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Copenhagen Diagnosis Released, Detailing Accelerating Indicators of Climate Change In Last Three Years

by Jack Rosebro

A team of 26 climate scientists from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States have published the “Copenhagen Diagnosis”, an interim synthesis report on developments in climate change science from mid-2006 to the present day. The report points out that many key harbingers of climate change “are occurring at the high end or even beyond the expectations of only a few years ago."”

Although the report is not an official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) document, many of its authors have served as lead authors of IPCC Assessment Reports in the past, and most of them have authored or co-authored seminal papers on climate change.

The rationale [for the report] is two-fold,” the authors explain. “First, this report serves as an interim evaluation of the evolving science midway through an IPCC cycle: IPCC’s AR5 (Fifth Assessment Report) is not due for completion until 2013.” The most recent peer-reviewed papers evaluated by the authors of the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) were published in mid-2006. Work published after then will be evaluated by the IPCC during the AR5 authoring cycle, which is just getting underway.

Second, and most important, the report serves as a handbook of science updates that supplements the IPCC AR4 in time for Copenhagen in December 2009, and any national or international climate change policy negotiations that follow.” In this sense, the report models itself on the efforts of Working Group 1 in the IPCC’s Assessment Reports, presenting no new data on climate change, but instead gathering and synthesizing existing scientific literature, and noting trends that have been confirmed by multiple sources.

Recent and significant climate change findings cited in Copenhagen Diagnosis include:

Emissions. Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in 2008 were nearly 40% higher in 2008 than in 1990. This is roughly equal to the most severe emissions scenario yet considered by the IPCC, even though that scenario (A1, Fossil Intensive) was originally calculated as a reference baseline, absent any efforts towards emission reduction such as the Kyoto Protocol.

Concurrent with increased greenhouse gas (GHG) levels—now deemed higher than at any point in time in the last 800,000 years—the ability of natural oceanic and terrestrial carbon sinks to absorb CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere appears to be deteriorating, having likely decreased by at least 5% in the past half century, although inter-annual variability is large.

The degradation of natural carbon sinks amplifies the effects of climate change,

producing the same net effect on atmospheric concentrations of GHGs as increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Some specific carbon sinks, such as the Southern Ocean, appear to be slowing their carbon uptake much more rapidly than the global average, and some natural GHG sinks may be undergoing processes which will transform them into carbon emitters.

Following a decade of relative stability, for example, the atmospheric concentration of methane (CH4), a potent greenhouse gas, began to rise inexplicably in 2007. Although deteriorating permafrost has been observed in Russia, Sweden, and Tibet, the precise source of the increase has not yet been identified.

As permafrost melts and the depth of its active layer deepens, organic material begins to decay. If the surface is covered with water, methane-producing bacteria break down the organic matter. Such bacteria cannot, however, survive in the presence of oxygen; if thawed soils are exposed to air, carbon dioxide-producing bacteria participate in the decay process. Both events amplify the effects of warming temperatures by releasing greenhouse gases. The likely magnitude of such a positive feedback, which is considered to be a potential tipping element, is unknown.

Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, 1980-2010, as compared to baseline scenarios used by the IPCC to project business as usual emissions. Click to enlarge.

It is now estimated that if global emission rates could immediately be stabilized at present-day levels, just twenty more years of business-as-usual emissions would give a 25% probability of warming exceeding 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, even if society could achieve zero emissions after 2030.

To stabilize climate, a decarbonized global society-with near-zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases-would now have to be reached well within this century in any case. Many of the most up-to-date emissions reduction scenarios require a decline to zero carbon or carbon negative levels by 2050 to limit warming to no more than 2 ºC.

Surface temperatures. Recent global temperatures demonstrate human-induced warming: temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.19 °C per decade for the past quarter century, in close alignment with modeled predictions based on projected greenhouse gas increases. In addition to a warming limit of 2 ºC, many scientists consider an increase of 0.20 ºC per decade to be a “rate of warming” limit beyond which many ecosystems will experience a reduced ability to adapt.

