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A Message to Trump from Climate Scientists

Posted on 3 February 2017 by CollinMaessen

Before the AGU meeting I read John Abraham's article 'Trump begins filling environmental posts with clowns' in which he made the following point:

Or Trump could attend the world’s largest geophysics meeting, which occurs in just a few weeks (American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting). He could walk around with a TV camera and a clipboard. Ask any random 10 scientists any question on climate change. Let’s see how their answers compare to the information he is going to get from his handpicked insiders.

Trump most likely would never do this. Nor can I possibly know what kind of questions he would ask if he did visit the AGU Fall Meeting. But I can ask scientists what their message to Trump would be if they had a chance to speak to him. That one paragraph from Abraham's article inspired me to do just that. During the Fall Meeting I asked several scientists what their message would be and compiled their responses into this video.

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Comments 1 to 23:

  1. What an excellent, insightful series of comments in the video.

    I would say to Trump think of future generations. Most people balance their own current needs, and think of the future, and the needs of others as well. Don't let it become too one sided. Thinking widely brings benefits back to individuals anyway.

    I would also say please appreciate that geoengineering solutions to climate change carry massive risk. I suspect Trump is taking his hardline position on climate change publicly, while secretly believing (or half believing) we are altering the climate, but assuming that geotechnical solutions will rescue humanity. As a business person he understandibly hedges risks and would think like this. But as we know geoengineering solutions are very high risk to the planet and are utterly impractical.

    I read a persuasive article in the media that suggested America is currently in the grip of a type of "coup" or hostile takeover as below.

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  2. I think that the caption and the commentary to this video is misleading. None of the scientist in it have "A Messsage to Trump". No one uses T-word, and only Kim Cobb refers to the "incoming administration".

    T-man receives disproportionate amount of attention in media (e.g. 80% of world news in my local newspaper), also ~50% weekly news in SkS contains T-word. This is the attention the man, the most narcissistic and the most moronic politician in livin memory if not in history, does not desrve. As psychologists suggests, the best dealings with such a childish narcissist is to simply ignore his ravings, do not provoke more. Note that his current ravings did not include climate science yet (other than his destruction of Obama's climate change webpage & rumours of his desire to destroy climate data from gov computers), we can expect more to come. Best strategy is to ignore and do not provoke, because any attempt to strike a civil conversation with a 12y old-like narcissist on a dificult and thoughtful topic will be futile. Common understanding between such a narcissist and a person at PhD level is just impossible. That's why a message such in this video shoul be directed to "current administration" (or othe politicians in denial of CS) insted. Also not easy talk, but at least the basic dialog is more realistic as those politicians do not live in "alternative reality". Their denial is limitted to climate science (and othe inconvenient science) only.

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  3. Chriskoz, You are probably right on all that.

    Trump has no idea what he's doing, terrible ideas, and makes GW Bush look like a genius. I can't believe I'm saying that.

    Trump is actually the worlds largest "troll" and has perfected the art. I hate tweets as it becomes such a shallow form of analysis. People should ideally ignore the attention seeker. But you know the media and many in the public can't resist responding to inflammatory people. 

    One week of this guy is more than enough. However after a few months even his own supporters may by crying enough is enough. 

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  4. I think these messages would have carried more weight if the interviewer had sought out some scientists that haven't already made the rounds (possibly too many times?) ie; Katharine Hayhoe or may have some past credinilty issues, ie; Peter Gleick.

    Please don't take this the wrong way. I just think we need some fresh, unlnown faces to deliver this important message. Wouldn't there have been a much larger group to choose from at the AGU Fall meeting?

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  5. jenna@4,

    Scientists are not jounalists/politicians and they usually do not practice public speaking skills. Those few who do, say they'd rather left it to others, better trained at it.

    People who produce those videos, like Collin, or greenman, will have limitted number of acquaintance, and those tend to be just public figures, like Katharine, Stephan or Richard. Are they going to ask randomly at a meeting like AGU, "anyone does no mind to record an interview for policymakers?" Akward. That's why they stick to those comfortable and who do not mind.

    If you want to have a feeling about the numbers/diversity of scientists behind the message in video, maybe wait for the scientist march on Washington event, eschduled on 22 April, coinciding with Earth Day.

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  6. I wish we could ignore Trump as we go about the task of preparing for an economy that recognizes the need to limit our emissions to the amount that can be sequestered.  However, because he has such power to be destructive, that is not an option.  The fossil fuel promoter is aggressively increasing our emissions and attempting to delete the knowledge that reveals the threat.  Putting enemies of the environment in charge of protecting the environment, can not be ignored.  The movement to substantively address climate change must multitask.  We still have to have that conversation with diehard non-believers, we need to have a conversation among those that do believe about how to measure the goals that would solve the problem, and we must defend politically actions that will take us in the wrong direction.  

