Bill McKibben: Fossil Fuel Industry Public Enemy #1

Good thing Bill’s focused on the science of anthropogenic warming

(Latest issue of Rolling Stone) But what all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. “Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices,” says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. “But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.”

Gee, I wonder how much fossil fuel will be used to distribute copies of Rolling Stone around the globe? Well, fortunately, Bill refuses to take fossil fueled travel, especially not to places like Arizona, California, Vancouver, Utah, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maine, and, thankfully, not all the way from Vermont to Rio!

BTW, just to be clear, I’m not a big fan of fossil fuels, as they are dirty and pollutants (not referring to CO2). But, hey, let’s face it, the use of fossil fuels really allowed mankind to develop our modern civilization in a very short period of time. In less than 200 years we went from horse and buggy to traveling to the moon. Bill would apparently prefer that we all…well, for his purposes, everyone else, cause he has lectures and protests to attend…give up fossil fuels and live likes it’s 1499.

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31 Responses to “Bill McKibben: Fossil Fuel Industry Public Enemy #1”

  1. john says:

    Electric cars are the future.

  2. john says:

    Not apparent to me that he wants everyone to completely stop using fossil fuels. Maybe your ESP is better than mine

  3. Gumball_Brains says:

    If you read the article “silly john”, you will even note that Bill believes that the petroleum industry is able to change the laws of physics.

    After that, nothing he says, even if true, can be taken at all seriously. Like you.

  4. The Worm says:

    My impression after reading the article is that Bill is cherry picking the information to support a non-associative issue. Be that as it may…I think the most feasible way to ween the world off fossil fuels is to use it up.

    The US (in a preparatory period of less that 20 years) could be totally self-sufficient in fossil fuel energy needs if the Democrats would allow off shore drilling, fracking etc. Incidentally, they have blocked such actions over 60 times through legistation and executive fiat. With the energy reserves most recently discovered ( and with technilogical advances) there is enough fossil fuel sources in US territory to last nearly two centuries (which will increase as technological advances occur).

    That said…as we reach the end of those 200 years…you better bet your donuts that someone in the US will have come up with an alternative energy source…We’re best under pressure…and there’s plenty of time to perfect the next big thing. A conservative president would charge the rest of the world for such a discovery. A democrat president would give it away to China for free.
    Cheers,
    The worm

  5. They’ve been trying electric cars for 100 years, John, but, they’re slow and do not go very far. And what provides the power?

  6. Gumball_Brains says:

    97% of all actively publishing self-identified climate scientists in the last 5 years agree that john is silly.

  7. Reggie Koogen says:

    Yes, also in the last 200 years we’ve increased our population by 7 times.

    I wonder what happens when the oil goes away… Harper’s had an article on just that back in 2004: The oil we eat: Following the food chain back to Iraq.

    What are those billions going to eat once the oil runs out?

  8. Reggie Koogen says:

    Or, more to the point, we’re forced to stop using it, in the unlikely event that politics dictates that choice.

    But eventually we have to switch, we’ve only got about 90 years worth of fossil fuels left, +/- 40 years or so. Hope we’ve got our ducks in a row by then.

  9. Gumball_Brains says:

    Actually, we have a couple hundred years, plus a couple hundred years of natural gas distillates around today. And that only doubled with what we have been finding and able to reach over the last 5-10 years thanks to the use of fracking.

    Just imagine what we can do once we allow even greater access to the ocean depths. Or, access to northern resources. Or, frozen methane deposits.

    Oh, and I dont know what you eat, but I dont eat oil. Granted, much of what we eat and the fabrication of that food product uses oil, but your statement was a bit over the top. And, yes, our food system is HIGHLY dependent upon oil. Without oil, many of our cities would be unsustainable. Too much of our food lies very far from city centers. You can thank socialist dogmas and the desire for control over the populace for that.

  10. Reggie Koogen says:

    Well, yeah, if you believe the hype, sure… There are those that don’t: http://theautomaticearth.org/Energy/peak-oil-a-dialogue-with-george-monbiot.html

    But whatever.

