Tipping Points In The Climate System: The Worst Kind Of Positive Feedback

With global temperatures continuing to break records in recent years, it’s important to cast an eye towards the future. While efforts to reduce emissions remain in a political quagmire, time is running out to arrest the slide into catastrophe.

Further compounding the issue are a variety of positive feedback loops that promise to further compound the problem. In these cases, initial warming has flow-on effects that then serve to further increase global temperatures. Avoiding these feedback mechanisms is crucial if the Earth is to remain comfortably livable out to the end of the century.

A Multitude of Causes

The issue of climate change often appears as a simple one, with the goal being to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent negative consequences for human civilization. Despite this, the effects of climate change are often diffuse and intermingled. The various climate systems of the Earth interact in incredibly complex ways, and there are many mechanisms at play in these feedback effects that could tip things over the edge.


A graph showing the sudden drop in Bering-Chukchi sea ice seen in 2018. This kind of abrupt change is not currently accounted for in climate models.
NASA photographs showing the loss of ice at the Muir Glacier in Alaska, from 1941 and 2004.

The ice-albedo feedback mechanism is a climate process in which the amount of ice on earth has a significant effect on global temperature changes. It’s a positive feedback relationship, meaning it has the possibility of causing a runaway effect if not managed carefully. Higher global temperatures cause sea ice, land ice, and glaciers to melt. The ice, which is highly reflective, is instead replaced with open water, or land, which is less reflective, having a lower albedo. This causes the Earth to retain more heat from solar radiation, instead of reflecting it back into space. This further raises temperatures, causing more ice to melt, creating the positive feedback effect.

Ice levels around the world are an active target of study for climate scientists. Records show major sustained losses over recent decades to major ice sheets, and glaciers are retreating all over the world. These areas, formerly covered in highly reflective ice, are now absorbing more heat than ever from solar radiation. As temperatures continue to rise, it’s likely that ice packs around the world will continue to thaw, further exacerbating the effect.

Methane Releases From Not-So-Permafrost

Melting permafrost in Canada in 2008. Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson

Another major concern of climate scientists is the possibility of large-scale releases of methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from a variety of environmental sources. Areas such as Western Siberia have large reserves of methane trapped under permafrost, while significant reserves exist under the oceans, too. As the climate warms, much of this permafrost is beginning to thaw, releasing the stored methane trapped below the surface. This has the effect of further increasing warming, as methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with a warming potential over 20 times that of CO2 over a 20 year time frame.

There is significant worry that a tipping point could be reached in which there is an abrupt release of large amounts of methane from these sources, causing a rapid increase in global temperatures. In this event, reducing human emissions would do little to help, as the released greenhouse gases can not simply be returned to the soil. Research is ongoing to produce models to predict what will happen in the event of further thawing of formerly-permanent permafrost. There is some hope — slower thawing seems likely to reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gases released, as plants grow in formerly frozen areas, once again locking up carbon. Faster thaws threaten more massive, abrupt releases, which are more likely to result in rapid temperature rise.

Ocean Current Slowdown

Ocean currents have a big role to play in the climate. Photo credit; NASA

The world’s oceans are a major player in the climate system. Acting as a giant heat sink, what happens in the oceans tends to have staggering effects on weather patterns everywhere. Major ocean currents are a large part of this mechanism, responsible for transporting huge amounts of heat stored in these waters around the globe.

Scientists have been monitoring changes in ocean currents, and have observed major changes in recent years. The Gulf Stream is one such current, which has often been linked to major climate events in the distant past. It’s slowing down, and is currently weaker than at any point in the last 1600 years. The weakening is unprecedented, and current research suggests the change is at least in part due to human-induced climate change. The effect is multifaceted, with temperature increases and freshwater from melting sea ice both playing a role.

Many theorize that a slowdown or shutdown of ocean currents could have major consequences on the world climate. Extreme warming or cooling could occur in different areas, and storm activity, such as hurricanes, could increase in both frequency and magnitude. Research suggests that changes in these currents can be both an indicator and driver of climate shifts, and it’s likely that ocean currents will continue to change as anthropogenic warming continues.

Forest Loss And Fires

Smoke from bushfires in Eastern Australia, as seen from satellite imagery. The 2019/2020 fire season has been unprecedented in ferocity.

Forests are an important player in the global climate, acting as a major carbon dioxide sink. However, in recent years, increased temperatures and extreme wildfires have led to large swathes of forests dying off or simply going up in smoke. As trees die and are broken down by microbes, or as they burn up in fires, this leads to releases of greenhouse gases. This causes further warming, compounding the problem in yet another example of positive feedback.

Wildfires are becoming worse and more frequent. Last year’s Arctic wildfires released a massive volume of CO2 in June alone — equal to Sweden’s annual total output. After facing its hottest and driest year on record in 2019, Australia also faced its worst recorded fire season, with over 10 million hectares burned. These fires grew large enough to create their own weather, with Pyrocumulonimbus clouds observed forming from the smoke and causing lightning storms which spawned further fires in other areas. This is a case of positive feedback in the very short term, with large fires creating further fires due to the harsh conditions.

Forest die-offs have their own consequences, too. Boreal forests are shrinking, thus acting as less of a carbon sink as tree numbers begin to dwindle. As the forests thin out, conditions get warmer and dryer for remaining trees, further accelerating the decline. This also leads to issues as other species, both flora and fauna, have to adapt as tree cover shrinks and conditions change.

What Can Be Done?

The aforementioned feedback mechanisms are all current areas of research for climate scientists around the globe. The topic of abrupt and sudden climate change is only loosely understood. Most existing climate models are based on steady, gradual changes to the climate from human activity. These models don’t account for the possibility of large sudden methane releases from formerly frozen soils, or mass releases of carbon dioxide from continental-scale wildfires.

Unfortunately, the mechanisms at play in these feedback scenarios are far beyond the scale that humanity can realistically arrest. The only real mechanism with which to play with is the output of greenhouse gases from human activities. By reigning in emissions, there is a possibility that humanity still has time to avoid triggering these tipping points. Only time will tell.

266 thoughts on “Tipping Points In The Climate System: The Worst Kind Of Positive Feedback

    1. Sorry to disturb your slumber with a pressing issue of global importance. This needs solutions by creative, motivated people who care about the future of humanity. e.g. Hackers.

      1. Sorry to disrupt you self satisfaction with a bit of reality. The issue is one of staying on message.
        Where is the hack?
        Where is the project I can do?
        It is not that this is a bad post it is that it is a bad Hack A Day post. It is an okay post but doesn’t everyone on Hack-a-day know this?
        I used to love Slashdot until it became too filled with politics. HAD is a targeted experience and not a general news site and people come here for a specific type of content and this is not it. If the HAD team decides to start a general news site which I think would be foolish since I doubt they have the desire to so then great. If they want to have a site dedicated to Climate Change and possible mitigation that could be great. They might be a needed voice of reason. AKA would be willing to discuss replacing coal with natural gas and nuclear.

          1. You are right and wrong at the same time. It is important and should not be political but it is. I could not understand how people still oppose the data. A good friend of mine pointed that is was the solutions the the problem being presented that people hate. That I can understand which is why i would love to see HAD have a separate site dedicated to the issue and have broadminded engineering based solutions.

          2. Climate change shouldn’t be about politics or ideology, I agree, but politicians and ideologues are hijacking it. It seems to have become quite devisive. This means that sensible conversations are not taking place and progress is not being made.

          3. Telling people not to drive drunk is also important, and also off-topic and preachy. This article tells me nothing that I haven’t seen a hundred times on every other website on the internet.

        1. I actually found the emphasis on the positive feedback loop to be rather informative. I know about positive and negative feedback loops from amplifiers and audio but didn’t consider that the concept also applies to climate change.

          Good article!

        2. One of the things that characterizes a hacker (or should do) is that they seek to understand what is happening in the hidden and bring it out into light.
          It’s a bit like the boy in H.C. Andersen’s story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.
          When it comes to climate, there is no “Trial and Error” but we only have a chance to understand what is happening.
          With positive feedback, the change will not slow down and stabilize, but on the contrary, go faster and faster.
          The big question is: have we already passed the tipping point?

      2. DIY fusion reactors have already been covered by HAD, nothing else is a real solution to humanity’s energy needs in the later part of this century and ongoing. Unless you plan on trying to convince the third world to stay poor and stay home, rather than invade your comfortable energy rich nation so they can have a share of what you already indulge in.

        1. Yes, the heavily armed invasion of…. refugees… overcrowded on rickety boats… and almost drowning….

          I’m sure that the border police, armed with their puny M16s, will be overrun with the fearsome weaponry of the… thrown pebble.

          I suppose the next thing we need to be worried about is being racially replaced by the growing horde of muslims! already they make up a whopping…….. 2% of our population….

        2. Also looking through your twitter feed you think that climate science is a hoax (among other things, and conspiracies about bushfires), so why do you care about this fictitious zero-sum game which you don’t even believe in?

