Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip

by Gareth on December 18, 2010

Excellent animation by Leo Murray explaining climate system feedbacks and the potential for us to pass “tipping points” that could make our efforts to reduce emissions completely redundant. More information (including script and references) at wakeupfreakout.org. Hat-tip to Peter “Crock of the Week” Sinclair for finding it

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Dappledwater December 18, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Gareth, many, many thanks. That is perhaps the best video on the problem global warming I have seen.

Byron Smith December 18, 2010 at 3:09 pm

It’s a couple of years old, but it’s a good piece.

Macro December 18, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Excellent summation of both the science, AND the Human factors and politics involved.

Gosman December 20, 2010 at 10:34 am

What a load of simplistic, biased, alarmist, leftist propaganda.

The whole thing can be summed up by the section where he states that noone has all the answers but we must consume less. So what exactly is he suggesting here? It is easy to throw twee calls to save the planet by consuming less but it is a lot harder to actually quantify what that actually means.

No wonder AGW campaigners are have trouble getting a broad based support for their movement if that is the sort of garbage they produce.

bill December 20, 2010 at 11:08 am

What a load of simplistic, biased, alarmist, rightist propaganda.

Has anyone noticed that ALL our regular ‘skeptics’/deniers, no matter how they might otherwise present themselves, have this one theme in common? The Free Marketâ„¢ is sacred; even the slightest threat to its prerogatives yields a hysterical response.

This is what their opposition to climate change is actually about – it’s the global canary, indicating the grand utopian consumerist project is literally unsustainable. It has to go. These ideologues cannot accept that to be true – evidence be damned! They’re even prepared to turn on science itself, using a bastardized gobbledygook version of in to attempt to inoculate us all from any pernicious intrusions of reality.

Amusingly many would no doubt cast themselves as ‘conservatives’. Remind me again, what is the conservative position on conducting a radical experiment with the one atmosphere you possess?

Gosman December 20, 2010 at 12:52 pm

If you are going to place this debate in terms of left and right then you have pretty much lost the opportunity for a collective approach to dealing with the problems caused by AGW. This is because a large number of influential people in the world think that the proponents of AGW are using the Science as a kind of back door to impose their visions of a Socialist world order.

Now this may very well not be the case so if you want an easier ride in getting adoption of green technologies that will make a difference then I suggest it is not a wise move to promote such blatant biased propaganda as was evidenced in that clip.

Macro December 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm

It really is a huge threat threat to them. ANY suggestion that the free market is imperfect is heinous blasphemy.

MrSmith December 22, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Bill ‘Gosman’ Is a fool and that’s clear for most people to see .

I would like to thank you though, your replies could almost be described as poetry at times and are inspirational to me an many others.

RW December 20, 2010 at 1:39 pm

What a load of simplistic, biased, ignorant, quasi-libertarian claptrap from a certified troll. You haven’t improved since your last visit.

You should be a frontperson for Hide.

Macro December 20, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I think Gosman sees that as his role already.

Gosman December 20, 2010 at 2:22 pm

What was the central tennant of that video i.e. what was it that you took from it that was useful in any way?

Steve Bloom December 20, 2010 at 12:21 pm

IMHO the nattering about the sanctity of the free market is a way to avoid speaking in naked terms about the desirability of increased consumption (or greed as it was known in simpler times).

Re the video, it falls down in a few places on the science (e.g. the implication that we can change the base climate state, which we fortunately can’t, although to be fair it’s not taking too much of a liberty to fail to distinguish between permanant change and change that will take many millennia for natural processes to reverse), but I very much liked the presentation of the inter-relationship between the feedbacks.

I should add for those who don’t follow this stuff closely that we now have early earth system model results, which to the surprise of probably nobody show substantially higher climate sensitivity to increased CO2 but haven’t provided improved guidance as to when we might hit a tipping point (and of course there’s not just one such point). Perhaps more unfortunately, no model can help us with determining the existence of additional feedbacks that are unique to the present fast ramp-up of CO2 (meaning things that can’t happen in the natural climate system, even under maximum stress).

Gosman December 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm

All this talk about cosuming less is meaningless unless it can be actually quantified what it means for the average person. So how is someone meant to consume less?

I understand that there are ways that people can reduce carbon footprints by careful selecting what consumption they actually do use but I have yet to see someone paint a coherent picture of how we consume LESS not just consume better.

nommopilot December 20, 2010 at 10:36 pm

really? mhat’s challenging for you about those two little words, govnor?

consuming less is simple: examine your lifestyle, identify wasteful behaviours that can be minimised or reduced. make the change.

Of course it does take some effort and willpower so you’d probably rather avoid it and go with denial instead…

Gosman December 20, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Interesting that many of the people here go on about the evil’s of the free market and the tyranny of growth yet I have yet to see a serious political movement arise which advocates the type of policies that video was pushing for. Why is that?

