Nature: Global warming accelerating

Via Nature:

Policymakers have less time to respond than they thought. Governments need to invest even more urgently in schemes that protect homes from floods and fires and help people to manage heat stress (especially older individuals and those living in poverty). Nations need to make their forests and farms more resilient to droughts, and prepare coasts for inundation. Rapid warming will create a greater need for emissions policies that yield the quickest changes in climate, such as controls on soot, methane and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases. There might even be a case for solar geoengineering — cooling the planet by, for instance, seeding reflective particles in the stratosphere to act as a sunshade.

Climate scientists must supply the evidence policymakers will need and provide assessments for the next 25 years. They should advise policymakers on which climate-warming pollutants to limit first to gain the most climate benefit. They should assess which policies can be enacted most swiftly and successfully in the real world, where political, administrative and economic constraints often make abstract, ‘ideal’ policies impractical.

Three lines of evidence suggest that global warming will be faster than projected in the recent IPCC special report.

First, greenhouse-gas emissions are still rising. In 2017, industrial carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to have reached about 37 gigatonnes2. This puts them on track with the highest emissions trajectory the IPCC has modelled so far. This dark news means that the next 25 years are poised to warm at a rate of 0.25–0.32 °C per decade3. That is faster than the 0.2 °C per decade that we have experienced since the 2000s, and which the IPCC used in its special report.

Second, governments are cleaning up air pollution faster than the IPCC and most climate modellers have assumed. For example, China reduced sulfur dioxide emissions from its power plants by 7–14% between 2014 and 2016 (ref. 4). Mainstream climate models had expected them to rise. Lower pollution is better for crops and public health5. But aerosols, including sulfates, nitrates and organic compounds, reflect sunlight. This shield of aerosols has kept the planet cooler, possibly by as much as 0.7 °C globally6.

Third, there are signs that the planet might be entering a natural warm phase that could last for a couple of decades. The Pacific Ocean seems to be warming up, in accord with a slow climate cycle known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation7. This cycle modulates temperatures over the equatorial Pacific and over North America. Similarly, the mixing of deep and surface waters in the Atlantic Ocean (the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation) looks to have weakened since 2004, on the basis of data from drifting floats that probe the deep ocean8. Without this mixing, more heat will stay in the atmosphere rather than going into the deep oceans, as it has in the past.

These three forces reinforce each other. We estimate that rising greenhouse-gas emissions, along with declines in air pollution, bring forward the estimated date of 1.5 °C of warming to around 2030, with the 2 °C boundary reached by 2045. These could happen sooner with quicker shedding of air pollutants. Adding in natural decadal fluctuations raises the odds of blasting through 1.5 °C by 2025 to at least 10% (ref. 9). By comparison, the IPCC assigned probabilities of 17% and 83% for crossing the 1.5 °C mark by 2030 and 2052, respectively.

And the answer? Also from Nature:

Zhen Dai holds up a small glass tube coated with a white powder: calcium carbonate, a ubiquitous compound used in everything from paper and cement to toothpaste and cake mixes. Plop a tablet of it into water, and the result is a fizzy antacid that calms the stomach. The question for Dai, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and her colleagues is whether this innocuous substance could also help humanity to relieve the ultimate case of indigestion: global warming caused by greenhouse-gas pollution.

The idea is simple: spray a bunch of particles into the stratosphere, and they will cool the planet by reflecting some of the Sun’s rays back into space. Scientists have already witnessed the principle in action. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it injected an estimated 20 million tonnes of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere — the atmospheric layer that stretches from about 10 to 50 kilometres above Earth’s surface. The eruption created a haze of sulfate particles that cooled the planet by around 0.5 °C. For about 18 months, Earth’s average temperature returned to what it was before the arrival of the steam engine.

The idea that humans might turn down Earth’s thermostat by similar, artificial means is several decades old. It fits into a broader class of planet-cooling schemes known as geoengineering that have long generated intense debate and, in some cases, fear.

Researchers have largely restricted their work on such tactics to computer models. Among the concerns is that dimming the Sun could backfire, or at least strongly disadvantage some areas of the world by, for example, robbing crops of sunlight and shifting rain patterns.

But as emissions continue to rise and climate projections remain dire, conversations about geoengineering research are starting to gain more traction among scientists, policymakers and some environmentalists. That’s because many researchers have come to the alarming conclusion that the only way to prevent the severe impacts of global warming will be either to suck massive amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere or to cool the planet artificially. Or, perhaps more likely, both.