    I am still looking for the widespread recognition, even among climate change believers that we absolutely must structure our economy to limit our emissions to that which can be sequestered.  To assess our own carbon footprint, we need to consider if it is in proportion to our equal share [(total net natural sequestration+human teck seqestration)/world population].  

    Even as we are defending the limited measures already achieved, we still must seek consideration in the public about the measure of what it takes to solve the problem.  

    The recognition that we must limit our human emissions to the amount that can be sequestered out of atmosphere (carbon cycle) is yet to be recognized by many climate change believers.  Because our carbon concentration in the atmosphere is already too high, we need a net sequestration economy where we emit less than can be sequestered.  This is the only way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.  Imagining how this can happen is a very important part of our work.  

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  7. ELIofVA @6

    I agree. I think we have two separate but related issues that are making climate change a challenge to deal with. First we have the science, then what we do to resolve the problem. This makes climate change a dimension more complex than debates about evolution, and closer to the bitter debates about tobacco.

    On the science we have two groups spreading doubt and attempting to undermine the science. Firstly we have groups with vested interests in fossil fuels, and secondly we have groups who dislike government regulation on philosophical or ideological grounds (which translates ultimately to emotive grounds). They have formed a sort of alliance. These groups clearly have Donald Trumps ear and he has unfortunately appointed many of these people to his administration. It's a hostile takeover and rejection of science, in favour of short term profit goals and populism in the worst sense of the word populist.

    We have to continue to counter these denialist arguments, obviously. However it's clear the majority of people in most countries do actually agree we climate change is a serious problem. You see this in various polls as below. 

    I also think eventually about 95% of people will accept we are altering the climate. It just takes time for new science to gain traction. For example the theory of evolution took some time to be accepted. However given climate change must be tackled right now, we have to do our best to counter the denialist campaigns and get more people on side.

    The other related but separate issue is how to resolve the climate problem, and the human psychology related to this. In some ways this is the greater challenge right now. We are basically asking people to make some financial sacrifices now to help future generations. This is a lot to expect, but it is the right thing to do ethically and even in a practical sense in ensuring humanity has a future and viable future economy. We should be conserving the environment to enhance the chances of future generations, not squandering the environment and handing them considerable challenges that we know won't have easy solutions.

    To better persuade people we need to better show that the costs of transition to fossil fuels are not as great as they fear, and that the denialists claims are not fact based. It is fear of the unknown and complexities of distant future events that is holding people back.

    It is hard to break such a long reliance on fossil fuels, and it plays on our subconscious minds I would say. Habits  are hard to break. I suspect many people are asking is transitioning to renewable energy the right thing to do? Should we leave coal in the ground? I think we should, but this is the question that needs profound leadership and answers.

    There is also a question of political leadership. Unfortunately politicians are funded in election campaigns by lobby groups, including oil companies, and it's reasonable to speculate this affects their preferred policies. So we have the bizarre situation in The USA, where the majority of the public do want more done on climate change, from various polls, but they are ignored completely by Congress (and now Trump as well). This is a tough issue to resolve, as it requires politiicans to be brave and do the right thing.

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  8. Statements about "the majority wanting more done on climate change" are not going to convince anyone.   What percentage of people understand the actual science down at the molecular level?  Very few.  Maybe a video which explains that - starting with IR radiation hitting CO2 molecules and what happens next at the various wavelengths, and the energies involved, etc, etc, etc would be of value.  

    I think Trump will go along with anything which he is convinced is real and true.  He loves his country - that is clear:

    He is not "anti-science" but he's not going to blindly believe "science" until he or his administrators can understand it - particularly if the "science" proposes radical hits to the economy.  He drives a hard bargain - his life has proven it.  Renewables provide ~5% of our energy.  To replace conventional forms is great, but it will be a radical, very expensive change.  How many of you drive fossil fuel cars? Use lights from FF energy? Heat with FFs?  If so, why?

    Friday a UN Climate Offical said AGW is a hoax designed to destroy capitalism.  Story is on, zerohedge, and others.  Today a NOAA scientist says there was a pause and scientists altered the data for political reasons to make it appear there was no pause. I saw that on Zerohedge.

