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The year the climate ‘dam of denial’ breaks – ready for the flood?

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This is the year the climate “dam of denial” will break and the momentum for action will become an unstoppable flood. It will be messy, confusing and endlessly debated but with historical hindsight, 2015 will be the year. The year the world turned; primarily because the market woke up to the economic threat posed by climate change and the economic opportunity in the inevitable decline of fossil fuels.

That shift will in turn unlock government policy and public opinion because the previous resistance to action argued on economic grounds, will reverse to favour action on economic grounds.

dam-breaking

source: pixshark

Before I argue for this conclusion, let me explain what I mean by the “dam of denial”, and why the concept is so important to understanding what’s underway.

Anyone who “gets” the urgency of the climate issue and the scale of economic transformation it necessitates, is bewildered by those who don’t.

How can so many otherwise intelligent and logical people – such as company executives, politicians and investment managers – not see the obvious urgency or the equally obvious economic risk? It is so illogical it can only be seen as denial.

This is not climate denial but an example of “implicatory denial”, the rather bizarre ability of humans to accept a risk but then stop processing the implications, just because those implications are so overwhelming. It is well covered in a study by Kari Marie Norgaard, described in her book “Living in Denial”.

Studying history – particularly the history of WWII, while writing my book The Great Disruption – led me to accept this type of denial as largely inevitable. As I wrote there, it is exactly because the implications are so great, that the denial is so strong. And because the implications get more dramatic and costly every year, the longer we delay, the stronger implicatory denial becomes!

It is now so late in the process that the implications of ending denial are truly mind-boggling. For a start to have even an 80 per cent chance (clearly too low) of limiting warming to the agreed 2°C target (clearly too high) requires us to eliminate fossil fuels – one of the world’s largest and most powerful industries – and replace it in less than a few decades.

This scale of change has enormous social and economic implications on any time scale, but to do so within decades is without precedent outside war – not to mention terrifying for the owners and managers of such businesses (and so denial-inducing)!

But despite being mind-boggling and without precedent, unfortunately it doesn’t change the facts. This is what is necessary and so it must be done. That’s why I called one of my book’s chapters “When The Dam of Denial Breaks”; because with the pressure constantly building, at some point it becomes so great the dam bursts.

If you think that’s wrong, you have to accept the alternative – that as the food supply collapses, extreme weather accelerates and military conflict over water scarcity, refugee flow and famine erupts, we will stand by idly and observe it getting steadily worse without response. That idea is so absurd it can be ignored, and that’s why the busting of the dam of denial is inevitable. But when?

This is certainly debatable but my judgement is that this is the year. Why?

Despite our obsession with it, the science on climate change is now largely irrelevant in this process. If the scientific evidence was going to shift the system, it would have done so by now – it is, after all, overwhelmingly clear on the urgency and the risk. What we have to look for instead is evidence of shifts in the human response, not the ecological one.

In this regard I look to politics and economics. In both cases there are confusing and contradictory signals but I think there are grounds to conclude we’re at the edge of something very significant. I think there are six key indicators.

1. The US China Climate deal – how change really occurs

One of the most interesting and least appreciated is the US China climate deal. Not for its practical impact on emissions but as the emergence of what I called in my book a kind of “Coalition of the Cooling”. The historical significance of the two most powerful countries in the world agreeing that climate action is so important it is worthy of such an agreement will be appreciated in hindsight – not least for its likely multi trillion dollar impact on markets. 

2. Collapse in oil prices

The collapse in oil prices, considered by many to be bad news for clean energy, is quite the opposite. It’s probably one of the most powerful market influences for what I see coming. There are a variety of positive impacts from these low prices, well summarised in this article from Assaad Razzouk in the Independent.

But the most important one is the intriguing idea of global energy price deflation driven by renewables, especially solar, undermining investor confidence in fossil fuels.  The Economist recently concluded on future investment in fossil fuels that “….the prospect of much cheaper solar power and storage capability may put investors off. The story may be not so much what falling oil prices mean for clean energy than what the prospect of clean energy will mean for the oil price.

