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Big Climate Danger Could Arrive as Soon as 2036

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Climate change is changing. In three days we will find out how much, and how rapidly. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is meeting in Yokohama, Japan, will release the second report of its massive assessment on Sunday, March 30 EDT (March 31 in Japan). The report will weigh the impacts of climate change today and into the future, as well as how vulnerable people and places are to those impacts. A draft of the report, leaked last year, indicated that major risks such as drought, flooding, hunger, disease and stunted economic growth would begin sooner than previously estimated.

The IPCC won’t necessarily tell us when, exactly, we will cross the line into major trouble. But I’ll have an answer to that in a moment.

A lot is riding on this meeting because it marks a clear change in strategy for the IPCC. Despite increasingly dire warnings it has issued for 24 years, various polls show that as many as half of Americans still are not sure that the science is certain. So the hundreds of scientists from around the world who are involved in this report will present the ongoing findings in terms of risks, rather than data and error bars. The spread ranges from risks that are highly likely but may have modest implications, to those that may be unlikely but have severe consequences, such as runaway melting of Greenland, which could raise sea levels dramatically.

The report will also present a variety of possible solutions, such as better disaster planning, the breeding of drought-resistant crops and technologies that can save energy.

Talking about risk and how to lessen it is also a strong attempt by the IPCC to put climate-change denial to rest. The IPCC is no longer focusing on defending the science; it is moving on, trying to advise cities, states and countries about the regional risks that will confront them, and what can be done.

Another major report released last week by the American Association for the Advancement of Science upholds this strategy, as well as the expected IPCC findings. AAAS billed the report, called What We Know, as an initiative to increase dialogue on the risks of climate change. Rather than needlessly arguing over the science, “We can debate the policies,” said James McCarthy, an oceanographer at Harvard University and co-chairman of the report. “And that’s the debate we should be having.”

Policies are needed soon because the new IPCC report is expected to show that climate change impacts are happening on every continent, that people in all nations are vulnerable to extreme climate events, and that if the world does not begin to act soon it will miss the chance to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius—a goal that leaders of almost 200 countries support.

What IPCC seems unlikely to say, however, is when the world will cross that two-degree line. The AAAS report does not give a date either. Part of the reason is that being so specific requires scientist to settle on just how sensitive the atmosphere is to a rising level of greenhouse gases. This level is usually expressed as a concentration of CO2, which has been mounting steadily for decades. Estimated at roughly 280 parts per million when the Industrial Revolution began, it briefly hit 400 ppm last May—the first time it reached 400 ppm since humans have been on Earth. This year it hit 400 ppm on March 12, and will linger there longer, until plants and trees grow their spring leaves and absorb some of it, bringing the number down into the 390s. The levels will continue to ratchet up annually if nations everywhere do not begin to reduce CO2 emissions.

As CO2 levels rise, so does the average global temperature. It has already risen 0.8 degrees C since pre-industrial times. But when will it cross the 2-degree-C threshold, if nations do not change? The answer comes from Michael Mann, and it’s very soon: 2036.

Mann, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, was a key contributor to the third IPCC assessment in 2001 (the latest is the IPCC’s fifth, since 1990). That work resulted in the so-called hockey stick: a curve that shows a global average temperature that is roughly steady for 1,000 years but then turns abruptly upward in recent times. Mann is not involved the current IPCC assessment. But he knows the numbers from the latest science that IPCC is using, so he did some calculations and published them in the current issue of Scientific American.

Mann first settled on the two most likely numbers for the “equilibrium climate sensitivity.” ECS is a common measure of the heating effect of greenhouse gases. He then plugged those ECS values into the so-called energy balance model, which scientists use to investigate possible climate scenarios.

The model showed that if the world continues to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, the planet will cross the dangerous warming threshold of 2 degrees C in 2036, only 22 years from now, when using the higher sensitivity number, which Mann thinks is most realistic. When he entered the lower ECS value—very conservative, in his view—the world crossed the threshold in 2046, just 10 years later (see the graph above). The truly tough news revealed by these and further calculations is that to reliably avoid 2 degrees C of warming, the world should hold CO2 levels below 405 ppm, barely above where they are now.

You can see his numbers, graphs and conclusions. And you can even do the calculations yourself, if you like.

Mann’s projections are probably bolder than what we will hear from the IPCC, because he doesn’t have to get scores of nations to settle on wording for a report. But the IPCC and AAAS have the same message as he does: nations everywhere will have to act fast if they want the planet to stay below the danger threshold. IPCC will reveal its language on Sunday night. Scientific American will be reporting it, so stay tuned.

Mark Fischetti About the Author: Mark Fischetti is a senior editor at Scientific American who covers energy, environment and sustainability issues. Follow on Twitter @markfischetti.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Notsisko 9:19 am 03/27/2014

    Many scientists have questioned the processes used and conclusions of Mann. There is little support by scientists of Mann’s 2036 prediction. Many things “could happen”. Is it really likely and can we have a reasonable probability of positively changing the outcome?

    Isn’t it true that CO2 levels will rise for decades regardless of US actions? Isn’t it true that there has been no evidence of a increase in the rate of sea level rise for over 21 years?

    Link to this
  2. 2. Jürgen Hubert 9:23 am 03/27/2014

    “Many scientists have questioned the processes used and conclusions of Mann.”

    Of these, how many were climatologists and thus have the expertise to judge his work?

    Link to this
  3. 3. geojellyroll 10:40 am 03/27/2014

    This is no longer science but agenda driven theology.

    Link to this
  4. 4. tuned 10:51 am 03/27/2014

    The only reason anyone rejects the obvious dire pollution problems any more is simple and old as the hills.
    The inertia of the status quo is always its’ ultimate downfall.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Notsisko 11:07 am 03/27/2014

    “Of these, how many were climatologists and thus have the expertise to judge his work?”

    Very many climate scientists have problems with Mann’s processes and conclusions. Do you deny that?

    Link to this
  6. 6. Jürgen Hubert 11:14 am 03/27/2014

    “Very many climate scientists have problems with Mann’s processes and conclusions. Do you deny that?”