  11. Gumball_Brains says:

    Did you believe it back in the 70’s as well? You know, there are people that also foretell the end of the world. Well, that was last August. … and last May. .. and this December…. and in 1984 … and 1988.

    So, a writer of science fiction and new world order stuff is a person to follow on peak oil theory?

    Since you are a man of theory, did you also know there is a theory that Earth continues to make oil and gas?

    I’ve always wondered why gas is termed “natural gas” but oil is termed “fossil fuel”. Aren’t they made from the same source?

  12. Reggie Koogen says:

    I’m a little young to have “believed it” in the ’70’s.

    Yeah, I’ve heard of the abiotic oil theory. It is, of course, insane. Somehow people think that because it’s called petroleum (rock oil), that must mean that the oil is generated from the rock, rather than merely having being found there. Reminds me of the theological theory that if we can conceive of something it must exist, therefore God must exist.

    My brother and I have different names, but we came from the same source. I wonder why?

    I’m not sure who you’re speaking of as a writer of science fiction, but if you’d like another source, this is something that’s been making the rounds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7ktYbVwr90&feature=player_embedded Beware, if you’re prone to depression, it could push you over the edge.

  13. Gumball_Brains says:

    Hmmm, as your rebuttal you bring up another author. I knew right off the bat that this “citation” that you proffered was not worthy was when he made the jab at supposed non-CAGW believers who bring up the (his words) “complicated stories like the Medieval Ice Age”.

    First, it was actually way to warm then to have an ice age. Second, the evidence for it is not complicated. It is in our history as having happened.

    He then further derides the “complicated stories” of sun spots and water vapor put up by non-CAGW believers that suggest there just might be other reasons for why the climate changes.

    (gawd, can’t believe I am having to watch this)

    Your scientist considers these “stories” as myths. He gives his talk by stating he can blow the myths out of the water after only 15 minutes.

    He cites as further proof in that the climatological cycles takes millions of years to change. He admits that the climate has been fairly stable over the last 10,000 years comparatively. But now, he states our carbon usage has substantially changed the chemical makeup of the atmosphere so our climate can now change in the blink of an eye.

    HAHAHAHAA. Oh, this guy must be silly john. He admits that the earth has only risen by about 0.8C since before our industrial age. But, he then states that this was in response to what happened 50-100 years before that. OH REELLLYYY? Granted he states that the temps we see at the end of this century will be based on what we are doing now.

    He then asks, at what point in the temperature rise do we start to really worry. His answer = 2.0C. Again, please note that this is way below the 4-5.0C that was experienced during the Medieval Warm Period or the Eocene Era. The Eocene saw temps even higher and CO2 levels in the 1500ppm on average.

    He then admits that the 2.0C number was a political decision by European climate people. He then goes on to say that now modern science over the last few years has pointed to a much lower temperature value when “bad things will happen” based on the Earth being “more sensitive”. Yeah, wrong on both counts. (please note, this 2.0C is not tied to any year, it is just a proposed point at which they suggest things will go bad for us)

    Ok, now I can’t watch him any more. He claims that the upper threshold is now 1.5C and touts the wondrous work of James Hansen – the oft arrested climate activist and proven fudger of numbers.

    Exit question: If petroleum products are produced biotically by things dying, then please explain how petroleum type products are on comets, planets and moons?

  14. Reggie Koogen says:

    I don’t know where you’re getting your numbers, but the increase during the Medieval Warm Period was less than 0.2 degrees C in the northern hemisphere, at least according to the chart at the link.

    Per the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum Wikipedia has:

    Global temperatures rose by about 6 °C (11 °F) over a period of approximately 20,000 years.

    No, the 0.8 degrees C that the planet has warmed is primarily due to carbon released from the start of the industrial revolution though about 50 years ago. Carbon released since then has kept extra heat close to the Earth, but hasn’t had it’s full temperature raising effect yet.

    Yes, the climate has been stable over the last 10,000 years. The CO2 level was stable over that time, as has been the Sun’s output, and other factors.

    Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve added a boatload of carbon to the atmosphere:

    This extra CO2 will hold more heat close to the Earth, and the Earth will warm. That’s not complicated.

