The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Yes, Virginia, Permafrost IS Going to Release Carbon and Methane

So, for years I’ve been saying that a great point of concern was methane/carbon release from permafrost. Every time I brought this up, I was told by someone that studies said it was unlikely.

This summer in the Russian arctic:

Arctic Temperature 2nd last weekend June 2021.

Feel free to take a break from reading to bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.

There is more carbon stored in permafrost that there is carbon in the atmosphere. When permafrost thaws, it comes out as a combination of carbon and methane.

The greatest concern for climate change has always been, “When do we hit the self-reinforcing spirals?” Put another way, “When does it stop mattering if humans reduce emissions?”

The problem is that we really don’t understand the climate very well; our models are crude. Almost everything is actually coming in faster than we anticipated — Arctic ice is clearing faster than expected, Antarctic ice is calving sooner than we thought it would, glaciers are retreating faster than expected, etc, etc.

This, again, was easily predictable, in the sense that, for decades now, consensus forecasts have always come in “under” the actual results. So the smart bet was always on the over, and that’s the bet I’ve made and shared with my readers for many years now.


Even if it is still possible to do, we are not going to do it — our political masters aren’t doing anything significant enough to even nudge the curves. Our populations are not voting primarily on climate change, or Sanders would be President of the US and Corbyn Prime Minister of the UK.

You must plan for climate changed based on the assumption that government will be of little help — it’s you and your friends and any other people you can find who want to prepare with you.

This means assuming breakdowns in the supply chain. It means assuming hotter weather in general, BUT more variable weather also — cold waves and so on will also become more frequent. Hurricanes and other extreme weather events will continue their trends of being more common and more powerful.

Assume a marine inundation event sooner than expected; if you aren’t at least a couple feet above sea level, don’t assume you have forever do something about that — a couple decades, maybe, and extreme weather could easily cause a flood before that.

Remember that water is going to be harder and harder to get; as the glaciers go away and as there is less snow pack, rivers will be fed far less. A vast amount of groundwater has been polluted by farm runoff, fracking, and other stupidity.

I also expect that oxygen concentration in the air will decline, and air quality will be worse.

This is an accelerating trend. It has moved very slowly, but it is speeding up and will continue to speed up. Think about how Covid curves have gone in incompetent countries: slow, slow, slow — VERTICAL. We’re a ways from vertical yet, but the lines for effects are no longer in “looks flat” territory.

It may be that your circumstances allow you to do little, but do what you can. And turn your efforts towards triage: Saving, or helping, yourself and those you want to save. The political battle is lost, was lost, and until absolute catastrophe hits, nothing of significance will be done.

That’s the future. Plan for it, please.

(My writing helps pay my rent and buys me food. So please consider subscribing or donating if you like my writing.)


Why Non-surveillance States Will Out-compete Surveillance States


Open Thread


  1. Mark Pontin

    That _is_ the future. But you’re leaving out one very significant datum.

    ‘Disentangling greenhouse warming and aerosol cooling to reveal Earth’s climate sensitivity’
    T. Storelvmo, T. Leirvik, U. Lohmann, P. C. B. Phillips, and M. Wild

    ‘Abstract: Earth’s climate sensitivity has long been subject to heated debate and has spurred renewed interest after the latest IPCC assessment report suggested a downward adjustment of its most likely range. Recent observational studies have
    produced estimates of transient climate sensitivity, that is, the global mean surface temperature increase at the time of CO2 doubling, as low as 1.3 K (refs 2,3), well below the best estimate produced by global climate models (1.8 K). Here, we present an observation-based study of the time period 1964 to 2010, which does not rely on climate models. The method incorporates observations of greenhouse gas concentrations, temperature and radiation from approximately 1,300 surface sites into an energy balance framework. Statistical methods commonly applied to economic time series are then used to decompose observed temperature trends into components attributable to changes in greenhouse gas concentrations and surface radiation. We find that surface radiation trends, which have been largely explained by changes in atmospheric aerosol loading, caused a cooling that masked approximately one-third of the continental warming due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations over the past half-century. In consequence, the method yields a higher transient climate sensitivity (2.0 ± 0.8 K) than other observational studies. ‘

    People should try and read the whole paper. But the paper was prepared after the 2008 GFC caused a global contraction in industry and transport and a consequent release of greenhouse gases; data was gathered and an initial draft was released and contested in 2015, and accepted for publication in 2016.

    The most important part is in this sentence: “We find that surface radiation trends, which have been largely explained by changes in atmospheric aerosol loading, caused a cooling that masked approximately one-third of the continental warming due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations over the past half-century.’

    To translate: along with the greenhouse gas release, industry and transport was releasing particulate matter into the atmosphere — the ‘atmosphere aerosol loading’ — that was _masking_ a *third* of the potential heat retention that we’d otherwise have from the greenhouse gases.

    To put it even more simply, along with the greenhouse gases, the human race has been releasing aerosolized particulate matter and has been doing inadvertent geoengineering that reduces the Earth’s heat by as much as a third.

    Which means that were it to happen that by some magic all greenhouse gas release suddenly ceased tomorrow, then the heating effect of the already released greenhouse gases plus the heat already in the oceans would surge by a *third.*

    This *was* the situation as of 2008-2010. We were already well into the “when does it stop mattering if humans reduce emissions?” phase then. It’s now a dozen years later and, indeed, Siberia, the Arctic, and the Antarctic are boiling away. What do you imagine stripping away the 1/3rd of aerosol cooling — our inadvertent geoengineering — would look like today?

    I’ll tell you ….

  2. Bill H.

    The US Park Service has a whole lot of signs in Glacier National Park which read, “These glaciers will all be gone by 2020,” except they are not anywhere close to being gone.

  3. Mark Pontin

    So in 2008-2010 what happened was that the one-third of global warming masked while industry was releasing aerosolized particulates into the atmosphere alongside all those greenhouse gases ceased to be so masked. As a result, global warming accelerated.

    Thanks to the coronavirus lockdown, the same acceleration will have happened again happened in 2020-21 to some extent. Except this time Siberia already is experiencing fires burning across the boreal forests, and record-setting temperatures forty degrees higher than were seasonal.

