Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Bill McKibben lists the three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is – at Rolling Stone:

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world’s nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn’t even attend. It was “a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago,” the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls “once thronged by multitudes.” Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in…

[continues at Rolling Stone]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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73 Comments on "Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math"

  1. Camron Wiltshire | Jul 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm |

    Tree-rings prove climate was WARMER in Roman and Medieval times than it is now – and world has been cooling for 2,000 years

    Read more:

    Just saying….

  2. i’m pretty neutral in this debate but really?

    “The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.”

    the hottest? ever? in the history of the planet?That really seems both sensationalist and overreaching.

    •  Ahh, the ignorant. History as defined is recorded history “The study of past events, particularly in human affairs”. When they diverge from that they add a ‘describer’ ie geologic history.
      Happy now?

      • Marklar_Prime | Jul 21, 2012 at 4:04 am |

         Ah, the illiterate. If the author had meant  recorded history the author should have said recorded history.

        • Monkey See Monkey Do | Jul 21, 2012 at 7:13 am |

          It should just be assumed human history since there studying the affect humans have had on the atmosphere.

          • That’s not a safe assumption.

            First, the quote was “hottest downpour in the planet’s history”. To me, that means in the history of the planet. 

            I doubt that I am alone in this interpretation.

            If the quote were “hottest downpour in recorded history” or even “hottest recorded downpour in the planet’s history” there might be some room for ambiguity. But as the statement stands, there is not.

            The next natural question is “Well, if it’s the hottest since humans have started keeping records, then how come that’s not the hottest ever?”

            Paleoclimatology provides us with a surprising amount of data concerning temperatures and temperature ranges in pre-recorded times. So, it’s not a foregone conclusion that statements about temperature related superlatives apply only to the modern era when temperature records were kept by man, especially when the statement is worded something like “in the planet’s history.”

          • Monkey See Monkey Do | Jul 22, 2012 at 1:22 am |

            Paleoclimatology are estimates at best, you seemed to have dug yourself a hole by mentioning it, why would scientists be talking about tempature extremes pre-humanity? At one point the earth was a ball of lava.

          • I doubt that I’ve dug myself into hole by mentioning paleoclimatology and I’m baffled that you would think so.

            I can’t imagine any reason why I would want to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

            There are a number of reasons that scientists may want to talk about temperatures in pre-human times but I would say that the most obvious proof that there are reasons for it is the fact that Paleoclimatology exists as a discipline at all.

            Off the top of my head, an understanding of temperature ranges would be immensely useful in trying to understand the flora and fauna found in the fossil record.

            Maybe though, that is going down the wrong path in trying to understand and answer your question.

            Perhaps you mean, why would scientists be talking about the pre-human temperature ranges specifically in reference to the quotation that Chaorder Gradient provided?

            In that case, I’d suggest that the quote in question was written by the article’s author, Bill McKibben, who isn’t a scientist. He is a writer, teacher, and an environmentalist in the sense that he generally supports the goals of the Environmental Movement. But he does not appear to be a scientist.

          • The Baffler | Jul 22, 2012 at 4:42 am |

            Why talk about anything?

    • You can’t be neutral in this debate.

      If you evince any skepticism toward AGW claims then you are a “Denier”.

      I personally am undecided on the issue. The globe may be warming, humans may be the cause, but I haven’t seen convincing proof offered by either side.

       I’ve certainly caught both sides diddling the data.

      But every time I suggest that we don’t have the whole story yet, I get attacked. It’s silly, really.

      In fact, it reminds me of that Atheist issue. If you’re agnostic that’s just not good enough,  you have to be stridently against the idea that there’s a god, otherwise you’re part of the “problem”.

      • haha yeah, basically my viewpoint.. on both those issues, cept with the added spice of “whatever happens happens…” because at this point I sure as hell cant make an impact on the weather and neither can anyone else here. (and i think some crazy wild ride where half the population or so dies isn’t necessarily a bad thing)

    • I live in Arizona we’ve had it rain when it’s 110 plus outside..  It’s a total fabrication!!!

    • Johnptestling | Jul 30, 2012 at 5:26 pm |

       Good! They don’t like burning Qorans, but they’ll like boiling them!

  3. Hilarious!  More global warming pseudo-science bullshit.

    • Linsang811 | Jul 20, 2012 at 10:53 pm |

       It’s sad that you think the peer reviewed consensus of 97% of climate scientists is bullshit, especially when they tout verifiable facts.