    As to what’s dangerous, it turns out that there have been identified several positive feedback loops that have the effect of amplifying this warming. For example, the methane deposits in the arctic permafrost are currently frozen. A little warming (say 1.5 degrees C) will cause this methane to be released from the permafrost and heat the Earth further. Melted ice in the arctic is replaced with darker water, which absorbs more heat from sunlight rather than reflecting it as light to outer space. Once these become operative, planetary temperature will rise still further. The worry is that this will push the planet to a new stable point; one that is much warmer than the current stable point, and one which will greatly reduce the carrying capacity of the biosphere.

    Oh, and two things: 1) Your comets, planets and moons hold “petroleum type” products, not petroleum products. 2) I don’t know how any of these supposed petroleum-type products got there. There are probably many ways to create such molecules. I don’t follow the abiotic theory much because most scientists think the theory has no merit (and it seems pretty loony to me), and I’m willing to take the expert’s words for it.

    James Hansen has been arrested as a protestor while trying to block the Keystone XL pipeline, not for academic dishonesty or petty theft. He’s convinced enough to go to jail temporarily to make a point about what his research shows. Good for him. As to deliberate fudging of data, I’m going to need a reputable link or two to believe it.

  15. Gumball_Brains says:

    Ok. Thank you for confirming your bias. You link to scifi and Grist writers, link to THINKPROGRESS, and link to wikipedia whose own graphs cite different MWP temps. In fact, the first graph shows the MWP as being below the 0 line….

    Actually, the pre-industrial age is over 200 years ago starting in mid 17th century. So, 0.8C over 200 years? blah. Besides… I would rather be warm that freezing.

    And while you are correct there are some positive feedbacks, there are also a number of negative feedbacks. And some that were thought to be positive are now known to be negative – clouds. In your, old 1990s theory, where everything is a positive feedback, the scientists could never explain how we return from massive warming or massive cooling. And the methane permafrost is a biotic theory as well.

    The worry is that this will push the planet to a new stable point; one that is much warmer than the current stable point, and one which will greatly reduce the carrying capacity of the biosphere.

    So, we were stable until Teach started using massive CO2-spewing computer and power resources to write his blog? And because I once drove a truck for a few years, then that will cause our globe to reach a higher stable temperature?

    So, you are happy that your hero James Hansen actually helped block the extension of the oil pipeline that would have helped give America more jobs and oil? You are happy that it will now be sold to China and Russia?

    And yes, everything of the last few years has proven the ICCC and James Hansen’s research completely fabricated and wrong.

  16. Reggie Koogen says:

    Whatever you’re smoking must be pretty good.

    I don’t think we have to worry about the pipeline – it’ll be built. I think we’ll continue to pump the carbon into the atmosphere until there’s no more carbon sources to be dug out of the ground.

    The choice seems to be:

    1) Stop using hydrocarbons now – and watch massive chaos and human death now.
    2) Keep using hydrocarbons until we run out of them – and watch the planet warm up too high to support life – and watch massive chaos and human death whenever the oil runs out (or it gets too hot) – sometime in the next 50 – 200 years. Later is better, no?

    I’d think the pre-industrial age would be about 13.7 billion years long, but what do I know.

    The permafrost carbon/methane is not from an abiotic source.

    Yes, I have a bias. You know what they say, reality has a liberal bias. So what, big deal!

  17. Gumball_Brains says:

    I’d think the pre-industrial age would be about 13.7 billion years long, but what do I know.

    So, you’re concerned that we have raised Earth’s temperature 0.8C over 13.7 billion years?

    Boy, you are a flat-earther… a flat-temperature-earther. Boy, when you say you believe in stable temps, you aren’t kidding.

    And yet, you have already found links to past epocs in our timeline that shows that temperature and environmental conditions were drastically different than today. And yet you continue to claim a stable temperature?

    The permafrost carbon/methane is not from an abiotic source.

    Did not say that it was.

  18. Reggie Koogen says:

    Sorry, I misinterpreted this, then:

    And the methane permafrost is a biotic theory as well.