    One thing to understand about Siberia is that while this immensely large land here supported plants and trees, underground it’s permafrost: cryotic soil, ice-rich, extending eighty meters deep.

    That permafrost’s topmost layer has always thawed seasonally. But as global warming has advanced, each year Siberia’s summer thawing had grown longer, hotter, and deeper. The heat wave in 2020 started fires smouldering underground in the frozen peatlands – made up of ancient, partially-decomposed plants – comprising much of the permafrost.

    And so a devil’s cascade of cataclysms has been triggered. There are two kinds of climate change denialism. One kind we’re all familiar with from the likes of Charles Koch and the republicans. But the other kind we get from the IPCC and the standard models of climate change, which simply assume the oceans more or less slowly rise — somewhat like the biblical Flood — and weather turbulence increases. It’s a familiar model — the Deluge — and it’s one you, Ian, seem to buy into to some extent.

    But it isn’t going to be like that. It’s going to be what physics calls a phase change, as when water boils away into steam, or ice melts to become water, and it’s potentially could happen in two-three years from the evidence scientists were finding in ice-cores as far back as 1998-2002..

    Let’s stick with Siberia, because that’s where the main action has already begun. Firstly, the uppermost permafrost’s deepening thaw in summer makes the organic matter in it decompose, so bacteria eat it, releasing gigatonnes more carbon dioxide and methane into the air than in previous years.

    Then, the lower-level peatland in the permafrost grows warmer, drier, and more combustible. That spreads those already-ongoing subterranean fires, which feed on the methane released as the peatlands’ organic matter decomposed as it warms. Even more gigatonnes of methane will pour from the permafrost into the atmosphere.

    And after that the ice in the deep permafrost will melt. The surface above will then slump and subside. Suddenly, thousands of lakes – some kilometers wide – will appear across Siberia, speeding the permafrost’s thawing along their shores, expanding in size and depth.

    Ian is vastly understating how much methane is potentially about to be released. The scientists reckoned some seventeen trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide – at least double the amount in the Earth’s entire atmosphere – is locked in the Siberian tundra. A similar quantity of methane is stored there and at the Arctic Ocean’s bottom, and methane is twenty-eight times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. So if all that’s released, you’d get temperatures that aren’t in the historical record.

    They aren’t in the historical record because, for one thing, the human race wouldn’t have survived them. Nor would most life on Earth.

    As is demonstrated by the fact that most life on Earth didn’t survive. There’ve been five great extinction events in Earth’s prehistory, each coinciding with massive methane releases into the atmosphere. The Permian Mass Extinction and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, in particular, almost ended all life on the planet.

  4. Mark Pontin

    Here’s what it looks like. Because, to be clear, this process has already begun —

    ‘Massive mystery holes appear in Siberian tundra — and could be linked to climate change’

    ‘Mysteries of massive holes forming in Siberian permafrost unlocked by scientists’

  5. Ian Welsh

    Good stuff, Mark.

    As I often say, my record is that I tend to be over-optimistic. People think I’m a pessimist.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing more details, even if they are horrific.

  6. different clue

    Time to go to the kitchen, stick our head in the freezer, and kiss our ice goodbye.

  7. different clue

    I remember reading somewhere that permafrost is about 50% ice and 50% “everything else”. If my memory is correct, then once the permafrost has thawed out and melted ” all the way down”, it will be half as thick and deep as it currently is. In practice, that would mean that it will lose half its elevation above sea level. Meanwhile, sea level itself will be rising from all the melted ice-features flowing into the sea.

    So a sinking Siberia will meet and then cross a rising ocean. Many Russians thought global warming would turn Siberia into a tropical paradise. In fact, global warming will turn a million or so square miles of Siberia into the floor of a very shallow extension of the Arctic Ocean.

  8. different clue

    To put just a little icing on the sh*t sandwhich, here is a weather channel item about upcoming record heat in the Pacific Northwest.

    If we should expect this to happen to the permafrost all over Siberia, we should also expect the same to happen to the permafrost all over Canadalaska. That’s not as much permafrost as Siberia but it is still a fair amount. So it will add even yet more CO2 and methane to the atmosphere.

  9. someofparts

    A few years ago, when I still worked for the EPA, I asked one of the geologists I worked with about this and he said there was no reason to worry.

  10. Astrid

    Yeah, agree with Mark. Once the positive feedback cycle kicks in, things can go downhill in a incredible hurry. Then there’s the effect on ocean currents and post-glacial rebound after melting of polar glaciers. Not much we can do about it.

    I assume geoengineering Band-Aids will be coming online in the next few years to kick the can a little further down the road, to make things comfortable for a little longer for the likes of Pelosi and Biden. When the Band-Aids stop working or the side effects become too extreme, then things will get really interesting.

    I have a friend who has as good of a claim to being a scientist and one of those people “who will think of something” as most. She believes in”science”. Her third child was born two years ago and she is pregnant with her fourth. I don’t know what goes on in her mind. Perhaps she’s if the incremental mindset #2 or perhaps she thinks somebody else will think of something.

  11. Jason

    Feel free to take a break from reading to bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.

    Ian seems to get a kick out of writing “you” statements like this, as if he won’t be dead too.

  12. Plague Species

    Don’t worry, Russia and China will be fine. Only America will be affected by this.

    The Numero Uno opponent of sustainability is Vladimir Tony Soprano Putin. Russia’s economy is no more if fossil fuels are no more. It’s in his interests and Russia’s interests to oppose any measures that would impede the growth of fossil fuel production.

    Any measure that doesn’t guarantee China’s and Russia’s cooperation is no measure at all. THAT IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. So, it’s game over. All you can do is wait and watch.

  13. Astrid


    I read it as Ian using “you” to remove the mental distance that his readers might otherwise place for themselves from the fallout of catastrophic climate change. I’ve seen this with my friends and colleagues, all of whom “believe science” and some are indeed scientists/engineer/analysts whom the rest of us believe will”think of something”. Their personal actions (child rearing, international travel, using non-plastic straws) show they still think this is something that won’t directly impacts themselves or their progeny, at least not in anyway that really matters.