If all goes as planned, the Harvard team will be the first in the world to move solar geoengineering out of the lab and into the stratosphere, with a project called the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx). The first phase — a US$3-million test involving two flights of a steerable balloon 20 kilometres above the southwest United States — could launch as early as the first half of 2019. Once in place, the experiment would release small plumes of calcium carbonate, each of around 100 grams, roughly equivalent to the amount found in an average bottle of off-the-shelf antacid. The balloon would then turn around to observe how the particles disperse.

The test itself is extremely modest. Dai, whose doctoral work over the past four years has involved building a tabletop device to simulate and measure chemical reactions in the stratosphere in advance of the experiment, does not stress about concerns over such research. “I’m studying a chemical substance,” she says. “It’s not like it’s a nuclear bomb.”

Nevertheless, the experiment will be the first to fly under the banner of solar geoengineering. And so it is under intense scrutiny, including from some environmental groups, who say such efforts are a dangerous distraction from addressing the only permanent solution to climate change: reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The scientific outcome of SCoPEx doesn’t really matter, says Jim Thomas, co-executive director of the ETC Group, an environmental advocacy organization in Val-David, near Montreal, Canada, that opposes geoengineering: “This is as much an experiment in changing social norms and crossing a line as it is a science experiment.”

Aware of this attention, the team is moving slowly and is working to set up clear oversight for the experiment, in the form of an external advisory committee to review the project. Some say that such a framework, which could pave the way for future experiments, is even more important than the results of this one test. “SCoPEx is the first out of the gate, and it is triggering an important conversation about what independent guidance, advice and oversight should look like,” says Peter Frumhoff, chief climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a member of an independent panel that has been charged with selecting the head of the advisory committee. “Getting it done right is far more important than getting it done quickly.”

What a relief it is to know that Nature is the least credible publication on the planet.

David Llewellyn-Smith


  1. Houses thank you for the article from Nature. Much appreciated. It is pretty clear that we need to invest in infrastructure that will help our populations cope with the change already seen and anticipated over the next decade, since it will take that long to build. Some of it will appear inefficient … Melbourne desal plant is a horrendous piece of capital allocation so far, but might be very handy in the next big dry … but being very base load intensive, we might even need to build a coal fired plant to run it ;-).
    While a global political agreement would be better late than never, in my view the mitigation works need to kick into high gear to spread the cost over time (which we had a chance to minimize and unfortunately “yours”, whoops, dropped it … ) .

      • I appreciate wind power would add to the mix but not exclusively I assume?
        That said I am very aware that Perth is probably the canary for increasing reliance on desal in Australian capitals, and we will all be learning from Perth. Cape Town earlier this year should have put desal adequacy ( and how its powered) front of mind for all Australian mainland state capitals.

      • I know that’s what you hope @R2M – The logic says renewables are cheaper already, and getting cheaper by the day, and the SA big battery addressed over 100 fluctuations in the year mainly caused by coal generated power … but this is Australia and we believe in coal. we will subsidise it for years to come. We will find any excuse to build a coal-fired power station and if it has to be a desal plant, then by golly, that’s what we’ll do.

  2. Thats funny, because I thought only 800m people live in the entire Southern Hemisphere?

    And please, stop the IQ, Japan’s average is 111, are they smarter than us, or an Ethiopian?????- without education or cultural input!

    • I hate racists, have around East Africa a bit – wonderful people, wonder countries, never got sun burnt. Ethiopia is on my bucket list, some of the oldest churches in the world there… and clowns like this! Seriously…

  3. Tassie TomMEMBER

    Here is a largely overlooked but tremendous problem with cooling the Earth, whether by geo-engineering or by successful global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions:

    50% of the world’s population depends on the Himalayan and Tibetan glaciers for 50% of their water, and most food in the world is produced using irrigation – Australia is unusual in that most of our food is produced using just local rainfall.

    If rivers and groundwater resources are drying up during this period of warming, when glaciers are receding hence MORE water is entering Asia’s rivers than the annual precipitation over their catchments would produce, then imagine what would happen if glaciers started to LENGTHEN again and LESS water entered Asia’s rivers than the annual precipitation would produce?

    • LOL, are you serious? We must not interrupt global heating because the glaciers will stop melting? [facepalm]

      What will happen when the glaciers stop melting …. because they’re GONE?

      • OK, I can understand how you took my comment in that way.

        My message is that humans are quite literally a plague, just like a mouse plague or a locust plague. We have taken over the whole world and changed the face of the Earth, the oceans, and the atmosphere.

        We’re not just using all of the Earth’s sustainable resources, we’re using MORE than the world’s sustainable resources. One of these resources is fresh water. Some of this is deliberate, such as tapping deeper and deeper into underground aquifers, but some is accidental, like using the increased river flows as glaciers recede.

