[Vision2020] "Eaarth" Discussion: "Adaptation... is not a sane option" Given IPSO Ocean Report, MIT 2009 Study: Warming in 2100: 5.1°C

Ted Moffett starbliss at gmail.com
Fri Nov 25 16:05:29 PST 2011

Someone might find the following response I
wrote months ago to a participant in a local Moscow discussion of
McKibben's book
"Eaarth" of some interest.  My ideas are supported with
numerous credible sources, though of course much more research is
required to fully support my claims  I have removed any reference to who I
wrote this response to, but they are someone of significance in the
Moscow community.
I basically address two issues below, that adaptation to climate
change is not a sane strategy, and that Moscow in some important
respects is not substantially addressing climate change more than
federal efforts. I demonstrate with facts why the Moscow city 20
percent reduction below 2005 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by
2020 is climate change environmental "greenwash."

Realistically, I think that the "right actions" to a large degree will
not be taken at any level, personal, city, county, state, national,
international (UN), multinational corporate, etc. to substantially
mitigate human impacts on climate for decades.  When I write
"mitigate" I mean actions that will at minimum stop atmospheric CO2
and ocean acidification from continuing to increase.  But regardless,
the attempt should be made, at all levels.  The sooner the problem is
addressed, the sooner increases in atmospheric CO2 will stop, thus
reducing the magnitude of long term impacts over centuries.

You state "it's not a question of the science being good..."  Yet if
you think the peer reviewed science relating to human impacts on
climate that I reference in this email is credible, it should be
apparent that adaptation as a primary focus of addressing climate
change is not a sane option, given the global nature and magnitude of
the probable long term impacts.  Regarding the credibility of the
science on this issue, the so called "debate" regarding global warming
should be placed in the context of this survey of publishing climate
scientists, who offer a 97 percent agreement with the IPCC on global
warming: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
"Expert credibility in climate change"

Discussion of adaptation as a rational practical long term option
offers many an excuse to continue with an intensive fossil fuel
economy and lifestyle, assuming adaptation will mostly address
whatever problems climate change poses. Of course adaptation will be
necessary, maybe extreme geo-engineering, but these are emergency
responses to a situation out of control, not a primary solution to the
problem.  As the US National Academy of Sciences in a May 2010 release
phrased it, in caps on their website:

MIT study:
"Probabilistic Forecast for Twenty-First-Century Climate Based on
Uncertainties in Emissions (Without Policy) and Climate Parameters"
Article in full direct free:

June 21, 2011 IPSO Report: Extinction Event Inevitable If
Current Trajectory of Damage Continues.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences article refers to
"dangerous anthropogenic interference" with the following climate
tipping points emphasized: Arctic summer ice free, Himalayan Tibetan
glaciers, Greenland ice sheet, Amazon rain forest, ENSO, Thermohaline
circulation, West Antarctic ice sheet.
"Reducing abrupt climate change risk using the Montreal Protocol and
other regulatory actions to complement cuts in CO2 emissions"

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
"Nonlinear temperature effects indicate severe damages to U.S. crop
yields under climate change"

Regarding potential warfare from climate change, military scholar
Gwynne Dyer's book "Climate Wars" outlines various scenarios:
And US General Anthony Zinni stated in the following article:
"We will pay for this one way or another," Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a
retired Marine and the former head of the Central Command, wrote
recently in a report he prepared as a member of a military advisory
board on energy and climate at CNA, a private group that does research
for the Navy. "We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today,
and we'll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay
the price later in military terms," he warned. "And that will involve
human lives."

Given the above scientific studies and reports, billions of people
are likely to be profoundly negatively impacted, especially if
projections of global population reaching 9 billion are credible.
Global average surface temperatures increasing less than 3 C. is one
level of change under business as usual, and some might argue this is
managable with adaptation, though the MIT study referenced indicates
this has less than 1 percent chance of being the outcome by 2100.  But
5.1 C. increase, the median probability of temperature change in this
MIT study, entirely possible with a global business as usual approach,
is globally catastrophic, even if some areas of Earth will remain
habitable.  Sea level rise alone would be a global disaster: Rahmstorf
and Vermeer 2009 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences indicating potential sea level rise by 2100 of 75
to 190 cm (close to two meters at the high end):

The IPSO report on the oceans, which is directly related to climate
change, given ocean warming and acidfication is caused by human CO2
emissions, is reason enough for dramatic action to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions.  "Extinction event inevitable?"  This statement is
coming from calm rational scientists, not a paranoid lunatic on the
street corner holding a sign "Repent Sinners!  The End is Near!".