    Strange for you to assume that Ian hasn’t contemplated the personal impacts of climate change while writing the post.

  14. Plague Species

    Ian seems to get a kick out of writing “you” statements like this, as if he won’t be dead too.

    Many commentators here like to pin this solely on America and give China and Russia a pass and pardon as if Russia and China don’t play their part in this unfolding tragic crime against the living planet and are somehow immune from the consequences.

    Siberia is in Russia for Christ’s sake. You would think Putin would be concerned. He’s not. He and his capos are thinking of ways to cash in on the thawing tundra while undermining any and all efforts to curb fossil fuel production and consumption.

  15. Astrid

    Though, before we all start jumping off of cliffs like lemmings, I scanned the article.

    The air temperature appears to be 86F. Abnormally hot just like last summer, but not quite Death Valley yet.

    The forecast for PNW this weekend and it’s implications for the rest of the 2021 “fire season” makes me very glad that I didn’t get either the Portland or Boise jobs that I interviewed for a couple years back.

  16. @Mark Pontin

    “We find that surface radiation trends, which have been largely explained by changes in atmospheric aerosol loading, caused a cooling that masked approximately one-third of the continental warming due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations over the past half-century.

    Oh, really? I’ll lay out a crude argument, using some simple math, then ask a simple question. I’m not going to bother taking the time to look up the exact quote by Santer, but I think I’ll get the gist of it reasonably correct.

    Santer claimed, some years ago, that there couldn’t be a pause in global temperature of more than 13 years or so, or the climate models will be shown to be incorrect. It eventually weighed in at something like 16 years.

    Now, the people I would call climate realists are predicting about a 1.3 deg C increase over a century from anthropogenic green house gases. Divide that by 100 years, and you get an average of .013 deg C/year.

    So, if most of the previous models were under-predicting global temperature increases by ~1/3, then lockdowns should have contributed an extra .004 deg C/year, if the lockdowns were global (they weren’t); and furthermore, the lockdowns were completely suffocating (they weren’t).

    One should thus expect a smaller increase.

    Let’s say .003 degrees.

    Is .003 degrees within the limit of statistical significance? If not, why should we pay it any attention?

    In “Global warming since 1995 “statistically significant””, Phil Jones argues that a global warming of .19 C deg between 1995 and 2010 is statistically significant. That’s .o13 deg C, per year.

    So even if global warming ‘spiked’ up by .003, we should have no confidence that the spike was anything more than statistical noise.

    I wrote all of the above without bothering to research what the official claims of global temperature increase were, in 2020. No matter what those figures are, is EASY to make qualitative, half-baked, hand-waving arguments, that sound plausible because they sound sciency. That is my point. As commentators often say at, “don’t show me your claims without error bars”.

    Somewhat related, a recent article in nakedcapitalism is worth a read: “The Politics of ‘Follow the Science” (June 23)


    ” The method incorporates observations of greenhouse gas concentrations, temperature and radiation from approximately 1,300 surface sites into an energy balance framework.”

    And how clean are these surface temperature data records? Anthony Watts put together a ranking, by reliability, of US surface temperature data. Taking the best data disappears most of the “global warming” (because it’s localized Urban Heat Island effect)

    You build a model based on crap, you’re going to get crap. In some/many cases, the “crap” is unavoidable. (I’m thinking of the noisiness of temperature proxy data). At this point, I don’t really care that much about crappy papers being written in climate science. Not enough to look deeply into them, anyway.

    I’ve reached a somewhat similar point with treatments (or suppression of same) with respect to covid. Once I saw that they were willing to kill people by overdosing them with hydroxychloroquine (or chloroquine), when the optimal treatment window was already passed; and when I saw the scandalous surgisphere fudged data papers retracted from the Lancet (and New England Journal of Medicine), I kind of knew what to expect. So, I’m biased, but it’s a bias based on objective facts. Objective facts regarding the humans engaged in ‘science’, not so much the science, itself. And, their joined-at-the-hip politicians, and corrupt agencies like WHO. Although I didn’t look deeply into vaccine ‘science’, I figured (and figure) the burden of proof is on them. Regarding which, some mea culpas wouldn’t hurt.
    Not holding my breath….

  17. This diary inspired me to take a glance at, for some global cooling porn. Ran across “”, which describe Greta Thunberg’s “toolkit” (Planned PR by this oh-so-innocent child/now young adult, lovingly prepared for her by others, though they didn’t want you to know about it.

    Well, back to work!

  18. js

    I don’t think people have ever had kids for particularly altruistic reasons, so I don’t ask why people have them. Well half of them are accidents anyway, a byproduct of sex. But the other half: Because maybe they are afraid of regretting not having them as the biological clock ticks louder. Because maybe they wish they have a legacy (which there is not much guarantee of genetically, but the kid may outlive them). Because they have half remembered memories of their own childhood which they wish to recreate and which they can, maybe they can make cookies or pitch baseballs at their kids or whatever and then don’t ask where they kid will be by the time they are 30. Because they wish to feel loved and part of a family. Noone when they have kids is contemplating where that kid will be at 30 or 40 or 50. So I don’t see it as having all that much to do with climate denial.

    But as for all the rest, trying to survive the collapse, all this effort to try to avoid death, when it seems a more sensible path to me to try to accept and come to terms with death.

  19. different clue

    Well! Metamars has offered a sort-of prediction. We will see how close he got to near-future events.

    ” Him who is not surprised when the future comes, lives very close to the truth”
    –John L. King

    If the ChinaGov finds the effects of man made global warming’s heatup and climate d’chaos decay to be unnaceptable within the borders of China, and the ChinaGov sees the “rest of the world” doing nothing substantive about the problem, the ChinaGov will probably do its own geo-engineering. Maybe with a high-atmosphere sulfuric acid micro-particle reflecto-shroud, maybe with some other method. And if it works, the ChinaGov will receive the praise and gratitude of a grateful world.