    The 0.8 degrees C increase is from the end of the pre-industrial age to the present. Of course. Which is what you meant to say, I suppose.

  19. Gumball_Brains says:

    The 0.8 degrees C increase is from the end of the pre-industrial age to the present. Of course. Which is what you meant to say, I suppose.

    Ok, I went back to that video to make sure that I did not hear wrong or if I took him out of context.

    http://youtu.be/A7ktYbVwr90?t=4m50s

    Note at that mark is when he starts talking about the 0.8C rise since “BEFORE the industrial age”. His slide then states “pre-industrial”. Thus, he is measuring his starting point at mid-17th century or earlier. He does not state when. But, you want to claim it is nearly 14 billion years long? Even he only maintained a stable-ness of 10,000 years.

    And while we are at it, his claim of stable temps over last 10K years ignores the MWP and LIA and other nice blips and bloops along the way.

    And while we are still at it, what would you call “a climbing out of an ice age”? Would you call that rising temperature? But then, you believe in stability of climate.

  20. Reggie Koogen says:

    Yes, before the industrial age (for 10,000 years or so, apparently) the climate has been reasonably stable – call that 0C. The 0.8C rise has been since the beginning of the industrial age, circa 1850 or whenever, when we started pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. What he says and what’s on the slide are intended (and actually are) the same statement.

    I misread what you said earlier. My joke was that our pre-industrial age is much longer (~14 billion years) than the 200 years that I thought you were claiming.

    Relatively stable climate is what we’ve had, with some nice blips and bloops, yes. In fact, based on this wikipedia article: Hockey stick controversy we can observe a slight cooling over the last thousand years ago, except of course for the last 100+ years.

  21. Gumball_Brains says:

    Again, you are mixing up quite a few factoids. The industrial age started in mid-17th century. Pre-industrial means.. a time before that. So, your joke is not that far off from what Mr Grist Writer was saying – wrongly of course. Thats the reason why I stated he did not give a date. He made no mention of what his starting point was when the 0.8C began to rise. So, we are left to assume that he meant at some point prior to 1650 till 2012, the Earth’s change in temperature varied by 0.8C.

    I’m sorry, but what about a rise of 0.0022C per year is of concern? (0.8 / (2012 minus 1650)) But since most global predictions tend to be in decades, then that value would be 0.022C per decade. Again, I’m sorry, but I don’t really see what the danger is? Why should we spend nearly half of the global GDP on spreading wealth around, decreasing worker productivity, shutting energy sectors down over a 0.022C change in Earths “stable” temperature per decade?

    Over 10,000 years, we have not been stable. We’ve recovered from a major ice age, then went in to a Medieval Warm Period, and then back in to a period known as The LIttle Ice Age. And now we are still warming from that. In fact, you could say that we are recovering to a point consistent with the MWP. Or, if you want to look even farther back, we are sliding slowing back in to another ice age as the slope is generally downward.

    Another thing you glossed over really quickly. Your 2 options you gave actually glossed over the best part of Humanity. We adapt. Life Adapts. We’ve learned to adapt to harsh desert conditions of today. We have adapted to live in near constant frozen conditions today as well. Some people live in tropical climates while others live in more frigid and dry. Man has the unique and distinct gift of learning, adaptation and manipulation. We can invent new technologies to better aid our existence through whatever condition we find our selves in.

    Can you honestly say that in over the next 200 years, man\science will stop inventing new technologies to better our lives and take advantage of new sources of energy? Who knows, maybe by then they will even invent a solar cell that is just as powerful and efficient as a gallon of fuel. Who knows, maybe they will invent a way for everyone to tap in to the billions of degrees of heat under our feet to power our future lives.

  22. Reggie Koogen says:

    Yeah, technology will save us when the climate has been fucked up so badly that our staple crops won’t grow. And yeah, we’ll be able to support 10 billion (or 7 or 5 or 2…) of us on such a planet. (Of course, I hope I’m wrong here).