          1. Because of how activists use the “crisis” to advance their non-related agenda. Example #1 is the “Green New Deal” which is primarily a re-structuring of the economy, with climate change tacked on to motivate the useful idiots.

      3. Verification, Validation, and Confirmation of Numerical Models in the Earth Sciences
        Naomi Oreskes; Kristin Shrader-Frechette; Kenneth Belitz
        Science, New Series, Vol. 263, No. 5147. (Feb. 4, 1994), pp. 641-646



        Verification and validation of numerical models of natural systems is impossible. This is because natural systems are never closed and because model results are always non-unique. Models can be confirmed by the demonstration of agreement between observation and prediction, but confirmation is inherently partial. Complete confirmation is logically precluded by the fallacy of affirming the consequent and by incomplete access to natural phenomena. Models can only be evaluated in relative terms, and their predictive value is always open to question. The primary value of models is heuristic.

        Numerical models are increasingly being used in the public arena, in some cases to justify highly controversial decisions. Therefore, the implication of truth is a serious matter. The terms verification and validation are now being used by scientists in ways that are contradictory and misleading. In the earth sciences-hydrology, geochemistry, meteorology, and oceanography-numerical models always represent complex open systems in which the operative processes are incompletely understood and the required empirical input data are incompletely known. Such models can never be verified.

  1. This is Hackaday, not Greenpeace. I hesitated to write this comment because I think some people at HaD are OK with shitty articles as long as they generate lots of comments.
    I hope Mike and Elliott do something to stop these environmental opinion peices.

    1. I’d accuse them of shadowing Greenpeace if they offered the solution to everything as “renewables! renewables! renewables!”. Thankfully the writer left that blank. I’m a bigger fan of nuclear energy for the emissions reduction side of things… Greenpeace’s anti-nuclear stance isn’t helping a goddamned thing.

      1. “Greenpeace’s anti-nuclear stance isn’t helping a goddamned thing”

        Yep, it’s late enough that “optimally clean” isn’t an option. We have to pick our poison: nuclear or carbon. At least nuclear pollution, under normal non-meltdown circumstances, is more easily kept from spreading around the planet.

        1. Under non-meltdown conditions what nuclear pollution?
          Properly engineered a nuclear fuel loop can become closed! So nothing needs become actual pollution.
          And even if you do want to just dump the spent fuel for cheap/convience its a great heat source that could be used safely via a heat exchanger just for that!

          Also modern power generation design (not old make more Nuclear weapon grade material designs) are pretty much 100% meltdown proof baring deliberate idiocy.

          I’m all for using ‘renewables’ but they are good for powering the optional luxuries and used right a large portion of a developed nation’s economy. But they will never be able to be the stable background power a grid needs – either we have Nukes or we have deliberate rolling brownout when renewables are not producing enough so the essentials can be powered (Personally I have no objection to the last one, I can read a book by battery light etc while the power is down – but I doubt if the political will exists in any nation to deal with the entitled whining morons who can’t be deprived of their precious TV and Social media bullshit for even a few hours without rioting..)

          Also why are so many folks complaining? – Many HAD articles are like this one pointing to problems not solutions. They are great because they enlighten the readers and encourage problem solving. Yes many of us probably already knew the content, but I am just as sure many of us did not know all of it.

      1. First, I don’t have a magic want that controls China and India. Second, “time is running out to arrest the slide into catastrophe.” is an always-true statement whether it is about my credit card balance or the Sun becoming a red giant. Third, we are going into a big solar minimum. Call me in 25 years.

        1. “WhataboutChina” is the same quality argument as “shestartedit”. Only third graders seek to excuse their bad behavior by pointing out other people’s.
          “Time is running out” is only an always true statement if you discard the fact that this statement has an end date and a lethal consequence. Your bank balance is your problem, the climate is my grandchildren’s life.
          And as for your “solar minimum, it’s hypothetical, won’t effect the climate, and in 25 years we will know whether we managed to save Western Civilization from people like you or not.

          1. “WhataboutChina” is the same quality argument as “shestartedit”. Underwhelming over-statement and obviously false. If you are bailing with a bucket while others are cutting holes in the bottom of the ship, why not put your effort into building a raft, or stopping those others? Because you can’t.

            So use moderation. Don’t make everyone around you waste their productivity on useless efforts. If you think the situation is dire (which you simply can’t know) then you HAVE to find a way to deal with the Communist dictators and oligarchs of the World. Don’t make me pay carbon taxes until you show me how you will deal with the reality.

          1. Yes, clearly you choose to not get it.

            It’s about the big consumers (us) recognizing that our current lifestyle is unsustainable, and that the wealthy nations have an obligation to lead by curbing our excesses and by developing the more efficient energy sources and processes that will allow poorer nations to develop without creating the same messes that we did.

        2. You start with the biggest most wasteful polluters, who coincidentally are the ones who can most easily afford to make cutbacks.

          At a per-capita emissions level of 1/10 of Americans, about the only way the average Indian could reduce their carbon footprint further is by dying. Is that your proposal?

    2. It’s unfortunate that can only see this an an opinion piece. Lewin did a great job of citing reputable sources throughout the article, and kept opinion out of his writing. Maybe give it a closer read?

      We publish articles on science all the time, this kind of content fits right in on the pages of Hackaday.

      1. And I am glad you do. This article is showing the hacking community an intractable problem and seeing what can be done. This is click-bate for hackers (as evidenced by the comments). The problem is that there are so many people attempting a solution and some of those are going to be at odds with each other simply because they don’t agree with the primary cause.

        For example:
        When you say global warming, a certain percentage will think CO2 emissions.
        some will say “water vapor is the biggest contributor.
        and some will say methane.
        all are contributing factors, but in the end, these are the components that trap heat.

        This is where I remind people of the 2 law of thermodynamics, the transfer from one form of energy to another will never be 100% efficient, you will always have waste heat. Now put that into a closed system and every bit of power consumed will result in the environment heating up a little bit more. the more energy we use, no matter if it’s solar, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, or just plain burning coal. the net amount of energy produced is going to have to be absorbed by the environment.
        reclaiming that heat into usefulness will help delay the process, but using less overall will probably have the greatest results, but I don’t see the earth being able to support the current population without our current infrastructure.

      2. Lewin did a fine job. I am in the category of this just does not fit with HAD. I think you see a lot of people agree. This is also going to be heavy on politics you already have people using the derogatory term Boomer on here. I find it dull because back in college just took a class on environmental stewardship it was a recommended elective and it was heavy on climate change.
        Yes HAD does do science but the science it does teds to be more esoteric in nature or about a specific person in history or related to electronics. This subject is documented everywhere.

        The last bit is that you just can not separate this subject from politics. I used to go on Slashdot a lot until it became a cesspool of politics. While HAD is not jerk free it is pretty much jerk light until a post like this shows up . As a 55 year old that does understand that climate change is real every time I see anyone using the bigoted term boomer deeply offends me. Lumping an entire group under on stereotype is the very definition of bigotry. I find it disgusting that it is okay to use.

      3. Mike, I didn’t get past the first paragraph without reading an alarmist opinion: “Time is running out to arrest the slide into catastrophe.” But thanks for replying to my comment. Now I know this unscientific environmental writing is something I will continue to see more of if I decide to keep reading Hackaday.

      4. The predictions are opinion. There is no way to verify until it happens, and if it doesn’t meet expectations then re-calibrate the prediction and keep saying “wait for it…”. Silly game.

      5. It is propaganda, and parts of it are “silly”, talking about ice albedo while ignoring the other phases of water as if they are irrelevant is biasing the conversation in a very blatant way, furthermore hiding comments that point that out is intellectual cowardice.

    1. As a thoughtful environmentalist, I have to agree. There are plenty of interesting discussions of climate hacks to be had. There are massive carbon capture projects with forests, mangroves, cement, etc. All sorts of sci-fi terraforming. Deploying some kind of shade at lagrange 1.

  2. Surprising to see only nay-comments pop up.
    Just wanted to say that I live in the Arctic and can tell all of you whats in the cards for you. The temperature currently rises faster here than anywhere else. Because of the changes we have to use 43 Million USD just to protect a small village for the coming decades.
    How much will the changes cost entire countries?

    1. I live in colder climate too, and this winter has been the warmest I remember …

      Having said that, there might be positive feedback loops on the other side of warming – that will promote cooling.

      For example:
      – plants extending further north.
      – CO2 helping plants grow faster
      – less heating required in northern climates
      – …

        1. Hardly a net benefit, when you compare against the downsides.

          Miroslav’s points are possible but ecosystems don’t change or relocate that fast, so there will be a century or three of imbalance, disruption, and great potential for harm to humans and other species.

