It’s officially time to freak out.

All of my sphincters are clenching in unison.

Climate deniers have cause to rejoice today:  they were right, environmental advocates are way off in their calculations.  The situation is actually much worse than previously thought.

There is precious little world governments can agree on right now with respect to climate change. Conferences come and go without serious action taking place.  The only thing the world does agree on is that two degree warming above pre-industrial levels is the absolute highest level the Earth could withstand without ruin.  Two degrees is essentially the point of no return.  If we go past that, climate change becomes self-reinforcing and it doesn’t matter what humanity does, the globe will keep on heating up. Two degrees isn’t a safe target, it’s actually quite dangerous.  It’s like driving the car at breakneck speed towards a cliff and slamming on the brakes at the last minute, dangerous as hell, but unfortunately it’s all we can agree on.

The world is now one degree warmer than it was in pre-industrial times, so we’re already more than halfway to oblivion.  Until recently, most scientists were predicting we’d hit that two degree mark around 2050.  I’ve been using the date 2050 in my climate talk with people.  It was a comfortable number because the ~40 years between now and then corresponds roughly to the rest of my life.  A few months ago, however, that date was revised downward drastically as Bill McKibben published his Terrifying New Math article in Rolling Stone.  His prediction, based on current rates of fossil fuel use, is that we’ll hit the two degree mark before 2030.  For those with kids, that’s around the time today’s toddlers are entering high school.  With news like that, it’s no wonder Bill’s article went viral.

(click to enlarge)

I’m afraid it gets worse.  Arctic sea ice levels declined dramatically this year, and the remaining ice is now predicted to disappear completely in the summer of 2016.  Without this ice reflecting sunlight, the Earth will absorb much more causing the planet to get hotter and hotter faster and faster.  This process will heat the ocean and melt the world’s Artic-bordering permafrost, which will release tons of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere.  This feedback loop will increase the rate of global warming by ~50%.  Take that 2030 cut-off date and yank it forward even more…the point of no return is racing towards us at breakneck speed.

Compare this new math against our present efforts to slow carbon emissions and you’ll find that we fall comically short of our stated goal of 2 degrees.  According to Professor Kevin Anderson, the world’s policies have us on track for a 4°C degree increase instead (watch this video!), a point which we’ll hit as soon as 2060.  Professor Anderson states:

There is a widespread view that a 4°C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4°C would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level).

You think Wild Turkey would sponsor the site?

Pour yourself a stiff drink and read that quote through one more time.  I’ll wait.

These are strange times.  A few months ago I made web games for a living and now I spend all day trying to bum people out about where the world is headed.  At Thanksgiving dinner, someone paid me a very nice compliment that they liked the site and that they enjoyed the levity that I brought to the subject matter.  I apologize to that person and the rest of you now, because levity will soon be in short supply when stories like this pile up.  If you know me or respect me at all, believe me when I tell you:

It’s officially time to freak out.

  • Peter Mizla

    more depressing news on the state of the climate.

    • EricKrasnauskas

      Yeah, sorry. I bum people out for a living now.

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  • http://twitter.com/stevebloom55 Steve Bloom

    Very nice, Eric, but there are a few important aspects you don’t have right. I’m out of time for a detailed discussion right now (3:00 AM time for bed) but a couple are 1) McKibben said that on our present course we would blow by the 565 Gt added emission level in 2030 (actually 2028), but that’s for commitment to a 2C increase that would happen later rather than the increase itself, 2) the 2016 prediction for the first near-sea ice-free condition (note not completely) in the Arctic is not agreed to by most specialists, although Maslowski has a model-based prediction of 2016 +/- 3 years (Wadhams’ prediction is basically an educated guess. which IMHO shouldn’t get much weight as far as exactness goes; the consensus on this is probably for more like 2030, which is quite bad enough), and 3) “If we go past that, climate change becomes self-reinforcing and it doesn’t matter what humanity does, the globe will keep on heating up” isn’t at all what the science says. As soon as we stop emitting GHGs, we start to bank a reward down the line, notwithstanding that the bit in between is already looking to be very nasty.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.gudalefsky Gary Gudalefsky

    The recent Little Ice Age was the coldest period of cooling in the last 8000 years, per recent peer-reviewed research. It is estimated that the Earth’s temperature fell as much as 4C, from the end of the much warmer Midieval Warm Period, to the depths of the LIA.
    Since then, we’ve risen 2.5 C out of the deepest part of the LIA, .8C of that, since the ‘official’ end of the LIA, around 1880.
    We haven’t even gotten back the 4C lost since the LIA. And the Roman Warm Period was even warmer than that. So…. not seeing any disasters here. We certainly came thru the last half dozen warm periods- each one, Cooler than the one before it- without any trouble. Unless you count that 9,000 year old city off of India, 120 feet down. Or Doggerland, which was submerged 5000 years ago.

  • harpo

    Stick with designing games, they’ll keep you in closer contact with reality.

    • EricKrasnauskas

      I was always more of a Groucho fan myself.

  • windy2

    Only the models are “worse than we thought” as they continue to diverge from reality. The models can’t backcast past temperatures or hydrology and are currently close to being falsified. Antarctica has been adding ice since 2003 at arate of 49Gt/year which means the Antarctic is not contributing to sea level rise. As for the Arctic being ice free in summers that’s nothing new and there are dozens of paleoclimate studies I’ve read that indicate that ice free Arctic summers occurred frequently in the Early Holocene. The amount of atmospheric water vapor has peaked and expected positive feedbacks look to be exaggerated. The truth according to the data is that warming is not occurring at the expected rate as posed by the science. There is still no explanation for the missing heat in the modeling of Earth’s radiation budget as more energy than predicted disapates into space.
    If you read the paleoclimate studies and download the data from satellites and ocean buoys for yourself, you will know the facts and won’t be misled by nonsense presented here.

  • lensfocus

    Wow! another one suffering from apocalyptic anxiety. Is there a support group for that?
    There seems to be a lot of it going around. Perhaps we need a 12 step program for people who have overdosed on the CAGW delusions in their own mind.

    Hello, my name is fill-in-the-blank and I am an Alarmaholic. I am afraid of CO2, a trace gas essential to life on earth. Just knowing that I exist leaves me trembling in fear and sweating with guilt. My exhaled CO2 helps to feed my vegetables but at what cost? Gaia, have mercy on my soul.

    Must be a UN CoP coming up. Have all the alarmists been asked to flood the
    media with the scariest climate stories they can dream up?

    ‘You’ll
    Be Amazed By What Was Observed’ – Inconvenient Arctic Observations
    Before Satellite Measurements — Chronology shows ‘nothing unusual is
    happening today’

    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” H.L. Mencken

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  • Rocky Racoon

    Thanks for the Message Keep it Up Maybe make a realistic game based on these numbers call it cliff hanger Pay now or Pay later whatever…..keep up the good work
    RR