Annual variability and averaged linear trend of global surface temperatures, 1980-2008. Source: NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science (GISS) Click to enlarge.

Although natural, short-term fluctuations are occurring as expected—for example, temperatures were higher in 1998, the record year for temperatures so far, than in 2008—“there is no indication in the data of a slowdown or pause in the human-caused climatic warming trend” that underlies annual or decadal variability.

For example, a La Niña climate pattern was active in 2008. Such a pattern can normally can be expected to reduce average global surface temperatures. At the same time, solar output was at its lowest level of the satellite era, which would normally be expected to create another temporary cooling influence. Absent any anthropogenic warming, these two factors would typically be expected to make 2008 temperatures among the coolest since record-keeping began. However, 2008 was the ninth warmest year on record. “This underpins the strong greenhouse warming that has occurred in the atmosphere over the past century,” write the authors.

Anthropogenic and solar variability influences on global temperature changes, 1980-2009, and (projected) 2009-2030. Click to enlarge.

Atmosphere. Worldwide air temperature, humidity and rainfall trend patterns now “exhibit a distinct fingerprint that cannot be explained by phenomena apart from increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations”. Atmospheric temperatures have maintained a strong warming trend since the 1970s (~0.6 °C), consistent with expectations of greenhouse induced warming. Each year of the present decade—2001 through 2008—has been among the top ten warmest years since instrumental records began.

“The 2007 IPCC Assessment... states clearly that without substantial global reductions of greenhouse gas emissions we can likely expect a world of increasing droughts, floods and species loss, of rising seas and displaced human populations. However, even since the 2007 IPCC Assessment the evidence for dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change has strengthened.”
—Met Office, UK, 24 November 2009

This week, the UK’s Met (Meteorological) Office projected that unless an exceptionally cold spell occurs within the next month, global 2009 temperatures will be higher than 2008, making 2009 one of the five warmest years since records began around 150 years ago. 2010 will bring with it the influence of El Niño ocean currents, and the Met office estimates a 50% chance that next year will see record average global temperatures.

Cryosphere. A wide array of satellite-based as well as direct ice measurements “demonstrate beyond doubt that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets are losing mass at an increasing rate.” Melting of glaciers and ice-caps in other parts of the world “has also accelerated since 1990”; and the contribution of the cryosphere—the portions of the Earth’s surface where water is frozen’to global sea-level has increased from 0.8 millimeters per year in the 1990s to 1.2 millimeters per year today. Many non-polar glaciers are critical sources of drinking water and hydropower.

Mean modeled Arctic sea-ice area, range of modeled Arctic sea-ice, and observed Arctic sea-ice area, in millions of square kilometers. Click to enlarge.

In particular, summer-time melting of Arctic sea-ice has accelerated in a manner that no climate model had predicted, with the area of sea-ice melt during 2007, 2008, and 2009 was about 40% greater than the average prediction from IPCC AR4 climate models.

Ice shelves, which connect continental ice sheets to the ocean, are also in flux, with the Antarctic Peninsula seeing 7 major collapses over the past 20 years. Shelf weakening has also been observed in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen seas, indicating a more widespread influence of atmospheric and oceanic warming than previously thought. The collapse of ice shelves often contributes to an accelerated destabilization of ice sheets to which the ice shelves were once attached.

Oceans. Upwards of 80% of the warming created by the emission of manmade greenhouse gases are now stored in the world’s oceans. Satellite data shows recent global average sea level rise (3.4 mm per year over the past 15 years) to be approximately 80% higher than past IPCC predictions. This acceleration is consistent with a doubling in contribution from melting of glaciers, ice caps, and the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets.