      • You’ve quoted the 97% number a few times recently. Can you provide a citation? 

        • Linsang811 | Jul 21, 2012 at 7:54 am |

          Google 97 of climate scientists agree. Turns up like a billion hits. But just in case…



          • Thank you.

            Yeah, I could have googled that myself, but I just wanted to make sure that I was dealing with exactly the information that you’re dealing with. I so hate the “moving goal posts” types of discussion.

            “In January 2009, a poll of 3146 earth scientists
            found that 82% answered yes to the question: “Do you think human
            activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global
            temperatures?”. Of the 77 climatologists actively engaged in research,
            75 answered yes (97.4%).”

            So, we’re looking at 75 out of 77 Climatologists.

            I tried to find out how many climatologists there were total in the world, but wasn’t able to come up with a number that I felt confident in (which had some hard numbers to support it).

            In any case, a sample size of 77, seems pretty small. Certainly not a statistical “slam dunk”. If you look at all the Earth Scientists, that percentage drops considerably.

            But really, since this is science, opinions don’t matter a whole lot.

            Hypotheses which make testable predictions are the name of the game.

            And I think that’s where there’s this huge disconnect between reality and the PR.

          • Also you won’t be able to funds those 75 scientists either..

            It makes a HUGE difference who is signing your checks when you make statements like that..

      • Marklar_Prime | Jul 21, 2012 at 3:56 am |

        Science,even piss poor science, is not a democratic process. I can only assume that your definitions of the words fact and verifiable are as flawed as your definition of science.

        • Monkey See Monkey Do | Jul 21, 2012 at 7:20 am |

          Do tell, defintion expert. Whats the REAL reason the earth is warming?

          • Camron Wiltshire | Jul 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm |

            Solar cycles primarily.  I also disagree with the assumption that current warming is either potentially catastrophic or beyond what we have seen pre industrial revolution, therefore all of the fear mongering is better understood by following the money.

            Black box computer models for the modern orthodoxy protecting sacred myths such as global warming or the obvious implosion of Building 7.

            If they are so sure, why  must they hide their digital machinations from independent review????   It’s antithetical to science to assume you can hide your methods and assume that everyone must take your word for it.   Are we returning to the dark ages?  Has newspeak/doublethink become so enshrined that modern “scientists” will believe that “snow is black” if their “superiors” tell them it is?

          • Marklar_Prime | Jul 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm |

            The obvious answer is that nobody knows with any reasonable degree of certainty which is why predictions of doom keep failing to materialize on schedule. The Earth’s climate has changed, both cooling and warming, for millions of years before the appearance of Homo Sapiens. Most likely it will continue to do so for millions of years after we have disappeared. This of course is not a hypothesis that can be easily tested in the short term but given the current data, or rather lack of it, one that is much more reasonable than apocalyptic and sensationalist proclamations based on woefully limited data on a dynamic system that is far more complex than any climate scientist could ever hope to adequately model on a computer with our current computing technology and lack of relevant data. Certainly we have some data but take for instance my comment in this thread on the correlation between ocean temperatures and undersea volcanism, there is simply too much missing data that is not considered because it is simply not available.

            Start citing unscientific evidence such as the Arizona wild fires or the  mentioned in this article or the drought in the southwestern U.S. and my point is well illustrated. Did the author consider that the U.S. along with much of the rest of the world is in the middle of a devastating financial crisis? States and counties are fairly broke and failing to update a crumbling infrastructure which has been ignored for far too long already. Fire breaks that have helped to control wild fires in the past have not been getting cut as usual due to budget cuts. Infrastructure for irrigation of naturally desert regions that are now used for agriculture is also crumbling with no funds for upkeep or renovation. Both the drought and wild fires must be solely the result of global warming however, right? Or maybe that is just an unscientific  knee jerk assertion with little basis in fact that is motivated more by emotion than reason.

            If you want to save the world from clear and present dangers to the environment and the future of humanity you have plenty to work on without getting worked up over the unproven assertions of global warming alarmists. Fukishima and the irradiation of the Pacific Ocean, the toxicity in the Gulf of Mexico from the BP disaster, pumping millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into our ground water during natural gas fracturing, the possibility of starting WWIII by invading Syria or Iran as part of a manufactured war of (not on) terrorism, the toxification and genetic modification of the world’s food supply, and the use of depleted uranium munitions comes to mind for starters.