3. Solar price falls set to continue

The collapse of renewable energy’s costs, especially solar, will be seen historically as perhaps the single biggest driver of transformational change in energy markets, particularly when paired with the interconnected developments in batteries, storage and electric vehicles. The key is not just how far solar costs have fallen but the likelihood that they’ll keep falling. Critics point to the very low share of global total energy demand provided by solar. I point to the same thing to make my case. If solar is competitive on price at less than 1% of global supply, imagine what will happen when it truly scales. That’s why considering the earlier analysis on oil prices, The Economist referred to solar as a “dagger in the heart of the fossil fuel industry”, particularly when combined with clever financing and business models by fast growing disruptive solar companies like Solar City and Sungevity.

Part of this analysis is the idea of the virtuous circle of rapid growth and lowering prices leading to abundant cheap energy. There are those who argue intelligently that this is a techno-optimists pipe dream, such as Richard Heinberg in this well considered sceptism but we will soon find out given the pace at which it is all moving.

4. Market prices reflect economic disruption

Of course given all this, anyone who thinks markets are rational, at least over time, would ask “if this is all so clear, why doesn’t it reflect in prices?” It is, and dramatically so. Consider these examples:

  • Some pure coal companies like Peabody have lost over 75% of their value in the last three years. Their carbon bubble has well and truly burst. And while prices will vary over time, the coal industry is not coming back and we should politely bid farewell. To quote a recent Goldman Sachs analysis:  “Just as a worker celebrating their 65th birthday can settle into a more sedate lifestyle while they look back on past achievements, we argue that thermal coal has reached its retirement age.”
  • The European Utility sector lost half a trillion Euros by misreading the influence of renewables and energy efficiency. There were other factors as well, as always, but it was renewables that meant, like coal, this is not cyclical but existential. The Economist again:Renewables have not just put pressure on margins. They have transformed the established business model for utilities.”
  • Tesla, which produced just 30,000 cars in 2013 is valued at nearly half of GM which produced around 9 million cars. And the oil price slide seems to have had no material impact. With Tesla’s likely move into home storage for solar and rumours of an Apple/Tesla tie up, the future is looking very interesting. In response, the market has looked at history and concluded that old companies like GM mostly won’t get it; they’ll just be replaced.

So while many climate activists focus on the political power and influence of the fossil fuel industry, I see an industry scrambling to defend itself against overwhelming forces that will see it destroyed – not in a mighty moral crusade but something far more brutal and fast – the market turning on it. Of course these companies don’t believe that is possible, and nor do many of us. But to quote Mandela, who knew a few things about driving change: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

5. The political power of big business starts to shift sides

A key part of the process of fossil fuels’ decline is the separation of the business community into those who feel threatened by climate action and those threatened by the lack of it. Thus we should note as a major development, the recent call by a group of major global businesses for the world to have zero net CO2 emissions by 2050, thus effectively ending companies like Shell and Exxon, at least in their current form. This separation, on self-interest grounds, within business is of huge significance. Watch that space.

6. Physical impacts accelerating and driving economic and security impact

As I argued above, the science becoming clearer won’t trigger the end of denial. Black and white getting blacker and whiter can’t influence those who don’t want to see. Which is a shame given the evidence is emerging that blacker is getting very black indeed, as argued here by David Spratt. But physical climate changes impacting the economy and public opinion will be very influential. That’s why accelerating physical impacts matter a great deal.

The most powerful symbol of this right now is the largest city in South America, Sao Paulo, Brazil facing the risk of collapse due to a punishing drought worsened by climate change and deforestation as explained here by Tom Friedman in the NYT.  This is not symbolic for the people of Brazil who are facing rolling water and power cuts, businesses shut down, widespread protests and a drought reduced coffee crop driving up global prices by nearly half. It is not hard to imagine a series of events triggering the effective collapse of the Brazilian economy and the country’s descent into chaos. With 93 cities now affected and key reservoirs in both Sao Paulo and Rio down to 1 – 5% of capacity, they’re praying for rain. I hope they’re prayers are answered, but even with Pope Francis now on board, I think this may require more earthly intervention.

There are countless examples of the economic and related geopolitical significance of climate change impacts. The way climate change helped trigger the war in Syria and the rise of ISIS. How climate is driving food prices, which is driving global conflict. How an Arctic methane burst could pose a multi-trillion dollar risk to the global economy.

