to reduce their emissions could still “save the Arctic”,
while also having major benefits for human health, agricultural productivity, and the
global environment."
Hansen says "Climate forcing this century under business as usual (BAU) would dwarf
natural forcings of the past million years, indeed it would probably exceed climate
forcing of the Middle Pliocene, when the planet was not more than 2-3°C warmer and
sea level 25±10 m higher (Dowsett et al. 1994). The climate sensitivities we have
inferred from paleoclimate data assure that a BAU GHG emission scenario would
produce global warming of several degrees Celsius this century, with amplification at
high latitudes."

In relation to the IPCC, Hansen says its "analyses and projections do not well account for
the nonlinear physics of wet ice sheet disintegration, ice streams, and eroding ice shelves,
nor are they consistent with the paleoclimate evidence we have presented for the absence
of discernable lag between ice sheet forcing and sea level rise."
How do Milankovich cycles affect the sun-earth interaction?
Slow changes in the Earth’s orbit lead to small but climatically important changes in the
strength of the seasons over tens of thousands of years. Climate feedbacks amplify these
small changes, thereby producing ice ages. Milankovich cycles are cycles in eccentricity
(the shape of the Earth's orbit around the Sun.), axial tilt (the inclination of the Earth's
axis in relation to its plane of orbit with the Sun), and precession (the change in the
direction of the Earth's axis of rotation relative to the Sun at the time of perihelion and
aphelion) which influence the amount of solar radiation striking the Earth at different
times. Taken in unison, variations in these three cycles creates alterations in the
seasonality of solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface. These times of increased or
decreased solar radiation directly influence the Earth's climate system, thus impacting the
advance and retreat of Earth's glaciers.

The variation in the orbit, is the only one of the cycles that affects the actual amount of
radiation reaching the Earth known as "eccentricity,'' has two cycles -- one every
100,000 years and one every 413,000 years.

The Earth's eccentricity varies primarily due to

interactions with the gravitational fields of Jupiter
and Saturn. Currently the difference between
closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) and
furthest distance (aphelion) is only 3.4% (5.1
million km). This difference amounts to about a
6.8% increase in incoming solar radiation.
Perihelion presently occurs around January 3,
while aphelion is around July 4. When the orbit is
at its most highly elliptical, the amount of solar
radiation at perihelion is about 23% greater than at
aphelion. This difference is roughly 4 times the
value of the eccentricity. "The eccentricity
influences seasonal differences: when the Earth is
closest to the sun, it gets more solar radiation. If
the occurs during the winter, the winter is less
severe. If a hemisphere has its summer while
closest to the sun, summers are relatively warm."

The variation in obliquity, due to the Earth's rotation axis wobbles, causes a slow 2.4°
change in the tilt of the axis with respect to the plane of the Earth's orbit. Obliquity
variation has the potential to have a fairly direct effect on seasonal extremes. After all, it
is the obliquity that causes our seasons in the first place - if the Earth's axis were
perpendicular to its orbital plane, there would be no seasons at all.

The difference in tilt affects where on the Earth

receives the most and least solar radiation, but has
global climatic consequences. Oscillations in the
degree of Earth's axial tilt occur on a periodicity
of 41,000 years from 21.5 to 24.5 degrees.
Presently the Earth is tilted at 23.44 degrees from
its orbital plane, roughly half way between its
extreme values.

The more tilt means more severe seasons -

warmer summers and colder winters; less tilt
means less severe seasons - cooler summers and
milder winters. For an increase of 1o in obliquity, the total energy received by the
summer hemisphere increases by approximately 1%. The cool summers are thought to
allow for the yearly build up of snow and ice in high latitudes, possibly leading to the
development of an ice sheet. Obliquity change also causes equator ward motion of the
tropical circles and the pole ward motion of the polar circles.

The variation in precession is the change in orientation of the Earth's rotational axis.
The precession cycle takes about 19,000 - 23,000
years. Precession is caused by two factors: a
wobble of the Earth's axis and a turning around of
the elliptical orbit of the Earth itself. Precession
affects the direction of the Earth's axis. The
change in the axis location changes the dates of
perihelion (closest distance from sun) and
aphelion (farthest distance from sun), and this
increases the seasonal contrast in one hemisphere
while decreasing it in the other hemisphere.

When the axis is aligned so it points toward the

Sun during perihelion, one polar hemisphere will
have a greater difference between the seasons
while the other hemisphere will have milder
seasons. The hemisphere which is in summer at
perihelion will receive much of the corresponding increase in solar radiation, but that
same hemisphere will be in winter at aphelion and have a colder winter. The other
hemisphere will have a relatively warmer winter and cooler summer. When the Earth's
axis is aligned such that aphelion and perihelion occur during spring and autumn, the
Northern and Southern Hemispheres will have similar contrasts in the seasons. At present
perihelion occurs during the Southern Hemisphere's summer, and aphelion is reached
during the southern winter. Thus the Southern Hemisphere seasons should tend to be
somewhat more extreme than the Northern Hemisphere seasons.
Currently, the Earth is closest to the sun in the Northern Hemisphere winter, which makes
the winters there less severe. Another consequence of precession is a shift in the celestial
poles. 5000 years ago the North Star was Thuban in the constellation Draco. Currently
the North Star is Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor. 12,000 years from now the
Northern Hemisphere will experience summer in December and winter in June because
the axis of the earth will be pointing at the star Vega instead of it's current alignment with

These variables are only important because the Earth has an asymmetric distribution of
landmasses, with virtually all (except Antarctica) located in the Northern Hemisphere.
At times when Northern Hemisphere summers are coolest (farthest from the Sun due to
precession and greatest orbital eccentricity) and winters are warmest (minimum tilt),
snow can accumulate on and cover broad areas of northern America and Europe. At
present, only precession is in the glacial mode, with tilt and eccentricity not favourable to

Milankovitch's work was an attempt at explaining the ice ages, and it built upon previous
astronomical theories of climate variation postulated by Joseph Adhemar and James Croll
in the 19th century. Although the Milankovitch theory is well-grounded astronomically, it
remains controversial. The theory predicts different effects at different latitudes, and thus
its use as a predictor of global (or at least hemispheric) climate change is not
unambiguous. The exact mechanisms by which the relatively modest variations in the
Earth's orbit and axis direction might result in such large effects as the ice ages are not
well established.
Do Sun Cycles And Its Flares Cause Global Warming?
For decades, scientists have tried to
understand the link between winds
and temperature and the Sun and its
cycles. There were tell-tale signs of a
connection. For instance, the Little
Ice Age recorded in Europe between
1550 and 1700 happened during a
time of very low solar activity.
Solar scientists have long known that
solar variability changes the
distribution of energy in the Earth's

During the Sun's 11-year cycle, from solar maximum through solar minimum, the energy
released by the Sun changes by only about a tenth of a percent. New studies have
clarified that when the solar cycle is at a maximum, it puts out a larger percentage of
high-energy radiation, which increases the amount of ozone in the upper atmosphere. The
increased ozone warms the upper atmosphere and the warm air affects winds all the way
from the stratosphere (that region of the atmosphere that extends from about 6 to 30 miles
high) to the Earth's surface. The change in wind strength and direction creates different
climate patterns around the globe.

NASA satellites have been measuring the Sun’s output since 1978, and while the Sun’s
activity has varied a little, the observed changes were not large enough to account for the
warming recorded during the same period. Climate simulations of global temperature
changes based only on solar variability and volcanic aerosols since 1750—omitting
greenhouse gases— are able to fit the record of global temperatures only up until about

The only viable explanation for warming after 1950 is an increase in greenhouse gases. It
is well established theoretically why carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse
gases should heat the planet, and observations show that they have.

Solar irradiance changes have been measured reliably by satellites for only 30 years.
These precise observations show changes of a few tenths of a percent that depend on the
level of activity in the 11-year solar cycle. Changes over longer periods must be inferred
from other sources. Estimates of earlier variations are important for calibrating the
climate models. While a component of recent global warming may have been caused by
the increased solar activity of the last solar cycle, that component was very small
compared to the effects of additional greenhouse gases. According to a NASA Goddard
Institute for Space Studies (GISS) press release, "...the solar increases do not have the
ability to cause large global temperature increases...greenhouse gases are indeed playing
the dominant role..." The Sun is once again less bright as we approach solar minimum,
yet global warming continues.

A new scientific study concludes that

changes in the Sun's output cannot be
causing modern-day climate change.
It shows that for the last 20 years, the Sun's
output has declined, yet temperatures on
Earth have risen.
It also shows that modern temperatures are
not determined by the Sun's effect on
cosmic rays, as has been claimed.
Writing in the Royal Society's journal
Proceedings A, the researchers say cosmic
rays may have affected climate in the past,
but not the present.
"This should settle the debate," said Mike
Lockwood, from the UK's Rutherford-
Appleton Laboratory, who carried out the
new analysis together with Claus Froehlich
from the World Radiation Center in

Dr Lockwood initiated the study partially

in response to the TV documentary The
Great Global Warming Swindle, broadcast
on Britain's Channel Four earlier this year,
which featured the cosmic ray hypothesis.

"All the graphs they showed stopped in about 1980, and I knew why, because things
diverged after that," he told the BBC News website.
"You can't just ignore bits of data that you don't like," he said.

The scientists' main approach on this new analysis was simple: to look at solar output and
cosmic ray intensity over the last 30-40 years, and compare those trends with the graph
for global average surface temperature, which has risen by about 0.4C over the period.

However, in about 1985, that trend appears to have reversed, with solar output declining.
Yet this period has seen temperatures rise as fast as - if not faster than - any time during
the previous 100 years.
The IPCC's February summary report concluded that greenhouse gases were about
13 times more responsible than solar changes for rising global temperatures.

"Just how large [the sun’s] role is, must still be investigated, since, according to our latest
knowledge on the variations of the solar magnetic field, the significant increase in the
Earth’s temperature since 1980 is indeed to be ascribed to the greenhouse effect caused
by carbon dioxide," says Prof. Sami K. Solanki, solar physicist and director at the Max
Planck Institute for Solar System Research."
Shown here is an image of the Sun in soft x-rays.
The white (brightest) region on the right hand side shows
post-flare loops, hot loops that remain after a solar flare.
(Image from the Yohkoh Soft X-Ray Telescope)

Sunspots cause solar flares and, usually, the biggest

flares come from the biggest spots.
The effects on Earth were many: Radio blackouts
disrupted communications. Solar protons penetrated
Earth's upper atmosphere, exposing astronauts and
some air travelers to radiation doses equal to a
medical chest X-ray. Auroras appeared all over the
world--in Florida, Texas, Australia and many other
places where they are seldom seen.

Researchers rank solar flares according to their x-ray power output. C-flares are the
weakest. M-flares are middling-strong. X-flares are the most powerful. Each category has
subdivisions: e.g., X1, X2, X3 and so on.

Solar astronomer Peter Foukal of Heliophysics, Inc., in Nahant, Massachusetts, points out
that scientists have pondered the link between the sun and Earth's climate since the time
of Galileo, the famous 17th-century astronomer.
"There has been an intuitive perception that the sun's variable degree of brightness—the
coming and going of sunspots for instance—might have an impact on climate," Foukal

Sunspots are magnetic disturbances that appear as cooler, dark patches on the sun's
surface. The number of spots cycles over time, reaching a peak every 11 years.
The spots' impact on the sun's total energy output is easy to see.
"As it turns out, most of the sun's power output is in the visible range—what we see as
brightness," said Henk Spruit, study co-author from the Max Planck Institute for
Astrophysics in Garching, Germany.

"The sun's brightness varies only because of the blemishes that are also visible directly on
pictures: the dark patches called sunspots and the minute bright points called faculae. In
terms of brightness changes, in large part, what you see is what you get."
Foukal is lead author of a review paper on sunspot intensity appearing in tomorrow's
issue of the journal Nature.
He says that most climate models—including ones used by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change—already incorporate the effects of the sun's waxing and
waning power on Earth's weather.
But, Foukal said, "this paper says that that particular mechanism [sunspots], which is
most intuitive, is probably not having an impact."

If you run that back in time to the 17th century using sunspot records, you'll find that this
amplitude variance is negligible for climate," Foukal said.
The researchers obtained accurate daily sunspot measurements dating as far back as 1874
from institutions such as the Mount Wilson Observatory near Pasadena, California, and
the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England.
Older records exist all the way back to when the telescope was invented in the 17th
century, though the data become increasingly patchy with age.
The team also derived the sun's historic strength by looking at the presence or absence of
isotopes, such as beryllium 10, in ice samples from Greenland and Antarctic that reflect
the past contents of Earth's atmosphere.
Such isotopes are formed when cosmic radiation penetrates the atmosphere.
In periods of high activity, a brighter sun emits more magnetic and plasmatic particles
that shield Earth from the galaxy's rays, resulting in fewer isotopes.
Measuring the historical record of such isotopes from ice yields useful, though debatable,
estimates of the sun's past power on Earth.

Fore more information about the sun visit:

Science @ NASA

And for data on sunspots for various sun cycles visit:

The Australian Space Weather Agency

As supplier of almost all the energy in Earth's climate, the sun certainly has a strong
influence on climate change. Consequently there have been many studies examining the
link between solar variations and global temperatures.
The correlation between solar activity and temperature
The most commonly cited study by skeptics is a study by scientists from Finland and
Germany that finds the sun has been more active in the last 60 years than anytime in the
past 1150 years (Usoskin 2005). They also found temperatures closely correlate to solar
However, a crucial finding was the correlation between solar activity and temperature
ended around 1975. At that point, temperatures rose while solar activity stayed level. This
led them to conclude "during these last 30 years the solar total irradiance, solar UV
irradiance and cosmic ray flux has not shown any significant secular trend, so that at least
this most recent warming episode must have another source."
You read that right. The study most quoted by skeptics actually concluded the sun can't be
causing global warming. Ironically, it's the sun's close correlation with Earth's
temperature that proves it has little to do with the last 30 years of global warming.
Measurements of solar activity
This is confirmed by direct satellite measurements that find no rising trend since 1978,
sunspot numbers which have leveled out since 1950, the Max Planck Institute
reconstruction that shows irradience has been steady since 1950 and solar radio flux or
flare activity which shows no rising trend over the past 30 years.
Other studies on solar influence on climate
This conclusion is confirmed by many studies quantifying the amount of solar influence
in recent global warming:
Ammann 2007: "Although solar and volcanic effects appear to dominate most of the slow
climate variations within the past thousand years, the impacts of greenhouse gases have
dominated since the second half of the last century."
Lockwood 2007 concludes "the observed rapid rise in global mean temperatures seen
after 1985 cannot be ascribed to solar variability, whichever of the mechanism is invoked
and no matter how much the solar variation is amplified."
Foukal 2006 concludes "The variations measured from spacecraft since 1978 are too
small to have contributed appreciably to accelerated global warming over the past 30
Scafetta 2006 says "since 1975 global warming has occurred much faster than could be
reasonably expected from the sun alone."
Usoskin 2005 conclude "during these last 30 years the solar total irradiance, solar UV
irradiance and cosmic ray flux has not shown any significant secular trend, so that at least
this most recent warming episode must have another source."
Haigh 2003 says "Observational data suggest that the Sun has influenced temperatures on
decadal, centennial and millennial time-scales, but radiative forcing considerations and
the results of energy-balance models and general circulation models suggest that the
warming during the latter part of the 20th century cannot be ascribed entirely to solar
Stott 2003 increased climate model sensitivity to solar forcing and still found "most
warming over the last 50 yr is likely to have been caused by increases in greenhouse
Solanki 2003 concludes "the Sun has contributed less than 30% of the global warming
since 1970".
Lean 1999 concludes "it is unlikely that Sun–climate relationships can account for much
of the warming since 1970".
Waple 1999 finds "little evidence to suggest that changes in irradiance are having a large
impact on the current warming trend."
Frolich 1998 concludes "solar radiative output trends contributed little of the 0.2°C
increase in the global mean surface temperature in the past decade"
Ocean Thermal Inertia
Solanki also found that over 1150 years, temperature lagged solar activity by 10 years. Eg
- presumably due to ocean thermal inertia, it took Earth's climate 10 years to catch up to
changes in solar activity. This is exactly what's observed in the 20th century - in the early
decades, solar activity rose sharply with temperature lagging a decade behind. When
solar activity leveled out in the 40's, so too did global temperatures.
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What Are Positive or Negative Feedback Mechanisms?

Feedback is a word to describe a situation in which a part of the output of a process is

added to the input and subsequently alters the output. In this way feedback can influence
how the process operates. Feedbacks can either amplify (a positive feedback) or dampen
(a negative feedback) the initial perturbation. A climate feedback is an internal climate
process that amplifies or dampens the climate response to an initial forcing.

Feedback in climate systems can take two forms:

Positive feedback in which the feedback reinforces the original input resulting in
amplification of the output of the process. This means that small changes in the input to
the system will be cause the system to produce larger and larger changes, resulting in

Ocean warming provides a good example of a potential positive feedback mechanism.

The oceans are an important sink for CO2 through absorption of the gas into the water
surface. As CO2 increases it increases the warming potential of the atmosphere. If air
temperatures warm it should warm the oceans. The ability of the ocean to remove CO2
from the atmosphere decreases with increasing temperature. Hence increasing CO2 in the
atmosphere could have effects that exacerbate the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere.
Similar examples can be drawn for warmer air temperatures increasing the rate of glacier
and sea ice melting. As the ice melts it changes the surface characteristics of the surface
as the underlying ocean or land will have a lower albedo than the ice and hence an
enhanced ability to absorb solar radiation.
Likewise, the increase in temperature would permit more water vapor to be stored in the
atmosphere. The amount of water vapor the atmosphere can hold increases exponentially
with temperature so increases in temperature can yield increases in atmospheric water
vapor. The increased water vapor, as a greenhouse gas, enhances the greenhouse effect
and could lead to further warming as long as this positive feedback isn't modified by an
increase in cloudcover that could lead to a negative feedback (bee below).

Negative feedback in which the feedback counteracts the original input resulting in
reduction of the output of the process. This means that small changes in the input to the
system will be cause the system to produce smaller and smaller changes, resulting in the
output to the system becoming stabilised.

A good example of a negative feedback mechanism will be if the increase in temperature

increases the amount of cloud cover. The increased cloud thickness or extent could
reduce incoming solar radiation and limit warming.
On the other hand it is not obvious that if additional cloud cover happens at what latitudes
and at what times might it occur. Also it is not obvious what types of clouds might be
generated. Thick low clouds would have a stronger ability to block sunlight than
extensive high (cirrus) type clouds.
Low clouds tend to cool, high clouds tend to warm. High clouds tend to have lower
albedo and reflect less sunlight back to space than low clouds. Clouds are generally good
absorbers of infrared, but high clouds have colder tops than low clouds, so they emit less
infrared spaceward. To further complicate matters, cloud properties may change with a
changing climate, and human-made aerosols may confound the effect of greenhouse gas
forcing on clouds. With fixed clouds and sea ice, models would all report climate
sensitivities between 2°C and 3°C for a CO2 doubling. Depending on whether
and how cloud cover changes, the cloud feedback could almost halve or almost double
the warming.

Here are some links between parts of the climate system including feedbacks that may
accelerate climate change and its impacts. Observations suggest some of these feedbacks
may already be operating.
How Much Energy Is Required to Warm an Entire
Here are a few estimates of the energy used to melt ice and warm the air, land and ocean
in the past 50 years.

Ice melting: assume that the 10 cm rise in sea level between 1950 and 2000 was due to
melting ice (thermal expansion of warming ocean water contributes about half of the rise,
but this error is partly balanced by melting sea ice and ice shelves, which do not raise the
sea level). If the initial temperature of the melted ice was –10 °C and its final temperature
was that of the mean ocean surface (+15 °C), then the energy used is 105 cal/g (80 cal/g
for melting). The heat storage is thus 10 g/cm2 × 105 cal/g × 4.19 J/cal × surface area of
Earth (~5.1 × 1018 cm2) × ocean fraction of Earth (~0.71) ≈ 1.6 × 1022 J ≈ 1 watt-year.

Air warming: for a 0.5 °C increase in air temperature, the heat storage in the air is: 0.5 °C
× the atmospheric mass of air (≈ mass of 10 m column of water ≈ 1000 g/cm2) × heat
capacity air (≈ 0.24 cal/(g·°C) × 4.19 J/cal × surface area of Earth ≈ 0.26 × 1022 J ≈ 0.16

Land warming: The mean depth of penetration of a thermal wave into the Earth's crust in
50 years, weighted by ΔT, is about 20 m. If the Earth's crust has a density of ~3 g/cm3 and
a heat capacity of ~0.2 cal/(g·°C), and the fractional land coverage of Earth is about 0.29,
then the land heat storage is 2 × 103 cm × 3 g/cm3 × 0.2 cal/(g·°C) × 0.5 °C × 4.19 J/cal ×
surface area of Earth × 0.29 ≈ 0.37 × 1022 J ≈ 0.23 watt-year.

Ocean warming: Levitus found a mean ocean warming of 0.035 °C in the upper 3 km of
the ocean. The heat storage is thus: 0.035 °C × 3 × 105 g/cm2 × 1 cal/g × 4.19 J/cal ×
surface area of Earth × 0.71 ≈ 16 × 1022 J ≈ 10 watt-years.

Note that 1 J = 1 W·s, the number of seconds in a year ≈ π × 107, and the surface area of
the Earth ≈ 5.1 × 1018 cm2; therefore, 1 watt-year over the entire surface of the Earth ≈
1.61 × 1022 J.
What is the Carbon Cycle?
Carbon is continuously cycled between reservoirs in the ocean, on the land, and in the
atmosphere, where it occurs primarily as carbon dioxide. On land, carbon occurs
primarily in living biota and decaying organic matter. In the ocean, the main form of
carbon is dissolved carbon dioxide and small creatures, such as plankton.
Carbon dioxide is removed from the air by green plants during photosynthesis, and some
carbon dioxide dissolved in water to be used by many invertebrate marine organisms to
build their calcium carbonate shells. The respiration of living organisms releases some
carbon dioxide. As the marine organisms die, their shells may sink to the sea bed, mixed
with mud, and eventually compressed to form sedimentary rocks. When plants and
animals die their wastes are decomposed, and the carbon they contain is oxidised and
returns to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Fossil fuels, comprising organic remains
whose decomposition was arrested millions of years ago, release carbon dioxide when
they are burned. (Green Facts – The Greenhouse Effect and Other Key Issues, Michael
Allaby, 1990)
The largest reservoir is the deep ocean, which contains close to 40,000 Gt C, compared to
around 2,000 Gt C on land, 750 Gt C in the atmosphere and 1,000 Gt C in the upper
ocean. The atmosphere, biota, soils, and the upper ocean are strongly linked. The
exchange of carbon between this fast-responding system and the deep ocean takes much
longer (several hundred years).
Source: Mac Post (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
Is The Carbon Cycle Out of Balance?
Since the industrial revolution, people have been putting more carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere than plants, soils and oceans have been able to absorb. People have strained
the system. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen, and are continuing to
rise. As a result of increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, global
climate is changing.

The carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere is gradually and steadily increasing. The
graph shows the CO2 concentration at the summit of Mauna Loa in Hawaii from 1958
through 1999.

The Mauna Loa atmospheric CO2 measurements constitute the longest continuous record
of atmospheric CO2 concentrations available in the world. The Mauna Loa site is
considered one of the most favorable locations for measuring undisturbed air because
possible local influences of vegetation or human activities on atmospheric CO2
concentrations are minimal and any influences from volcanic vents may be excluded
from the records.

The values are in parts per million (ppm). The seasonal fluctuation is caused by the
increased uptake of CO2 by plants in the summer.
Which Mode of Transport Produces Less C02?
It is also important to note that different carbon efficiencies exist between modes of
transport. These differences can be explained by the different technology deployed,
vehicle size and capacity, technical standards, or indeed topography or weather
conditions. Each mode is also restricted to a specific network, and each network (road,
rail, sea and air) has its own unique characteristics that can affect vehicle operation and
efficiency. Comparative figures are difficult to produce, given the variety of assumptions
involved regarding average vehicle type, driving styles and occupancy rates. Figure 2.5
displays Government reporting guidelines using a set of assumptions found in Defra
What Are Carbon Sinks?
The UNFCCC defines sinks as any process, activity or mechanism which removes a
greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.
Forests play an important role in the carbon cycle, removing carbon dioxide from the
atmosphere and storing it as carbon in plant material and soil in a process known as
sequestration. Half a tree's mass is carbon, so large amounts of carbon are stored in
forests and they are the largest store of terrestrial carbon. Planting new forests, managing
existing forests and reducing clearing can provide a relatively cost-effective way of
combating climate change. However, forests can also turn into a carbon source. This
might occur when a forest is burned in a bushfire or struck by disease. The factors that
determine whether a forest or other ecosystem is maintained as a carbon sink include
rainfall patterns, bushfires, vegetation changes, nutrients, soil composition, evaporation
rates and the interactions between them.

Trees are very efficient at sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. A cubic meter of air
contains about 0.117 grams of carbon, while a cubic meter of wood contains about 250 kg
of carbon, This means that a cubic meter of wood contains the same amount of carbon as
1.4 million cubic meters of air. Trees are not only capable of fixing carbon but also of
concentrating it to an incredible extent. A forest growing at the rate of 10 m3 wood per
hectare per year is absorbing the carbon from 14 million m3 of air (a column of air 1400
meters high on one hectare). The combination of photosynthesis and a tree's ability to lay
down wood (cellulose and lignin) acts as a powerful concentrator of carbon from the
atmosphere into a fixed form. There is no parallel human technology that is capable of
performing this kind of carbon concentration.

Some of the world's seawater, thought to absorb a quarter of all carbon dioxide (CO2)
emissions, has grown saturated with the gas and leaves more of it sitting in the
atmosphere. Researchers reporting in the journal Science say at least one large ocean
area -- the Southern Ocean around Antarctica -- is so loaded with CO2 that it's losing its
ability to soak it up. The Southern Ocean alone accounts for 15 percent of the global
carbon sink. The decline of Antarctica's Southern Ocean as a carbon sink may raise future
CO2 levels and speed up global warming. Climate scientists have predicted this would
happen. The trouble is that the changes appear to be happening some 40 years ahead of
schedule. "We thought we would be able to detect these only in the second half of this
century, say 2050 or so," lead researcher Corrine Le Quere told Reuters. Data from 1981
to 2004, however, show the waters have been saturated with carbon dioxide since at least
the 1980s. "So, I find this really quite alarming," she said. Why is it happening now?
Wind, says Le Quere. Increased winds over the past half-century churn the Southern
Ocean, pulling naturally occurring carbon from deep in the ocean to its surface, where the
human-caused carbon sits. The ocean surface becomes saturated with CO2 and stops
absorbing it from the atmosphere. "Since the beginning of the industrial revolution the
world's oceans have absorbed about a quarter of the 500 gigatons (500 billion tons) of
carbon emitted into the atmosphere by humans," Chris Rapley of the British Antarctic
Survey said. "The possibility that in a warmer world, the Southern Ocean -- the strongest
ocean sink -- is weakening is a cause for concern.",1518,483540,00.html
How Much CO2 Equivalent Can Our Planet Absorb

In 1990, our CO2 emissions amounted to 6 to 7 billion tons carbon equivalent (often
noted 6 to 7 Gtce, (giga=billion in scientific notation).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calculates that the sinks on earth in
biological and chemical activity in oceans, forests, and soils permanently remove around
4 billion tonnes of carbon from the carbon cycle each year. This, then, is our global
emissions target; anything extra we put in the air remains there and increases the
greenhouse effect.
In practice emitting only 4 Gtce of CO2 per year means for 6 billion human beings,
equitably allocated, that they can emit 666 kg carbon equivalent of CO2 per person and
per year. The challenge is compounded by the fact that emissions are rising with a long-
term trend of 1.5% per year. Furthermore, global population is likely to increase to 9
billion people or more, and income per capita is likely to increase by 100% or more by
the end of the century.
Climate change is very likely to reduce the capacity of natural processes to remove
carbon. The capacity of oceans and soil to hold carbon falls as they become warmer. The
Hadley Centre for Climate Change believes that within forty years the vast carbon sink of
the Amazon will go into reverse; dying back and releasing its carbon stocks into the
The first comprehensive study of the ocean storage of carbon dioxide derived from
human activities - anthropogenic CO2 - determined that the oceans have taken up some
118 billion metric tons of this carbon dioxide between 1800 and 1994.
Studies over the last decade have indicated that the land plants are taking up CO2 at rates
comparable to the oceans, but scientists have determined that over a 200 year time frame,
land plants have released more of the gas to the atmosphere than they have taken up.
If the ocean had not removed 118 billion metric tons of anthropogenic carbon between
1800 and 1994, the CO2 level in the atmosphere would be about 55 parts per million
greater than currently observed," said Christopher Sabine, an oceanographer at the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental
Laboratory and the lead author of one of the papers.
Furthermore, we find that the current natural sinks for anthropogenic emissions, around 4

gigatonnes of carbon per year (or 4 GtC a-1) will be reduced to around 2.7 GtC a-1 in
2030. 2.7 GtC a-1 therefore, is the amount of greenhouse gases we will be able to emit in
2030, without increasing atmospheric concentrations. When this global emission limit is
shared out between the projected world population of 8.2 billion people, we get a per
capita emission limit of 0.33 tonnes of carbon per year.
In the UK we currently emit around 3 tonnes of carbon equivalent per person per year, so
we will require to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 90%, compared with current
levels, by 2030.
Further research by the Hadley Centre may have identified a major climate trigger point
related to dieback of vegetation in Amazonia, which if confirmed, would require a further

tightening of these emission reduction targets. The time lag between a drop in
atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, and a corresponding fall in mean
surface temperature, means that emissions stabilisation at 440 ppm may have to be
achieved sooner than 2030.