    Stop whining and bashing Trump; and start PROVING BY SCIENCE to the common man that there is warming.  Do not stand up and whine and show no evidence for your case.   If you can PROVE YOUR CASE using science so it is understandable you will probably get better results.  Simplistic videos claiming CO2 absorbs IR heat from the earth, but not explaining why this happens at the molecular level will be met with justified skepticism.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The use of all caps is akin to shouting and is therefore prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy. In addition, your entire post verges on the brink of sloganeering which is also prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  9. Coal Miner @ 8

    "Simplistic videos claiming CO2 absorbs IR heat from the earth, but not explaining why this happens at the molecular level will be met with justified skepticism."

    Well a video at that level is quite a good idea.

    However just remember Americans have presumably been to school and learned about The Theory of Evolution in some detail, and basic genetics, at the level of cells at least. This doesn't stop plenty of people still being in denial about the theory of evolution.

    Some people are very hard to convince, because their thinking is strongly driven by ideology or belief, and others are just not good at science.

    In the end people need to be encouraged to trust science, not blindly of course, but right now there seems to be a bizarre distrust of science that lacks any real justification.

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  10. Coal Miner @8

    "Friday a UN Climate Offical said AGW is a hoax designed to destroy capitalism. Story is on, zerohedge, and others."

    She didn't say this. What she actually is reported to say is this: "This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”

    Thats all she said in the article!

    I just don't see the words destroy capitalism. Neither do I see this implied. Neither do I see any of her statement linked to climate change. Neither do I see her say climate change was made up, to destroy capitalism, or otherwise change the economic system!

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  11. Coal Miner @8:

    "Friday a UN Climate Offical said AGW is a hoax designed to destroy capitalism. Story is on, zerohedge, and others. Today a NOAA scientist says there was a pause and scientists altered the data for political reasons to make it appear there was no pause. I saw that on Zerohedge."

    In addition to being reported on Zerohedge, it was also reported on and a wide range of other fake news sites.  Unfortunately for, whose motto is "News.  Truth.  Unfiltered.", they partially give the game away by providing a link to their source - a source dated October 2nd, 2015.  So much for the "News" part of the motto.

    Indeed, not even YourNewsWire's source is reporting news, for Christiana Figueres (the official in question) actually said the quoted words on February 3rd, 2015.  Coal Miner's news is all of two years out of date.

    It gets worse.  What Figueres actually said was:

    "This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history.

    This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the industrial revolution. That will not happen overnight and it will not happen at a single conference on climate change, be it COP 15, 21, 40 - you choose the number. It just does not occur like that. It is a process, because of the depth of the transformation."

    This was said in relation to the Paris Agreement.  Astute readers will see no mention of "capitalism" or "hoax" in Figueres words.  The closest you get is the mention of "the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the industrial revolution", but the economic model reigning since the industrial revolution was not capitalism (which is a later development), but the model of industry powered by fossil fuels.  While some features of capitalism developed with the industrial revolution, the trade was not free, but based on deliberately restricted production in colonies to provide (exclusive) markets; while using those same colonies as cheap sources of raw materials.

    The sum of it is that the belated reports Figueres words by Investor's Business Daily "verballed" her.  More correctly, they quoted her out of context, which is a form of lying.  The constant repetitions since have not bothered to fact check the claim, nor correct the misrepresentation (including the repetition above by Coal Miner).  (In passing, I might note that that falsifies the other two claims in YourNewsWire's motto.)

    Finally, if Coal Miner cannot be bothered fact checking something so simple as a simple quotation in English, why would we imagine he will be bothered to fact check any detailed science he is presented with, or convinced by it? 

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  12. Coal Miner @8, Trump has convincingly demonstrated over a number of years that he believes what is convenient for him to believe.  He managed to believe against all evidence that there was reason to doubt the location of Barak Obama's birth (which is moon landing level conspiracy theorizing).  He manages to believe that he got more votes than Hilary Clinton, and that more people attended his inauguration that Barack Obama's first inauguration, both against clear evidence.  If he cannot be convinced on a simple numerical relationship such as "greater than", why on Earth would he be convinced against his political interests on a matter that requires quite complex maths to treat of fully.

    Indeed, I can safely say that nobody who so poorly fact checks his preferred information sources while demanding utmost rigour in fact checking something they don't want to be convinced of will ever be convinced by data.

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  13. Moderator, sorry I did not mean CAPS as yelling, I just wanted to add emphasis.  I'll refrain if I post again.  Not sure what you define as sloganeering.

    Noone commented on the NOAA Offical who said there was in fact a warming pause that was hidden by altering data in order to affect the Paris Agreement on climate change.