    Give us a list.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Notsisko 11:19 am 03/27/2014

    It is most telling that Mark Fischetti and the editors of SA delete scientific comments that differ from the propaganda that they publish. They allow comments from alarmist believers to disparage those that point out the truth about the AGW.

    The truth is:
    Humans do impact the climate.

    The rate of warming is and will be far less than alarmists have feared and there is no current scientific consensus on the rate of wrming associated with more CO2.

    There is no scientific consensus regarding the net positive vs negative impacts of AGW. Some place/nations will benefit while others are harmed.

    The largest potential harm from AGW is an increase in the rate of sea level rise and there has been no change in the rate of sea level rise since there has been reasonably reliable means of measurements (over 21 years)

    There is no reliable information to conclude that “climate mitigation actions” taken today will have any noticeable positive impact on the future weather.

    Mark Fischetti –is this another comment you will choose to cut???

    Was does it mean when a publication is afraid of opposing views

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  8. 8. Jürgen Hubert 11:28 am 03/27/2014

    Still waiting for that list of climate scientists who have problems with Michael Mann’s work.

    Link to this
  9. 9. Notsisko 11:32 am 03/27/2014

    Jürgen Hubert- do you deny that many climate scientists disagree with Mann’s processes and conclusions? Are you really ignorant on the issue or are you in denial? I’d guess that whatever climate scientists I reference that you would insult them as deniers. You know that Curry, Wyatt, Mosher, Pielke, Ostrov, Monckton.

    A person does not need to be a climate scientist to know that if models outputs do not match observed conditions then they should not be relied upon to form conclusions until corrected. GCMs do not have sufficient accuracy to conclude that AGW will lead to adverse conditions. Keep in denial if you want, but that is the truth of the science.

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  10. 10. tuned 11:39 am 03/27/2014

    You are an utter false face and should be removed again.

    Link to this
  11. 11. Jürgen Hubert 11:49 am 03/27/2014

    “You know that Curry, Wyatt, Mosher, Pielke, Ostrov, Monckton.”

    The only one in that list I remembered was Monckton. Who is not a climate scientist. In fact, he is a political lobbyist and as far as I can tell never had any formal scientific training at all.

    After further research, I found that Steven Mosher is a software developer/data analyst. I found one “Hilary Ostrov” commenting on Michael Mann, but could not find any kind of biography or scientific credentials.

    The other three do seem to have done some climatology-related scientific work. So that’s three out of six names you have listed – not what I would call “many”, especially such a large field as climatology.

    So if you remain convinced that “many” climate scientists have problems with Michael Mann, please provide a longer list – and one not padded with non-climatologists, let alone non-scientists this time.

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  12. 12. Notsisko 11:50 am 03/27/2014

    So you advocate the practices of SA censorship? Will you feel the same way when you or your opinions are being censored? You may disagree with my conclusions (you’d be mistaken if you did) but I am writing about the truth of the issues and it is amusing that you advocate censorship

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  13. 13. Jürgen Hubert 11:59 am 03/27/2014

    “but I am writing about the truth of the issues”

    You said “Monckton” first, which kind of disqualifies you in that regard.

    Link to this
  14. 14. Notsisko 12:06 pm 03/27/2014

    Jürgen Hubert- More denial of the truth huh? There are many who disagree with Mann’s processes and conclusions. Stop the denial

    Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan emeritus professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the National Academy of Science

    Nils-Axel Mörner, retired head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University, former chairman of the INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution (1999–2003)

    Garth Paltridge, retired chief research scientist, CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research and retired director of the Institute of the Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre
    Peter Stilbs, professor of physical chemistry at Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.

    Philip Stott, professor emeritus of biogeography at the University of London]

    Hendrik Tennekes, retired director of research, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute

    Ian Clark, hydrogeologist, professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa

    William M. Gray, professor emeritus and head of the Tropical Meteorology Project, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University

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  15. 15. Notsisko 12:09 pm 03/27/2014

    Jürgen Hubert

    Try to disagree with the science and not the person.

    Link to this
  16. 16. Notsisko 12:14 pm 03/27/2014

    Jürgen Hubert

    The fact that you recognized Monckton and not the other names is an indication that you get your science from blogs and not by reading actual science. It is silly to dismiss Monckton. Try pointing out what specifically you believe he is wrong about. Appealing to authority is a poor argument

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  17. 17. michaeldenola1 12:40 pm 03/27/2014

    It’s getting pretty lonely for people like you in the scientific community, Notsisko. You bring up Lindzen, who has been thoroughly and admittedly embarrassed on satellite data, and Grey, whose ideas about global warming have been ignored for years. Check out Tennekes, loyal lapdog of Fred Singer and if you don’t know who Fred Singer is, or was, check out Western Fuels. It’s an old story. The deniers are dying off having completed their mission, which was to run out the clock. They won, and we’ll reach the two degrees after they are dead.

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  18. 18. Notsisko 12:51 pm 03/27/2014


    The science is the science and individuals beliefs do not really matter over the long term. Jürgen Hubert wanted to play the appeal to authority game by getting me to cite “climate scientists” when the truth is many scientists and engineers in other fields have examined the issue associate with AGW.

    Perhaps you will notice I am not denying the premise of AGW. I am writing that the rate of warming associated with AGW will be lower than claimed by Mann and that we do not have reliable information to determine that the warming that does occur will be “net negative”. I am also writing that the vast majority of climate mitigation actions are a waste of limited resources since there is no evidence that they will positively influence conditions.

    What specifically do you disagree with me about?

    Link to this
  19. 19. Jürgen Hubert 1:11 pm 03/27/2014

    “the truth is many scientists and engineers in other fields have examined the issue associate with AGW.”

    Well, Monckton is neither a scientist nor an engineer, so why list _him_ as an authority?

    Link to this
  20. 20. openeyes999 1:16 pm 03/27/2014

    Agreed it’s best to move on from trying to persuade deniers. I do like there will be more focus on policy. The only thing actually shown to decrease CO2 levels so far has been fracking in the US. While it has local environmental dangers, climate change is the main danger and it definitely helps with that. I hope they also renew the call for more nuclear power as well. It’s extremely safe and creates no greenhouse gases. These are realistic mid-term solutions, not pie in the sky solar panels that won’t be cost effective for decades, or carbon taxes that have no chance of becoming law and would have little effect anyway.