Professor James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia Theory, says that "if we continue to
inject CO2 into the atmosphere as we have been, we will have released in thirty years
from now more than a million million tons of CO2. Moreover, the sun is now hotter than
it was 55 Myears ago and we have disabled about 40% of Gaia’s regulatory capacity by
using land to feed people. This is why climate scientists are so concerned that we have
already set in motion damaging climate change. The history of global heating 55 million
years ago suggests that the injection of gaseous carbon compounds took place over a
period of about 10,000 years, much slower than we are now doing.
In his paper, Professor Elderfield’s suggests that because of the slow rate of introduction
CO2 rose by no more than 70 and 160 ppm. Compared with our present pollution with
CO2 this is a small increase, we have already raised CO2 by 100 ppm with an injection of
only 500 Gigatons. In thirty years, if we continue business as usual, we will have added
1000 Giga tons and raised CO2 by 200ppm, more than is thought to have been present in
the early Eocene. The great rapidity of our pollution of the atmosphere with carbon gases
is as damaging as is the quantity. The rapidity of our pollution gives the Earth system
little time to adjust and this is particularly important for the ocean ecosystems; the rapid
accumulation of CO2 in the surface water is making them too acid for shell forming
organisms. This did not happen during the Eocene event because there was time for the
more alkaline deep waters to mix in and neutralize the surface ocean."

To avoid the most dangerous consequences of climate change, the EU Heads of State at
the EU Council agreed in March 2005 halt global warming below 2ºC above pre-
industrial temperatures. To reach this goal, the carbon dioxide concentration in the
atmosphere needs to be stabilised below 450 ppm (possibly after some limited temporary
overshooting of this value).
Does Climate Change Affect Precipitation?
Over the last 100 years many dry areas have become even drier and wet areas have
become wetter. Many long-standing weather records have been broken in recent years. In
1992, the Danube and Elbe rivers burst their banks in central Europe. The southern
section of the Sahara desert suffered a serious, long-lasting drought in the 1990s.
Droughts affect different parts of the western United States each year. In some locations
the drought may last more than a year.
Does Climate Change Affect Soil Moisture?
The percentage of Earth's land area stricken by serious drought more than doubled from
the 1970s to the early 2000s, according to a new analysis by scientists at the National
Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Widespread drying occurred over much of
Europe and Asia, Canada, western and southern Africa, and eastern Australia. Rising
global temperatures appear to be a major factor, says NCAR's Aiguo Dai, lead author of
the study.

Dai and colleagues found that the fraction of global land experiencing very dry
conditions (defined as -3 or less on the Palmer Drought Severity Index) rose from about
10-15% in the early 1970s to about 30% by 2002. Almost half of that change is due to
rising temperatures rather than decreases in rainfall or snowfall, according to Dai.

To see how soil moisture has evolved over the last few decades, Dai and colleagues
produced a unique global-scale analysis using the Palmer index, which for decades has
been the most widely used yardstick of U.S. drought. The index is a measure of near-
surface moisture conditions and is correlated with soil moisture content.

Since the Palmer index is not routinely calculated in most of the world, Dai and
colleagues used long-term records of temperature and precipitation from a variety of
sources to derive the index for the period 1870-2002. The results were consistent with
those from a historical simulation of global land surface conditions, produced by a
comprehensive computer model developed by scientists at NCAR, NASA, Georgia
University of Technology, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of
By factoring out rainfall and snowfall, Dai and colleagues estimated how much of the
global trend in soil moisture was due solely to rising temperatures through the extra
evaporation they produce.
"The warming-induced drying has occurred over most land areas since the 1970s," says
Dai, "with the largest effects in northern mid and high latitudes." In contrast, rainfall
deficits alone were the main factor behind expansion of dry soils in Africa's Sahel and
East Asia. These are regions where El Niño, a more frequent visitor since the 1970s,
tends to inhibit precipitation.
How Do Climate Models Work And Are They Reliable?
"To understand how sunlight, air, water, and land come together to create Earth’s climate,
scientists build climate models—computer simulations of the climate system. Climate
models include the fundamental laws of physics—conservation of energy, mass, and
momentum—as well as dozens of factors that influence Earth’s climate. Though the
models are complicated, rigorous tests with real-world data hone them into robust tools
that allow scientists to experiment with the climate in a way not otherwise possible. For
example, when scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), NASA’s
division spearheading climate modeling efforts, put measurements of volcanic particles
from Mount Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption into their climate models well after the event, the
models reported that Earth would have cooled by around 0.5°C a year or so later. The
prediction matched cooling that had been observed around the globe after the eruption.
Mount Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption pumped volcanic
gases high into the atmosphere. The gases interacted
with water vapor to form a reflective shade of aerosol
particles (top graph) that stretched far beyond the
Philippines, where the volcano is located. The global
average temperature dipped half a degree Celsius
until the particles (sulfates) cleared a few years later.
Scientists test and refine global climate models by
comparing model predictions of temperature change
after events like the eruption to actual observations
(bottom graph). When models reliably match
observations, scientists gain confidence that the
models accurately represent Earth’s climate system.
(NASA graphs by Robert Simmon, based on data
from NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.)

As the models reconstruct events that match the climate record, researchers gain
confidence that the models are accurately duplicating the complex interactions that drive
Earth’s climate. Scientists then experiment with the models to gain insight into what is
driving climate change. By experimenting with the models—removing greenhouse gases
emitted by the burning of fossil fuels or changing the intensity of the Sun to see how each
influences the climate— scientists can use the models to explain Earth’s current climate
and predict its future climate. So far, the only way scientists can get the models to match
the rise in temperature seen over the past century is to include the greenhouse gases that
humans have put into the atmosphere. This means that, according to the models, humans
are responsible for most of the warming observed during the second half of the twentieth

“Why do scientists trust results from climate models when models seem to have so much
trouble forecasting the weather? It turns out that trends are easier to predict than specific
events. Weather is a short-term, small-scale set of measurements of environmental
conditions, while climate is the average of those conditions over a large area for a long
time. The difference between predicting weather and climate is similar to the difference
between predicting when a particular person will die versus calculating the average life
span of an entire population. Given the large number of variables that influence
conditions in Earth’s lower atmosphere, and given that chaos also plays a larger role on
shorter and smaller scales of time and space, weather is much harder to predict than the
averages that make up climate.

However, the longer the time scale, the harder it becomes to predict climate. Scientists
understand how certain processes that drive Earth’s climate work now, and so they can
accurately predict how events like Pinatubo’s eruption will cool the globe’s average
temperature. But they don’t understand how every aspect of the climate system will
change as the planet warms. Feedback loops—in which change in one part of the climate
system produces change in another part—make climate harder to forecast as scientists
look farther into the future. For example, what will happen to clouds as Earth warms?
Will high-flying, heat-absorbing clouds that would cause additional heating become more
frequent than dense, sunlight-blocking clouds? Will changes be regional or global, and
how will they affect global climate? As of now, scientists can’t answer these questions,
and the uncertainties mean that global climate models provide a range of predictions
instead of a highly detailed forecast.”
Why Should We Be Worried About a Warming of Just 1-
Most people do not realise that even small changes in the global average temperature can
result in very significant impacts. When people hear scientists warn of 2°, 3° and 5°C
increases in temperature they relate this to the changes in temperature that they feel on
any day, which is always a range of temperatures larger than 2 to 5°C. The key to
understanding is to look back to the last ice-age where the world and Australia were very
different places, even though the global average temperature at that time was only about
5°C lower than today.

When surface temperatures are averaged over the entire globe for extended periods of
time, it turns out that the average is remarkably stable. Not since the end of the last ice
age 20,000 years ago, when Earth warmed about 5°C, has the average surface
temperature changed as dramatically as the 2°C to 6°C change that scientists are
predicting for the next century.

Hansen says “The temperature change between full glacial and interglacial conditions is
about 10ºC in Antarctica, about 3ºC at the Pacific Warm Pool on the equator, and 5±1ºC
on global average. We know the change of surface conditions on the planet quite well, the
ice sheet area being the dominant change.

Consider that 100 ppm is what separated the ice age from the warm, stable climate of the
past several thousand years, and that the temperature transition from ice age to a warm
climate took about a thousand years. By comparison, over the past 30 years nearly half
the energy used in the history of the industrial revolution has been consumed, and global
average temperatures are rising about 100 times faster than during transitions out of ice

Oceanographer Wallace Broecker illustrates the danger of disrupting the climate with a
metaphor, saying that “The climate is an angry beast, and we’re going to give it a big
nudge.” He suggests “if we’re going to stop the CO2 rise, capturing it and putting it away
is going to be a large part of it. The technologies being developed would transform it into
a liquefied form, which could then be buried in saline aquifers, the deep ocean or remote
deserts. But any way you solve this problem, it’s going to be a big deal, involving 20
percent of the energy budget. Still, it’s not going to cripple any country to pay 20-30
percent more for energy – We’ve gone through that already with the rise in oil prices.”
What Caused The Cooling Phase Between 1940-1980
Whilst CO2 Was Rising?
In 1981, the NASA and led by James Hansen reported that "the common misconception
that the world is cooling is based on Northern Hemisphere experience to 1970." Just
around the time that meteorologists had noticed the cooling trend, such as it was, it had
apparently reversed. From a low point in the mid 1960s, by 1980 the world had warmed
some 0.2°C.(32)
Hansen's group looked into the causes of the fluctuations, and they got a rather good
match for the temperature record using volcanic eruptions plus solar variations.
Greenhouse warming by CO2 had not been a major factor (at least, not yet). More
sophisticated analyses in the 1990s would eventually confirm these findings. From the
1940s to the early 1960s, the Northern Hemisphere had indeed cooled while temperatures
had held roughly steady in the south. Some of the change certainly came from natural
variations, probably including changes in the Sun's output and a modest spate of volcanic
eruptions. More significantly, a sharp increase in haze from pollution such as sulfate
aerosol particles had indeed helped to temporarily cool the industrialized Northern
Hemisphere. After the 1960s, with pollution growing less rapidly while CO2 continued to
accumulate in the air, warming resumed in both hemispheres.(32a)

The temporary northern cooling had been bad luck for climate science. By feeding
skepticism about the greenhouse effect, while provoking a few scientists (and rather more
journalists) to speculate publicly about the coming of a new ice age, the cool spell gave
the field a reputation for fecklessness that it would not soon live down.

Any greenhouse warming had been masked by chance fluctuations in solar activity, by
pulses of volcanic aerosols, and by increased haze from pollution. Furthermore, as a few
scientists pointed out, the upper layer of the oceans must have been absorbing heat. These
effects could only delay atmospheric warming by a few decades. Hansen's group boldly
predicted that considering how fast CO2 was accumulating, by the end of the 20th
century "carbon dioxide warming should emerge from the noise level of natural climatic
variability." Around the same time, a few other scientists using different calculations
came to the same conclusion — the warming would show itself clearly sometime around

The second important group analyzing global temperatures was the British government's
Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, led by Tom Wigley and Phil
Jones. Help in assembling data and funding came from American scientists and agencies.
The British results agreed overall with the NASA group's findings — the world was
getting warmer. In 1982, East Anglia confirmed that the cooling that began in the 1940s
had turned around by the early 1970s. 1981 was the warmest year in a record that
stretched back a century.(34*) Returning to old records, in 1986 the group produced the
first truly solid and comprehensive global analysis of average surface temperatures
(including the vast ocean regions, which most earlier studies had neglected). They found
considerable warming from the late 19th century up to 1940, followed by some regional
cooling in the Northern Hemisphere but roughly level conditions overall to the mid-
1970s. Then the warming had resumed with a vengeance. The warmest three years in the
entire 134-year record had all occurred in the 1980s.(35) Convincing confirmation came
from Hansen and a collaborator, who analyzed old records using quite different methods
from the British, and came up with substantially the same results. It was true: an
unprecedented warming was underway, at least 0.5°C in the past century.(36)
Real climate explains:

“Northern Hemisphere mean temperatures do appear to have cooled over that period, and
that contrasts with a continuing increase in CO2, which if all else had been equal, should
have led to warming. But were all things equal? Actually no. In the real world, there is
both internal variability and other factors that affect climate (i.e. other than CO2). Some
of those other forcings (sulphate and nitrate aerosols, land use changes, solar irradiance,
volcanic aerosols, for instance) can cause cooling. Matching up the real world with what
we might expect to have happened depends on including ALL of the forcings (as best as
we can). Even then any discrepancy might be due to internal variability (related
principally to the ocean on multi-decadal time scales). Our current 'best guess' is that the
global mean changes in temperature (including the 1940-1970 cooling) are actually quite
closely related to the forcings. Regional patterns of change appear to be linked more
closely to internal variability (particularly the 1930's warming in the North Atlantic).
However, in no case has anyone managed to show that the recent warming can be
matched without the increases in CO2 (and other GHGs like CH4).

Secondly, through the copious use of station weather data, a number of single station
records with long term cooling trends are shown. In particular, the characters visit Punta
Arenas (at the tip of South America), where (very pleasingly to my host institution) they
have the GISTEMP station record posted on the wall which shows a long-term cooling
trend (although slight warming since the 1970's). "There's your global warming" one of
the good guys declares. I have to disagree. Global warming is defined by the global mean
surface temperature. It does not imply that the whole globe is warming uniformly (which
of course it isn't). (But that doesn't stop one character later on (p381) declaring that "'s
effect is presumably the same everywhere in the world. That's why it's called global
warming"). Had the characters visited the nearby station of Santa Barbara Cruz
Aeropuerto, the poster on the wall would have shown a positive trend. Would that have
been proof of global warming? No. Only by amalgamating all of the records we have
(after correcting for known problems, such as discussed below) can we have an idea what
the regional, hemispheric or global means are doing. That is what is meant by global
How Long Does C02 Last in the Atmosphere?
Lets look at how CO2 concentration decays, in the CO2 impulse response function of
Bern SAR and Bern TAR models. The CO2 concentration is approximated by a sum of
exponentially decaying functions, one for each fraction of the additional concentrations,
which should reflect the time scales of different sinks. The coefficients are based on the
pulse response of the additional concentration of CO2 taken from the Bern model
(Siegenthaler and Joos, 1992).

r = concentration
CCO2 = constant (approximately 0.47 ppmv/GtC, but use this parameter to fine tune
your results)
ECO 2 = emissions of CO2
tCO2,S = atmospheric exponential decay time of the sth fraction of the additional
concentration (171.0, 18.0 and 2.57 years)
fCO2,0 = first fraction (0.152)
fCO2,S = respective fractions (0.253, 0.279 and 0.316)

This C02 response function shows that even after 100 years 30% of the C02 remains in
the atmosphere. Also noteworthy is that this rate only very slowly decreases thereafter.
Tim Flannery, Australian author and scientist, who wrote "The Weather Makers: How
Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth" sates that "One of the
most important things we need to ponder about global warming is the long lasting effect
of pumping carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere. Around 56% of all of the carbon dioxide
produced by humans since we started using coal and oil as sources of energy is still
present in the atmosphere today. Even if we quickly shift to safer forms of energy, over
half of this carbon dioxide will still be in the atmosphere in a century’s time.

Carbon dioxide has an atmospheric lifetime of between 50 - 200 years. This means that
carbon dioxide will be present in the atmosphere for at least 50 years before it is absorbed
by a sink or becomes part of another chemical reaction. Consequently, carbon dioxide
emitted into the atmosphere today could cause global warming for two centuries to come.
What Is The Relationship Between CO2 and Global Mean

When you look at the ice cores data covering the last 650,000 years the Earth can be seen
to undergo natural changes from glacial conditions to warmer interglacial times like the
present. We can observe that warming occurs rapidly, whereas cooling occurs slowly.

"The link between temperature and carbon dioxide, as well as methane concentrations in
the past is surprisingly constant over time. Only through the impact of humans during the
last centuries, atmospheric green house gases have been raised above their natural
levels”, explains Dr Hubertus Fischer of the Alfred Wegener Institute.

The CSIRO Atmospheric Research Greenhouse Information Paper explains that

“concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane increased almost in phase with the
glacial-interglacial warmings. Carbon dioxide concentrations lagged the coolings during
glacial onset. However, the exact phasing of temperature and carbon dioxide changes is
not the main issue. The important finding is that greenhouse gas variations caused up to
half of the amplitude of the temperature changes over the glacial-interglacial periods.”

"During the exit from glacial periods (for example the transition from the last cold period,
between about 18000 and 11000 years ago), both temperature and CO2 increased slowly
and in parallel. Close analysis of the relationship between the two curves shows that,
within the uncertainties of matching their timescales, the temperature led by a few
centuries. This is expected, since it was changes in the Earth’s orbital parameters
(including the shape of its orbit around the Sun, and the tilt of Earth’s axis) that caused
the small initial temperature rise. This then raised atmospheric CO2 levels, in part by
outgassing from the oceans, causing the temperature to rise further. By amplifying each
other’s response, this “positive feedback” can turn a small initial perturbation into a large
climate change. There is therefore no surprise that the temperature and CO2 rose in
parallel, with the temperature initially in advance. In the current case, the situation is
different, because human actions are raising the CO2 level, and we are starting to observe
the temperature response. “
Is There Scientific Consensus on Climate Change?
The evidence for human induced global warming is given in the recently published report
“Climate Change 2007: The Physical Basis – Summary for Policy Makers” by Working
Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The report is authoritative as it is based on an extensive and rigorous review of the
published results of thousands of scientific investigations carried out worldwide. It is
trustworthy since the delegates of 113 nations, including those of climate sceptic nations,
have challenged and approved its contents. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) report concluded that, "Most of the observed increase in globally
averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed
increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations." The report defines "very
likely" as a greater than 90% probability and represents the consensus of the scientific

IPCC is not alone in its conclusions. In recent years, all major scientific bodies in the US
whose members' expertise bears directly on the matter have issued similar statements. For
example, the National Academy of Sciences report, Climate Change Science: An
Analysis of Some Key Questions, begins: "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's
atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and
subsurface ocean temperatures to rise". The report explicitly asks whether the IPCC
assessment is a fair summary of professional scientific thinking, and answers yes: "The
IPCC's conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have
been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current
thinking of the scientific community on this issue". Others agree. The American
Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association
for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements in recent years
concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling.

To read other scientific reports and international agreements which demonstrate this
global consensus, please read:

In addition, the following institutions specializing in Climate, Atmosphere, Ocean and/or

Earth sciences have published the same conclusions:

• NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS)

• National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
• National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
• State of the Canadian Cryosphere (SOCC)
• Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
• Royal Society of the United Kingdom (RS)
• American Geophysical Union (AGU)
• National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
• American Meteorological Society (AMS)
• Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS)

The consensus is so strong that legally carbon dioxide is now considered a pollutant in
the US. I am sure many countries will soon follow suit. The US Supreme Court recently
decided due to overwhelming evidence that carbon dioxide is a pollutant under federal
law and can be regulated because it traps heat around the earth.
Climate change is an issue which the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir
David King, described as “the most severe problem that we are facing today – more
serious even than the threat of terrorism”

Is The IPCC Report Unbiased Or Is It Political?

In a SPIEGEL article in May 2007 “Is the IPCC Doing Harm to Science?” Uwe Buse
explains that in drafting the SPM, or Summary for Policymakers, the two groups debating
the issue had little in common except a mutual interest in reaching a consensus. On the
one side were the authors of the report, all scientists, who have done little else in the last
three years than work on this report. On the other side were the politicians, members of
delegations from almost every country on earth. Sitting in alphabetical order in the
chamber, their main concern was to adjust the report to suit their individual economic,
environmental and foreign policies.,1518,480766,00.html


In January 2005 Christopher Landsea resigned from work on the IPCC AR4, saying that
he viewed the process "as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being
scientifically unsound" because of Kevin Trenberth's public contention that global
warming was contributing to recent hurricane activity Chris Landsea Leaves. Roger A.
Pielke who published Landsea's letter writes: "How anyone can deny that political
factors were everpresent in the negotiations isn't paying attention", but notes that the
actual report "maintain[s] consistency with the actual balance of opinion(s) in the
community of relevant experts.

One weakness of the IPCC is that it has decided to exclude the contribution of
"accelerated melting", where the disintegration of ice shelves and lubrication of glaciers
by meltwater speeds up the flow of ice into the oceans, because it is difficult to model.
However in the coming century it could have a big impact.

On February 1st, 2007, the eve of the publication of IPCC's major report on climate, a
new study was published in the peer-review journal Science, in which research by an
international group of scientists suggests that temperatures and sea levels have been
rising at or above the maximum rates proposed during the last IPCC report in 2001.[36]
The study compared IPCC 2001 projections on temperature and sea level change with
what has actually happened. Over the six year span of time, the actual temperature rise
was near the very top (in the top 10%) of the "range" given by IPCC's 2001 projection. In
the case of sea level rises, the actual rise was above even the top of the range IPCC had
There are many additional examples of scientific research which has indicated that
previous estimates by the IPCC, far from overstating dangers and risks, have actually
understated them (this may be due, in part, to the expanding human understanding of
climate, as well as to the conservative bias, noted above, which is built into the IPCC

The Arctic sea ice is disintegrating "100 years ahead of schedule", having dropped 22%
this year below the previous minimum low, and it may completely disappear as early as
the northern summer of 2013. This is far beyond the predictions of the International Panel
on Climate Change and is an example of global warming impacts happening at lower
temperature increases and more quickly than projected. What are the lessons from the
Arctic summer of 2007?
• Climate change impacts are happening at lower temperature increases and more quickly
than projected.
• The Arctic's floating sea ice is headed towards rapid summer disintegration as early as
2013, a century ahead of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections.
• The rapid loss of Arctic sea ice will speed up the disintegration of the Greenland ice
sheet, and a rise in sea levels by even as much as 5 metres by the turn of this century is
• The Antarctic ice shelf reacts far more sensitively to warming temperatures than
previously believed.
• Long-term climate sensitivity (including "slow" feedbacks such as carbon cycle
feedbacks which are starting to operate) may be double the IPCC standard.
• A doubling of climate sensitivity would mean we passed the widely accepted 2°C
threshold of "dangerous anthropogenic interference" with the climate four decades ago,
and would require us to find the means to engineer a rapid drawdown of current
atmospheric greenhouse gas.
• Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are now growing more rapidly than "business-as-
usual", the most pessimistic of the IPCC scenarios.
• Temperatures are now within ≈1°C of the maximum temperature of the past million
• We must choose targets and take actions that can actually solve the problem in a timely
• The object of policy-relevant advice must be to avoid unacceptable outcomes and
seemingly extreme or alarming possibilities, not to determine just the apparently most
likely outcome.
• The 2°C warming cap is a political compromise; with the speed of change now in the
climate system and the positive feedbacks that 2°C will trigger, it looms for perhaps
billions of people and millions of species as a death sentence.
• To allow the reestablishment and long-term security of the Arctic summer sea ice it is
likely to be necessary to bring global warming back to a level at or below 0.5°C (a long-
term precautionary warming cap) and for the level of atmospheric greenhouse gases at
equilibrium to be brought down to or below a long-term precautionary cap of 320 ppm
• The IPCC suffers from a scientific reticence and in many key areas the IPCC process
has been so deficient as to be an unreliable and dangerously misleading basis for policy-
“Dozens of federal agencies report science but much of it is edited at the White House
before it is sent to Congress and the public. It appears climate science is edited with a
heavy hand. Drafts of climate reports were co-written by Rick Piltz for the federal
Climate Change Science Program. But Piltz says his work was edited by the White House
to make global warming seem less threatening. "The strategy of people with a political
agenda to avoid this issue is to say there is so much to study way upstream here that we
can’t even being to discuss impacts and response strategies," says Piltz. "There’s too
much uncertainty. It's not the climate scientists that are saying that, its lawyers and

Piltz worked under the Clinton and Bush administrations. Each year, he helped write a
report to Congress called "Our Changing Planet." Piltz says he is responsible for editing
the report and sending a review draft to the White House. Asked what happens, Piltz
says: "It comes back with a large number of edits, handwritten on the hard copy by the
chief-of-staff of the Council on Environmental Quality." Asked who the chief of staff is,
Piltz says, "Phil Cooney." Piltz says Cooney is not a scientist. "He's a lawyer. He was a
lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, before going into the White House," he
says. Cooney, the former oil industry lobbyist, became chief-of-staff at the White House
Council on Environmental Quality. Piltz says Cooney edited climate reports in his own
hand. In one report, a line that said earth is undergoing rapid change becomes “may be
undergoing change.” “Uncertainty” becomes “significant remaining uncertainty.” One
line that says energy production contributes to warming was just crossed out. "He was
obviously passing it through a political screen," says Piltz. "He would put in the word
potential or may or weaken or delete text that had to do with the likely consequence of
climate change, pump up uncertainty language throughout."

Is There Evidence In the Past of Abrupt Climate
Professor Richard Alley, one of the world's leading climate researchers, tells the
fascinating history of global climate changes as revealed by reading the annual rings of
ice from cores drilled in Greenland. In the 1990s he and his colleagues made headlines
with the discovery that the last ice age came to an abrupt end over a period of only three
years. Here Alley offers the first popular account of the wildly fluctuating climate that
characterized most of prehistory--long deep freezes alternating briefly with mild
conditions--and explains that we humans have experienced an unusually temperate
climate. But, he warns, our comfortable environment could come to an end in a matter of
years. The record suggests that "switches" as well as "dials" control the earth's climate,
affecting, for example, hot ocean currents that today enable roses to grow in Europe
farther north than polar bears grow in Canada. Throughout most of history, these currents
switched on and off repeatedly (due partly to collapsing ice sheets), throwing much of the
world from hot to icy and back again in as little as a few years.

Scientists who read the history of Earth's climate in ancient sediments, ice cores and
fossils find clear signs that it has shifted abruptly in the past on a scale that could prove
disastrous for modern society. Peter B. deMenocal, an associate professor at the Lamont-
Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, said that about 8,200 years ago, a
very sudden cooling shut down the Atlantic conveyor belt. As a result, the land
temperature in Greenland dropped more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit within a decade or
two. "It's not this abstract notion that happens over millions of years," deMenocal said.
"The magnitude of what we're talking about greatly, greatly exceeds anything we've
withstood in human history."

Fossil and ice core evidence shows that Earths climate can shift drastically within 10
years—establishing radically different temperatures and precipitation patterns that can
persist for centuries or longer. “Even as the earth as a whole continues to warm gradually,
large regions may experience a precipitous and disruptive shift into colder climates,” the
Director of the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution told world leaders.
During the Younger Dryas about 12,700 years ago, average temperatures in the North
Atlantic region abruptly plummeted nearly 8° F and remained that way for 1,300 years.
What Is The Younger Dryas?
The Younger Dryas was an event that occurred about 12,800 years before present (BP),
termed the Younger Dryas (YD), is the canonical example of abrupt climate change. It is
best seen in the Greenland ice cores, although it had very marked consequences over
Europe, North America, and as far as New Zealand. The YD is an invaluable case study:
it occurred recently enough so that records of it are well-preserved, and seems to have left
traces all over the world.
Let us look at the temperature over Greenland for the last 18,000 years:

Figure 1: The Younger Dryas event as an example of abrupt climate change. Source:
Abrupt Climate Change; Inevitable Surprises

Around 15,000 years ago, the Earth started warming abruptly after ~ 100,000 years of an
"ice age"; this is known as a glacial termination. The large ice sheets, which covered
significant parts of North America and Europe, began melting as a result. A climatic
optimum known as the "Bölling-Allerød" was reached shortly thereafter, around 14,700
before present. However, starting at about 12,800 BP, the Earth returned very quickly into
near glacial conditions (i.e. cold, dry and windy), and stayed there for about 1,200 years:
this is known as the Younger Dryas (YD), since it is the most recent interval where a
plant characteristic of cold climates, Dryas Octopetala, was found in Scandinavia.
The most spectacular aspect of the YD is that it ended extremely abruptly (around 11,600
years ago), and although the date cannot be known exactly, it is estimated from the
annually-banded Greenland ice-core that the annual-mean temperature increased by as
much as 10°C in 10 years.
There are many other examples of abrupt climate change in the last 50,000 years, which
bear the rather cryptic names of Heinrich, and Dansgaard/Oeschger events. The picture
below (figure 2) shows where Dansgaard/Oeschger (DO) events have been recorded.
More details on those are provided on this link.

Figure 3: Locations of the main records of abrupt climate change in the last 40,000
years. The inserted curve is a proxy for the temperature of precipitated snow over
Greenland. (Source: Wallace Broecker)

From this inserted panel, it is clear that the YD was a very strong event, yet it is also
apparent that it was only the most recent of a series of large and abrupt climate swings
that occurred repeatedly in the last ice age, and were recorded in many places around the
globe, as attested by the number of red dots on the picture.
Although they are of considerable theoretical interest, all these oscillations (including the
YD) occurred at a time when parts of the Northern Hemisphere continents were covered
by ice sheets, and the subpolar oceans where covered by sea-ice in winter. This makes
such cases less relevant for understanding what might happen to our greenhouse world as
a result of human activities. A better analog would be the Late Paleocene Thermal
Maximum (about 55 million years ago, when the Earth was very warm), but the
information about this period is frustratingly sparse because it is so remote in time.
When Did Humans Begin to Change the Climate?
William F. Ruddiman is a palaeoclimatologist and Professor Emeritus at the University of
Virginia. He is known principally for his "early anthropocene" hypothesis, the idea that
human-induced changes in greenhouse gases did not begin in the eighteenth century with
advent of coal-burning factories and power plants of the industrial era, but date back to
8000 years ago, triggered by intense farming activities of our early agrarian ancestors. It
was at that time that atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations stopped following the
periodic pattern of rises and falls that had accurately characterized their past long-term
behavior, a pattern which is well explained by natural variations in the earth’s orbit
known as Milankovitch cycles. In his overdue-glaciation hypothesis Ruddiman claims
that an incipient ice age would probably have begun several thousand years ago, but the
arrival of that scheduled ice age was forestalled by the activities of early farmers.

