“World set to exceed global warming limit,” per International Energy Agency

Update: Corrected a misstatement in the conclusion.

This is a Quick Hits on climate change and global warming (click and read; it’s fast). To set the table:

▪ We’re at somewhere between 0.8°C and 1.0°C above the average temperature at which human civilization began and thrived.

▪ According to James Hansen, this degree of warming hasn’t been seen on earth since long before man existed (I’ll have that in a later post).

▪ World “leaders” seem to think that we can live comfortably in a +2°C world, and also that we have ever-so-much time to figure out how to Keep David Koch Rich while we “fix” this.

In that context, consider this story. The source of the information is the International Energy Agency, based in Paris. Note that the prediction is based on a do-nothing scenario, not an act-now scenario (my emphasis and paragraphing):

World set to exceed global warming limit: IEA

Global temperatures are on track to rise by more than double the two-degree Celsius warming goal set by the UN unless urgent measures are taken, the International Energy Agency warned Monday.

Climate via Shutterstock

Climate via Shutterstock

“The path we are currently on is more likely to result in a temperature increase of between 3.6 and 5.3 [degrees] C,” IEA chief Maria van der Hoeven said in presenting a new report on greenhouse gases.

The Paris-based agency urged governments to act, saying the [2°C] target could still be met with little economic pain. “Much more can be done to tackle energy-sector emissions without jeopardising economic growth, an important concern for many governments,” it said.

The IEA report was issued as nations gathered in Bonn for a second week of talks on forging a global pact to limit carbon emissions. It would be signed in late 2015 and take effect in 2020.

My personal climate model says we may have as little as a 5–10 year window [corrected] to make a drastic U-turn on carbon use before we’re on Easter Island and no new tree can grow in time to help us. So, “take effect in 2020”?


[Update: The first sentence of the paragraph above corrected to fix my careless phrasing. Five to ten years isn’t the largest window we have, it’s potentially the smallest. The window might be larger, but there’s no guarantee, especially at the rate we’re going — which is full speed ahead.]


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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  • klem

    Wow, that’s alot of great stuff to look forward to in only the next 20 years, Mirror. I advise that you don’t have any kids because they tend to make you grow up. This way you can continue to wallow in your rather obvious case of chronic depression. Lol!

    Have fun!

  • mirror

    Well, it would be wonderful if climate change turns out to be a tempest in a teapot or we are saved by the discovery of some new non polluting energy source, but I think Gaius is right on this one. If we do nothing, in 20 years no one will give a plug nickel for who did what in the depression of 2008. With mass extinction on the horizon and the economic refugees beginning to knock on our national borders in huge numbers (or bringing their whacked out evangelical gun culture from red states to less climate affected green states) people will only wonder why we didn’t address climate change when we had the chance. All the other issues will seem like arguments over whether to paint the restrooms “eggshell” or “autumn sand”. It doesn’t help that Obama is also ignoring infrastructure renewal as well.

  • klem

    Mind your words, Bloomburg might just be your next Democrat President.

  • klem

    “If you’re on the east coast just look outside and you can see the effects of climate change right now.”

    That’s right, especially the northern east coast. The entire place is coated with thick glacial till, that is the best evidence of the effects climate change.

  • klem

    Or perhaps its simply the more land they own, the more money they make.

    Naw, its because they know armagedon is coming, yea that’s it, yea.

  • klem

    I think he’ll be remembered for presiding over what could/should have been the biggest and most devastating depression in American history, and getting the country through it relatively unscathed.

    Thought this recesion is not over, it still hides a few cards up its ugly sleeve, but slowly we’re getting through this thing.

  • klem

    By that rationale, back during the glacial times when it was 15 degrees cooler than today, every day we had calm weather with very low variability. Obviously, a very stable and easily survivable environment.

    Um …yea right.

  • klem

    “The heating of the ocean and melting ice caps is a really really bad sign”

    How can this be a bad sign? Its been going on continually since the end of the last glaciation, that’s about 20,000 years now. How can you conclude that this is a bad sign? I don’t understand how you got there.

    Well at least you understand that filling the atmosphere with reflective particles is a bizarre and stupid idea. It reminds me of the solutions ecologists suggest to get rid of some bad invasive species, they solve it by introducing another bad invasive species. I mean, what could go wrong?

  • klem

    We’re over the edge, its too late, its the end of the world, we’re all going to die. Wahoo!

  • klem

    That’s fantastic, that’s a brilliant idea. Only NCers could come up with that one, I love it.

  • klem

    Might not be the planet at all, might be just you.

  • klem

    “My personal climate model says we may have as little as a 5–10 year window..”

    OMG, not another 5-10 year ‘window’. We only just passed the last 5-10 year window, which was after we passed the previous 5-10 year window.

