Suzanna Jones: Sacrificing nature while claiming to save it

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Suzanna Jones, an off-the-grid farmer who lives in Walden. She was among those arrested protesting the Lowell wind project in 2011.

Climate activist Bill McKibben told an audience at Sterling College recently that “people all over the world are paying an enormous price for our energy use,” and that our exorbitant use of energy is the source of the climate change problem. But rather than urging us to drastically reduce that energy use – to make radical changes to our growth-at-any-cost economic system and give up some of the luxuries and convenience we have become accustomed to – he instead talked about the “sacrifices” needed to allow industrial-scale renewable energy to spread. Unfortunately, most of those sacrifices will be made by the natural world, not by us.

One of McKibben’s faulty assumptions is that industrial renewables meaningfully address climate change. Production tax credits, the sale of renewable energy credits, and the requirements of state renewable energy portfolios have made the buildout of industrial “renewables” very profitable for big corporations, even if the climate benefits are marginal or non-existent. In fact, utility law professor Kevin Jones of Vermont Law School calls this buildout a “shell game” that has actually led to an increase in Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions. The benefits of industrial renewables may be debatable but the costs are not, as many in northern Vermont know firsthand. Wildlife habitat destruction, bird and bat deaths, pollution of headwaters, filling of wetlands, community conflict and the desecration of our mountains are only a few of the consequences. Further impacts happen on the other side of the world, where the mining of rare earth metals – a key component in high-tech wind turbines – leaves another trail of destruction.

Meanwhile, fossil fuel extraction continues to increase, despite the massive buildout of industrial renewables.

Industrial renewables are business-as-usual disguised as concern for the planet.


McKibben blames the climate crisis on “big energy interests,” but he fails to mention that many of the energy corporations involved in fossil fuels are also behind industrial renewables. For example, Iberdrola, the Spanish-based multinational that pushed for a huge industrial wind development in Grafton and Windham, also operates coal-fired and nuclear power plants in Europe. Enbridge, a Canadian corporation heavily involved in tar sands oil as well as the pipeline at Standing Rock, is part owner of Green Mountain Power, which clear-cut and blasted several miles of ridgeline in the Lowell Mountains for its industrial wind project. These corporations don’t care about saving the planet. They care only about profit.

Industrial renewables are business-as-usual disguised as concern for the planet.

McKibben says we have to do “everything we can” to address climate change. But if we don’t make the necessary changes to our economic system and our lives, then we’re omitting the most effective things we can do. “Doing everything we can” encourages corporations to paint themselves “green” by claiming to save us from the climate crisis with no accountability, but lots of consequences. It’s delusional to believe we can continue our fully distracted way of life – shopping, driving, vacationing at water parks – while denying that we’re contributing to the destruction of the natural world.

We don’t need to do everything we can. We need to do what is effective.

Unfortunately, Mckibben’s “environmentalism” is no longer about protecting the land base from the ever-expanding empire of humans. It is about sustaining the comfort levels that Americans feel entitled to, without totally exhausting the resources required. It is entirely human-centered and hollow, and it serves corporate capitalism well. This version of environmentalism has been successfully mainstreamed, but at the cost of its soul.

Sacrifice is needed, but those sacrifices should no longer come from the natural world. They should come from us, from our materialistic way of life, from the bloated economy and those who profit from it.

The most responsible thing we can do is drastically reduce our energy use and shift towards a radically different economic system that isn’t based on exploitation and profit, but on healthy reciprocity with each other and the land base. Doing so would make it possible to meet our energy needs from small-scale, decentralized, locally controlled renewable energy projects that really do have minimal impact on the environment. I am not saying this is easy. But this is what is necessary.

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  • I hope this is permissable. My name is Jeff Green. At the moment I don’t really know how to change over in this system.

    Boy good luck in talking people into sacrificing. You can live sustainably and have the comforts of life. But it takes time to learn and study how to live carbon free, heat your homeswith heat pumps, heat pumps for hot water, battery cars, battery lawn mowers, battery lawn tools, all run by 100% renewable energy.

    • Matthew Davis

      While I agree to some degree, we should also consider that the technologies you refer to may not even be needed in many cases. It is possible to build structures that require little to no additional heating besides the sun and the individuals that reside within them. It is also possible to passively cool these same structures.

      DO we even need lawns to mow? We should consider thinking beyond the box we have forced ourselves into…

      • You won’t find me in one ounce of disagreement with you. Talk to people in the suburbs and take your time accepting their mindsets. Its a long road. I am for it and be patient while doing this.

        • bill_christian

          I am a broken record advocating for a revenue-neutral tax on carbon pollution. If coal and gasoline and the rest cost more, and continued to rise (reducing our other taxes by the exact same amount), we’d give up those stupid lawns, we’d car pool, get more exercise, eat less meat, etc, etc, etc, because it would make more sense. Two dollar gas is extremely cheap when you consider the “forever” damage caused by burning it. This tax would make us do smarter things.