In his book “Plows, Plagues and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate”
(2005), Ruddiman begins the book with a brief introduction to the science of climate
change and the various individuals that have been key in influencing the field over the
years. He also notes that the earth’s climate has been drifting toward cooler temperatures
for the last 55 million years. The dominant hypothesis for this trend is that large volcanic
eruptions have subsided while increasing amounts of carbon dioxide have been absorbed
out of the atmosphere due to interactions between monsoon rains and ground up rock
exposed by India pushing into Asia and creating the Himalayas. Additionally it is
believed that the melting ice that produced higher sea levels resulted in the ocean
absorbing more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. These two natural occurrences
resulted in less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hence possibly producing the general
cooling trend.
According to Ruddiman beginning about 900,000 years ago the earth has begun to go
through regular glacial cycles in which glaciers or ice have covered approximately one
quarter of the earth’s total surface. These conditions typically last for about 100,000 years
and are followed by brief interglacial periods of more temperate weather. Ruddiman cites
various researchers in geology and astrology who pioneered the understanding of earth’s
climate as a function of its orbit. The various cycles of earth’s climate seem to be
explained by the eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession of the Earth's orbit as well as
cycles in the amount of solar radiation. Ruddiman primarily relies on the groundwork by
Milutin Milankovitch to explain the effects of solar radiation and earth’s orbit on the
climate. By examining ice cores from around the world scientists have been able to link
levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane to the various cycles of
earth’s climate history. The discovery of carbon dating aided a great deal in developing
this understanding. Upon investigating the levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the
earth’s atmosphere in the most recent interglacial period-10,000 years ago- Ruddiman
noticed that levels of carbon dioxide and methane were steadily rising despite the fact
that the earth’s natural cycles determined that they should have been decreasing. It was
this discovery that lead to Ruddiman’s search for an explanation and ultimately the
creation of this book.
Ruddiman’s central argument is that this most recent interglacial period has deviated
from the natural cycle because of human activities, most importantly farming.
Approximately 10,000 years ago the ice that once covered large portions of the northern
hemisphere began to recede and gave rise to a new way of life for early humans. In the
beginning these early humans had little impact on the environment because they were
primarily hunter gatherer societies that moved from location to location allowing
previously inhabited locations to be reclaimed by nature. However, about 8,000 years ago
humans first developed agriculture and a domesticated lifestyle that allowed them to
continually inhabit regions and build large civilizations. Ruddiman claims that carbon
dioxide emission records indicate that levels in the atmosphere began to rise at about this
same time. This process was intensified as the centuries passed and new technologies
such animal husbandry and the plow made their way into more and more cultures. These
new technologies allowed for more efficient and methods of clearing forests and making
room for increasing populations. According to previous interglacial periods the
concentration of carbon dioxide should have fallen by about 20 parts per million instead
of rising by 20 parts per million. Ruddiman uses estimates of population, forest cleared
per person and carbon emitted per each square kilometer cleared to approximate the total
impact and concludes that the magnitude is reasonably close to the extra carbon dioxide
accumulated during the period.
Ruddiman also attributes the rise of methane gas in the atmosphere to human related
activities. The most notable of these activities is the cultivation of rice in artificial
wetlands in Asia and increased animal waste due to increasing populations of
domesticated animals. According to Ruddiman methane concentrations should have
peaked about 11,000 years ago slightly above 700 parts per billion and then declined to
about 450 parts per billion today. Methane levels followed this cycle at first, but about
5000 years ago they began to rebound and currently the concentration is about 275 parts
per billion above the previous trends.
According to Ruddiman farming and related activities resulted in large amounts of
greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane) being released into the atmosphere at a
time when natural cycles of the earth indicated they should have been falling. The result
has been an unintended warming cycle that prevented the earth from entering into another
ice age [3]. Ruddiman goes as far as to say that if these gases had not been released into
the atmosphere, areas in northern Canada such as Hudson Bay and Baffin Island would
currently be covered in ice today. The implications of this theory are wide ranging and
most certainly worthy of further exploration.
Throughout the record of carbon dioxide and methane emissions there are drops and rises
in the amount of concentrations present in the atmosphere. Ruddiman explains these
“wiggles” by claiming that they appear at times of major outbreaks of disease such as the
bubonic plague in the 1,300’s and the prevalence of old world diseases in the Americas
after the arrival of Columbus. Both of these events resulted in large numbers of people
dying and the land they once inhabited being reclaimed by the forest. This resulted in
increased amounts of carbon dioxide being taken out of the atmosphere, hence causing
global temperatures to cool down. Ruddiman claims that the little ice age, starting in the
13th century and ending sometime in the early 19th century was caused by the decreased
population and the re-forestation of previously cleared lands as a result from the diseases
that killed off so many people.
The last aspect of Ruddiman's discussion of climate change relates to the future of
petroleum use on earth. It is commonly known that the world’s supply of fossil fuels is
rapidly depleting and even conservative estimates claim that the supply will not last much
more than 150-200 more years. Ruddiman claims that when this sources of natural fuels
has been depleted, human kind will have to resort to using the large quantities of coal that
still exist all over the planet. This, according to Ruddiman, will result in a continued
warming trend that will only stop when technology either produces a new source of fuel
or figures out a way to separate the carbon dioxide emissions prior to being released into
the atmosphere. Ruddiman is quite skeptical of both scenarios in the near future because
of the increased costs and technological advancements that would have to be made in
such a short time. Eventually carbon and methane emissions will be controlled and
lowered a great deal and Ruddiman asserts when this happens the earth will most likely
begin an era of cooling temperatures.
What Is The Probable Resulting Climate For Given

This diagram is a very good graphic for understanding the relationship between:
• atmospheric levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases
• probabilities that certain levels of warming will occur, and
• the setting of emissions limits.
In 1997 Azar & Rodhe, using the best available information at the time, put together the
model described in this slide.

You can see how atmospheric CO2 levels rose, using historical date up till about 1990,
then 6 alternative stabilisation scenarios are generated using computer modelling. The
scenarios show atmospheric levels of CO2 that grow, at least for a while, and then end up
at 350 ppm, 450 ppm, 550 ppm, 650 ppm, 750 ppm and 1000 ppm of CO2 in the air. The
350 ppm stabilisation level is the closest to the pre-industrial maximum, 280 ppm, but
nevertheless exceeds it by 25% and is even 18% over the highest CO2 level experienced
in the last million years or more.
Source: Azar, C., & Rodhe, H., 1997. Targets for Stabilization of Atmospheric CO2. Science 276,
1818-1819. . Dashed line a) refers to an estimate of the maximum natural variability of the global
temperature over the past millennium, and dashed line b) shows the 2oC temperature threshold.

What Are The Chances of Exceeding a Range of

Temperatures at a Particular Level of CO2 Equivalent?

We now have a compilation of more recently estimated probabilities in the report of the
Stern Review, 2006 (Box 8.1, p. 195). This data has been re-laid out here to make it
easier to see the relationship between atmospheric concentrations of CO2 equivalent and
the probabilities of triggering a range of different temperatures. I have also added
estimates of (a) expected species losses; (b) the likelihood of runaway warming; (c) a
qualitative characterisation of the total impact associated with different temperature rises.

In the Technical Summary of the Fourth Assessment report we find a similar table with
C02 equivalent levels, and expected equilibrium temperatures resulting from these.

Now, if we remember what James Hansen says

(1) In the last interglacial period, temperatures were around 1 degree higher than now
and sea levels 5-6 m higher
(2) Therefore, just 1 degree warming is dangerous climate change; 2-3 degrees warming
is a different planet as at that temperature sea level were 25±10 m higher.
(3) 1 degree warming will be caused by 450 ppm CO2
(4) The last time icesheets collapsed was during melt water pulse 1A at the beginning of
our current warm period when sea levels rose 1 m every 20 years.
(5) We still have to expect another 0.5 degree warming from past emissions because
planet Earth is presently out of energy balance with space. It will come to a new
equilibrium at that higher temperature, provided we do not enter a positive feed back loop
with a run-away climate

The target is therefore to stay under the 450 ppm CO2 limit. It can be achieved by the
Stern Review's stabilization path for 450 ppm CO2e (including other GHG emissions). In
this path, emissions must be made to peak by 2010 and then be reduced by 60% by 2030
(not 2050).

Matt Muschalik argues, “Every Gt of CO2 we are from now on blowing into the
atmosphere is 1 Gt too much. It will just increase the future equilibrium temperature.
Let us assume that the threshold temperature at which our icesheets in Greenland and
West Antarctica start an unstoppable disintegration (not just surface melting as assumed
in the latest IPCC report) is 0.8 degrees then we can burn a maximum of oil, gas and coal
equivalent to just 0.3 (=0.8 - 0.5) degree warming. Not even Hansen knows the exact
figure as no reliable ice sheet model is available. But he says we are very close to a
tipping point.”

During the last Ice Age, when the earth was on average less than 10 degrees colder than
today, the concentration of carbon dioxide was 190 parts per million (0.019 percent). At
the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, it was a rather stable 270 to 280 ppm. In the last
200 years, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has risen to more than 350 ppm, the
highest it has been in some 160,000 years, according to studies of air pockets trapped
long ago in glacial ice. This increase is primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels,
though other factors, including large scale forest fires have become a significant factor as

Last century's global warming of 0.6 degrees - 0.8 degrees in Australia - may sound
small, but an extra 1.5 to two degrees will mean the loss of coral and other delicate
ecosystems. It is the most rapid warming the planet has seen in 10,000 years. In that time,
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere remained constant at around 280 parts per million. It is
now nearly 380ppm, a level the earth has not experienced for at least 400,000 years.

A study by a former chief economist of the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Stern of Britain,
called climate change is "the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen," with
the potential to shrink the global economy by 20 percent and to cause economic and
social disruption on par with the two world wars and the Great Depression.
We have to follow the 450 ppm CO2e stablization path from the Stern Review in which
emissions must be made to peak around 2010 and then decline by 60% in just 20 years if
we want to keep the climate within safe levels.

Matt Muschalik observes, “It seems we cannot even burn all oil and gas plus coal without
wrecking our climate for good.”

Tony Blair said the Stern Review showed that scientific evidence of global warming was
"overwhelming" and its consequences "disastrous".
What Can Cause Sea Level Change?
As a result of global warming, the penetration of heat into the ocean leads to the thermal
expansion of the water; this effect, coupled with the melting of glaciers and ice sheets,
results in a rise in sea level. Sea-level rise will not be uniform globally but will vary with
factors such as currents, winds, and tides-as well as with different rates of warming, the
efficiency of ocean circulation, and regional and local atmospheric (e.g., tectonic and
pressure) effects.

There are basically four ways the sea level undergoes changes:
(i) Volume change, as a response to the thermal content and salinity-density
compensation of sea water. Also known as the steric effect, it mostly results from
atmosphere-ocean thermal interactions, and includes major processes of ENSO, NAO and
other meteorological oscillations, and is influenced by deep thermohaline circulations.
(ii) Mass change, due to a number of geophysical and hydrological processes that lead to
water exchanges in the Earth-atmosphere-hydrosphere-cryosphere system. These include
water exchange from polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers to the ocean, atmospheric
water vapor and land hydrological variations such as soil moisture and snow cover, and
anthropogenic effects such as water impoundment in artificial reservoirs and extraction of
(iii) "Container" change, as a result of solid Earth vertical deformations due to tectonics,
rebound of the mantle from past and present deglaciation, and other local ground
motions. These affect the relative sea level.
(iv) Dynamic changes, due to external forcings exerted on sea surface. These include
waves (capillary, gravity, planetary, tsunami), tides, wind-driven circulations (with
dynamic height), pressure-driven topography (via dynamic inverted-barometer effect),
density-driven (thermohaline) currents, and geoidinduced sea level changes.

Changing sea-level is the result of processes occurring within the solid Earth, the
cryosphere and the oceans, acting over timescales varying between 1 and 108 years.
Many of these processes find their expression in the static and time-varying components
of the gravity field. The geoid, or its proxy, mean sea level, has also been the reference
system for most records of changes of land elevation with respect to sea level.
An improvement in knowledge of the Earth’s gravity field may be
expected to improve our understanding of sea level through providing
reference surface through which distributed measurements of sea level
may be compared, and through providing more detailed information on
the solid Earth processes that affect sea level through changes in
ocean bathymetry, or changes in the geoid.
Sea level is presently rising by 1-2 mm yr-1. The sources of these changes is not well
Constrained. They may have their origin in the ongoing isostatic rebound of the Earth
following the deglaciation that marked the start of the Holocene, in the onging
adjustment to sea level and to climate of the Earth’s ice sheets and glaciers, and in the
expansion of the ocean as the climate warms.
How Does Recent Sea Level Rise Look Like Over Time?
Rising or falling sea level can reshape the world’s coastlines and affect some of the most
densely populated areas on Earth. Not surprisingly, scientists want to understand sea level
as thoroughly as possible. They have discovered that the ocean’s behavior is not uniform
all over the world; neither are the factors that affect sea level. When sea level rises, it can
do so for a few reasons. It can rise due to thermal expansion—the tendency of warm
water to take up more space than cooler water. It can rise due to the addition of water, for
instance from melting glaciers. It can also rise due to changes in salinity; fresh water is
less dense than salt water and therefore takes up slightly more space than an equal mass
of salt water.
Besides understanding the causes of sea level changes, scientist want to accurately gauge
the rate of sea level rise. Relying on data from satellites and floats (mechanical devices
drifting in the ocean), a group of oceanographers announced in June 2006 that sea level
rose, on average, 3 millimeters (0.1 inches) per year between 1993 and 2005.

The rise in sea level is not the same in all parts of the world. In some places, sea level is
actually falling, as shown in the map World Sea Level Rise and Fall.

This is the time-series of relative sea level for the past 300 years from Northern Europe:
Amsterdam, Netherlands; Brest, France; Sheerness, UK; Stockholm, Sweden (detrended
over the period 1774 to 1873 to remove to first order the contribution of postglacial
rebound); Swinoujscie, Poland (formerly Swinemunde, Germany); and Liverpool, UK.
Data for the latter are of “Adjusted Mean High Water” rather than Mean Sea Level and
include a nodal (18.6 year) term. The scale bar indicates ±100 mm. (Adapted from
Woodworth, 1999a.)
This graph shows the increase in mean sea level, measured in millimeters. Researchers
attributed about half of that increase to melting ice and the other half to thermal
expansion as the ocean absorbs excess energy.

The following are predicted net sea-level change for Great Britain relative to 1961-1990
for the full range of global sealevel changes estimated by the IPCC, incorporating
updated isostatic change data from Shennan and Horton (2002).
How Does Sea Level Rise Relate to Temperature?
Climatologist James Hansen, Direcor of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, says
"At the peak of the last interglacial period (100-120,000 years ago), temperatures were
around 1 degree higher than now and sea levels 5-6 meter higher. This is from
paleoclimate data, not from debatable models." He therefore concludes in his paper on
Greenland Ice sheet disintegration "A Slippery Slope: How Much Global Warming
Constitutes "Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference" that 1 degree more warming is
dangerous climate change.

Here is reconstructed global sea level for the last 500 kyr by Richard Bintanja, Roderik
S.W. van de Wal & Johannes Oerlemans
Hansen says, to find our planet at 2 or 3°C warmer than now, as it will be this century in
“business-as-usual” scenarios, we must go back to the middle Pliocene, about 3 million
years ago. At that time sea level was 25 ± 10 m greater than today.

These sea level rises can happen fast. The last 7000 years were relatively stable, however
14,000 years ago, sea level rose by about 25 m in some parts of the northern hemisphere,
over a period of less than 500 years, in an event called meltwater pulse 1A. This was
probably due to a collapsing ice shelf.

That's about four times faster than sea levels were rising most of the time during this
period, and at least 20 times faster than the sea level is currently rising.
"This event happened near the end of the last Ice Age, a period of de-glaciation that lasted
from about 21,000 years ago to 12,000 years ago," Clark said. "The average sea level rise
during that period was about eight millimetres per year. But during this meltwater pulse
there was an extremely rapid disintegration of an ice sheet and sea levels rose much faster
than average."
The amount of sea level rise that occurred during a single year of that period, Clark said,
is more than the total sea level rise that has occurred in the past 100 years.
What Kind of Sea Level Rise Can We Expect in The
Stefan Rahmstorf, Professor of Physics of the Oceans Potsdam Institute for Climate
Impact Research in Germany and member of the Panel on Abrupt Climate Change and of
the Advisory Council on Global Change of the German government, states that sea level
appears to be rising about 50% faster than models suggest – consistently for the 1961-
2003 and the 1993-2003 periods, and for the TAR models and the AR4 models in the
IPCC report. This suggests that it is at least a plausible possibility that the models may
underestimate future rise.

In his semi-empirical relation he states, “sea-level rise is roughly proportional to the

magnitude of warming above the temperatures of the pre–Industrial Age. This holds to
good approximation for temperature and sea-level changes during the 20th century, with
a proportionality constant of 3.4 millimeters/year per °C. When applied to future
warming scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this relationship
results in a projected sea-level rise in 2100 of 0.5 to 1.4 meters above the 1990 level.”
In another article he says “Even if warming were to be stopped at 3 ºC, sea level will
probably keep rising by several meters in subsequent centuries in a delayed response”

“Ice sheets have the largest potential effect, because their complete melting would result
in a global sea-level rise of about 70 m. Yet their dynamics are poorly understood, and the
key processes that control the response of ice flow to a warming climate are not included
in current ice sheet models for example, meltwater lubrication of the ice sheet bed, or
increased ice stream flow after the removal of buttressing ice shelves.”

"Rahmsdorf (2006) has noted that if one uses observed sea level rise of the past century
to calibrate a linear projection of future sea level, BAU warming will lead to sea level
rise of the order of one meter in the present century. This is a useful observation, as it
indicates that sea level change would be substantial even without non-linear collapse of
an ice sheet. However, this approach cannot be taken as a realistic way of projecting
likely sea level rise under BAU forcing. The linear approximation fits the past sea level
change well for the past century only because the two terms contributing significantly to
sea level rise were (1) thermal of ocean water and (2) melting of alpine glaciers.
Under BAU forcing in the 21st century, sea level rise undoubtedly will be dominated by a
third term (3) ice sheet disintegration. This third term was small until the past few years,
but it is has at least doubled in the past decade and is now close to 1 mm/year, based on
gravity satellite measurements discussed above. As a quantitative example, let us say that
the ice sheet contribution is 1 cm for the decade 2005-2015 and that it doubles each
decade until the West Antarctic ice sheet is largely depleted. That time constant yields sea
level rise of the order of 5 m this century. "
For more information, read:

Eric Rignot, a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena, said that computer models used by the UN's International Panel
on Climate Change have not adequately taken into account the amount of ice falling into
the sea from glacial movements.
Yet the satellite study shows that about two-thirds of the sea-level rise caused by the
Greenland ice sheet is due to icebergs breaking off from fast-moving glaciers rather than
simply the result of water running off from melting ice.
"In simple terms, the ice sheet is breaking up rather than melting. It's not a surprise in
itself but it is a surprise to see the magnitude of the changes. These big glaciers seem to
be accelerating, they seem to be going faster and faster to the sea," Dr Rignot said.
"This is not predicted by the current computer models. The fact is the glaciers of
Greenland are evolving faster than we thought and the models have to be adjusted to
catch up with these observations," he said.
When previous studies of the ice balance are taken into account, the researchers
calculated that the overall amount of ice dumped into the sea increased from 90 cubic km
in 1996 to 224 cubic km in 2005.
Dr Rignot said that there are now signs that the more northerly glaciers of Greenland are
beginning to adopt the pattern of movements seen by those in the south. "The southern
half of Greenland is reacting to what we think is climate warming. The northern half is
waiting, but I don't think it's going to take long," he said.
Global warming is causing the Greenland ice cap to disintegrate far faster than anyone
predicted. A study of the region's massive ice sheet warns that sea levels may - as a
consequence - rise more dramatically than expected.
Scientists have found that many of the huge glaciers of Greenland are moving at an
accelerating rate - dumping twice as much ice into the sea than five years ago - indicating
that the ice sheet is undergoing a potentially catastrophic breakup.
The implications of the research are dramatic given Greenland holds enough ice to raise
global sea levels by up to 21ft, a disaster scenario that would result in the flooding of
some of the world's major population centres, including all of Britain's city ports.
Satellite measurements of the entire land mass of Greenland show that the speed at which
the glaciers are moving to the sea has increased significantly over the past 10 years with
some glaciers moving three times faster than in the mid-1990s.
Scientists believe that computer models of how the Greenland ice sheet will react to
global warming have seriously underestimated the threat posed by sea levels that could
rise far more quickly than envisaged.
The latest study, presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science,
in St Louis, shows that rather than just melting relatively slowly, the ice sheet is showing
all the signs of a mechanical break-up as glaciers slip ever faster into the ocean, aided by
the "lubricant" of melt water forming at their base.
Satellites show that the glaciers in the south of Greenland are now moving much faster
than they were 10 years ago. Scientists estimate that, in 1996, glaciers deposited about 50
cubic km of ice into the sea. In 2005 it had risen to 150 cubic km of ice.
Details of the latest study, published in the journal Science, show that Greenland now
accounts for an increase in global sea levels of about 0.5 millimetres per year - compared
to a total sea level rise of 3mm per year.
When previous studies of the ice balance are taken into account, the researchers
calculated that the overall amount of ice dumped into the sea increased from 90 cubic km
in 1996 to 224 cubic km in 2005.
Dr Rignot said that there are now signs that the more northerly glaciers of Greenland are
beginning to adopt the pattern of movements seen by those in the south. "The southern
half of Greenland is reacting to what we think is climate warming. The northern half is
waiting, but I don't think it's going to take long," he said.

Should the Greenland ice sheet melt completely, as models suggest it could, that would
result in a sea level rise of about twenty-three feet (seven meters). Reductions in sea ice
extent and snow cover cause a reduction in surface reflectivity, meaning that more energy
is absorbed at the surface and less is radiated, causing further warming, which in turn
leads to further melting: what scientists refer to as a 'positive feedback'. At the same time,
melting arctic ice, combined with increased precipitation and river runoff, may lead to a
freshening of the ocean in the North Atlantic, disrupting the critical salinity balance and
leading to a collapse in the ocean circulation pattern that brings warm water to Europe
from the tropics. As a consequence, global warming could lead to regional cooling in the
Northeast Atlantic region.

How Long Will It Take For The Climate to Respond to

In an article published in Science in 2005, called “In a Earth's Energy Imbalance:
Confirmation and Implications” the authors state “The lag in the climate response to a
forcing is a sensitive function of equilibrium climate sensitivity, varying approximately as
the square of the sensitivity (1), and it depends on the rate of heat exchange between the
ocean's surface mixed layer and the deeper ocean (2–4). The lag could be as short as a
decade, if climate sensitivity is as small as 0.25°C per W/m2 of forcing, but it is a century
or longer if climate sensitivity is 1°C per W/m2 or larger (1, 3). Evidence from Earth's
history (3–6) and climate models (7) suggests that climate sensitivity is 0.75° ± 0.25°C
per W/m2, implying that 25 to 50 years are needed for Earth's surface temperature to reach
60% of its equilibrium response (1).”
Link to

The five warmest years since the late 1880s, according to NASA scientists, are in
descending order 2005, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2006. Goddard Institute researchers used
temperature data from weather stations on land, satellite measurements of sea surface
temperature since 1982 and data from ships for earlier years.
How Long Will It Take to Stabilise The Climate, and Sea
Even after we have stabilised C02 emissions temperature and sea level will continue for
centuries, or even several millennia.

A report, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, claims Britain could
look radically different with sea levels rising as much as 11.4m by the year 3000 if
greenhouse gas emissions are not sharply reduced. The worst-case scenario would see
global and regional warming, raising the world's average surface temperature by 15C and
lifting sea levels by more than 11m. Even in the "business as usual", middle scenario,
increased emissions would probably precipitate abrupt climate change events, such as the
weakening and shifting of currents in the Atlantic Ocean. Sea water acidity would also
increase dramatically, posing a major threat to marine organisms. Dr Tim Lenton, the
UEA lead author on the paper and a climate change modeller, said: "If we follow
business-as-usual then we will commit future generations to dangerous climate change,
and if we exploit unconventional fossil fuels we could return the Earth to a hot state it
hasn't seen since 55 million years ago. "The best-case scenario, keeps the temperature rise
in the year 3000 at 1.5 degrees of warming and sea level rise to under a metre, because it
has avoided the Greenland ice sheet melting." "The main result is that the choices we
make in the coming decades have implications that play out over the next thousand years
and beyond. If we start to make a serious reduction in emissions, then we could avoid
dangerous climate change thresholds and leave a stable climate in the year 3000."

"If human beings follow a business-as-usual course, continuing to exploit fossil fuel
resources without reducing carbon emissions or capturing and sequestering them before
they warm the atmosphere, the eventual effects on climate and life may be comparable to
those at the time of mass extinctions. Life will survive, but it will do so on a transformed
planet. For all foreseeable human generations, it will be a far more desolate world than
the one in which civilization developed and flourished during the past several thousand
What Constitutes Dangerous Anthropogenic
Interference With Nature?
James Hansen says “The Earth’s history provides our best indication of the levels of
change that are likely to have deleterious effects on humans and wildlife, and constitute
“dangerous anthropogenic interference” with nature. The Earth’s temperature, with rapid
global warming over the past 30 years, is now passing through the peak level of the
Holocene, a period of relatively stable climate that has existed for more than 10,000
years. Further warming of more than 1ºC will make the Earth warmer than it has been in
a million years. “Business-as-usual” scenarios, with fossil fuel CO2 emissions continuing
to increase ~2%/year as in the past decade, yield additional warming of 2 or 3°C this
century and imply changes that constitute practically a different planet.
I present multiple lines of evidence indicating that the Earth’s climate is nearing, but has
not passed, a tipping point, beyond which it will be impossible to avoid climate change
with far ranging undesirable consequences. The changes include not only loss of the
Arctic as we know it, with all that implies for wildlife and indigenous peoples, but losses
on a much vaster scale due to worldwide rising seas. Sea level will increase slowly at
first, as losses at the fringes of Greenland and Antarctica due to accelerating ice streams
are nearly balanced by increased snowfall and ice sheet thickening in the ice sheet
interiors. But as Greenland and West Antarctic ice is softened and lubricated by melt-
water and as buttressing ice shelves disappear due to a warming ocean, the balance will
tip toward ice loss, thus bringing multiple positive feedbacks into play and causing rapid
ice sheet disintegration. The Earth’s history suggests that with warming of 2-3°C the new
equilibrium sea level will include not only most of the ice from Greenland and West
Antarctica, but a portion of East Antarctica, raising sea level of the order of 25 meters (80
Contrary to lethargic ice sheet models, real world data suggest substantial ice sheet and
sea level change in centuries, not millennia.“
What Are Tipping Points?
Systems can be found in various states. The diagrams below illustrate some states such as
stable, untable, steady, and threshold states.

Stable Unstable Steady Threshold

If we push a stable system with any forcing it quickly returns to its initial state, however
hard we push it. This allows us to easily predict the outcome. Unstable systems are very
vulnerable to changes, and can sometimes change irreversibly when forced in a certain
direction. One may be able to predict the outcome, but it is very sensitive to inputs.
Steady systems, if forced, do not change much, because they are fairly insensitive to
forcings. Linear systems change proportionally to forces, and are predictable. Threshold
systems in contrast are non-linear and can be difficult to predict because they can cope
with certain amounts of forcings, however after reaching a certain tipping point, rapid
change can occur.

When the writer Malcolm Gladwell unleashed the idea of tipping points on the popular
imagination in his book of the same name1, he was comparing the way aspects of life
suddenly shift from obscurity to ubiquity to effects normally studied in epidemiology.
Gladwell's tipping points were manifestations of the catchiness of behaviours and ideas.
The Tipping Point is the name given by epidemiologists for the dramatic moment in an
epidemic when everything can change all at once. The flu, for example, can be held in
check for a long time without being an epidemic. But suddenly, once some threshold is
crossed in terms of number of people infected, things get much worse very quickly.
Gladwell’s premise is that in addition to applying to viruses, this type of pattern is
observed in many other situations.

John Rundle, Professor of Physics, Geology and Engineering says “Complex systems are
observed to undergo sudden changes in behavior when the system “tips” from one
dominant dynamical pattern to another. The transition in system dynamics is associated
with the nucleation and growth of fluctuations, together with a threshold in the state
space of the system. The threshold can be characterized as a “tipping point”. Tipping
points, or first-order transitions, can be associated with stock market crashes,
earthquakes, hurricanes, and epidemics.”
In nonlinear models, rapid changes resulting from crossing a threshold in some forcing
function are common. Data on a number of aspects of the climate system suggest that it
also has thresholds, multiple equilibria, and other features which can result in episodes of
rapid change [ Broecker et al., 1985; Mayewski et al., 1993; McElroy, 1994]. The
behavior of the thermohaline circulation of the oceans (THC) is one of the most
frequently cited examples of nonlinear dynamics in the earth climate system and a
potential source of rapid future change.

