Nov 2, 2023Liked by Andrew Dessler

I think it is really about what future we collectively choose. Perhaps alongside the hellscape, it helps to also imagine and describe that other future that is still possible if we choose it. The one where we start building renewables, rapidly and radically reducing the use of FF, the one where we all have cheap clean energy and water to drink, the one where we start rewilding farmlands no longer needed to grow soy for caged animals, where there are still live coral reefs, and we have a global ban on destructive fishing etc.

Expand full comment

Good piece but you leave out some important issues that come with labeling what's happening on this planet a #climateemergency. They mostly relate to the "then what" aspect of such a conclusion. Should Biden declare a climate emergency? That's a formal governmental decision that comes with a heap of ramifications. Should any administration be able to label something an emergency as a way to pursue steps outside what Congress or the public would want? Trump tried this with the border, remember. I wrote on this here: https://revkin.substack.com/p/its-essential-to-act-on-climate-emergencies-22-07-22 And of course much of what folks are labeling a climate emergency is really an array of local vulnerability emergencies: https://revkin.substack.com/p/behind-global-climate-emergency-rhetoric-21-08-06

Expand full comment
Nov 2, 2023Liked by Andrew Dessler

Some research that I have seen that compels me to see an emergency.

Our present predicamant.

What the world was like the last CO2 levels were this high.


Our future, if present trends continue.

We are a few generations away from another PETM.


"The majority of extinction events occur in the CO2 concentration range of 700–1,100 ppmv."


We're halfway there. (with apologies to Bon Jovi)

We should apply the brakes, before we hit the wall.

Expand full comment

Stating that adaptation could work, but the rich are simply not willing to pay for the poor is a pretty gross oversimplification. There’s lots of wealthy people who support higher taxes and the United Nations providing greater funding for developing countries to adapt. A more accurate comment is that conservative political funders are preventing appropriate, compassionate action.

Expand full comment
Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

As has been alluded to by some commenters, the use of crisis language can lead to added skepticism by those who are skeptical in the first place. Here is a recent, detailed article by Pew Research Center that explores this issue in detail, https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2023/08/09/why-some-americans-do-not-see-urgency-on-climate-change/

The subtitle reads, "In-depth interviews find some Americans consider crisis language overblown, leading to added skepticism of claims"

Another interesting subheading:

"Climate scientists are valued for their expertise, but also seen as potentially having an agenda; media outlets are not trusted sources of climate information"

It also contains the latest polling of Americans on global warming:

No solid evidence 14%

Mostly due to natural patterns: 26%

Mostly due to human activity: 46%

Not sure:14%

Expand full comment

I don't particularly care what word is used. There is always the problem that the word that motivates one person to favor optimum policies may discourage someone else.

Personally I prefer to think of having the opportunity to execute policies to improve the long run future of our planet and our descendants, policies that become more costly the longer we wait before executing them.

It's also good to acknowledge that the costs of climate change that we will continue to experience for decades to come will, unfortunately, be little reduced by even the best abatement policies going forward. There are ameliorative/adaptive polices that we should take in parallel with abatement polices.

Expand full comment

The challenge with the "emergency" framing, imho, is that the effort needed to decarbonise our economy and adapt to climate change, whilst very urgent, will be expended over decades. A state of emergency can't be sustained over years and years. I say that as someone dedicating all their professional time and effort to the climate transition. Also, excessive use of "catastrophe" language, from what I've seen, leads more to anxiety and despair than agency and active optimism. Yes, the next century will have some serious climate related challenges. But it will continue to have a lot of beauty and joy and meaning.

Expand full comment

Should have been an emergency 3 decades back, as a direct consequence of the people holding the highest Offices of trust and responsibility - the ones with duties of care - responding appropriately to the science based expert advice. Those Offices have access to a range of experts to help them understand it as well as assure them of veracity, far beyond what us ordinary folk have.

Tossing an issue of such profound significance to the future prosperity and security of their nations to the shark pool of Public Opinion and allowing - encouraging - doubt in it's veracity and making everything about it contestable seems as inappropriately irresponsible of a President or Prime Minister as handing the issue, podium and microphone to environmentalists and fringe politics, then making their policies all about opposing THEM.

Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking appears utterly amoral, with no redeeming features. That it seeks to blame what climate activism gets wrong for their rejecting everything climate science gets right - squaring the circle so that even their own denial and obstruction is blamed on unreasoning and unreasonable green-left politics - just confirms how bereft of ethics.

Expand full comment

I'm not impressed by your latest article. Over the last 12,000 years, human ingenuity has allow us to not just survive but to grow, with longer and better lives. All of the adverse impacts of climate change can be managed in various ways, with cold becoming less of a killer as the planet warms and with technology such as seawater desalination able to provide as much freshwater as the world needs. Add to this optimism the realisation that global human population numbers will hit their peace in about 30 years, after which there will be rapid and profound falls in the number of people in most countries convinces me that, in 100 years' time, people will equate today's claims of climate catastrophe with our worries about the Year 2000 bug.

Expand full comment

Hi Andrew -- as always I appreciate your writing on a broad range of topics at Climate Brink. I've been working on an invited article about the dangers in climate emergency thinking that I will share when forthcoming/published. This is also the topic of the topic I gave at CU-Boulder last week with the video of the talk online likely next week -- so will flag you when up.

Expand full comment

Last chance dance. Biden should absolutely declare an emergency, but old school militarism and hegemony is at work. Why do you think he approved Willow? Competition for its resources as the Arctic becomes ice free. Plenty of logical explanation and backing documentation here, military sourced.


