Warming underestimated! Our current path heads to worst 5 degree warming. Patrick Brown from Carnegie Institute with breaking science. From Lawrence Livermore, Ivana Cvijanovic explains retreating Arctic sea ice means more drought for California. Alex on disappearing climate info. Radio Ecoshock 171213

Terrible fires hit California (see this Guardian article on California’s hot Christmas future). I’ve lived there, in Los Angeles, and I feel for my many Californian listeners, and everybody in that state. Our two scientists in this show hit this dead on. The first explains how those climate models showing the darkest future, can most accurately show the past 25 years as well. This was tested against data from space. Our second guest explains why California is likely to get more droughts, and more severe droughts than already experienced. No wonder fires burn there. But the culprit is surprising, and the mechanism new to me, and probably to you too.

Listen to or download this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (57 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)



On our current path, by the end of this century Earth could warm over 4 degrees C, way past the danger point.

We know that from ingenious work out of the Carnegie Institution For Science at Stanford University. Dr. Patrick T. Brown is the lead author of the new paper in Nature, along with his co-author Ken Caldeira. This paper is setting a fire in science. It’s very bad news about our future, unless we slash emissions fast.

Patrick is a Postdoctoral Research Scientist. Since getting his Doctorate in 2016, he’s published seven refereed scientific papers. Patrick is also a contributor to the fact-checking web site “Climate Feedback“. Patrick Brown has China experience. In 2015, he went to China to teach as part of a Duke University extention program. In his papers since 2016, he has several Chinese co-authors.

He’s the lead author of the new paper titled “Greater future global warming inferred from Earth’s recent energy budget” – as published in the journal Nature, December 7, 2017.

Dr. Patrick Brown

Listen to or download this 26 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with Patrick Brown in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


In 2016, Brown wrote an article in Physics Today explaining how different views of the same facts, could provide more or less sensational headlines. How is this for a sensational headline, from the usually-reliable MIT Technology Review:

A new study based on satellite observations finds that temperatures could rise nearly 5 °C by the end of the century.

Here is a worrying little note from the Discussion part of this new paper. Brown and Caldeira write:

a rapid nonlinear melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets has some plausibility but is not represented in any of the models studied here...”

So we are not even officially looking at possible worst-case scenarios. Glaciologists say a rapid melt event is possible.

I’m sorry. I’m having trouble getting past the “5 degrees C is possible” point. Based on more than a hundred interviews with climate scientists, five degrees C warming is like a nuclear war. Both are existential, threatening our existence, and many other creatures as well. Could this happen, is it likely to happen, is this an outlying possibility?

I think we are already in a state of climate emergency. The general population and our governments don’t know it yet, but we need to take emergency action to slash emissions.

Right now, the Chinese Central government must choose between enforcing their new regulations cutting coal use to make the air breathable – or letting some residents of northern China keep their homes warm with coal this winter. – Somebody has to give up something. Maybe it’s SUV drivers in California, or 600 million peasants in India – but somebody has to give up something soon, or we won’t make it.

Here is a good article by Science Daily on this new research.

In the Radio Ecoshock interview we also discuss these two papers:

Brown, P. T., Y. Ming, W. Li, S. A. Hill (2017) Change in the magnitude and mechanisms of global temperature variability with warming. Nature Climate Change, doi:0.1038/nclimate3381.

Brown, P. T. (2016) Reporting on global warming: A study in headlines, Physics Today, doi:10.1063/PT.3.3310.


Disappearing ice is a big problem for northern communities. And it’s sad when polar bears have no ice for their food hunt. But what if a shrinking cover of ice on the Polar Sea could reach much farther down. What if it drives more drought in California? That’s the shocking science news from five scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, located just East of San Francisco.

Here is the title: “Future loss of Arctic sea-ice cover could drive a substantial decrease in California’s rainfall“. It was published December 5th in the top-ranked journal “Nature Communications” – just in time for hugely destructive wildfires, again, in California. We reached the lead author, Ivana Cvijanovic from Lawrence Livermore.