Peter Smith, a professor of sustainable energy

at the University of Nottingham, says “The
scientific opinion is that we have a ceiling of
440 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric
carbon before there is a tipping point, a steep
change in the rate of global warming,"
Professor Smith said. "The rate at which we
are emitting now, around 2ppm a year and
rising, we could expect that that tripping point
will reach us in 20 years' time. That gives us
10 years to develop technologies that could
start to bite into the problem.",,1864802,00.html

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) told 114 government representatives in Mauritius in 2005 that our planet has
“already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere” that could cause the climate to abruptly flip. Rather than causing gradual
changes over many centuries, Fortune belatedly reported, “growing evidence suggests the
ocean-atmosphere system that controls the world’s climate can lurch from one state to
another in less than a decade.” Like a trigger that is pulled without effect until the climate
change cannon suddenly fires at us point-blank, a severe climate flip could occur within
the next 25 years. “If it does,” Fortune feared, “the need to rapidly adapt may overwhelm
many societies.” [Fortune Jan/04]

Earth this century could cross a climate threshold or "tipping point that could lead to
intolerable impacts on human well-being," says the 166-page report prepared for the
United Nations. It was written by 18 experts in climate, water, marine science, physics
and other disciplines, seven of them Americans. "It is still possible to avoid an
unmanageable degree of climate change, but the time for action is now," says panelist
John Holdren, a Harvard University professor of environmental policy.
Without action, the panel says, a litany of harmful consequences awaits: the spread of
disease, less fresh water, more and worse droughts, more extreme storms and widespread
economic damage to farming, fishing and forests. In the USA, which emits about 25% of
the world's carbon dioxide, it could mean more intense hurricanes, heat waves, wildfires
and droughts.
The two-year study, issued by the U.N. Foundation, says the risk of tipping over that
climate threshold rises sharply if Earth's temperature increases 3.6 to 4.5 degrees above
what it was in 1750 (it is 1.2 degrees above that point now).

What Are The Uncertainties About Climate Change?

Although models have indicated gradual change, evidence suggested that abrupt change
could occur due to internal feedbacks and thresholds within the climate system which
could shift it into a dramatically different mode of operation. One such example often
cited is the possibility that the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation – the Gulf Stream
– may collapse with the effect of dramatically cooling Scotland’s climate. Witnesses to
the inquiry suggested that the Gulf Stream was not at present thought likely to be subject
to sudden change24. Some evidence raised the issue of the possible die-back of the
Amazon forest after a certain level of warming, removing its vast capacity to absorb
carbon and turning it into a net carbon source25. Similarly, warming soils could cease to
be carbon sinks and emit more carbon. The ocean’s capacity to remove CO 2 from the
atmosphere may also decrease significantly.

Dr. Hermann Ott is the director of the Berlin office of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate,
Environment and Energy, one of Europe's leading climate policy research organizations.
In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, he says that global warming is inevitable and
mankind must take steps for the softest landing possible. It will also mean fundamental
changes in the way we live. He says if we do not act decisively, I would assume an
increase of between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. But it could easily
be 6 degrees. That's a little bit greater than the difference between now and the last ice
age. Europe will look very different, but of course, the effects are not going to be the
same everywhere. In some parts of the world you'll have a change of 10 degrees or 11
degrees. In others you will have only an increase of 1 or 2 degrees. If we talk about
skepticism among scientists, it's not about whether or not man-made climate change
exists, it's more about what the impacts are going to be.,1518,342431,00.html
What Changes Can We Expect In Terms of Climate
Change and Its Implications?
A 40-page consultancy report written for the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate
Change said:

"Australia is one of the many global regions experiencing significant climate change as a
result of global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from human activities. The
average surface air temperature of Australia increased by 0.7 °C over the past century –
warming that has been accompanied by marked declines in regional precipitation,
particularly along the east and west coasts of the continent. These seemingly small
changes have already had widespread consequences for Australia.

Such changes in climate will have diverse implications for Australia’s environment,
economy, and public health. The biodiversity, ecosystems, and natural habitats of
Australia are world renowned, yet potentially the most fragile of the systems that will be
exposed to climate change. For example, the Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World
Heritage area, has experienced unprecedented rates of coral bleaching over the past two
decades, and additional warming of only 1 °C is anticipated to cause considerable losses
or contractions of species associated with coral communities.

Australian crop agriculture and forestry may experience transient benefits from longer
growing seasons and a warmer climate, yet such benefits are unlikely to be sustained
under the more extreme projections of global warming. Furthermore, changes in
precipitation and, subsequently water management, are particularly critical factors
affecting the future productivity of the Australian landscape. The declines in precipitation
projected over much of Australia will exacerbate existing challenges to water availability
and quality for agriculture as well as for commercial and residential uses.

For example, limiting future increases in atmospheric CO2 to 550 ppmv, though not a
panacea for global warming, would reduce 21st century global warming to an estimated
1.5–2.9 °C, effectively avoiding the more extreme climate changes. Lower stabilisation
levels, such as 450 ppmv CO2 would reduce future warming even further, to
approximately 1.2–2.3 °C. For Australia, such constraints on global warming would give
natural ecosystems and their associated species greater time to adapt to changing
environmental conditions, reduce the likelihood of major adverse consequences for
agriculture and forestry, help ensure Australia’s public health infrastructure can keep pace
with emerging health challenges, and reduce the chance of large-scale singularities.
Nevertheless, even with a 350 ppmv stabilisation level, the Earth will not be able to avoid
its current commitment to additional future warming. Therefore, prudence dictates that
GHG mitigation activities be pursued in conjunction with adaptive responses to address
the residual risks posed by this commitment."

According to Dr. Geoff Love, Director of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology "Since
the middle of the 20th century, Australian temperatures have, on average, risen by about
1°C with an increase in the frequency of heatwaves and a decrease in the numbers of
frosts and cold days. Rainfall patterns have also changed - the northwest has seen an
increase in rainfall over the last 50 years while much of eastern Australia and the far
southwest have experienced a decline."
"Studies predict Australia will be ravaged earlier and more severely by climate change
than almost anywhere on Earth. Declining rainfall has cost Perth two-thirds of its surface
water supply, and in 1998 the rainfall deficit began to spread east, parching the western
plains. Now Sydney's dams are at an all-time low.

So, what would Australia look like in a world that is two degrees warmer? Two degrees
of additional warming is sufficient to kill about half the world's coral reefs. Above that
we're looking at a world without substantial coral reefs, making the Federal Government's
protection of one-third of the Great Barrier Reef futile.

In 1988 Australia proclaimed the Wet Tropics World Heritage area in north-eastern
Queensland. Extinctions of its unique fauna will start at one degree of warming, and after
two degrees will accelerate rapidly.

After surviving for millions of years, creatures such as golden bowerbirds, green ringtail
possums and mountain frogs will be no more, having gone extinct on our watch. Kakadu
is the jewel in the crown of Australia's top end. Predictions are that with two degrees of
warming its World Heritage wetlands will be destroyed by rising oceans and storms.

At two to three degrees of warming, Australia's alpine zone will become restricted to six
peaks, and many of its species will become extinct. At two degrees of warming two-thirds
of the 98 species of dryandra (a banksia relative from Western Australia) will be extinct,
as will many other Western Australian plant and animal species. And this is a small
sample of the changes in store.

Why should we care about our biodiversity? First it's of great economic importance.
Imagine tourism without the reef, rainforests and Kakadu. Imagine the world without the
$30 billion yielded each year by coral reefs. Of course, biodiversity is much more
important than that, for it feeds and clothes us, gives us clean air and water, and protects
us from illness. Who knows, for example, where the next cancer cure is coming from?"
What Is Happening To Our Species In Relation to
Climate Change?
Terry Root, who begun a study of the effects of climate on passerine birds in North
America says that “For any given animal, the thermal neutral zone is the temperature
range in which the animal doesn't have to raise its metabolism to cool or warm itself. The
animal can also live in the wings of this distribution, outside of its optimal range, where it
needs to expend energy to warm or cool itself. But when the temperature gets hotter or
colder than the zone of tolerance for that animal, it will die or move. This shows that
temperature is very important to animal ranges. Species abundances are also highly
determined by this curve, as a species will be most abundant in the optimal temperature
range, less abundant in the wings, and not exist at all outside of its zone of tolerance.
Species ranges are largely determined by vegetation, which is itself strongly related to
climatic variables. For yet other species, their ranges are associated with both temperature
and vegetation. The possibility exists that with global warming, as the temperature rises,
species whose ranges are related primarily to temperature are going to move north. But
those related to both temperature and vegetation cannot move until the vegetation moves.
So communities may be torn apart and some species may be driven to extinction.
But when the temperature gets hotter or colder than the zone of tolerance for that animal,
it will die or move. This shows that temperature is very important to animal ranges.
Species abundances are also highly determined by this curve, as a species will be most
abundant in the optimal temperature range, less abundant in the wings, and not exist at all
outside of its zone of tolerance.
For some species, the absolute minimum temperature is the key factor, while for others,
it's other measures. This is species-dependent for many reasons. One reason is that
microclimate effects impact species differently. Another is that one species may simply
not be able to physically survive below a certain temperature, while another's survival is
based upon whether it has stored up enough fat to last through a cold spell. In some
species of reptiles, temperature determines sex ratios.”

Studies in Europe and America have shown that there are changes occurring. In general
flowering and leafing is earlier by 10 days, although some species have commenced
flowering up to 55 days earlier!! (Fitter and Fitter 2002). Some migratory birds, e.g. the
Pied Flycatcher, are also arriving "late" from their overwintering grounds - spring has
advanced in their breeding grounds. This is impacting on their ability to successfully rear
as many offspring as in the past because they have missed the peak of their food supply
(Sanz et al. 2001). Some butterflies and plants are changing their distribution (Hughes
In the United Kingdom phenological variables are recognised by the government as a
valid method of monitoring climate (Sparks et al. 2000).

In an interview with news magazine Spiegel, Hansen comments “studies have found that
1,700 species have already moved poleward at a rate of six kilometers per decade in
recent decades. But climate zones are moving poleward at a faster rate, about 50 km per
decade, and it will become 100 km per decade with business as usual. Combine that with
the fact that so many species have been confined to certain areas due to humans having
taken over so much of the planet, and you'll see it may be very difficult for them to
migrate. So it's likely that a large fraction of the species could go extinct.”,1518,476275,00.html

So our estimates show that species extinction rates are 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than
in the past. This makes current rates of species loss at least equivalent to the mass
extinctions of the past - and in as short a time.
We do seem to be on the brink of a large-scale extinction spasm. But a major difference
now is that almost all extinctions are due to the impact of human activities. People now
so dominate the earth that very few species are completed unaffected by our existence.
The Holling 4-Box Model of ecosystem succession (Holling 1992) represents four basic
ecological states common to all complex systems with respect to connectedness (x-axis)
and stored capital (y-axis). This general concept model illustrates the phase shifts
following significant perturbation (disturbance) to reorganization (microbial scale),
exploitation (pioneer/opportunistic species), and conservation (climax).

Exploitation. In this state, opportunistic species are able to colonize in places that were
previously inhospitable or unattainable. This state usually follows some sort of
perturbation, or threshold (ecological or physical), that allows for the introduction of new
species and communities.
Conservation. In this ecological state, the communities that have established footholds
following perturbation, have matured and exhibit climax ecological conditions.
Ecological networks (or webs) have been well-established and tend to function
efficiently. Small perturbations and oscillations between states can occur; however,
primary functions and communities are relatively stable.
Release. Significant physical or ecological events result in an often catastrophic system
alteration. These events include fires, storms, disease, or invasion by pests or competing
Reorganization. Finally, as a consequence of these significant perturbations, the
ecosystem reorganizes. Reorganization can result in ecosystems that are similar to their
previous states or they can end up being quite different (Costanza and others, 1993).

The degree to which an ecosystem can retain stability in the face of extreme perturbation
is called resilience. Ecosystems possessing high resilience can be pushed to extremes
without reorganizing into a different form of stable state. Systems lacking resilience can
be “pushed” into an alternative stable state, of which there may be more than one.
Perturbations need not be sudden events, such as hurricanes and fire. They are often
gradual and cumulative, such as the processes of eutrophication, grazing pressure, or
climate change. In these cases, the system is slowly pushed to the capacity to retain its
stability and goes through a release phase, as shown in Figure 1. However, in
reorganizing, the key components of the original ecosystem are either removed or
substituted with alternative components. Keystone species are those on which a large
number of other species in the ecosystem depend. During release and reorganization,
keystone species that formed the basis for the original ecosystem structure are replaced by
others (opportunists). The new configuration provides a new organizational trajectory and
thus a new stable state. In some cases, this shift in stable state can be irreversible.
Alternatively, if the perturbation is removed or reversed (e.g., by a reduction in nutrient
load), the system may follow a nonlinear response and ultimately may only approximate
the original state. The new state can have a significantly different response relationship to
the original perturbation. This process of nonlinearity in stressor-response behavior is
called hysteresis. Hysteresis describes the potential difference between an ecosystem’s
response to a perturbation and its removal, or reversal, over time.

Climate change is now worsening the danger to Australian animals, writes Tim Flannery.
“Australia has the worst record of animal extinction of any continent. Since European
colonisation began, about one tenth of our mammals - 23 species in all - have vanished.
The victims are a diverse lot, ranging from obscure native rats and mice, to bandicoots,
wallabies and the thylacine.
The computer models used by scientists to predict how species will fare as our planet
warms indicates that between two in 10 and six in 10 of all species alive on Earth today
will become extinct if our planet warms by just three degrees. And our Earth is likely to
warm by that much this century if we just continue as we are.
Once, nature conservation looked easy. We just had to proclaim national parks, or fund
scientists to conduct recovery programs, and all would be well. The threat of global
warming has changed all of that. Now, the key to the survival of countless species lies in
the way you use your electricity and car, and in the way you vote.”

I an article entitled "Butterfly Lessons" Elizabeth Kolbert follows a trail of butterflies,

mosquitoes and frogs to show how much our climate has changed already and how
dramatic the coming change may yet be. Her series looked at how these delicate creatures
are moving into new habitats as the planet warms. Her real point was that all life, from
microorganisms to human beings, will have to adapt, and in ways that could be dangerous
and destabilizing.
She concluded her series last year with this shattering thought: "It may seem impossible
to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy
itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing."

Thomas E. Lovejoy, who heads the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and
the Environment, fears that changes in the Amazon's ecosystem may be irreversible.
Scientists reported last month that there is an Amazonian drought apparently caused by
new patterns in Atlantic currents that, in turn, are similar to projected climate change.
With less rainfall, the tropical forests are beginning to dry out. They burn more easily,
and, in the continuous feedback loops of their ecosystem, these drier forests return less
moisture to the atmosphere, which means even less rain. When the forest trees are
deprived of rain, their mortality can increase by a factor of six, and similar devastation
affects other species, too.
Can Climate Change Cause Conflict and Civil Unrest Or
Even War?
Thomas Homer-Dixon is Director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at
the University of Toronto and Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto.
Homer-Dixon teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on environmental security;
causes of war, revolution, and ethnic conflict; international relations; and complexity
theory. In 1999 he received the University of Toronto’s Northrop Frye Teaching Award
for integrating teaching and research.

He is briefing UN Security Council members about his theories of "synchronous failure",

a much in-demand author of a bestseller warning of impending catastrophe, The Upside
of Down. Homer-Dixon believes "major volatility" in nation-states and in the
international order is the inevitable outcome of climate change. His theory rests on the
premise that many nation-states are highly stressed and hopelessly addicted to energy,
what he terms the "master resource". Climate change will be the factor that pushes many
vulnerable states to the edge, and over it. Some nations will find their resources
overwhelmed as they struggle to cope with massive internal movements of people
displaced as fertile land becomes unproductive and water shortages emerge.
And as governments become incapable of discharging their basic responsibilities of
statehood, the vacuum will be filled by chaos and conflict. "Highly stressed states are
already more violent, in all types of different ways. From crime to insurgencies, ethnic
clashes and terrorism," Homer-Dixon told the Herald this week. "The impact [of climate
change] will vary from state to state, from region to region, depending on pre-existing
flaws and the particular impact of climate change in that area. It's impossible to predict
precisely how they will unfold."

He writes “Climate change will help produce the kind of military challenges that are
difficult for today’s conventional forces to handle: insurgencies, genocide, guerrilla
attacks, gang warfare and global terrorism. In the 1990s, a research team I led at the
University of Toronto examined links between various forms of environmental stress in
poor countries - cropland degradation, deforestation and scarcity of fresh water, for
example - and violent conflict. In places as diverse as Haiti, Pakistan, the Philippines and
South Africa, we found that severe environmental stress multiplied the pain caused by
such problems as ethnic strife and poverty.
Rural residents who depend on local natural resources for their livelihood become poorer,
while powerful elites take control of - and extract exorbitant profits from - increasingly
valuable land, forests and water. As these resources in the countryside dwindle, people
sometimes join local rebellions against landowners and government officials. In
mountainous areas of the Philippines, for instance, deforestation, soil erosion and
depletion of soil nutrients have increased poverty and helped drive peasants into the arms
of the Communist New People’s Army insurgency.
Other times, people migrate in large numbers to regions where resources seem more
plentiful, only to fight with the people already there. Or they migrate to urban slums,
where unemployed young men can be primed to join criminal gangs or radical political
Climate change will have similar effects, if nations fail to aggressively limit carbon
dioxide emissions and develop technologies and institutions that allow people to cope
with a warmer planet.
The recent report of Working Group II of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change identifies several ways warming will hurt poor people in the third world
and hinder economic development there more generally. Large swaths of land in
subtropical latitudes - zones inhabited by billions of people - will experience more
drought, more damage from storms, higher mortality from heat waves, worse outbreaks
of agricultural pests and an increased burden of infectious disease.
The potential impact on food output is a particular concern: in semiarid regions where
water is already scarce and cropland overused, climate change could devastate
agriculture. (There is evidence that warming’s effect on crops and pastureland is a cause
of the Darfur crisis.) Many cereal crops in tropical zones are already near their limits of
heat tolerance, and temperatures even a couple of degrees higher could lead to much
lower yields.
By weakening rural economies, increasing unemployment and disrupting livelihoods,
global warming will increase the frustrations and anger of hundreds of millions of people
in vulnerable countries. Especially in Africa, but also in some parts of Asia and Latin
America, climate change will undermine already frail governments - and make challenges
from violent groups more likely - by reducing revenues, overwhelming bureaucracies and
revealing how incapable these governments are of helping their citizens.”

Population, Economic Development, and the Environment, edited by Lindahl-Kiessling

and Landberg explains that classical economics' reliance on the market as the key to
solving all societal ills is flawed, and it concludes that the market mechanism cannot be
permitted to operate alone. Certain patterns of environmental deterioration are caused not
by market failures but by government policies, and it follows that the causes of these
failures increasingly should be sought, and addressed, in the context of institutional
The contributors to the Lindahl-Kiessling and Landberg volume are concerned about the
several negative trends we today witness on a global level. They argue that the rapidly
increasing stress on the world's natural resource base can, especially in the overpopulated
areas of the world, create social tensions and conflicts between as well as within nations,
and furthermore that such conflicts likely will occur before there is an ecological
breakdown. Towards understanding this, they examine a wide array of issues, ranging
from the connections between population size and growth, environmental degradation,
and poverty. They take into account the increasing competition for natural resources by
social structures on several levels, including on the household level.
What Can We Do To Save The Climate From Going
Robert Socolow, an engineering professor, and Stephen Pacala, an ecology professor,
who together lead the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton, a consortium designing
scalable solutions for the climate issue, argued in a paper published by the journal
Science in August 2004 that human beings can emit only so much carbon into the
atmosphere before the buildup of carbon dioxide (CO2) reaches a level unknown in
recent geologic history and the earth’s climate system starts to go “haywire.” The
scientific consensus, they note, is that the risk of things going haywire — weather
patterns getting violently unstable, glaciers melting, prolonged droughts — grows rapidly
as CO2 levels “approach a doubling” of the concentration of CO2 that was in the
atmosphere before the Industrial Revolution.

David Zink explains "There is no single answer; no magic bullet to deliver us into an
energy-sustainable society. Visualize an interlocking, coordinated grid of wind farms,
solar panels and towers, biofuel processing plants and outlets, more and better public
transportation, and other elements. That’s what we’ll need: many pieces to put this puzzle
together. And, we’ll need something that is anathema to the “market solutions” clique
such as the automotive and gas corporations and their cronies who got us into the
predicament of poorly planned suburbs, the car-dependent culture, and long commutes in
single-occupant vehicles."–for–a–Ride.html

According to Pacala: If we basically do nothing, and global CO2 emissions continue to

grow at the pace of the last 30 years for the next 50 years, we will pass the doubling level
— an atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide of 560 parts per million — around
midcentury. To avoid that — and still leave room for developed countries to grow, using
less carbon, and for countries like India and China to grow, emitting double or triple their
current carbon levels, until they climb out of poverty and are able to become more energy
efficient — will require a huge global industrial energy project.
To convey the scale involved, Socolow and Pacala have created a pie chart with 15
different wedges.
Some wedges represent carbon-free or carbon-diminishing power-generating
technologies; other wedges represent efficiency programs that could conserve large
amounts of energy and prevent CO2 emissions. They argue that the world needs to
deploy any 7 of these 15 wedges, or sufficient amounts of all 15, to have enough
conservation, and enough carbon-free energy, to increase the world economy and still
avoid the doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere. Each wedge, when phased in over 50
years, would avoid the release of 25 billion tons of carbon, for a total of 175 billion tons
of carbon avoided between now and 2056.
Here are seven wedges we could chose from: “Replace 1,400 large coal-fired plants with
gas-fired plants; increase the fuel economy of two billion cars from 30 to 60 miles per
gallon; add twice today’s nuclear output to displace coal; drive two billion cars on
ethanol, using one-sixth of the world’s cropland; increase solar power 700-fold to
displace coal; cut electricity use in homes, offices and stores by 25 percent; install carbon
capture and sequestration capacity at 800 large coal-fired plants.” And the other eight
aren’t any easier. They include halting all cutting and burning of forests, since
deforestation causes about 20 percent of the world’s annual CO2 emissions.
“There has never been a deliberate industrial project in history as big as this,” Pacala
said. Through a combination of clean power technology and conservation, “we have to
get rid of 175 billion tons of carbon over the next 50 years — and still keep growing. It is
possible to accomplish this if we start today. But every year that we delay, the job
becomes more difficult — and if we delay a decade or two, avoiding the doubling or
more may well become impossible.”
What Are The Limitations of Coal and Geosquestration?
In a speech in 2006 on peak oil, climate change, and the daunting arithmetic of carbon
fuels, Jeremy Leggett explains, “We need a mass withdrawal from carbon emissions. We
must leave the coal in the ground. The bottom line is that coal is the killer. We have
plenty of it, and we do have the option of seeing if every Government research lab IN
THE WORLD is wrong. If we panic and use coal it will be our epitaph.”

To read more about Jeremy Leggett’s epiphany which led him from the oil industry to
Greenpeace, read:

James Hansen suggests that within the next 10 years or so that we will realise that we
have no choice but to bulldoze our old style coal fired power plants. He says "we can
burn coal, provided we capture the CO2 and sequester it but in the meantime we should
be emphasizing energy efficiency so that we don't need new old style coal fired power

In an interview with Tony Jones on the Lateline program Tim Flannery said coal exports
are no longer in Australia's national interest. “The social licence of coal to operate is
rapidly being withdrawn globally, and no government can protect an industry from that
sort of thing occurring. We've seen it with asbestos. We'll see it with coal. The reason is
that, when you look at the proportion of the damage being done by coal now, it is
significant, but that grows greatly in future. We have to deal with that issue if we want a
stable climate.”
Geosequestration means we keep using coal, but instead of pumping carbon dioxide into
the air, capture it in the power station, compress it into liquid CO2, pipe it to a suitable
location, then inject it deep underground in rock formations where it would remain
trapped for thousands of years. But can such an extraordinary idea work and will it work
in time? The Australian government hopes it will. It's investing hundreds of millions of
dollars into geosequestration research, support the renewable energy industry can only
dream of. Geosequestration research is still in its early days and maybe in the next five to
10-15 years we will be having demonstrations and potential commercial applications of
various capture technologies. Dr Iain MacGill recommends we should really be seeing
action on those other abatement options such as energy efficiency, renewables and gas
generation that are proven. We know they work and we know that they are at reasonable

Germany's Green party demanded a halt to plans in to build new coal-fired power
stations. Baerbel Hoehn, the leader of the parliamentary committee for agriculture in
Germany recently queried the viability of plans to extract CO2 from exhaust gases and to
store it indefinitely. As a result, new coal-fired plants were "economic and political
nonsense," Hoehn said.

Experts funded by industry to work on geosequestration have argued that only 25 per cent
of total annual emissions could realistically be captured and sequestered (Allison &
Nguyen 2004) at the very significant cost of between US$65–105 per tonne (Cook et. al.
2000). This would add around A$0.7–0.12 per kWh to coal electricity costs. To bring
these figures alive, Energy Australia charges domestic customers in Sydney
approximately $0.10 per kWh for electricity, so on these estimates, sequestration could
more than double the price of electricity.

Given that geosequestration is economically feasible only for new electricity generation
plants, this means that only 3 per cent of our electricity needs can use this technology by
2010, and only 25 per cent by 2020. And since the electricity sector contributes only a
third of our overall greenhouse gas emissions, geosequestration could only reduce the
total by at best 1 per cent by 2010 and 8 per cent by the year 2020. So even if we take
that path, rising energy demands mean that by 2020 Australia's emissions will still be at
least about 118 per cent of 1990 levels.
What Is Happening In The Arctic, and In the Oceans?
In November of 2004, a report by 250 scientists warned that the Arctic is warming twice
as fast as the global average, which threatens to wipe out several species including polar
bears, and melt summer ice around the North Pole by 2100. One of the reasons for the
increased warming is that the dark water and ground in the arctic soak up more heat from
the atmosphere than ice or snow. The levels of carbon dioxide today are about 379ppm
and increasing, a comparable level to 55 million years ago when there was no ice on the
planet due to the warmth of the atmosphere.

In November 2005, Rutgers-led team shows rising ocean levels are tied to human-
induced climate change. Global ocean levels are rising twice as fast today as they were
150 years ago, and human-induced warming appears to be the culprit, say scientists at
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and collaborating institutions. Using core
samples of sediments along the New Jersey coast, the scientists found that rates of sea
level change have climbed significantly over the past 200 years, coinciding with the
beginning of the industrial revolution when carbon dioxide emissions began to
dramatically increase.

Mark Lynas, author of 'Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet' says
"At one degree we would likely see the extinction of most of the world's tropical coral
reefs, which are already very close to their thermal tolerant threshold, and of course we've
been seeing bleaching events in the Caribbean and also on the Great Barrief Reef. So that
could happen by 2020, 2030 that most of those are gone. We would also see the
disappearance of the ice-cap on Kilimanjaro, and we might even see new deserts
spreading across the western half of the United States, which would have a big impact on
the agricultural production there obviously.

At two degrees probably the most significant thing is the eventual loss of the Greenland
ice sheet, that's all it will take to melt the entire thing and that will eventually raise global
sea levels by seven metres or so. One of the main conclusions of the book is that we
should try and peak global emissions of greenhouse gases within the next 10 to 15 years,
because that's what we need to do if we are to avoid going over the two-degree threshold.
And at three degrees we face the increasing likelihood of positive feedbacks which could
tip, tipping point if you like which could make global warming run out of control. The
most significant of those is the die-back of the Amazonian rainforest which many
scientists are now predicting which would release huge amounts of carbon into the
atmosphere and that would then give us another degree of warming.

So we'd then be straight onto four degrees, which would probably melt most of the
permafrosts in Siberia and give us even more positive feedback from all of the methane
that would come out of that. So the tipping points are the real concern I think amongst the
scientific community now and in order to avoid crossing some of these very crucial
thresholds we do have to probably reduce greenhouse gases within the next 10 to 15

FLAMER: In your book you mentioned that the same phenomenon, this six degrees of
warming happened 251-million years ago. Is this maybe mother nature restoring the

LYNAS: There has been previous greenhouse warming episodes in earth's history, and
that's in fact in my later chapters, that gives me an idea of what would happen to the
planet if we made it happen again. In previous times these have been associated with very
long term volcanic outgassing of carbon. So these are natural events obviously which had
nothing to do with humankind. What's happening now is that we're sort of short-
circuiting this whole process by digging up coal, oil and gas, burning it and all very
rapidly, much more rapidly than has ever happened before in geological history and just
dumping it all into the atmosphere. So we've changed the chemistry of the atmosphere
already completely beyond what it seen for probably 10 or so million years. So this is a
very big change beyond what the earth naturally experiences and the most likely outcome
if we don't get off this track is as you suggest of mass extinctions.
Do We Need To Reconsider GDP Or Even Capitalism?
In 1995, Redefining Progress created a more accurate measure of progress called the
Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). It starts with the same accounting framework as the
GDP, but then makes some crucial distinctions: It adds in the economic contributions of
household and volunteer work, but subtracts factors such as crime, pollution, and family

Despite sustained economic growth throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s many
Australians seem unaware of any increase in their welfare. Many are disgruntled,
fractious and suspicious of the claims by politicians that the economy is doing well.
There is a widespread perception, confirmed by social researchers such as Hugh Mackay
and Richard Eckersley, that life in Australia is not improving, but is in fact deteriorating.
If growth is so good for us, people are asking, how come it seems that things are getting

Undoubtedly, one reason for this divergence between the performance of the economy
and the perceptions of ordinary people has been the fact that the growth of income has
been skewed towards the wealthy. But the problem runs much deeper than the age-old
one of maldistribution of income. The problem lies in how we define and measure
prosperity in Australia. Our official statistics provide a profoundly misleading picture of
changes in national well-being. The national accounts that generate GDP fail to recognise
that the growth process produces 'ill-being' in addition to well-being, 'bads' as well as

The major problems with using GDP as a measure of changes in national well-being are:

• the incorrect counting of 'defensive' expenditures as positive contributions to GDP

(eg counter terrorism, fire fighting, desalination, welfare payments, medical costs)
• the failure to account for changes in the value of stocks of both built and natural
• the failure to account for the way in which increases in output are distributed
within the community;
• the failure to account for the contribution of household work;

The way in which the GPI attempts to overcome these shortfalls is outlined in What is the
Sir John Whitmor, Executive Chairman of Performance Consultants International
Limited, writes in the Resurgence Magazine that “capitalism is an obscene failure. We
have a world in which 40,000 people die every day for lack of basic needs although
surplus exists; our habitat and countless species are being destroyed at an alarming rate
by commercial exploitation; wars are fought over the desire to control natural resources.
Capitalism makes lethal weaponry available to all, tears down our rainforests and
deprives the thirsty of their water rights - all for profit. Furthermore, a recent survey
showed us that six out of every ten people who work within the capitalist system are
miserable. Yes; let's face it, capitalism is a failure, a miserable failure.
However, horrendous as those things are, they are but the short-term manifestations of an
even more serious long-term malaise. All-consuming consumerism has brought the
psycho-spiritual evolutionary journey of Western man and woman to a standstill, or even
into regression, in a few decades. Through the glorification of material excess as the
ultimate goal in life, and by rewarding effort for gain rather than for good, people are led
into the 'never-enough' disappointment trap. The illusion of progress, the numbing and
dumbing of human development, and the diminishing of the human spirit have been
foisted on us, and especially on our children, by the priests and profits of capitalism.
We are stuck at the level of quantitative material gain, and neglect qualitative living and
learning. We have acquired much technical knowledge from and for our material
advancement, but we have lost the wisdom to deploy it well. Unscrupulous Western
businesses promote the pointless acquisition of excess, of the frivolous, of over-priced
branded goods manufactured in far-away places by children working punitive hours in
shocking conditions for a pittance. More alarming still is that it may be the best job they
can get.
To secure a market, poorer countries are compelled to sell their natural resources abroad
too cheaply, and those that toil to harvest them go hungry, while comparable growers in
the rich countries receive government subsidies. These are nothing less than crimes
perpetrated by the arrogant upon the ignorant and innocent. Political and corporate
leaders, along with the silent majority by whose apathy their actions are condoned, suffer
from a blend of myopia and denial of epidemic proportions.”