So will these six drivers be enough? Will the economic impacts of collapsing fossil fuels and collapsing cities force the invisible hand of the market to do what governments have failed to do? Not by itself, but it could tip a system that is primed and ready.

Changing systems requires many interconnected parts to shift. That’s why in my writing and speaking I try to summarise such complex inter-related drivers – to help us see the whole picture and recognise emerging patterns.

Of course the role of government remains key – let’s not forget that the market and technology marvel that is the accelerating solar industry only arrived because government policy initiated the process, especially in Germany, the US and China. But government is just part of a system that no one is really in charge of.

So, while the Paris climate talks this year will be an important step in a process, they are not as fundamental as many think. Such negotiations tend to follow rather than lead the system-change process. That’s why Paris this year is an indicator, rather than a driver, of system change and we should look at what drives action to understand emerging tipping points.

This is why I attach such importance to the direct economic shifts outlined above, and also to the resulting more aggressive calls for action by sections of the business community. This last point could even be the most important development of 2015 because, for all the complaints about the influence of corporates on policy, that very influence could now tip the debate in favour of action.

Given all these indicators, I think there are enough cracks in the dam of denial to argue it is about to break. That does not mean the problem is fixed. But it does mean we would stop this absurd game of implicatory denial and get to work on driving and managing the massive economic transformation that starts when denial ends.

When we try to understand and forecast change, we tend to look for big symbolic events – the global political deal, the massive economic crash or the extreme weather event that destroys a city. The reality is that change, especially system change, is just messy. It’s chaotic, confusing and often hard to see when you’re in the middle of it. But many are smelling a big shift, like the International Business Editor of the UK’s conservative broadsheet The Telegraph Ambrose Evans-Pritchard who summed it up well:  “These historic turning points are hard to call when you are living through them but much of today’s fossil fuel industry has a distinct whiff of the 19th Century canals, a pre-modern relic in a world that is moving on very fast.”

This will be the year it moves a whole lot faster.

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  • Evan A

    Paul, thanks for the great article. I really hope you are right. So who do you think is going to step up as the Winston Churchill of enhanced greenhouse effect abatement?

    • Paul Gilding

      Ah yes Evan, a good question. Of course we don’t know, but in the Churchill vein, it should be remembered he didn’t step up as such but the context changed to suit his capacities. Prior to that he was dismissed as politically going nowhere. So that’s partly why I focus on the context changing, rather than individuals.

      • Evan A

        We do have a methane powered Hitler 2.0 in the making to the east of Europe. But that may be stretching the analogy too far.

      • DogzOwn

        About Winston, he converted British navy fleet to oil when dependent on USA/Rockefeller for 80% of supply. There was fuss that Iraq was not about oil. But has there ever been fuss that WW1 was about oil, as have all wars since? Is total world military expense ever included in calculation for subsidies of fossil fuels? If not why not? How about a levy for military on local, oil and gas mobs?

  • suthnsun

    The implicatory denial dam may well burst, as it must. What it tells us is that as a species we have failed to act in a considered, sensible, moderately enlightened and timely way in the full face of logic, massive evidence etc. even when the ‘going was good’.
    Since the dam burst is fairly squarely predicated on growing experience of disaster and collapse and that process of collapse is only going to ramp up palpably, I find it hard to imagine our species coming up with a coherent approach to both mitigation and adaptation when the going is definitely very bad. Time was of the essence 10 years ago. Now is a full scale emergency response of a type never before experienced. I do hope the dam burst is accompanied by a hitherto unseen flowering of objective deliberation and truly enlightened selfless behaviour change on a mass scale.

    • Raahul Kumar

      Enlightened selfless behaviour? That’s ridiculous, it’s not even conceivable. What will happen instead is trying to pull back from the brink when we are well on track for very adverse consequences.

      I see too little being done in time to prevent catastrophe. That is the reality of the current slow response. All that can be done is to ride out the negative impacts, which will be large and sustained for decades. Our children and grandchildren can only curse us, the parents, for being fools on a global scale.