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  21. 21. michaeldenola1 1:19 pm 03/27/2014

    I’m going to take a chance and guess that you spent some time denying that GW existed. Then when you conceded it did exist, you decided it wasn’t humans that did it. Then when that was unsupportable, you conceded that yes, humans are responsible. You’ll spend a while denying that it will be extreme. When it gets too extreme to ignore, you’ll be among those who will try to profit from it. How do I know this? Maybe I’m psychic. Do you really want a scientific discussion? My data say that any point I bring up will have the “appeal to authority” fallacy built in. So why bother? You are only here to support the disinformation machine.

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  22. 22. Jürgen Hubert 1:21 pm 03/27/2014

    “I hope they also renew the call for more nuclear power as well. It’s extremely safe and creates no greenhouse gases.”

    While this is certainly true, it is also true that there are many nations we don’t really trust with nuclear power – because of nuclear proliferation issues, because we don’t believe they are capable of processing the waste safely, or because we fear they will fail to operate them safely. And if a developed nation like Japan can screw up this badly, then how about Brazil? Or Nigeria? Or Iran?

    Nuclear power is a possible solution for the developed world, but it can’t be the solution for the whole world. Which is why further development of renewable power sources is so important – and the only nations capable of pushing these power sources to the limit are also the wealthy, developed ones. With some success – wind and solar production becomes more and more efficient and cheaper every year.

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  23. 23. schatzieD 2:00 pm 03/27/2014

    Hey, Notsisko – DUH. Of course, you ARE Sisko. You got the boot from this website because you are a paid shill and now you have some version of the same screen name and all of the same load of crap you’re paid to write ad infinitum.

    SA needs to DELETE each and every one of your idiotic entries. Your nonsensical, repetitive moronic views are not welcome here and you need to go the hell away once and for all, sell out.

    Link to this
  24. 24. Notsisko 2:01 pm 03/27/2014


    Your guesses are incorrect but you have the right to believe in what ever you wish. The climate has always been changing. Without reliable evidence, beliefs (such as yours) are likely to be wrong.

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  25. 25. schatzieD 2:11 pm 03/27/2014

    Notsisko/Sisko – GO AWAY. Slither away, slime bag.

    To the uninitiated, Notsisko is a paid shill. Disregard every single thing he says, because he just keeps saying it all over this website.

    Link to this
  26. 26. Hilikus 2:18 pm 03/27/2014

    “It is most telling that Mark Fischetti and the editors of SA delete scientific comments that differ from the propaganda that they publish. They allow comments from alarmist believers to disparage those that point out the truth about the AGW.”

    It shows they weed out unscientific garbage posted as science. In this instance, it can be dangerous, not only to the person spouting it, but for the people to believe it.

    “The truth is:
    Humans do impact the climate.

    The rate of warming is and will be far less than alarmists have feared and there is no current scientific consensus on the rate of wrming associated with more CO2.”

    You state something as a fact, then in the very same sentence say the people who have been educated to answer this question are unsure. On top of that, not being able to pin an exact number isn’t complete uncertainty. They are aware something bad is likely going to happen in the near future, and have a scientific consensus on this. When 1% of the scientific population is dissenting, with a large percentage of that group having traceable conflicts of interest (not the conspiracy theory of a global scientific plot), then that does not bust the consensus.

    “There is no scientific consensus regarding the net positive vs negative impacts of AGW. Some place/nations will benefit while others are harmed.”

    Even though I would consider that a stretch, I’ll give you that for arguments sake.

    “The largest potential harm from AGW is an increase in the rate of sea level rise and there has been no change in the rate of sea level rise since there has been reasonably reliable means of measurements (over 21 years)”

    No, it is not. It is a worry, but it is not the only one, and not the most dangerous. Shifting weather patterns causing crop disruption leading to starvation I would believe is slightly more worrisome.

    “There is no reliable information to conclude that “climate mitigation actions” taken today will have any noticeable positive impact on the future weather.”

    There is no question that we have done damage we have to live with for (best case) decades to come. Taking steps to reduce our damage will be something that helps considerably more in the future than it does today.

    “Mark Fischetti –is this another comment you will choose to cut???

    Was does it mean when a publication is afraid of opposing views”

    What you have presented is the equivalent of comparing a balloon to a bowling ball. On the surface, if you don’t look closely, they look kind of similar…but once you dig in just the slightest bit, you find one is solid, with facts, and data measurements, and the other is only filled with air and feelings. Do not flatter yourself thinking any of what you have stated here is deserving to be on the same level as what you are trying to refute.

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  27. 27. Notsisko 2:34 pm 03/27/2014

    Hilikus- You can believe whatever you wish but what you have written is factually incorrect.

    You wrote- “They are aware something bad is likely going to happen in the near future, and have a scientific consensus on this. When 1% of the scientific population is dissenting, with a large percentage of that group having traceable conflicts of interest (not the conspiracy theory of a global scientific plot), then that does not bust the consensus.”

    You are wrong about what there is a consensus regarding. I am a part of the consensus that concludes that more CO2 will impact global temperatures. There is not a consensus beyond that basic point. There is not a consensus that warming will be harmful overall, or that climate mitigation actions make sense. SA tries to make readers believe this but it is not true. As more and more scientists study the poor performance of the climate models upon which the analysis of harms were based, and see that these models have over forecasted warming, then they rightly conclude the “problem” was overstated. Is there ANY evidence of an increase in the rate of sea level rise in over 21 years???

    schatzieD–look at comments 12 & 15. Try to show I am incorrect on the science and not resort to personal insults.

    Why does SA cut comments from those who disagree with their editors????
    Which side in the debate is insulting to others?

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  28. 28. Hilikus 2:43 pm 03/27/2014

    Notsisko, I’m sorry I bothered to even respond. You are not interested in facts, you are not interested in debate. It is humorous that you even consider yourself part of the scientific consensus…because if there is one thing that you have made glaringly clear, you are not a scientist, climate or not…you are not even well informed. What you spout is disprovable propaganda (with time most people are not willing or able to give to a magazine message board), that you count on people not looking into.

