April 15, 2022

My Views on Climate Change/Global Warming and A Cool/Showery Forecast for the Next Week

Several readers of this blog asked that I provide a summary of my views on global warming.

To respond to these requests, I dedicated most of my Friday podcast to this issue--so please check it out (you can access the podcast below or through your favorite podcast service).

For those who don't like podcasts, let me give you my bottom lines:

1.  Greenhouse gases (such as CO2 and methane) are increasing and human emissions are the main cause of the rise.

2.  The planet has warmed about 1°C during the past century and most, but not necessarily all, of that warming is due to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

3.  Increasingly greenhouse gases affects some extremes (e.g., heat waves), but not others  (such as the intensity of winter storms reaching the Northwest)

4.  Changes in extremes due to global warming are relatively small today and generally eclipsed by natural variability.  Changes in extremes (such as heatwaves) will increase later in the century.

5.  Global warming is not an existential threat to mankind but will reduce the rate at which mankind becomes richer.

6.  Mankind can make considerable adaptations to climate change, preventing most economic and human impacts.

7.  There is great hope for reducing global warming using improved energy technologies (e.g., nuclear energy, renewables, replacing coal/oil with natural gas, better storage technologies) and pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere (sequestration).

8.  Improved weather prediction and adaptation efforts have greatly reduced the vulnerability of humanity to global warming effects.  Deaths due to extreme weather have declined 95% during the past century.

In short, global warming is a serious, but manageable, problem that should be amenable to technological solutions.

The Forecast (more in my podcast).

This weekend will be a mixed bag with showers on Saturday and dry conditions on Sunday, with temperatures remaining below normal.  Showers and cool conditions will continue into next week.    

A big change is that more precipitation will fall over California, something illustrated by the precipitation total for the next week (see below).  More on the forecast in my podcast.

Just a reminder.... I will do a special online session with my Patreon supporters tomorrow (Saturday) at 10 AM.

Some major podcast servers:

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  1. Cliff wrote, "The planet has warmed about 1°C during the past century and most, but not necessarily all, of that warming is due to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

    Yeah, no. The Medival Warm Period 1000 years ago was warmer than today is. Wine grapes grew in England then. The California mega-droughts of 850-1090 and 1140-1320 took out the Pueblos in Mexico... without human greenhouse gasses. Explain.

    Or why did we have the Little Ice Age, right after that, starting in 1350?

    Humans have certainly released a lot of greenhouse gasses, and it can't be good, but you don't actually know how much warming was due to that, vs due to whatever caused the NATURAL warming.

    1. You do realize, while you were generating a cytokine storm of proper indignance about all that you posted, that Cliff never said it was never hotter in all of known history, or that it was never colder.


  2. Nowhere in your admirably concise statement of your views do you mention sea level changes. And the socioeconomic impact of both climate change and sea level rise can be hugely disruptive without being "existential"; tens of millions of residents of Florida and New York City would probably find little comfort in knowing that what they were experiencing was "not existential". Could you provide a bit more detail about what you expect the local and global climate will look like in, say, 2050 and 2100?

    1. If your assumption is correct, then why do the uber rich of the US continue to build gigantic homes right next to the ocean's shorelines. Obama, Gates, et.al. - they all arethisclose to the edge. If AGW and rising sea levels are such a concern, then why do those who are the shrillest public figures on this issue mock people who don't adhere to their predictions of climactic doom via their open hypocricy?

    2. sea level is slowly rising, as it has for the past century. At this point, no evidence of acceleration. See my March blog on the topic

  3. I blogged about this on March 3: https://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2022/03/misinformation-about-sea-level-rise.html

    NY and Florida can protect themselves--just as they do in the Netherlands. The costs will be in billions, but quite doable.

    1. "NY and Florida can protect themselves--just as they do in the Netherlands."
      New York maybe. Florida, maybe not so much. Geology comes into play here. Florida is built on a very porous and permeable base of carbonate rocks. Basically, most of the state rests on a sponge. You can build dikes and other barriers (such as they do in Holland), but it may well be impossible in Florida to keep the water from coming UNDER those barriers. But then, I'm no fan of Floriday anyway, so What Me Worry?

  4. What about the non human impacts? Effects on animals, plants, and large scale ecosystems?

    1. there are certainly impacts outside of humans. Everything we do has impacts on the ecosystems....such as massive agriculture needed to feed our species

  5. I must say that it is very refreshing to see such a good public square of debate amidst a world of hyper politicized echo chambers facilitated through electronic mediums. Thank you cliff not only for a blog with such phenomenal information all the time, but also for allowing people discuss great topics alongside you!

    1. Bill Gates is investing in a new carbon sucking technology.

      NEWS FLASH!!!!

