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The Gathering Storm – Michael Mann & Daniel M. Kammen

Daniel Kammen, Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy | September 19, 2014

This post is coauthored by scientists Michael Mann and Daniel M. Kammen.

Winston Churchill saw the gathering storm long before the rest of the world. Europe sacrificed millions of people before it openly acknowledged and then directly confronted the crisis. Yet, even after the Allies responded, the outcome was uncertain. Only when the U.S. entered the fray could the Allies see a clear path to end the threat.

NASA photo of Earth

Source: NASA

While meeting that threat, the war mobilization also provided employment for millions and pulled the U.S. economy out of the Great Depression, leading to a half-century of prosperity. Americans mostly look back fondly on that period, as the world became a better place in many ways for the changes that were made.

Today, we face another threat, this time from climate disruption. Again, the U.S. must lead — this time to a clean energy future and a healthier world. As we experience more intense and longer heat waves, prolonged drought, crop failures, rising seas, increasing wildfires and floods, and as natural systems begin to crash, we will see profoundly destabilizing effects.

The scientific debate about whether human-caused global warming exists is long over. The remaining window of time for the needed transformation is short, and the only real issue is how we respond. This is where U. S. leadership is most critical.

Global warming already directly impacts public health, our economy, food and water supplies, and national security. What’s more, a recently leaked UN report details how global warming now most assuredly will lead to “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.” In an attempt to alert the public to the danger, it was released by scientists prior to its being substantively amended by government representatives who might feel tempted to censor critical information.

In response to the scale and urgency of the threat, and in solidarity with our colleagues, we call on our fellow scientists to speak clearly to the nation and the world, and if so moved, to sign on to our Scientific Statement on Climate Stabilization. To successfully combat global warming and stay below the 2-degree C (3.6 F) heat ceiling, the statement calls for these actions:

First, carbon emissions should peak now. Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions must begin at once in industrialized nations, and within a few years in developing nations.

Second, we must reduce emissions by several percent per year and quickly transition away from fossil fuels.

Third, the United States must lead. The U.S. must embrace the Copenhagen Accord, shape the upcoming 2015 Paris accords, and lead this next great industrial transformation. Our capacity to innovate is unmatched, which means that U. S. industry will benefit from political clarity around climate stabilization.

The Statement’s purpose is bring disparate efforts together to work cooperatively on actions that meet the scope, scale, and urgency of the climate crisis. The longer we remain mired in the status quo, the harder and more expensive it will be, and the closer we will come to runaway warming. A recently released Council of Economic Advisors report underscores the importance of action now.

"Take Climate Action" graphic

Graphic for Climate Summit 2014, to be held at the U.N. Sept. 23.

It is not a question of whether we can make the necessary changes. Much of the technology already exists, and we have significant practical experience to draw upon. For example, California uses nearly 50 percent less electricity per capita as the U.S. average, has one of the most aggressive renewable energy standards in the country, and has set an economy-wide limit on its global warming pollution.

California has developed a visionary economy-wide climate plan, the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32)that helps promotes job growth in fast-growing industries. Much of this innovation is centered in Silicon Valley, with its strong university-industry partnerships. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, an influential business organization with nearly 400-member companies, has long supported action to address climate change. Operating out of the Leadership Group Foundation, the California Climate Breakthrough Initiative (CCBI) believes we must hold a national conversation about the future we want.

We agree. Americans have many questions about the climate crisis and what we can do to tackle it. Face-to-face education and dialogue are necessary to come to grips with what we face. Thus, in addition to joining in a call for a climate breakthrough, we ask scientific, community and business leaders to call for and lead public teach-ins at their universities and organizations to discuss the need for immediate and dramatic change in the way we run our world.

Individuals play a key role too. Ask your local universities and libraries to hold teach-ins about the climate crisis. If more Americans understand what we face, they can motivate political leaders to take meaningful, immediate, action.

This September 23rd, in New York City, we will join world leaders who will come together at the UN for Climate Summit 2014, to “champion an ambitious vision, anchored in action that will enable a meaningful global agreement in 2015.” 2015 is important because of the November 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, whose objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal climate agreement.

As a lead-up to the 2014 Climate Summit, the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network has produced Pathways to Deep Decarbonization, which shows how countries can transition to a low-carbon economy and meet the 2-degree C heat limit. During World War II, this country transformed its entire economy, even stopping automobile production for three years to manufacture goods for the war effort. We can do it. We know we can. It is just a matter of public will and effort.


Michael Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, Director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center and author ofThe Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (now available in paperback with a new guest foreword by Bill Nye “The Science Guy”)

Daniel M. Kammen is the Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served as the World Bank lead on Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency, serves the State Department as an Energy and Climate Fellow to the Americas, and has served as a contributing or coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Comments to “The Gathering Storm – Michael Mann & Daniel M. Kammen

  1. There is no empirical evidence that CO2 is the primary cause of atmospheric global warming. Catastrophic global warming primarily caused by CO2 generated by humans is based on an unproven theory and computers which overemphasize CO2’s role in climate change and de-emphasize the role of solar and ocean cycles. These computers have been notoriously wrong almost all of the time (when compared to real world data) and have been compared to a sports team that played the entire season without winning a game.

