Ten Years To Catastrophe

Abstract: The mathematics of “Climate Change” are much more problematic than the IPCC makes it sound. Weirdly, the IPCC ignores much of the greenhouse gases injected in the biosphere from human activity (!), and the fact that, although the main trigger, atmospheric CO2 is not the main agent of climate change (or, more generally biosphere change; the correct concept). Integrating all agents of change, direct or indirect gives ten years to catastrophe (the present essay buttresses technically the essay “Terminal Greenhouse Crisis“).

The logic may not be perfect logic to do so. However it is perfect catastrophic logic. In catastrophic logic, it is considered that all that can go wrong, will go wrong (“Murphy’s Law”). Planes fly safely, thanks to paying great attention to catastrophic logic (that’s why aircraft disaster are so important). Losing the biosphere would be the greatest catastrophe imaginable, as we would lose spaceship Earth. So, if there is one case when catastrophic logic ought to be used, that’s it.


Here is the problem, and its name is IPCC (Does IPCC mean International Panel for Coal Catastrophe?):

Pluto & Coal Go Together Well

Pluto & Coal Go Together Well

The latest IPCC (Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change) report, seven years after the preceding one, observes that adaptation is an option only if efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions are “strengthened substantially”. Without mitigation, the impacts of climate change will be devastating.

The report, under the political pressure of business-as-usual, is exaggeratingly optimistic. This best-of-possible-worlds stance has a real impact.

Notice the coal production has been augmenting exponentially recently (and that the graph above projects optimistically that this will stop magically this year, 2014!).

The coal production is reaching new height, precisely because the assessment of the climate impact of the rise in Human generated Greenhouse Gases (HGG) is not viewed as alarming.

Under the public IPCC assessment, a devastating impact of HGG will take about 40 years. How did the IPCC get there? By making “reasonable”, “most probable” assumptions. That’s perfect for business-as-usual.

Business as usual is a funny matter: a jumbo jet recently disappeared (Malaysian Airlines 370). Yet, the jet had an internet antenna, and it would have cost only one dollar per hour to keep appraised of its position, using that antenna. For years, the technology has existed to know everything about jets in difficulty, in real time, but it has not been applied, because no law exists to enforce the application of said technology.

(When the AF 447 fell to the ocean, in 2009, the plane, realizing it was losing its mind, sent 14 technical messages in 4 minutes to Airbus in Toulouse, so, even if that jet had not been found, the rough reasons for the crash were known within hours; such a system could exist for all jets; the lessons of the AF 447 crash were applied worldwide, including how pilots ought to react to such loss of lift: the old doctrine was gravely erroneous!)

Jets crashing and planet crashing have much in common, as they represent the conjunction of multiple system failures.

So the IPCC operates on a 40 year time-frame for total catastrophe, while I claim that the time scale is only ten years. The IPCC got there by being optimistic. I got to only ten years by being pessimistic. I used what I call Catastrophic Calculus.

One could say that, by using Catastrophic Calculus, I am not “objective”. But Catastrophic Calculus is what has to be applied all over the cases where failure is not an option. The obvious example is train travel, car making, and especially, aircraft flying. (Strangely, Catastrophic Calculus has been ignored for some types of very dangerous civil nuclear technologies!)

The IPCC, EPA, etc, are certainly culprit of the sin of talking about “Carbon” meaning Carbon Dioxide, CO2, sometimes meaning only the “C” inside “CO2” . I even wonder if they don’t do it deliberately, to understate the problem.

Certainly 515 billion tons of “Carbon” in 2010 the IPCC sometimes talk about, is less frightening than the 3,016 billion tons of CO2 present in the atmosphere at that time.

This is doubly unfortunate. First, it underplays the problem psychologically. Second, there is another type of “carbon” in the air: soot. When the IPCC speaks of “Carbon”, they don’t measure all the carbon in the air, but just the carbon in the CO2 that is in the air!

This is of some importance: carbon under particulate form (soot) comes in with a minus sign for the greenhouse effect! The more soot, the less the greenhouse, because soot makes the atmosphere more opaque, and less light reaches the ground, where the greenhouse effect occurs. Thus, the more the pollution by soot, the less the surface warming.