  • GaiusPublius

    It’s only too late when no change can avoid the result. Put differently, the game’s not over till it’s over.


  • pappyvet

    We are already over the edge,

  • mjonesx

    Thank you for the reply. From by dealings with the “public”, they still seem to think there is a debate going on as far as the science is concerned. Many will not tolerate a carbon tax or fee, even if there is a “rebate”. The American Petro Institute will flood the airways to vote it down (they are doing it at this very moment. The XL:Keystone is already half approved….bet there is a deal already to build it somehow. I am a member of 350 org, so I know about the campaign this summer and I was at the Feb 17 WashingtonDC event. I just do not see us reducing emissions. The population growth is so fast and demand so great. One thing for certain, if by 2015 no world plan in place, only a financial meltdown will save the climate.

  • BillFromDover

    At least the new baggers get to go on record opposing it (whatever it of the day happens to be).

    Gotta keep that ignorant base happy!

  • BillFromDover

    Anything for that last greenback dollar the kabillionaires are still vehemently fighting over.

    In a nutshell… this planet is so fucked that there’s almost no reason for even arguing about it any more.

  • KNotere6488

    In 1980, in the wake of the 70s oil shocks, we had a burgeoning
    alternative energy industry. Amazing progress in solar and wind
    technology. Those of you who drive through the mountain passes into
    California’s central valley probably recall seeing those Mojave wind
    farms. Well, those started being built around then. They even began
    research into liquid sodium solar towers.

  • BillFromDover


    Whatever happened to jobs, jobs, abortion!?

    Never mind.

  • Naja pallida

    Yep, working on the jobs, jobs, jobs agenda that they promised. Later maybe they’ll squeeze in a bill to defund ACORN, and a vote to repeal Obamacare just for the hell of it.

  • JustAnOldLady

    NC is planning on taxing people who have hybrids or electric cars……….’cause they’re not paying their fair share of the gas tax which maintains the roads…..guess that thinking would be giving rebates to gas-guzzlers….

  • JustAnOldLady

    Our congress is right now working on making abortion illegal

  • Bill_Perdue

    Bloomberg and his rich friends should personally pay for building sea walls around NY, LA/LB, Miami, New Orleans and etc, and if they balk they should be forced to pay and we should use their pools to store spent nuclear wastes.

  • Bloomberg and his ilk are devoted to protecting property as the first priority. The 99% are not much of a consideration unless chattel of the property.

  • “civil disobedience” is an excellent topic. I tend to think that in a fascist corporatist world civil disobedience like we once knew is gone. OCCUPY and its diddling lack of focus is about as tame as it gets. I remember the Berkley Oakland and Watts demonstrations. I doubt if we will ever see their like again. NSA thinks cyber sabotage is the new enemy. Maybe they are right.

  • When the Kochs buy beach front property on Prudhoe Bay we’ll know for sure.

  • I always think of Easter island as a prime example.

  • Jim

    Hi Gaius:

    Not to be a stick in the mud, but can you provide any evidence of why anyone should think that it’s not too late.

    This is not an excuse not to conserve energy. Although, I think the climate is really going to bite us because we won’t do anything, I still conserve energy and water: don’t own a car, walk most of the time, buy organic, flush only once a day (for yellow), and always bring my own bag to the store.

    But, as some science writers have pointed out, the campaign for personal responsibility that we’ve seen since the 70s hasn’t worked. Too few have done the requisite conservation. I remember when 350.org was saying that we need to act before 350 ppm. That was reached a while back. Now, the message is that it is still possible to mitigate the worse. Again, my question: what evidence can you present that gives a realistic chance that we can stop the worse of it.

    As to possible civil disobedience: the 99% percent were easily quashed by a coordinated effort of a number of mayors and the bankers for whom they work. If the 99% movement can fail with the reality of foreclosures, homelessness, unemployment what chance do you think that any movement about global warming won’t also be easily quashed?

  • Naja pallida

    I can’t argue with you there. Overpopulation is really the root of the problem. No matter how you want to look at it, the more people there are, the more resources we need to expend to keep them all alive. The more resources we expend, the more pollution and habitat destruction there is going to be. All of what has been proposed so far is to treat the symptoms of that ongoing problem.

  • Jim

    Exactly my point: nothing useful was done, like voluntarily limiting the number of children they had. They did what all other societies did when faced with a disastrous climate: moved.

    This time it’s global.

    And we still haven’t gotten it: the most useful, simplest solution is to limit the number of humans being born. I’ve read quite a bit about changing energy sources and such, but nothing on reducing the number of humans.

  • Bill_Perdue

    We don’t call it the death agony of capitalism for nothing.