            Keep chasing the anthropogenic global warming ghost though. The rest of that stuff will just take care of itself.

        • Linsang811 | Jul 21, 2012 at 7:44 am |

          Actually it is a democratic process in a way.

          1.) A scientist brings a hypothesis to the forefront.

          2.) He tests it.

          3.) He draws more hypotheses and tests those too.

          4.) He makes predictions and tests those.

          5.) Then he rounds up all this data into a conclusion.

          6.) He then posits that conclusion to the scientific community.

          7.) Other scientists then test it rigorously. If they can’t come to the same conclusion using his original hypothesis, they know he either screwed up or bullshitted.

          Bad ideas get ripped to shreds really quickly in the scientific community, for example, cold fusion.

          Now, what was that about science not being a democratic process? Yeah, you can stop talking now because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

          Again: To sum up: Scientists’ facts > your uninformed, uneducated opinion.

          • Marklar_Prime | Jul 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm |

            If it is your democratic opinion that you need to show your ignorance with such unsupported claims of knowledge you couldn’t possibly possess, so be it.

            As in the nascent field of climate science, when data is falsified, methodology is poor, and scientists stick to their opinions in the face of obvious fallacy that is bad science but still quite democratic.

            Science is king but fallacious science needs to be called out for what it is. That is the nature of science and one need not be an academically accredited authority figure to engage in science. When the assertions of so-called scientific authorities are blindly accepted entirely without question you become an adherent of a religion with a priesthood rather than a participant in the scientific process with no qualification to even form an opinion of what is or is not a scientific fact.

            FYI: I am a scientist, a two time Nobel nominee though not a laureate, and I believe my level of education is quite adequate despite your ill informed and unscientific opinions.

          • Calypso_1 | Jul 22, 2012 at 12:27 am |

            2 time Nobel nominee AND VP of R&D at an alternate energy/hydrogen fuel cell technology company to boot.  I’m impressed.  Could you explain the whole oxyhydrogen thing to me?

          • Monkey See Monkey Do | Jul 22, 2012 at 1:34 am |

            Hydrogen fuel is a cop-out solution promoted by corporations. In a world where water is becoming a scarce resource, its a fruitless endeavour that will only help the very few. It’s also a highly centralized energy source, enabling corporations to take control and make others dependant on their energy. Sounds like a ‘good business’ venture for Marklar.

          • SOOOO Much ignorance!  Calling cold fusion a bad idea also shows you know nothing of which you speak.

      • Monkey See Monkey Do | Jul 21, 2012 at 7:22 am |

        Not to mention all the scientists from fields of research directly and indirectly related to climate science, overwhelming consensus there aswell.

  4. sirwilliamcrookes | Jul 20, 2012 at 9:10 pm |

    Disinfo’s really living up to its name with stories like this one.

    The planet cools and warms naturally, its got nothing to do with carbon emissions. 

    There pushing this man made climate crap so they can impose another tax and keep us poorer. 

    Thats all its about

    • That or your materialist obsession with your personal wealth is a horrible piece of backlash from “their” attempts to control us with science, reason, and industry, which is gonna spoil the party for everyone, rich or poor.

    • Linsang811 | Jul 20, 2012 at 10:52 pm |

       And you would know because you’re a climatologist. Mmm-hmmm.

      • Marklar_Prime | Jul 21, 2012 at 4:08 am |

         I’m not a barber but I know a bad haircut when I see one.

        • Linsang811 | Jul 21, 2012 at 7:37 am |

          A bad hair cut, which is a matter of opinion, incidentally, does not compare IN THE SLIGHTEST to the extremely complex nature of our earth’s climate and weather system. That you would even make that comparison proves you have no blooming idea what you’re talking about.

          To sum up: Scientists’ facts > your uninformed, uneducated opinion.

          THE END.

  5. Lets’ all cut the shit folks:
    The Earth is changing (and not based on natural changes), but in self-defense of being abused/neglected/misused (and these changes are not in our favour, due to the fact that we are the abusers)!
    Fuck all the fake-ass, sound-bite ‘names’, which keep people arguing trivial nonsense, and take accountability/responsibility by making much wiser choices/changes in both Earth’s and our (especially future generations) favour.
    Otherwise the unfolding results arenot going to be cute and all the shit-talkers WILL eat their shitty words literally.