      • suthnsun

        I can conceive of it Raahul but the chances are very very slim and it would be unprecedented. I express it only as a hope. A hope, to me, is a very last resort and can be validly derided or called ridiculous if one wishes. I think we are generally agreed. Unless we enter an emergency response immediately we won’t even ride it out in the long term methinks.

        • Raahul Kumar

          It would take an extreme event like the Sun moderating its solar output, or the runaway methane reaction being avoided. Or some unknown technical breakthrough.

          I think the conversation needs to acknowledge the current slow pace is not enough to fix the problem and avoid the issue. We need to be talking about how to handle climate change, since we can’t avoid it.

          Or alternatively, to speed up the process immensely. But climate has built so much inertia, even if carbon emissions went to zero tomorrow, it would still cause decades of warming into the future.

          • suthnsun

            I agree Raahul. We need immediate pre-emptive emergency responses for 10 years at least then review. A global ban on ff exploration. Plus a suite of other measures.

          • https://plus.google.com/u/0/ Raahul Kumar

            Carbon tax – worldwide, is the first, best response. And then the United Nations Decarbonization plans are listed here.

            http://unsdsn.org/what-we-do/deep-decarbonization-pathways/

            Every country needs to start tracking how well they are doing against that benchmark, and if not, what it would take to put them back on track.

            Really large scale planting of trees. There is a lot that needs to be done, and very little time and money to do it with.

            Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian
            Outback to end global warming

            http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/646/art%253A10.1007%252Fs10584-009-9626-y.pdf?auth66=1426146979_05f3a44247365e59d3e5b9fbf25ab020&ext=.pdf

            There’s plenty of ideas on how to solve the problem, what’s needed is action!

          • suthnsun

            I’ll support a carbon tax worldwide Raahul but that can’t be the first, best response since it is a very complicated process, slow coming to fruition , expensive to administer and in itself achieves little because its effectiveness is partly dependent on the way the funds are re-allocated. So in my view it is a simple idea which quickly becomes bogged down and ineffectual in practice.
            A global ban on ff exploration would be vastly simpler to administer and police, sends a powerful price signal in favour of renewables, is psychologically pre-emptive and clear cut, encourages immediate reallocation of existing capital resources and in principle at least can’t be white-anted by incumbents. The question is, could it be achieved and how quickly? In my view it is a fundamental, necessary building block demonstrating acknowledgment of the severity and imminence of the problems and the willingness to tackle the task without contradiction and equivocation. Hence I see it as the first (and best) response and the one that will give me some comfort. It is but one of many more steps required.. (and I don’t stand in the way of beneficial parallel processes )

          • https://plus.google.com/u/0/ Raahul Kumar

            A carbon tax is very simple, and it’s not that complicated. Modi just imposed a coal tax and doubled it in the year. And there are many other countries imposing a tax, or implementing it now.

            http://www.carbontax.org/services/where-carbon-is-taxed/
            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-28/modi-commits-to-clean-environment-by-doubling-india-s-coal-tax

            Worldwide is much closer than you think. Where the European Union, Bharat, Zhonghua, and most of the rest of the world has followed. That’s already 3 billion people.

            Slashing fossil fuel subsidies is a good idea, and Modi has done exactly that in Bharat. So I do approve, but as a secondary step, not the primary. A $100 USD Carbon tax is the need of the moment.

            http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-01-18/news/58200783_1_fossil-fuel-subsidies-oil-prices-energy-subsidies

            We would still need to slash 40% of the remaining subsidy to take it to zero, but people get angry when a subsidy is suddenly taken away. I do agree thought that many steps must be done in parellel, and a sequential approach only guarantees failure in this case.

            Try many things and see what works!

          • suthnsun

            Ok Raahul, in a democracy a $100 C tax will only exist in the long term with the support of the people. Even in China I think the Party would be responsive to a widespread resentment towards a $100 C tax. So the assent we are talking about is equivalent in most senses to “a hitherto unseen flowering of objective deliberation and truly enlightened selfless behaviour change on a mass scale.” Which is where I started.. I would really welcome that!

          • https://plus.google.com/u/0/ Raahul Kumar

            The CCP is responsive to the protests against air pollution. Public opinion varies. And the people will support anything. Never ask the people what they want.