      We already have that. It's called the Amazon.

      Every last acre of ancient forest should be preserved.

      We can also employ farming methods that turn soil into carbon sinks.

      Let's combine the best of mother nature's and mankind's expertise.

  6. So Dana how do you propose we preserve the Amazon? Invade Brazil?

    1. Amazingly, they're clearing those forests, to raise beef, to sell....to....us.

      (Including Dana).

  7. Thanks for posting this, Professor. Perhaps, if you have, and wish to devote, the time you can clarify possible confusion resulting from Seattle Times story today regarding Snow Pack and water resources. I’m in the habit of routinely checking SnoTel sites around the State. The article leads me to wonder if I’ve formed a false conclusion that our water position is better than average. What in your opinion is the accurate science driven position? https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/wcc/home/quicklinks/imap#version=158&elements=&networks=!&states=!&counties=!&hucs=&minElevation=&maxElevation=&elementSelectType=any&activeOnly=true&activeForecastPointsOnly=false&hucLabels=false&hucIdLabels=false&hucParameterLabels=true&stationLabels=&overlays=&hucOverlays=2&basinOpacity=75&basinNoDataOpacity=25&basemapOpacity=100&maskOpacity=0&mode=data&openSections=dataElement,parameter,date,basin,options,elements,location,networks&controlsOpen=false&popup=&popupMulti=&popupBasin=&base=esriNgwm&displayType=station&basinType=6&dataElement=WTEQ&depth=-8&parameter=PCTMED&frequency=DAILY&duration=I&customDuration=&dayPart=E&year=2022&month=1&day=12&monthPart=E&forecastPubMonth=1&forecastPubDay=1&forecastExceedance=50&seqColor=1&divColor=7&scaleType=D&scaleMin=&scaleMax=&referencePeriodType=POR&referenceBegin=1991&referenceEnd=2020&minimumYears=20&hucAssociations=true&lat=39.98&lon=-98.96&zoom=4.0

    1. I just looked up the Seattle Times article. I suspect they wrote it based on the snow pack measurements from earlier in the week. For example, I see the USDA listing the Lower Yakima Basin as at 82% of normal snowpack, whereas the Times states it is at 59% of normal.

      82% is well within the normal range of variation, as far as I know. More importantly, the overall river flows have been above average for the season, so the Yakima basin reservoirs that provide farmers in that region with their water are expected to completely fill, and the water managers have stated they expect to be able to meet all their water quotas for the year.

  8. Climate change/atmospheric carbon may not pose an existential threat to the whole of humanity, but that doesn't mean if won't cause untold suffering and death through: ecosystem collapse in some areas; ocean acidification (loss of food); crop failures (loss of food); more deadly extreme weather events; mass migration (and political unrest); competition for resources (more political unrest). And good luck with those technological solutions! Of course we should move forward with renewable energy and energy storage solutions. But we don't yet really have an affordable, scalable way to draw down carbon. And good luck with using dikes and seawalls to protect coastal cities over the long term! I agree with Cliff that we will need technological solutions to solve this issue, but so far it's not looking great.

    1. We have safe nuclear fission and will soon have fusion. Renewables have come down in price. Deaths from extreme weather are way down. There is great reason for optimism.

  9. I really enjoy and take Cliff's views seriously. I want facts, as best we know them, over political agendas. If Cliff is right, CC is a thing but not that big of deal, then why is there so much hysteria over it? I try to look at motives and incentives people might have in forming their agendas. I see a strong incentive for fossil fuel companies to downplay a CC threat if it was an existential threat. Just like tobacco companies downplaying cigarette dangers. Follow the money. What I have a harder time understanding is the sky is falling group. Their narrative of CC being an existential threat is extremely pervasive. If they're motivated by something other than science, we have to give them credit for the greatest urban myth or if there's money incentives like renewables, this is the greatest marketing campaign in modern history. Cliff's position seems to sound like the truth is somewhere in the middle. What I'd like to know is- if the vast majority of scientists think this is only a threat to economy growth, why has the notion of a threat to our existence taken such a massive hold in our culture? I don't believe that tree hugging hippies who think the world was better off pre industrial revolution and want to see us live in primitive tibes again can account for a such a massive flase propaganda campaign that we're told science supports. As Cliff rightly noted, there's plenty of other left wing causes to latch on to. I'd love to take comfort in Cliff's notion "it's not that bad" but my instincts say it is worse than that. But gut feelings aren't science, I hope I'm wrong. Still something doesn't add up in this whole discussion.

    1. Drew...just read the IPCC scientific reports....there are no existential threats in there. But I will give you another way to learn what scientists think...their own lifestyle decisions. Climate scientists have the WORST carbon footprints..... they love to travel for pleasure and meetings. A number of them have second homes. They clearly don't believe in the end of the world stuff.