    As you'd expect, I do disagree with most of comments 9, 10, 11 and 12.  Although the UN Official did not use the word capitalism, it's not far fetched to think that was her intent as described in the investors article:

    We'll never know the story on O's b.c.; nor will we ever know if it was the HRC campaign in '08 or the Trump campaign that started it.  No authentic "original" b.c. was ever offered.  Doesn't matter.  It's history.  On evolution, it's a theory.  May have happened.  May not have happened.  Noone knows for certain; although many on both sides claim their side is correct; and there is evidence for both; and some of it comes down to what you "believe" - and that's OK too.  I don't know on evolution - and either way it's not a big deal to me - I relate better to science that involves physics, numbers, etc rather than biology, etc - I did not like biology.  :)  I'm still trying to figure out if AGW is manmade or not.  I'm skeptical but I am investigating it.  It's complicated.  I think my final decision could go either way.

    I see no problem with being skeptical of something you don't know for sure - particularly if may cause massive disruption.  In the mean time, I'd say go for it - do your part -  conserve, convert to renewables, stop driving and flying, grow your own food - nothing wrong with any of that.

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  14. 12 - Tom, you have to use the right data:

    He got more votes in the states that matter.  I think we can agree on that, right?  HRC agreed.

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  15. Coal Miner @13.

    This UN woman said basically we want to transform the economic development model. We have absolutely no information or idea what she really meant. This is why I didn't speculate. 

    Toms answer is just an intelligent guess and quite good but we can't be certain. She could also want to sensibly modify capitalism, or be talking about something else to do with the economic system, or she could want to make capitalism more capitalist. We just don't know.

    You really need to remember the old saying "innocent until proven guilty".

    You also need to stop seeing all  criticism of capitalism as an attempt to destroy it. You did say it was good to be a "a sceptic" right? I'm a big fan of private ownership of business, but some aspects of capitalism seem wrong to me, especially when fans of capitalism seem to think business can do what it likes, without regard to our safety or the environment.

    The theory of evolution is not just an idea, it is considered very strong science by virtually all scientists, just the same as is the theory of relativity or quantum "theory".

    Climate change is complex, but the key facts are the planet is warming since about 1970 in a certain type of way, with certain characteristics, that points at CO2, and not solar influences.

    I agree with your last paragraph.

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  16. nigelj @15, you are being too kind by far to those who misrepresent Figueres.  The false interpretation preferred by Coal Miner requires that Figueres be intending to destroy capitalism, and that she deliberately and knowingly employs fraudulent data inorder to create a climate scare to that end.  It requires all three elements underlined above to be true, but provides evidence for none of them.  Against that, the context of the quote, suggest not one of the three.  Further, her comments elsewhere (response to first question in interview) indicate that she accepts the science of climate change of the basis of the IPCC findings (which is not unusual given that she is a diplomat, not a scientist).  Her clear motivation is the risks from climate change as determined by the IPCC (video in the link to the original source of the quote), and she clearly envisions an ongoing role for the private sector (speech in Singapore).

    That is all in addition to the fact that accepting Coal Miner's interpretation requires you to be a conspiracy theorist.  

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  17. 16 - Tom

    You may be exactly right on your preferred interpretation.  Both articles I mentioned in #8, are only one more piece of evidence in the very long AGW thread of evidence (for both sides).  I'm still open minded on AGW - each of us has to decide what is correct and what isn't. 

    15 -nigelj

    I agree the climate has changed since at least ~ 1980.  Winters are a lot warmer in Alaska where I used to live back then.   May be AGW, may not be, I'm still trying to figure it out.   Don't want to rush massive government regulation and economic disruption if it isn't AGW.   If it is AGW then we will have to come up with some reasonable plan to change our energy systems.  In the mean time, PV panels are cheaper, and I heard a while back that the Israelis are successfully using solar hot water heaters.   If your local county government will approve, make the switch today.


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  18. Tom Curtis @15, Fair enough. I wasn't aware of her singapore speech. However it's interesting that we had roughly the same concerns overall.

    Just on capitalism, here is a good book on one possible future for capitalism: Post Capitalism, by Paul Mason. He doesn't seem to lean particularly left or right, and it's a thoughtful take on the issue. Coal Miner might also be interested.

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  19. Coal Miner @17, well you say you are still trying to figure out whether we are causing climate change. I have been through the same process, and looked carefully at both sides of the debate. I started as a believer, was briefly a sceptic, but back to a believer.

    While I basically lean a lot towards science, and trusting mainstream science, I never take anything for granted. I always read all sides of issues and the "devil is often in the detail".

    I have just found overall that the IPCC case for climate change is transparent and upfront, in the main, and the denialist claims are mostly based on highly misleading claims, taking things out of context, etc.

    But a couple of things convinced me we are altering the climate. The nature of the warming since 1980 is interesting. Google greenhouse signatures, or greenhouse fingerprints. For example nights are warming at a faster rate than days, (this has been extensively measured) and this is consistent with the greenhouse effect rather than solar activity.