    During the last ice age CO2 levels fell to 180 ppm and plants started to shut down. If CO2 levels had reached 150 ppm or lower, plants would have died off and all plant and animal life on the planet would have died. We currently have global CO2 levels at just under 400 ppm. Green houses regularly keep CO2 concentrations at 1000-1200 ppm because the plants grow better. In the past, CO2 levels have been at several thousand parts per million and plants and animals thrived. US submarines try to keep CO2 levels below 8,000 ppm. Federal OSHA standards set CO2 maximums at 5,000 ppm. We are much closer to being CO2 deprived than we are being threatened by too much atmospheric CO2.

    The world has not experienced atmospheric global warming in the past 17 years and 11 months despite a dramatic increase in atmospheric CO2 levels during this period. Climate change is natural and has been occurring since the formation of the planet. The pause just proves that the skeptics were right all along, natural causes of climate change are more powerful than the insubstantial effects that human generated CO2 has on the world’s climate. The hysterics’ alarms over catastrophic global warming have been described accurately as the flea wagging the dog.

    See this link for more on 1000 scientists protesting the AGW distortion of science.

  2. A very emotive title. If the accuracy of your first paragraph is an indication of the rest of the article, then it might be advisable to tell folks who want facts not to bother reading further.

    Now, the threat is “climate disruption”… As we are talking about a rather nebulous concept that is climate, how can we identify it as “disrupted”? What has been disrupted in the annual cycle of monsoons in Asia? How can anyone identify disruption to the notoriously fickle climate of the UK?

    None of the extremes that we are told are now the norm are actually, well, extreme – unless you mean extremely quiet. The world has had flood, droughts, heatwaves and cold snaps every year for eternity; the only things that vary are the location, intensity and length; what is happening now is that few of these events are as severe as they have been in the past. Is that what you mean by “extreme”?

    “Greenhouse gasses” are bunkum – go out and observe the plummeting temperatures on a clear, cloudless night for evidence of that – so why are we to fear the slight increase of a tiny proportion of the atmosphere?

    Finally, if you wish us all to abandon use of fossil fuels, why not lead by example? Get rid of your SUV; stop travelling the world (first class?) to spread your message – use video conferencing, if you have to; have your air-con units removed, and your heating boilers; install solar panels for you water; PV panels and a windmill in your garden for you electricity. Show us all how it should be done. Then, and only then, can you really expect people to take you seriously.

  3. I have read many things about climate change, but I think this is probably the most ludicrous. Are you seriously suggesting that climate change / disruption is a bigger threat than WW2? Around 30 million people died in WW2. Despite winning (with belated help from the USA) the people of the United Kingdom suffered greatly, with poverty and rationing lasting long after the war was won. We did not even manage to pay off our war debts (to the USA) until the early 1980s. (Ironically the Marshall Plan money mostly went to Germany, and none to the UK, probably because we voted for a socialist government immediately after the war). I digress. But there is no way that the worst potential threat from AGW is even comparable with the human and economic costs of WW2, and frankly it is insulting to the war dead to suggest it is.

    The latest study by Prof Curry & Nic Lewis [ (non pay-walled available at ) ] concludes that climate sensitivity is likely to be 1.3C, much less that the IPCC’s suggested figure of 2-3C. This means the global average temperature will be unlikely to rise more than 1 or 2 Celsius by the end of the century, a rise which incidentally which would bring net benefits to the planet’s population (longer growing seasons, less cold winters, plants would have better drought resistance etc). Sea level data shows the current rate in increase is about 2mm pa at the most, and consistent with the historic trend, e.g.:

    Arctic sea-ice extent has made a good recovery in the last few years since the outliers in 2007 and 2012 (when winds and storms were predominantly to blame for ice loss, not melting):

    and contrary to the climate models’ projections, Antarctic sea ice extent has been increasing and breaking records by the day and year:

    NH snow cover is showing no discernible trend:

    Even the IPCC in its Fifth Assessment Report back peddled on the likelihood of threats from anthropogenic climate change, and

    admitted there was no scientific evidence of increased storms, floods or droughts from climate

    change. It is increasingly apparent that the climate science has been corrupted and politicised.

    Even the alarmist-loving mainstream media are beginning to realise that the game is up:

    p.s. Prof. Mann, would you care to comment on the recent post at Climate Audit?

  4. As a long advocate for the conservation of natural resources all citizens should support efforts to reduce human’s direct impact upon the climate and natural world.

    Uncertainty of GHG Reduction Investments – In California the emerging factor is the uncertainty in the measurement and effectiveness of the dollar investments in reducing GHG emissions because those dollar proceeds come from the Cap and Trade auction and are deposited into a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. Are the billions of dollars generated really effective?

    The non-partisan State of California Legislative Analyst Office recently issued important findings on the expenditure of the money; summarized here:

    1. Uncertainty – there is significant uncertainty regarding the degree to which each investment proposed for funding will achieve GHG reductions.