Mike Palin December 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm

“A blind man knows he cannot see, and is glad to be led, though it be by a dog; but he that is blind in his understanding, which is the worst blindness of all, believes he sees as the best, and scorns a guide.”
Samuel Butler

Gosman December 20, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Someone who uses quotes from someone else in an attempt to make a point fails intellectually in my opinion especially if they don’t qualify said quote with their own views on the topic. To me it is like stating ‘Look what this terribly clever person from the past thought about something that might possibly be related to the topic at hand. Aren’t I clever for posting someone elses opinion”.

Mike Palin December 20, 2010 at 7:14 pm

The quote was not meant to particularly clever. The statement that you had yet to “see” a politcal movement advocating sustainable growth reminded me of it at the time. We obviously have a difference of opinion as to who fails intellectually on this subject.

Le Chat Noir December 20, 2010 at 10:07 pm

The last thing I ever wanted was to be alive when the three most powerful people on the whole planet would be named Bush, Dick and Colon.
Kurt Vonnegut

nommopilot December 20, 2010 at 10:39 pm

“Someone who uses quotes from someone else in an attempt to make a point fails intellectually in my opinion”
yes because your opinion seems to be that your intellect is superior to all others. happy in your little bubble world?

Gosman December 21, 2010 at 8:29 am

I’ve never stated my intellect is superior to others. I just dislike it when people use quotes from others as if they were somehow a killer argument all on their own.

Le Chat Noir December 21, 2010 at 9:17 am

That’s funny. I thought that the division of labour was a central tenet of your free-market religion. Did you miss the sermon on the pin factory?

Gosman December 21, 2010 at 9:46 am

The division of labour is a keen tenet of economics full stop. Even hard core Socialists believe in it’s benefits.

Richard C1 December 20, 2010 at 9:57 pm

I often see “growth” mentioned in these online arguments, but I never know whether people are talking about the same things. So Gosman would you mind defining exactly what you mean by growth?

Gosman December 21, 2010 at 10:05 am

Growth is just a representation of getting increased value from the same, or less inputs. There are some complicating factors but that is basically the guts of it.

Richard C1 December 21, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Well, damn, Gosman. You’re a Green!
In my experience the common definitions are, growth normally refers to economic growth, which in turn normally refers to increased GDP, and GDP refers to absolute expenditure, not relative.

Tom Bennion December 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm

“Interesting that many of the people here go on about the evil’s of the free market and the tyranny of growth yet I have yet to see a serious political movement arise which advocates the type of policies that video was pushing for. Why is that?”

If I take your question to mean that there is no serious political movement questioning our current economic system and how we talk about growth, I think you are quite wrong. A powerful political movement is well under way questioning how we measure growth and the sustainability of our current modes of living and making wealth.

Many examples locally and internationally can be cited. Efforts by 350.org and the transition towns movements spring to mind. Others can no doubt suggest more. I am fascinated how the ‘energy descent’ approach of movements like transition towns is finding its way into local body politics – in Dunedin and Christchurch for example in terms of their forward planning.

I find it most significant that the Green Party in NZ has a policy of no new coal taken out of the ground. That represents the view of somewhere between 5-10% of the NZ electorate.

My guess is that if a poll were taken today asking whether lignite should be mined, it would come out with a large negative result. Even if it came out 50/50, or 70/30, that would still represent significant numbers questioning the hydrocarbon industry that is I think our third or fourth largest export industry.

So the political movement you talk about is here. It is global.

Is there some glossing over of the hard and urgent steps that ought to be made immediately to avoid run-away climate change (such as, for example, an immediate end to fossil fuel subsidies, and a high and rising carbon tax or similar measure to heavily discourage fossil fuel use?). Yes. But that will also come. Hopefully in time.

Gosman December 20, 2010 at 3:24 pm

The Green Party in NZ doen’t believe in a no growth economy though. Sure they couch their policies in phrases such as ecological sound and sustainable development but essentially they are syill advocating the same grwoth paradigm as the two main political parties.

I don’t know of any serious political partyin the Western world, (i.e. one which has a good chance of influencing public policy making in the immediate future), that does support the no growth ideal.

nommopilot December 20, 2010 at 10:45 pm

the green party have openly discussed the idea of steady state economics and recently hosted David Suzuki at a national symposium (videoconferenced around the country) on that very topic. what you know is hardly a reasonable gauge for what is actual.

Gosman December 21, 2010 at 8:30 am

I think the key gthere is that they have discussed it but not adopted it as official policy. Yet if we are to believe the message in that simplistic video it is a simple no brainer.

Carol Cowan December 21, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Give it time, Gosman.