            Henry Ford “If I asked the people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”

            Lead, and the people will follow. Human history is conclusive proof that homo sapiens are sheep, easily led to any direction at all, regardless of its merits/demerits.

            A flowering of selfless behaviour is unneeded. CFC’s were banned without any such flowering, just resolute action is all that’s required.

            “From Ozone Success, a Potential Climate Model

            http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/18/science/18clim.html?_r=0

            Countries that are not part of the carbon tax network will face substantial financial penalties, so this is an easy to enforce scheme.

            Modi doubled the coal tax, it’s not nearly as difficult as presumed.

          • suthnsun

            And would you support a global ban on ff exploration Raahul?

          • https://plus.google.com/u/0/ Raahul Kumar

            Yes. At the very least, removing all the tax breaks and subsidies handed out to enable it.

  • Pedro

    About time the “dam wall of denial” breaks. There has been plenty of people banging theirs heads against it for over 20 years now.

  • johnnewton

    The ability of Tone Deaf and his cronies to sit in Canberra like the three wise monkeys is inexplicable, until now. Thank you.

    I’m heartened by the vital signs. This morning, walking as we do in our local park, we listened to a businessman acquaintance telling us of a project he is working on which concerns solar panels and making them cheaper and more available. This depends on battery storage I said. September he said. Hope he’s right.

  • ChrisEcoSouth

    There are 2 factors here, that whilst intertwined, should be recognised separately:
    1. The concept of climate change/warming and what it entails
    2. The concept of the economic change of energy production.
    The 2nd point lays claim to the (global) drivers (such as) – decreased tolerance for respiratory problems, plateau(s) of critical mass cost-effectiveness reached by renewable industries, increasing consumer independence driven by technology changes, that are a rebellion against more ‘contriving of markets’ to lock in consumers (eg on-line buying vs installing solar on your roof) – which in turn has a trigger-effect to swing/transform the market from traditional energy to renewables, ways of which are shown in the article. But they are separate, and should be credited as such where due; – to allow discernment of the true picture of motivation of various market-segments.

  • Ken Dyer

    Something has to give in Australia and very soon too. Everywhere around us you see evidence.
    One remembers is the 50’s when it was that cold in Geelong the water in the dog bowl would freeze over. Never saw it again. In Australia our own scientists publish research articles, that are largely ignored by government and are dismissed by popular journalists as “warmist” propaganda.
    http://www.csiro.au/Outcomes/Climate/Understanding/State-of-the-Climate-2014.aspx

    U.S. government web sites publish comprehensive documents too
    http://climate.nasa.gov/400ppmquotes/

    We are almost at the point of no return, but it will do little good no matter how many fossil fuelled energy producers are shut down, because at the same time as renewable sources are being developed and implemented, one of the biggest green house gas producers is cattle. In Australia, the numbers of cattle are expected to double over the next few years because of increased demand for protein from China and other Asian countries.
    http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/agriculture-and-food/farm-management/weather-and-climate/understanding-carbon-and-emissions/carbon-and-emissions-livestock

    I know what I believe. The boy with his finger in the dyke as epitomised by the Abbott Government, will be consumed in the coming deluge.

    • Pete

      Meat has already been “grown” in the laboratory. Watch for large scale cattle farming following the path of coal.

      • wideEyedPupil

        can only hope so.

    • Calamity_Jean

      You have been misinformed. Cattle and other ruminant food animals produce a tiny fraction of the world’s greenhouse gasses currently. If the day ever comes that human cattle farming is the world’s largest source of greenhouse gas, global warming will be entirely ended.

      • Ken Dyer

        On the contrary, as far as Australia is concerned, ruminants produce 10% of greenhouse gas. I think that is significant.
        http://www.csiro.au/Organisation-Structure/Flagships/Sustainable-Agriculture-Flagship/Livestock-Methane-Research-Cluster-Methane-Cluster.aspx

        So this is what is predicted to happen.
        http://www.abc.net.au/landline/content/2015/s4184835.htm

        Apart from the increasing demands for meat, one must consider that extreme weather events (droughts, floods, etc) , whether or not caused by global warming, will certainly reduce feed yields. So the problem of greenhouse gas emissions by livestock may reduce, but the problem of feeding the world will be exacerbated.