    What you do is disgusting, and harmful to mankind. Whatever reason you have to do this, I hope it is worth it.

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  29. 29. tubesjim 2:52 pm 03/27/2014

    If you look at the records of the oldest thermometer reading’s some going back to the 1600′s one can clearly see the rate of temperature increase has been the same since records have been kept, About .7 degrees C per century. This has been going on since the little ice age. We can get 2 degrees C warmer before we reach the same temperature we had during the Medieval warm period. This is all about political power and the complete corruption of Climate science by government money.

    As for Dr. Mann his hockey stick was complete discredited years ago and he is being sued by The Energy & Environment Legal Institute with support from NPR, Associated press. Reuters, at total of 17 news organizations for not releasing documents under the Freedom of information Act. What a great Scientist.

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  30. 30. Notsisko 2:55 pm 03/27/2014


    As an engineer, I do science for a living. I do understand the science of AGW. No comment has shown any scientific argument that shows what I have written to be incorrect. I have written:
    1. The GCM’s upon which the most of conclusions of many were based that a a warmer world would be “net harmful” to humanity have been inaccurate in forecasting rising temperatures and have been ineffective in forecasting changes in rainfall patterns or ocean flows.

    2. The largest single potential harm to humans due to AGW was based on a rapid increase in the rate of sea level rise. There is not occured since we have had a reliable means of measurement aand there is no evidence that it will accelerate.

    3. There is no evidence that climate mitigation actions will have a net positive impact.

    Please, discuss these points or other science or economics respectfully, before the editors decide that they must implement there policy of propaganda and censorship

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  31. 31. Squish 3:00 pm 03/27/2014

    Notsisko: I am still waiting for your reply on reinsurance companies. The risk outlined in this article is baked into their premiums – in other words, the free market is accepting this model in a way that can’t be refuted (if they don’t account for risk the payout is more, and if they overly account then they are out-competed).

    You only mention Warren Buffet’s General Reinsurance that does not change its rates, but do not address how Gen Re is subsidized by FEMA, and how FEMA is going underwater.

    You make the mistake that only climate scientists in bed with one another forecast dire predictions, and that other scientists see things otherwise.

    If fact, a huge varied groups of scientists are with the consensus. So are all the major consulting companies. Why should that matter? Think of Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, etc. These guys not only corner the world market in auditing, they also do a huge amount of actuarial science on their data to deliver actionable insights.

    Get a pdf of KPMG’s “Expect the Unexpected” for an example. Why should we trust industry shills over non-oil selling competitive industry again?

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  32. 32. 3:05 pm 03/27/2014

    2026, just in time for a baby to be born today to be in college. What a bright future we have coming for our children!

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  33. 33. michaeldenola1 3:06 pm 03/27/2014

    Well, here is tubesjim, another paid shill. Do I remember you under some other name from the “junk science” forum? How’s ol’ Steve Milloy doin’? Tubes, whoever you are, be happy. You already won. The American public is worse-informed than ever. Well done.

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  34. 34. Notsisko 4:33 pm 03/27/2014


    I do not see your comment about insurance companies. Generally, insurance companies are in business to make money. They charge what the market will bear. Certainly no actions reducing CO2 emissions will impact the cost of insurance for people alive today

    Link to this
  35. 35. Notsisko 4:36 pm 03/27/2014


    Must anyone who disagrees with you be a “paid shill”

    How come you will not tell me where I have the science/economics wrong

    Link to this
  36. 36. SAULT18 4:45 pm 03/27/2014


    “As an engineer, I do science for a living…”

    No, you do engineering for a living, otherwise you would be a scientist. And you don’t do anything that’s anywhere close to climate science. Also, you work in a fossil fuel company, so you have an obvious conflict of interest.

    “The GCM’s upon which the most of conclusions of many were based that a a warmer world would be “net harmful” to humanity have been inaccurate…”

    Well, they’ve only been innaccurate in predicting the timing of natural, cyclic events like ENSO, the solar cycle and volcanic eruptions. Believing like you do that this makes them useless is downright silly. Expecting them to predict the unpredictable just shows that you don’t care about the facts and merely want to trumpet your ideological points. It’s almost like you’re moving the goalposts out of the stadium. Look, we’re STILL adding CO2 to the air and we’re STILL causing the Earth to accumulate more and more heat. Not only is this problem NOT slowing down but it is getting WORSE. Therefore, the man-made warming signal is only getting temporarily masked by short-term factors and it will pick up with a vengence once things turn around. If you cared to look at the bigger picture and account for the massive amount of extra heat going into the oceans, you would understand, but you only cherry-pick the data that fits your beliefs, and air temperatures are a convenient fit for the time being.

    “The largest single potential harm to humans due to AGW was based on a rapid increase in the rate of sea level rise.”

    Nope. What about ocean acidification, or increase in extreme weather event likelihood / intensity? It is obvious that you are not looking on the actual science on this issue and instead plan on showering us with useless fossil fuel company talking points.

    “There is no evidence that climate mitigation actions will have a net positive impact.”

    WOW…this is a whopper! So, you’re going all the way back to FAILING climate 101 with this statement by implicitly claiming that CO2 doesn’t trap heat. Since reducing fossil fuel consumption (the main mitigation action we can take) will lower the amount of CO2 going into the air, this will cause LESS warming. You don’t understand mass balance, or simple physics? How about the simple logic of X causes Y, so more X causes more Y. (X = CO2 and Y = warming if you don’t understand). I just don’t see how you can deny this can happen and still claim that you’re an engineer.

    In reality, EVERYTHING you say adheres PERFECTLY with the fossil fuel company party line. It’s almost like they’re paying you…oh right, they ARE!

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  37. 37. geojellyroll 4:52 pm 03/27/2014

    Climatology is now a religious practice…drink the purple Kool Ade and ‘believe’.

    Link to this
  38. 38. dneely 5:16 pm 03/27/2014


    Appealing to authority is a poor argument.

    I don’t think you understand Appeal to Authority as a fallacy, but don’t take it personally because most people who use it don’t.