By 2100, global sea level is likely to rise at least twice as much as the Working Group 1 of the IPCC AR4 had projected just two years ago. If emissions continue to rise unabated, sea level rise may well exceed 1 meter, with an estimated upper limit of around 2 meters sea level rise, by 2100. The relative inertia of oceanic mass ensures that sea levels will continue to rise worldwide for centuries after global temperatures have been stabilized. Several meters of sea level rise must be expected over the next few centuries, regardless of any emissions reductions that may occur during that time.

Ocean acidification and de-oxygenation, both of which are amplified by warming, are also contributing to a decline in the ability of large swaths of the oceans to support marine life. The increase in heat content of the upper ocean between 1963 and 2003 is estimated to be approximately 50% higher than previously estimated, a calculation that is consistent with observed sea level rise during the same period of time.

Resilience. Recent studies suggest that the disruptive effects of climate change may be greater than anticipated at just 2 ºC of warming, and one aspect of climate change that has been particularly difficult to estimate is the ability of a given ecosystem to recover from, or adapt to, a given change in equilibrium.

More than a dozen vulnerable tipping elements in the climate system (e.g. continental ice-sheets, Amazon rainforest, West African monsoon, thermohaline ocean circulation cycle) could be pushed towards abrupt and/or irreversible change if warming continues along a business-as-usual trajectory throughout this century. Here, the authors invoke the precautionary principle: waiting for higher levels of scientific certainty could mean that “some tipping points will be crossed before they are recognized.”

At a press conference announcing the release of the report, co-author Richard Somerville of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California acknowledged the difficulty of reconciling scientifically documented trends with political goals and media chatter:

There’s an urgency to this that is not political or ideological, but scientific. There are, for example, no liberal or conservative theories of, for example, ocean circulation. There is simply a theory of ocean circulation... A Galileo comes along one every hundred years or so [to successfully challenge science], but most people who think they are Galileo are wrong.

—Richard Somerville


  • I. Allison, N. L. Bindoff, R.A. Bindoff, R.A. Bindschadler, P.M. Cox, N. de Noblet, M.H. England, J.E. Francis, N. Gruber, A.M. Haywood, D.J. Karoly, G. Kaser, C. Le Quéré, T.M. Lenton, M.E. Mann, B.I. McNeil, A.J. Pitman, S. Rahmstorf, E. Rignot, H.J. Schellnhuber, S.H. Schneider, S.C. Sherwood, R.C.J. Somerville, K.Steffen, E.J. Steig, M. Visbeck, and A.J. Weaver: The Copenhagen Diagnosis, 2009: Updating The World On The Latest Climate Science. 24 November 2009: The University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC), Sydney

  • Met Office: Climate Science Statement, 24 November 2009



Does this mean we have to sit through another skeptics presentation?
Should take all of one minute for them to figure an angle on this.


"The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment" — sent by Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Phil Jones, head of Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England, wrote that "If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the U.K., I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone." And there are the attempts to deceive. Jones wrote that "We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind."

Tom Wigley, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told colleagues that "If you think that (Yale Professor James) Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official (American Geophysical Union) channels to get him ousted."

Lord Monckton of Britain, a climate skeptic, has reacted bitterly, saying these researchers "are not merely bad scientists — they are crooks. And crooks who have perpetrated their crimes at the expense of British and U.S. taxpayers."


Um, those folks aren't listed as authors of this report.

Perhaps you are thinking of another document?


From: Phil Jones. To: Many. Nov 16, 1999
"I've just completed Mike's Nature [the science journal] trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

From Phil Jones To: Michael Mann (Pennsylvania State University). July 8, 2004
"I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"

From: Kevin Trenberth (US National Center for Atmospheric Research). To: Michael Mann. Oct 12, 2009
"The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't... Our observing system is inadequate"

From: Phil Jones. To: Many. March 11, 2003
“I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.”

From Phil Jones. To: Michael Mann. Date: May 29, 2008
"Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise."

From: Michael Mann. To: Phil Jones and Gabi Hegerl (University of Edinburgh). Date: Aug 10, 2004
"Phil and I are likely to have to respond to more crap criticisms from the idiots in the near future."