        Add in bushfires,, hurricanes, fisheries depletion, water supply disruption and diseases to the mix then one wonders what our society will face incoming years.

      • wideEyedPupil

        Beyond Zero Emissions has done more thorough modelling of GHGs and found that livestock are associated with around 1/3 of national emissions using 100 year timeframe and 55% using the more appropriate 20 year time frame. Many land sector emissions get hidden (ignored) and reclassified into other sectors like industrial for ag inputs in that official national GHG emissions accounting. Of that 55%, 90% are associated with livestock. So livestock are ~50% of Australian GHG emissions.

        100 year timeframe diminishes the effects of methane because it has a ~7 half life in the atmosphere (it decays a lot quicker than CO2 but slower than ‘short-lived’ GHGs) so it’s not actually around to have an effect for most of the nominal 100 years — but it is around in our atmosphere for those 100 years because there is a constant and increasing flow of methane. That’s why 20 year timeframe more accurately captures the impact on the climate of methane. Methane, land clearing (sometime repeated) and savannah burning are the three big sources of land sector emissions.

        You better cite some evidence fast CJ because you’ve been caught out with your bloomers showing.

        bze.org.au/landuse

        • EddieVentley

          If livestock has that much effect, then the ‘push west’ in the USA from about 1800 onward that almost wiped out the bison that covered the continent, must’ve been a good thing in reducing methane?
          Similarly, Australia is not new in this regard: deliberate burning back of bush to create grasslands for kangaroos to
          multiply – a double-whammy of burgeoning ‘roos and constant bushfires.

          Whatever the % figure of national output quoted for methane from animals, one has to wonder about the greater output from methane from *all* animals in past centuries, and the comparative effect, given that wild livestock filled the continents, presumably in much greater numbers?

  • JohnRD

    What was not said was the state of the world economy. What this economy is a burst of the level of activity we associate with major wars. If we handle the financing right we could end up with a world with large amounts of very clean power at very low prices.
    The climate science has become a distraction.

    • Ken Dyer

      John you should read Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything (Capitalism vs.the Climate)
      If the world took the same approach to climate change, as it treated the GFC crisis, or even the “war against terror”, we would be a long way towards saving the planet.

      Governments have been mucking around with the need to reduce emissions for over 20 years now, the climate scientists have been telling us for years, and all we get is delay, and obfuscation.
      To quote Naomi Klein” Why are climatologists speaking out about the dangers of global warming? THE ANSWER IS THAT VIRTUALLY ALL OF US ARE NOW CONVINCED THAT GLOBAL WARMING POSES A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER TO CIVILISATION “(my bold letters but I make no apology for yelling on this blog).
      The world economy is stuffed, and Naomi Klein explains it very well. “Climate change is a civilizational wake up call. A powerful message – spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions – telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing the planet. Telling us that we need to evolve.”

  • Ray Del Colle

    Switching to renewable, sustainable energy will stimulate the economy, create jobs, save money and clean up the environment. “Climate change is happening now. Just ask 97% of the top climate scientists & every major National Academy of Science in the world.” http://clmtr.lt/c/Ulx0cc0cMJ

  • J Stein

    Look I’ll admit I’ve been ignoring the whole Global Warming issue for years. But I’m interested now and I really want to try to understand both sides arguments. I just read a bunch of articles declaring Global Warming is a hoax. I’d like to be pointed to clear facts to counter their statements.
    1) Has the World or has the World not been warming over the past 17 Years?
    2) Have over 95% of the Climate Models failed to predict the future correctly?
    3) (Goes along with #1, kind of assumes # 1 is true) Have world wide Green Houses gasses continued to increase even though the World is not Warming?
    4) Temperature reading stations around the world have been either eliminated or compromised due to “Civilization” which means there are far fewer data points around the word than there used to be. So comparison to averages from 40 years ago is not valid.
    5) Naturally occurring “Green House” gasses from Volcanos and Cows(?? Not sure if that was a typo but I saw it in two different articles) are more numerous than Man-Made “Green House” gases.
    6) Surface temperatures are irrelevant if you can’t measure the earth’s temperature below the surface (to the core I guess) to see if the whole earth is really changing one way or the other.
    7) During times of global warming, the Sun is more “active” and during time of “Not warming” the Sun is “less active”. Not quite sure what they mean by Active, but I assumed it was measured by Solar flares and such.
    I guess that’s more than enough to start with. I really appreciate any help you can give me.
    Thanks
    Jim