The PNAS paper on impacts to US agriculture from climate change,
"Nonlinear temperature effects indicate severe damages to U.S. crop
yields under climate change," should be a wake-up call for citizens of
the US.  Perhaps in the Palouse we will not experience major
agricultural collapse, but if there is large scale agricultural
declines in other areas of the US, we could face an influx of
population with dramatic impacts to our area.  And betting that the
Palouse will remain as agriculturally productive as it is if global
average surface temperatures increase 5.1 C by 2100, with further
climate change probable from 2100 on, is a roll of the dice.

Again, is this science credible?  If the projections even have a 50
percent chance of being credible, this is enough for dramatic action
at all levels.  Imagine a flight where the pilot informs you there is
a 50 percent chance of a fatal crash, due to mechanical problems.
Would you take that risk?  Would you insist the mechanical problems be
fixed before you or your family took the flight?  We are talking about
taking huge risks regarding the entire biosphere of our planet, with
serious consequences for centuries, I should not have to point out,
though it seems many people don't fully wrap their mind around what
this implies.

I don't want to come across as holier than thou in this response,
because I am just as responsible for human induced climate change as
anyone in the US, the nation that has contributed by far the most
historical CO2 emissions to our atmosphere of any nation, thus the
most to climate change.  While China's annual emissions are probably
ahead of the US now, China has a long way to go to catch the US for
total historical CO2 emissions, which given CO2 atmospheric lifespan,
is the most critical emissions fact regarding inducing climate change
from greenhouse gases:

Our power and wealth as a nation is predicated essentially on our
exhorbitant consumption of fossil fuels, thus moral responsibility
among the world's nations to address climate change falls most heavily
upon us, if we are honest about the magnitude of our impacts, as a

I don't perceive the residents of the city of Moscow substantially
addressing climate change, to any large degree more than it is being
addressed at the national federal level.  Consider the Moscow city 20
percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 level by 2020
goal.  This is a feel good greenwash public relations effort, even if
some involved are sincere and hard working, that anyone studying
climate science knows will not stop atmospheric CO2 from continuing to
increase, if viewing this level of reduction of emissions as a global

Atmospheric CO2 was increasing in 1960 (  Mauna Loa CO2 record:
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/#mlo_full ) at those levels
of global emissions, which were more than 60 percent below 2005
levels.  2005 million metric tons of global emissions from fossil fuel
burning and flaring were 28,485:
http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/international/iealf/tableh1co2.xls 1960
million metric tons of global CO2 emissions, including cement
manufacture, were approaching 10,000: Global CO2 Emissions from
Fossil-Fuel Burning, Cement Manufacture, and Gas Flaring: 1752-2006:

This Moscow city "20 by 2020" plan should be presented to the public
with a clear prominent scientific statement that this is insufficient
to prevent climate change from accelerating, and much more must be
done by everyone to address this problem.  I have not heard this clear
prominent statement, from the mayor or anyone in city government.
Shocking!  If such a statement has been made, please refer me.

Earth Policy Institute indicates 80 percent reductions below 2006
levels, along with other mitigation efforts, to prevent severe climate
change impacts:

When you view the personal behavior of many Moscow residents, and
survey their views on climate change, it is clear that even if they
acknowledge the problem, many are not willing to substantially modify
their behavior (politically promote carbon tax, cap and trade or fee
and dividend, to make carbon polluters pay for their damage, greatly
lower large home energy consumption, stop daily reliance on private
car/truck fossil fueled transporation, install solar thermal or
electric on their homes, etc.), or they simply ignore or deny the

Some on Moscow's city council have publicly stated they do not think
human induced climate change is credible.  Many prominent business
leaders are in favor of shopping malls on the edges of Moscow,
regardless of the impacts on encouraging an energy intensive fossil
fueled lifestyle, and promoted the abandoned, at least for now,
Hawkin's mall development on the Pullman Hwy, as did some on the
current city council.

One of the prominent churches that occupies considerable space in
downtown Moscow, in one manner or another (college, etc.), with great
economic and ideological influence, has leaders that deny human
induced climate change is a serious problem, publicly promoting junk
science on climate change.  I've engaged in dialog on this issue with
several members of this church, with little or no sucess in changing
anyones mind.  I wrote an op-ed responding to one of these church
members for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, which you can read here:
"Human effects on climate change are real" Friday, February 23, 2007

Lowering atmospheric CO2, which long term on a centuries time scale,
including both fast and slow feedbacks in the Earth's climate system,
is required if we want to prevent destabaization of Greenland and/or
West Antarctica, and meters of sea level rise, with the resultant
immense economic impacts and disruptions to the lives of hundreds of
millions, will be an even harder goal.  From NASA Goddard Institute
for Space Studies scientists:
"Target CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?"

But if humanity does not stop atmospheric CO2 from increasing within
this century, and levels reach well into the 400s ppm or higher, we
will likely induce a global climate shift of a magnitude that will
render adaptation for billions of human beings, who are already living
in environments stressed by economic, poltical and environmental
problems, an increasingly difficult option.

Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett
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