      1. – plants extending further north.
        —-Desertification of the tropics destroys rainforests
        – CO2 helping plants grow faster
        —–Not at any survivable concentration and you also need more water and fertilizer.
        – less heating required in northern climates
        ——More cooling needed in temperate zones, cooling is more energy intensive.

        1. – CO2 helping plants grow faster
          —–Not at any survivable concentration and you also need more water and fertilizer.
          —–—Yes survivable concentrations (we are alive), no they don’t need more water
          “A quarter to half of Earth’s vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years”
          “We show that the water savings that plants experience under high CO2 conditions compensate for much of the effect of warmer temperatures”

          The problem with both sides of climate debate is getting the facts straight. There is so much misinformation available.

          1. That second paper focuses on drought-resistance of plants. The conclusion is that extra CO2 in the atmosphere will temper some of the worst predictions of some models.

            Note that they’re basing their most extreme results on an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 1,140 ppm, while here on earth we’re talking levels in the 300-400 ppm range.

            And even then, their conclusion is only that it’s making a horrible situation mildly less horrible. They do not conclude that large regions of the earth won’t be desertified under the extreme CO2 case, but merely that those regions that still _can_ grow plants may be less vulnerable to droughts b/c of the CO2. It’s an effect, at the very extreme end of things, but it’s a second order effect at best. Do not misread this paper as encouraging for higher levels of atmospheric CO2.

          2. @Elliot Williams
            Yes I am aware that those sources don’t predict wine and roses at high CO2 levels.
            My point was that Miroslav made a verifiable statement and Brian Dolge contradicted without citing any evidence. I took me only a minute or two to find credible sources that supported Miroslav’s statement.

            Both sides need to use verifiable facts and make falsifiable predictions if they want to call it science.

        1. Negative feedback tends to stabilize system to return to its original state.

          Positive feedback typically leads to runaway process or system, self-reinforcing itself until destruction or saturation.

          Positive feedback loops can promote cooling. Look up “snowball Earth”.

          1. Its not so much that positive feedback will lead to destruction or saturation, only that, at the moment, it causes the changes to accelerate until a new equilibrium is found. At the moment, we’re in an inter-glacial period within the current ice-age, but because of the increase of global temperature, we might be leaving ice-ages altogether, for a climate closer to the triassic period.

    2. Not much if people have the good sense to move from where they can no longer live.

      But of course, being a professional victim and demanding compensation and aid is also a lucrative business.

          1. The Americas had an existing biosphere, where people needed only walk there along already forested and living ground during one of the last ice ages.

            Mars is completely dead, with soil that is toxic, no air to breathe and soaked in deadly radiation, where every 10 kilos of material you send there, needs one tonne of rocket to get there.

            -and sometimes the rockets will explode on the launchpad, delaying vital food and water and air transport to colonists which sorely need them or else they will asphyxiate or starve,

          2. Ancient peoples moved because they could much more than because they had to for any not man made reason – we have evidence of the bushcraft they knew letting them live in harsh locations for ages even though people have spread to everywhere else on the globe. So even if your ‘not long ago’ is the dawn of the species (which is not long ago by some measures of time) it really is kinda stupid in this context and pretty much always wrong, with mostly very localized migrations to stay in the environment they knew as it shifted. Or moving to new pastures because the grass is greener even though folks also stayed behind.

            People have in some form or other been pretty much everywhere on the planet for so much longer than we have any records, written or archeological. We can’t even say for sure where humanity started or how long people have been in any region. All the Archeologists can say is the oldest evidence of ‘modern man’ here so far is and that current evidence suggests humans radiated out from Africa.

  3. Thanks for the informative article, feedback loops can have big consequence in all kinds of systems. I can’t help being totally flabbergasted about the amount of people trying to ignore or denying climate change and the deadly consequences. Information probably isn’t going to help changing those opinions, only the harsh effects like the fires in Australia will probably waken those people.

  4. Maybe the author is exhorting us to “hack the climate” to make it better? But even though I think climate change is happening, I have to take issue with a couple of points.

    1. Sea levels were about 1.5m higher around 1800 years ago. I learnt this to my surprise when touring a roman villa in Portugal that used to be a port (it’s now inland 300m). So – why did they fall in the last millenium?

    2. If the Gulf Stream is weakening, why in the UK are we having our mildest winter for years? Normally it keeps us warm in the winter….

    1. “Sea levels were about 1.5m higher around 1800 years ago. I learnt this to my surprise when touring a roman villa in Portugal that used to be a port (it’s now inland 300m). So – why did they fall in the last millenium?”

      If that port was at the mouth of a river, it might be farther inland due to silt brought down the river and deposited at the mouth, and similar effects, not just because of sea level rise.

      This happened to Portus, Rome’s port city.


      “On July 27, 2013, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this view of the ancient Roman port. The hexagonal Trajanic Basin now sits about two kilometers inland, and it is a reed-filled lake. Over the past 1,500 years, the coastline has migrated westward as the outer Claudian Basin filled in naturally with silt and sediment.”

    2. “1. Sea levels were about 1.5m higher around 1800 years ago. I learnt this to my surprise when touring a roman villa in Portugal that used to be a port (it’s now inland 300m). So – why did they fall in the last millenium?”

      More people drinking water.

    3. “1. Sea levels were about 1.5m higher around 1800 years ago. I learnt this to my surprise when touring a roman villa in Portugal that used to be a port (it’s now inland 300m). So – why did they fall in the last millenium?”

      Water locked up in ice at the poles.

    1. The point of adjusting temperatures is to make them more accurate, which is to remove noise (making the error bars smaller).

      Actual noise would make actual measurements higher or lower in a 50% ratio and uncorrelated with anything – hence “random”.

      Of the actual historical temperature adjustments, most of the increases were applied after 1940 and most of the decreases were applied prior to 1940. IOW, there is a clear timeline correlation between the adjustments, with 1940 as the inflection point.

      The P-value of such a correlation is way, way less than .001 due to the strength of correlation and large number of adjustments made. IOW the average of the adjustments after 1940 is > 0 and the average of adjustments before 1940 is < 0, and the distance from zero and number of measurements make this astronomically unlikely to have come from random chance.

      I don't know much about 1970s climate science, but it seems like a personal attack is not a good response to valid questioning.

      (There's *lots* of valid objections to climate change, and I never see any of them addressed head-on by actual scientists.)

      1. The article you linked to inherently prominently features 1970s popular media stories and earlier popular media / news articles.

        The implication is that the old data and methods were more accurate and trustworthy than post-1970s data and methods. Which would be strange, because technology and science have certainly advanced since the 1970s.

        But if that’s how you think, you must be reading Hackaday on an Altair. Because surely computer science and electronics haven’t improved since the 1970s either.

  5. In the mean time scientists don’t want to alarm anyone regarding thermal expansion, when I make my milk coffee in the microwave I leave the milk 2cm from the top of the mug, when I take it out after heating the milk up there is only 16mm left to the top of the mug. What we can deduce from this experiment is the oceans will also rise as the temp increases, but more importantly I GET MORE COFFEE !! :)

  6. The comments here are frightening. For literally everything science gets consulted, but when science says (for over 40 years already) that climate change is a real thing and we should do something about it, people are fighting with all their power to prevent change?
    Just so you can keep flying around the world however you want?
    Just so you can buy the next big diesel engine and keep on pushing more CO2 into the air?
    Yes. Yes, the change of one person is minimal, but if no one ever starts changing, then we will never ever reach a critical mass. We have to do EVERYTHING we can do make a change. It won’t be easy and it wont be nice either, but it has to be done. just please stop calling human accelerated climate change some sort of bullshit. It’s not.
    I am not perfect, you are not perfect, but we can try to work towards that goal. Not trying is the real bullshit.

    1. No model can predict weather a week away with any reliability; yet they have models which somehow are supposed predict years out? Google “the replication crisis”; half of modern ‘science’ is bs written by bs’ers… https://www.dw.com/en/total-economic-transformation-getting-from-here-to-there-on-climate-change/a-51433268 Surely noone has any financial interest in directing the ‘science’…

      The only question I have for you is how much have humans influenced the climate? Surely the models that are accurate or useful in predicting these changes are able to tell is what factors contributed to the conclusion and their weights.. I have been looking for a while and still haven’t found an estimate even..

      1. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/339/6124/1198.full

        They don’t say it’s human made, but

        > Global temperature, therefore, has risenfrom near the coldest to the warmest levels of theHolocene within the past century, reversing thelong-term cooling trend that began ~5000 yr B.P.Climate models project that temperatures are likelyto exceed the full distribution of Holocene warmthby 2100 for all versions of the temperature stack

        There are other papers which indicate that that extreme change has a correlation with our evolution. Have no time to search for them rn, sorry.