In her book ‘The Real Wealth of Nations’ Riane Eisler writes “The greatest problems of
our time--poverty, inequality, war, terrorism, and environmental degradation--can be
traced to flawed economic systems that fail to value and support the most essential
human work: caring for people and the planet.”

In “Natural Economic Order” Silvio Gesell, once Finance minister in the short-lived
Bavarian Republic uses a story of Robinson Crusoe to explain how the interest-based
economic system is flawed. RC meets a Stranger who wants use his food and other
supplies, however, RC requests that the Stranger pays interest. However, the stranger’s
religion forbids him from paying or receiving interest, so the Stranger proposes to RC
that he will help with keeping the food and supplies intact, as he is very knowledgeable
about how to preserve food and cloths in the conditions on the island. RC soon realizes
that the Stranger could prove to be a very valuable companion who can help him manage
living on the island, and allows him to use his food and tools without interest. In the
discussion about money that he has with the Stranger, RC eventually gives up his belief
in Marxist theory about money, and fully embraces the economic practice of the Stranger.

For further information on “The GDP Myth - Why "growth" isn't always a good thing”,
Is The Current Fossil Fuel Based Economy On a Crash
Course With Nature?
Oystein Dahle, former Vice President of Esso in Norway said "Socialism collapsed
because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse
because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth." That's a lot of wisdom
distilled into those two sentences.

Capitalism tends to downplay the full dimensions of the ecological crisis and even of
capitalism’s impact on the environment in the process of trying to force everything into
the locked box of a specific economic crisis theory. Capitalism’s tendency to displace
environmental problems (the fact that it uses the whole biosphere as a giant trash can),
means that the earth remains in large part a “free gift to capital.” Nor is there any
prospect that this will change fundamentally, since capitalism is in many ways a system
of unpaid costs.

In his book, The Enemy of Nature, Joel Kovel, refers to ecological crisis arising from
capital’s degradation of its own conditions of production on an ever increasing scale.” He
remarks that, “This degradation will have a contradictory effect on profitability itself …
either directly, by so fouling the natural ground of production that it breaks down, or
indirectly,” through the reinternalization of “the costs that had been expelled into the

A company that opts to dispose of chemical wastes as effluent into a nearby river over
seeking to recycle such wastes or send them to a disposal facility clearly does so because
it is the least cost option; acting in that manner is a rational action motivated by a desire
to maximize profits. The question that needs to be asked is why is pollution the least-cost
action? It is because the value of the river is unaccounted for by the capitalist system.

In an interview with American Scientist, award-winning scientist, environmentalist and

broadcaster David Suzuki says that one of the most important messages the media does
not cover properly is that “there is not enough of a critical analysis of the fact that the
way the economists see the world is destructive. Economists "externalize" most of the
natural world—biodiversity, ozone layer, fossils, water, topsoil and so on. The "services"
performed by nature are not accounted for in our economic system, so that a tree, for
example, is seen as having no value until money is spent to watch it (ecotourism) or cut it
down. Economics is based on the enormous creativity and productivity of human beings,
and so it is assumed that steady growth is possible (which it is not) and necessary! No
one asks the important questions, such as what is an economy for, how much is enough,
is it providing what people really need.”;jsessionid

In an article “Can Capitalism go Green?” Andy Gianniotis argues that “Corporate

competition is a fundamental cause of the global environmental crisis. Corporations that
use the cheapest - usually the dirtiest - production processes are at a competitive
advantage and can increase profits and/or market share.” He believes “it is the capitalist
system which is at fault. Free use and pollution of the environment have been key to
business profits since capitalism emerged. If polluting companies were forced to pay the
full environmental and social costs, they would go out of business.” In conclusion he
argues, there is no "win-win" scenario: it is capitalism OR the environment.

Some of the public health costs of air pollution include: high rates of school absenteeism,
lost work time and wages, rising health insurance costs, lower work productivity, and
millions of dollars spent in direct costs for medical and hospital care, medication and
Will Environmental Policies Stifle The Economy?

As this figure illustrates, the economy exists entirely within society, because all parts of
the human economy require interaction among people. However, society is much more
than just the economy. Friends and families, music and art, religion and ethics are
important elements of society, but are not primarily based on exchanging goods and

Society, in turn, exists entirely within the environment. Our basic requirements -- air,
food and water -- come from the environment, as do the energy and raw materials for
housing, transportation and the products we depend on.

Finally, the environment surrounds society. At an earlier point in human history, the
environment largely determined the shape of society. Today the opposite is true: human
activity is reshaping the environment at an ever-increasing rate. The parts of the
environment unaffected by human activity are getting smaller all the time.

In a Nature Article “The Value of the World's Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital”
(May 1987), it was calculated that for the entire biosphere, the value (most of which is
outside the market) is estimated to be in the range of $16 - 54 trillion/yr., with an average
of $33 trillion/yr. Because of the nature of the uncertainties, this must be considered a
minimum estimate. As a comparison, global GNP is around $18 trillion/yr.
The services of ecological systems and the natural capital stocks that produce them are
critical to the functioning of the earth's life support system. They contribute significantly
to human welfare, both directly and indirectly, and therefore represent a significant
portion of the total economic value of the planet. Because these services are not fully
captured in markets or adequately quantified in terms comparable with economic services
and manufactured capital, they are often given too little weight in policy decisions. This
neglect may ultimately compromise the sustainability of humans in the biosphere.

The following is a conceptual model of how patterns of human and ecological responses
emerge from the interactions between human and biophysical processes and how these
patterns affect ecological resilience in urban ecosystems. For example, population growth
in an area (driver) leads to increased pavement and buildings (patterns), leading to
increased runoff and erosion (processes), causing lower water quality and decreased fish
habitat (effects), which may lead to a new policy to regulate land use (driver).
The following framework addresses the question of how we can incorporate the
importance of ecosystem goods and services in economic decisions.

It therefore seems obvious that we need to protect the environment with policies to
sustain our societies, and ideally our economy as well. However, some major changes
may be necessary to change our societies to more sustainable ones. We may also have to
sacrifice our energy-intensive, highly mobile, carbon-based lives so that we stay within
the limits of our planets coping capacity.

We need to ask ourselves critical questions such as:

• What do we need economic growth for?
• Do we want fuel or food?
• Can we forgo short-term profit for longer-term benefit?
• When a country is stressed environmentally, can we afford more immigration?
• Is unlimited economic growth and population growth sustainable on a limited

Even if the necessary policies stifle the economy it will be better for the long-term future
of mankind to learn to live within the limits imposed by nature.

Some people believe our economy need not suffer from new policies and that with the
right incentives business can profit from being greener. Others see our narrowly focused
capitalist societies on a crash course with nature.

In February 2007 Prof. John P. Holdren and president of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science, explained that “well-being has environmental, sociopolitical,
and cultural dimensions as well as economic ones, and the goal of sustainable well-being
entails improving all of these dimensions in ways and to end points that are consistent
with maintaining the improvements indefinitely. This challenge includes not only
improving sustainably the standard of living in developing countries, but also converting
to a sustainable basis the currently unsustainable practices supporting the standard of
living in industrialized ones.” He also stresses that for civilization to meet this immense
challenge business, government, and law, as well as on the societal wit and will to
integrate all of these elements in pursuit of the sustainable-well-being goal will be
necessary. Holdren suggested that addressing such challenges effectively to improve the
overall well-being of humanity will require a radical reconfiguration of policy and
economies—and daily life—on a global scale. Holdren described a world poised at an
unprecedented moment of decision: Without swift and urgent action, he said, the
problems could spiral toward disastrous, permanent changes for all of life on Earth.

Ehrlich and Holdren (1971) investigated the effects of population on resource use and
environmental impact and proposed a simple relationship to describe the effect. The
impact (I) of any population can be expressed as a product of three characteristics: the
population's size (P), its affluence or per-capita consumption (A), and the environmental
damage (T) inflicted by the technologies used to supply each unit of consumption.

In equation form this is represented as:


A decrease in population or affluence can reduce environmental impact, or, better

technology can moderate the effects of growth in either of population or affluence. The
use of inappropriate technologies can exacerbate the problem.

Schulze proposed to modify the formula to include a behavioural aspect (B) so that

Secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, in stated in Nov 2006 that climate
change is now an economic threat, but that there is still time for all our societies to
change course. He suggests that low emissions need not mean low growth or stifling a
country's development aspirations. Indeed the savings can buy time for solar, wind and
other alternative energy sources to be developed and made more cost-effective. This may
be a path to a safer and sounder model of development.

At the Climate Change Conference, 15 November, Kofi Annan said “It is increasingly
clear that it will cost far less to cut emissions now than to deal with the consequences
later. And let there be no more talk of waiting until we know more. We know already that
an economy based on high emissions is an uncontrolled experiment on the global

Due to the realities of climate change and resource depletion, some jobs will decline or
disappear entirety, however, other jobs and industries will also be created. It will soon be
realised that we have to re-industrialise our economy based on renewable energies. This
can actually create new jobs, new demand, and a system that is actually more sustainable
and kind to our planet and future generations.

Voters in Washington have opted for a “Clean Energy Initiative (I-937)” which requires
the largest electric utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy
sources by 2020. The reduction in air pollutants will be like taking two million cars off
Washington’s roads. Similar legislation has been enacted in 20 other states.
Backers of I-937 included a broad coalition of utilities, businesses, labor (the United
Steelworkers, SEIU, and Aerospace Machinists played a leading role), farmers, the
League of Women Voters, the Audubon Society of Washington, even a group calling itself
the Republicans for Environmental Protection.
Supporters hope that the initiatives will kick-start energy efficiency and renewable energy
projects across the state. That will help create thousands of family-wage jobs in
engineering and construction, especially in rural areas, and provide crucial additional
income to rural landowners. Farmers hosting wind projects will earn more than $5,000 a
year per wind turbine, helping keep family farms alive.

Flannery, Australia's current Man of the Year, says "Implementing CO2 reduction
measures means opposing entrenched interests and in the short term some possible loss of
jobs and export dollars, though these would quickly be made up as investments in
emerging technologies kick in. If approached properly, these measures have the potential
to grant the Australian economy a "pioneer advantage" in a world market for sustainable
technologies and goods."

So, there are multiple reasons for taking action against climate change, by reducing
pollution, greenhouse gases, deforestation etc. There are also strong reasons to preserve
coastal fisheries, air sheds, aquifers, and the like. We have to stop experimenting with the
earth's climate and using the atmosphere as our dumping ground for greenhouse gases.
What Is Sustainable Development?
For a policy to be sustainable, it must respect all five principles. We want to live within
environmental limits and achieve a just society, and we will do so by means of
sustainable economy, good governance, and sound science.

In discussions of sustainability, the relationship between the economy and the natural
environment is often framed as a “balance.” This connotes the idea that somehow more of
the economy means more of the environment too. After all, if two things are in balance,
they are of equal weight. But any empirical study of what economic growth means today
discovers that it intrudes on the environment. Wealthy and purportedly environmentally-
responsible nations are sometimes touted as examples of how economic growth and
stewardship of the planet go hand in hand. However, while local measures of air quality,
forest cover, and water cleanliness may be high, the damage is simply occurring
elsewhere. All wealthy nations are importers of much of their environmental carrying
capacity, whether it is raw materials or finished industrial products, and these imports are
possible because of fossil fuels used to mine, harvest, manufacture and transport goods.
Wealthy nations protect their own environment while outsourcing the harm caused by
over consumption to other places.
What Are The Costs of Inaction?
Everyone has heard of the saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure",
however, many fail to apply this advice to global warming. Look at the pain and expense
of treating groundwater contamination, rather than avoiding it; or of trying to restore
forest ecosystems decimated by acid rain, rather than halting acidification; or of treating
cancers, rather than emphasizing prevention. Trying to fix climate change after the fact is
even more difficult.

"We are now at a crucial point. As the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution
stated, “If we go for business as usual … we are destined for something unimaginable.”

Climate changes can result in catastrophic costs to nations, argues Dr Epstein, so says
that insurers already estimate that health-related and environmental restoration claims
over the next 30 years may reach US$50 to $125 billion.

According to preliminary estimates, natural and man -made catastrophes during 2005
resulted in 112,000 deaths and total financial losses were of the order of US$225 billion
of which some US$80 billion was insured, making 2005 the costliest year ever for

A new report from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) predicts that
climate change will cost Germany a staggering €800 billion by 2050 -- with higher
energy costs, declining tourism, increased insurance costs and damage caused by extreme
weather. The DIW study is based on the assumption that the average global temperature
will increase by 4.5 degrees Celsius. That is the upper level of the forecast by the UN
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report warns: "If there is not an
appreciable intensification in climate protection, then by 2100 the resulting costs of
climate change could reach €3 trillion.,1518,471762,00.html
Greens leader Bob Brown has warned that over 700 thousand Australian homes and
businesses are threatened by climate change. "This is a huge threat on the Australian
nation and its economy and its social well-being and Mr Howard's got his head in the
sand," Senator Brown said in Hobart.
As many as 711,000 Australian homes will be in peril from rising sea levels, and
vulnerable wildlife species could begin to disappear by 2030, according to the report
released last night in Brussels and containing the work of 2,500 scientists. Bob Brown
said 20,000 to 30,000 houses and businesses in Tasmania alone would be at risk from
climate change. "That's probably a modest calculation of where the risk is going to hit
this century," he said, adding the endangered area stretched from Sandy Bay, near Hobart,
all the way up the west coast. "The Howard government simply does not understand the
crisis, it does not see how great it is for this nation and the important structural changes
that need to be made to our economy if we are going to meet the urgent need for changes
in reductions in greenhouse gases within the next decade." He predicted a "massive loss
of security" for people who have invested in and live by the coast, notably in tourism and
fisheries, and said it would be impossible for property owners to insure against sea level
rises in the future. In response to the crisis, the senator urged the federal government and
the Labor opposition to ditch policies supporting coal exports and coal-fired power
generation and get behind renewable energy.
What Opportunities Do Businesses See In Taking Action
on Climate Change?
The LOHAS Journal ("Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability") estimates green
enterprise as a $229 billion market sector. reports clean/green technology
as the third largest venture capital investment category in 2006. In California alone,
investments in clean tech could create up to 114,000 new jobs by 2010.

Investment banks and fund managers are starting to invest money into tackling climate
change. For instance, The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has up to 80
million euros (US$106.5 million) invested in green businesses, versus its total assets of
29 billion pounds (US$56.78 billion).
Nick Robins, head of Sustainable and Responsible Investment (SRI) funds at Henderson
Global Investors, says “New policies need to do a better job attracting short term
investors into technologies like energy efficiency, widely seen having a big impact on
climate change”

Read about how 50 businesses, and more specifically a certain strain of imaginative,
entrepreneurial business, that has found the upside in addressing global malfunction and
still are able to make a profit while saving the world. For instance, Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger's market-based approach to confronting global warming will create huge
new markets across California. Read more here:

Don Henry, executive director of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF),

said, "Business must ensure it is at the cutting edge of the move to a clean, green
economy to ensure Australia gets its share of the future jobs and the economic
benefits that will flow from it".

A few corporations are even demanded regulation. In January the chairman of Shell, Lord
Oxburgh, insisted that "governments in developed countries need to introduce taxes,
regulations or plans ... to increase the cost of emitting carbon dioxide". He listed the
technologies required to replace fossil fuels, and remarked that "none of this is going to
happen if the market is left to itself". In August the heads of United Utilities, British Gas,
Scottish Power and the National Grid joined Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace in
calling for "tougher regulations for the built environment",5673,1574003,00.html
What Can We Learn From Leading Countries, and What
Can We Learn From Past Failures?
Lester R. Brown suggests we take Sweden as a role model, where they are not increasing
taxes but rather restructuring taxes. "They are systematically reducing income taxes and
raising taxes mostly on energy-related things. It could be automotive fuel or carbon
emissions more broadly. Electricity. Taxes on automobiles, and so forth. They are now
talking about being the world's first oil-free economy within 15 years. Oil will be out of
the economy entirely. "

In Lester R. Browns book "Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization
in Trouble" he states that "Each year the world’s taxpayers provide an estimated $700
billion of subsidies for environmentally destructive activities, such as fossil fuel burning,
overpumping aquifers, clearcutting forests, and overfishing. An Earth Council study,
Subsidizing Unsustainable Development, observes that “there is something unbelievable
about the world spending hundreds of billions of dollars annually to subsidize its own
Iran provides a classic example of extreme subsidies when it prices oil for internal use at
one tenth the world price, strongly encouraging car ownership and gas consumption. The
World Bank reports that if this $3.6-billion annual subsidy were phased out, it would
reduce Iran’s carbon emissions by a staggering 49 percent. It would also strengthen the
economy by freeing up public revenues for investment in the country’s economic
development. Iran is not alone. The Bank reports that removing energy subsidies would
reduce carbon emissions in Venezuela by 26 percent, in Russia by 17 percent, in India by
14 percent, and in Indonesia by 11 percent.
Some countries are eliminating or reducing these climate-disrupting subsidies. Belgium,
France, and Japan have phased out all subsidies for coal. Germany reduced its coal
subsidy from $5.4 billion in 1989 to $2.8 billion in 2002, meanwhile lowering its coal use
by 46 percent. It plans to phase out this support entirely by 2010. China cut its coal
subsidy from $750 million in 1993 to $240 million in 1995. More recently, it has imposed
a tax on high-sulfur coals.
A study by the U.K. Green Party, “Aviation’s Economic Downside,” describes the extent
of subsidies currently given to the U.K. airline industry. The giveaway begins with $17
billion in tax breaks, including a total exemption from the federal tax. External or indirect
costs that are not paid, such as treating illness from breathing the air polluted by planes,
the costs of climate change, and so forth, add nearly $7 billion to the tab. The subsidy in
the United Kingdom totals $391 per resident. This is also an inherently regressive tax
policy simply because a substantial share of the U.K. population cannot afford to fly very
often if at all, yet they help subsidize this high-cost mode of transportation for their more
affluent compatriots.
Eliminating environmentally destructive subsidies reduces both the burden on taxpayers
and the destructive activities themselves. A world facing the prospect of economically
disruptive climate change, for example, can no longer justify subsidies to expand the
burning of coal and oil. Shifting these subsidies to the development of climate-benign
energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal power is the key to
stabilizing the earth’s climate. Shifting subsidies from road construction to rail
construction could increase mobility in many situations while reducing carbon emissions.
Many subsidies are largely hidden from taxpayers. This is especially true of the fossil fuel
industry, whose subsidies include such things as a depletion allowance for oil pumping in
the United States. Even more dramatic are the routine U.S. military expenditures to
protect access to Middle Eastern oil, which were calculated by analysts at the Rand
Corporation before the most recent Iraq war to fall between $30 billion and $60 billion a
year, while the oil imported from the region was worth only $20 billion.
A 2001 study by Redefining Progress shows U.S. taxpayers subsidizing automobile use at
$257 billion a year, or roughly $2,000 per taxpayer. In addition to subsidizing carbon
emissions, this also means that taxpayers who do not own automobiles, including those
too poor to afford them, are subsidizing those who do.
One of the bright spots about this subsidization of fossil fuels is that it provides a
reservoir of tax deductions that can be diverted to climate-benign, renewable sources of
energy, such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy. To subsidize the use of fossil fuels is
to subsidize crop-withering heat waves, melting ice, rising seas, and more destructive
storms. Perhaps it is time for the world’s taxpayers to ask if this is how they want their
hard-earned money to be spent."

Lester R. Brown says that "It may well be that the leadership will come from individual
countries just deciding to go ahead and do things, realizing that the Kyoto Protocol is just
not anywhere near enough. What Sweden is doing could emerge as a role model for other
countries to follow it.",70455-0.html

In Germany renewable energies are becoming an increasingly important job creation

engine. Between 2004 and 2005 alone, the number of jobs in this sector rose from
157,000 to 170,000. In addition to the steady expansion in Germany, increasing exports
of German technology are generating enormous growth rates. Exports account for 80% of
the industry’s revenues.
In 2005, the German wind power industry was responsible for roughly half of the total
world market volume of more than twelve billion euros. Solar cells from Germany have a
world-market share of 16%. Germany is near the top of the international league table.
The German solar industry is also booming. It achieves sales of three billion euros and
the market is growing by 20% a year. When it comes to wind energy, Germany is already
a world champion: 18,000 megawatts of wind power are installed in the country. No other
renewable energy source supplies more electricity than wind power. Roughly one third of
the world’s wind turbines and half of the wind power plants in the European Union are
located in Germany. Wind power generates almost twice the amount of electricity that the
capital city Berlin consumes in a year. Wind energy’s share of Germany’s total electricity
supply will significantly grow from 2008 onwards: in two years’ time, the construction of
more than 30 offshore wind farms will commence in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. It
is envisaged that they will supply 25,000 megawatts of electricity by the year 2030.
Practically no other industry in Germany offers growth prospects as high as those of
renewable energies. According to figures published by Bundesverband Erneuerbare
Energien, 300,000 new jobs will be created by 2020. This development is largely due to
Germany’s Renewable Energy Law. This legislation lays down government-guaranteed
minimum remuneration for electricity from renewable energy sources. The law aims to
increase renewable energies’ share of overall electricity production in Germany to at least
12.5% by 2010 and at least 20% by 2020.
What Surprises Can We Expect?
One consequence of our manipulation of the climate that has become more apparent in
recent years is a rise in the risk of unexpected effects. It is easy to think in terms of
average values and gradual, steady processes. But there are many indications
that the climate, like most complex systems, has certain threshold values. Changes may
take place gradually – but once a certain limit is passed major changes could take place
in a short time. The following are examples of such non-linear effects that
are being discussed:

• ocean currents, which are driven by differences in temperature between different

parts of the world, may stop or change direction, resulting in a change in climate
• the natural carbon cycle could partially collapse, causing the concentrations of
greenhouse gases to rise faster than the models suggest
• the West Antarctic ice sheet could slide out into the sea, resulting in a relatively
rapid rise in the sea level
• the greenhouse gas methane, which is chemically bound in large amounts in the
seabed, could be released into the atmosphere if the water warms up

Because of feedback mechanisms the consequences could be very long lasting – perhaps

New evidence from satellites now indicates that aerosols—pollution made up of fine,
airborne particles—have a dampening effect on rainfall. Cloud physicist Daniel
Rosenfeld writes in the Science Magazine ("Aerosols, clouds and climate"; June 2006):
"Because pollution aerosols act as cloud condensation nuclei, clouds forming in a more
polluted atmosphere contain a larger number of drops that are slower to merge and fall as
precipitation". Air pollution more easily stifles rain from short-lived tropical clouds than
from the longerlasting clouds common in northern latitudes, says Rosenfeld. This may
explain why rainfall in the tropics has decreased despite predictions that global warming
would make the area wetter, he says.

Whenever rising temperatures thaw the polar icecaps to any significant degree, the fresh
melt-water pools on the surface, inhibiting the driving mechanism that runs the global
circulation system.
There is now strong evidence to suggest that on some occasions in the recent past those
huge gyres shut down entirely. When this occurred, the hydrates disintegrated, releasing
their methane into the atmosphere in a series of gigantic ‘burps’. Some of these methane
burps appear to have been large enough to raise the global temperature by 5–10°C in just
a few decades.

This appears to have been the case about 55 million years ago at the Paleocene-Eocene
boundary when the release of some 1,200–2,500 gigatons of hydrate methane generated a
sea-temperature rise of 4°–5°C, triggering a mass extinction of marine species. The
global temperature spike of 8°–10°C that occurred at this time appears to have been
vastly greater and more abrupt than could possibly have been generated by the gradual
rise in atmospheric CO2 that preceded it.
What is Humanities Ecological Footprint?
The Ecological Footprint is a tool used to measure the impact of human activities on the
environment. It estimates the surface area required to produce everything that an
individual or population consumes (transport, accommodation, food, etc.) and to absorb
the resulting waste. It is expressed in hectares (ha) per person per year or in planets.

The concept of an ecological footprint was put forward by Matthias Wackernagel and
William E Rees in their 1996 book 'Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact
on the Earth'. It has come to embrace a range of ideas. Their preferred definition of
sustainability can be summarised as ‘delivering quality of life for all within the means of
nature’. The aim is to quantify our use of nature, and compare this with the carrying
capacity of our ecosystems, so that we can assess environmental sustainability.

Your ecological footprint includes area for:

• Crops to grow your vegetables, cereals and fibres
• Pasture to grow your animal products
• Forest to grow your timber and paper products
• Sea and estuary to grow your seafood and absorb pollutants
• Bushland to absorb your carbon dioxide and other pollutants
• Land covered by the roads and buildings and dam water you use

Worldwide, there exist 1.8 biologically productive global hectares per person.

Australia's Ecological Footprint in the Living Planet Report 2004 was 7.7 global hectares
(gha) per person. [A global hectare refers to one hectare (approximately soccer field size)
of biologically productive space with world-average productivity.] This is over 3 times
the average global Footprint (2.2 gha), and well beyond the level of what the planet can
regenerate on an annual basis - an equivalent of about 1.8 global hectares per person per
The most significant factor contributing to the Australian Ecological Footprint is carbon
dioxide emissions from fossil fuels (constituting approximately half of the total Australian

As Catton (1986) observes: "The world is being required to accommodate not just more
people, but effectively 'larger' people . . ." For example, in 1790 the estimated average
daily energy consumption by Americans was 11,000 kcal. By 1980, this had increased
almost twenty-fold to 210,000 kcal/day (Catton 1986). As a result of such trends, load
pressure relative to carrying capacity is rising much faster than is implied by mere
population increases.

Humanity’s Ecological Footprint appears to have breached ecological limits and is thus
unsustainable. We must address both our population size and the size of our Footprints in
order to keep our planetary use of natural resources in balance.

Here are the basic components that are used in various ecological footprint calculators:

Santiago de Chile RP Calculator BFF Calculator

(12 questions) (11 questions)
Food Food Food
• vegetarian • type of diet • type of diet
• animal products • amount • food 'miles' and
• water • food waste freshness
• food 'miles'
Housing & furniture Housing Housing
• number of people • number of people
• house size • house size
• electricity source • heating/cooling bills
• energy efficiency • electricity source
• energy efficiency
Transport Transport Transport
• road • car mileage • main travel mode
• rail • ride sharing • vacation distance and
• air • fuel efficiency travel mode
• coastal/water-ways • air travel
Goods Waste
• paper • volume of waste
• nonsynthetic clothes • recycling habits
• tobacco
• others (Note: waste is used as a
proxy for commodities)
How Do Entropy, Economy and Environment Relate?
William E. Rees, from the School of Community and Regional Planning at The
University of British Columbia says, “Beyond a certain point, the continuous growth of
the economy can be purchased only at the expense of increasing disorder or entropy in
the ecosphere.

This is the point at which consumption by the economy exceeds natural income and
would be manifested through the continuous depletion of natural capital --reduced
biodiversity, air/water/land pollution, deforestation, atmospheric change, etc. In other
words, the empirical evidence suggests that the aggregate human load already exceeds,
and is steadily eroding, the very carrying capacity upon which the continued humane
existence depends. Ultimately this poses the threat of unpredictable ecosystems
restructuring (e.g., erratic climate change) leading to resource shortages, increased local
strife, and the heightened threat of ecologically induced geopolitical instability.”

Once natural capital is exhausted or degraded to a critical level, either resources become
scarce, or our waste stream becomes detrimental. Economic throughput, it is argued,
requires a source of natural capital regardless of the size and efficiency of human capital.
Because throughput in economic systems originates from a stock of natural capital and
ultimately requires ecosystem functions to “recycle” or renew exhausted throughput, the
economy becomes a subset of the world’s ecosystem (Daly 1996).