' "Phil and I are likely to have to respond to more crap criticisms from the idiots in the near future." '


Just for kicks, do you disagree with any of the assertions in the report that is the subject of the article? Do you have any data to back up your disagreements?


It's gotten to the point that it has become immoral to question the theory of global warming.

How naive to think that scientists are not politically influenced.

It's clear they are prostitutes just as the politicians.


Exactly the misdemeanours of a few don't affect the body of science.

I wonder if any of these skeptics felt the same about the invasion of a sovereign country namely Iraq on the pretense of weapons of mass destruction.When of course it wasn't in retaliation for 9/11.
This was a deception that directly led to the death of over 1M Iraqis and over 3,000 US personnel.
That is exactly the same no as killed at 9/11.

Did any of this lot complain then? I doubt it.

But a bunch of emails that really are more about personal differences and frustration at say models that dont follow the evidence (or visa versa) seem to be all the excuse this lot need to inflict this pontificating drone on the rest.
seems they arent as interested in the real science as the soapbox.
I guess we in for a lot more of it - yawn.

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fyi,Lord Monckton is the ex-politician who declared climate models a failure because (a.o.) they did not predict:

"nor the consequent surface “global warming” on Mars,
Jupiter, Neptune’s largest moon, and even distant Pluto; nor the eerily-continuing 2006 solar minimum;"

That is the level of ignorance you are dealing with.

If anyone deserves praise for giving skeptics a bad name, it is Lord Monckton.



Admit that after decades of making a lot of noise about the science, this is what the skeptics have:

The CO2 isn't rising, and if it is, it we are not doing it, and if we are, the temperatures will not rise, and if they will, only by some insignificant amount, and if it is significant, it will actually be beneficial. Anything goes if you're a skeptic.

Oh please, admit to the fact that the skeptics have massively failed to come up with anything even resembling a coherent hypothesis of their own.

Your muttering on about how immoral it is to question the science will not hide that fact. You're fooling yourself.


What I find interesting is thaat

1. No real analysis of the temperature decline is done or proven as to why such work is not needed.
2. Often anti GW guys are dismissed for nitpicking small timescales. Here we have a similar small timescale but no backlash; why?



What small timescale are you talking about?


Oh, sorry, forgot to answer question 1.

There is an entire page devoted to it: page 15.


What gets me is that when the temperatures were clearly on the rise the skeptics were saying 'it's the sun, its getting hotter' but now, in a year of minimum solar activety, their quoting "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment"

Even then the "lack of warming" has given us "Each year of the present decade—2001 through 2008—has been among the top ten warmest years since instrumental records began." Not exactly the 'global cooling' some of our skeptics are claiming.

Heck, 2008 was still the ninth warmest year on record and that year had an active La Niña climate pattern AND a solar output that was at its lowest level since the satellite era began; "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment" indeed.


Take your pick Anne

'last 3 years'
Aslo many of the grpahs are no longer than 30 years.

And contrary Page 15 does not answer anything quantatively.


Donough, I don't get the thrust of your argument.

What about the last 3 years? This report is a literature review so it's not surprising that climatic variability isn't discussed in numerical terms here but it is discussed extensively elsewhere. I'm not sure what you would like to see?

I also don't get what you mean by "Here we have a similar small timescale but no backlash". Are you saing 30 years is too small?


take your pick

Aslo many of the grpahs are no longer than 30 years.

'last 3 years' I can not find that quote or 'last three years' in the document.

Also I can not find any graphs that start after 1980.

If you want an answer, at least do the effort to make your question a bit more specific instead of sending me on a hunt of what you might mean.

One remark I can make. See for example this quote on page 25:
"Since then, new estimates of the contribution from glaciers and ice caps have been made using new data and by exploring new assessment methods."

The update is in large part based on new research, not a trend in few more years of data. You must carefully look at what is being said and meant, and not merely scan for a phrase like 'the last three years' or 'since 2006'. Much is based on better understanding of existing data.