      2. Most of these models are so complicated and interdependentthat they are unable to sort out the prominence of factors without running them hundreds of times with different initial settings. The same thing happens with AI face recognition. The algorithm is so complex there is no way to get a clear human readable output describing the process, we just know it gets the right result

      3. None are so blind as those who will not see…

        Yes, there is convincing data showing anthropogenic climate change. But for the last 50 years, oil and coal industries have been sponsoring disinformation and pushing propaganda. Look at how much they spend on “feel-good” advertising. No wonder you are confused.

          1. We are still get carbon out that has been underneath the earth for literally millions of years. And that way we put i don’t know how many gigatons of carbon into the air that were not supposed to be there. We realized quite some time ago that this was a mistake, but we did nothing, because we could use it for very cool things (not even joking here), but now we have a serious problem and should cut that off ASAP. That carbon does not belong into the air – atleast not as fast as we are putting it out there.

          2. There’s a big difference between greenhouse-gas pollution and toxic-gasses pollution.
            Yes, oil and coal industry releases a lot less toxic gasses, but also a lot more greenhouse gasses than ever, because of the increased energy-requirements of the population.
            Diesel emit more toxic gasses than gasoline. Gasoline emits more greenhouse-gasses than diesels. Diesel-like products can also be made carbon neutrally in very short term(Months!), like rapeseed oil(Which most diesels will run on with very small modifications), whereas gasoline is a lot harder to produce like this, which makes it expensive and impractical to do.
            E85 is pretty much the best of both worlds, but it has it’s own drawbacks, like poor fuel economy, but most gasoline-engines will run on ethanol with only a small modification(Updated software/re-tuning), though at reduced power depending on the fuel-system (Since it needs more fuel for the same power).
            Electric vehicles have their use, but in replacing the diesel-engine in the industry. Batteries need to get a lot better in both energy density (Mainly weight, but also volume), and not increase the price pr kwh in the process. It’s definitely going the right way with what Tesla is doing, but you can only optimize Li-ion batteries so much. A new technology is needed before real change will happen. Until then, E85, natural gas and biodiesel are the only practical alternatives

      4. ” yet they have models which somehow are supposed predict years out? ”

        Do you not understand the difference between weather and climate? Seattle has a reputation of being rainy but temperate. That’s climate. Whether it rains in a given week is weather.

        If Seattle becomes less rainy, over a long period, than its reputation, that would mean its climate had changed.

      5. “No model can predict weather a week away with any reliability; yet they have models which somehow are supposed predict years out?”

        Yes, this is fine. Nobody can predict the exact position of a football at a particular time in a game, but you’d probably be able to figure out that in a match between (for example) Manchester United and Oldham Athletic, that the ball would spend more time nearer the Oldham goal than the Manchester one.

        Weather is about specifics, climate is about averages and trends.

    2. “Just so you can keep flying around the world however you want?
      Just so you can buy the next big diesel engine and keep on pushing more CO2 into the air?”

      If only we could blame those two groups for the mess. No, I think you’ll find it’s more mundane needs.

      1. Yep, food and shelter are the number 1 contributors.
        The basic cause is dead simple, population increasing exponentially in a finite resource world. The outcome is inevitable and harsh but here also nobody want to hear about it.

    3. You are confusing the science with the predictions. There is no way to propose experiments to verify the predictions, so they remain simple predictions, not science. There is no way to verify that low carbon measures will make a difference as well. I suspect the best thing to do is work hard on extending human lifetimes to 150 to 300 years so that long term thinking is in the self-interest.

      1. ” There is no way to propose experiments to verify the predictions”

        Yes there is. Just wait. We can compare the conditions today to what were predicted five, ten, twenty, thirty years ago.

        The predictions have been pretty much on target. If anything a bit conservative in some areas.

        So either we can bet that the predictions made *now* are suddenly wrong, for some reason, or we can accept that the predictions being made now are probably right, and do what’s necessary.

        1. And for those who can’t or won’t acknowledge climate change, there are 999 other reasons for not being so profligate in our ever-increasing consumption of fossil fuels. How about … it’s a finite resource that has other uses besides making big pickups go vrooom? or that polluted air kills people? Anyone want some more?

        2. No. As soon as you take measures to change things, you can not tell if the results are caused by your changes. You have no control to measure against. Can’t be done. Not a science. And heat flow is non-deterministic.

    4. I looked into the modeling and simulations and came to a startling realisation, it is actually mathematically impossible to predict the future, for more than one reason. Fools get confused by islands of stability in simulations and think that if only they can tweek them the right way then they can predict the future, but this is a delusion as there are also areas of complete chaos even in simple systems and the patterns of chaos and stability are chaotic too so you can’t predict when your nice stable system will go chaotic on you again. This is also why that tired old “tipping point” boogeyman is a delusion, it assumes more stability in the system that can ever exist. The universe is an automata that is intrinsically chaotic, this may actually be what drives the arrow of time, nonlinear dynamics and entropy.

    1. Methane is 34 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2 and harder to get out of the atmosphere. Also estimates of the amount of methane in the arctic permafrost run into the Gigatons.

      1. Annual CO2 from fossil seem to be around +35 Gigatons. So if all that permafrost methane gets released at once, it would match the CO2, maybe double the global warming. Methane (CH4) will turn into CO2 after 4 years, I doubt there would be any noticeable change on global warming compared to the annual +35 Gigatons of CO2 after the 4 years. Just a hiccup on the graph.

  7. Among the few things more frightening than the long-established, rigorously tested facts and theories of climate change are people’s responses to them, as seen in the comments here :-(

    1. Long established? By some for some. These are not repeatable measurements. They are lost in the past and there is no way to duplicate the environments. Rigorously tested? Not possible. Same reason. This IS NOT a theory like quantum mechanics where researchers can independently test ideas. Conflict is inevitable and legitimate. Pretending there is a consensus and “settled science” is for fools and journalists.

      1. Ok, fine. To make your point, all you have to do is to point to the actual source(s) of the abnormal warming we’re seeing, with evidence that is stronger than that for blaming the CO2 release from the consumption of fossil fuels.

        Pretending there isn’t a compelling case for abnormal, human-caused warming is denial, not legitimate debate.

          1. …ok. Show how the theory around climate change is incorrect. All you’ve done so far is to state that the experts haven’t done a good enough job proving it to your satisfaction. Though it seems to pass muster with most climate scientists, most other scientists who’ve had a peek, several western democracies, the IPCC…

          2. It isn’t about my satisfaction. Some things can not be proven. This is one of them. Quantum mechanics can not be proven in the logical or mathematical sense but it is accurate to within our ability to measure. This climate stuff is the opposite end of the spectrum because you can’t even do the experiments.

          3. And you did your doctoral degree in science where?

            Just finished watching a two-hour NOVA show on climate history. It digs (literally) into the various disciplines and techniques that have been used to determine past climate, flora and fauna, shorelines, CO2 levels. It doesn’t even mention the current CO2 level til about 90 minutes in.

            Sorry, I’m gonna take the painstaking, evidence-backed work of thousands of specialists over your uninformed take on scientific process.

          4. Maybe it can not be proved to be perfectly mathematically correct. But it is clearly correct enough – much like almost all of medicines roots things were things that work with no provable reason or even reasonable hypothesis to test for in many cases for generations, based on simple observations and an eye for details. But you wouldn’t want to go without all the learning built on those not quite 100% proved facts would you?

            But to show something to be actually incorrect you actually need some evidence even remotely pointing to it being so. Its not incorrect just because you wish it were so, or it can’t currently be proved to mathematical precision.

            As there isn’t even a shred of credible evidence for Human caused climate change deniers to point to saying it isn’t a thing claiming so is clearly incorrect. Making you Comedicles a fool looking for legal loopholes so its suddenly not at all your fault. All you can quibble over is the degree of blame to be apportioned to our species and even that has significant evidence backed limits.

          5. Foldi-one it isn’t about deniers or loopholes or blame. It is about the impossibility of verifying through repeatable experiments or making the needed measurements. That is all and that is enough. That is what makes it opinion, not science.

          6. We are in the midst of a poorly thought-out experiment with our current emissions levels into our own environment. Some experiments should be ended early, when the outcome is pretty clearly negative.

            It’s ridiculous to insist on iron-clad proof that the environment will be harmed exactly X much and in Y ways. It’s sufficient to prove that there will very likely be significant harm, which has clearly been done.

            Where’s the science that shows that increasing CO2 levels by 40+ % will definitely NOT be harmful?

      2. “Not possible.”

        Entirely possible. Check current conditions against what was predicted.

        A world where virtually every month is the hottest [that month] on record, month after month, fits the world predicted made by climate change scientists. It does not fit the world predicted by climate change deniers.

          1. The “missing” science is the prior lack of consideration for what could happen if we increase the atmospheric concentration of CO2 by 40% or more, over a very short time. Where’s that science??

            I would have thought that “not dumping abnormal levels” of carbon (or frankly, anything) into the environment needs no justification. Yet here you are.