Herman Daly proposed two views of the world's natural capital supply and economy:
empty world and full world.
The empty world view assumes a near
limitless reserve of natural capital, because
the rate of consumption (i.e., the size of the
economy) is relatively small compared with
the rate of resource renewal or the total
supply of nonrenewables. In the full world
view, resources are scarce or consumed at
rates nearing the natural capacity to renew.
These views illustrate how as growth occurs,
the economic system eventually becomes
limited by the supply of natural capital.
Under this model, the global carrying
capacity is limited by the ability of natural
capital to support a minimum level of
sustainable resources. One factor that may
affect this difference in perspective is that,
historically, extraction and materials
utilization costs are directly paid by the
firms engaged in the activity; thus, there has
been unremitting economic pressure to
reduce extraction costs and minimize
material use. In contrast, disposal and
recycling of wastes has been a “free” service
of the environment, so it is not surprising
that it has often met or gone beyond its true
biological limit.
What Are the Equity Issues of Energy?
In an artile “Energy 21: Making The World Work” by Walt Patterson, energy expert and
author of twelve books and hundreds of papers, articles and reviews, on nuclear power,
coal technology, renewable energy, energy systems, energy policy and electricity writes
“Why talk about energy and purpose? The short answer is that we’ re making a mess of it.
The world isn’t working well enough. More than two billion people
One third of humanity have no access to the kinds of energy benefits the rest of us take
for granted; and the proportion of ‘energy have-nots’ is increasing, not decreasing. Worse
still, the key fuels and energy technologies of the ‘energy haves’, like us fossil fuels,
large dams, nuclear power all face problems that may become insuperable.”
Can Population Growth Be Mathematically Modeled?
The logistic equation of population growth occupies a unique and fascinating position in
the development of ecological thinking. Proposed in the first half of the nineteenth
century by the Belgian mathematician Pierre-François Verhulst (1838) as a potential
solution to the dilemma of Malthusian exponential growth, it was rediscovered and
imposed to biologists as a simple model of population self-regulation in the early
twentieth century by the American biologist Raymond Pearl and his colleagues
(Kingsland, 1985).

The logistic equation has since inspired and stimulated much ecological work, including
modeling, experimental and field research. Nowadays, the concept of carrying capacity
can hardly be dissociated from the model.

The logistic model was originally introduced as a demographic model by Pierre François
Verhulst. At a conceptual level, the equation allows us to predict variation in population
based on only two factors: 
1. the average number of offspring per adult (a constant), and 
2. the initial population. 

The population will be described between a value of zero and one – zero signifying

extinction, and 1 signifying carrying capacity. The population growth rate will remain a
constant. We will develop an iterative equation, meaning that having calculated one year’s 
population, that value is input back into the equation to predict the next year’s, and so on. 
When the population becomes too big for the local ecosystem to support it, the feedback 
factor dampens the population. When it is smaller, the feedback ‘encourages’ higher 
future populations.  Mathematically the Logistic Equation can be written as:

xn is a number between zero (extinction) and one (carrying capacity), and
represents the population at year n, and hence x0 represents the initial population
(at year 0)
r is a positive number, and represents a combined rate for reproduction and

As we can see by varying the parameter r, the following behaviour is observed:

With r between 0 and 1, the population will eventually die, independent of the initial
Consider how the population of bass changes as described by the logistics equation.
Assume a near-zero population initially (near-extinction) and an average 2.0 offspring per
adult. The figure below shows the results. Notice that the population of bass rises to a
constant value, year after year remaining the same.

With r between 1 and 2, the population will quickly stabilize on the value

, independent of the initial population.

With r between 2 and 3, the population will also eventually stabilize on the same value

, but first oscillates around that value for some time.

The rate of convergence is linear, except for r=3, when it is dramatically slow, less than

With r between 3 and 1+√6 (approximately 3.45), the population may oscillate between
two values forever. These two values are dependent on r.
With r between 3.45 and 3.54 (approximately), the population may oscillate between four
values forever.

With r slightly bigger than 3.54, the population will probably oscillate between 8 values,
then 16, 32, etc. The lengths of the parameter intervals which yield the same number of
oscillations decrease rapidly; the ratio between the lengths of two successive such
bifurcation intervals approaches the Feigenbaum constant δ = 4.669.... This behavior is an
example of a period-doubling cascade.

At r = 3.57 (approximately) is the onset of chaos, at the end of the period-doubling

cascade. Slight variations in the initial population yield dramatically different results over
time, a prime characteristic of chaos. Most values beyond 3.57 exhibit chaotic behaviour,
but there are still certain isolated values of r that appear to show non-chaotic behavior;
these are sometimes called islands of stability. For instance, around 3.82 there is a range
of parameters r which show oscillation between three values, and for slightly higher
values of r oscillation between 6 values, then 12 etc. There are other ranges which yield
oscillation between 5 values etc.; all oscillation periods do occur.
Beyond r = 4, the values eventually leave the interval [0,1] and diverge for almost all
initial values.

The bifurcation diagram below summarizes all the possible results of different growth
rates in the logistic equation and is itself a fractal. The horizontal axis shows the values of
the parameter r while the vertical axis shows the possible long-term values of x.

Several features of this graph are worth mentioning.

First, it illustrates the phenomenon of "bifurcation," which is what happens when a

smooth stream of output data suddenly splits into two paths. This happens when the value
of r passes the critical values of approximately 3.0, 3.4, and 3.56.

Second, you will notice small bands of white space in the midst of the cluttered chaotic
region on the right side of this graph. In fact, these are "windows" of order that emerge
when the outer-edge "shadows" cast by each cascading branch converge with the
"shadows" of other branches. The broadest such "window" is where a stable three-cycle
pattern briefly prevails, and then cascades into a 6-cycle, 12-cycle, etc.

Third, you will notice that the width of the interval of each cycle is successively smaller.
In fact, as physicist Mitchell Feigenbaum discovered, the intervals diminish at a constant
rate -- which he calculated to be 4.6692016090 -- for ANY such system, regardless of the
specific input values! This newly-discovered irrational constant number, like pi
(3.1416...) or the natural logarithm e (2.71828...) was clear evidence that chaotic behavior
in a wide variety of situations was an aspect of nature that was universal in scope.
Feigenbaum's proof that chaos was universal brought the various strands of research into
nonlinearity into a more or less coherent whole, marking the true emergence of "chaos
Are There Limits To Growth?
More than 30 years ago, a book called The Limits to Growth created an international
sensation. Commissioned by the Club of Rome, an international group of businessmen,
statesmen, and scientists, The Limits to Growth was compiled by a team of experts from
the U.S. and several foreign countries. Using system dynamics theory and a computer
model called "World3," the book presented and analyzed 12 scenarios that showed
different possible patterns —and environmental outcomes— of world development over
two centuries from 1900 to 2100. The original “Limits to Growth” report forecasted that
the current rate of growth and patterns of consumption could continue for another 50-80
years before things begin to go seriously wrong. It suggested that population must stop
growing, and we must change our cultural habits of consumption, because we cannot
continue to make today’s claims on the environment.

Here is the “business as usual” scenario:

The authors do suggest a few general guidelines for what sustainability would look like,
and what steps we should take to get there:

• Extend the planning horizon. Base the choice among current options much more on
their long-term costs and benefits.
• Improve the signals. Learn more about the real welfare of human population and the
real impact on the world ecosystem of human activity.
• Speed up response time. Look actively for signals that indicate when the environment
or society is stressed. Decide in advance what to do if problems appear.
• Minimize the use of nonrenewable resources.
• Prevent the erosion of renewable resources.
• Use all resources with maximum efficiency.
• Slow and eventually stop exponential growth of population and physical capital.
Population Limits

In an article “The End of World Population Growth” in science magazine Nature, the
authors calculate that “there is around an 85 per cent chance that the world's population
will stop growing before the end of the century. There is a 60 per cent probability that the
world's population will not exceed 10 billion people before 2100, and around a 15 per
cent probability that the world's population at the end of the century will be lower than it
is today. For different regions, the date and size of the peak population will vary

Journalist Ross Gelbspan in his book "The Heat is On: the Climate Crisis, the Cover-up,
the Prescription" he states that the impacts of overpopulation, peak food, climate change
and other limits to growth threaten to combine into a severe test of the ability of
civilization to continue. Gelbspan's website is one of the best
sources for understanding these issues.

World population is increasing exponentially. The gap between rich and poor is widening,
in China now 60% of the wealth is controlled by 1% of the population. Our ecological
footprint was overshot in the 1970s. Wackernagel developed the ecological footprint
model, not perfect but the best seen yet. We are now at 120% of global capacity, and can’t
go much higher. Some indicators of overshoot are the deterioration in renewable
resources, surface and ground water, forests, fisheries, agricultural land, rising levels of
pollution. Also growing demand for capital, resources and labour by military and industry
to secure, process and defend resources, and rising levels of personal debt. Insurance
company losses are also rising. Climate has already peaked, global food production will
peak in the next 15 years, even with no energy crisis, water is nearing its peak, oil being
just one peak of many.

Deteriorating environmental conditions do not affect all populations in the same way, nor
do they affect all households of a given population in the same manner. Even within a
household, the effects may differ by age and gender. Key determinants of vulnerability
are poverty, health status, institutional arrangements, and education.
Poverty, which has been defined as a lack of means to protect oneself against all kinds of
threats to health and personal integrity, by definition implies a lack of protection against
the adverse consequences of environmental change. Some 800 million people go hungry
every day, and over one billion live on less than a dollar a day. Without social, economic,
and scientific progress, a third of the world’s expected population of some 9 billion, in
the second half of the 21st century, could be living in extreme poverty. The food
insecurity and poverty affecting a fifth of the world’s current population is a sad
indictment of the world’s failure to respond adequately in a time of unprecedented plenty.
The challenge of poverty reduction cannot be avoided in a world of interdependence,
reciprocity and interpenetration.
Health status is another important determinant of quality of life and protection against
threats. Environmental degradation of various sorts is likely to cause additional problems
for persons already in weak health, as well as pose increasing health risks for the rest of
the population. In this context local environmental problems such as lack of clean water
may pose even more serious health threats than global climate change. Those local
environmental problems already exist now, have serious health consequences and could
with some effort be removed soon. They also tend to affect the poorest, the least educated
and hence the most vulnerable. In this context poor women of reproductive age and their
youngest children are particularly vulnerable to non-hygienic conditions and maternal
and infant mortality tend to be very high under such conditions. Improving reproductive
health and family planning services can not only contribute to improve the health status
and reduce the vulnerability of poor women and their young children but also contribute
to a decline in the incidence of unplanned pregnancies and health-threatening short birth
Migration, including urbanization and movements to coastal areas, is an important issue
in this context since it can be both a coping strategy in response to environmental change
as well as a cause of environmental degradation. At the societal level the vulnerability to
environmental change depends on the efficiency of institutions, including social and
political organizations, infrastructure and markets. In order to cope effectively with
environmental degradation it is important to have real choices through knowledge and
education on the one hand, and the material means on the other, with good governance
being one of the most decisive factors.
There does not seem to be a universal remedy against vulnerability. The best candidate
seems to be investment in human capital formation and education. With appropriate skills
and education comes better access to information as well as better health status, lower
risk of poverty and lower population growth in the case of high fertility conditions. A
higher educational status of the general population makes it also more likely to have
efficient control over public affairs and contribute to good governance. More educated
populations tend to have more efficient and more responsible governments that can more
effectively deal with environmental vulnerability.
The progress in science and technology, including the knowledge revolution and
environmentally sound management of natural resources, have the potential to reshape
and manage the emerging challenges of the 21st century. But in order to be effective they
must adequately address differential needs and be aware of differential vulnerability.

Jacques Cousteau, a French, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, scientist, photographer and

researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water says “We must alert and
organise the world's people to pressure world leaders to take specific steps to solve the
two root causes of our environmental crises - exploding population growth and wasteful
consumption of irreplaceable resources. Overconsumption and overpopulation underlie
every environmental problem we face today."

Richard Heinberg makes the point that “unless we scale back the operation of human
society so that it exists within the limits of the biosphere, we are destined to crash into
those limits sooner or later.”

The problem of transferring the cost of environmental damage to the third world has
consequences for developed and underdeveloped states.

• For underdeveloped states - A rapidly growing youthful population with

diminished quality of life. Short term exploitation of natural and human resources,
a serious decline in both social and environmental asserts.
• For developed states - A declining and aging population in the developed world.
Dependence on guest workers, economic refugees, and a global diminution of
social and natural capital. Increased political conflict, terrorism and high security.
In the Journal of Mammalogy, an article “Population Cycles In Small Mammals: The Α-
Hypothesis” gives possible explanations for population cycles. “In the peak population
phase, density is high and competition among individuals for resources, which may be of
low quality or in short supply, increases. Individuals respond to crowding, resource
shortages, and competition for resources by altering spacing, aggression, and social
dominance. The changes described for the peak phase continue during the early decline
phase, and the downtrend in population size should accelerate. Toward the end of this
phase, quality of the social and ecologic environment begins to improve. Behavioral and
physiologic responses to the stressful environment should thus decline. Consequently,
population parameters, primarily age at maturity and juvenile survival, begin to improve.
When the population enters the low (or trough) phase, density is lowest in the cycle,
resources are recovered, and most of the animals raised, born, or conceived during
stressful environments have been replaced by those conceived or born in an improved
environment. Because of these improvements, age at maturity declines, juvenile survival
increases, and mean age of reproductive individuals decreases. Generation time should
decrease, and reproductive life span and recruitment of adults should increase, leading to
increase in population size. Changes in population parameters lag behind changes in
quality of ecologic and social environments, and changes in population size lag behind
changes in population parameters.”
Resource Limits

Let us look at the arithmetic of growth so we can understand growth limits. Al Bartlett
draws on the work of M. King Hubbert, who developed a concept for forecasting the
nationwide or worldwide production of non-renewable fossil fuel resources: in short, that
they can be expected to follow a bell-shaped curve.

As an example let us take a known quantity of a finite nonrenewable resource. Let us

assume we have 20,000 tonnes of this resource, and that with a consumption of 100 tones
per year, the resource will last for 200 years at a steady consumption rate. Growth in
consumption is thus is 0% per year. If we plot the consumption over time, we get a
rectangle. The area under the curve gives us the total quantity of the finite resource.

Now, what if we introduce production growth? We assume that the Gaussian Error Curve
is a reasonable approximate scenario for the curve of rate of production P(t) is growing at
some fractional rate k > 0, P(t) = P(0) exp(kt), where P(0) will be assumed to be 100
tonnes/y, the time t is expressed in years, and ó is the standard deviation of the Gaussian
curve in years.

Now, if we consume this resource at a faster rate, say with a constant growth in
consumption of 1% per year, we will reach the end of the lifetime of this resource
quicker. Similararly scenarios with a higher steady growth of 2%, 3%, 4% and 5% are
depleted even faster. The graphs for consumption look like this. Note the four curves all
have the same area of 20,000 tonnes.

Even though it is consistent with accepted economic goals, it is unrealistic to imagine that
an economy could maintain a constant unchanging P(t) until the last bit of a resource has
been extracted.

To be more realistic we note that positive rates of growth of P(t) will cause the graph of
P(t) vs. t to pass through the maximum after which P(t) will decline and approach zero.
We can model this behavior mathematically with the following formula:


Let us look at the Gaussian scenarios for values of standard deviation ó of curves of 10y,
15y, 20y, 30y, 40y, 50y, 60y, 70y, and 80y. Curves all have same area of 20,000 tonnes.
The graph for the production rates look like this:
The smaller the value of sigma, the higher and narrower is the Gaussian peak and the
more rapid is the decline of the R/P Ratio.

Bartlett then draws a line that envelopes the whole family of curves: whatever the actual
production curve is in real life, it should basically sit somewhere inside the envelope

The envelope of the family of Gaussian curves divides the (P, t) plane into “allowed” and 
“forbidden” areas. The declining exponential curve divides the “allowed” area into an 
upper area that is “terminal” and a lower area that is “sustainable.”

What this demonstrates is that there is no way to grow infinitely into the future, in other
words growth itself is unsustainable. So if growth can’t be sustainable, then what can?
Well, in short, decay.
If a resource will last R(0)/P(0) years at present rates of production, and if the rate of
production of the resource follows the curve that starts at P(0) and has a constant
fractional decrease per unit time whose magnitude is greater than or equal to P(0)/R(0)
per year, then the production can be truly said to be sustainable.

For example, if R(0)/P(0) = 200 years, then the sustainability coefficient k(s) = P(0)/R(0)
= 1/200 = 0.005 per year (half a percent per year). If R(0)/P(0) = 100 years,
then a curve of P(t) that declines 1% per year is sufficient to allow the resource to last

If a nation mines its fossil fuels at an ever-decreasing rate, it is possible to ensure that
there will always be some resources available to future generations, except that every
generation will have fewer resources left to them than the previous one (such is the nature
of mining, oil production and resource depletion in general).

Here’s how it works. Imagine you have $1000 of savings, and you use $100 of this each
week. At that rate of consumption, you have 10 weeks left - in other words, if you
continue to use $100 a week, you will be broke in 10 weeks. But if after the first week
you can drop your weekly spendings to $90 a week, then you will still essentially have 10
weeks left. And if after the second week (when you’re down to $810), you drop to $81 a
week, you will still have 10 weeks left. If this trend continues, you can ensure that you
always have 10 weeks left, and you can claim to be spending your savings at a
‘sustainable’ rate.

The mathematics dictate that economic, business, and government policies must be
radically reformed to match the exponential decay scenario if humans are to continue to
base our existence on the consumption of non-renewable fuels and claim that it is
sustainable. Bartlett’s work highlights the deception of terms like ‘sustainable growth’.

As far as our energy goes, a more desirable approach would be to consume our regular
“income” (i.e. from renewable sources) rather than eat into nature’s “savings” (i.e. non-
renewable fuel deposits). Basing the very notion of “progress” on ever-increasing
consumption of non-renewable fuels is a recipe for ruin.

Fossil fuels, metals, and electricity are all intricately connected. Each is inaccessible - on
the modern scale - without the other two. Any two will vanish without the third. If we
imagine a world without fossil fuels, we must imagine a world without metals or
electricity. What we imagine, at that point, is a society far more primitive than the one to
which we are accustomed.
Matthew Simmons is the CEO of the world’s largest Energy Investment Bank, Simmons
& Company International. He recently wrote that he had reread Limits to Growth and
was amazed at its accuracy. Limits to Growth began in the 1970s with the Club of Rome,
a group who sought to raise awareness of environmental problems. The first conclusion
was a view that if present growth trends continued unchanged, a limit to the growth that
our planet has enjoyed would be reached sometime within the next 100 years. This would
then result in a sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial
capacity. The second key conclusion was that these growth trends could be altered.
Moreover, if proper alterations were made, the world could establish a condition of
"ecological stability" that would be sustainable far into the future. The third conclusion
was a view that the world could embark on this second path, but the sooner this effort
started, the greater the chance would be of achieving this "ecologically stable" success.
Simmons suggests some natural break will undoubtedly stop the economic progress
which devours a precious and dwindling energy supply. He also reminds us that gap
between rich and poor cannot continue to grow without finally creating massive civic
turmoil. History shows if the gap gets too great, the poor will finally "come over the
walls of prosperity" and attempt to redistribute this wealth.,club_of_rome_revisted.html

Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover gave an amazingly prescient speech called “Energy
Resources and Our Future” in on May 14, 1957 delivered to a meeting of the Annual
Scientific Assembly of the Minnesota State Medical Association in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Some excerpts from his speech are provided


The earth is finite. Fossil fuels are not

renewable. In this respect our energy base
differs from that of all earlier civilizations.
They could have maintained their energy
supply by careful cultivation. We cannot.
Fuel that has been burned is gone forever.
Fuel is even more evanescent than metals.
Metals, too, are non-renewable resources
threatened with ultimate extinction, but
something can be salvaged from scrap. Fuel
leaves no scrap and there is nothing man can
do to rebuild exhausted fossil fuel reserves. They were created by solar energy 500
million years ago and took eons to grow to their present volume.

In the face of the basic fact that fossil fuel reserves are finite, the exact length of time
these reserves will last is important in only one respect: the longer they last, the more
time do we have, to invent ways of living off renewable or substitute energy sources and
to adjust our economy to the vast changes which we can expect from such a shift.

Fossil fuels resemble capital in the bank. A prudent and responsible parent will use his
capital sparingly in order to pass on to his children as much as possible of his inheritance.
A selfish and irresponsible parent will squander it in riotous living and care not one whit
how his offspring will fare.

Engineers whose work familiarizes them with energy statistics; far-seeing industrialists
who know that energy is the principal factor which must enter into all planning for the
future; responsible governments who realize that the well-being of their citizens and the
political power of their countries depend on adequate energy supplies - all these have
begun to be concerned about energy resources. In this country, especially, many studies
have been made in the last few years, seeking to discover accurate information on fossil-
fuel reserves and foreseeable fuel needs.

Statistics involving the human factor are, of course, never exact. The size of usable
reserves depends on the ability of engineers to improve the efficiency of fuel extraction
and use. It also depends on discovery of new methods to obtain energy from inferior
resources at costs which can be borne without unduly depressing the standard of living.
Estimates of future needs, in turn, rely heavily on population figures which must always
allow for a large element of uncertainty, particularly as man reaches a point where he is
more and more able to control his own way of life.

Current estimates of fossil fuel reserves vary to an astonishing degree. In part this is
because the results differ greatly if cost of extraction is disregarded or if in calculating
how long reserves will last, population growth is not taken into consideration; or, equally
important, not enough weight is given to increased fuel consumption required to process
inferior or substitute metals. We are rapidly approaching the time when exhaustion of
better grade metals will force us to turn to poorer grades requiring in most cases greater
expenditure of energy per unit of metal.

…..For more than one hundred years we have stoked ever growing numbers of machines
with coal; for fifty years we have pumped gas and oil into our factories, cars, trucks,
tractors, ships, planes, and homes without giving a thought to the future. Occasionally the
voice of a Cassandra has been raised only to be quickly silenced when a lucky discovery
revised estimates of our oil reserves upward, or a new coalfield was found in some
remote spot. Fewer such lucky discoveries can be expected in the future, especially in
industrialized countries where extensive mapping of resources has been done. Yet the
popularizers of scientific news would have us believe that there is no cause for anxiety,
that reserves will last thousands of years, and that before they run out science will have
produced miracles. Our past history and security have given us the sentimental belief that
the things we fear will never really happen - that everything turns out right in the end.
But, prudent men will reject these tranquilizers and prefer to face the facts so that they
can plan intelligently for the needs of their posterity.

Looking into the future, from the mid-20th Century, we cannot feel overly confident that
present high standards of living will of a certainty continue through the next century and
beyond. Fossil fuel costs will soon definitely begin to rise as the best and most accessible
reserves are exhausted, and more effort will be required to obtain the same energy from
remaining reserves. It is likely also that liquid fuel synthesized from coal will be more
expensive. Can we feel certain that when economically recoverable fossil fuels are gone
science will have learned how to maintain a high standard of living on renewable energy

…. Transportation - the lifeblood of all technically advanced civilizations - seems to be

assured, once we have borne the initial high cost of electrifying railroads and replacing
buses with streetcars or interurban electric trains. But, unless science can perform the
miracle of synthesizing automobile fuel from some energy source as yet unknown or
unless trolley wires power electric automobiles on all streets and highways, it will be
wise to face up to the possibility of the ultimate disappearance of automobiles, trucks,
buses, and tractors. Before all the oil is gone and hydrogenation of coal for synthetic
liquid fuels has come to an end, the cost of automotive fuel may have risen to a point
where private cars will be too expensive to run and public transportation again becomes a
profitable business.

… Reduction in automotive use would necessitate an extraordinarily costly

reorganization of the pattern of living in industrialized nations, particularly in the United
States. It would seem prudent to bear this in mind in future planning of cities and
industrial locations.

…Our civilization rests upon a technological base which requires enormous quantities of
fossil fuels. What assurance do we then have that our energy needs will continue to be
supplied by fossil fuels: The answer is - in the long run - none.

One way to look at natures declining economy, and increasing human economy is to
imagine the Earth starting off with Nature’s economy – that is – all the natural habitats,
marine and terrestrial. Then beginning perhaps 8 thousand years ago humans started
removing parts of nature’s Economy (the natural environment) to make room for their
own economic sectors – the first being primary production. Then a bit over 250 years
ago another sector of the human economy started to expand dramatically and that was the
secondary sector – manufacturing. This was the start of the industrial revolution and
from, then on, and increasingly so, the human sectors of the economy started to grow.
So now we have a clear picture of Nature’s economy being increasingly rapidly removed
and the human economy increasingly rapidly expanding.

Conversion of Nature’s economy to the

Human economy

The overwhelmingly negative impact of the growing human economy on the quality or
health of Nature’s economy is that the ratio of indirect costs of producing products in the
human economy (externalities) versus the direct costs is a hyper-exponential function.
The ratio goes from being less than one (direct costs are perceived by people to exceed
the indirect costs) to all of a sudden switching massively so that, seemingly, in the blink
of an eye the indirect or external costs are the overwhelmingly important cost.
It is now clear that we very recently reached this inflection point and in fact have
probably just gone past it – which is why we are now deluged with more and more
information suggesting that we are in deep trouble over the environment.
In 1992 The U. S. National Academy of Science and the Royal Society of London have
presented a joint statement which warns: "There is an urgent need to address economic
activity, population growth, and environmental protection as interrelated issues, and as
crucial components affecting the sustainability of human society." The statement notes
that the contribution of science to dealing with these problems is only "mitigating”. "If
current predictions of population growth prove accurate and patterns of human activity
remain unchanged, science and technology may not be able to prevent either irreversible
degradation of the environment or continued poverty for much of the world."
It urges the adoption of "global policies" aimed at "more rapid economic development
throughout the world, more environmentally benign patterns of human activity, and a
more rapid stabilization of world population."

"More fundamentally, our present economic system is based on the illusion of endless
“growth”. Banks lend (and thus effectively create) money on the understanding that it
will be paid back with interest. This can only continue as long as the economy continues
to “grow”. Yet “growth” is intimately linked to growth in the use of fossil fuels. It always
has been, and recent attempts to demonstrate “decoupling” of the two are far from
convincing. Nor are we persuaded by the view that a move to renewables will create new
economic opportunities – it will, but not nearly enough to compensate for the increasing
redundancy and irrelevance of large parts of the economy in a post-oil age."

James Howard Kunstler, American author and social critic writes in his book The Long
Emergency that as we face the end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era “the circumstances will
require us to downscale and re-scale virtually everything we do and how we do it, from
the kind of communities we physically inhabit to the way we grow our food to the way
we work and trade the products of our work. Our lives will become profoundly and
intensely local. Daily life will be far less about mobility and much more about staying
where you are. Anything organized on the large scale, whether it is government or a
corporate business enterprise such as Wal-Mart, will wither as the cheap energy props
that support bigness fall away. The turbulence of the Long Emergency will produce a lot
of economic losers, and many of these will be members of an angry and aggrieved former
middle class.” Kunstler also writes that wishful notions about rescuing our way of life
with "renewables" are also unrealistic due to the enormous problem of scale and the fact
that the components for renewable systems require substantial amounts of energy
Data from the EIA shows energy consumption in the United States from 1635-2000 by

Annual consumption of petroleum and natural gas exceeded that of coal in 1947 and then
quadrupled in a single generation. Neither before nor since has any source of energy
become so dominant so quickly.

Stern tested for causality between GDP and energy use in a multivariate setting using a
model of GDP, energy use, capital and labour inputs. He measured energy by both its
thermal inputs and by the Divisia aggregation method discussed above. The model took
account of changes in energy use being countered by substitution with labour and/or
capital. Weighting for changes in energy composition showed that a large part of the
economic growth effects of energy were due to the substitution of higher quality energy
sources such as electricity for lower quality energy sources such as coal.

The following GDP/Energy Ratio shows the diminishing returns to high quality energies.
Historical increases in the real GDP/E ratio are associated with shifts in the type of
energies used and the types of goods and services consumed and produced.
The law of diminishing returns implies that the first uses of high quality energies are
directed at tasks best able to make use of the physical, technical, and economic aspects of
an energy type. See the data at the end of paragraph 2.2. As the use of a high quality
energy source expands, it is progressively used for tasks less able to make use of the
attributes that confer high quality. This implies that the amount of economic activity
generated per heat unit diminishes as the use of high quality energy expands.

Brian Fleay concludes that there are no alternative transport fuels in sight that can replace
the performance of petroleum products as we have used them for the past 60 years, nor
are these likely to emerge. This era will be seen by future generations as unique, a period
created and so far sustained by oil primarily from the giant oil fields. Up-to-date
information on EPR’s is unlikely to alter the relative relationships of the fuels shown in
Figure 8. We have been picking the eyes out of a large hydrocarbon resource base.
William Stanton (2003), in his book "The Rapid Growth of Human Populations 1750-
2000. Histories, Consequences, Issues Nation by nation." states that 'All human history is
of populations expanding when resources are available and shrinking when they are not'.
Stanton speculates that 'political correctness', 'civilized standards', current ideas about
'human rights', and the concept of 'the sanctity of human life' will disintegrate in the face
of resource conflicts and massive movements of refugees from lands whose carrying
capacity has been reduced by combinations of soil depletion/erosion, desertification, sea
level rise and the lack of continued access to non renewable energy stores.

Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles,

attempts to analyse why some past and present day societies have collapsed.
In his prologue, Diamond indicates his considered view of the train of events which often
underlie collapse, when of past collapses he writes: “Population growth forced people to
adopt intensified means of agricultural production” “and to expand agriculture from the
prime lands” “onto more marginal land,” “Unsustainable practices led to environmental
damage ”resulting in agriculturally marginal lands having to be abandoned again”.
He lists consequences for societies as including “food shortages, starvation, wars among
too many people fighting for too few resources” and the overthrowing of government
elites “by disillusioned masse”. “Eventually, population decreased through starvation,
war, or disease, and society lost some of the political, economic, and cultural complexity
that it had developed at its peak”
How Do We Know We Have Reached Overshoot?
Falling resource stocks and rising pollution levels are the first clues. Here are some other
* Capital, resources, and labor diverted to activities compensating for the loss of services
that were formerly provided without cost by nature (for example, sewage treatment, air
purification, water purification, flood control, pest control, restoration of soil nutrients,
pollination, or the preservation of species).
* Capital, resources, and labor diverted from final goods production to exploitation of
scarcer, more distant, deeper, or more dilute resources.
* Technologies invented to make use of lower-quality, smaller, more dispersed, less
valuable resources, because the higher-value ones are gone.
* Failing natural pollution cleanup mechanisms; rising levels of pollution.
* Capital depreciation exceeding investment, and maintenance deferred, so there is
deterioration in capital stocks, especially long-lived infrastructure.
* Growing demands for capital, resources, and labor used by the 176 World3: The
Dynamics of Growth in a Finite World military or industry to gain access to, secure, and
defend resources that are increasingly concentrated in fewer, more remote, or
increasingly hostile regions.
* Investment in human resources (education, health care, shelter) postponed in order to
meet immediate consumption, investment, or security needs, or to pay debts.
* Debts a rising percentage of annual real output.
* Eroding goals for health and environment.
* Increasing conflicts, especially conflicts over sources or sinks.
* Shifting consumption patterns as the population can no longer pay the price of what it
really wants and, instead, purchases what it can afford.
* Declining respect for the instruments of collective government as they are used
increasingly by the elites to preserve or increase their share of a declining resource base.
* Growing chaos in natural systems, with "natural" disasters more frequent and more
severe because of less resilience in the environmental system.

What Does Human History Tell Us About Civilisation and

Duncan first presented the Olduvai theory more than 11 years ago at a meeting of the
American Society of Engineering Educators in Binghamton, New York, as follows:
The broad sweep of human history can be divided into three phases.
1. The first, or pre-industrial phase was a very long period of equilibrium when
simple tools and weak machines limited economic growth.
2. The second, or industrial phase was a very short period of non-equilibrium that
ignited with explosive force when powerful new machines temporarily lifted all
limits to growth.
3. The third, or de-industrial phase lies immediately ahead during which time the
industrial economies will decline toward a new period of equilibrium, limited by
the exhaustion of nonrenewable resources and continuing deterioration of the
natural environment. (Duncan, 1989)
Can The (R/P) Ratio Predict The Lifetime of Fuels?
The reserve/production (R/P) ratio is often used as a shorthand way of indicating how
long current reserves will last at current production rates. However this ratio fails to take
growth into account.

For example, at present the U.S. has about 270,000 million short tons (MMst) of coal,
and a production rate of about 1,000MMst per year. Dividing, we obtain an R/P ratio of
about 270. This is where the sound bite "we have more than 200 years of coal left" comes

If we want to take production growth into account, the following table can help determine
when the reserve will run out. This table gives answers to questions such as, "If a non-
renewable resource would last, say 50 years at present rates of consumption, how long
would it last if consumption were to grow say 4 % per year?"

0% 10 30 10 300 1 3 10,00 Example 1. If a resource would last 300

0 000 000 0 years at present rates of consumption, then it
1% 9.5 26 69 139 240 343 462 would last 49 years if the rate of
2% 9.1 24 55 97 152 206 265 consumption grew 6 % per year.
3% 8.7 21 46 77 115 150 190
4% 8.4 20 40 64 93 120 150 Example 2. If a resource would last 18
years at 5 % annual growth in the rate of
5% 8.1 18 36 56 79 100 124
consumption, then it would last 30 years at
present rates of consumption. (0 % growth).
6% 7.8 17 32 49 69 87 107
7% 7.6 16 30 44 61 77 94 Example 3. If a resource would last 55
8% 7.3 15 28 40 55 69 84 years at 8 % annual growth in the rate of
9% 7.1 15 26 37 50 62 76 consumption, then it would last 115 years at
3 % annual growth rate.
10 % 6.9 14 24 34 46 57 69

This table involves using the formula for the EET where:
R = known size of the resource e = base of natural logarithms
r0 = current rate of consumption k = fractional growth per year
t = time in years

EET = Te = ( 1 / k ) ln ( k R / r0 + 1 )

This equation is valid for all positive values of k and for those negative values of k for
which the argument of the logarithm is positive.
What is Peak Oil?
Every oil field goes through a production cycle of increase-peak-decline, that is at the
beginning production from any oil field rises sharply, then reaches a plateau before
falling into a terminal decline. The peaking of oil production is caused by a combination
of geological limitations in oil wells (fluid mechanics) and economic drivers
(maximization of profits). When oil is first pumped, it’s under pressure and comes out
easily – production rises. But over time, oil pressure drops. Water is pumped in to
maintain pressure. At the half way point, it reaches peak oil, then decline sets in. Usually
the peak happens when 50 per cent of the field’s oil is produced (“Hubbert’s Peak”).
Advanced technology can push the peak up to 60 per cent but the decline after the peak is
then steeper. Soon, the oil field goes into decline as the deeper oil takes more energy to
extract, and is more expensive to process. Once the light sweet crude is gone from a well
one is left with the heavy crude. Over the lifetime of a oil well one moves from a growing
output of cheap oil to a decreasing output of poor quality oil.

When oil fields in a region are aggregated you can tell if the area has peaked or is in
decline by looking at past statistics. Peak Oil happens in every oil field, in every oil
province, in every country and finally in the whole world.

When we mine our minerals and

fossil fuels from the Earth's crust. The
deeper we dig, the greater the
minimum energy requirements. Of
course, the most concentrated and
most accessible fuels and minerals are
mined first; thereafter, more and more
energy is required to mine and refine
poorer and poorer quality resources.
New technologies can, on a short-
term basis, decrease energy costs, but
neither technology nor “prices” can
repeal the laws of thermodynamics.

Although half of the oil remains at the peak in production, the other half of the oil is
harder to extract, it becomes more and more filled with water and requires more and more
energy to pump it out. Enormous effort has gone into trying to discover more oil and to
extract more from the reserves that remain. Eventually as wells are abandoned the region
becomes less and less important and other regions are used. National oil supplies can be
examined to see how they appear in this cycle of oil depletion.

Each litre of petrol that we burn in our cars is the distilled residue of some 23 tonnes of
ancient organisms, and the oil products consumed by modern civilisation in a single day
cost the entire planet some 13 months of continuous photosynthesis to produce and store.
Thanks to the Earth’s generous reserve of fossil hydrogen, we have had a free ride into
the twenty-first century. But our good fortune is about to run out.
Peak Oil, or Hubbert’s Peak (named after oil geologist Marion King Hubbert), is now
upon us. In 1956 Hubbert predicted that American oil production would peak in the early

He was criticised by the oil industry but his forecast proved accurate. US production has
declined ever since 1971. Hubbert also predicted that global oil production would peak
around the year 2000. He appears to have erred slightly in this case, yet if it were not for
the huge production losses caused by the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, Hubbert’s global
prediction would also have been accurate.

Hubbert based his predictions primarily on the declining rate of oil discovery. Despite
massive exploration and improved technology the last major oil discoveries were made in
the 1970’s. All the world’s major oilfields are between 50 and 70 years old and oil is now
being consumed about four times faster than it can be found. Global oil discovery peaked
in the 1960s.
Since the mid-1980s, oil companies have been finding less oil than we have been
The Hubbert curve H is given below:

The global oil production curve is the superimposition of many country production
curves which are at various stages of growing, peaking and declining production

Matt Muschalik, Member of ASPO, has used world crude production data from the
Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing that various countries are at various
production stages, with terminal decline, recent peak, flat production, or growing
production. Currently, world crude production is a flat peak that is still benign with an
undulating plateau.

Dr Campbell, is a former chief geologist and vice-president at a string of oil majors

including BP, Shell, Fina, Exxon and ChevronTexaco. He explains that the peak of
regular oil - the cheap and easy to extract stuff - has already come and gone in 2005.
Even when you factor in the more difficult to extract heavy oil, deep sea reserves, polar
regions and liquid taken from gas, the peak will come as soon as 2011, he says.
We can also look at oil production in terms of whether it came from onshore or offshore,
rather than by country. We can see that world onshore crude already peaked in the late
70ies. Currently, 120% of oil supply growth comes from offshore crude.

Peak oil theories are about calculating the timing of the global peak and the decline rates
thereafter. ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas) predicts a peak around

Most independent energy analysts agree that ‘Peak Oil’ is now upon us, and some believe
that the peak has already passed.

Matt Simmons, explains that peak oil “in the starkest possible terms, means that we are
no longer going to be able to grow. It’s like with a human being who passes a certain age
in life. Getting older does not mean the same thing as death. It means progressively
diminishing capacity, a rapid decline, followed by a long tail.” He also alluded to the idea
that peak oil may lead to a diminishing ability to care for the environment because “there
is no better friend of the environment that economic prosperity.”

Retired oil geologist Colin Campbell, founder of Association for the Study of Peak Oil
and Gas (ASPO), with 40 years of experience in the industry estimates oil production
decline is as follows:
2010: 90 mb/d
2015: 85 mb/d
2020: 75 mb/d
So from 2010 to 2020: (75-90)/90 = -17%
Retired senior consultant to the National Iranian Oil Company, Dr Ali Samsam Bakhtiari
forecasts even steeper decline rates. In his presentation to the Senate hearing “Australia's
future oil supply and alternative transport fuels” in July 2006 he stated that we may face
32% decline rates by 2020 according to his WOCAP model.

Data from the BP Statistical Review shows decline rates in 17 oil producing countries

The graph shows decline rates for 17 countries in terminal decline (peak in 1999).
Despite modern technology, decline could not be stopped. Neither will oil prices change
oil geology. Production peaked in the US (1970), in UK (1999), Australia (2000) and
Norway (2001).

If this is a model for the world we can expect decline rates between 1 - 2 % for the first 3
years after peak oil, then increasing to 5 % in the 3 years thereafter.
For business and political reasons, there have
been very misleading reports of sizes of
stocks of oil. Seven major oil-extracting
countries have for years reported unchanged
reserves, as well as had spurious reserve
revisions beginning in 1980s

C.J.Campbell, explains:
· Kuwait added 50% in 1985 to increase its
OPEC quota, which was based partly on
reserves. No corresponding new discoveries
had been made. Nothing particular changed in
the reservoir.
· Venezuela doubled its reserves in 1987 by
the inclusion of large deposits of heavy oil
that had been known for years.
· It forced the other OPEC countries to
retaliate with huge increases
· Note too how the numbers have changed
little since despite production..
· Some of the increase was justified but it has
to be backdated to the discovery of the fields
concerned that had been found up to 50 years

No theory (e.g. Hubbert) can accurately predict the year in which global production will
peak because both reserve and production data are unreliable, if not manipulated for
strategic reasons. IEA and EIA statistics can differ by 1 mb/d.

However, with time peak oil facts can be proven with statistics retrospectively. To
complicate matters, there can be multiple peaks (bumpy production plateau in transition
phase) due to complex feed back loops between capacities, production, demand and
prices. There are also logistical limitations (drilling rigs, offshore platforms, refineries,
pipelines, tankers), climate change impacts and geo-political problems. Due to these
uncertainties it may take several years after the global peak to detect it with certainty.
Therefore preparation for peak oil before the peak is necessary to allow for a smoother
transition to other alternatives. If peak oil occurs later than predicted, we can expect
steeper declines as depletion in mature, giant fields (app. 1/3 of the total) in the next years
will overwhelm the whole production system.
How Long Does It Take To Prepare For Peak Oil?
Released in Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), and titled "Peaking
of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management," the report
examines the likely consequences of the impending global peak. It was authored
principally by Robert L. Hirsch

Robert Hirsch concluded that it will take the USA 20 years to prepare properly for peak
oil with a crash program. The report's Executive Summary begins with the following
“The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an
unprecedented risk management problem. As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices
and price volatility will increase dramatically, and, without timely mitigation, the
economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable mitigation options
exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be
initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking.”
Indeed, the U.S. and other industrialized countries rely on petroleum as a key component
in transportation, agricultural, chemical and plastics industries. As pointed out in the
Hirsch Report, a decline in production will reshape the way we live and trigger economic
crisis that may resemble the economic crisis following the 1973-1974 embargo (p. 27).
Hirsch estimates that the economic loss to the U.S. could be measured on a trillion dollar
scale. And unlike other energy transitions -- such as the move from wood to coal, or from
coal to oil -- Hirsch points out that the peaking of oil “will be abrupt and revolutionary.”
What Is The Creaming Curve?
If the cumulative wildcats are plotted against the cumulative discovery, a creaming
curve is obtained. It can be fitted with a hyperbola, the creaming curve hyperbola.
The hyperbola models the amount of oil discovered per drilled wildcat. The discovery
per drilled wildcat can be approximated by this hyperbola under the assumption that
the largest fields are found first. Extended to e.g. twice as many wildcats as the
present number, the hyperbola can give a good estimate of the amount of oil that will
ultimately be produced by a country or region.

This is the so-called creaming curve.

• It plots discovery against exploration wildcats. They are the wells that either do -
or do not - find a new field.
• The largest fields are usually found first for obvious reasons, being too large to
• The curve flattens until new discoveries are too small to be viable. It gives a good
idea of how much is left to find.
• We have produced almost half what is there, and we have found about 90%
Does a Hydrogen Economy Make Sense?
Ulf Bossel who has a Diploma Degree in fluid mechanics and thermodynamics has
calculated that ‘It takes about 1 kg of hydrogen to replace 1 U.S. gal of gasoline. About
200 MJ (55 kWh) of dc electricity are needed to liberate 1 kg of hydrogen from 9 kg of
water by electrolysis. Steam reforming of methane (natural gas) requires only 4.5 kg of
water for each kilogram of hydrogen, but 5.5 kg of CO2 emerge from the process. One
kilogram of hydrogen can also be obtained from 3 kg of coal and 9 kg of water, but 11 kg
of CO2 are released and need to be sequestered. Even with most efficient fuel cell
systems, at most 50% of the hydrogen HHV energy can be converted back to electricity.’

Let us have a look at how these hydrogen calculations pan out for a city like Frankfurt in
the case of aircraft, according to The European Fuel Cell Forum:

‘It has been suggested to use liquid hydrogen as aircraft fuel. On average, 520 passenger
air planes leave Frankfurt Airport every day. About 50 of them are Boeing 747 ("Jumbo
Jets"), each loaded with 130 metric tons (about 160 m3) of kerosene. To carry the same
amount of energy each Jumbo has to be loaded with 50 metric tons (because of the much
lower density 720 m3) of liquid hydrogen. In total, 2,500 metric tons (36,000 m3) of
liquid hydrogen are needed every day to serve the 50 Jumbo Jets. Also, about 22'500 m3
of water and the continuous output of 8 (eight!) 1 GW electric power plants are needed
every day for hydrogen production, liquefaction, transport, storage and transfer. If all
passenger planes leaving Frankfurt Airport would use hydrogen, about 25 full-size power
plants had to be built. Also, the water consumption would be comparable to the water
needs of the city of Frankfurt with (650 000 inhabitants). This simple example reveals
that we urgently need a thorough discussion about a sustainable energy future. Visions
and wishful thinking cannot provide lasting solutions. Energy problems are not solved by
hydrogen visionaries.’ …
They warn ‘Physical arguments speak against a hasty implementation of hydrogen as
energy carrier. However, the laws of nature must be respected not only by scientists and
engineers, but also by parliaments and political leaders. The future cannot be built on
wishful visions.’
Is It Possible to Replace Declining Oil Production With
Alterative Fuels?
No alternative fuel can fill such gaps. Biofuels will make a couple of percent at best. See
the documentation prepared by the biofuels taskforce:

All Australian sugarcane distilled into ethanol will just yield 5 litres per week per car.

A conversion to electric or hydrogen cars at a massive scale is completely unrealistic.

In a seminar “Science on the way to the hydrogen economy”, at a Shine Dome Annual
Symposium, Prof Trimm (“The hydrogen economy is a long way away”) calculated for a
global hydrogen economy: “To achieve adequate supply of hydrogen we will need an
extra 6,000 chemical plants. Alternatively 9,000 nuclear plants would be needed – and in
the USA that means about one at every 100 kilometres around the coast – or about
220,000 square kilometres covered in solar cells.”

In NSW we are already running out of cooling water for our dirty coal fired power plants
and power shortages of -14% can be expected end of next year.

This comes from a report "Potential Drought Impact on Electricity Supplies in the NEM"
which the MCE commissioned NEMMCO to provide in 2007.

Our grid would collapse if any attempt were made to convert to electric cars in sizeable
numbers even if they were available.

In order to get a feeling what it will mean to replace oil please visit this site:
The world would need to build 52 nuclear power plants each year for 50 years to replace
the world's annual crude production of 26 Gb ( = 1 cubic mile of oil).

Dr F E (Ted) Trainer, who researches limits to growth, sustainability, globalisation, and

the environment, calculates:

There are difficulties and major costs in solar electricity. Let us assume:
• Sydney is to be supplied in winter by electricity from photovolltaic cells located in
the inland of Australia.
• Solar energy collected in winter 4.25 Watts per square metre per day.
Solar energy converted to electricity at 13% efficiency (typical figure for cells in the
field today.)
• Electricity converted to hydrogen for storage of the energy, at 70% efficiency.
Assume 15% of stored energy lost in transmission of the energy from inland to
• Conversion of hydrogen delivered to Sydney back to electricity, via fuel cells that are
40% efficient

Overall energy efficiency of the system is .13x.7x.85x.4 = .029 i.e., about 3 %

Therefore one square metre of collector would deliver .03x4.252.kWh per day in winter,
i.e.127 kilowatt-hours.
Therefore a plant capable of delivering the electricity that a large coal or nuclear
electricity generating plant delivers, i.e., 1000mW, (i.e.,1000x 1 million x 24 watt-hours
per day) would have to have an area of 190 million square metres.
(Note that electricity delivered when the sun is shining might not have to be transformed
into hydrogen but might be delivered via high voltage lines. There would be losses but
less than via hydrogen.)

Dollar costs.
Present cost of photovoltaic panels is , approximately $5 per watt (wholesale). The other
costs, e.g., including supports, wiring, installation ("balance of system" costs) are about
$5 per watt. A panel delivers about 70 watts and is about .5 square metres. Thus present
plant cost is approximately 140Wx$10 = $1400 per square metre.
Thus cost of 190 million square metres of PV collection area = $226 billion.
However the cost of a 1000MW coal or nuclear power station plus fuel for 20 years
would be about $2.8 billion.
Thus the solar plant would cost about 100 times as much as a coal fired plant.

What difference might technical advance make?

Assume cell efficiency rises to 20%, and fuel cell efficiency rises to 60%, then overall
system efficiency rises from 3% to 7%, i.e., multiplies by 2.1. Thus total cost of plant
would fall to $115 billion.

One tonne of biomass (cellulosic material) will probably yield methanol equivalent to
150 l of petrol after processing and paying the energy cost of production.
If Australia's present oil plus gas consumption (2500 PJ) were to be replaced by methanol
from biomass,505 million tonnes of biomass would have to be harvested each year and
Yields per ha? Some crops grow at very high yields per ha (e.g., sugarcane grows at 60-
70 t/ha/y) but the production of energy from biomass will require very large areas if this
source is to be a major contributor. High yields are not likely from large areas.
Plantations might yield on average more than 7 t/ha/y, but native US forest growth
averages 3t/ha/y. World native forest growth averages 1.5-2t/ha/y. Australian fodder, i.e.,
from cropland, averages 3.5 t/ha.
If Australian yield over very large areas is assumed as (an implausibly high) 7t/ha/y3
t/ha/y, Australia would need to plant and continually harvest 70 m ha.
All Australian forest is 41 million ha (harvested beyond sustainable rates, even though we
only produce 2/3 our timber consumption.) All Australian cropland is 22 million ha. All
our pasture is about 22 million ha.

Muschalik says “we'll be lucky if we can manage to set aside oil to run our essential
services (including for agriculture) and provide enough power to run electric trains
and replace our dirty coal fired power plants. It should be crystal clear that peak oil
- in combination with the limitations of using fossil fuels due to global warming - is
the beginning of the end of using cars, trucks and planes the way we know it.”

"One key threat in relation to peak oil is an increase in the use of coal, tar sands, methane
hydrates etc. The world does have considerable reserves of coal – at current rates of use
the world has around 200 years’ reserves, the UK about 50 . But burning more coal will
only add to greenhouse gases. Coal is more “carbon-intensive” than oil (ie releases about
13% more per unit of energy than oil), but the more important point is that coal’s current
contribution of about 17% of UK energy is about the level to which we need to reduce
greenhouse emissions. That is, if we stopped burning oil and gas but kept coal use at the
present level, that would be about the level which the world could sustain. Worldwide
coal accounts for about 25% of energy needs, which again is about right or possibly too
high. (Also, of course, if we sought to use coal for all of our energy needs, the UK
reserve would be exhausted in 10 years – and we shouldn’t expect anyone else to sell us
Oil recovered from tar sands is again more carbon-intensive, particularly because of the
huge amounts of energy (currently natural gas) needed to extract it. Exploiting methane
hydrates, proposed by some as a “magic-bullet” cure to the world’s energy shortage,
could be catastrophic in terms of global warming...."

How Vulnerable Is Australia To Petrol Prices?

In an article “Shocking the Suburbs: Urban location, housing debt and oil vulnerability
in the Australian City”, Jago Dodson & Neil Sipe from the Griffith University in
Brisbane undertook a study of locational ‘vulnerability assessment for mortgage, petrol
and inflation risks and expenses’ (VAMPIRE) to assess how potential adverse impacts
from rising fuel costs would likely be distributed across Australian cities. The
vulnerability index identifies areas of greatest risk, and conversely, those areas where the
impacts of rising fuel costs are likely to be less extensive. In looking at Sydney they

“Sydney is structured around a central business district that is situated to the mid-south of
the Sydney harbour. The urban area surrounding the CBD is extensive, and extends far to
the north, west and south. Two urban corridors extend northwest and southwest. Like
Brisbane, Sydney’s urban geography is strongly patterned in terms of mortgage and oil
vulnerability, as revealed by our analysis (Figure 6). Two broad areas display low or
moderate levels of vulnerability. These include an area broadly described as inner
northern Sydney that extends from the harbour mouth in the inner northeast to a broad
area from north of the CBD to Hornsby in the north. A further area of low vulnerability is
apparent around and to the east of the Sydney CBD and this area also extends through the
suburbs approximately 15 km south and west of the CBD. The highest concentration of
low vulnerability is immediately around the Sydney CBD and North Sydney. Higher
levels of mortgage and oil vulnerability are found in areas beyond 20 km from the
Sydney CBD to the north, south and in particular to the west. This effect is particularly
pronounced in the greater western Sydney region, from Baulkham Hills in the north of
this region to south of the urban area, and in the south west and north west corridors.
Sydney’s most concentrated areas of mortgage and oil vulnerability are located in the
outer north and south of the western region. A higher proportion of households in these
locations are likely to be at high social and financial risk from fuel and mortgage and
price increases than elsewhere in the Sydney region.”
The key point to note for Sydney is the divergence in private motor vehicle use between
residents of the city’s affluent inner and northern eastern suburbs and those in the middle
and outer western areas. Private motor vehicles are used less and driven shorter distances
by households in Sydney’s east compared to those in the west and these patterns are
diverging. Those in the west increased their daily travel distances by around 23 percent
between 1991 and 2001, while daily kilometres of travel declined by 10 percent for those
in the east. More than 50 percent of eastern Sydney residents walk, cycle or use public
transport to get to work, compared to less than 25 percent in the city’s west.

The differences in motor vehicle use imply divergent capacity to absorb the impact of
rising transport energy costs. Households in inner areas with limited car dependence are
already insulated against rising petrol prices and can easily switch to alternative modes if
seeking further relief. In the outer suburbs where travel choices are much more
constrained residents face much tougher travel and financial decisions when faced with
rising fuel costs.

Dr Jago Dodson suggests that “greater public awareness of energy issues is becoming
increasingly critical because we as a society are likely to face some important decisions
about how we manage our economic and social affairs in relation to energy. It is also
important that we fully comprehend energy issues in all their scope, not solely in terms of
scientific or technical knowledge but in the broader context of our social, economic and
environmental practices.”
Can Taxes Help Improve Signals to Businesses to Save
Let us look at the
fuel taxes that OECD FUEL TAXES
various countries Aus$ UK €
pay according to cents/litre 0.80
the 2003 IEA
data. 0.60

We can see that Australia

in industrialized
countries like
USA, Canada, 0.20
and Australia US
have among the 0.00
lowest taxes in
the world.

IEA Dec 2003
countries pay 29

2003 Daily Gasoline

Consumption Per Capita By

Now, if we look at
consumption, we find that the
countries with the least tax
seem to drive the most. The
US, Canada, Australia, and
Japan all consume high
amounts per person per day.
Mexico is a notable exception
however it may be explained
by not being as industrialised
as the other top countries.
Here is a comparison of price per gallon in China, U.S, Brazil, U.K., and Norway.

Kaufman and Cleveland argue that the market mechanisms will not receive adequate
signals (resource price increases) in time to bring on alternative options to replace oil;
they argue that depletion will not occur in an orderly and smooth pattern but will manifest
itself via sharp rises in oil prices.
The cost of filling up a
Honda Civic's 50-litre
tank varies hugely
around the world. Where
some countries
subsidise, others tax
heavily. Pity Turkish
drivers, who fork out
$93.83, according to
Gerhard Metschies in
Foreign Policy
magazine. Re-
nationalised oil
companies and heavy
subsidies keep
Venezuelan motorists
happy, though those in
Turkmenistan fare even
better, paying only $1.06
a tank. Despite protests
over rising prices, filling
up in America is
relatively cheap at
$31.06. Indeed, this may
explain the country's
enormous daily petrol
consumption, which in
2003 was more than the
next 20 biggest
consumers combined.

Peter Newman, Director of the Institute for Sustainability and Technology at Murdoch
University, Perth and Chair of the Western Australian Sustainability Roundtable
writes, “The car is the technology which involves the biggest number of employees, the
highest advertising budget, the largest annual accidental death rate and the biggest
contribution to global warming. How do you begin to approach managing something so
popular and yet so destructive? There are three ways: technology (civilizing the car),
economics (pricing it) and planning (reducing the need to travel and providing other

Transport price signals - Monitoring changes in European transport prices and charging
policy in the framework of TERM
Does The Suburban Way of Life Have A Future?
The documentary film "The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the
American Dream" produced by the Post-Carbon Institute (see,
explores why we need to adapt cities, transport choices and lifestyles to living with less
and more expensive oil. 'End of Suburbia' is a thought-provoking documentary looking at
how oil underpins suburban development and vulnerability to the approaching end of the
era of cheap oil.

Thomas Wheeler, in his review of the documentary writes "The End of Suburbia"
marshals an impressive array of evidence that the growing energy demands of the
"American dream" in suburbia will eclipse our planet's ability to provide it. The suburban
way of life will soon become economically and ecologically impossible to maintain. We
will see the inevitable collapse of the suburban lifestyle and the end of the American
Dream. And it will happen within our lifetimes. How bad will it get? Put it this way. We
are looking at the mother of all downsizings. For those who are familiar with the issues of
peak oil and resource depletion, the usual suspects are here. They include Richard
Heinberg, Michael Klare, Matthew Simmons, Michael C. Ruppert, Julian Darley, Dr.
Colin Campbell, and Kenneth Deffeyes, among others. All of these individuals provide
valuable information and insights concerning the coming energy crisis and the impact it
will have on the lives of people on the North American continent.

But the standout star of the film is author and critic of contemporary culture, James
Howard Kunstler. The sometimes humorous and always entertaining presence of Kunstler
is prominent throughout the documentary--and for good reason. He grabs your attention.
He explains in refreshingly blunt, easy-to-comprehend language that suburbia is screwed.
His undiluted, tell-it-like-it-is style is a potent mix of George Carlin humor and wit
wrapped around an incisive Chomsky-like comprehension and understanding. With
Kunstler you get an intellectually penetrating person armed with a functioning bullshit
detector wrapped up in an intensely candid New York attitude. Kunstler has a blog on the
web he calls "The Clusterfuck Nation Chronicles" ( Need I say more?