If you want a quantitive assessment of why analysis of global temperatures over short time spans will return many false trends, Tamino did a nice article on this why 8 or 9 years is not statistically relevant given the noise in the global temperature signal.

What determines the validity of a trend is wheter it rises above the noise. Simplified: the larger the noise, the longer the time you need be able to find a meaningful trend.


For Arnold, regarding weapons of mass destruction and the war in Iraq:

"One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line." --President Bill Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998 "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." --President Bill Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998 "Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face." --Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998 "He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983." --Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998 "[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." Letter to President Clinton, signed by: -- Democratic Senators Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others, Oct. 9, 1998 "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process." -Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998 "Hussein has ... chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies." -- Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999 "There is no doubt that ... Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies." Letter to President Bush, Signed by: -- Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), and others, Dec 5, 2001 "We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and th! e means of delivering them." -- Sen. Carl Levin (D, MI), Sept. 19, 2002 "We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country." -- Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002 "Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power." -- Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002 "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." -- Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002 "The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..." -- Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002 "I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force -- if necessary -- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002 "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years ... We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction." -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002 "He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do" -- Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002 "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members ... It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." -- Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002 "We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction." -- Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002 "Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction ... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real..." -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003


Sorry ejj, you lost me on the Iraq war/climate change connection. But thanks for playing!


How telling that for you 'skeptic' and 'republican' seem to be synonymous.

Cool down.


Skeptics will never believe that we are going through a hot temperature cycle (at higher than normal speed) until their own house is under water. Even then, they will blame the sun, the stars and whatever come to their mind that day.

However, one may question why Earth has gone through numerous hot and cold cyles before mankind existed. We may have had 5 to 10 End of the World due to past extremely cold cycles. It is fair to presume that all the extreme cold cycles were preceded by hot cyles.

While the current hot cycle last 50 000 or 5 000 000 years or more? How much dammage will it do? How many species will adapt and survive?

Historically, it seems that hot cycles are not that long and not that destructive. However, the cold cycles on their foot steps are the most desastrous for all species. Mankind (and most species) cannot survive a short 1 000 000 year cold cycle.

Logically, if we want to push back the next cold cycle, we should do our best to slow the progression of the current hot cycle instead of accellerating it.

Are we smart enough to do something positive about it or are we going to follow the skeptics and let it happen and even contribute to accellerate the process? The choice is our to make.


Republicans just say no.


Kelly there is obviously no connection between global warming and 9/11...I was merely responding to Arnold's wondering "if any of these skeptics felt the same about the invasion of a sovereign country namely Iraq on the pretense of weapons of mass destruction. When of course it wasn't in retaliation for 9/11. This was a deception that directly led to the death of over 1M Iraqis and over 3,000 US personnel. That is exactly the same no as killed at 9/11." (Posted by: arnold November 25, 2009 at 09:37 PM). I think many global warming skeptics thought, at the time of the Iraq invasion, along the same lines as all of the politicians I mentioned in my previous post.

Stan Peterson

Are these some of the same phony masquerading as "Scientists" that were caught red handed in the CimateGate scandal. Admitting they destroyed any evidence countering their AGW "findings". And then creating new "evidence" pulled from their cloacal cavities, and bragging to their associates about how to do it?

Why yes they are.

Quelle Surprise!


The problem with conspiracy theories and the comfort of denial to avoid feel responsible to any degree, is that people like them. So you even 30 years from when the trend will be completely clear people like eji or stan peterson will claim that it is a conspiracy of california or whatever. You can't make a muslim believe in evolution theory and you can't make a republican have a fair look at AGW because it obliges them to put in question their profond belief. We have to accept it as a fact of life, and the world will keep warming because it is populated at 95% by idiots. HomoSapiens already deforested most of the earth, made disappear thousands of species,and will continue to do so, until there is nothing to destroy around. We are programed for short term survival not for long term worries. that's it....

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