  20. Astrid


    I think my friend and my other child rearing friends can justifiably say that they’re doing a great job and find parenting to be highly rewarding. In a world where things are not falling apart and maybe even in a world where it is, their kids are by and large people the world needs more of. It’s just that something that is such a large part of why I decided to be childless doesn’t even figure for them, even though they believe in “science”.

    As for clinging onto life versus slipping peacefully into the night. If it was just like an astroid hitting Earth, then there’s no point in preparing. But the impact of climate change and decline may vary greatly from place to place in our lifetime. I also have a husband who is not interested in dying *before his time*. So I have some interest in keep going as comfortably as possible, while I can.

  21. Z

    I fear a flashpoint in our climate like Mark Pontin wrote of. That’s the nightmare scenario and just from casual observation of increased wildfires, hotter temperatures, and water shortages in the news it feels to me that the planet is much closer to that than we seem able to fathom. We’re beyond linearity, if there ever was any with something as complex as the climate that has so many factors involved, and thus unfortunately beyond most humans mental models.

    I’m convinced that there are plenty of parents who have kids for ego reasons, particularly men. They reproduce to create a captive audience for them; it makes them feel important. Having kids right now makes no logical sense to me but these decisions aren’t often logical.

    Incidentally, from my observations the fathers who got heavily involved in Little League and whatnot with their kids were most often not good fathers. They grandstanded like they were, but their kids often suffered for their egos. Some of the best parents I’ve met never even went to their kids’ games. They spent enough time with them outside of those activities and probably realized that their kids needed time to bond with other kids without their parents overseeing them.


  22. Mark Level

    I am taking Ian’s advice, retiring a year earlier than planned, and moving to a “safer” place, at least from the study I have done. Of course in a planetary social collapse or die-off, even the concept of “safety” is quite relative. I appreciate the specifics Mark P. raises. Though science is not my strongest suit I am certainly quite familiar with historical societal collapses spread across the world (c. 12th century bce in Asia and some areas of Europe & North Africa via invasions, the 13th century ce in Europe, Asia and Central America, etc.) At a minimum that’s what we are facing, even in the relatively short term, so best to be as prepared as realistically possible.

  23. Ted

    If you have time and interest to go through all the information Guy has on his web site it is a lot.

  24. Ian Welsh

    I’ve written often about flashpoints, though not using that word. This IS going to go non-linear and I’ve often pointed out it can get to an extinction event.

    “You” — As Astrid notes it’s a writing device.

    That said, I’ve been inches from death three times in my life. I have no fear of it, since all my experience indicates that life is where the suffering is. I do feel bad for others, and especially the animals, plants, and young or powerless people who did nothing to deserve what is going to come.

    All I can do now is try to convince others to protect themselves and those they care about as best they can.

    If we get a full on “Pontin” 😉 well, we’re all dead. Still, with non-linear systems we don’t understand, it’s hard to say exactly how this will play out and even if we’re all dead, preparing and thus living with more comfort and safety for as many of one’s remaining years is prefferable.

  25. I looked at a few of my favorite CO2 Catastrophism skeptic websites, and saw no mention of 118 degree weather in Siberia. I then checked a couple of English language Russia-oriented websites. themoscowtimes dot com has a prominent section on the current heat wave in Russia. The mentioned the temperature in Moscow; also mentioned Siberia; but nothing about 118 degree weather.

    My tentative conclusion is that “118 degrees” is some sort of area average of a piece of real estate in Siberia that includes a fire. The fire temperature constituent will, of course, be far higher than 118 degrees. If my conclusion is correct, then mentioning “118 degrees” without the proper context amounts to dishonest propaganda.

    There WAS a non-alarmist article at themoscowtimes called “Deep Permafrost Layers More Climate-Resilient Than Previously Thought – Study”l

  26. Willy

    Science is hard.

    So do I trust the European Union’s Earth Observation Program, with its many satellites, scientists, technologies and researchers?

    Or do I trust some yahoo screwball with an internet connection and a weather station his mom gave him for Christmas?

  27. Plague Species

    It’s duly noted that “Astrid” takes more umbrage with those who have the audacity to criticize China than “Astrid” does with anthropogenic climate change deniers. In fact, “Astrid” hasn’t taken issue with “metamars” at all. Ever. Between the lines is the closest you’ll ever get to the truth. It’s called soft censorship. It’s nuanced. Subtle. My question is, why do they even bother?

  28. Plague Species

    Though, before we all start jumping off of cliffs like lemmings, I scanned the article.

    The air temperature appears to be 86F. Abnormally hot just like last summer, but not quite Death Valley yet.

    When I couple this marginalizing comment with “metamars” crap, it’s reinforcing and complementary. A team. Narrative control.

  29. I just found a website for verkhoyansk historical weather data @ , and looked at the graphs going back a week or so. On June 22, the high was 84 deg F. It’s actually hotter today – 90 deg F.

    90 deg F seems like good weather for swimming. (Unless the water is too hot.) But, not so good for suicide.

    Just yesterday heard an interview of Dr. Roy Spencer, which ended with his going back to a Presidential Eisenhower prediction about our society being a “Captive Of A Scientific-Technological Elite”, and how a world expert in hurricane prediction, who criticized CO2 catastrophism, was given the cold shoulder by his own academic department. Their (indirect) association with him threatened their funding…..

    To anybody who’s been paying attention, it would have been much better to question the medical/scientific elite opinion spewed out by WHO, and our own CDC, early on. If you want details on the analogous situation with climate, see Dr. Tim Ball’s book “The Deliberate Corruptions of Climate Science”.

    The Death Valley like temperature reported caused me to look for the youtube video by Dr. Martin Hertzberg, who is a dissenter amongst dissenters, in climate science. He thinks most (IIRC) of the heating of the atmosphere is due to fluid friction of the atmosphere. I’ve never heard anybody else even express this opinion. Then again, I’ve never heard any climate science address the phenomenal tempertures of Death Valley. His video is called “Climategate and Scientific Inquiry – full video”

  30. Z


    Yes, you have wrote a ton about these scenarios. Your writings have had a lot of influence on my thinking about this.


