Party Like It’s 1999 Degrees

Most scientists agree: it’s too late to reverse, or even slow down, global warming/climate change. Too much energy has already been pumped into the atmosphere by greenhouse gases. Yet Al Gore and other environmentalists continue to argue that there’s still something we could do, just maybe. Of course we should stop polluting; pollution kills us and other living things. But climate change? Better to accept that it’s happening and that we ought to have done something about it decades ago.

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About Ted Rall

Ted Rall is the political cartoonist at, editor-in-chief of, a graphic novelist and author of many books of art and prose, and an occasional war correspondent. He is the author of the biography "Trump," to be published in July 2016.

29 thoughts on “Party Like It’s 1999 Degrees

  1. I feel fortunate in knowing that at my age I will be long deceased before the remainder of humanity is roasted by the excess heat or drowned by the excess sea water. 🙁

    • But, mein verehrter Lehrer, old geezers like you and I might well live long enough to experience a thermonuclear cataclysm, so all is not lost…. 😉


      • Strange you should mention that. I posted a similar note about a week or two ago and said I’m ready to check out.

        Someone seemed to take offense as evidenced by their response. (I forget who and what, exactly.)


      • «I posted a similar note about a week or two ago and said I’m ready to check out.» I have nothing against checking out personally – or att ta ner skylten as we say here – mein verehrter Lehrer, but for some strange reason I’d prefer that H sapiens sapiens, despite all its flaws and imperfections, didn’t check out irrevocably at the same time (not that there aren’t some people whom I’d love to see check out toute de suite|, but I shan’t bore you by naming them….)


  2. Hey Ted,

    Could you post some references to the claim that “most scientists” think it’s too late to do anything? I don’t disagree, would just like to see some references. Most public statements from scientists that I know of still claim that something can be done, though with the out it’s to avoid the “worst” effects.

    • dex,

      I could be wrong, but I think most of the public statements you see about this are from environmentalists, not scientists. When I’ve heard scientists comment on this, they almost always say things like “2 degrees C is already built into the system, even if we stop all co2 production tomorrow.” Its a basic part of all the climate models, there is a delay in the globes reaction to co2 concentration. Plus of course the fact that we can’t stop all co2 tomorrow, so even best case we’re pumping a ton of c02 into the atmosphere for a while

      • To suetonius17,

        I see the Luddites as some of the original trade unionists. You’ll have to show me the documentation that they considered themselves leftists.

        I don’t think they particularly disliked technology but were desperate not to lose their jobs to it. In case you haven’t noticed, lately the media is full of stories of the pending take-over of the economy by robots. So this is still a relevant topic today.

        I’d suggest a latter-day leftist would ask, will capitalists give free stipends to those they have displaced by robots so that the displaced are able to buy the products the robots have made?

        I never said technology was an idea. In those terms, I said capitalism uses technology as “an idea,” … that idea being that we need not change/dump capitalism but only develop/use new technology.

        So you accept, without alarm, the reality that capitalism “uses everything”? My fear is, and there is NO political reason to expect anything to the contrary in the foreseeable future (Re Repubs AND Dems), that we will go along obediently consuming as directed and come to the end of petroleum that, at least, with logic and courage that our “culture” sorely lacks, could otherwise have been invested to build a robust sun-based, “sustainable” energy generation system.

        When the technology, alleging to give quick, short-term, species-saving reduction in net CO2 emission, you must ask the inventors/developers the TOTAL amount of CO2 emission that technology, itself, MUST produce to sequester one unit of CO2.

      • Falco

        Forget leftists. The Luddites did not like tech, not that it matters. Here’s the thing, robots taking our jobs should be a GOOD thing, since then we have less work to do. The problem is it’s only good for the capitalists. So the capitalists have to go, not the technology. It’s not the technology that’s the problem, it’s who controls it. You’re correct, we need to get to a clean renewable energy system, but while we’re doing that, we need not to roast.

      • To suetonius17:

        Yes, when the people who make the products of the economy make the decisions of what will be made and how it will be made, they are MUCH more likely to choose an approach that doesn’t guarantee that the future generations of their families cannot survive on earth.

        Let there be no misconceptions, a clean, renewable system means a LOT more physical work for those who survive. This also is a good thing and will go a long way to improve the general health of the population.

        Anxiously awaiting the magic, capitalist-based savior technology.