      1. Possibly, the question is whether the carbon emitter by creating and sending steel or whatever else they my use is greater than the carbon emitted by sending wood minus the actual carbon in the wood. In the end I suspect economics will be the defining factor. SpaceX should be able to claim carbon credits for the total carbon mass as if it has been removed from the atmosphere. Because in the end, wood almost certainly would return to armospheric carbon.

  8. More click-bait. Ok, I will bite.

    I am a skeptic but do not ignore climate data. I have read several technical papers (full of rather strange partial derivatives) by physicists and computational scientists on climatology, geophysics, atmospheric chemistry, and cloud physics. So, with the limited understanding offered by an engineering education, have come to think that a significant portion of the so-called short-term trend is, in fact, related to human activity; and there there is some level of climate change occurring. But will take that one step further – short of something triggering the next ice age, the changes cannot be ‘compensated’ for, and they cannot be diminished.

    Reduced to the simplest means of solutions, we have two choices. (A) Kill (at least) thirty per cent of the industrialized populations. (B) Immediate cessation, or decrease industrial activity by (at least) 40%. Neither one of these solutions, or any combination thereof, would ever be accepted by humans.

    Lacking any effective solution, and because not much can be done with current or foreseeable technology, future humans will be left to learn to live with dramatically diminishing returns and the inevitable significant environmental changes. If you are young, your life will suck. My shitty day will be a future human’s good day.

    As my gunny used to say, “life sucks, then you die”.

    1. I agree with a lot of what you wrote.
      In my words, yes, humans have burned a lot of fossil fuels in the past 200 years, and that may have an effect on climate. So, we each should see where in our lives we can cut back on the fossil fuels we use. I drive a fuel efficient vehicle on my commute, it is not a job where I can work at home. I take the shortest route on my commute, and do not exceed speed limits.

      Yes, I will (and do) oppose forced sterilizations and abortions on women of developing countries for the sake of saving resources for those who want to maintain their wasteful lifestyles (I’m looking at you Hollywood and politicians).

      40 years ago I saw a postcard from Saudi Arabia showing natural gas being “flared” from the oil fields. The person who showed me the postcard said (back then) that Saudi Arabia burned enough natural gas _every_day_ to heat the British Isles for 30 years. A few years later I flew over Saudi Arabia one night. I looked out the window and thought I was seeing morning dawn. But it was 10-15 minutes later we flew close enough to see that it was just such gas being flared. Why did they just burn it off? The man who had the postcard said it was because they wanted only the oil, and the natural gas was a byproduct.

      So, am I supposed to be held responsible for someone else’s short sightedness?

      1. “So, am I supposed to be held responsible for someone else’s short sightedness?”

        We all will be “held responsible” by the consequences. When the seas are too high, and the tornadoes are ripping through; “It’s not my fault” never works.

    2. Wrong. Even a modest reduction in greenhouse emissions can have a significant positive effect, according to the most accurate recent GCM simulations.

      Of course, the real answer is nuclear, and greenheads do not want to hear about it. That’s why the mitigation efforts must be spearheaded by scientists, not the “activists”.

      1. it’s not true that most people who are concerned about climate change are also anti-nuke. If we can ever get past the well-orchestrated, politically-entrenched denial of CC, you’ll see that most people will accept that nuclear power is a necessary stepping-stone.

  9. lol HaD comments section at it again…

    I seriously wish the admins would treat denialism as the spam it is, and just scrub replies. It’s not helpful to platform these people, and the noise is crowding out the call for action at the end of the actual article.

    1. Yes, let’s silence any opposing views, that’s the way to go! /sarc

      In all seriousness, I find it a bit disturbing that some folks want to declare (either explicit or imply) concepts such as man-made climate change as dogma and shun or even silence those who don’t completely jump on board.

      1. What if there were people who denied quantum physics and were a powerful lobbying group against funding research into things that rely on quantum physics?

        If commenters were like “Why does Hackaday insist on covering transistors when they are clearly impossible? Where’s the hack?” you might feel differently.

        1. Well, you have hit it on the head. QM is a scientific theory that can be independently tested and verified. Climate change is not and can’t be. There is no way to make a planet and perform experiments. To make it just that much harder, heat flow is non-deterministic.

          1. yes or no:
            – we are experiencing planetary warming that is unprecedented in modern ecological history for both its rate of change and current maxima?
            – there has been a rise in atmospheric CO2 levels that is unprecedented in modern ecological history for both its rate of change and current maxima?
            – the correlation between the trend of warming and the trend of CO2 levels is pretty strong?
            – the majority of climate experts (and most other scientists who have looked at it) agree about this?

            I’m all for a good scientific discussion about climate change. To dissuade me from agreeing with the prevailing conclusions about climate change, simply point me to an equally compelling explanation that shows the warming is due to some other cause besides CO2 buildup. Should be easy, right?

      2. Ignoring the fact that the majority of the global scientific community is in general agreement about humanity’s impact on climate, there’s also the risk/reward perspective:
        If climate change isn’t significantly impacted by humanity, then we were wrong and have spent billions on nothing.
        If climate change is significantly impacted by humanity, and we sit around debating for another 40 years (as we’ve largely done the past 40), then we will have engineered a global catastrophe that may irreparably harm humanity.
        The scientific community at large has compiled the evidence and are in agreement on the verdict; the only ones on the fence are people still saying, “but what it’s not us?!”

    2. There is *literally* no difference between what happens when a climate change article gets posted, and someone popping in to a DIY Medicine article dumping links to sites about homeopathy.

      It’s not about “politically correct” or “opposing views”. It’s spam. It’s noise that makes it harder to get something actually relevant out of the discussion.

  10. 10000 years ago they warned against cooking fires and domesticating woolly mammoths, but man ignored it, now we have an ocean to cross from UK to France instead of a river and no more walls of ice over the northern continents. When will man just do what they are told.

    1. Thanks for that comment, First one to make me smile in a while on this thread mostly full of depressing but interesting subject matter or depressing stupidity attempting to defend the indefensible.

      Not sure I’d call the Channel an ocean though, its a touch small for that.. Even if it is a bit big for most other descriptions..

  11. Even if the climate is warming because of natural reasons, physics says that carbon traps heat.

    If you’re not denying physics, then adding carbon to the atmosphere of a naturally warming planet is still going to make things worse.

  12. Well, the articles are simply describing extrapolations based on available data sets of the time. Those empirical observers of the physical world can’t be criticised for observing and drawing conclusions, many of which remain quite prescient.

    Are you trying to discredit an entire field of peer reviewed scientific enquiry with an ever growing body of evidence with newspaper clippings?

    As for the newsweek piece on the possibility of global cooling. it has it’s own followup of sorts that’s a “gem”


    1. No i am not trying to discredit entire field of science.
      I just trying to give perspective.
      Allow me to quote Men in Black.

      Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.

      I remember back in the day snow being 1-2 feet deep on an average and blizzards
      giving a good 5-6 feet. Now it is 5-12 inches. I don’t deny climate change. I look outside
      and say there was once a sea up to the top of my house and before that a glacier carved
      out this valley. I think we need perspective in 1550 a little ice age started in 1850 it ended.
      (see link below, scroll down to little ice age) Now things are warming up a little and we say the late 19th century temperature was the norm. This is much more complicated than carbon warms us take Milankovitch cycles that could be one piece in the puzzle regarding the climate.

      But hell what do I know hell what do you know. They say you are what you eat, I’ll and something to that effect. You are what you read and watch.


  13. There is a straight forward solution. Work on hacks to overthrow the governments of China and India. Then use total control to throttle back technology and energy use. What to do after that? Come on hackers!

  14. So if we paint all the mountains white to compensate for the loss of the reflective snow and ice, it would create jobs for unemployed painters and provide a boost to the manufacturers of white paint. I don’t know if the world has enough titanium dioxide for the whole job, but we could use lime wash as a less durable covering, ensuring that unemployed painters are gainfully employed for many years to come.

    1. What’re ever your position on the climate rest assured no government will ever do anything sensible about it.

      I’d love to hear what steps ardent supporters of the current climate position are doing to PERSONALLY reduce/ minimize THEIR emissions.

      It appears more people are happy to scream at the government to do something but aren’t prepared to make changes themselves.

          1. you can’t fix a systemic problem with individual voluntary action… unless that individual action (together with others) is to elect a government willing to do something.

        1. But individual action and the sharing thereof is a start towards individuals voting with their actions and creating the improvements wanted – even if they can’t convince the usually old, entitled, never take risks, career Political *talk only out of a cows anus* types to actually legislate steps in the right direction at least they can inspire and aid others to do it on their own.

          With enough sharing of methodologies and information it could even become unimportant to make it law, as even the stupid or uneducated tend to follow the rest of the population as it becomes fashionable.. And the costs to improve your footprint need not exclude the poorest – especially if economies of scale come into it in the right ways. (I Do expect the governments of the world to have to get of their arses and do – but we can hope even if they won’t the people will)

          1. Two points:
            1: from Saabman: “I’d love to hear what steps ardent supporters of the current climate position are doing to PERSONALLY reduce/ minimize THEIR emissions.