Dr. Ivana Cvijanovic

The link to the Arctic is not simple. It’s not a direct drive. We need to understand “teleconnection”. This was first explained to Radio Ecoshock listeners by Dr. Andres Holz, from Portland State University. He told us how changes in Antarctica could affect wildfires in South America, due to teleconnection. Ivana explains what it is, and how that long distance connection can ping pong its way to a “ridiculously resilient ridge” and consequent droughts. The droughts may come and go, but as decades pass, in California drought becomes the new normal.

Aside from the fact that I have always been in love with California, that state also happens to be the winter vegetable supplier for western North America, in the U.S. and in Canada. It’s going to be tougher to live there, and harder to find water.

If our emissions continue, the arrival of an ice-free summer in the Arctic Sea comes sooner. That is a major change in sea currents, warming, wildlife, coastal erosion, and much less solar energy being bounced back into space by ice that in not there.

Please take the time to listen to this interview. It was a learning experience for me. Ivana uses real science to find out how grand, intricate, and interconnected this planet is.

Listen to or download this 25 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with Ivana Cvijanovic in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


The Lawrence Livermore National Lab’s helpful press release about this paper is here.

As the LLNL Fact Sheet concludes:

An increasing number of studies suggest that the loss of Arctic sea-ice cover is not only a problem for remote Arctic communities. Based on our results, the massive changes that Arctic has already undergone (and will encounter over the 21st century) may have important “far field” effects on our planet’s climate.”


This discussion began with an email discussion begun by one of my listeners, Louise.

She alerted me to an alarming story. One of the most popular YouTube channels explaining climate change was suddenly shut down by YouTube last week, wiping out hundreds of climate videos. It’s the second time that has happened this year, for the Climate State channel.  Find out more on that shut-down here.

I’m not technically expert enough to explain it all, but I do know this: If you explore climate change on the Net, you will find an overwhelming and constant flow of climate denial videos, and climate confusers.

Here’s a tip: to find out about climate, use the search term “climate change” and not “global warming”. The real anti-science uploaders love the term “global warming”, which scientists left behind a few year ago.

We can picture the possible sources of that wave of denial videos. There are real believers who convince themselves that tens of thousands of scientists around the world are all part of a conspiracy by… communists, the Jews, the Pope, the Leftist, fill in the blank. Some of them make money with their videos, as they fulfill a human need to deny what could cost us money or a lifestyle we like. Beyond those prolific individuals, there are professional deniers who make a good living, right up to millions of dollars, through selling products, or directly from money paid by fossil fuel companies, electric utilities and others.

I suspect some petro-states hire bot farms or workers to just keep uploading climate denier videos every day. They hope to persuade you that “most people” don’t believe in climate change, which is the opposite of the truth.

The Climate State channel tried to counteract this constant negative flow with science-based videos. It sounds like Google didn’t like their rate of uploading or something. The Climate State channel is back for now.

Louise, a regular Radio Ecoshock listener wrote me about the Climate State shutdown. We began a dialog, and I’ll select some of that now.

LOUISE: wrote:

They reinstated it last night. Are we seeing the beginnings of censorship? I have noted in the last 6 month that it is more difficult to find recorded lectures/presentations of recent published papers on the issue Climate Change and I find this unsettling.

The other concern is the removal of net neutrality rules in the USA.

How robust and resilient is the archive of the information and knowledge we have of Climate Change? If the web were to “go away” or be severely censored would it be equivalent of the burning of the libraries in Alexandria?

ALEX: I replied:

I’ve given the topic of disappearing knowledge some thought. For example, if an Electro Magnetic Pulse weapon were exploded in the atmosphere high above the United States, it’s possible the whole Net could go down, at least for a while. There are just a couple of major server hubs who route all traffic, I believe for the world.

The Internet was designed to overcome a nuclear attack in it’s method of distribution, but over time that hasn’t been watched over with enough duplicate services. However, various countries should still be able to remount a lot of it.

Co-ordination between authoritarian regimes bent on climate denialism would be another matter. But even here, there are possibilities for local nets that would be difficult to stamp out entirely.

There is also the possibility of collapse of civilization, in which our information society falls back to scattered agricultural pursuits, or people become so angry with the past they no longer wish to hear anything from it.

As part of my concern, the back programs for Radio Ecoshock are on two servers, on two continents. I also hope there are a few people who download every program, and burn them to DVD’s. I have noticed a couple of collectors out there.