  31. Astrid

    My friends are my friends because they’re good people. I don’t think I could stay friends with people who are intentionally unkind or abusive to others (liberal orthodoxy or Israel I have to overlook, or I would have very few friends). I dropped one once because of how he cheated on and gaslit his significant other, and let him know my mind. She forgave him and dated him for several more years afterwards. Life is too short for bad friends.

    I know colleagues and family members who had kids for the wrong reasons. Mostly they seem to do it because they think it’s expected of them. Not bad parents overall, just that they don’t seem very interested in their kids as people. They’re often also not interested in seeing their spouses as people either. Just chesspieces in their lives. Though I’ll take benign neglect over helicoptering, as far as upbringings go.

    My parents are kind of like that. Still together and gets along decently, but pretty clear that they married each other and reproduced because it’s what they thought they had to do.
    I’m not sure they even listen to each other or me, except when it’s convenient and agrees with their preconceived notions. Their repeated arguments for why I should have kids is that I should have someone to take care of me in old age, like I’m doing for them. The fact that I cite climate change and destabilization as major reasons for remaining childless, does not register.

  32. bruce wilder

    until absolute catastrophe hits nothing will be done of significance

    and what is done then is likely to be another catastrophe, if for no other reasons than 1.) that the same sociopaths who have been choosing catastrophe right along will still be in charge and 2.) the vast majority of people of good will cannot even bring themselves to imagine a realistic alternative path.

    when i first took an interest in climate change — ~20? years ago — I took it on as an intellectual challenge to work out a well-informed laymen’s view of “climate change”. I struggled to understand what was being said by scientists, activists, journalists and economists. I never tried to read the primary scientific literature — I just presumed I would not have the skills nor the time budget. I read the advocacy and backgrounder essays that aimed to build a workable intuition. I did skim and dive on IPCC reports. I read about peak oil. I read Joseph Trainor on cultural complexity and societal collapse. I watched Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth and Leonardo DiCaprio in Before the Flood and Michael Moore’s presentation of Planet of the Humans. I sometimes read blogs like Ugo Bardi’s “Cassandra’s Legacy” and James Michael Greer’s venture, “The Archdruid Report”. As is my wont, I favored the big picture stuff and turned to economists of a centrist mien (I have been a professional economist at a low level.)

    Having accepted that an accurate or realistic understanding would be a challenge to achieve, I read over and over again explanations of why the dynamics and consequences of adding carbon to the active carbon cycle was going to be hard to grasp for humans like my own lovely self. And, indeed, much of the controversy I encountered consisted of disputes concerning which narrative most entertainingly represented the drama of the case and which attitude toward climate change went best with which self-image. There is lots of commentary complaining about alarmism or serving up reassuring optimism about the declining cost of solar electricity generation. There are already tired themes repeating the dictums that there is no doubt that human activity is causing atmospheric warming and that the consequences have already begun. People argue about whether (the intensity of) particular hurricanes are “caused by” climate change and then about the conceptual distinctions between weather and climate. Drought and flooding of coastal areas are used as concrete illustrations, but usually with time compression like those embarassing signs at Glacier National Park.

    Professional academic economists have been among the worst and most useless “experts” to chime in, with their affection for “economic growth” and their “assume a can opener” methods of abstracting away from any referent any normal person could recognize. They debate carbon taxes versus cap n trade while nothing is done, and I suspect this is by design.

    Here’s the thing: civilization is the prime mover and either the energy basis for civilization has to undergo revolutionary transformation that includes a radical reduction in all energy use or civilization will preside over a mass extinction event, finally collapsing in that mass extinction event cum climate shift.

    Recognizing the necessity for radical reduction in all energy use is the marker I have used for a decade (!) to distinguish people and organizations that “get it” from those that do not. The failure to recognize and press that single sine qua non politically has carried the world forward for at least a generation to the point where, as Ian points out, the forward forcing natural processes are taking over and energy conservation and phasing out fossil fuels will no longer be enough. IPCC, to remain “optimistic” and “can-do” has to resort to fantasy schemes for massive carbon capture and sequestration policies, to justify projections that fall short of a world on fire, barren of the complex ecosystems of the previous 12,000 years.

    Civilizational collapse won’t come soon enough to save us. (Irony tag) That is the flip side of Ian’s warnings about catastrophes with natural triggers. The worst case scenario may be that human civilization survives long enough to make the ecological collapse complete.

  33. Astrid


    Just because it’s not Furnace Creek by the weekend or Venus next Tuesday, 90 F in the Arctic circle in June is not any kind of normal, as measured by the last couple million years.
    Making up weird alternate theories of what’s happening to deny clear evidence of man-made climate change is … well, I don’t get it. Might as well just go to an astrologer.

  34. Astrid


    I always figured that a society that can’t even solve easy problems like universal healthcare or controlling suburban deer population, was never going to manage or even acknowledge harder problems. China might be able to something, but they’ll probably mess it up catastrophically because it’s a really hard problem and because of hubris.

    I still don’t think it’s going to destroy the biosphere. Life is resilient and adaptable over longer time frames. Give it 5 or 10 million years and Earth will be another Eden.

  35. Willy

    My question is, why do they even bother?

    Indeed. What’s the payoff in being so relentlessly insistent? What’s the payoff?

    I’d take climate change deniers more seriously if they could just discipline their beliefs to remain consistent. When they vacillate all over the place (one day it’s sun spots, the next it’s a corrupt meteorology department…) it seems like they’re salving some emotional need instead of being open to any potential emotionally wounding truths.

    And then there’s the grifter influencer. I witnessed Candace Owens proclaiming that she had no proof supporting her climate denialism. “I just don’t believe in it” she told Joe Rogan. When I read between her lines, I found that she had the NAACP help her win a racial discrimination lawsuit, and now suddenly, despises the NAACP and denies racial discrimination. Personally, I wouldn’t care much about such hypocrisy except that she’s respected by millions. And she is suddenly herself, worth millions.