            “It appears more people are happy to scream at the government to do something but aren’t prepared to make changes themselves.”

            … you see? It’s just used as a cheap attack point , and there’s no level of personal action that would ever satisfy someone who says that.

            2: As I said before, you cannot solve a systemic problem with individual voluntary actions. The individual doesn’t have enough levers to pull. Too many of us are locked into a system that is based on ever-growing consumption, and too few of us will ever voluntarily make meaningful change… especially when the issue has been politicized, and an entire tribe has adopted CC denial as a central dogma.

            I’m of course not against individual action, but at the same time we must recognize that significant and lasting change requires government action, so the most meaningful individual action is to seek out and elect politicians who share our concerns for the environment.

  15. There is a great mathematical introduction to the Budyko-Sellers climate model in K. K. Tung’s undergraduate textbook Topics for Mathematical Modeling (https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691116426/topics-in-mathematical-modeling). Tung has also published most of this analysis in journal articles that can be found on line.

    The Budyko-Sellers model is a simple first order differential equations analysis for steady state global temperature distribution as a function of latitude. Even this simple climate model predicts the ice-free, partial ice cover, and snowball earth states, their relative stabilities, and the subtle differences in conditions that distinguish them. Tung discusses the solar constant, cloud, water vapor, and ice/snow albedo feedbacks; how to use observed day/night and seasonal temperature changes and changes in radiated solar power over the 11 year solar cycle to estimate model coefficients; and how to extend the steady state model to estimate transient responses to changing input conditions. The exercises at the end of the chapter include the estimation of the effects of policy changes, the time period required for their effects to stabilize, and the final steady state temperatures.

    The Budyko-Sellers model is certainly oversimplified but it provides the first step to understanding the larger problem. I think understanding it should be a minimal requirement for anyone who expects their opinion on the science of climate change to carry any weight.

    1. First order DEQ all have the same solutions; exponential decay or growth. This was the flaw in the original “Limits to Growth” study that said the US could not support more than 140 million people and we are all doomed, DOOMED I say! It is sooo brain dead to use first order modeling. Take a look at “On Sytems Analysis” by David Berlinsky. It is short.

        1. That Wiki page has some equations. I’m sure you recognized them as the solutions to first order DEQ. They are the y=integral(1/x) which is the natural log and can be written in an exponential form.

  16. This is the post that broke this particular camel’s back. Not the article, but the responses. I don’t feel part of the community here. The absolute arrogance of so many commenters is just jaw-dropping. Geezus Christ, you are so fucking smart to bring up points as if the people who have spent decades studying the issue have never thought of them. And by raising one point which you think they were too stupid to think about, you think you have discredited everything. Unbookmarked, unsubscribed. Armchair know-it-all quaterbacks.

    1. Jim B is correct. If you think the climate science experts all overlooked something that is obvious to you, take a moment to check out your theory. An excellent place to start is at https://skepticalscience.com. They have a list of over 200 denier arguments (e.g. it’s the sun, it’s volcanoes, it’s a hoax, …) that are rebutted in detail. The rebuttals to each denier claim may be written at one or more of basic, intermediate, and advanced levels. Each article has links to the supporting peer reviewed documentation, comments are posted, and everything is mediated.

      MIT Sloan’s Climate Interactive project (https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/en-roads/) provides a climate change solutions simulator that allows you to see the temperature versus time effects of changes to the inputs, e.g. energy supply, transportation, population, carbon removal, etc. The simulation is based on a validated global climate model (GCM).

      Jim B, please stay.

      1. It isn’t about the “denier arguments” or the consensus among (mostly mathematically semi-literate) scientists. it is about can we make it change. Climate isn’t a theory in the scientific sense. There are experimental setups. No way to test predictions but wait. No way to measure the effects of our efforts. The posters here who are convinced it is all a done deal are, in my opinion, simply parroting popular science reporting, where the loudest wins. In the world of physicists this isn’t science.

          1. The things observed in astrophysics were nearly all predicted in the lab or accelerators, from spectra to strong magnetic fields. When something odd is detected it is then found in lab experiments, or Maxwell, Einstein, and QM turn out to handle it. I would say it is definitely an experimental science.

            A non-experimental “science” would be something like Taxonomy – the collecting and naming of plants and animals. It proved to be useful for developing evolution and ways to describe animals parts and systems. It is a descriptive discipline, like studying law.

          2. Re: astro. Nope. Non-experimental. Observational.

            There are definitely predictions from theory that are only later observed in the wild. And you can do simulations based on lab physics that extrapolate out to the behavior of rotating/colliding black holes, etc.

            But experiments under controlled conditions, varying only one variable, with treatment and control groups?

            Astrophysics isn’t pseudo-science, but it’s also not experimental. There are many other similar sciences.

        1. There IS a planet-scale experiment currently running: Venus. An atmosphere that’s 98% CO2, and surface temperature that can melt lead. Exhibit A for runaway greenhouse effect. So we don’t really need to run a second CO2 experiment on earth, do we? We’re putting massive amounts of previously sequestered carbon into the atmosphere; we should probably try to not do that as much, I would think.

        2. I am a mathematician by training, my first love is the pure theoretically perfect proofs of number theory. But while statistics might be a lesser branch of maths able to be manipulated by those wanting to prove a particular point to those without the skills to interpret the raw data it is still 100% valid and correct tool to describe and correlate data if applied correctly.

          And guess what all the data we have ever gathered says we humans are fucking it up! With not one shred of not easily debunked analysis to say otherwise.

          As for experimental verification we have those for climate sciences too in the same way all physics and chemistry etc is verified tiny chunk at a time. We have proved that CO2 has a green house effect, proved various things we let into the atmosphere destroy the Ozone layer, proven what the atmosphere was like befor records began with hard science and have long years of detailed records for some industrial nations.

          Just because the whole model is not able have a perfect control test to run alongside your preferred lets leave it as is hellscape version of Earth doesn’t invalidate that the whole thing is built on concrete evidence or is a science. Can there be errors in the model of course, will it be improved overtime also obvious, but is it a completely fallacy as you seem to believe Comedicles also obviously not. As with all things made by man it has a tolerance and just as in clockwork mechanisms that error bound is ever shrinking as we learn more (and in the case of climate science shrinking rapidly away from your position of Humanity didn’t do nothin’ wrong guv’).

    2. Yeah, probably best to just follow the site from other social media: still see the posts, avoid the comments.

      I’ve browsed HaD for several years, always with disabled AdBlock to ensure they get the revenue from my traffic… but the “hands off” moderation of comments in the name of “free speech” actually has the opposite effect: it lets a few people run wild and spout nonsense, invariably poisoning the discussion of the actual hacks.

      1. The comments that bother me most are the hair-trigger, anal-retentive comments about minor typos where even a beginning reader ought to be able to decode what was intended. Very much resembles adults complaining that foods are touching on their dinner plate.

    1. The topic of the article was feedback. If I build a circuit that duplicates the behavior of a global climate model, is it fair to ask Hackaday readers to help solve the problem of tuning that circuit to achieve a desired goal? This article fits perfectly into Hackaday’s charter.

  17. Whoops this isn’t aligned with the comment it was in response to.

    I’m so disappointed in the number of technical types who, when it comes to climate change, give more weight to their political tribe’s opinion than the actual facts.

    We need action, not opinion. Maybe a HaD challenge around improving efficiencies of various processes?

    Humans have been messy and wasteful as well as innovative. And there are 999 other reasons besides climate change for being less wasteful with fossil fuels.

  18. “Only one, tiny little thing wrong here – they’re not making money for the Dolmansaxlil Shoe Corporation. ”

    The most brilliant achievement of the fossil fuel industry is not to generate energy, but to persuade people that Global Warming is a partisan political issue. The $millions they have spent on propaganda and lobbyists have paid off handsomely! We’re now in a situation where people willingly and eagerly vote for their own demise. Because Global Warming will make people like you and me massively worse off. The rich 1% who own 50% of the wealth will be fine.

    So the really interesting thing is not the climate science, nor the silly “political” point scoring. The fascinating thing is how big business captures government and turns them to their advantage – and no one is at all interested in looking behind the curtain.

    Unfortunately, until we address the real underlying reasons, nothing will change from the grassroots. The media and tech companies ably assist big business with a wall to wall diet of distraction, preventing a meaningful debate. Citizen activism has been effectively neutralized.

    Societal change now only happens when big business finds it is profitable to do so.

    1. It was amazing when the libertarian, market-based idea of cap and trade became anathema to conservatives once it started getting some acceptance and threatened to become law in the US.

  19. Leftists like former UK Tory PM Margaret Thatcher, a qualified chemist who was concerned about the problem of human induced climate change arising from fossil fuel use?

    Do you consider a “round earth” to be a leftist talking point as well?