    • (Adding to the anecdotal evidence) My understanding is that “most scientists” think we’re already screwed. However, they feel ’tis better to offer some hope rather than none at all.

      Me, I’m an engineer – I can certainly see where ‘climate models’ could go into a death spiral. OTOH, I can also see where technological problems have technological solutions.

      Oh, wait … is that another death spiral?

      I know an old lady who swallowed a fly

      • To Crazy H:

        Re: the standard outlook “technological problems have technological solutions.”

        I’d suggest that the analysis is precisely the contrary: that is, our technological problems have technological causes.

        See, for example, “Too Smart for our Own Good,” by Craig Dilworth.

      • @falco –

        “our technological problems have technological causes.”

        Absolutely. Swallowing a bird to get rid of a spider is a technological solution to a technological problem which was caused by the previous solution to a technological problem.

        Hence, my question about death spirals. We’re already in one with climate change. We could start another spiral to solve the first, but that creates its own problems in turn.

        What do you suggest we do instead?

      • Or, to quote Sevaried: The chief cause of problems is solutions.

        A true solution would be to turn away from “high tech” and use restorative agriculture to capture the carbon, and hope that removing it allows the planet to return to something like we know. Albert Bates describes using biochar to capture the carbon in a form that will stay fixed for millennia, if not effectively forever. This doesn’t involve fancy machines and could be done now. But it requires abandoning consumer culture, dramatically lowering energy use, and having lots of people working the land and ocean. It’s a social change. There aren’t any technical barriers–this is all stuff prehistoric people did.

        There’s no guarantee that this will happen, though: the planet is much older, the sun brighter.

      • To Crazy H:

        What do I suggest?

        Nothing effective can happen while we continue to worship the capitalist economic system that uses the false promise of the next technological breakthrough*** to alleviate the latest problem caused by previous technology AND uses the, freely admittedly, seductiveness of myriad technological gadgetry to hide capitalism’s central impossibility: demand for constant growth in a finite system.

        As to particulars, see the response of dex3703, below. (Except note that “biochar,” like all technological fixes, even if “low” tech as here, has its unavoidable, if inevitably, never addressed costs.)

        Note: I have never said that effectively dealing with climate change would be easy or likely. I have only said that incessant pissing in the wind about it implies the need for a sensitive wind gauge … now available at low,low prices due to advanced technology that passes savings on to YOU!

        *** as in the idiocies of 1) induced nuclear winter 2) nanotubes up the ying-yang
        3) pumping CO2 down holes in the ground and 4) the various & sundry technological pipe dreams already proposed or that eventually will be.

      • Falco

        What Crazy and I are talking about has nothing to do with how capitalism uses technology, or the demand for constant growth in a finite world. First, capitalism uses everything, the fact that it does is no reason to dismiss something. I’ll leave the “finite world” issue for sometime else. the history of people claiming to be leftists decided technology was evil goes back a long way, at the least to the Luddites, but it’s never been a good idea. Technology is a tool, not an idea. It can be used for good things, and for bad things. Sometimes both at once, quite a lot of what fossil fuels have done has been very good for humanity. It’s just that at some point it became clear it couldn’t continue, and now we have to figure out what to do about it. I would certainly agree with you and dex, we need sustainable solutions in the long run. But we need to survive the short run, and from what I can see that means we need to slow down/reverse the warming until we can implement better ideas. Many of which will involve technology, just different technology then we currently use.

      • @falco – you have stated real problems, but still no real solutions,

        Given a choice of :

        A) Doing something

        B) Doing nothing until we first achieve some utopian economic pipedream

        I’ll choose ‘A’ every time. Note that that today billions of people are dependent upon the very technology you decry. Were we to pull the plug tomorrow, many of them would die. If we do nothing about climate change Real Soon Now, many will also die.

        Didn’t you once accuse me of advocating genocide?

      • To Crazy H:

        I didn’t accuse you of genocide but suggested that, as valid was your point about human population,*** said population could not be altered, in a time frame relevant to climate change, without global nuclear war. I DID accuse you of pissing in the wind that time and this one.

        I see, however, that you have taken the opportunity to return the favor. I would have been extremely disappointed if you hadn’t.

        I note you have mentioned “A,” advocated “A” over “B,” patted yourself on the back for being a “type ‘A’ person” but have NOT explained what “A” is.

        So it’s your turn.

        that is, a population consuming at, or being urged to consume at US levels — despite there being only enough resources for 20% of the world’s population to be able to “achieve” that level of consumption.