By mentioning just one type of “carbon” in the air, the IPCC underplays the impact of the greenhouse, because, if one took out the soot and micro-particles, the greenhouse effect would augment… a lot. Now one will have to remove the soot: it causes cancer, and pulmonary problems, killing millions that way. Doing so will jump up the greenhouse.

And the fact remains that the “carbon” in the air in 2010 was much more than 515 billion tons.

Another, and graver problem, that the IPCC does not insist upon: half of the CO2 goes into the ocean. The acidity has augmented 30%.

Thus the real number for the injection of CO2 of human origin injected in the biosphere is above 6,000 billion tons of CO2. Moreover, that has to be scaled up further, from the other GHGs… Including water vapor. Water vapor, the most abundant greenhouse gas is also the most important in its contribution to the terrestrial greenhouse effect, despite having a short atmospheric lifetime (around 7 days). A 10% change in stratospheric water vapor changes the change of global surface temperature by around 30%. NASA says: “Water vapor is potent enough to double the climate warming caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Now atmospheric concentration of CO2 is augmenting at 1% per year. Integrating the CO2 going into the ocean: 2%. Doubling with water vapor: 4%. Add some methane from fracking and clathrate hydrates erupting, and you sure make 5%.

Doing all the math, and expecting all sorts of non linear effect kicking in, such as release of CO2 from melting permafrost, one gets a putative doubling of the catastrophe in ten years, rather than 40 year.

This is a very different picture from the simple doubling of the catastrophe from doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere in the next 40 years the IPCC apparently expects. The IPCC is in for a rude awakening. It’s eating coal, as we speak. It has turned, indeed, into the International Panel for Coal Catastrophe.

Patrice Aymé


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38 Responses to “Ten Years To Catastrophe”

  1. Paul Handover Says:

    Just glanced at this, Patrice. Will read it more carefully tomorrow morning.

    But here’s my question; nonetheless.

    Do you have an idea, even a sense, of when global leaders, elected Governments, the ‘movers and shakers’ in societies, will truly embrace the global catastrophe that is heading our way?

    And a supplementary question: What would be the indicators that Governments were acknowledging the task ahead?

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Paul: The only sense of awareness from governments, is that they are digging their collective heads, ever deeper, in the ever hotter sand.

      Waiting for your precise questions. The exchanges on Learning From Dogs last week were useful, the present essay came from them.

      • Paul Handover Says:

        I guessed that, and thank you. Later on this week I will write a sequel including extracts from this latest essay from you. In terms of more precise questions, not sure I can improve on the two in my first comment.

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Well you have all night and several days for thinking of tougher questions!
          And your Robert Scribbler was pretty good (let alone the relentless Martin, who has to suffer lots of completely deranged greenhouse deniers on his site!)

  2. ianmillerblog Says:

    This problem is like the hydra. Stop one problem and two replace it. In my opinion, while there is no doubt that there is a “greenhouse effect” (I prefer a blanket effect, but . . ) I doubt the models have any significance. The oceans currently have a net power input of about 0.64 w/m2, and that is enough to prove that we have a problem EVEN IF WE STOPPED BURNING CARBON RIGHT NOW! I do not quite agree with the comment that more water put in the atmosphere is bad; if they form clouds, they significantly raise the albedo, and that would bring net cooling with enough clouds. We now put about 9 Gt of carbon into the atmosphere annually, and the second key is how much is taken from it? Basaltic weathering is just too slow, and as the oceans also act as a buffer, even if we took CO2 from the air and fixed it somehow, the oceans would replace almost all of it. My pick is that we should try to regenerate as much of the tropical rain forest a we can (and stop “slash and burn”), grow subtropical forests, try to grow as much algae as we can, and develop geoengineering so we can replace snow on the ice caps. My guess is (a) that is too unpopular, and (b) even if it were not, trying to get current politicians to do something is a waste of time.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Ian. Several remarks:
      1) The human generated injection of CO2 EQUIVALENT Green House Gases is more than 50 billion tons a year (not counting water vapor!). That’s makes an equivalent of 13 billion tons of “Carbon” (not counting soot, as I said!) a year. Significantly more than 9 Gt. One gets 9 Gt by just focusing on fossil fuels.
      (See my Greenhouse Terminal Crisis)

      2) we would even have a problem if we stop with CO2 now, because we have passed the Antarctica stability point. And the oceans will probably regurgitate some of the CO2 (the southern ocean has started to do so).