    One could say that the industrial age started around 1650, sure. But water wheels grinding wheat or running textile mills do not emit CO2. What David Roberts (“Mr. Grist”) meant by the industrial age was the period, as he says, “before we started digging all this carbon up”. So for the purposes of the discussion, that looks to be during the first half of the 19th century. (Oil was first cracked in the 1840’s, and coal was first used to power mills around 1800.

    If you had looked at the graph in my last wiki link, you would have noticed that before this carbon-emitting definition of the industrial revolution, we were, let’s say 0.4 degrees C below the 0 mark on the graph (and slowly cooling!). Since that time, the world has heated up, past the 0 degree reference mark, apparently set in 1950 or so, up to 0.4 degrees above that zero mark. Continuing the graph to 2012 would result in a rise to the 0.8 mark, which as you’ll note is off this particular chart.

    According to this extended chart, the temperature has risen about 1.2 degrees over the last 100 years or so. If Mr. Robert’s phrasing has been difficult to parse for whatever reason, perhaps what I’ve just said has clarified the situation.

    This 1.2 degree / 100 years = 0.12 degrees per decade, quite a bit higher than the 0.0022 that you’ve arrived at. And, yeah, it’s worth worrying about.

  23. Reggie Koogen says:

    Make that 0.22/decade. This infernal thing doesn’t allow edits…

  24. Reggie Koogen says:

    …and I did it again! 0.022C/decade….

  25. Gumball_Brains says:

    BWAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    That is exactly what I said. 0.022C / decade. hahahahahahahahahaa.
    Please tell me how that is anything to spend trillions of dollars about?!

    One could say that the industrial age started around 1650, sure. But water wheels grinding wheat or running textile mills do not emit CO2.

    WTF mate?!!??! Did you know that we were burning oil long, long before 1840? Did you know coal was also used as a primary cooking, heating, processing fuel source back then? This was one of the reasons we switched to oil, was because it was cleaner than everyone burning coal and charcoal.

    Any chart that fails to reflect the past, can not reflect the future. And it would be, and is, unethical to use such malfeasance.

  26. Reggie Koogen says:

    Yes, it’s the same as what you said because I was quoting you when comparing my value of 0.12 C / decade. You’re really obtuse when you want to be.

    Yes, I realize we were burning oil long before 1840 – but not in amounts sufficient to affect the atmosphere. When industrialization came along that changed.

    The chart at my link was for the last 1000 years, over which time the climate was gently cooling. The jump up in temperature happened in the most recent 100 years. What do you think it’ll look like over the next 100 years?

    BTW here are charts for the last 2000 years:

    and 12,000 years:

    These also show our 0.8 C temperature well above the average temperature over those time periods.

  27. Reggie Koogen says:

    Now more evidence from a Koch-funded BEST study:

    Not to mention, from the lead of that study: The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic.

  28. Gumball_Brains says:

    AYEP. Keep trying.

    Donors

    First Phase

    The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund ($20,000)
    William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation ($100,000)
    Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research (created by Bill Gates) ($100,000)
    Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($150,000)
    The Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation ($50,000)

    We also received funding from a number of private individuals, totaling $14,500 as of June 2011.

    So, I’m guessing that you are stating that Bill Gates and family are out to destroy the environment too? And that Koch Charities want to destroy families, the environment, and their energy base? ayep.

    Please also note that Muller was not a “well known skeptic”. He was at best an agnostic. But, be that as it may, let’s first take a look at your graph. Can you see that the rate of increase from 1970-2000 is similar to the increase of the period 1970-1940, which is similar (if not less than) the rate of increase during the period 1810-1830.

    And I am sure we can all agree, even you Reggie, that there were very few cars around during those previous periods when the “rate of warming” was similar or worse than today.

    Oh, by the way, care to explain why there was no warming from 1940-1970 even though CO2 was increasing?

    Care to explain why your favored graph ends in 2000? Could it be because they don’t want to show a lack of warming again since 1995\1997? How could there be no warming if CO2 is the main driver?

    Again, this assumes that your graph is correct, which I don’t.

    Also, it has been shown in Watts 2012 that BEST used old and corrupted data that was highly adjusted to the point of doubling. And Watts 2012 only looked at data from 1978-2007. There have been reports that NOAA and CRU have decreased the temperature reports from before 1940s. The affect is to make the “rate of warming” greater.