    2. No Assurance – It very difficult for the Legislature to have assurance that the specific package of programs proposed by the administration would achieve the greatest reduction per dollar invested possible.

    3. Comparative Effectiveness – would a different set of programs yield better outcomes in a more cost-effective manner? Without metrics, how can we discern? Should the auction proceeds to to private enterprise instead of public agencies? How about both? Who is measuring the effectiveness?

    Legislative Analysts Office Conclusions:

    1. Metrics needed – develop metrics for departments to use in order to prospectively evaluate the potential GHG emission benefits of proposed projects

    2. Guidelines needed – direct the state’s Air Resources Board to establish a set of guidelines for how departments should incorporate these metrics into their decision-making processes

    3. Greater certainty – greater certainty regarding the potential GHG emission reductions of projects being considered for funding

    $1.6 billion at risk of uncertainty – As of September 2014, there have been (7) Cap and Trade Auctions with average price of $12 per ton of GHG resulting in $1.6 billion dollars in proceeds which by legislation goes into the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. Of the $1.6 billion Auction proceeds, the State of California will appropriate $832 million in the 2014-15 Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Fund; managed by an integrated process within the State of California along with the Governor’s Office, the Department of Finance; Climate Action Team composed of State Agencies, the Legislative bodies, and Strategic Growth Council, The Governor’s 2014-15 budget proposes to appropriate $250 million of the $832 million for High Speed Rail. The remaining proceeds to various state programs, including programs related to sustainable

    Required Investment Areas-The Cap & Trade auction proceeds are to be invested in following areas via public agencies – where is the private sector?

    1. Sustainable communities
    2. Clean transportation
    3. Energy efficiency and clean energy.
    4. Natural resources and waste diversion.

    AB 1532, SB 535, and SB 1018 – established the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to receive auction proceeds and to provide the framework for how the auction proceeds will be administered; via the Invest. The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund – the Cap and Trade Auction proceeds deposited here. The Investment Plan – identifies the State’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and priority programs for investment of proceeds to support achievement of those goals.

    State of California Legislative Analyst Office
    California Air Resources Board auction proceeds

  5. Gentlemen: Greetings, The “Gathering Storm” is a “moving title” to begin with and an excellent choice for a title because it “raises eyebrows” for those who know what a Gathering Storm means — and, what the consequences of a storm are if you’d be careless about your Environment and a sloppy irresponsible individual standing on its way, by dwelling-in planet Earth’s surroundings you’re occupying.

    It is true that we have a climate crisis. And out of the many questions we all have about climate change, it boils down onto two crucial areas under discussion which erect tracks to ride on as the world’s population increases rapidly: A) How did humanity stirred, once a hearty ecosystem, to this point? and B) What are we going to do about the critical condition we brought Planet Earth into?

    Well, since there’s no indication of responsibility, per se, at this point, who did it, it becomes an obvious case of human contribution as a whole since Industrial Revolution involving several generations depending on survival including energy consumption, food and supplies, agriculture, etc., you name it, we all fall in to unconsciousness trap and burden-load of accountability as a result of been a sleep-walking populace for not knowing how the consequences about polluting the Environment will affect us.

    To say it in a different way, this is another form of Cause and Effect about the climate crisis we all allocate at this point and time.

    Thus, there’s very little left to do for those who still insist and religiously believe that the world is flat and desire to daydream about their findings presentation of the world which somewhere it comes to an ending edge and there’s an Abyss, deep dark hole. No one dares to get to that edge. And, if you tell them about the world that they live in has the shape of a sphere, like an orange, floats around the Universe on a suspended form, there’s global warming, pollution, and we have a climate crisis, they’ll think that you are crazy and you are the one who’s sound asleep of what’s going on. This is not a laughing matter.

    Nevertheless, we can all tell the world about the consequences of the coming storm, and unless a “fierce action” takes place involving each and every human being by taking responsibility for their actions in order to prevent from a catastrophic climate roller-coaster. But the choice falls on the individual who wants and will do what is right to prevent such storm by accepting responsibility in exchange to his contribution for a Climate-quality transformation, shifting gears averting from facing the storm.

    So, then, what is the individual’s requirement? You may ask. What do we need to do about it? Well, all it requires from us is to have a sense of duty as to be conscious of our boundaries, how we treat our surroundings, have a sense of consumption sustainment so that not only we can enjoy the gifts of nature as we benefit from while here, but we can certainly prepare the ground we stand on for future generations.

    Your obligation and mine is to make sure people will get the message so the world wakes-up. Other than that, move on to face life as life expects from you to do the right thing by unfolding each day its Earthly and precious commodities of nature, such as water, sun, and environment before you and as it does for all living species on the face of the planet and be considered of its precious properties.

    The good thing about Berkeley’s Energy & Environment climate discussion in this site, is the fact that it offers an open window for other Universities to connect as well. Thus, it beams a shaft of light on the dark side of the world so inhabitants can build strong and excellent foundations to stand on by addressing these important problems to correct the climate misalignment we all found ourselves occupying and make the world a better place to live in.

    Keep-up the good work!

    Best regards, Yanno Skandaleas

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