Kunstler calls the project of suburbia "the greatest misallocation of resources in the
history of the world" and says "America has squandered its wealth in a living
arrangement that has no future." You immediately get the idea he's not exactly a fan of
suburbia. How and why did this happen?
"The End of Suburbia" outlines the seemingly rational and logical impulse behind the
project of suburbia, tracing the beginnings to the late 19th century when it was originally
envisioned as an antidote to city life and an escape from the hideous aspects of
industrialism. Modern suburbia traces its beginnings to just after World War II when the
suburban project took off with a massive housing boom and the increasing dominance of
the automotive industry. This car-centered suburban project ended up being the template
for the massive development of the second half of the 20th century. That project was
wrapped up, packaged, and sold to the American public as "The American Dream."
"The End of Suburbia" points out that the rise of the suburbs was made possible by
abundant and cheap oil. It allowed for the creation of a system of habitation where
millions of people can live many miles away from where they work and where they shop
for food and necessities. And there is no other form of living that requires more energy in
order to function than suburbia. But the voracious and expanding energy needs of our
industrial society, our insane consumer culture, and the affluent suburban lifestyles are
brushing up against the disturbing reality of finite energy resources.
The biggest impact will be felt by those who currently live in the sprawling suburbs of
North America. The end of cheap oil will signal the end of their way of life. Frankly,
many of the things we take for granted will come to an end. "The End of Suburbia"
makes clear that the effects of energy depletion go way beyond paying more at the pump.
It will literally get down to the question of how you will feed yourself and your family.
Although the documentary mostly avoids the gloom and doom of some peak oil theorists,
it does occasionally touch on some of the darker aspects of fossil fuel depletion, notably
how it will impact food production. The film briefly looks at the energy-intensive process
needed to bring food to supermarkets. Our modern industrial agriculture relies heavily on
petroleum for pesticides and natural gas for fertilizer, not to mention the energy used in
planting, growing, harvesting, irrigating, packaging, processing and transporting the food.
It stands to reason that if suburbia is going to collapse, it also means this centralized
model of agriculture will collapse too.

"The End of Suburbia" shows how the suburban way of life has become normalized and
reveals the enormous effort currently put forth to maintain it. On a foreign policy level, it
means continued aggressive attempts to secure access to the remaining reserves of oil on
the planet in order to prop up and maintain the increasingly dysfunctional and obscene
suburban lifestyle. But "The End of Suburbia" makes it crystal clear that suburban living
has very poor prospects for the future. Any attempt to maintain it will be futile. There will
eventually be a great scramble to get out of the suburbs as the global oil crisis deepens
and the property values of suburban homes plummet. Kunstler asserts that the suburbs
will become "the slums of the future."

What about alternative sources of energy? "The End of Suburbia" points out that no
combination of alternative fuels can run and maintain our current system as it is now.
What about hydrogen, you ask? The film does a great job of shooting down the hysterical
applause for hydrogen. The idea of a hydrogen economy is mostly fantasy. Hydrogen is
not a form of energy. It is a form of energy storage. It takes more energy to make
hydrogen than you actually get from hydrogen. Same with ethanol. It is a net energy
loser. It takes more gasoline to create and fertilize the corn and convert it to alcohol than
you get from burning it. When you look at all the conceivable alternatives the conclusion
is there is no combination of any alternatives that will allow us to continue consuming the
way we do.

What is in our future? The consensus is the suburbs will surely not survive the end of
cheap oil and natural gas. In other words, the massive downscaling of America--voluntary
or involuntary--will be the trend of the future. We are in for some profound changes in
the 21st century. The imminent collapse of industrial civilization means we'll have to
organize human communities in a much different fashion from the completely
unsustainable, highly-centralized, earth-destroying, globalized system we have now.
There will need to be a move to much smaller, human-scale, localized and decentralized
systems that can sustain themselves within their own landbase. Industrial civilization and
suburban living relies on cheap sources of energy to continue to grow and expand. That
era is coming to an end. One of the most important tasks right now is to prepare for a
very different way of life.

While "The End of Suburbia" doesn't provide any easy answers, it does provide a much-
needed look at the reality of the situation many in North America will be facing in the
coming years. For that reason, "The End of Suburbia" is one of the most important must-
see documentaries of the year.
Can New Technology Make Civilisation Sustainable?
Politicians believe the solution to thermodynamic, or resource, limits is to become more
efficient. But the evidence from the recent past suggests that this does not happen in
practice because the rate of efficiency seldom equals the overall rate of growth. Where
significant advances do generate large efficiency gains the evidence from studies over the
last two centuries suggest that these efficiency savings just increase the rate of growth,
and energy consumption. For example, Britain has become more efficient in its use of
energy and resources since the 1950s, but in that time actual consumption has grown by a
factor of two (or, if we take account of the change in efficiency, it's nearly a factor of
four). There have been three major developments in the study of the conflict between
growth and efficiency. They show that efficiency, against a background of economic
growth, does not reduce consumption:

Jeavon's Paradox (1830s) – Jeavon discovered that more efficient stream engines led to
more coal being used in more/larger engines;
Rebound Effect (1960s) – the discovery by various economists that the financial
benefits of efficiency savings are re-spent buying more “stuff”, so re-consuming any
savings of energy or resources made by the efficiency measures;
Khazzom-Brookes Postulate (1980s) – the greater efficiency, e.g. information
and communications technology, results in cheaper services and the greater
use/consumption of those services.
For these reasons efficiency will never deliver a saving of energy or resources. In any
case, the Second Law of Thermodynamics limits what efficiency measures can achieve,
and how they operate over time:

Efficiency measures can only take place once – when the market has become saturated
with an efficiency measure, e.g. an efficient fridge, there will be no further savings
delivered (growth takes over again); and
Each successive efficiency gain generally produces less of a saving than previous ones –
this is because it becomes harder to save the same amount of energy with each
improvement as the decline in the difference between the work done and the energy
consumed creates a thermodynamic barrier to further reductions in consumption.
If the measures that economists use to reconcile economic growth and Thermodynamics
do not work, the only logical conclusion is that at some point economic growth must hit a
ceiling, at which point it must cease – then the system will be forced to change.

The Earth does not have an inexhaustible supply of many other critical commodities –
fuels/energy are just one of these limited resources. At the moment we are using energy
to solve resource problems – by pumping water long distances, or ferrying wood and
food around the globe. What Peak Energy means is that we just won't have the
cheap, plentiful energy to do this any more. Eventually, one critical limit or another will
be breached and we will be unable to compensate for this loss. The problem today is that
energy depletion and climate change are accelerating this process by drawing the
critical limits – such as water, farmland or fish – ever tighter. At this point a collapse will
be unavoidable. The only way to avoid an enforced contraction following overshoot is to
begin, voluntarily, a growth must hit a ceiling, at which point it must cease – then the
system will be forced to change.
An Interview with Dennis Meadows - co-author of ‘Limits to Growth’, Dennis says
“There are 4 ways you respond to an energy shortage - deprivation, efficiency, alternative
fuels, and cultural change. Overwhelmingly the most attractive options open to us are
non-technical. They are ethical, cultural, social and psychological. Will we manage to do
them? I don’t know about that, but my attitude is acknowledge the problem, start doing
those things you can do technically to cope with it, being careful not to take technical
solutions that will damage the environment, and cause a lot more damage through
conflict and income distribution, things like that, and then get busy with the social,
cultural and psychological change which is where the real solutions lie. Can you support
6 billion people on this planet under any circumstances? I’m not sure, but certainly not
with our current culture we can’t.”

Hailed as the philosopher poet of the ecological movement, best-selling author Derrick
Jensen returns with a passionate forecast of how industrial civilization, and the persistent
and widespread violence it requires, is unsustainable. Jensen's intricate weaving together
of history, philosophy, environmentalism, economics, literature and psychology has
produced a powerful argument that demands attention in the tradition of such important
books as Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization and Brigid Brophy's Black Ship to
In Volume I: The Problem of Civilization, Jensen lays out a series of provocative
premises, including “Civilization is not and can never be sustainable” and “Love does not
imply pacifism.” He vividly imagines an end to technologized, industrialized civilization
and a return to agragrian communal life.
If Volume I lays insightful framework for envisioning a sustainable way of life, Volume
II: Resistance catapults this discussion into a passionate call for action. Using his
premises as guidelines for exploring real-world problems, Jensen guides us toward
concrete solutions by focusing on our most primal human desire: to live on a healthy
earth overflowing with uncut forests, clean rivers, and thriving oceans that are not under
the constant threat of being destroyed.

Endgame – Volume II begins with 20 premises. Here are a few:

Premise One: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for
industrial civilization.

Premise Two: Traditional communities do not often voluntarily give up or sell the
resources on which their communities are based until their communities have been
destroyed. They also do not willingly allow their landbases to be damaged so that other
resources – gold, oil, and so on – can be extracted. It follows that those who want the
resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.

Premise Three: Our way of living – industrial civilization – is based on, required, and
would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.

Premise Six: Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of
voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt
to it, civilisation will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade
the planet until it (civilisation, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this
degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.
Premise Seven: The longer we wait for civilisation to crash – or the longer we wait before
we ourselves bring it down – the messier the crash will be, and the worse things will be
for those humans and nonhumans who live during it, and for those who come after it.

Premise Eight: The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of the
economic system. Another way to put Premise Eight: Any economic or social system that
does not benefit the natural communities on which it is based is unsustainable, immoral,
and stupid. Sustainability, morality, and intelligence (as well as justice) require the
dismantling of any such economic or social system, or at the very least disallowing it
from damaging out landbase.

Premise Ten: The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is
driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life.

Other great reviews of his books and comments about the author can be found on

One reviewer wrote, “Jensen believes "this culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary
transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living." Civilization, he says in volume
II, is killing the planet, so "civilization needs to be brought down now." Jensen dwells
through several chapters on the need to destroy tens of thousands of river dams, whether
with pickaxe-wielding citizen armies or through the use of well-placed explosive charges;
other chapters consider how simple it would be to paralyze the American capitalist
system if small activist cells were to disrupt railway, highway, pipeline and other
elements of commercial infrastructure.”

In an article “Techno-Fix And Sustainability: Grappling With illusions”, Milo Clark, a

writer and researcher focused on strategic issues, argues on Swans that there are two
major illusions clouding our judgement. “One says we'll figure out technologies to fix
things -- Techno-fix. The other says we'll figure out how to work with it or to restore
balances -- Sustainability. Both assume we can fix what we have already done, are doing
or will do.”

“All the techno-fix strategies are substitution strategies. All sustainability strategies are
also substitution strategies. Substituting reprocessed used cooking oils for diesel fuel
substitutes only one tiny component of the overall system which produces and runs the
vehicle. Substituting hydrogen or hybrid technologies similarly deals only with small
components of a very complex, very global extractive and earth exploitive system.

Whether hybrid, hydrogen or hallucination drives our techno-fix transportation, the

vehicles involved continue to use and to expand use of metals and other irreplaceable or
non-biodegradable materials. Lighter bodies and engine blocks use aluminium which is
produced by horrendous amounts of electricity. More sophisticated technologies require
more exotic metals, whether platinum or palladium used in catalytic converters, or others
needed for hybrid or hydrogen systems. Anything dug out of earth anywhere reduces the
amount of that resource available later.

A simple formula for minimally exploitive systems reads: Use local resources processed
by local people primarily for local uses in ways which generate surpluses for local
reinvestment. With this litmus test, any system can be tested. Every one will flunk, even
rigorous Permaculture.”
Net Energy Analysis with EROI
One technique for evaluating the costs of energy systems is net energy analysis, which
compares the quantity of energy delivered to society by an energy system to the energy
used directly and indirectly in the delivery process, a quantity called the energy return on
investment (EROI).

Biophysical and ecological economists argue that net energy analysis has several
advantages over standard economic analysis. First, net energy analysis assesses the
change in the physical scarcity of energy resources, and therefore is immune to the effects
of market imperfections that distort monetary data. Second, because goods and services
are produced from the conversion of energy into useful work, net energy is a measure of
the potential to do useful work in economic systems. Third, EROI can be used to rank
alternative energy supply technologies according to their potential abilities to do useful
work in the economy.

The overall decline in the EROI for petroleum extraction in the U.S. suggests that
depletion has raised the energy costs of extraction. This is generally consistent with the
overall pattern of oil extraction, i.e., both extraction and the EROI for extraction show a
decline since the early 1970s. There is no single measure of the quality of the oil and gas
resource, but a number of such indicators describe its physical deterioration. These
include a decline in field size, depletion of natural drive mechanisms, and more enhanced
oil recovery that is extremely energy intensive. To the extent that the EROI does reflect
the scarcity of petroleum in some meaningful way, then energy quality is an important
consideration. The ultimate limit to an energy resource’s usefulness to society is the
energy break-even point, i.e., where the energy delivered to society is equaled by the
energy used in the delivery process. But not all “units” of energy are equally useful to
society, particularly in regards to their ability to perform specific tasks in the production
of goods and services. A more appropriate indicator is a quality-corrected EROI that
reflects the net availability of energy to actually produce goods and services that reflects
choices people make about how to use energy. These choices are based on perceived
differences in what Zirnkau et al. call the form-value of different energy types. The
quality-corrected EROI is consistently lower than the uncorrected version. This suggests
that in a more meaningful economic sense, petroleum I more scare than we might
otherwise think. It also suggests that the transition to alternative energy sources, which is
driven in part by the scarcity of conventional fuels, may be triggered sooner than is
suggested by conventional net energy analyses.
Will We Have To Rethink Our Current Economic System
In a Low-Energy World?
In an article called “Can Peak Oil Save Us?” on a website “Eat the State - A Forum For
Anti-Authoritarian Political Opinion, Research And Humor”, Colin Wright says “The
biggest challenge may be convincing people that our current economic system, after a
century of state and corporate propaganda, is not the only option. In fact, I would argue
that the current system is one which supported a growing population and a growing GDP
during the up phase of the energy curve. (And that is why the working classes went along
with it, bought off with the trickle-downs.) In a world of diminishing energy, we will
need to rethink our economy--and that implies our relations to one another. Peak Oil will
provide us with that opportunity, perhaps sooner than we expect.”

Over 70 years ago, in a country using little oil, Bertrand Russell wrote in In Praise of
Idleness that we could meet all our needs with less than four hours of work per day

In an article called ‘The Global Economy: A Flawed Ecosystem’, Louis Michon, a

professional communicator working for the Canadian Space Agency writes “In his work
entitled Living Systems (1978), researcher James Grier Miller of the University of
California establishes a hierarchy of the planet’s living systems. From living cells to
human groups to supranational systems, Miller shows the structural continuity between
living organisms, ecosystems and human society. Humanity, its infrastructures and its
activities, in short the global economy, form a vast system fuelled by a measurable
quantity of energy, matter, time and information, just as ecosystems.
Natural systems are wonders of balance and stability resulting from millions of years of
evolution. The global economy, which is barely 500 years old, has not achieved this level
of refinement. Our economic system is embryonic and unrealistic, with a goal to achieve
continual growth rather than balance. Growth creates wealth, but it can also result in
major social and ecological imbalance.” […] “In today’s world, promoting uncontrolled
economic growth is also a matter of greed. Achieving wealth is much easier in a booming
economic system than in a stable one. But as capital flows in the same way as fluids,
increased wealth entails loss somewhere else in the system. The impoverishment of the
world’s poorest populations, national debt and the devastation of ecosystems are the
direct consequences of unsustainable development and unrestrained growth.
Ecosystems are more sustainable than the economy because their growth potential is
finite. No ecological system has developed to the point of swallowing up all others. The
limited lifespan of living beings, adaptation to a specific environment (water, desert or
other), dependence on light, and geographical distance are all factors that limit the
expansion of ecological systems. Constant growth is by definition unsustainable.
Ecosystems maintain their stability by recycling most of the energy and matter they use,
allowing only diversity and complexity to grow.
Uncontrolled economic growth benefits mostly the rich. By upholding major differences
between the energy use, material consumption, infrastructures and population density of
rich and poor regions of the world, growth breeds inequality.” […] “Growth also leads to
the concentration of economic activities in time and space, resulting in agriculture,
industrialization and urbanization that are intensive and polluting. Rich nations have
consumed a disproportionate quantity of matter and energy over the past few centuries.
They have also polluted a large portion of the earth’s land, air and oceans. If excessive
growth is one of the causes of unsustainable development, its main indicator is pollution.
Here again, greed is the culprit. To save on production costs, the private sector often
transfers waste and toxic materials into the environment—where they become
anonymous and collectively owned. Obviously, it is more profitable for polluters to let
the community and future generations pay for the clean-up.” […]

“In the economic system, pollution and unsustainable activities relate to incomplete
equations. Truncated equations allow producers to hide costs, which they otherwise
would have to transfer to consumers or pay themselves.” […]

“In a sustainable development context, all inputs and outputs, whether matter, energy,
time or knowledge, must be calculated. Sustainable development also requires that the
entire biosphere and several generations to come be taken into account when calculating
the societal cost-benefit ratio of both private and public economic decisions. In 1920, in
The Economics of Welfare, British economist A.C. Pigou formulated an economic model
by which all social costs were included in the market prices. More recently, in his
acclaimed essay The Ecology of Commerce, American author Paul Hawken demonstrates
how toxic and non-sustainable our present economy is. He proposes a form of industrial
ecology, based on the market economy and on the private sector, to foster sustainable
How Will Peak Oil Affect Food Supply?
Jeremy Leggett, author of Half Gone (titled The Empty Tank in the US), makes the
following points: A quarter of the US’s daily need for oil (five million barrels) comes
from the highly volatile Middle East. “The US government could wipe out the need for
all their five million barrels, and staunch the flow of much blood in the process, by
requiring its domestic automobile industry to increase the fuel efficiency of autos and
light trucks by a mere 2.7 miles per gallon.” Instead, between 1987 and 2001, US average
US vehicle fuel efficiency fell by 1.8 miles per gallon, noting that during the period 1975
to 2003 SUV market share grew from 2% to 24%. And what’s this to do with our food
supply? Jeremy cites National Geo as estimating you could drive a car from LA to NYC
on the oil required to farm and bring to market just one cow.
This is not to say we don’t need an economy based on oil. No, the Soil Association also
include a calculation from the Irish organisation the Foundation foe the Economics of
Sustainability or Feasta who suggest that a 40 litre (11 gallon) fill-up at a petrol
(gasoline) station is the equivalent of about four years of human manual work and
therefore “a human-muscle-power-based economy would therefore be between seventy
and a hundred times less productive than the present fossil-fuel powered one.”

The dominant models of intensive agriculture and the global food trade depend on vast
inputs of oil. In a post peak oil world, the combination of higher transport costs, climate
change and increased conflict will necessitate us all relying far more on re-localised food
supplies. Even though it requires far lower amounts of oil, organic farming is not exempt
from the need to adapt.

How Will Climate Change Affect Food Supply?

Lester Brown says "Recent research at the International Rice Research Institute looking
at the precise relationship between temperature and crop yields indicates that each 1°C
rise in temperature above the optimum during the growing season leads to a 10 percent
decline in grain yields—wheat, rice, and corn. Those results have been confirmed by crop
ecologists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Falling water tables and rising
temperatures are two of the key reasons why the world grain harvest has not increased at
all over the last eight years". “Within the next few years, rising food prices may be the
first global economic indicator to signal serious trouble in the relationship between us
now, 6.3 billion, and the Earth's natural systems and resources on which we depend”

And, he adds, there is an 'even more troubling limit - the physiological capacity of
existing crop varieties to use fertilizer'. As more and more artificial nutrients are added, a
law of diminishing returns sets in until they fail to bring any meaningful rise in
production. This is the 'principal explanation' for the recent stagnation in yields.

An internet site that promotes environmental vegetarianism says "An average 25000 litres
of water are needed to produce 1 kg of beef. For 1 kg tomatoes 290 litres are needed and
for 1kg soya beans 4800 litres. It is worth noting that soya beans contain more protein
than beef."
How Will Climate Change Affect Electricity Production?
Mother nature’s self-regulating system is already directly reducing the supply of
electricity through coal by reducing the water supply available for cooling the power
stations in some parts of Australia. It seems our planet is trying to scale back our energy
and resource hungry economy and it should be seen as a wake-up call to humanity. This
may be the last warning before we reach a tipping point, if it has not been reached
already. “The Revenge of Gaia” that James Lovelock speaks about is close ahead. It may
require a radical change in the whole way our society is politically and economically

Rio Tinto will cut 160 contractor and employee jobs at the mine over the next two
months. If irrigators were to be cut off from water supplies after June 30 it would be
economically devastating to the 50,000 farmers in the basin, who accounts for about 41%
of Australia’s agricultural output, 90% of the country’s irrigated crops and $22 billion
worth of agricultural exports. The resulting cutback in crops for domestic supply would
cause massive direct and indirect job losses in the basin’s towns and in the country’s
food-processing industries, and a possible four-fold increase in retail food prices across

Coal and hydro power generation require very large amounts of water, and the Snowy
scheme depends on it for 86 per cent of its generation capacity. The head of the CSIRO's
Australian climate change science program, Paul Holper, said: "Lack of water could
become a problem for power generation. "You've got to find a supply of water to set aside
for power generation, but there is already a shortage of water for agriculture. So this is
going to become more of a problem."
The stock market has already sent an alarm signal. The price of electricity futures has
almost doubled so far this year.
In January the price of a megawatt hour for delivery to NSW in 2008 was $38. This week
the price rose to just over $72, a 90 per cent rise in less than five months. The electricity
price in Queensland has more than doubled. The volume of trading in electricity futures
has roughly quadrupled this year.
According to a market assessment from the Sydney Futures Exchange, it ranks as one of
the biggest commodity price increases ever seen, and is not driven by market speculation
but is caused by the convergence of several negative trends, dominated by the water

Greenpeace energy campaigner Mark Wakeham said the five power stations in the
Latrobe Valley used the equivalent of almost a third of Melbourne's total water use.
"This week it was reported that three Latrobe Valley coal-fired power stations — Loy
Yang A, Loy Yang B and Yallourn — are using 96.5 billion litres of water a year at a
subsidised cost," he said. "The decision to invest Victorians' money in a new coal-fired
power station, which will fuel climate change, was a bad one but is one that can be
reversed given that no approvals have been granted and no contracts signed."
The calls come after Rio Tinto said this week that water shortages meant it would have to
halve production of coal-fired energy and cut 160 jobs at its Tarong mine in Queensland.

NSW Greens MP John Kaye said the NSW Government should abandon any idea of
building another coal-fired power station, after it last week commissioned an inquiry into
the construction of a new plant. "NSW and the eastern seaboard of Australia faces
brownouts, largely because many of the state's coal-fired power stations are running out
of water," he said. "Building another coal burner would only increase our vulnerability to
droughts and increase the risk of electricity brownouts because of water shortages."
Some energy experts believe NSW will face power brownouts next year, because its main
emergency generator, the water-powered turbines of the Snowy Hydro, may have to sit
idle as dams drop to record lows.
The NSW Government is apparently contemplating how it can guarantee baseload
capacity, without privatising the rest of the electricity industry.
Dr Kaye said renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency would continue to
operate through droughts and reduce the risks of brownouts. Wind generation, solar
photo-voltaic panels and energy efficiency took almost no water to operate while hot
rocks geothermal, biomass and solar thermal used some but could be designed to be less
thirsty than coal, he said.
Greens leader Bob Brown said 30 per cent of the eastern seaboard's energy need could be
met with better efficiencies and renewable energies that didn't need water.
"What we are seeing here is that the very core of the climate change problem, burning
coal, is now being hit itself by climate change," Senator Brown said.,20867,21758983-31037,00.html

Nuclear power engineer Professor John Price of Monash University in Melbourne says
"gigantic" amounts of water are required to cool a nuclear power station.
"I'm talking about tonnes per second," says Price, who has designed nuclear power
stations in the UK. According to the taskforce, headed by nuclear physicist Dr Ziggy
Switkowski, nuclear power plants are less efficient than coal-fired plants and thus require
more cooling. One estimate, from a recent report to the Queensland government, suggests
a 1400 megawatt nuclear power station would use around 25 gigalitres of water a year.
This is about 1.26 times the water used by an equivalent coal-fired power station, says the
report by Dr Ian Rose of Roam Consulting, a Queensland-based company with expertise
in energy modelling.

Senator Brown states that both the Howard Coalition nor Rudd Labor will tackle our
biggest cause of climate change – burning coal. Both the parties support burning more,
not less. “This is an extreme position considering the massive economic and
environmental crisis the world is facing. The nation should rapidly transform to being the
world’s largest exporter of solar power technology, other renewable energy options and
energy efficiency technology – creating thousands of jobs and a multi-billion dollar
export income in tandem with the replacement of coal,” Senator Brown said.
“Australia can no longer put its head in the sand. Even if we do nothing to phase out coal
exports, our customers will. The Europeans are already talking about sanctions and
restrictions on coal imports. The issue is not just what we think the future of coal is, but
what our customers think the future is. Business in Europe is not going to accept the
Australian government freeloading with coal,” Senator Brown said.

The MIT report into the future of coal clearly outlines the size of the problem. It says
fossil fuel sources today account for 80 per cent of world energy demand, with coal
representing 25 per cent, gas 21 per cent, petroleum 34 per cent and nuclear power 6.5
per cent. Only 0.4 per cent is met by renewable sources of energy such as geothermal,
solar and wind.,20867,21476590-7583,00.html

In the end, we'll see that renewable energies will be cheaper, easier and faster to
implement and with less risk. We are now wasting precious time by assuming that the
concept of "clean coal" will allow us to continue business as usual.
Is The Planetary Situation Urgent?
Ross Gelbspan, a 30-year-journalist, is author of The Heat Is On (1998) and Boiling Point
(2004), believes so. He explains, “Planetary changes which were supposed to occur
toward the end of the century, according to scientific computer models, are actually
happening today. Dr. Paul Epstein, a leading climate researcher at Harvard Medical
School, citing the rapid intensification of storms around the world, said: "We are seeing
[storm] impacts today that were previously projected to occur in 2080." Other examples

* The Greenland ice sheet, one of the largest glaciers on the planet, is melting from above
and losing its stability as meltwater from the surface trickles down and lubricates the
bedrock on which the ice sheet sits. Should that ice sheet slide into the ocean, it would
raise sea levels on the order of 20 feet. The rate of sea level rise has already doubled in
the last decade as a result of melting glaciers and the thermal expansion of warming

* The proportion of severely destructive hurricanes that have reached category 4 and 5
intensity has doubled in the past thirty years, fueled by rising surface water temperatures.

* Oceans are becoming acidified from the fallout of our fossil fuel emissions. The ph
level of the world's oceans has changed more in the last 100 years than it did in the
previous 10,000 years.

Those troubling signals are made all the more disturbing by the fact that climate change
does not necessarily follow a linear, incremental trajectory. As the climate system crosses
invisible thresholds, it is capable of large-scale, unpredictable leaps.

"[T]here are tipping points out there that could be passed before we're halfway through
the century," said Tim Lenton, an earth systems modeller at Britain's University of East

That reality is compounded by the fact that carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas,
stays in the atmosphere for at least 100 years. Some of the impacts that are surfacing
today were likely triggered by carbon emitted in the 1980s, before the recent burst of
carbon-powered development in China, India, Mexico, Nigeria and other developing

And then there is the problem of "feedback loops," which means that small changes
caused by warming can trigger other much larger changes.

For example, the Siberian and Alaskan tundras, which for centuries absorbed carbon
dioxide and methane, are now thawing and releasing those gases back into the
atmosphere. A rapid release of greenhouse gases from these regions could trigger a spike
in warming.

Scientists recently detected a weakening of the flow of ocean currents in the Atlantic
basin because of an infusion of freshwater from melting sea ice and glaciers. At a certain
point, they say, the change in salinity and water density could change the direction of
ocean currents, leading to much more bitter and severe winters in northern Europe and
North America.
James Lovelock, 84-year-old scientific originator of the Gaia Hypothesis says that
because of human interference, Earth can no longer maintain the homeostasis resulting
from the counterbalancing of chemistries exuded by all life-forms:
“What makes global warming so serious and so urgent is that the great Earth system,
Gaia, is trapped in a vicious circle of positive feedback. Extra heat from any source,
whether from greenhouse gases, the disappearance of Arctic ice or the Amazon forest, is
amplified, and its effects are more than additive. It is almost as if we had lit a fire to keep
warm, and failed to notice, as we piled on fuel, that the fire was out of control and the
furniture had ignited. When that happens, little time is left to put out the fire before it
consumes the house. Global warming, like a fire, is accelerating and almost no time is left
to act. “We do not have 50 years; the Earth is already so disabled by the insidious poison
of greenhouse gases that even if we stop all fossil fuel burning immediately, the
consequences of what we have already done will last for 1,000 years. Every year that we
continue burning carbon makes it worse for our descendants and for civilization.”

Can We Believe Climate Skeptics?

George Monbiot, who has received the United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding
environmental achievement, explains that "Climate change denial has gone through four
stages. First the fossil fuel lobbyists told us that global warming was a myth. Then they
agreed that it was happening, but insisted it was a good thing: we could grow wine in the
Pennines and take Mediterranean holidays in Skegness. Then they admitted that the bad
effects outweighed the good ones, but claimed that it would cost more to tackle than to
tolerate. Now they have reached stage 4. They concede that it would be cheaper to
address than to neglect, but maintain that it's now too late. This is their most persuasive

Monbiot says we must be extremely wary of the groups and self-appointed experts
campaigning against “risk-aversion” or “compensation culture” or “junk science” or
“eco-fascism”. The chances are that someone is paying them to do it.

In and interview with Time, James Hansen said of climate deniers “Incredibly, there are
still staunch deniers who would prefer to listen to a science fiction writer [Michael
Crichton, author of "State of Fear," which challenges global warming science] rather than
a real scientist. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the strongest deniers among the
politicians have connections to the fossil fuel industry.”,9171,1176828,00.html

It is true that you can find lines of evidence which appear to support global warming
critics and, in most cases, professors who will speak up in their favour. But this does not
mean that any of them are correct. You can sustain a belief in these propositions only by
ignoring the overwhelming body of data and science.

"Climate sceptics in Australia function to promulgate these essentially dodgy kinds of

studies. And I don't think that is too strong language to say they are dodgy," says Dr
James Risbey, a climatologist at Monash University's School of Mathematical Sciences.
What TV Channels May Show Documentaries With
Evidence of Global Warming?
Watch PBS, Nova, Frontline, The Discovery Channel, National Geographics, and Animal
Planet. Hardly a week goes by that one of these channels does not show evidence of
global warming. Most of these programs are not even about global warming, but the
evidence is there for all to see.