The disappearance of communications may have other causes. In the period 2006 to 2012 I went around recording authors on tour promoting their books. I rebroadcast their speeches in Vancouver, on a different program, which is still archived on my site as “The Brown Bagger” recordings.

But those public speeches dribbled off. Publishers could no longer afford the book tours (they said) and they switched to online videos. The art of public speaking, where the audience could participate, ask questions, laugh or gasp, was dying. Things change.

I don’t know if the Universities or scientific institutions are cash strapped or just lazy these days, but it’s possible there are fewer presentations to download? I’d be interested in your thoughts and experiences on that.

LOUISE: On that last point about Universities, Louise replied:

My sense is there are fewer presentations of “fresh research”. I saw a flurry during COP (this year), always at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting (talk about researchers that need to learn how to speak publicly, they can be very painful to listen to!). I see a lot of “rehashing” of research that has been “out there” for several years, lectures where people just repackage and explain the older information in a “different way”.

I believe we are starting to see a roll off in the papers/new research being published on the issue Climate Change. The funding has drastically dried up and climate change researchers are frightened for their careers in the US. And I might add, think of the student loans most of these young researchers are carrying in the US, they cannot afford to be without an income source, the stakes are very high for them.


Louise sent me some great links on all this, including climate grant slashing, scientists afraid to speak, the words “climate change” left out of grants. Here they are:

NPR research on funding from the National Science Foundation, the source of most research grants for Universities in the USA.

…and a little further insight into the concerns of researchers





And from Climate Central 2016, predicting what is happening.

Louise continues” The light bulb just went on, regarding the GOP’s motives for the vindictive taxing of graduate students in the recently passed House Bill. It goes hand in glove with the research cuts.”


I asked a couple of European climate researchers about the defunding and discouragement of American climate science and they said basically:

1. Research is so far advanced and advancing in Europe that a new wave is coming (no defunding there) and

2. The Chinese! Now this I can verify. I get a science alert service. They send up to a hundred items daily. It’s a chore looking for the gems. More and more, I’m finding Chinese authors as either the lead author, or the whole team. They’ve developed some excellent scientists, and apparently believe climate change poses a serious threat to China.

My only fear there is that Chinese culture is so old, so huge, and so self-sufficient, plus the language barrier, that not all the best Chinese science will reach the international community, in time. I expect a new sub-set of science where European language experts pour through Chinese research, translating and communicating from that pool. We’ll see.


Or as the Associated Press puts in their headline: “France names winners of anti-Trump climate change grants”  By Sylvie Corbet, Associated Press Paris — Dec 11, 2017.


Then, we have new science on disinformation blogs – which relates to the need for constant refreshing of climate videos, to counteract the constant flow of disinformation via the Net.

We can picture a large oil company, or oil kingdom, for whom $50 million dollars a year would be a small amount to buy enough doubt in Western minds that climate legislation or carbon fees never happen, while new drilling and pipelines do. Big money, can buy lobbyists, but also offer vacations or high speaker fees to media personalities. They can propel a couple of willing Professors to be the cornerstone of a single argument, which they try to multiply into doubt of all climate claims, using the domino effect.

Jeffrey A. Harvey, of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, and his colleagues published this paper November 29th in BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences: “Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy”. The authors urge scientists to directly counter mis-information in blogs.

The press release for this study says:

Harvey and his colleagues performed an analysis of 45 climate-denier blogs, noting that 80% relied primarily on a single denier blog for their evidence, which itself had a single author who “has neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on polar bears.” This paucity of expertise and evidence is common among such blogs, say the authors, as are personal attacks against researchers and attempts to misstate the extent of scientific uncertainty about crucial issues. Such narrowly framed attacks are designed to generate “keystone dominoes,” say the authors, which deniers can then use as proxies for climate science as a whole. “By appearing to knock over the keystone domino, audiences targeted by the communication may assume all other dominoes are toppled in a form of ‘dismissal by association.'”

That’s a quote regarding a new paper on climate denial blogs. The paper is here, and a good article on this by Science Daily here.

If you would like to add to this discussion, on the fragility of climate knowledge and it’s suppression, just add a comment to the show’s blog. It takes a few hours for your comment to show up, but unless it’s illegal or downright stupid, it will be posted.

Thanks for being there, and please join me in coming shows for more science of the future.