Steve Wrathall December 20, 2010 at 4:14 pm

“I seems that we are now dangerously close to the tipping point of the world’s climate system.”

John D December 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm

You guys want to slow growth?

The NZ economy is already stagnant. We are borrowing $250 million a week to prop up all the useless apparatchiks in Wellington.

And you want it to get worse?

Steve Wrathall December 20, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Make that $300 M p.w.

Carol Cowan December 21, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Obviously we are living beyond our means. When this happens in a household one either cuts spending or increases income. If governments operated their budgets more as sensible households do, we might be better off.

How can we expect our national economy to grow if we spend more than we are earning – on imports, for instance? According to figures from the last census, our income from dairy products is almost the same as our expenditure on oil imports.

And our borrowing is not just to “prop up all the useless apparatchiks” – how about the superannuation payments to people who already have an adequate stream of income?

Our economy is sick.

Tom Bennion December 20, 2010 at 6:29 pm


You changed the goalposts from “serious political movement” to “serious political party in the Western world, (i.e. one which has a good chance of influencing public policy making in the immediate future)” after I pointed out that maybe 5-10% of the NZ electorate support a ‘no new coal policy’ – with its obvious implications for GDP measured growth in NZ.

5-10% under our system can be enough to hold the balance of power.

I agree with you though that there is a kind of two-sided thinking on the issue. The Cancun document (ie 193 countries) talks about the need for a ‘paradigm shift’ and a change to sustainable consumption and lifestyles, but hopes to do that without any fall in growth, relying on technology:

“10. Realizes that addressing climate change requires a paradigm shift towards building a low-carbon society that offers substantial opportunities and ensures continued high growth and sustainable development, based on innovative technologies and more sustainable production and consumption and lifestyles, while ensuring a just transition of the workforce that creates decent work and quality jobs;”

I think that, given the urgency, we need to:
– drastically cut domestic car use
– stop flying
– roll out major insulation and solar water heating for domestic residences
– investigate large scale gasification plants using forest planting for off road fuels (ala Cudby)
– go 100% renewable electric generation asap

People would continue to lead ordinary, healthy, fulfilled lives but with around 1-2 tonne carbon footprints per person. I have friends taking some of these measures already achieving those numbers.

We can talk about new growth in the low carbon economy after the above urgent steps. I would be happy to achieve them with a modest increase in the national debt, because monetary debt will be the least of the worries of our grandchildren if we dont take these steps. So the fall in growth would happen, but need not be drastic. And perspective is useful. No one ever died from not using their car or not flying. We could start tomorrow.

Gosman December 21, 2010 at 8:33 am

I didn’t change the goal post. I simply clarrified what I meant.

To me a serious political movement is one that has a political party with a real chance of getting key policies adopted in the immediate future (i.e. 5 to 10 years).

I fail to see a Green political party with a chance of getting in to a position of power that advocates the sort of no growth policies that video suggests are the only solution.

Steve Wrathall December 20, 2010 at 8:58 pm

“No one ever died from not using their car or not flying.”
There is not one part of the last century’s massive rise in global life expectancy, wealth, education, leisure, and general human welfare that is not due to cheap, abundant, reliable energy. There are millions dying today because they lack basic sanitation, clean water and refrigeration. Your post is sickeningly callous.

Richard T December 20, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Climate change or not, it is hard to see how this supply of cheap energy will last. Hard also to see how the previous post was callous? I will ride my bike to work tomorrow, but it’s hardly likely to condemn millions to a miserable death. However, you may have a point. If enough motorists made the same decision, this would deprive oil companies of their profits and subsequently these same companies would not be to be able to finance their generous overseas-aid packages to the dying and poverty stricken.

nommopilot December 20, 2010 at 11:02 pm

yeah, you’re all heart Steve. the problem is we’re not consuming enough to save the starving children, right?

adelady December 21, 2010 at 10:18 am

Not -one- part of the rise in global life expectancy? Wrong .

The core reason for the massive rise in *global* life expectancy is vaccination against contagious diseases of early childhood.

Tom Bennion December 21, 2010 at 12:46 am


I entirely support the notion that we might wisely use fossil fuels for urgent health and other needs, particularly of poorer countries where renewables might not be immediately or easily available. Given the current levels of CO2, its a tricky balance though. The people of Pakistan or fire victims in Russia would be best to ask on that one. It would perhaps meet your concern to have an international agency allocate fossil fuels on the basis of need, while also taking account of environmental impacts, and perhaps having richer nations provide funds for mitigation of those.

The outcome would probably be much as I was suggesting, people in richer countries leaving their cars at home, with no loss of life in those countries resulting from that. In fact, there would probably a big fall in the annual road toll and our balance of payments would improve.