    If the person you are referring to is a verified expert in the area of their statement then it’s not an Appeal to Authority. I always recommend people who try to misuse Appeal to Authority to study it at before they use it again. Might help.

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  39. 39. KevinSchmidt 5:25 pm 03/27/2014

    “Nuclear power is a possible solution for the developed world, but it can’t be the solution for the whole world.”

    It’s not a solution for anyone. To build a new nuclear power plant, even the “New and Improved!” version, would take massive amounts of corporate welfare, since they are not commercially viable, and at least ten years of wait time.

    We don’t have that kind of time, or money. For the same cost, we can install in less than three years, more than twice the generating capacity in residential solar panels.

    Solar panels are also cheaper than building new coal plants. Which is why electric utility companies in California have built over a dozen solar panel farms in the past few years.

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  40. 40. Notsisko 5:29 pm 03/27/2014

    Engineering development is science. My work has nothing to do with fossil fuel companies. I work in IR sensing systems so much of the work involves modeling and the of complex systems issues. Climate science is systems engineering in my opinion.

    You wrote in regards to GCMs- “Well, they’ve only been innaccurate in predicting the timing of natural, cyclic events like ENSO”

    You are making a conclusion regarding the reason for the model’s inaccuracy without ANY supporting data to justify the conclusion. The models were designed to forecast conditions over specific time periods. Observed conditions were compared to what the models forecasted and it was then known that the models performed poorly. You would or will only know what was wrong with the model after it is changed, and again compared with future observed conditions to see if it the assumption of what was thought to be wrong actually corrected the problem.
    I do not have ideological positions on the issue. I determine my position based on the data and what makes sense based on that data. If GCMs were performing consistently with observed conditions my position would be different on the risk of change.

    What appears to be happening is that a group forecasted a rate of temperature rise based on more CO2 going into the atmosphere. What was observed was not what they predicted, so now those same people are changing the game by claiming that even though temperatures are not increasing at the rate feared, we should still be scared because CO2 is bad and bad things will happen later if we do not emit less.
    What about the good that is coming by these new CO2 emissions? What about the people who would not get electricity if a generator did not emit CO2? You claim harms that you have no evidence to justify such as an overall increase in extreme weather events.

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  41. 41. tubesjim 5:34 pm 03/27/2014

    I wish I was a paid Shill. I don’t think there is anyone paid by big oil to waste their time on these forums. I look at real world Climate history and have reached the conclusion that Nature controls the climate as it always has and a mostly beneficial gas CO2, has never controlled the climate.

    Link to this
  42. 42. Crasher 6:24 pm 03/27/2014

    Now that the vested interest debate over the science of climate change is dying the death it deserves it is time for science to move on. We must now harness science to come up with ways to start mitigating the damage and learning to live with the changes that are starting to happen. The sooner we start the easier and less expensive it will be. The science is the same…the debate has moved on.

    Link to this
  43. 43. Daniel Ferra 6:38 pm 03/27/2014

    We need sustainable energy policies, Ban Fracking and implement a California Residential Feed in Tariff.

    Roof top Solar is the new mantra for Solar Leasing Companies with Net-Metering which allows them to replace One Utility with Another, we need to change this policy with a Residential Feed in Tariff that will level the playing field and allow all of us to participate in the State mandated 33% Renewable Energy by 2020.

    Alliance for Solar Choice is a group of Solar Leasing Companies that with Net-Metering enable One Utility to Replace Another SLC, Why should a Hard Working, Tax Paying, Voting, Home Owning Citizen not be able to participate in the State mandated 33% Renewable Energy by 2020 ? We need a Ca. Residential Feed in Tariff and a National One.

    The Utilities, The Big Boys (Solar Farms in the Desert) and Third party Leasing Companies all fight over the Renewable Portfolio Standards, allocating a percentage of the electrical generation to Renewable Energy for the State, No one is Fighting for the Hard Working, Tax Paying, Voting, Home Owner. We can change that.

    Globally we are emitting 40-44 Billion tons of Green House Gases annually, in the United States we emit over 7,075.6 million tons a year, here in California we emit 446 million tons of Carbon Dioxide a year, 1,222,000 Toxic Tons a Day.

    “Tell the California Public Utility Commission: No new dirty gas plants!
    Every year, more than 70,000 California kids are rushed to the hospital because they can’t breathe, due to air pollution in Calfiornia.

    Unfortunately the Governor and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) are considering huge new gas-fired power plants to replace the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Dirty gas plants will make our Air, Water and Soil, worse and just aren’t needed.

    We can’t sit by and let our Air, Water, and Soil, get dirtier and our kids even sicker, when we’ve got cheaper, cleaner, safer options like Renewable Energy.” Sierra Club.

    California, there is enough Residential Solar to power 2.25 San Onofres, couple that with a Residential and Commercial Feed in Tariff and we can solve some of these environmental and electrical generating problems.

    The Southwest is in the midst of a record drought, some 14 years in the making, which means the water supply for many Western states – California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada – is drying up. Last month the Bureau of Reclamation announced they’re cutting the flow of water into Lake Mead, which has already lost 100 feet of water since the drought began.

    What happens if the Southwest drought does not end soon ?

    Will we keep using 3 to 6 million gallons of Clean Water per Fracked well, to extract natural gas ?

    This petition will ask the California Regulators and Law makers to allocate Renewable Portfolio Standards to Ca. Home Owners for a Residential Feed in Tariff, the RPS is the allocation method that is used to set aside a certain percentage of electrical generation for Renewable Energy in the the State.

    The State of California has mandated that 33% of its Energy come from Renewable Energy by 2020.

    The state currently produces about 71% of the electricity it consumes, while it imports 8% from the Pacific Northwest and 21% from the Southwest.

    This is how we generate our electricity in 2011, natural gas was burned to make 45.3% of electrical power generated in-state. Nuclear power from Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County accounted for 9.15%, large hydropower 18.3%, Renewable 16.6% and coal 1.6%.

    There is 9% missing from San Onofre and with the current South Western drought, how long before the 18.3% hydro will be effected ?