      3) All the real solutions are extremely dramatic, and involve massive military efforts. Easy solutions (“geoengineering”, CCS…) are unreal.

      • Paul Handover Says:

        Yet on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being guaranteed, how likely is it that by, say, the end of this decade “real solutions” will be commonplace?

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          It depends upon the place. One could imagine Texas, California, or Oregon going completely renewable, because the locations are suitable. So there it could be 5.

          Globally, the solutions are going to have to be imposed from the top. And it’s going to be tough. Fracking demonstrates this in the opposite way: it has turned around the economy of the USA, demonstrating the importance of energy cost.
          In much of the world, it will still be a big zero, as the storm hits.

  3. EugenR Says:

    Dear Patrice,

    I just published an article on the subject;


    The existing financial and political system is in deadlock situation. It’s main problem is concentration of financial resources that most of it belongs to general public in hands of few lucky ones (definitely not the most capable) and this damages the competition, since all the financial system gave preferences in its credit policy to certain kind of activities and not to others. It is not accident that most of the banks followed before 2008 financial policy of fools, purchasing unworthy trash bonds like the Greek bonds and very little money went into real investment initiations. Other problem of the financial system and it includes the government and the central bank the main institutions responsible for printing the money, is that it also failed to channel enough economic resources into the main economic problem of today and probably even more tomorrow, which is the CO2 emissions, that according to some scientific studies will have devastating effect on the world economy within 10 years. And this means it is almost a short term problem if you take in account that anything you do today will have effect only within many years, and what’s going on with the earth heat up is result of acts done many years ago. The existing democratic political system that is managed by politicians whose perspective of existence is 4 years at most (Except in France) and who are elected by some very temporary mood of margins in the society, who change their voting behavior from election to election, cannot cope with the real long term problems, that had become within the years a short term problem. (Most of the leaders in the democratic world are elected with marginal difference of votes. Bush the son in his first time period, was elected with margin of 50,000 votes.) The only exception from this is Hungary and it doesn’t work too. Another problem of the democratic political system is that it failed to incorporate in the decision process the experts and the intellectuals, and in contrary the existing trends are to exclude them from the process.
    Other problem of the existing financial system is that most of its players in the so called private sector entities, i mean legal entities with publicly traded shares, like banks, insurance companies, investment and pension funds, but also the largest holding companies like GE for example or GM before its bankruptcy, have managers who are self nominated and self managing and who are not really responsible to anyone for the results of their acts. They also remain in their position for years, unless their acts bring directly to colossal failure, (viz. example of Enron). If they are successful in some kind of short term act, they take reward, and if they fail they also rewarded helping with the rescue of the company from the mess they created.
    It is a well known fact that every management system that doesn’t have to cope with the two ultimate improvement generators of the capitalistic system, the Competition and the Risk, will rotten at the end. This is what happened to the whole socialistic system, but the same happened to the US auto-industry that became marketing and leasing companies that forget their primary task, how to produce good cars. By the way Ford did not go to bankruptcy only because it sold at the price pick some or most of its valuable real-estate before the crisis.
    So to conclude my claim, there is a basic problems in the existing corporate legal system, but also in the political system, to which i don’t see anybody came up with some solution, but what is even more disturbing i even don’t see real intellectual talk about these problems among the leading economic intellectuals. To my opinion the first seeds of the change that will have to come in the political and financial systems are the experiments like bitcoin, kickbox, university lectures in the internet, but also some kind of referendum system that would bring the experts and intellectuals into the decision process back.

    • Paul Handover Says:

      Fabulously interesting reply. But, as with Patrice’s essay, something that I want to read several times before responding.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Bush II got more than a million less votes than Gore (!) Thanks to the US Supreme Court. The USA does not even FORMALLY practice democracy (!)

      The essential truth about the present banking system is that it’s a farming out by governments, to hidden, un-elected private co-conspirators, of money making. This is an astounding devolution. It would have floored autocrats of the past, let alone democracies of the past. It makes democracy nowadays, impossible. It’s the main source of plutocracy.

      I have been saying this for years.