          • I couldn’t agree with you more. I drive an electric car, pay for 100% wind on my utility bill, mow grass with battery lawnmower, battery powered outdoor tools of almost every kind I need. The only gas thing I use is a power washer. Just not enough power in an electric one. You guys are just great at what you practice and do. Ask my wife to do that? Man you just lost her, unless its far better than what she is used to. She does like my leaf blower. It actually rivals that of gas. She even asks for it. To win the big picture, we need to be superior to the old way of fossil fuels. It will win big time that way. I agree with carbon pricing. but try to push that on the general population and watch the blow back you will get.

          • Kathy Leonard

            Jeff Green, you own a leaf blower (and you say your wife likes it). That speaks volumes as to man’s fate. By the way, “the old way” was muscles, not motors and fossil fuels.

            Soon enough neither fossil fuels nor lead batteries and turbines will meet man’s insatiable demands, and belatedly we will learn what our dependence on industrial technology has cost us, as the species that dies with the most toys.

          • Battery life is looking for storage that best meets sustainability and our work needs. If you try to talk people into something they don’t want, you are going to get blowback on that. And you are going to get ignored. Batteries that can last for years and be recyclable is where we need to go. It reduces the need for live electricity that is powered moment by moment. Batteries are a big deal in reducing pollution which is making life harder on earth (pollution). Gasoline yard tools now produce more smog than cars in California. Batteries will step in to get the job done. When I am short of time, it is just great to have a tool that will reduce my labor time. That is what batteries are doing better at now and will continue to do so.

          • Kathy Leonard

            “When I am short of time, it is just great to have a tool that will reduce my labor time.” There it is: the poster child for how we got into this predicament.

            If you are not willing to walk the walk, then you have no credibility when you attempt to talk the talk here. Just as an aside, we don’t use any power tools in our garden – we use a broadfork, scythe, rake and shovel. We are pushing 70 and grow much of our food.

            Clearly you are new to understanding what mountains and forests and intact habitats are useful for in terms of responding to climate change, and haven’t seen that, perhaps, the earth isn’t here for you to spend as your convenience.

          • I will never say that what you are doing is bad and I will respect your way of thinking for yourself. I’m good with that. I live in a different group of people that are environmentalists and use gas blowers. I use a battery based leaf blower. I am happy with it, saves me time and effort and I enjoy having tools to do my work around the house and other homes. If you live in an urban area, cutting down on gasoline use reduces smog and ozone. We have free will and make choices. The battery life is a good one and I enjoy and is much cleaner than gasoline. I may choose your way of life sometime, but for now the answer is no.

  • Don Dalton

    Let’s look at whether there really is a problem with CO2, as we’re told. In the RCP 8.5 from IPCC AR5, the “business as usual scenario,” we’re heading for catastrophe. That’s what the models say, and climate catastrophe is predicted entirely by climate models: there is no other source for catastrophic predictions. So let’s look at observations versus predictions: This graph shows climate model predictions/observations in the tropical troposphere from the surface to about 16km. From 1979-2012, the models (squiggly lines) are telling us that the upper tropical troposphere should be warming 0.4 degrees C per decade– and that’s a lot. That’s catastrophic. Notice that from 1979-2012 CO2 concentrations have been increasing steadily (not shown, but you can look it up.) Now look at the balloon data (circles and squares.) This data, from millions of balloons, is telling us that the upper troposphere is warming only about 0.13 degrees C per decade, and what’s more, the upper troposphere is not warming significantly more than the surface, as the theory of CO2 warming requires. So the data is telling us that catastrophic warming is not happening; more significantly, the warming we now see is likely to be primarily natural, as the CO2 “signature” is missing. The entire article: An elaboration of observations versus models:

    • If you look at table 4 you can see the projection out to the year 2100. If you decide to educate yourself on the meaning of the terms in the table, the results of a society practicing the the RCP 8.5 is horrifying. 4.9*C which is 8.8*F. Sea level rise alone devastates the world in this scenario and that is just the beginning. Crop failures will become the norm since it will become difficult to even feed ourselves. This the future of a very unstable world society.

      Chris Christy is a fossil fuel backed scientist that has sold his soul. He has no shame unfortunately.

      Table 4: from Moss 2010. Median temperature anomaly over pre-industrial levels and SRES comparisons based on nearest temperature anomaly, from Rogelj 2012

      • Don Dalton

        John Christy has been investigated by Congress and found fossil-fuel-funding-free. I don’t know much about Chris Christy. Since John Christy’s graph assembles data from two satellites and four weather balloon datasets and this tells us that the models are wrong, then Christy must have sold his soul. Got it.

        • this guy is putting out climate misinformation intentionally. Here is a whole list of what he gets wrong.

          • Don Dalton

            The first thing on the list is wrong, as I’ve been trying to point out. The observational evidence is that the feedbacks from CO2 warming are neutral to negative. The models say they are positive. Who are you going to believe, the models or yer lyin’ eyes?
            If Christy really is putting out misinformation, then would you please point me to the real balloon and satellite data for the mid-troposphere? You do know that the RSS satellite data is from the alarmist camp, run by Carl Mears? And that Carl’s satellite data matches Christy’s closely? And that both of them match independent balloon data?