    • Farmer Dave

      Jim, the issues you have raised are commonly raised, and there are solid scientific answers to each one. I won’t try here, but strongly recommend you look at http://www.skepticalscience.com/ which is a site set up in order to line the science up against arguments such as the ones you have quoted. The site often has rebuttals at Basic, Intermediate and Advanced levels, and if you look at the Intermediate and Advanced levels, there are links to the actual scientific papers the answers are based on, so you can drill down as deeply into the science as you like. Skeptical Science is truly excellent. Some of the national academies of science have published statements on climate change with FAQ sections which also respond to the points you have quoted. Scientists have organized themselves into national associations by discipline or interest (the Australian Institute of Physics is an example), and the national academies are the peak bodies formed by all the associations, so there is tremendous scientific weight behind their work.

      Finally, my personal view is that all of the issues you raise are irrelevant. The details of the interactions between carbon dioxide and heat (infra-red) radiation that cause the greenhouse effect that is heating the plant have been measured in exquisite detail in several leading laboratories and the physics is clear, and uncontroversial – adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere traps heat that would otherwise have left the planet. Further, observations from satellites have measured the heat imbalance, so the trapping of heat has been directly measured. If the planet is receiving more heat from the sun than is radiated out into space, then the planet must get hotter and hotter. The rest is detail.

    • nakedChimp

      ..read the IPCC reports one by one, it will be the best, most concise information on the matter.

      • wideEyedPupil

        Except IPCC are inherently ultra-conservative using a consensus decision making model. Good example was they were saying ice free Arctic was very unlikely before 22nd century in early assessment reports. Experts in Arctic ice melt saying as early as 2016. Good explanations in Climate Code Red which is an easy and punchy read, can’t recommend it too much.

        http://www.climatecodered.org/

    • Ken Dyer

      Try reading Naomi Klein’s book. The website is here
      http://thischangeseverything.org/

      It even has a chapter about confronting your internal climate denier. It discusses the plight of Nauru and its people and how it came about. Nauru is a premier example of what is called extractivism – a non reciprocal, dominance based relationship with the earth, one purely of taking. Nauru was considered a place that could be exploited and sacrificed for the common good of economic progress, and so it has proved. Now it is a corrupt and barren place, its people have significant health issues, and the only use for it now is an internment camp for asylum seekers.
      The toxic example of Nauru can be applied across the earth in every extractive industry.

      There are no real climate deniers, there are however many people living in denial of something they cannot bear to think about, that maybe, their hitherto safe spaceship earth may not be so safe after all, and they will have to change.

  • Egget

    I would argue that part of the explanation for climate change denial is that it isn’t really denial in many cases, rather it is stalling for time. The biggest players in the oil, gas, automobile industry have known about the issue for a long time. They have spent countless dollars trying to make sure we get as close to the edge as possible before taking action, by buying climate sceptic pundits and the like. Why? So they can move their financial interests to safer ground. They are going to take a hit but rest assured that they have now secured enough they they can finally *let* the dam burst – they are safely on the other side.

    It is beyond immoral that they would drag us all to the brink (and possibly over it) in order to protect their immense, disproportionate, wealth.

    • wideEyedPupil

      Many of the denialist I seem to attract are fully committed and passionate about their contrarianism. The know more than the average person on CC as shown by a recent survey in USA and they will argue the toss on absolutely anything to try and score points. It’s a case of closed mind determination to reject a Green conspiracy as far as I can see. The belief system is there that agitation for climate action is all political spin because it’s coming from people they cannot respect, for whatever reasons of alienation etc.

      • Egget

        Resulting from my experience I see them as footsoldiers. They are fed propaganda, just as the people they hold in contempt, only from different sources. They are “well informed” but heavily biased since they disregard anything that could be seen as green, or liberal, or what have you.

        It is like the Illuminati conspirators. They know a surprising amount of stuff, mythology, symbolism, etc, but it is all stitched together into a crazy quilt.

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