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McKibben writes: "Thursday, while the nation debated the relative size of Republican genitalia, something truly awful happened. Across the northern hemisphere, the temperature, if only for a few hours, apparently crossed a line: it was more than two degrees Celsius above 'normal' for the first time in recorded history and likely for the first time in the course of human civilization."

Climate activist Bill McKibben. (photo: 350.org)
Climate activist Bill McKibben. (photo: 350.org)


The Mercury Doesn't Lie: We've Hit a Troubling Climate Change Milestone

By Bill McKibben, The Boston Globe

05 March 16

 

hursday, while the nation debated the relative size of Republican genitalia, something truly awful happened. Across the northern hemisphere, the temperature, if only for a few hours, apparently crossed a line: it was more than two degrees Celsius above “normal” for the first time in recorded history and likely for the first time in the course of human civilization.

That’s important because the governments of the world have set two degrees Celsius as the must-not-cross red line that, theoretically, we’re doing all we can to avoid. And it’s important because most of the hemisphere has not really had a winter. They’ve been trucking snow into Anchorage for the start of the Iditarod; Arctic sea ice is at record low levels for the date; in New England doctors are already talking about the start of “allergy season.”

This bizarre glimpse of the future is only temporary. It will be years, one hopes, before we’re past the two degrees mark on a regular basis. But the future is clearly coming much faster than science had expected. February, taken as a whole, crushed all the old monthly temperature records, which had been set in … January. January crushed all the old monthly temperature records, which had been set in … December.

In part this reflects the ongoing El Nino phenomenon — these sporadic events always push up the planet’s temperature. But since that El Nino heat is layered on top of the ever-increasing global warming, the spikes keep getting higher. This time around the overturning waters of the Pacific are releasing huge quantities of heat stored there during the last couple of decades of global warming.

And as that heat pours out into the atmosphere, the consequences are overwhelming. In the South Pacific, for instance, the highest wind speeds ever measured came last month when Tropical Cyclone Winston crashed into Fiji. Entire villages were flattened. In financial terms, the storm wiped out ten percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, roughly equivalent to fifteen simultaneous Hurricane Katrina’s.

This was followed by a few months of the highest wind speeds ever recorded in our hemisphere, when Patricia crashed into the Pacific coast of Mexico. And it joins all the other lines of misery: the zika virus spreading on the wings of mosquitoes up and down the Americas; the refugees streaming out of Syria where, as studies now make clear, the deepest drought ever measured helped throw the nation into chaos.

The messages are clear. First, global warming is not a future threat — it’s the present reality, a menace not to our grandchildren but to our present civilizations. In a rational world, this is what every presidential debate would focus on. Forget the mythical flood of immigrants — concentrate on the actual flooding.

Second, since we’re in a hole it’s time to stop digging — literally. We’ve simply got to keep coal and oil and gas in the ground; there’s not any other way to make the math of climate change even begin to work. There is legislation pending in the House and Senate that would end new fossil fuel extraction on America’s public lands. Senator Sanders has backed the law unequivocally; Secretary Clinton seemed to endorse it, and then last week seemed to waffle. Donald Trump has concentrated on the length of his fingers.

No one’s waiting for presidential candidates to actually lead, of course. In May campaigners around the world will converge on the world’s biggest carbon deposits: the coal mines of Australia, the tarsands of Canada, the gasfields of Russia. And they will engage in peaceful civil disobedience, an effort to simply say: no. The only safe place for this carbon is deep beneath the soil, where’s it been for eons.

This is, in one sense, stupid. It’s ridiculous that at this late date, as the temperature climbs so perilously, we still have to take such steps. Why do Bostonians have to be arrested to stop the Spectra pipeline? Anyone with a thermometer can see that we desperately need to be building solar and windpower instead.

In a much deeper sense, however, the resistance is valiant, even beautiful. Think of those protesters as the planet’s antibodies, its immune system finally kicking in. Our one earth is running a fever the likes of which no human has ever seen. The time to fight it is right now.