  20. And you did your doctoral degree in climate science where?

    Just finished watching a two-hour NOVA show on climate history. It digs (literally) into the various disciplines and techniques that have been used to determine past climate, flora and fauna, shorelines, CO2 levels. It doesn’t even mention the current CO2 level til about 90 minutes in.

    Sorry, I’m gonna take the painstaking, evidence-backed work of thousands of specialists over your uninformed take on scientific process.

      1. Besides some unique insight on scientific process, you seem to be claiming that dumping massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere is not going to be harmful. You could maybe just prove that.

  21. People don’t like uncertainty in their immediate lives. Science may be good at predicting events of the future, not so good at solving the issues. Giant battery powered cars?, come on. If you want your average person on board, you have to describe exactly what their daily life will be like, compared to now by implementing whatever to ‘stop’ global warming. There is much more to this than meets the eye, as far as getting the agenda rolling. I would wager rather large sacrifices have to be made, depending on where you live, maybe start by listing these sacrifices, and those consequences to your average person. Without some like this, going nowhere unless you force people into it, or go with what the engineering guy said some number if posts up.

  22. The answer to our problem is nuclear fusion. Fission will tie us over until we ge there, but only fusion really has the wonderful combination of virtually unlimited power and minimal environmental impact. The better we make that technology perform the more capable we will be at solving almost every other problem we face including environmental issues. The cheaper and more abundant energy can become, the more options become viable, ranging from CO2 capture to soil detoxification, to litterally cleaning up anything. We easily could justify pouring hundreds of billions of dollars globally into developing the technology needed to make it work, If we could gete the cost of electricity down to 10% of what it is now, we would not be having any EV vs ICE competition, all liquid fuels could get their chemical energy from a reactor and aluminum would be a tenth the cost too.

    1. Nuclear fission is almost as good as nuclear fusion from a climate change perspective. There are some projects for dealing with the radioactive waste in intelligent ways.
      I suspect we’d do better to make the liquid fuels with the reactor and pump them back underground.

    1. You simply linked to ONE set of air-temperature data, Warming is occurring more places than just the air. Big example – ocean temp (google it yourself). If you understand the energy input required to melt ice, then the accelerated rates of polar ice loss and glacial retreat are also clear indicators of warming.

      The most concerning stat is CO2 levels – at a level not seen in almost 1 million years, and the effect of that added CO2 lags by 20 or more years. The ‘best’ is yet to come..

  23. and yes, agree with others. where is the hack? half of the stuff on this site is now propaganda, or free advertisement for the yt channel of friends and associates with boring/questionable/not working projects.

  24. No, it’s not a hack.
    Yes, it is informative about the secondary effects of the loss of ice on the planet.

    But, until the issue is dealt with effectively, without some jackhole thinking about “How can I profit from this?” attempts to control climate change will go nowhere useful.

    We can make areas of the planet reflective, right? In LARGE amounts should we choose.
    We can use new nuclear reactor designs to generate energy without carbon dioxide.
    We can capture and use methane for useful industrial and consumer uses.

    Our energy future is going to be using carbon free primary energy sources (renewable or preferably nuclear) in enough amounts to also power USEFUL carbon capture technology —

    ideas for that:
    increased CO2 greenhouses for accelerated food growth??,
    extraction of water vapor and chemical change of carbon and water vapor into portable fuel?? (popular science had an article about this idea years ago, predicting it becomes commercially viable at about $4USD/Gal),
    Carbon construction techniques (carbon fiber, etc.)?? —

    The problem with underground sequestration is only viable if the material can hold the carbon for extended periods. Some research has been done on using solids which then are usable as construction material.

    Secondary portable energy sources are the so called “fossil fuels” we’re used to. These will be with us for many many years, and if we find a way to make them from the very materials that are causing increased temperatures (methane, Carbon Dioxide, and water vapor) we will be on the right path. Close the cycle.

    Also, can we please, as a society, understand that water poor areas (California, Australia etc.) are not the places for squandering what water resources exist in those locations, then turning around and going “hey, the fires are getting worse, it’s climate change.” No, that’s exceptionally poor water management diverting what water that used to serve to keep the plants in livable shape into tinder. Start desalinating water with a New Nuclear technologies! We know how to do it. Expensive, but again only if we let “how can I profit from this” be our mantra.

    Climate change may or may not be happening. It may or may not be the result of our actions on this planet. We can either accept it and fail, or embrace it and show what real technology can do. We could desalinate the rising seas and put fresh water to work in arid areas to grow trees, food, anything we can use to solve other issues. Those new green areas would be useful in combat against rising CO2 levels and would mitigate the rising waters issues.

    We have the technology, what we lack is the balls to do it! Greed will be our undoing on this planet.

    Oh, and no matter what your stance is on climate change, at some point this rock is going to get much hotter when the nearest stellar neighbor begins the expansion phase. So, learning how to use technology to put in a human controlled thermostat on the planet we currently call home is not time wasted.

    1. Another sad victim of AlGoraphobia. Sufferers of this common malady exhibit an unhealthy fixation on ONE GUY, and obsess on the fables and myths about this guy that fellow-sufferers have created and embellished.

      Paradoxically, they are simultaneously blind to the obvious profit motives of most influential climate change deniers, like, for example, the fossil-fuel industry.

  25. I hesitate to contribute to the noise on this thread, but I believe we’re missing the point here. The proposition that ‘recent’ Climate Change (or Global Warming – choose your term) is driven by humans, is still developing as a hypothesis.

    Yes, there is substantial support for the hypothesis, but there is also data which tends to disprove the hypothesis, as well as concerns around how that supporting data has been gathered, modelled, and represented.

    Just because you or I find ourselves in the majority, or shouting the loudest, or on the same side as someone we respect, does not make us right, and does not make the theory ‘proved’.

    The ‘Scientific Method’ will determine if anthropogenic climate change becomes an accepted scientific theory. An example is the TRUTHS satelite mission, led by the UK Space Agency, enabling in-flight calibration of Earth observation (EO) satellites. This will allow improved (by a factor of 10) confidence in Earth Observation data gathered from space and the forecasts driven by that data. As the science develops, we will undoubtedly find ourselves refining, altering, expanding and even rejecting parts of the theory. Anything short of the scientific method is posturing intellectual vanity.

    If anthropogenic climate change is real, then the ‘solution’ will involve politics and multi-national companies. They are already muddying the waters to their own ends. Let’s not help them.

    TLDR/ Because science.

    1. The ‘Scientific Method’ is the gold standard for determining whether there is empirical evidence to support a hypothesis. Anything less is masquerading as science and may be treated (as you delightfully put it) as a truckload of cow manure (sorry theoretical physicists)

      The problem around anthropogenic climate change, is that it has become a binary choice: agree or disagree. Both sides of the argument have attracted people who are less than rigorous in their application of the Scientific Method, and have opened themselves (and their position) up to righteous criticism.

      We should be able to trust science implicitly. Anyone (with an internet connection) should be able to easily research and read simple (but not too simple) facts about the issue and understand how sure we are that anthropogenic climate change is ‘real’. We may draw our own conclusions on what should be done about it.

      If, however, science is bent to the whim of a particular cause, and ‘facts’ are misrepresented, we will lose trust in science as an independent arbiter. Who do we believe then?

  26. The methane tipping point is quite real as I’ve pointed out in HAD comments before.

    Reading through the comments above pretty much confirms that collectively we will continue as is and stumble right into disaster.

    We stop abusing the planet, or the planet’s natural system, (with methane being only one part), will stop us from abusing the planet.

  27. The reason the comments are so noisy is this: Climate change deniers look at climate change affirmers and see a political/economic agenda, and vice versa. The discussion about science becomes fraught, because we know what’s at stake is not a P-value here or a theoretical model there, but a fundamental shift in how we live our lives. For the affirmers, the shift is in the future, for the deniers it’s in the present.

    Here I think the affirmers are, politically speaking, at fault. Affirmers tend to be anti-nuclear, which is perceived by the deniers as hypocritical. If the world is about to end, who cares about a few hundred square miles of nuclear waste? Even THOUSANDS of miles would be worth it, and there’s compelling evidence that we would develop technology to deal with the downsides. Again, politically speaking, the affirmers create problems for themselves when they draw lines in the sand: the things the deniers are being asked to give up are immediate, while the affirmers hazard future catastrophe. Sure, one might say that any rational adult should be able to look at delayed rewards and count the cost. And that would be a reasonable argument the first time…or second time…or even third time. But when the wolf fails to materialize, the rational adult also knows what to do.

    Affirmers, want to win over some deniers? Push for pragmatic wolf-traps, acknowledge the replication crisis, and make an effort to stop sounding like religious zealots. Saving the planet is going to take a lot of sacrifice, which is going to require trust. That trust has been eroded by snobbery and hypocrisy. When the movement is seen as pragmatic, a-political, and willing to face its own faults, only then can it be redeemed. Refusing to do this will just be another sign that you don’t really believe there’s an imminent crisis, because if the world was going to end, due diligence and respectful conversation wouldn’t be so hard, if that’s what was needed to win over support.