  4. EugenR Says:

    Another one about the subject

  5. Patrice Ayme Says:

    Amna Shiekh: yup, new mexico. u would hate it here, not enough minds to devour.

    a question for you…a serious one, in light of your recent essay on catastrophe..knowing all that, doesn’t it feel wrong to bring a child into this broken world? or do you have hopes that things will get better? i am not asking to criticize, i am truly asking for your answer.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Yes devouring tiny minds is like munching on grass: even cows need bacteria to do that.

      Bringing a child to this world? One should push it to extremes; consider the following systems of thought:

      1) suppose human civilization is nearly destroyed, the Earth inhabitable. But then suppose there is a large fancy spaceship with a VASMIR engine powered by a mighty nuclear engine, with hibernation capability (all within basically existing tech), and an habitable planet had been found within reach (entirely imaginable). Then suppose the authorities proposed you to come on board, as long as you bear child? The alternative being death on Earth in short order. You would say yes.

      2) If clever people do not have children to bear their own culture, looking forward, only dumb culture will go on, grow and multiply. That’s the Tasmanian Effect.

      The answer is clear: only us can kill hope, and higher principles we should never terminate.

    • EugenR Says:

      As to bring or not to bring child to this world; let me cite F. Dostojevski’s quote, after he was released in the last moment from death sentence;

      “Hope is the last thing to be lost”.

      Is it rational? definitely not, but the life is more about irrational than rational, while the rational is only the tool to make this world and the life on it materially more comfortable. So the irrational hope should be, “the rationality will overcome all the obstacles that stand between us and the right acts”. Amen

  6. Paul Handover Says:

    Thanks Patrice, your support is welcoming.

  7. The Natural order. | Learning from Dogs Says:

    […] Patrice published a second essay reinforcing that first one.  The subsequent essay was called Ten Years to Catastrophe.  I was minded to republish that but upon reflection thought that there was a better option.  That […]

  8. Patrice Ayme Says:

    [Sent to Learning from Dogs]

    Dear Paul: We are not just led by “leaders”. That we are led by leaders, is what Obama claims to believe. As the president, and many others in the leading oligarchy, have interest to believe that, the emotion is widely advertised, not to say imposed. However, it’s erroneous.

    We are led by leading ideas. And leading mentalities. So far, saving the planet has lacked traction. OK, everybody acknowledge more or less that it has to be done (except for a fanatical minority propelled by fossil fuels). However the mentality that what needs to be done has to be done, namely carbon zero.

    We have to save our spaceship, the hour is late, the pulsion has become suicidal.

    These are elements of the mentality that needs to rule, and will lead to a morality. We have to construct a higher morality.

    Only a debate will bring us there, so questions, however awkward, especially if awkward, are not just welcome, but the way to go.

    I look forward the rest of the series…

  9. Patrice Ayme Says:

    [Sent to Learning From Dogs, June 12, 2014.]

    As the graph of global coal production shows, coal is winning. See:


    Obama is not killing coal. Just telling it to make more income for the USA, by being sold overseas. “Market forces” are nothing much. Government is everything.


    This, BTW, is demonstrated by China. Chinese Plutos started as “Communists”, namely they did not have to share power. But now they apply said power rather more efficiently than the West. In the USA, or the EU, plutocrats have captured the government.

  10. Patrice Ayme Says:

    {Sent to Sci Am, Nov 9, 2014}

    Dr Strangelove: You deserve your name. Most of your ideas are at pre-school level. You never heard of acid in the ocean, or do you intend to dump bleach therein? Pests mutate faster than most other species. Raising dikes in, say, Florida, will not work, because the soil is porous limestone, and water will go below dikes. Fast change in agricultural areas and lack of soil in ex-glaciated areas are show-stoppers. And so on.

    • Paul Handover Says:


      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Yes, Paul, the CO2 Party seems to be changing tactics. As 2014 is shaping into the warmest year globally, ever, and California’s drought is relentless (El Nino or not the high pressure ridge is mostly holding; you are just north of it), they are trying to find more refined arguments… In new dimensions (just build dikes!, etc.)

        • Paul Handover Says:

          I may be coming back to you about this with regard to a chapter coming up in ‘the book’ on short-terminism. An email OK?