    Another generator of power that jumps out is natural gas, 45.3%, that is a lot of Fracked Wells poisoning our ground water, 3 to 6 million gallons of water are used per well.

    If Fracking is safe why did Vice Pres Cheney lobby and win Executive, Congressional, and Judicial exemptions from:

    Clean Water Act.

    Safe Drinking Water.

    Act Clean Air Act.

    Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

    Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act.

    National Environmental Policy Act.

    “Americans should not have to accept unsafe drinking water just because natural gas is cheaper than Coal. the Industry has used its political power to escape accountability, leaving the American people unprotected, and no Industry can claim to be part of the solution if it supports exemptions from the basic Laws designed to ensure that we have Clean Water and Clean Air” Natural Resources Defense Council.

    We have to change how we generate our electricity, with are current drought conditions and using our pure clean water for Fracking, there has to be a better way to generate electricity, and there is, a proven stimulating policy.

    The Feed in Tariff is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in Renewable Energy, the California FiT allows eligible customers generators to enter into 10- 15- 20- year contracts with their utility company to sell the electricity produced by renewable energy, and guarantees that anyone who generates electricity from R E source, whether Homeowner, small business, or large utility, is able to sell that electricity. It is mandated by the State to produce 33% R E by 2020.
    FIT policies can be implemented to support all renewable technologies including:


    Photovoltaics (PV)

    Solar thermal




    Fuel cells

    Tidal and wave power.

    There is currently 3 utilities using a Commercial Feed in Tariff in California Counties, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, and Sacramento, are paying their businesses 17 cents per kilowatt hour for the Renewable Energy they generate. We can get our Law makers and Regulators to implement a Residential Feed in Tariff, to help us weather Global Warming, insulate our communities from grid failures, generate a fair revenue stream for the Homeowners and protect our Water.

    The 17 cents per kilowatt hour allows the Commercial Business owner and the Utility to make a profit.

    Commercial Ca. rates are 17 – 24 cents per kilowatt hour.

    Implementing a Residential Feed in Tariff at 13 cents per kilowatt hour for the first 2,300 MW, and then allow no more than 3-5 cents reduction in kilowatt per hour, for the first tier Residential rate in you area and for the remaining capacity of Residential Solar, there is a built in Fee for the Utility for using the Grid. A game changer for the Hard Working, Voting, Tax Paying, Home Owner and a Fair Profit for The Utility, a win for our Children, Utilities, and Our Planet.

    We also need to change a current law, California law does not allow Homeowners to oversize their Renewable Energy systems.

    Campaign to allow Californian residents to sell electricity obtained by renewable energy for a fair pro-business market price. Will you read, sign, and share this petition?

    Do not exchange One Utility for Another (Solar Leasing Companies) “Solar is absolutely great as long as you stay away from leases and PPAs. Prices for solar have dropped so dramatically in the past year, that leasing a solar system makes absolutely no sense in today’s market.

    The typical household system is rated at about 4.75 kW. After subtracting the 30% federal tax credit, the cost would be $9,642 to own this system. The typical cost to lease that same 4.75 kW system would be $35,205 once you totaled up the 20 years worth of lease payments and the 30% federal tax credit that you’ll have to forfeit when you lease a system. $9,642 to own or $35,205 to lease. Which would you rather choose?

    If you need $0 down financing then there are much better options than a lease or PPA. FHA is offering through participating lenders, a $0 down solar loan with tax deductible interest and only a 650 credit score to qualify. Property Assessed Clean Energy loans are available throughout the state that require no FICO score checks, with tax deductible interest that allow you to make your payments through your property tax bill with no payment due until November 2014. Both of these programs allow you to keep the 30% federal tax credit as well as any applicable cash rebate. With a lease or PPA you’ll have to forfeit the 30% tax credit and any cash rebate, and lease or PPA payments are not tax deductible.

    Solar leases and PPA served their purpose two years ago when no other viable form of financing was available, but today solar leases and PPAs are two of the most expensive ways to keep a solar system on your roof.” Ray Boggs.

    Link to this
  44. 44. KevinSchmidt 7:08 pm 03/27/2014

    When Michael Mann chose a career in science, he didn’t think that he would be denounced on billboards, grilled by hostile legislators on Capitol Hill and in the British House of Commons, have his emails hacked and stolen, receive letters laced with an anthrax-like white powder, and become the target of anonymous death threats.

    Mann, who currently directs Penn State University’s Earth System Science Center, is one of the authors of the so-called “hockey stick graph”, which Al Gore used in his film, An Inconvenient Truth, to illustrate the precipitous rise in global temperatures since the dawn of industrialization when humans started spewing the heat-trapping greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere. For the “sin” of helping to create this “exhibit A” in the scientific case for climate change, the conservative semimonthly, the National Review, called Mann “the Jerry Sandusky of climate scientists”. Blogger Rand Simberg wrote on the Review’s online site:

    Except that instead of molesting children, [Mann] has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.

    The Penn State researcher didn’t take this insult lying down. He sued the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which also published the offending blog; the case is currently pending.

    Mann is also challenging the American Traditions Institute (ATI) in court – they’ve recently changed their name to the innocuous-sounding Energy & Environment Legal Institute. This group, funded over the years by entities controlled by the Koch brothers and an assortment of big energy corporations like Exxon Mobil, is the one that wants Mann’s emails. They say that they are entitled to this information under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (VFoia), which gives media and citizen’s groups access to the documents of public employees. (Until 2005, Mann worked at the University of Virginia.)

    ATI claims that they are just defending good science. But their view of science is an odd one. The group was instrumental in preventing North Carolina from using data on sea-level rise in planning their decision making. They are also going after climate researchers in Texas and Arizona and at Nasa. Why are they so interested in getting their hands on the private correspondence of these academics?

    ATI’s counsel, David Schnare explained in an email:

    These emails represent a period of time when the science upon which major national and international policies have been based was being done. In light of the extremely important public policy issues that these emails informed, the public has a right to know what these government employees were doing and how they were doing it.

    Freedom of Information (Foia) laws, like the one being used by Schnare’s group, were enacted at the federal level and also in many states to help insure transparency and accountability in government. They have proved invaluable tools for journalists and public interest organizations seeking to uncover information that some in government would prefer to hide. But applying these so called “sunshine laws” to academics at state-run academic institutions is something new.