        The increased river flows will not last forever – they will eventually reduce to at least precipitation minus evaporation, and if the glaciers lengthen then the river flows will reduce even further.

        Just like a plague of locusts or mice, a mass starvation event follows when the unsustainable food resource runs out (and for humanity, fresh water = food).

        The options are:
        1) Reduce the global population of humans. Global one-child policy anybody?
        2) Create ways to produce more food from the same amount of fresh water.
        3) Create more fresh water sustainably, for example by massive desalination plants and pumps powered by renewable energy and pumping the water a thousand kilometres inland to the farmland.
        4) Do nothing – proceed to an eventual mass starvation event.

      • Ah, a intelligent comment; thank you TT!

        Just like a plague of locusts or mice, a mass starvation event follows when the unsustainable food resource runs out

        A famous line is: “Are humans smarter than yeast?” Because multiplying until it poisons its environment is the thing that yeast does. The answer, based on history and our modern response to global heating is a resounding No.

        1) Population reduction is less important than emissions curtailment. Emissions are the most important thing
        2) Yes, but GHG emissions are making crops less productive (google it)
        3) In some areas drought is the problem, in other areas flooding. The hydrological cycle is changing thanks to GHG emissions
        4) That seems to be the ‘cunning plan’

  4. Climate Intervention: What could possibly go wrong?
    Human hubris really knows no bounds, maybe it’s time to let some other, possibly more intelligent, animals run the planet. hmmm I wonder what choices they’d make?

  5. Once again, a climate denier gets it wrong. No, the models are not wrong, but the reality is trending towards the worst outcomes the models predicted

    • And if we paid? Would the spambot take that into consideration? I doubt it.

      I cannot get even the blandest and most anodyne comments though the spambot, and I have no idea why. None.

    • There are over 40,000 peer reviewed scientific papers that acknowledge the reality of global heating, versus “Jason” on the interwebs. You 🤡

    • Hahaha! All the world’s governments and scientists, except for a tiny handful in the pay of polluting industries, are engaged in a conspiracy to lie to the global population for some reason (insert nutty theory here).

      Funny and sad at the same time

    • Jumping jack flash

      “…engaged in a conspiracy to lie to the global population for some reason.”

      Repayment of debt. A reality. Not a nutty theory. Scientists are people and people have debt. Mountains of it.
      Not to say that it is all wrong, but repayment (or acquisition) of enormous debt because it is “needed” is a great motivator for some pretty terrible stuff.

      I’m firmly on the fence. Its getting warmer, of course, and some of that warming is due to people, undoubtedly.
      Love solar power though, it is the solution to a lot of problems including the gouged, broken markets due to insane amounts of debt.

    • Scientists are people and people have debt.

      Aaah! So that’s it! Scientists have arranged a global çonspiracy as a way of alleviating their mortgage debt.

      Totally believable. I want some of what you are smoking, btw

  6. Thank you R2M for still willing to offer the facts. I have given up. MB has is attracting and offering more extreme views as the years go by. I even stopped my membership because of this.

    I had to chip in here though. I’ve become increasingly pessimistic about humanity’s changes but need to be able to tell my kids I tried to fight the good fight.

    Global warming is a complex problem without a silver bullet solution. Renewables are part of the solution, changes in behaviour could be part of the solution, better insulated homes are part of the solution, electric cars are part of the solution, perhaps nuclear energy will be part of the solution in places, geo-engineering may have to be part of the solution and carbon capture should really be part of the solution.

    I am following the progress/debate on using Olivine to capture Carbon Dioxide with interest. Essentially it is speeding up natural processes to extract CO2 from the atmosphere.
    It’s one that shows we have to start generating clean energy and powering transport with that green energy before we can really start addressing the issue though.

    • Yes, the commentary has became rather rabid over the last 3 to 4 yrs and the number of excellent commentators, has sadly, dropped significantly.

      • This won’t get any better unless DLS takes a new approach. I suspect he’s concerned it will turn into a saloon for the informed, and become a little stale or boring. Dissent and astroturfing increases traffic. I would argue that it also increases the noise to signal ratio, making it less useful for policy makers

    • Now it has degenerated into an echo chamber cheered on by a crowd of conspiracy theorists.

      This site is a known opinion-influencer, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that it’s a target for paid Mining Council commenters (astroboys), many of whom have taken out Membership to protect them from banning.