    • Marklar_Prime | Jul 21, 2012 at 3:20 am |

       Yes, the Earth is a sentient being that is pissed at us and will shrug us off. Fear not though for the moon egg will hatch into the planet Phoenix and give us a new home where everyone rides pretty ponies that shoot magical rainbows out of their asses.

      Unfortunately the pretty ponies also reproduce by implanting their vampiric larvae into the sphincters of pseudo-scientific vegan hippies,.. so you’re pretty much screwed.

    • Gaea worship isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s become a new fad for people to wish to be the priests of Gaea and speak for her. Really, it makes people sound like evangelical proselytizers and people will ignore you completely when you talk from that angle.

  6. the most interesting thing to me about the global warming debate is
    there is really nothing the average individual can do about it
    except maybe get worked-up into a frenzy about it

    you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that weather patterns are changing
    and some of those changes are having deleterious effects

    will it kill off a large number of humans?
    will the earth be worse for it?
    probably not

    • The Baffler | Jul 21, 2012 at 3:50 am |

      I think killing a large number of humans would be a good thing in the long run. We have no perspective on living in balance, instead people only want to stuff their faces with big macs and pump out whole broods of retard babies.

      • populations are regulated by principles
        that are far beyond human comprehension

        nature is profligate in production
        and ruthlessly culls defective productions
        on time scales incomprehensible to Mayflies
        and with a morality that knows no morality

        • The Baffler | Jul 21, 2012 at 4:36 am |

          Maybe its time Natural Selection came roaring back into town.

        • Lightsaber | Jul 21, 2012 at 8:42 am |

          and dont think for a second that we reading this are special. These surplus people that you said nature will kill off, could very well be us. Just saying. Dont think for a second that we are not targets for her wrath. See you in hell bitches !!!!!!!!!

          • dude, I’ve lived an extraordinary life
            if the feces hits the air cooler as predicted
            and it was down to cheek & jowl brutishness
            (and no nubile virgins to impregnated for the good of the species)
            I’d volunteer to go

          • The Baffler | Jul 22, 2012 at 2:23 am |

            What makes you think we’re unaware?

            Nature is supreme. I am expendable.

        • populations are regulated by principles 

          that are far beyond human comprehension
          Just like the climate…

    • JohnFrancisBittrich | Jul 21, 2012 at 9:23 am |

      Yeah, right. It’s gonna kill off a bunch of humans but somehow not a bunch of everything else on the planet. That makes total sense :/

      • JohnFrancisBittrich | Jul 21, 2012 at 9:27 am |

        We are clever little apes and some of us (probably the wealthy, elite assholes who actually had the power to make changes for the better in this situation, whether it is man-made or just man-accelerated) are going to find a way to live until everything else on the planet is rot and dust. So no, it’s not just gonna kill off a bunch of humans and then the world will  be a happy, well-balanced placie again. Say goodbye to biodiversity and hello to millions and millions of years of waiting for evolution to catch back up.

        •  In the cosmic scheme of things, millions of years isn’t that long.

          • JohnFrancisBittrich | Jul 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm |

            Obviously. Yet somehow that doesn’t make me feel any better. If there is one universally morally-correct directive, it should be do all you can to keep creation evolving, not to set it back even for a little while.

          • The Baffler | Jul 22, 2012 at 4:45 am |

            Estimate 100 Trillion Trillion years until the last Atom ceases to be.

            We have time on our side.

      • the extinction rate of all species
        plants, insects and animals
        has been noted to be accelerating

        though its seems that humans are helping put the peddle to the metal

        • Johnptestling | Jul 30, 2012 at 5:24 pm |

           For a Neo-Darwinist, the acceleration of extinction rates doesn’t matter, as Evolution will provide ne species at an even higher rate.

    •  We can’t do a thing about it? Are you sure? Is that an excuse to be lazy or anything else?

      Since this info is about USA, just compare the average power per capita in the US with other countries in Europe… The consumption in USA is double! Maybe some saving measures would be a start? Educate your minds and your acts? At home? Work place? Etc..

      I once read that, if every single Chinese consumed as much as a single American, Humans would require 3 Earths to sustain them all!

      USA is the 7th country in the world with the highest recycling rate! The top 6 are European!

      USA is the 2nd country in the world that most pollutes!