    It seems a lot of people have gone that route, from integrity nobodys trying to make an influencer living speaking to/with the masses, or even with the science, to suddenly believing in far different things, for public reasons which seem incredibly trivial. But they also suddenly seem to be a whole lot richer.

    In my first three decades living in the PNW I never witnessed triple digit temperature day highs. And neither had the meteorological record going back many more decades. Yet in just the last decade I’ve witnessed it twice, and the forecast is predicting such three more times in the coming days. I’ve witnessed the mass dying of my state’s tree and our ubiquitous sword fern, many of them centuries old.

    Now if I was to ask climate change deniers why this happening, I’m quite certain that I’d get wildly varying opinions. And if history repeats, these opinions would tomorrow be yet another set of wildly varying opinions which directly conflicts with the first opinions they gave. This kind of behavior is not very compelling for me.

  36. “Making up weird alternate theories of what’s happening to deny clear evidence of man-made climate change is”

    Huh? Are you talking about Hertzberg’s ideas?

    “90 F in the Arctic circle in June is not any kind of normal, as measured by the last couple million years.”

    How do you know that? Greenland was ‘green enough’ during the Medieval Warm Period to support Viking agriculture (in the southern part). They grew barley, at least. That was only 1,000 years ago.

    Foithermore, from

    New Report Questions Ice in Greenland @

    “This new study says, no, it’s been bedrock over and over and over for the past million or so years – 280,000 years worth to be exact. Which means that it might not take as much warming as we thought to melt it to bedrock, and that we are almost certain to hit a tipping point a lot sooner than anyone had previously thought. It could take hundreds of years – or it could occur much more rapidly, even over the span of decades. The truth is that no one knows how long it might take for the entire ice sheet to collapse, and the temperature threshold at which it might tip into irreversible decline.”

    So, it’s been bedrock for over 25% of it’s history in the last million years. Because of thermal inertia, that ice would not have suddenly disappeared. So, there had been a whole lot of melting going on, even outside the limit they state.

    I find it ironic that this result is being used to imply that Greenland ice melting is more sensitive to anthropogenic CO2. While that may be true, as far as it goes, it’s also pointing to Greenland ice melting being more subject to natural cycles than the experts previously believed.

  37. Astrid


    Arguing from authority with “doctors” and “Ph.Ds”, without mentioning what their trained areas of expertise and actual field work are in, is pretty worthless. I know plenty of Ph.Ds that I would not trust on any topic outside of their training. Uncritically publishing rubbish Heartland institute propaganda is… rubbish.

    The medieval climate optimum is likely for too favorable ocean currents and the lack of major northern hemisphere volcano eruptions during the period. It doesn’t reflect a global warming period. What we’re now contending with us not a steady period of even, warmer weather. Instead, were seeing amplification of extreme heat, cold, drought, and flood events compared to historical averages, as predicted by scientists not funded by your industry funded disinformation ops. The climate change we’re seeing isn’t the”beneficial” or “no big deal”, it’s devastating millions of lives right now, soon to escalate to billions.

    I hope someone is paying you to mouth this rubbish, because otherwise it’s even more pathetic.

  38. @Astrid

    You’re blabbering. Why don’t you calm down, and get specific? Were you referring to Hertzberg, or weren’t you? If you were, why do you associate him with Heartland? (Not that I have a problem with Heartland, when it comes to climate stuff. Their embrace of ALEC is another matter.)

    Duckduckgoing (and assuming you will continue to blabber), I find that Hertzberg signed on to some kind of letter to Congress; the letter is hosted at, so there’s a Heartland connection, for you.

    However, Hertzberg also penned “Martin Hertzberg: Climate change science is junk science” @

    While I disagree strongly with most of the political positions of the Heartland Institute, they deserve considerable credit for sponsoring a series of conferences of the world’s leading meteorologists and climatologists whose papers show clearly that the theory that human emission is causing “global warming/climate change/extreme weather phenomena” is without merit. The attempt in Orestes and Conway’s “Merchants of Doubt” to defame and to cast doubt on the integrity of those distinguished scientists, is a disservice to both science and history. For the record, I have not received one cent of financial support from either the CATO or the Heartland Institutes, and I think they are wrong in most of their other political positions.

    You just ignored my quote of research covered in “New Report Questions Ice in Greenland”. Almost destroys your claim, doesn’t it? (Though, in fairness, the melting point of ice is much lower than 90 deg F.)

    If you can’t rise about babble, I’ll mostly (or possibly, totally) ignore your blabber. I’ve got better things to do. I usually don’t bother much with climate stuff, because it leads to non-argument arguments like we can see here. I don’t mind low-investment stuff, like spanking Greta Thunberg (thus spanking the mindset that would give her any credence), but there’s little point to spending hours of research for people who aren’t interested in challenging their internalized orthodoxy. As Barney Frank famously said, it’s like talking with furniture.

  39. different clue

    I think we should posit two “new” types of man made global warming denialist trolling.
    Gish-gallop irrelevancy diversion swarming, and repeat goalpost-moving. Lot’s of bright shiny chaff clouds and fast-moving squirrel diversion objects.

    We have some of that here. Some people might find it fun to engage with just for practice or to study the mind of the Gish-galloping mile-a-minute serial liar-troll. Some people might grow weary of the sport and move on to other things.

    We need a movement. We need a movement to help global warming reality-accepters to move away from the Sacrifice Zones. And we need a movement to help the global warming deniers to take their places in the Sacrifice Zones. We need to figure out how to gather all the global warming deniers together with eachother into the Sacrifice Zones.

    If no one else does anything real, which they won’t because they can’t, the ChinaGov may well try wrapping the whole upper atmosphere in a sunlight reflective layer of sufuric acid micro-particles, to lower the amount of light reaching the surface thereby lowering the amount of heat the lowered amount of light can degrade into.

    Of course we might all get lucky and God might tell the sun to start a Maunder Minimum 2.0 which will reduce incoming sunlight by enough to offset the heat-retention power of carbon skyflooding and the enhanced light-passage-permitting ability of reduced particulate pollution going forward.