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+30 # PaulK 2016-03-05 20:59
I care considerably about what isn't getting done right now. We're not developing the backyard solar that we need to replace the fossil fuel industry, and that's such a fatal mistake. The same must be said about protoyping ecologically benign geoengineering devices (and yes, there is such a thing, don't believe that there isn't, that's just corporate clampdown propaganda to promote the dumb stuff). Vital research seems to be the private plantation of the Elon Musks and the Bill Gates of the world, so no good ideas need apply.

But what is your college's excuse? Oh right, "not invented here". If it wasn't invented at your university, then your university can't make the big bucks off of developing it, so it's better that your great-grandchil dren will eventually experience hunger than that they don't make their money now. Remember the American College &University Presidents' Climate Commitment that your college president signed a few years ago, pledging to do the right thing? They specifically wrote into the compact that they would work with local renewable energy inventors. Well, intellectual hypocrisy city.

We also need to be freezing fertilized eggs right now, before the mass extinction, not after.
 
 
+6 # Glen 2016-03-06 08:25
Forget eggs and the blame. Think in terms of general survival for a time. If it gets bad enough, folks will rethink doomsday plans. "Bullets, Band-aids, and Beans" comes to mind. That is not to mean totally give up or become completely negative. It means to be practical and realistic.

Nobody wants to see destruction of our planet, but truly could come. If the land and the atmosphere are destroyed those frozen eggs will have no means of sustenance.
 
 
+1 # Kimc 2016-03-08 00:05
We have invented "the next big step in solar" and we tried to raise money to get started manufacturing. We weren't successful. We tried to get through to people who might help like Al Gore. Couldn't get through. We tried to get "small business" help from the government, but the government defines "small business" as 100 employees. We have 2. So we sold our house. We hope to have a product on the market by the end of this year. We've been working on this for 7 years -- it would have gone much faster if we had had more money -- and we only asked for $250k.
 
 
+60 # Ken Halt 2016-03-05 22:22
This is one of the areas where the US is truly exceptional, ACD denial. Forsaking logic and science, the Koch empire and other fossil fuel industry-funded deniers have underwritten a relentless media campaign to subvert the very solid theoretical science and empirical evidence of anthropogenic climate change. Unfortunately, a large segment of the US populace has been swayed by such specious propaganda, allowing other nations to take the lead in developing new technologie$, job$ and efficiencie$ designed to curb ACD. There is one US presidential candidate who has made ACD one of the principal messages of his campaign, and that person is Bernie Sanders. A national strategy to combat ACD would create job opportunitie$ and $timulate the US economy while reducing the effects of global climate change. GO BERNIE!!!
 
 
+38 # pjmd 2016-03-05 23:10
Bill, you're right, as usual. But you didn't mention that fossil fuels are artificially cheap. And thus, as Jim Hansen always says, they're going to be used. Individual nations' efforts to reduce fossil fuel use just drive down the price somewhere else. We need a worldwide global carbon price. And since there's no entity that can do that, it has to begin with individual nations, like the US and China, then mesh via trade through border carbon duties. That would be less complicated than the chaos we're creating. Citizens Climate Lobby is working on it.

Thank you for everything you've already accomplished and for what we will accomplish together.
 
 
+29 # CarolYost 2016-03-06 00:13
The President's proposal to fight climate change by lowering carbon emissions is too little too late. It has to be a much larger percentage, and not by 2030 or whatever, but NOW.
 
 
+42 # Thomas Martin 2016-03-06 00:16
Thank you Kansas voters who today put your trust in Senator Sanders. We should not feel that we're in the position of looking for the lesser of evils. We have a real hope for positive change in a movement which happens to be led by Senator Sanders. This of course includes reacting to climate change, for which Senator Sanders is obviously our only candidate. Climate change, Wall Street, education, tolerance, care for our environment, working together ... all of these are parts of it. Pie in the sky? ... not unless you think so.
 
 
+3 # Kimc 2016-03-08 00:09
It's pie in the sky if we don't also give Bernie a progressive congress. Congress has most of the power.
 