      The USA is the also the 2nd country which consumes the most meat per person, where Luxembourg is the 1st, but honestly should not even count since they have half million population and plus they are all rich.

      USA is the 1st country in the world that most consumes water!

      What about oil? Food production? Trees cuted and not being replanted? Waste production? Etc..

      These and many many other things allow us all to think… Isn’t really anything that you could do to change???!! Yes! There is!! Not as much as we want but there is! It starts with every individual! Save! Save! Don’t be greedy! Think about you and your presence in the planet. Everyone one of us can make a difference! If we all save a bit, it would turn to be so much!

      Excuses like these: ‘there is really nothing the average individual can do about i’ aren’t correct at all!

      • ok dude, I don’t own a car
        haven’t owned one for over 10 years
        I’ve lived off the grid for years at a time
        I grow some of my food
        and use alternative energy when possible
        my little efforts, even if multiplied to a billion people
        wouldn’t put a dent in the problem
        and the fact is
        there are very few in the developed world
        who are willing to change their profligate ways
        but many find comfort in pontificating about conservation
        while living the “Amerikan Dream”

        • Monkey See Monkey Do | Jul 23, 2012 at 9:42 am |

          So perhaps your individual choices are all that matter. There’s no point worrying about what others are going to do or are doing. If you dont like how the neghbourhood next to you raises their kids or how the people in another country treats its environment then you can’t forcibly change their choice. People obsess so much over changing others people choices that they forget their own choices are the best tool they have. 

  7. Tchoutoye | Jul 20, 2012 at 11:04 pm |

    “If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer…”

    Nope. In my country (The Netherlands), just like many other parts of Europe, we’re having the coldest summer in 25 years.

    To those who say that local variations don’t prove anything: it works both ways.

    • Shitsocks | Jul 22, 2012 at 12:09 pm |

      also solar maximum this year…. wonder if anyone has compared our climate patterns to mars this year? usually when we warm up so does mars and other surrounding planets…. but i forgot, there are humans on mars causing anthropogenic global warming… my bad… hah 🙂

      • Shitsocks | Jul 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm |

        im no scientist, but to me it seems like the sun just feels hotter in general this year…. never had a sunburn til this year its weird. big solar flares maybe?

  8. Cough cough Bullshit cough cough.

    Even if I believed in the myth of “global warming” I would still blame the “rulers” of this world for not moving off oil and onto other non-polluting non-consuming technologies that they are surely hiding up their sleeves. 

    I feel no guilt. Bring on the crazy weather!

  9. Marklar_Prime | Jul 21, 2012 at 4:28 am |

    Anybody notice that there is absolutely not one bit of actual math cited in this article except for math we supposedly aren’t allowed to see yet?

    Anybody notice nothing in the article is very terrifying at all except as an article of faith in computer models and a two degree number pulled from the collective asses of certain persons. Oh, and the super secret invisible math of course.

    Anybody notice that localized seasonal weather is proof for but never against global warming.

    Anybody notice that volcanic influence on the ocean’s temperatures is never accounted for since, well, nobody actually knows how many undersea volcanoes there are nor monitors their activity across the entire ocean floor.

    Anybody, anybody, anybody,.. Buehler, Buehler,..I didn’t think so.

    • Your third paragraph there is a pet peeve of mine.

      Back when we were having colder than average winters (aren’t half of them colder than average on a long enough time scale) I all I heard was AGW boosters saying “Well, local weather isn’t the same as climate”.

      Ok, I’ll buy that, but then once we get some hotter than average (aren’t half of them hotter than average on a long enough time scale) summers all I hear is “See, See, it’s Global Warming”

      What’s even worse than claiming that local weather isn’t indicative of climate when it’s convenient for them, is the practice they got into a few years back of saying that EVERYTHING was evidence of Global Warming.

      Getting hotter, Global Warming.

      More rain, Global Warming.

      Less Rain, Global Warming.

      Getting Colder, Global Warming.


      It got so bad that they had to start using “Climate Change” instead of “Global Warming” because even the hoopleheads could see that there might be a problem with “Global Warming” causing it to be COLDER outside.

      Generally speaking, a hypothesis has to be testable/falsifiable in order to be a useful part of scientific inquiry. If no outcome can falsify a hypothesis, then it is not a scientifically useful one.

  10. Unless you factor in the last 15/20 years of Stratospheric GeoEngineering. That industrial process is more than likely excacerbating droughts as we speak.

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