  40. Willy

    I like to imagine them as European missionaries and I’m a North Sentinelese tribesman. In our folk tales we tell of that time the strange white men arrived in boats and gave us a bunch of relics and subscribed us to Jim Hoft’s website. After they left many of our ancestors died from terrible sicknesses.

    So we tell these new missionaries to keep their distance but they keep coming ashore. If you keep coming closer strange white men, we’re gonna have to fire these arrows.

  41. Joan

    @Astrid, OT but what is this “controlling the suburban deer population” you mention? I’m imagining deer running around the suburbs and eating up the gardens. Is that actually happening?

  42. Z

    They’re calling for 115 degree weather in Portland tomorrow and Monday.


  43. different clue


    I am not Astrid, obviously, and she can answer the question from the Mid Atlantic Coastal point of view.

    I live in South East Michigan, and in the suburbia and ruralia around here, the deer herd is getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

    In the Indian Nations days, many Indian Nations managed whole zones of landscape as “wild game gardens” . With controlled burning and other land management methods, they worked up whole land zones to the state of high-yield wild-game areas and they harvested the wild animals whose multiplication they facilitated with their land management.

    Suburbia is becoming a “deer garden”. The obvious answer would be to regard the deer in Deer Garden Suburbia as a renewable resource and set up neighborhood or inter-neighborhood associations to co-ordinate an annual deer roundup/kill/butcher-out for distributing the meat, etc. to all the inhabitants of the neighborhood(s). Why not do what the Indians did, since we are approaching having as many deer as they had?

  44. Mark Pontin

    Thanks to Ian for letting me take up space on his site. A few points —

    [1] Poor writing on my part made for ambiguity. I wrote: “potentially could happen in two-three years from the evidence scientists were finding in ice-cores as far back as 1998-2002.” I did *not* mean that I expect the full-scale climate cataclysm to kick off two-three years from now. (Though it might; I don’t know). I do mean that scientists have evidence from ice-cores of at least eight rapid climate change events in the geological record, in at least one case occurring in as little as two-three years.

    [2] On this score, back in 2002, Andy Marshall at the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment hired Peter Schwartz and Stewart Brand’s Global Business Network to play independent authority and write this up to get the message over to the knuckleheads in Washington. Unfortunately Marshall et al. concentrated on a model where climate change causes the Atlantic Conveyer Belt — which carries warm Gulf stream water up to GB and North Europe — to collapse and radical *cooling* of those territories to ensue. Presumably, Marshall and co. were trying to avoid the trigger words ‘global warming’ so as to get the message across. They admit as much in the intro, writing “We have created a climate change scenario that although not the most likely, is plausible.’ Nevertheless, pages 1-9 are worth a look ….

    ‘An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security October 2003’

    [3] I also wrote: “Thanks to the coronavirus lockdown, the same acceleration will have happened again happened in 2020-21 to some extent.”

    To what extent, I have no idea because nobody’s collected the data on it yet that I know of. I don’t even know if during the lockdowns there was any substantial drawdown of greenhouse gas release and aerosol particulates, and consequent rise in warming, as there was after the GFC. But I’d be surprised if there were none at all. I’m thinking of putting on my old journalist’s hat and calling up some people. Someone needs to find out.

    [4] Bruce W. writes re. geoengineering: “what is done then is likely to be another catastrophe, if for no other reasons than that the same sociopaths who have been choosing catastrophe right along will still be in charge.”

    Specifically, I wouldn’t be at surprised if that highly intelligent individual Charles Koch already has some geoengineering options being developed by Koch Disruptive Technologies, the conglomerate’s venture-capital arm, that he — or his son Chase Koch — will offer to roll out when the time comes in order to preserve the neoliberal order he’s done so much to engineer in the U.S. during the last half-century.

    More generally, just as Bezos and Musk have been supported in building private spaceflight industries, the oligarchy will try to push corporate geoengineering programs via private or public-private partnership “initiatives.”

  45. Astrid


    Don’t worry, no more “blabber” from me about your “evidence” minimizing climate change and emphasizing solar activity. It was a poor decision on my part. I know the Arctic including Greenland ice sheet is highly sensitive to melting, and the overall climate is highly determined by the Gulf stream. That makes it more of a danger in my lifetime, not less. That southern Greenland is reliably warmer for a period of time does not indicate the global climate is warmer than it is today or that quick injection of melt water won’t bring about something equivalent to the Younger Dryas disruption.

    The solar activities in the last 20 years have been uneventful, yet the record numbers of floods, hurricanes, droughts, fires, and heat waves continue. That’s how I know your theories are bunk. Whether your “doctors” are paid by the Heartland Institute or useful contrarians who can’t get their papers published in any peer reviewed journal, they’re just producing a fog of plausible deniability for polluting corporations to do nothing, while the world burns faster and faster.

  46. Astrid


    Deer population is very dense in the Mid Atlantic, enough so that there’s a substantial industry of deer deterrent sprays, deer fencing, deer resistant planting schemes (the only really resistant plants I’ve found are peonies and daffodils), and books. They are a major hazard for vehicles and you can often see deer roadkill by the side of the road.

    My area is actually lower pressure than most of the mid Atlantic because the locals like deer hunting, so much so that some of them actually cultivate food patches for them to attract them and fatten them up. But I still get deer browsing in my normalish suburban neighborhood on mostly 1/3 acre lots. They are very brazen, you can often see groups of them grazing suburban yards that don’t have any nearby woods for cover. They have no natural predators, as very few suburbs allow presence of coyotes or wolves that would otherwise hunt them.

    The other problem with them are ticks. Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease ( admittedly so do chipmunks and squirrels, so it’s a pretty hopeless cause even if the deer are fenced out). It’s bad enough that I’ve taken to wearing full body swim suits (sorry, bought from Amazon as I don’t know another source for them for gardening. It’s aggregating that while there’s a veterinary Lyme disease vaccine, the anti vax crowd prevent the availability of an option for humans.

  47. I attended the “Science & Ultimate Reality” symposium, in honor of John Wheeler, a famous physicist. One of the speakers had a background in philosophy. He spoke of the advisability of physicists to have philosophical training, so as to sharpen up their thought processes.