    Lies. Statistics. And damned lies.

  29. Reggie Koogen says:

    Wow.

    The graph doesn’t end in 2000 – it looks like it ends in 2004, like all the other graphs. The people who monitor temperature keep telling us that we keep breaking new global temperature records, so it’s safe to presume that continuing the graphs would lead to the squiggles continuing upward.

    Presumably the flat line between 1940-1970 is due to the heat being absorbed someplace other than the atmosphere or the general weakness of the CO2 forcing in those years.

    Yes, there have been times of warming that on that chart look like they are equivalent to today, for example 1817-1823, though perhaps that’s because of the uncertainty bands or some of that “bad data” you refer to. You’ll note that the current warming has been going on since, lets say, 1975. That’s 37 years, with only minor “jogs” downward.

    I saw something yesterday about the “doubling” report – I’ll have to take a look at that. Who knows, maybe it really is a world-wide scientific conspiracy!

    The Koch connection is, of course, surprising, since he’s been funding global warming denialists.

  30. Gumball_Brains says:

    Presumably the flat line between 1940-1970 is due to the heat being absorbed someplace other than the atmosphere or the general weakness of the CO2 forcing in those years.

    OMG.. you must be related to silly john. that was even more hilarious than any of silly john’s jokes. WOW. That was awesome! I need to remember that one.

    “Why no hun, I didn’t eat all of your bon-bons. Yes, I agree, they had to have gone somewhere.”

    So, the “excess” heat went somewhere during a 30 year period…. and then what? Decided to …. stop going? What made it decide to “go there” in the first place?

    Yes, there have been times of warming that on that chart look like they are equivalent to today, for example 1817-1823, though perhaps that’s because of the uncertainty bands or some of that “bad data” you refer to.

    Ok, I’ll give you that. So, if our historical record is bad, then how can we rely upon it to determine what our current temperature status is? Can we really base TRILLIONS of dollars and kill sectors of our economy on “bad data”?

    Again, assuming the graph you show is correct, I see a rise of 1C over 200 years. Are you really going to type here that a 1C rise over 200 years is devastating? 0.05C per decade?

    That works our to 0.09 degrees F every 10 years. Do you know what the error rate is? around 0.2C…. PER YEAR!! When your error bars are larger than much of your dataset, you’ve got real problems in accuracy.

    And tell me, how accurate were thermometers up until the mid-20th century? hmmm?? +/- 1C or 2-3 F??? At best? Probably more before and during the 19th century?

    Oh yes, please show us more graphs.

  31. Gumball_Brains says:

    Presumably the flat line between 1940-1970 is due to the heat being absorbed someplace other than the atmosphere or the general weakness of the CO2 forcing in those years.

    OMG.. you must be related to silly john. that was even more hilarious than any of silly john’s jokes. WOW. That was awesome! I need to remember that one.

    “Why no hun, I didn’t eat all of your bon-bons. Yes, I agree, they had to have gone somewhere.”

    So, the “excess” heat went somewhere during a 30 year period…. and then what? Decided to …. stop going? What made it decide to “go there” in the first place?

    Yes, there have been times of warming that on that chart look like they are equivalent to today, for example 1817-1823, though perhaps that’s because of the uncertainty bands or some of that “bad data” you refer to.

    Ok, I’ll give you that. So, if our historical record is bad, then how can we rely upon it to determine what our current temperature status is? Can we really base TRILLIONS of dollars and kill sectors of our economy on “bad data”?

    Again, assuming the graph you show is correct, I see a rise of 1C over 200 years. Are you really going to type here that a 1C rise over 200 years is devastating? 0.05C per decade?

    That works our to 0.09 degrees F every 10 years. Do you know what the error rate is? around 0.2C…. PER YEAR!! When your error bars are larger than much of your dataset, you’ve got real problems in accuracy.

    And tell me, how accurate were thermometers up until the mid-20th century? hmmm?? +/- 1C or 2-3 F??? At best? Probably more before and during the 19th century?

    Oh yes, please show us more graphs.

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