John D December 21, 2010 at 10:41 am

Will you be giving money to the UK now that they are suffering from the effects of climate change?

(-19degC temps recorded in parts of England, forecast to go as low as -27)

Obviously, Britain is a poor country ( 4 trillion pounds in debt) and the cold is caused by global warming, so I am sure you’d be happy to chip in eh?

Richard C1 December 21, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Honestly, what was the point of that? Are you just typing for the sake of it?

RW December 22, 2010 at 7:53 am

DNFTT. He’s a multi-maundering moron.

John D December 22, 2010 at 9:10 am

RW, My English teacher told me to Always Avoid Alliteration.

As for “why did I write it?”. Well that is an interesting philosophical question considering your void response.

The cold in Europe is caused by Global Warming (according to Moonbat – see twitter link on this page), so worthy of discussion I would have thought.

The Red Cross are handing out blankets to stranded passengers, so is it a crisis?

Richard C1 December 22, 2010 at 8:32 pm

A void response to a vacuous question: seeks like a fair trade to me.

As for Monbiot.
“Will this become the pattern? It’s not yet clear.”

Richard C1 December 22, 2010 at 8:52 pm
bill December 22, 2010 at 2:51 pm

He’s typing it because the staff haven’t properly hidden the keyboard again! 😉

Sharron Clemons December 22, 2010 at 9:42 am

The division of labour is a keen tenet of economics full stop. Even hard core Socialists believe in it’s benefits.

bill December 22, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Have we noticed that this post from a name that’s not regular (with an embedded url that just don’t work!) and Gosman’s above are identical? No quotation, no further elaboration, no comment… just odd…

Marisol Perry December 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Well, damn, Gosman. You’re a Green! In my experience the common definitions are, growth normally refers to economic growth, which in turn normally refers to increased GDP, and GDP refers to absolute expenditure, not relative.

Byron Smith December 23, 2010 at 8:17 am

The Australian Greens embrace an economic policy that moves away from a focus on GDP growth. They have already achieved balance of power in the federal Senate and a semi-coalition (a formal agreement for stability) with the minority government in the lower house.

Byron Smith December 23, 2010 at 8:18 am

The Australian Greens are also rapidly increasing their vote share over the last few elections and are now a clear 3rd party in Oz politics, with senators from every state and their second lower house seat (very difficult for minor parties to get lower house seats given our voting system).

bill December 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

Indeed they are; a Newspoll from earlier this week shows voters deserting Labor (it’s officially spelled like that – so no one confuses them with a Labour Party, I guess!…) in favour of the Greens and independents. Federally the Greens are consistently polling above their already record vote at the August election.

I personally know one Green member of the upper house here in SA and one newly-elected federal Senator, and two smarter, more-dedicated people you will never meet; absolutely nothing like the cartoon versions our ‘skeptics’ may have in mind…

John D December 22, 2010 at 9:13 am

Moonbat says the cold in Europe is caused by global warming, so it must be true.

bill December 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm

..and he makes a reasonable case. In the absence of a control Earth we can never be 100% sure, and Monbiot certainly doesn’t claim to be. Kick the climate system at your peril!

The (impossible) attribution for this one weather event isn’t actually important, or, at any rate, as important as you and your ilk desperately hope you can convince people it is; what matters is that any philosophy that completely prevents one making necessary changes in the face of extremely deleterious consequences repeatedly outlined by the overwhelming majority of those in an actual position to know is a maladaptation, and the world is never kind to the maladapted.

I’ll ask again; what is the conservative position on conducting a radical experiment with the one atmosphere you possess?

Dappledwater December 22, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Moonbat says the cold in Europe

Check out what that heat displaced from the UK is doing to the Arctic sea ice:


Be interesting (given it’s very hot at the moment where I live – no snowstorms to worry about) to see what unfolds.

John D December 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Warm Winters Result From Greenhouse Effect, Columbia Scientists Find, Using NASA Model

A team of scientists from Columbia University has shown that warm winters in the northern hemisphere likely can be explained by the action of upper-atmosphere winds that are closely linked to global warming.


So there you go.

Warm winters = global warming.
Cold Winters = global warming.

bill December 22, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Wow, an article from 1999!

You might have a point if the entire globe was consistently dipping below the baseline average. You do acknowledge that the global average is still well above baseline?

Other than that this is just failing to grasp the point, deliberately or otherwise.

You do acknowledge the remarkably anomalous hot temperatures over the Arctic? What happens if somebody from, say, Baffin Island simply reverses your own arguments? As frequently happens, it’s hard not to feel one is battling the innumerate and alogical, here!

RW December 22, 2010 at 8:03 pm

It was his endless running of this stupid line of “thought” that led to my “either … or…” post – and he failed to understand that, or pretended not to.

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