 
-39 # Shades of gray matter 2016-03-06 00:24
Yes, this has to be tackled more broadly. And it underscores that this US election is not about free tuition at ultra expensive universities for privileged sons & daughters of affluent suburban schools. Nor is it about going back to the drawing boards immediately after the close fight for Obamacare. It is about more SURVIVAL type issues. I think many African Americans are showing they understand that. The "Bernie or Bye Bye" pledge reveals the narcissistic nature & privileged height of many Berners. Black people are saving white people from themselves AGAIN. Note the Super Saturday delegate count.
 
 
+29 # Archie1954 2016-03-06 01:00
Tell your story to the ignorant Congress that continues to doubt global warming.
 
 
+22 # tr4302@gmail.com 2016-03-06 04:47
Check out Arcadia Power and vote for Bernie Sanders.
 
 
+17 # diamondmarge7 2016-03-06 06:52
Thank you, Vermont, for the brilliance and the passion of both Bill McKibben and Bernie Sanders. IMHO, the Clintons either "bribed" Southern black preachers, or broke MA election laws, or both. Or mebbe our black brothers & sisters are politically illiterate? How else to explain HRC's Southern wins? Of course, the whites who crowd around & cheer Trump are also politically illiterate. We need a restoration of civics classes--it's pretty obvious.
Meanwhile, I am inspired by the courageous & clearsighted veteran & MOC Tulsi Gabbard. Thank you, too, Kansas & Nebraska for your BERNIE support. I will cheer for, phonebank for, donate for, and embrace the visionary BERNIE for=EVAH. All those who FEEL THE BERN,please follow me to www.citizensagainstplutocracy.org to take the pledge: BERNIE or GREEN--it's to give SANDERS the leverage he might need @ the JULY CONVENTION. jUST DO IT!
 
 
+2 # bmiluski 2016-03-06 16:15
If you support Bernie then please vote for him. However, don't waste your vote on the "Green". That's just what the repugs want you to do.
 
 
+3 # RobertMStahl 2016-03-06 07:27
Suncell(TM) in 2017
 
 
-1 # Glen 2016-03-06 07:43
It isn't possible to get the entire planet to comply with emission rules. Sadly. It isn't only the U.S. that contributes to the world's ills. Sad, yes, that the U.S. doesn't set the example.

There is more to all this than warming, though. We have had a bit of snow, frost, cold and the usual shorter days. However, there are flowers that are normally annuals that have been blooming for a month and buds popping out on fruit trees as of last week. A late frost will have no effect on them.

These plants are being stimulated to produce regardless of winter. The only thing I can come up with is radiation. Additional radiation filtering through the damaged atmosphere from the sun. As I have said in the past, nobody but nobody is discussing the atmosphere, especially the ozone layer.
 
 
+6 # Kootenay Coyote 2016-03-06 09:34
"The only thing I can come up with is radiation."

It's called sunlight.
 
 
+5 # Texas Aggie 2016-03-06 23:02
It isn't only the U.S. that contributes to the world's ills.

But the US produces the lion's share of emissions, so if the US got its act together, then a lot of the problem would be solved. Even China is investing more in reducing emissions than the US is.
 
 
+1 # Nominae 2016-03-07 08:38
Quoting Glen:
These plants are being stimulated to produce regardless of winter. The only thing I can come up with is radiation. Additional radiation filtering through the damaged atmosphere from the sun. As I have said in the past, nobody but nobody is discussing the atmosphere, especially the ozone layer.


Hey, Glen ! Is it possible that what you are describing is due to the early spring that most of us are seeing as a result of the fact that this is an El Nino Year ?

I may not be properly picturing what you describe, but the buds popping out on fruit trees this early is an El Nino phenomenon.

Spring allergy season has already begun as far north as New England for the same reason.
 
 
+5 # crowtower 2016-03-06 09:18
Get a solar panel, sure, a little bit of energy is nice and all you really need, but we better figure out how we are going to have food to eat first, as you can live without energy longer than without food and without food most of us get cranky.
 
 
+3 # Saberoff 2016-03-06 10:05
Eloquently said and horrifying.
But woe we must continue our life's quest of succinctness until all fits on a bumper sticker! when and not until, Americans can understand it.
 