  • This is what a declining empire looks like: Decay from within, money available only for military ventures and the support of the plutocratic class.

  • What we need to do now — and what we should have done twenty years ago — is to stop burning greenhouse-gas producing fossil fuels.

    In 1980, in the wake of the 70s oil shocks, we had a burgeoning alternative energy industry. Amazing progress in solar and wind technology. Those of you who drive through the mountain passes into California’s central valley probably recall seeing those Mojave wind farms. Well, those started being built around then. They even began research into liquid sodium solar towers.

    Then came Reagan. And he killed nearly all that research. My wife was actually involved in those early (and very promising) solar programs, and she — along with thousands of other scientists and researchers — were thrown out of work. That particular policy shift set us back the two decades we wasted as a species to solve this problem, and to divest ourselves of this ridiculous notion that we can keep dumping billions of tons of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere, in ever increasing quantities, and never face any significant consequences.

    Until the response to tar sludge and fracking and ‘clean (sic) coal’ and ever more dangerous oil drilling is “Hell no, we can’t afford to burn any more of that crap, because it’s killing us” — we’re not going to change the inevitable direction. This is the leadership we need.

    Sadly, it’s not the leadership we have.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    Speaking of intense storms, there’s a big thunderstorm and a tornado warning headed straight for DC.

  • Naja pallida

    And those numbers only go up every year we continue to ignore the problems.

  • Indigo

    Meanwhile, the Florida aquifer is starting to contain traces of brackish salt water emerging as much as 50 miles inland. The ocean is coming ashore underground through the porous limestone of the Pleistocene reefs due to the drain on the fresh water in the aquifer. The fresh water, predictably, is going to keep all these golf courses green. And there you see the real priority among our political class. This is not a development that is easily reversed, if at all.

  • Bill_Perdue

    The amounts required are staggering. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that $3.6 trillion will be needed to rebuild and reinforce the infrastructure over the next few years. ( http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/a/#p/home ) That’s just the beginning. More trillions will be need to green transportation, industry and agriculture.

    It makes you wonder why the FED and Obama ‘gave’ $7.7 trillion to the rich and the banks at the start of this depression instead of using in in union organized emergency efforts to green the economy and end unemployment. ( http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2011/11/fed-gave-banks-trillions-in-bailout-bloomberg-reports/ )

    On this question, as on most questions, Democrats are the enemy (and so are Republicans)

  • Gaius—-doing a splendid job on investigative journalism! Even if completely uninformed about climate change, people are noticing and talking about. One man I met while walking said he’d been living here for about 40 years and had never experienced anything like it. Our Summer began in May. In the past April was still iffy for planting because of frost—not this year. Fruit orchards are finding delayed flowering on trees—the bottoms and tops of tress bloom and grow at different times. Grape growers are moving further up toward the Sierras. The world we once knew and the seasons so predictable is changing rapidly.

  • Naja pallida

    Though, that is directly tied to our election cycle, as we only get the politicians they’ve paid for.

  • nicho

    Not really. It’s in the short-term financial interests of the corporations that run our government to deny climate change. That’s why we have the problem.

  • nicho

    Well, the big agribusiness corporations that run the farms in the midwest are already buying up huge tracts of farmland further north and even into Canada. Even as the corporatocracy tries to deny climate change, it knows it’s coming and is hedging its bets.

  • Naja pallida

    The EPA just released a report that says we are in immediate need of nearly 400 billion dollars of clean water infrastructure improvements, just to meet existing demand. 76 billion needed for bridges, just to fix existing stuff, not even to upgrade them to something storm-resistant. We need 170 billion per year to keep up with existing roads and the increases in traffic congestion. We need over 100 billion immediately to bring levees in various cities to an acceptable level. Not to improve them to withstand the stronger storms we know are coming, just to bring them to what they are supposed to be at.

    Our infrastructure is a pathetic mess, and has been completely ignored and underfunded for a good 30 years. It would take a good trillion dollars just to bring it up to spec, and another trillion to actually improve it. I just don’t see that ever even being considered in Congress. Let alone this Congress.

  • Naja pallida

    Do you suppose our every two-year election cycle has a great deal to do with why we can’t actually get anything done on the issue? We’re too busy playing politics to even notice the wolf at the door.

  • Naja pallida

    We’re still under mandatory water rationing here. Have been for nearly two years now.

  • In the southwest, we’re locked into our third straight year of extreme drought. After a totally unseasonable 2009-10 wet year, everything went bone dry after that.

    One monsoon season after another with record low rainfall. Last winter, we got almost no snow to speak of — and so the yearly snow-pack that usually feeds the Rio Grande just never happened.