Expand full comment

This is a dishonest framing. The terms 'climate emergency' or 'climate crisis' - popularised by a change in the Guardian editorial style guide in 2019 - are not justified with reference to a far off future hellscape, which you claim is an inevitable result of 'the science', they are justified supposedly by observed 'alarming' and unexpected increases in the severity and frequency of extreme weather and most recently by an alleged 'acceleration' in global warming (the era of global boiling) - which were NOT predicted by climate scientists years ago. This is why so called 'deniers' demand to see the scientific receipts on the alleged 'happening now' climate emergency - and the receipts are not there.

Expand full comment

When deaths start mounting and vicious cycles are spinning out of control, we have to call the present climate situation an emergency. However, given the urgency of this emergency this comment is about moving to the next stage of climate actions in order to prevent worst case scenarios.

What few people understand is that the present course of developments would lead, in the coming decades, to rapidly increasing climate-related deaths and hundreds of millions of climate refugees attempting to get into the wealthier and less affected countries; there would most likely be major outbreaks of violence – it would be like a never-ending world war; we must respond accordingly, governments must enact radical changes now.

We must work together, present feasible comprehensive proposals, and create a cohesive movement that promotes plans for decisive actions, planning to halt and start reversing global warming within years In https://humanecivilization.org/climate-emergency/ I attempt to describe a feasible model of a sustainable future and a pathway to its rapid realization.

Specific plans are also published by Project Drawdown (drawdown.org) and by other organizations.

Carbon neutrality by 2050 is far too late for the poor, most affected areas. Only a dramatic decrease in atmospheric CO2 will halt the worsening of weather catastrophes – carbon neutrality only slows the worsening of climates. Governments must be compelled to treat global warming as the worst crisis in human history and act more decisively than during WWII - then fear led our government to halt all civilian production and industries were mandated to work on government defense contracts.

We consider the following to be first priorities

More people must learn how terrifying and cruel present plans and proposals are:

Present approaches, “business-as-usual-with-incentives” would lead to weather catastrophes becoming more frequent and much more deadly for decades. Compounding vicious cycles will keep speeding up global warming. As many densely populated areas become unlivable, there would be unimaginable suffering, ‘adaptation’ would in most areas not be possible. There would also be a dramatic decrease in biodiversity.

But people must also learn about feasible, highly effective alternate paths for our future:

We, our government, must halt waste and consumerism and save energy and resources in every way possible. We need ultra-light electric vehicles and trains, not Teslas and planes; wood and bamboo, in place of concrete and steel; cooling white paint, not more air conditioning; trees, not cattle; etc.

Government-funded public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises (PPPNE) are needed to restructure industries and land management. Governments must restrict bank lending to curb consumerism, inflation, and all the serious emotional problems caused by indebtedness. Governments must issue guaranteed incomes and create comprehensive safety nets.

Most people sense that we will be healthier and happier with much less consumerism, living more simply with more interpersonal connectedness.

Heinz Aeschbach, MD, president of Humane Civilization Worldwide, humanecivilization.org

Expand full comment

Andrew, you are TOTALLY misrepresenting what the IPCC says. In Table 12.12 of Chapter 12, WGI, the IPCC states that there is NO signal of global warming visible in:


Mean precipitation

River flood

Heavy precipitation

Pluvial flood


Hydrological drought

Agricultural drought

Ecological drought

Fire weather

Mean wind speed

Severe wind storm

Tropical cyclone


Dust storm

Snow, glacier, and ice sheet

Heavy snowfall and ice storm


Snow avalanche

Relative sea level

Coastal flood

Coastal erosion

Marine heatwave

Ocean acidity

Air pollution weather

Radiation at surface.

NONE OF THOSE show any sign of being affected by global warming, much less any bogus "emergency".

In other words, to misquote Mark Twain, "The claims of the death of the climate have been greatly exaggerated".

I cover all of this and more in my post


So you are free to continue to hyperventilate and scream "THE SKY IS FALLING! EVERYONE PANIC!"

And we're free to point out that you are totally misrepresenting both the facts and the IPCC's conclusions, both of which show that there is no climate emergency.

My best to all,


Expand full comment
Nov 3, 2023·edited Nov 3, 2023

My comments below make it sound like I'm pushing back or at least advising that we need to be careful of how and when we use crisis language and maybe I am a little.

I think it is also healthy to remind ourselves how far we've come in addressing the issue of carbon emissions in the United States. I follow the work of two energy system experts that are studying how to get the U.S. to net-zero by 2050, Dr. Jesse Jenkins and Dr. John Bistline. If you want to hear the latest thinking in this area, David Roberts just did a wonderful podcast with Jesse, https://www.volts.wtf/p/what-the-sun-isnt-always-shining#details . It is long but his summary in the last 10-15 minutes is clear and consistent with that of other experts including Bistline, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/10/opinion/environment/ipcc-report-climate-change-debates.html

- Deploy wind and solar as fast as we can with short term storage, i.e. Li-ion batteries.

- Shut down coal as fast we can.

- Keep existing nuclear and natural gas going and even add natural gas where necessary to displace coal.

- Expand the grid.

These are the 80 - 90 % solutions. These are all happening in NM where I live. The last remaining coal will be shut down in 2031, very close to Jesse's goal of 2030. NM has reduced their electrical sector carbon emission intensity by more than half since 2000, 956 kg/MWhr to 443 kg/MWhr, ref. EIA.gov.

The last 10-20% will require innovating and deploying new technologies for long duration energy storage and firm dispatchable generation like advanced nuclear and advanced geothermal.

Expand full comment

So a good topic for a future post here would be "what is the plausible worst-case scenario". It sounds like we can safely rule out total extinction from climate change, but what's still on the table? Is total civilizational collapse a risk, or are the threats smaller-scale but equally important to avoid?

Expand full comment