          • Patrice Ayme Says:

            You are more than welcome, Paul. But many emails don’t come through, or I overlook them (I get too many!). So I advise to use the comments… I try to religiously answer all of them. The CO2 situation is eerie in more ways than considered. As I had said long ago in

            the Sun has been cooperating with the CO2 fanatics: the Sun is entering such a quiet period, it is now affecting NASA, and other space agencies, future planning (as the weakening Sun magnetic shield makes outer space much more lethally radioactive from cosmic rays…)

            • Paul Handover Says:

              Greatly appreciated, dear Sir. In the next couple of weeks I will post questions and stuff here. Thank you.

            • Patrice Ayme Says:

              Dear Paul: Maybe I am Conchita Wurst. But “Sir” can be viewed as the abbreviation of “Sire”… which comes from “senior”.
              On second thought, Conchita’s philosophy is standard wishy-washy… Hopefully not apparently the case here…

  11. Paul Handover Says:

    Well my need came up more quickly than expected!

    Soon, I have a chapter to write under the heading of Short-termism within the overall section of Mankind in the 21st century.

    Obviously, I will be doing my own research but wondered if you had any essays that highlighted the madness (apologies for the assumptive tone) of a lack of planning for the long term, especially in those areas that have profound implications for mankind: population; the concept of continual economic growth, the destruction of our natural resources, et al; et al?

    Any help most greatly appreciated!

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      you are welcome, Paul. Post on Lamarck just out. And the metascience attached to it, which is of relevance to your worries. Have to rush to get my daughter… I was smirking a lot when I read the last IGPCC….

  12. Outlaw Carbon Burning | Patrice Ayme's Thoughts Says:

    […] only reasonable course is to outlaw carbon burning. Replacement technologies already exist. We have ten years to catastrophe. This is the bottom line for the world climate talks right now in Lima, […]

  13. Patrice Ayme Says:

    [Sent to Scientia Salon, April 7, 2015]

    (Answer to Hal and other who mentioned AGW, or the AGW deniers, including Massimo P.)

    The global emissions of CO2 are around 50 Gigatons, yearly (with 35 Gt just from burning carbon; the rest from land use, and land abuse).
    This does NOT take into account another 13% or so, supplementary contributions from other man-made greenhouse gases.

    The increased load of CO2 from human emissions is around 2%, a year, of its total content in the atmosphere. Half of this supplement goes into the ocean (acidifying it, and we are close to the danger point).

    Big Oil employs lots of smart educated scientists with PhD, or the like.
    Big Oil has another problem: new oil fields have a very bad ROI.

    Big Oil know all this. Big Oil knows AGW is real, and just a facet of an immense catastrophe. Some Big Oil companies have thus diversified (say in solar energy).

    So the resistance to curbing carbon burning comes mostly from other sources (coal, small operators, Koch brothers, etc.). They finance high profile deniers (such as Obama’s law professor at Harvard). It would be a huge amount of work to make society carbon free, and take out the fossil fuel rents. If all of society knew and understood the numbers I just mentioned, carbon burning would be phased out quickly.

    Meanwhile California is enjoying a megadrought directly connected to AGW, the greatest in at least 2,000 years..


  14. Ice Sheets Melt: Academics Waking Up; New York Times In Denial | Patrice Ayme's Thoughts Says:

    […] the mathematical capabilities of our great leaders:  12 x 50 = 600. This fits perfectly my “Ten Years To Catastrophe” essay. Thus, the West and EAST Antarctic Ice Sheet becomes unstable in TWELVE YEARS (according […]

  15. The most beautiful dagger of them all! | Learning from Dogs Says:

    […] taxing the mathematical capabilities of our great leaders: 12 x 50 = 600. This fits perfectly my “Ten Years To Catastrophe” essay. Thus, the West and EAST Antarctic Ice Sheet becomes unstable in TWELVE YEARS (according […]

  16. Biblical Flood Starting Anew | Patrice Ayme's Thoughts Says:

    […] above 500 ppm in CO2 equivalent within six years, in line with my previous analyses, such as “Ten Years To Catastrophe“. […]

  17. Interconnections One. – Learning from Dogs Says:

    […] be above 500 ppm in CO2 equivalent within six years, in line with my previous analyses, such as “Ten Years To Catastrophe“. […]

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