    This article from this website discusses these fingerprints or signatures. It is an adavced discussion, but the page has a link to a more basic version if you want. It is well worth a read. It is the best thing you will read all week. Its great!  (Im starting to sound like Trump)

    I agree we need to be reasonably certain before major change of economic direction etc. However I think we do have enough certainty.

    I also look at it this way: We will run out of oil eventually anyway, and even if climate change was a fizzer the oil is there if we were to ever decide to use it again.

    The cost of renewable energy has also dropped dramatically making concerns about economic change somwhat academic. So if we change our system, and find we didn't really need to, then the worst result is not massively disruptive anyway.

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  20. Coal Miner,

    I find it interesting that you "Don't want to rush massive government regulation and economic disruption if it isn't AGW. If it is AGW then we will have to come up with some reasonable plan to change our energy systems."

    President Johnson asked the National Academy of Sciences in 1966 if AGW was important and the answer then was Yes it is!  How much longer do you propose we should sit on our hands?

    I notice that you do not care at all about the distruction to the economy by the various changes caused by AGW.  For example, in Florida alone, where I live, over 1 Trillion (thats with a T) dollars of real estate are at risk from sea level rise by the year 2100 data.  Even the low scenarios will flood Maimi by 2100.  If we continue on business as usual, as you suggest we should, that will be a lot of damage nationwide.  We currently see billions of dollars a year damage from extreme climate caused by AGW.  Farming will take a huge hit.

    If we were to put in a moderate carbon fee (and dividend to keep the money out of government hands), we could start to get AGW under control.  If it turned out that the economy was badly  affected we could reduce the fee.  If AGW was worse than we currenly hope we could increase the fee.

    I am constantly amazed by skeptics who are willing to risk trillions of dollars of almost certain future damage but are unwilling to take even a tiny step to limit that risk because it might affect the current economy.  The fact that British Columbia has put in a carbon fee and their economy has thrived makes no difference.  Germany has built out a lot of green energy and leads the world economically.

    The most recent assessment of sea level rise in the USA (linked above) suggests that with BAU, if it turns out bad, we will see severe damage in my lifetime.  We can only hope that does not come to pass.

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  21. Best bet if you don't get what you want from Trump is for ALL AGW believers to stop driving, turn down the winter T-stat to 60 max, don't fly, go to bed when it gets dark, install solar thermal and PV panels,  etc.  Show the world that you are serious.  Walk the talk.  Climate summits can be held online - no more flying around the world for those.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Sloganeering snipped.

  22. Michael Sweet @ 20,

    I think you make quite a good point that we have some costs now in mitigating climate change, but truly vast and ongoing costs in the future if we do nothing. It intrigues me why people can't see that, or don't want to see that. I will get to this below.

    In fact climate change denial fascinates me. I'm not going to get into my educational background because that doesn't prove anything I say is correct, but I did do psychology at university in addition to more technical and a few papers in earth science subjects, hence the interest in the climate denial issue, and why and how people react.

    In my view there are a variety of reasons for climate denial from people with vested interests, people with ideological concerns about the role of government, etc.

    We also have evidence the human brain does not normally prioritise more distant future issues. This is possibly why some people can't grasp the issue. This concern about the future does vary from person to person. This partly explains why some people don't compute what you are saying in your post. However we have to encourage people to think more about the future of humanity and impacts on people over extended time periods.

    And GW Bush may have got one thing right. He said "we are addicted to oil" and this probably has more psychological power than we realise. However I have decided to buy an electric car.

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  23. Coal Miner @ 21

    Yes, individuals should take many of the steps you suggest when we recognize that the build up of co2 in the atmosphere is the source of the warming.  It is sometimes hypocritical for AGW believers to take international flights.  Moderator, I thinks these are valid points.  As individuals, if we do that, it is largely symbolic when others AGW believers or not are greatly over emitting co2 that can be sequestered out.  I see this as an emergency that would justify for all the steps you have suggested for only AGW believers.  Using the figures from 2007 for annual carbon cycle, if we divide the net natural sequestration by world population, if each individual emitted 2.57 tons, that would match what nature can sequester, and we would stop adding co2 to the atmosphere.  This achieves net zero carbon emissions (all co2 in the carbon cycle).  I am personally striving for that standard as an ethical statement.  However, until this goal is recognized by popular culture, there is not chance of achieving it.  The steps you describe can not be limited to the extreme AGW believers.  When the limit of the carbon cycle is recognized, we can construct the support to help us all achieve the appropriate footprint.  It is the only way to avoid or reduce the disaster that our descendents will have to deal with.  

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