      • @falco –

        I’ve already posted my suggestions (complete with the downsides of each)

        I’m still waiting for your counter-suggestion. So far all you’ve done is throw stones; you have yet to offer one, single, real-world solution. Post one and I may respond.

        And yes, you did accuse me of advocating genocide.

      • To CrazyH:

        So you can virtually immediately produce my post (to a third party) that calls your APPROACH genocidal (not YOU) BUT you can’t be bothered to link your “suggestions along with downsides”?

      • To CrazyH:

        Those are your actual suggestions?
        1) induced nuclear winter
        2) mylar flakes
        3) CO2 collectors

        I’ve already panned these idiotic, technological pipe dreams as either suicidal on their face, non-existent, causing more problem than they “solve” or requiring more CO2 emissions to deploy than they can possibly claim to cut.

        My initial reluctance in engaging you was my hard-learned realization that you simply are unable to consider anything but your own glib BS.

        Too bad, the only hope is to survive the 2° built-in temperature rise, and its effects, while we learn that the life-style we’ve been sold has to be drastically altered.

        If you’re willing to see 99% of the population be non-genocidally eliminated then you can easily handle a 20-30-40% loss.

        More about the fourth post down: Oct1, 4:17am

        That’s all for this round.

      • Yes, Falco, you did call my suggestions “BS,” “suicidal” and other things. However, you have not explained – specifically – was wrong with them. I must assume you are unable to do so.

        I posted a link to a CO2 extractor that looks promising. It’s powered by waste heat: no carbon footprint. It’s proven technology (i.e ‘existent’), and if it’s suicidal I surely cannot see how.

        I further assume that you have no solutions to offer, else you would have done so already. And if you’re not part of the solution then …

  3. Ted,

    You’re right, it’s too late to really do anything in the way all the environmentalists want us to, slowing down our use of fossil fuels, etc. But it isn’t too late to stop the warming, various geo-engineering ideas could do it. Of course the environmentalist won’t allow that, “terrible unforseen consequences” and “if we cool the planet no one will bother to stop polluting. Both of which are just stupid reasons. Unforseen consequences can be dealt with, and how much worse could they be then global warming? And the second is just ridiculous, as you point out, there are all sorts of reasons for us to cut back on our use of fossil fuels, many of which have nothing to do with climate change. The analogy I always use is if you’re in a boat that’s full of holes, you will obviously try to fix the holes, but you also want to bail. Fixing the holes after you sink doesn’t help.

    • @S17 – you beat me to it. Yes, there are possible solutions out there. None of them particularly appealing, but they do exist.

      Create our own nuclear winter – set off some nukes in the middle of the ocean. Bad for the nearby aquatic life, but better than turning the entire ocean into soup. Put enough water into the atmosphere and it will reflect sunlight.

      Manufacture bazillions itty-bitty reflective Mylar flakes, release them high in the atmosphere. We’d deal with the fallout for decades, but again better than broiling.

      Those are relatively cheap. We could also build some humungo CO2 collectors, but that wouldn’t be cheap – so we can assume it ain’t gonna happen.

      The real problem, of course, is human overpopulation. Given that it’s all-but-forbidden to discuss we can assume it ain’t gonna happen either.

      Either we fix the problem or the problem will fix us.

      • Crazy

        I have heard rumor that some co2 collection schemes are getting much better, though how close to deployable they are I don’t know. One guy claims to be able to collect co2 from the environment and turn it into carbon nanotubes, thus making money in the process. Obviously the best solution by quite possibly 20 or 30 years out, so we need something to tide us over.

      • As luck would have it, Donald Dumbf and Kim Young’un are working on a scheme to help out with that pesky population problem. Also, nuclear winter.

        See? The system works…

    • Suetonious, I understand that there’s a «bathtub test» joke that’s currently going the rounds which reads as follows : «During a visit to the mental asylum, I asked the director how do you determine whether or not a patient should be institutionalized. “Well,” said the director, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup, and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to empty the bathtub.”

      “Oh, I understand,” I said. ” A normal person would use the bucket because it’s bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

      “No,” said the director. “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window or over near the heater?”»

      I recall an earlier version, in which the test subject was confronted with a bathtub into which water was pouring from taps all the way open, with the task being to prevent the bathtub from overflowing. In that particular case, the answer was to turn off the taps….


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