  10. Why not even a single comment showing concern for the effects of human induced climate change on species other than Homo sapiens?

  11. The campaigns to demoralize us, that tell us we don't belong here, that say that humankind will be the end of the earth need to stop! Our very leaders are perpetrating a crime on us, restricting our ability to prosper and thrive to meet the challenges of human or natural events that cause change. A prosperous people will choose clean air and water every time, and will gladly do whatever is necessary to restore the habitat. Free us to prosper, and we'll fix that!

    And being able to grow avocados in the Pacific Northwest might not be a bad thing.

  12. The earth has been warming more or less steadily for the last 150 years, maybe for as long as 300 years by some accounts, with a few pauses here and there along the way.

    I present my one-page graphical analysis of past trends in global mean temperature (GMT) which supports my opinion that the earth is likely to continue warming for another 100 years or more, also with a few pauses here and there along the way:

    Beta Blocker's Year 2100 GMT Prediction Envelope (April, 2020)

    The more assumptions a hypothesis must rely upon to support that hypothesis, the weaker is the case for that hypothesis. The IPCC's climate models embrace a number of assumptions about how the earth's climate system operates. The veracity of those climate models is therefore inherently open to debate.

    In contrast, and as can be seen on the illustration, my own graphical analysis relies upon only one very large, very sweeping assumption:

    "The 1850-2020 HADCRUT4 Global Mean Temperature Record includes the combined effects of all natural and anthropogenic climate change processes as these have evolved through time. Similar processes will operate from 2020 through 2100."

    As shown on the illustration, the most likely increase in GMT by the year 2100 is +2C above preindustrial, breaking the IPCC's rather arbitrary +1.5C limit. IMHO, a rise in GMT is now baked in to the earth's climate system and nothing anyone does now or in the immediate future can stop it.

    However, that having been said, if America's climate activists want to give it the old college try, there are many inside the nuclear industry who are more than eager to help them.

    Because if it wasn't for the low carbon and zero carbon mandates now being pushed hard by politicians, gas-fired power generation would come to thoroughly dominate America's power production future, forcing both coal and zero carbon nuclear off the power grid.

  13. That we are getting close to having fission energy is the real story here.

    1. Gpa,
      Your note confuses me.
      Cliff wrote: "We have safe nuclear fission and will soon have fusion."
      There does seem to be a lessening of the reluctance to build nuclear facilities using fission. A few are in progress.
      Fusion is very much at the experimental stage but seems possible. I assume this is what prompts Cliff to use the word "soon."
      Where does a grid scale fusion facility fall on a timeline from concept, planned, financed, permitted, under construction, tested, connected?

    2. John,

      The most clear pathway to viable fusion power is the ITER project, the largest scale fusion research reactor ever, by a very significant margin. The results of the previous generations of reactors indicate with high confidence that this will be the first Tokamak-type fusion reactor to generator more energy than it requires to operate. Other, younger projects claim they can develop viable powerplants of different designs faster, such as Helion Energy in Washington state. However, while their predictions based on newer computer-modelling techniques are encouraging, their actual test progress is now where Tokamak research was 40 years ago. One of them may yet demonstrate a breakthrough, but they're not far enough along to count on.

      The ITER project will be a research reactor intended to determine the remaining details necessary to create a fusion powerplant capable of long term operation. It should start operation around 2025, and concurrent with its findings, design should start on the first powerplant, notionally called DEMO.

      If the countries participating in ITER remain committed to DEMO, it should be possible to complete the first plant of that design around 2040.

      As with any energy technology, it would be decades after completion of the first model before enough can be built to make up a significant portion of our electrical supply.

      So on the one hand, fusion power seems a long ways away - 20+ years before even the very first plants come online, and decades more before large numbers could be built.

      On the other hand, that's in comparison to the 140 years already elapsed since the commonly used benchmark of 1880 for climate change comparisons. In the meantime, other technologies are going to continue to be added to our energy supply, especially more wind and solar.

      This is bearing fruit now. US greenhouse gas emissions peaked in 2007. Western Europe's emissions peaked in a similar time frame. Other nations will continue to grow their emissions for the next couple of decades, but even the biggest emitter in the world, China, is also the biggest market for solar and wind energy.

  14. love this post. Concise and stating the facts

  15. One thing in particular really enrages me: activists conflating the biological carbon cycle with the exogenous release of fossilized carbon. "That leaf pile emits CO2 just like burning oil! Atone for ur carbon footprint!"
    It's a toxic combination of smug moralizing and scientific illiteracy, but scientists who should know better never seem to correct them.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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