    It’s a dangerous precedent, says Peter Fontaine, an environmental lawyer who began his career at the EPA and is one of the founders of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. Fontaine, who is representing Mann before the Virginia Supreme Court, believes that ATI is on a fishing expedition for anything they can find to embarrass Mann and cast doubt on the validity of his work. They’ve hijacked laws aimed at transparency, he told me, in order to intimidate scientists who are engaged in controversial research – a move calculated to have a chilling effect on the free and open sharing amongst colleagues which is essential in the scientific process.

    Fontaine cites the Climate-gate scandal in 2009 in which a server at the University of East Anglia in the UK was hacked into and the emails of leading climate researchers from around the world (including those of Michael Mann) were released on the internet. These emails – snippets of which were published out of context by denialist groups – were used, cynically Fontaine says, to undermine public confidence in climate science and those engaged in it.

    “I was just appalled by the witch hunt which ensued after that,” he told me in our interview. Fontaine contacted Mann and asked him if he needed any help – an offer which the climate scientist took him up on, resulting in today’s litigation.

    Mann and his lawyer have some powerful allies in their current fight. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has filed a friend of the court brief on their behalf, as have the University of Virginia, the American Association of University Professors.

    NAS President Ralph Cicerone wrote me in an email:

    This is an issue of academic freedom for researchers and their universities. Broad requests for vast amounts of data and records are draconian and expensive. They add extra burdens, especially at US public universities. Over time, they would act to chill inquiry and stifle scientific progress.

    Michael Halpern of the public interest group, the Union of Concerned Scientists agrees, saying that the email demand is the 21st Century equivalent to eavesdropping on conversations around the water cooler. However, a scientist’s right to privacy, Halpern admits, is not absolute. The science itself – the final data and research methods – needs to be fully disclosed, he says. But the scientist’s private email correspondence should remain just that: private.

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  45. 45. KevinSchmidt 7:21 pm 03/27/2014

    tubesjim whines:
    “I wish I was a paid Shill. I don’t think there is anyone paid by big oil to waste their time on these forums. I look at real world Climate history and have reached the conclusion that Nature controls the climate as it always has and a mostly beneficial gas CO2, has never controlled the climate.”

    An enhanced greenhouse effect from CO2 has been confirmed by multiple lines of empirical evidence. Satellite measurements of infrared spectra over the past 40 years observe less energy escaping to space at the wavelengths associated with CO2. Surface measurements find more downward infrared radiation warming the planet’s surface. This provides a direct, empirical causal link between CO2 and global warming.

    Link to this
  46. 46. KevinSchmidt 7:27 pm 03/27/2014

    It has been found that excess CO2 can make certain agricultural plants less nutritious for human and animal consumption. Zhu 2005, a three-year FACE study, concluded that a 10% decrease in the protein content of rice is expected at 550 ppm, with decreases in iron and zinc contents also found. Similarly, Högy et al. 2009, also a FACE study at 550 ppm, found a 7% drop in protein content for wheat, along with decreased amino acid and iron content. Somewhat ironically, this reduction in nutrient content is partially caused by the very increase in growth rates that CO2 encourages in C3 plants, since rapid growth leaves less time for nutrient accumulation.

    Increased CO2 has been shown to lead to lower production of certain chemical defense mechanisms in soybeans, making them more vulnerable to pest attack and diseases (Zavala et al. 2008 and Eastburn et al. 2010). Other studies (e.g. Peñuelas and Estiarte 1999) have shown production of phenolics and tannins to increase under enhanced CO2 in some species, as well as many alkaloids (Ziska et al. 2005), all of which may have potential consequences on the health of primary consumers. The decreased nutritional value in combination with increased tannin and phenolic production has been linked to decreased growth rate and conversion efficiency of some herbivores, as well as an increase in their relative demand and consumption of plants (Stiling and Cornelissen 2007).

    Furthermore, many “cyanogenic” species—plants which naturally produce cyanide, and which include 60% of all known plant species—have been found to increase their cyanide production in an enhanced CO2 world. This may have a benefit to the plants who use cyanide to inhibit overconsumption by pests and animals, but it may in turn reduce their safety as a food supply for both humans and animals (Gleadow et al., 2009a and Gleadow et al. 2009b).

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  47. 47. michaeldenola1 8:52 pm 03/27/2014

    I am disappointed. If you’re not being paid then you’re even more pathetic than I thought you were. Yes I’m full of “ad hominem” bile. I’m absolutely livid that public opinion has been deliberately manipulated by vested interests. I’m furious that the planet I used to recognize as home has been is turning into some reflection of itself in a funhouse mirror. I do so wish you were being paid because at least you’d be a worthy target for my rage over this tragedy. But you’re not a shill, just another stooge. I have fantasies that you and all the other stooges and shills will wake up when the next El Nino hits (remember ’98?, warmest year ever?) and experience a slight shred of self doubt. More than that, though, what you may not understand is my wishful thinking that the entire science community is wrong and I can go peacefully back to sleep. I really want to be wrong. But you so dearly want to be right.

    Link to this
  48. 48. DanPangburn 8:57 pm 03/27/2014

    It will be interesting to follow the discussions as it becomes obvious that 2014 is going to be cooler than 2013.

    Link to this
  49. 49. Jerrold Alpern 9:59 pm 03/27/2014

    Could we please have some facts here? Would everyone please read, in full, “Climate Change: Evidence and Causes” , ?
    It is a joint publication of the Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences, the foremost scientific organizations in the U.K. and the U.S. respectively. It makes clear that AGW is both real and an immediate, imminent threat to the world as we now know it. If you disagree with it, then you must necessarily hold yourself more knowledgeable and well-informed than the aforementioned two organizations. You can only do so by citing a tiny, tiny few non-climate scientist outliers such as Lord Monckton. If you then continue to do so, you have utterly destroyed your own credibility in this debate. This is not censorship, this is the direct consequence of your own beliefs, statements, lack of credible evidence and wilful disregard of multiple lines of supporting data contradicting your point of view at every possible level.