 
-21 # brycenuc 2016-03-06 11:11
Mercury doesn't lie, but readers of mercury thermometers do. Carbon is absolutely essential to all life on earth. Ask the Internet for the most important chemical element for life on earth and get multiple hits all of which give the answer "carbon." The war on carbon is raging insanity and immeasurably harmful to the world's inhabitants. There has never been a consistent correlation between atmospheric carbon and temperature and there definitely is not one now. Thousands of scientifically trained individuals, including the world's most respected scientists, have signed on to resolutions opposing the theory of man-caused global warming.
 
 
+17 # REDPILLED 2016-03-06 11:29
Many of those "thousands" of scientists you mention were not climate scientists, and many names on those resolutions were made-up names. See the documentary "Merchants of Doubt".

97% of CLIMATE SCIENTISTS agree that human-caused climate change has been causing global warming for many decades, and we are in danger now.

You can deny facts and science all you want, and choose to believe the fossil-fuel corporation-bac ked "scientists", but Mother Earth bats last.
 
 
+7 # Questions, questions 2016-03-06 14:58
Quoting brycenuc:
Thousands of scientifically trained individuals, including the world's most respected scientists, have signed on to resolutions opposing the theory of man-caused global warming.

Yeah, headed up by the late Edward Teller - father of the H-Bomb. There's a guy who really cared about the protection of our biosphere and the future of humanity!

Your ignorance of carbon-based science is quite stupifying - do you get all your "facts" from googling on the internet?
 
 
+3 # bmiluski 2016-03-06 16:19
BRYCENUC....Jus t as we warned you about voting for bush and the damage he would do to this country....here we are warning you about climate change and the damage it is doing to this planet. The only difference this time is that the damage will be far far greater..
Sadly, you will not listen and then when it does happen, you will blame whatever democrat is in the W/H.
 
 
+7 # Dust 2016-03-06 21:51
"Thousands of scientifically trained individuals, including the world's most respected scientists, have signed on to resolutions opposing the theory of man-caused global warming."

Oh bull-fucking-shit.

As for being able to argue from a position of logic, (which is perhaps why your 'paper' on atmospheric modeling was never published in a scientific journal), let's begin with "Carbon is absolutely essential to all life on earth."

Sure. So is water. I want you to jump in a swimming pool and just sit on the bottom for five hours with no O2. After all, water is critical for human beings to live, yes? There's no way it can harm you.
 
 
-4 # Shades of gray matter 2016-03-06 12:38
There follows one of the worst posts ever on RSN: "IMHO, the Clintons either "bribed" Southern black preachers, or broke MA election laws, or both. Or mebbe our black brothers & sisters are politically illiterate? How else to explain HRC's Southern wins? Of course, the whites who crowd around & cheer Trump are also politically illiterate. We need a restoration of civics classes--it's pretty obvious."
 
 
-3 # Shades of gray matter 2016-03-06 12:45
I doubt that Clintons' AA voters are "POLITICALLY illiterate" and/or just like Trump's fascist xenophobes. They have experience with surviving threats to their very existence. I doubt they think Billary is the Duality Second Coming. Rather, a needed ally. It worries me to think that Berners will BRAG that they will retreat to white privilege and sacrifice people of color to Trump or Cruz rather than holding their noses and voting for Hillary. Watch Eliz Warren for better alternative.
 
 
-7 # Shades of gray matter 2016-03-06 12:46
"Civics classes"?? BRAINWASHING camp.
 
 
+5 # angelfish 2016-03-06 17:47
Sadly, the Knuckle-Dragger s don't give a damn. They're ready for the End Times, and like fanatical Mid-Easterners and Morons everywhere, are unwilling to accept the Science that our Good God has GIVEN us and, are PROBABLY hoping for 72 Virgins on arriving in whatever, Utopia they think they're going to in the "next life". Again, sadly, they'll be roasting over a slow fire in the Hell that they so richly deserve!It's good to be old and ready to depart these premises that have become so neglected, perverted and denigrated over the last fifty PLUS years, my heart breaks for the young people whose families have tried to educate them in order to make this a BETTER place. The 1%-ers of today do NOT, and care ONLY for the immediacy in which they live and don't give a Fiddler's Bitch about ANYONE or ANYTHING but themselves. Amazing to realize the stupidity of ignoring something that could be SO easily addressed. So sorry, Lord. The experiment here on Earth, has FAILED.
 