  • Naja pallida

    Well, when faced with climate disaster, crop failures and the destruction of much of their own coastal home in northern Germany, the Saxons just went and conquered England. Maybe we could, like, conquer Greenland (after it actually turns green), or something. :)

  • Bill_Perdue

    Bloomberg wants to spend a few billion to prevent floods from rising seas and superstorms. That’s the equivalent of spitting into the sea.

    To end unemployment and ease the pressure of environmental degradation created by businesses we need to allocate however many trillions it takes to create a new, green infrastructure, especially for transportation with mass transit and maglev passenger and freight rail service. Industry, the service sector and agriculture also need to be greened.

  • Yeah… humanity’s go-to response for the imminent destruction of environment and running out of key resources seems always to be to accelerate the process. And to go to war.

  • emjayay

    He never gets too far ahead of popular opinion. Now is the time to get off his ass on this one, when it is maybe sinking in just a bit to the denial prone low information American public.

  • emjayay

    I’m no scientist, but what I do know is that it takes a temendoous amount of energy to get water to change from solid to liquid. That’s why ice works in your drink.And liquid water can hold a lot of heat energy. That’s why the cooling system in your car works. So if oceans are heating and in particular polar ice is melting that means that every year, year after year, more heat energy has been put into the atmosphere than it loses. One hot year or one hot decade of atmospheric temperatures doesn’t mean much. The heating of the ocean and melting ice caps is a really really bad sign.

    Our Congress obviously is unable to do anything at all about anything. Eventually when the morons of this country, not to mention the government of for example China, admit that we have a problem it will be a terminal emergency situation and absurd emergency measures like filling the atmosphere of the whole earth with reflective particles and making burning of coal a felony will be the result. It will be like WWII only more so.

  • emjayay

    Climate scientists? Everyone knows all the thousands of them are in secret cahoots with federal bureaucrats in order to enable the government to control your life. Or something.

  • Monoceros Forth

    Adjusting Social Security! That is what he thinks history is calling upon him to achieve.

    God, you’re right. Isn’t it depressing? Pres. Obama seems to think he’ll be remembered fondly as the Great Compromiser, exercising his Solomonic wisdom in giving Republicans some but not all of the destructive things they want. If there’s any justice he’ll be remembered the same way as Pres. Buchanan and for much the same reason.

  • GaiusPublius

    Thanks, mjonesx. It’s only too late if we don’t act. My personal climate model is based on the idea that we’re headed fast for a cliff, and we don’t know where the edge is. So we have to stop before the nearest point it could be. That’s the 5-10 year window, and I’m not off based on what climate scientists privately tell me. They have that same cliff-edge view as well.

    Let’s wait until this summer. We have two things in our favor — public awareness, which is being driven hard by climate itself (remember, last year was all Arctic ice news for a while); and Keystone, which Obama is hard-for and the 350-types are hard-against. Civil disobedience is coming, and that’s big news as well.

    Stay positive and act (say I)… Thanks.


  • Dave of the Jungle

    Heat is motion. More heat means more intense weather phenomena and more extreme variability.

  • clarenceswinney

    The next several months, and possible years, will be a gross repeat of the past four years of government inaction on the most important issues to the American people. Republicans promised to focus entirely on jobs then stopped the Presidents American Jobs Program which could have saved/created four million jobs. They spent their time on so called scandals. Their obstructionism won them the distinction of the worst, least effective Congress in history.
    Remember how Clinton with a Democratic Congress got 86% of legislation passed in his first year and 86% in the second. Then, a Republican Congress gave him 27%.. The Republicans lack a coherent agenda to help the economic recovery for the American people.
    Where are their leaders with a passable program? All the phony scandals can be laid at the feet of Republican inepitude and economic malfeasance to hinder the President’s attempt to govern.

  • mirror

    This is why I think the Obama presidency will the most failed presidency of all time. Here the bully pulpit would be good for something, however little, but he wasted it calling for reductions in Social Security. Adjusting Social Security! That is what he thinks history is calling upon him to achieve. Sigh.

  • Jim

    It’s a done deal. There is absolutely no way we will stop in time. Every year more CO2 gets dumped into the atmsphere. Recent research shows that the deep oceans are warming. What do think is going to haappen when the oceans warm enough to release all that methane?

    I can think of not one society–Anasazi, Cambodan, Mayan, Indus Valley, Easter Island–that when faced with climate disaster, crop shortages, drought did anything useful.

  • A_nonymoose

    Global Warming only affects the “little people”, don’t you know?

  • mjonesx

    Looks like if your personal model is correct it is too late. The world will not START a treaty until 2020 and I bet the US Senate will not ratify it…Thanks for the article….the policy of world governments is an “all the above” energy program.

  • If you’re on the east coast just look outside and you can see the effects of climate change right now. I have never seen rain or storms like this in my life.

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