    • I’m with you on this point AnonNL I want to be able to tell my kids that I at least tried to do something before it was too late.
      Unfortunately in Australia the cards are really stacked against us, we have record levels of Renewable installation in Australia but the way in which these Renewable resources are being deployed is limiting their usefulness. The real problem is that our Government sponsored / allowed privatized electricity systems are screwing the public with over priced power and thereby forcing everyone’s hand to deploy solar PV in the least effective manner (from a communal perspective)
      Where we need legislative certainty wrt distributed generation / storage we’re instead getting centralized planning stupidity that favors an industry which EVERYONE agrees is guaranteed to die.
      You couldn’t write a less believable Electricity story than the one that is playing out right before our noses.

    • I met LVO recently and chatted to him about the comments section. He said he knows it isn’t ideal but if he and DLS spent time responding to it they’d not get anything else done. I think that switching off comments may be the answer. Or, keeping them to the morning links. There are really only a few worthwhile reads amongst them and the world will hardly miss another high school level observation from myself and others.

    • I am less inclined to post a comment on CC,partly because I have come to the conclusion that we are being overtaken by runaway events.
      And partly because I no longer think that we , collectively, are prepared to make the changes to our ways of living that are necessary for meaningful reductions in CO2 and Methane in the atmosphere.In the case of Methane we have already triggered feed back loops that are unstoppable. Fracking the planet will be seen in hindsight to be a very bad idea.
      I do not blame the politicians, it is all of us that will not countenance reality.If we were willing to act we would have already done so.

      • I agree, but then what are the moral, ethical, philosophical, economic and existential implications of the fact that it may be too late? That’s what occupies my mind.

      • The underlying problem is not that WE are not prepared to make the necessary changes but rather it’s that even the proposed framework within which we’ll make these changes is completely skewed towards Western supremacy, by what gaud given right did we deal ourselves these winning carbon hands? and why would anyone else be expected to respect these outcomes?
        I can’t think of a single good reason why every person in the world shouldn’t have a lifetime carbon budget that is set at an agreed sustainable level divided by the worlds population. All this BS about some percentage of a country’s 1995 or 2005 levels or whatever is just so wrong and because of this will never get buy-in from the 6B people in the world that don’t “at the moment” live the western high carbon consumption lifestyle.
        It’s guaranteed to fail because it is fundamentally inequitable.

      • Dividing the carbon budget by the global population rewards overpopulation. This graph plots ecological footprint (consumption) against rank on the UN Human Development Index

        It is easy to see overconsumption where a country is consuming a lot more than other countries that are close to it in rank. The main point, though, is that there are just too many people to give everyone a decent quality of life.

        Instead of dividing by population, work out how many people a given country could sustainably support at a reference standard of living. That number as a percentage of the number for the world as a whole gives each country’s share of the sustainable carbon budget. If you want to overpopulate or waste your carbon budget on stupid overconsumption, you will pay for it.

  7. Please do.

    There’s this term I remember from the 80’s…. what was it…. it’s forbidden now….. oh yeah I remember now.


    Here this may help you:

    Freedom of speech
    Political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas

    Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or sanction. The term “freedom of expression” is sometimes used synonymously but includes any act of seeking, receiving, and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

    Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

    • Not really, limited free speech in this country. Politicians have refused a Bill of Rights many times over the decades. They like to control what’s free around here. HC has given us limited free political speech afaik.

  8. R2M,

    When I get spammed I just rewrite the piece by adjusting the spelling of the offending word and repost. Hasn’t failed to work.

    • My problem is that the spambot is binning comments with no offensive words. I suspect some of the phrases I use have been added to the spambot, because they’d rather have deplorables posting than a pro-science know-it-all — more clicks are the bottom line

  9. Are longer posts of your’s also just disappearing when you push the submit button…never to be seen again?
    No notice of moderation, no nothing just gone.
    It’s happening so often that I don’t bother writing longer format responses any more.

  10. I’ll just leave this here…
    Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Finkel was asked in June 2017, what difference would it make to the climate if Australia, with CO2 emissions of less than 1.5 per cent of global total, somehow managed to stop emitting 100 per cent of its carbon dioxide. ‘Virtually nothing,’ he admitted.

    • And most countries could say the same. Nett result: no action globally, hello extinction

      But get the quote right
      I said to Dr Finkel:

      … we emit less than 1.3 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.

      I asked Dr Finkel:

      If we were to reduce the world’s emissions of carbon by 1.3 per cent, what impact would that make on the changing climate of the world?

      Dr Finkel replied ‘virtually nothing’.

    • Well that’s a relief. Thankfully, Australia does not exist in the world, so anything that happens in the world won’t impact us.

    • Bullsh. You could have twice the current population and still not have global heating. It’s all about HOW we live here