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  50. 50. insearchofscience 12:00 am 03/28/2014

    Based on long term cycles it seems like we may be exiting the ice age that began ~3M years ago. This appears to be a fairly regular and natural cycle based on what I’ve seen. Best quick chart I’ve seen is via wikipedia:

    I’m a big proponent of large scale distributed solar power and wind farms, where viable (less hydro given ecosystem damage). And, I definitely think we’re not helping matters by abusing fossil fuels, but I do wonder how much we can influence what I see as a natural trend toward an interglacial period through reductions in emissions.

    My guess (and it’s really just an educated guess at this point) is that regardless of what we do from an emissions perspective we need to consider that we’re moving away from cooler weather, what the consequences of said move will be, and how best to secure our global society from the negative impacts that result.

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  51. 51. sofistek 12:33 am 03/28/2014

    Tubesjim, my guess is that you read a science paper last year about a rebound from an ice age being the “reason” for warming. Did it happen to mention the cause of the warming? There has to be a cause, right?

    As for the hockey stick. This is classic denier tactics. No matter whether an argument has been thoroughly debunked (in this case many other studies, including one funded by deniers, validated the hockey stick), the deniers continue to use that argument. We know that denier are allowed to lie whilst those wanting to present the scientific case have to stick to what the science shows. That’s why the deniers are winning, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence. The only slight consolation is that they too will suffer as a result and realise just what damage they have done.

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  52. 52. karlchwe 1:08 am 03/28/2014

    What does the 2 degree C threshold mean practically? What does it mean for crops, shorelines, industries, and all of that? I wish this article at least had a link to something talking about why that threshold is so significant.

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  53. 53. 2:53 pm 03/28/2014

    The article stated that half of Americans are not convinced that global warming exists, and 45% of Americans do not believe in Evolution, so this won’t change.

    Link to this
  54. 54. Cramer 5:56 pm 03/28/2014

    Michael Mann made two small errors in his MATLAB code:

    ERROR #1:
    Mann screwed up his interpolation algorithm in his “highres” EBM iterative process. He attempts to create a 1/10 sub-annual time series from the original annual time series (creating 12510 data points from 1251). The new longer time series should have ten data points per year. However, in Mann’s algorithm, the first year has only 9 data points and the last year has 11 data points. He then calculates annual surface temperatures by averaging the ten temperatures from each year. This calculation is effectively offset by 1/10 of a year (i.e. averaging 9 temperatures from one year with 1 temperature from the next).

    This is noticeable because the value of the total radiative forcing should be the same for all ten data points each year. Here are the forcings for the first year (AD 850) as calculate in Mann’s algorithm:

    1 850.1 239.7
    2 850.2 239.7
    3 850.3 239.7
    4 850.4 239.7
    5 850.5 239.7
    6 850.6 239.7
    7 850.7 239.7
    8 850.8 239.7
    9 850.9 239.7
    10 851.0 238.4

    The last value should also be 239.7 (same as previous 9 values), not 238.4.

    To correct this, line 59 of EBM.m should be changed from




    Another unrelated logical error is on line 62 (but has zero consequence): Line 62 should be changed from




    [Mann is adding values that are already in the dataset.]

    ERROR #2:

    Mann accidentally sets the last volcanic forcing value (from year 1999) to zero. Line 61 in getforcings.m should be changed from




    These errors do not change the year 2036 for crossing the 2 C threshold, but change the output enough that caused me grief when I attempted to reproduce Mann’s results. Here’s the EBM temperature anomaly for year 2036:

    2.0131629 (w/ Mann’s errors)
    2.0109676 (corrected)

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  55. 55. Peter Sommerville 1:25 am 03/29/2014

    What fascinates me is the headline:
    “Big Climate Danger Could Arrive as Soon as 2036″

    I just love the precision. Given that Climate Models have been clearly demonstrated to lack precision, and sometimes to be even downright wrong, this is very brave.

    It is rather sad that “experiments” based on models, which don’t conform to actual measurements are given such credibility.

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  56. 56. The Tin Man 2:35 pm 03/29/2014

    How can “Americans be sure the science is “certain” when the climate change scientists are not even themselves certain? With a range of possible temperature rises predicted of a measly 1.5 degrees F. to 4.5 by the end of the century, these “scientists” if you want to be generous with the term, are by their own data uncertain.

    Link to this
  57. 57. The Tin Man 2:43 pm 03/29/2014

    “The report will also present a variety of possible solutions, such as better disaster planning, the breeding of drought-resistant crops and technologies that can save energy.” Does this offer us a subtle clue that the U.N. has given up its fancifully naive goal of some grand global community of cooperating countries endeavoring to lower their emissions, can you say Kyoto Protocol?

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  58. 58. The Tin Man 2:56 pm 03/29/2014

    Whether it’s a prediction of Armageddon by Pat Robertson, to the apocalypse from Y2K, all the way to the black hole that the Large Hadron Collider was to produce, an article predicting a tipping point in or even by 2036 puts Scientific American right up there with the best tabloids in the industry.

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  59. 59. Cramer 6:29 pm 03/29/2014

    The Tin Man is talking in circles.

    First he complains about climate change scientists being uncertain (as if uncertainty is not a key characteristic of the scientific method) because they do not know how much temperatures will rise “by the end of the century.”

    Then he claims 2036 is a certain prediction that he compares to predictions made by scientific illiterates (Pat Robertson, Y2K apocalypse prophesizers, black hole from LHC prophesizers).

    Mann clearly provides the sensitivities of 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, and 4.5 in his graph. These give the 2.0 degree Celsius “threshold” dates of 2093, 2063, 2046, 2036, and 2021, respectively. 2036 is NOT a “tipping point” and is not certain (Mann even says this).

    The Tin Man doesn’t even understand climate sensitivity. He referred to the “range of possible temperature rises predicted of a measly 1.5 degrees F. to 4.5 by the end of the century.” First, it’s 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius, not Fahrenheit. Second, these are temperature increases for a doubling of CO2 concentrations from preindustrial levels (280 to 560 ppm), not predictions for the “end of the century.” 1.5 to 4.5 are model parameters, not predictions.

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