    I actually found his presentation convincing.

    I figured out, when I was a child, that people are fundamentally irrational. My own parent were my initial, unintentional enlighteners to this fact. I could think circles around them; and one of them particularly didn’t like it when I pointed out something they said didn’t make sense. I handn’t yet read “The Trouble with Physics” (which wasn’t written, yet) but I knew there was lots wrong with science and medicine. The problems inherent in scientific communities were on a continuum with the non-scientists I had run into.

    I’ve long believed we should be teaching more mathematics to kids, especially statistics and non-Euclidean geometry. They should also be taught mathematical logic, though a) there’s not too much to it, b) I don’t remember running into this before linear algebra, which is a college level course in the US, and c) it’s probably much more important to teach non-mathematical logic/philosophy. (I say “probably” because I haven’t actually studies the latter, myself. I am familiar with some of the common logical fallacies, though.)

    Kids should also be taught the reality of human institutions, including science, so they can grasp just how flawed science can be. Especially when it gets mixed up with politicians, and social engineers who corrupt not just the science, but the media that reports on that science. (E.g., see Donna LaFramboise 50-1 Project interview, currently still not censored on youtube.) Of course, a lot of the corruption comes from industry. The murderous influence of the Medical Mafia has been laid bare, due to covid, in a more widespread way than before covid, and in spite of the grotesque level of censorship. So, that much is a blessing.

    (Nowadays, I think all kids should also be taught about social engineers, left to right, and in between. No child should be unaware of Antonio Gramsci, and the “march through the institutions”; especially when a lot of their dumbing down and brain-washing can be traced back to him!)

    One can’t have productive, wisdom-producing arguments or discussions with somebody who doesn’t speak your language. The lack of mental tools and habits also makes it basically impossible, even when language is not a barrier. To take such a limited mind, and then try to forge a rational argument, regarding a subject that furthermore requires at least a laymen’s understanding of technical knowledge (often of an imprecise nature; hence the need for some statistical knowledge), is frustrating, to say the least. Perhaps such a mind is enumerate in even more basic ways, such as not readily grasping the difference between absolute and relative differences*. It should probably only be considered an indulgence for younger people, who have more time on their hands than they know what to do with.

    I am not young; I am old enough to retire, but with no savings to speak of, that is not an option; and I can’t seem to find enough hours in any day of the week to work on my ambitious projects. The main one, currently, I hope to create an income stream from.

    So, to those who crave an echo chamber for their delusions, I say, “have at it”. You deserve the little bubble you so desperately desire. Feel free to skip right over any of my comments. Please.

    * don’t snicker. I once tried to give remedial math tutoring to an engineering student who seemed not to be able to grasp the notion of relative distance, period.

  48. A correction: There’s not much to the level of mathematical logic needed in a standard course of mathematics. Basically, you have to learn what a truth table is, and a “proof by contradiction”.

    There is, however, a separate field of “mathematical logic”, which is probably a rich as most field of mathematics. But, I’ve never taken a course in it, or studied it, on my own.

  49. Z

    The 115 degree days in Portland by the way broke the previous record, prior to this heat wave, by 8 degrees (the pre-2021 record was 107).

    Reasons like that are why I fear that we are getting way off into non-linear land in regards to climate change and might be approaching a flashpoint.

    Maybe it also has to do with what Mark Pontin wrote about in regards to less particulates in the air from the COVID shutdowns are leading to more heat retention. If so, it’s certainly concerning how fast and far the weather is reacting to this.


  50. different clue


    I remember the article on ” types of trolls and disrupters and threadjackers” you brought here a while ago. I think two more names for two more types could go onto that list.

    The Gish gallop troll.

    The multiple diversion distraction troll.

    Maybe your article already mentioned the personal insult troll.

    The Gish gallop / multiple diversion-distraction troll sets up a velcro decoy tarbaby by the side of the road and hopes to anger passers-by into engaging with it by insulting those passers-by. The passers-by, feeling insulted, feel they have to vindicate their honor by engaging with the velcro-decoy tarbaby.

    It is well to remember that the “insult” is merely a bait-mechanism to get one’s attention and bypass one’s rational reward-assessment mechanisms and get one to reply to the insult comment by commenting in return. If one remembers that, then one can decide whether engaging the Gish-gallop troll’s insult is a lucrative investment of one’s time, or not.

  51. Joan

    @differentclue and Astrid, thanks for your replies and apologies for my late reply. This is fascinating. There’s so many hunters in the US that I’m surprised they aren’t having a field day with this. Of course wolves would also help, but then say goodbye to your dogs!

  52. Astrid

    Different Clue,

    Well, I’m guilty of some of these behavior, as well for being rash and intemperate with my comments. I do not think Metamar will go away with lack of engagement, however, as he gets very little engagement in most of the threads.

  53. average june temperature high in Santa Barbara, 1985-2015, is 71 deg F

    record hot day in Santa Barbara is 133 F

    Delta is 56 deg F.

    average june temperature high in portland is 73 deg F

    115 deg in Portland on Sunday means a delta of 47.

    56 > 47

    Of course, facts don’t matter to irrational people, regardless of their ideological predispositions. Then again, some people are more willing ‘semi-internalize’ beliefs that they know to be lies. This is a different flavor of ‘irrationality’, and more of a moral failing. I believe that right wingers are more inclined towards the clueless irrationality, while left-wingers are more inclined towards the more deceitful, schizophrenic, embrace-the-lie irrationality.

    IMNSHO, the chapter on Religion, in E.O. Wilson’s “Sociobiology” adequately explains these tendencies. The similarity of Communist and Catholic ideologues to suspend their critical faculties, detailed therein, was striking.

    In any event, I have mocked the latest orgasm of CO2 Catastrophism as a belief that current fossil fuel consumption’s effects go BACKWARDS in time.

    The record hot day in Santa Barabara, after all, occurred on June 17, 1859.

  54. different clue


    Would it be rude to hope that Candace Owens dies of heat stroke in the global warming which she so lucratively denies?

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