    1. You’re a bit coy about where you sit in this debate.

      We’ve heard that argument before – ‘affirmers’ of global warming and climate change are too shrill, they bug you. Talk softer. Put Greta back in school… etc.

      This is just another attack point , another defense against acknowledging what’s being done to the planet. It’s also false that the majority of people concerned about climate change are also anti-nuke.

      We will be dealing with the consequences of climate change, one way or the other. We will do so proactively, taking pragmatic steps to reduce the impact and conserving our resources, or we will simply be reactive – jumping out of the way, migrating, fighting over dwindling resources, abandoning those least able to cope.

      You can’t have a respectful conversation with uninformed jackasses who choose propaganda over science.

      Climate change is a serious issue, but since we here are some combination of older, wealthy, safe…we will never experience any CC-related hardships in our lifetime, other than paying more for avocados. So we won’t willingly accept any accommodation, no matter how small, to help secure a better future for our children. Nice.

      1. I think most people are actually quite willing to talk about practical measures to mitigate climate change, as long as the discussion is logical and not driven by ideology. At the moment, there are a lot of people trying to use climate change to push forward certain political ideologies. In my opinion they do far more harm than good. They tend to push people away from the discussion and towards denial of climate change, or just to ignore it. Also, whilst I accept that most scientists working in this area are genuine and unbiased, there are also some that are not and see this as an opportunity to promote their own interests. They actually do a lot of harm to the debate.

      2. Considering that I essentially outlined a strategy for getting deniers to do what affirmers want, it’s interesting you consider me “coy.” Perhaps some introspection is in order? I think this also bears some relevance to:

        > You can’t have a respectful conversation with uninformed jackasses who choose propaganda over science.

        As you state: “we will never experience any CC-related hardships in our lifetime,” – this contrasts remarkably with statements in the above article, which very much anticipate the possibility, and with people like Greta. So one of the two groups is certainly choosing propaganda over science – either we will suffer hardship or we will not. And yet, here I am, having a respectful conversation. I don’t need to call you or Greta a jackass, I can be content with pointing out that you’re making conflicting claims. I certainly don’t need to imply you’re making decisions out of selfish motivation. Perhaps consider the idea of “opportunity cost” before lambasting others for not enacting a particular policy out of selfishness.

        As for this statement: “It’s also false that the majority of people concerned about climate change are also anti-nuke.” Could you provide some sort of reference here? It seems like the previous U.S. administration was pretty heavily invested in dealing with climate change, but I don’t recall any emphasis on nuclear. Which is odd, considering the huge benefit nuclear energy has to running effective energy grids. This seems like low-hanging fruit, where great reductions in emissions can be achieved with support across the board. If the majority of affirmers *aren’t* anti-nuke, are you positing that a majority of deniers *are* anti-nuke? Because otherwise (i.e. if both deniers and affirmers are firmly pro-nuke), it seems like we should have reactors popping up all over the place, instead of them being shut down (and we’d probably be on Mars, with the original Project Orion).

        > or we will simply be reactive – jumping out of the way, migrating, fighting over dwindling resources, abandoning those least able to cope

        This statement shows a rather cynical attitude to development and innovation. I don’t share it, and I hope not many people do, because it’s depressing.

        1. You’re not wrong about this being politicized, but there’s no ground to be gained by kissing the asses of those who have rejected the best scientific information we have.

          Re nuclear power, there are more reasons than greenies for why US nuclear plants haven’t been built faster. -cough- fossil fuel lobbies.

          > As you state: “we will never experience any CC-related hardships in our lifetime,”

          Probably my fault, but the “we” I was referring to is the slot that most of us on HaD fall into – western and well-off. And often older. The point is that the HaD “we ” are sufficiently protected from most global disasters, including from CC, that there is little perceived near-term risk to pretending that CC isn’t a thing.

          But the global we, and our kids and grandkids,,, are fucked. They could be fucked a little less if we showed a little concern now.

  28. Please can we stop calling it ‘carbon’. Its ‘carbon dioxide’. If we were emitting carbon instead of carbon dioxide we would probably now all be buried under mounds of either black powder or shiny little crystals.

    1. Carbon dioxide is what’s being emitted in volume, but the problem with burning fossil fuels is that these emissions contain carbon that was sequestered away in the ground for millions of years. So the amount of carbon in play in the planet’s carbon cycle has been increased, and the carbon cycle cannot keep up with the rate at which ‘new’ carbon, in the form of CO2, is being added to the air. Which is why the atmospheric CO2 is building up, and could take centuries to naturally get back to a more normal level. If we don’t cross some tipping point.

        1. But its not just CO2, CO2 is actually the ‘best’ end product of burning crap the way we do. We also in the processes liberate heaps of other hydrocarbons and CO so saying Carbon is a much more accurate shorthand for the many problematic gasses than calling them all CO2.

          CO2 is the whipping boy because there is much more of it being produced, its the easy measure on how much we are fucking things up.

          1. How about olive oil? That is mostly carbon. Is that bad? How about bread? That has quite a lot of carbon in it, so that must be bad too?

            Yes, small quantities of CO and small hydrocarbon molecules can be created during combustion, but with any reasonably efficient combustion process CO2 is by far the majority carbon-containing gas. When people talk about ‘carbon’ levels in the atmosphere, they are almost always talking about carbon dioxide.

          2. “How about olive oil? That is mostly carbon. Is that bad? How about bread? That has quite a lot of carbon in it, so that must be bad too?”

            Clearly you’ve missed the point.

            Olive oil, bread, wood, etc – contain carbon that’s within the carbon cycle ( plant -> product -> consumption -> CO2 -> plant -> and so on )

            Burning fossil fuels emit CO2 made from carbon that was trapped and sequestered away from the carbon cycle for millions of years. It’s “new” carbon being added to the environment, at a rate that’s far faster than the natural carbon cycle can remove it again.

  29. Mass power generation needs to be by fission until we work out fusion.

    Yes there are dangerous byproducts, but the are easily sequestered in the ground they came from for the most part.

    Yes the byproducts have a long decay time, but if we’re “at the tipping point”, which is lesser of two evils?

    In the end our catastrophic end will be from overpopulation and resulting wars long before the climate kills us. Humans can adapt to the climate, but we cannot adapt to killing each other for a can of potted meat and a pool of stagnant water.

  30. By your logic, unbridled exploitation of resources without regard for poisoned water, befouled air and species loss from historically unprecedented rates of climate change are all fine, because the postulated economic benefits will somehow translate into benefits for the poor.

    I presume the straw man argument about green policies generally is because you see them as a constraint to the operation of free markets.

    You conveniently ignore the fact that renewables are becoming cheaper than fossil fuels in many places, despite your fixation with cheap energy.

    You argue for a scientific, rational approach, but choose to ignore the evidence of harm that the current rate of climate change is having on ecosystems and economies.

    1. You’re very wrong. So many that I have only time for a couple:

      “…the energy used to produce a wind turbine or a solar panel is significantly higher than what they will deliver during their service. ”

      That is absolutely wrong. Assuming you can type, you can discover for yourself how wrong you are. Or prove me wrong.

      “Second major issue is the inability of the CO2 idea of global warming to explain the past climate variations. But if I am wrong, please correct me.”

      The planet has never before had a sentient species dig up and burn fossil fuels. So how could any past warming be explained by that? Duh.

  31. This is an excellent article. For those who can’t see why this is relevant to HaD, here are a few ideas:

    * This site is full of hacks designed to fight climate change. The most common are related to electric vehicles and solar power. It’s important to occasionally re-examine why hackers’ work matters; this article is a great justification for the work being done in the EV and solar power fields.

    * As others have pointed out, HaD has many calls for ideas. “Ask Hackaday” columns are a staple, as they should be. This article can be seen as an extension of this- the author clearly wants to see solutions to the issue.

    * Climate change is likely to have increasing effects on hackers. Will bizarre weather damage a factory and cause a component shortage? Will some hackers’ labs be lost to flooding or wildfire? Will pollution and severe weather provide new problems for hackers to solve? Will the effects of climate change generate more interest in existing climate-related hacks? I think the answer to some (all?) of these questions is yes.

    These are issues that should concern people of all political views. Politics is important when deciding what should be done, but it has no place in a discussion of the science itself. Lewin did a great job of explaining the science without becoming political; this article is exemplary science journalism.

      1. There’s Antarctica, and there’s Antarctica. Palmer station isn’t McMurdo isn’t the South Pole. Shirtsleeves in summer isn’t all that strange when the sun is shining bright in some places.

        But @kpharck: I don’t know what you’re trying to show with that graph, but what I see is that the last ten years have had the lowest coverage of sea ice. That ain’t good.

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