 
+3 # NAVYVET 2016-03-07 08:41
Thanks, Angelfish! Those End-Timers are a big part of the problem. They deny free will and human effort, blame everything on their god(s)--and, in denial of Judaeo-Christia n scripture, the Fundies turn their Satan, an unimportant minor entity in the Bible, into a God who can rival Yahweh. They're dualists, not monotheists, and followers of a heresy of Zoroastrianism- -Manichaeans, not in any way recognizably Christians.

Off the top of my head I can name two thriving civilizations that destroyed themselves by fatalistically accepting their "end times" as prophesied by hysterical priests:
--the Etruscans (swept off the map by the growing energy and power of Rome, and who were so resigned to their fate they responded apathetically and feebly)
--native Middle Americans, the Aztecs (conquered by a small group of Spanish invaders who physically resembled mythic evil gods and fought with scary but inaccurate firearms; although the Native Americans massively outnumbered the Spaniards their leaders surrendered)

There have been other cultures who were destroyed by mythical predestinarian religions that eradicated reason--and faded away. If the whole world takes on the attitude that death is certain (and preferable) no matter what we do then we are dead. I won't stand for that. I have precious grandchildren. Fight for our family's survival HERE ON EARTH, and make sure our family includes ALL PEOPLE, ALL OTHER LIVING CREATURES, & ALL OF NATURE'S PROCESSES THAT MAKE LIFE POSSIBLE!
 
 
+2 # Pearlbell 2016-03-06 19:16
The argument by the deniers of climate change reminds me of a food fight in a grammar school cafeteria. I attended the meeting in Oak Ridge when Mr. Gore made the presentation of climate change to a cross sectional audience and I detected no sneering animosity to the data and conclusions he presented. He backed all up with a bibliography. I have noted that many people think they should know something about a subject at hand and are so self-consciousl y embarrassed if they don’t, that they began interrupting with impertinent remarks and denigration of the speaker and the source of information.
 
 
+2 # Charles3000 2016-03-06 19:46
The concept of global warming is very simple. One half of earth is constantly exposed to the radiant energy, sunlight, from the sun and it absorbs energy. The other half is exposed to very cold outer space and it constantly loses energy. If those two energy flows are equal then the earth stays at the same temperature and that happened for many centuries. If the flow of energy on the dark side is reduced by CO2 which absorbs strongly where earth radiation is maximum, then more energy is coming in on the bright than is going out on the dark side and the planet surface temperature will increase, increasing the energy flow from the dark side, until equilibrium is once again achieved.
 
 
0 # Yevez 2016-03-07 17:13
It is a very good thing to oppose fossil fuels as they are part of the global warming problem and a big air and water pollution problem too. But how come that organisations like 350.org fail to address the worst problem of all for climate disruption? I mean animal agriculture is the worst and surpasses all oil and coal emissions and we never hear any of you stating that we imperatively have to reduce our meat consumption? Solar and wind are nice but it won't be enough if the planet still thinks that we can eat so much meat, and eating more and more of it as the emergent economies are growing. This is nonsense and it takes a good part of your credibility away.
 
 
0 # cjc4joy 2016-03-07 22:24
Hello I am a Christian, senior woman voting for Bernie Sanders, like I voted for Al Gore and when I was in Irealnd that year, they announced he had won. So get it right and get out to vote for Bernie Sanders. Of course Global Warming is real our weather patterns are so off all ready, it is scary but even more of an eye opener the main cause of Global warming is Not fossil fuels, jet trails or any orther chemicals it is Cows!!! Pigs!! Corporation farming! One cow drinks 50 gallons of water a day! See the movie Cowspiracy, produced by leonardo Di Caprio. This film is really an eye opener!
 
 
+1 # Kimc 2016-03-08 00:13
If we don't do something about climate change, climate change will do something about us.
 
 
-3 # zach 2016-03-08 07:55
Re the photo of the author: would you buy a used car from that guy?
 

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