          • The observational evidence is that the feedbacks from CO2 warming are neutral to negative. The models say they are positive. Who are you going to believe, the models or yer lyin’ eyes?

            The pos feedbacks are numerous and neg feedbacks are few. It is the reason to get off of fossil fuels.


            1 Positive
            1.1 Carbon cycle feedbacks
            1.1.1 Arctic methane release
   Methane release from melting permafrost peat bogs
   Methane release from hydrates
            1.1.2 Abrupt increases in atmospheric methane
            1.1.3 Decomposition
            1.1.4 Peat decomposition
            1.1.5 Rainforest drying
            1.1.6 Forest fires
            1.1.7 Desertification
            1.1.8 Modelling results
   Implications for climate policy
            1.2 Cloud feedback
            1.3 Gas release
            1.4 Ice-albedo feedback
            1.5 Water vapor feedback
            2 Negative
            2.1 Carbon cycle
            2.1.1 Le Chatelier’s principle
            2.1.2 Chemical weathering
            2.1.3 Net Primary Productivity
            2.2 Lapse rate
            2.3 Blackbody radiation

    • Figure 16 goes to 8.5 watts per meter reflected back down to earth more than the 1850 type atmosphere. It is this difference per square meter in the sky that is warming the earth. We can measure that difference that difference today and it is about 1 watt per meter squared. Now go onto 2200 year and you see it rise to 12 watts per meter squared. this is a world society death wish at this point. Accelerated Sea level rise will not stop for 1000’s of years. It will be such a harsh world to live of our own making. Who are you going to scapegoat when you finally get it, that the scientists are telling the truth conservatively.

      Figure 16: Extension of the RCPs (radiative forcing and associated CO2 emissions) from van Vuuren 2011. (ECP is Extended Concentration Pathway). The SCP6to4.5 (supplementary concentration pathway) shows an alternative extension for RCP6…(Meinshausen et al. 2011b).

      Figure 16 shows the CO2 emissions and radiative forcing trajectories for each of the four extensions of the RCPs (ECPs). As explained in the method sections, these have not been based on integrated assessment modeling, but on simple extension rules consistent with the rationale of each of the RCPs to which they connect. This has resulted in a set of extended concentration pathways to be used for climate model runs.

      • Don Dalton

        Jeff, I’m not arguing about what the RCP 8.5 says; I’m arguing that since the model projections for 1979-2012 were way off, then we should change the projections to fit the data. Why do we believe the model projections when they are proved to be wrong?

        • I’m assuming you are reading fossil fuel propaganda. Science is honest and propaganda lies. Simple. Scientists don’t mess around with lying to each other or the public. Any scientist caught doing so gets a black eye in their reputation. The fossil fuel propagandists lie for a living.

          We analyse global temperature and sea-level data for the past few decades and compare them to projections published in the third and fourth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The results show that global temperature continues to increase in good agreement with the best estimates of the IPCC, especially if we account for the effects of short-term variability due to the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, volcanic activity and solar variability. The rate of sea-level rise of the past few decades, on the other hand, is greater than projected by the IPCC models. This suggests that IPCC sea-level projections for the future may also be biased low.

          • Don Dalton

            Your link involves surface temperatures; the theory of CO2 warming depends on the mid-troposphere running warmer than the surface by a significant amount: this is the “hot spot” the theory predicts. They are having a very hard time finding this confirmation of the theory. The balloon and satellite data aren’t even close.
            I think the Climategate emails lay bare how manipulative climate scientists have been– yet we give them a pass. It’s as if we want to believe in catastrophic warming, despite any evidence to the contrary. I have been trying to point out how dismayed real scientists are at the duplicity that has been going on; I’ll link again:
            Regarding sea level– look at the NOAA website for yourself. Where do you see acceleration in the past few decades? I see an awful lot of consistent rise that began before CO2 increases.


            Sherwood & Nishant (2015) is the latest scientific paper published in recent years to resolve this issue. By employing an improved analysis method to remove inherent biases in the data, these researchers have once again confirmed the existence of the tropical tropospheric hotspot.

          • Don Dalton

            Sherwood used wind speed to derive temperature. OK, great. But why does he do that? We already have temperature observations from two satellites and four balloon datasets, so why derive temp from wind speed, which is an roundabout way that would introduce potential errors and uncertainties? Unless of course he’s looking for theory confirmation. And even if Sherwood is correct, why would we take his derivative data as authoritative and put it above the best data we have from direct observations that say no tropical hot spot?

          • The green house gas theory does not depend on there being a hotspot. If no hotspot is found, the earth is still warming due to green house gases.

            Hotspot or not, I’m saying there is one. If not, what does that say for man made global warming. Ice and snow cover is moving northward and decreasing. Artic ocean ice cover is decreasing per decade.

            These are all indicators of a warming world and it is warming from our emissions of ghg’s. Otherwise, what is causing the warming.

          • We already have temperature observations from two satellites and four balloon datasets, so why derive temp from wind speed, which is an roundabout way that would introduce potential errors and uncertainties?

            The satellites aren’t that good either. If you read the article, the scientists are using the weather balloon data to make their observations.


            So how does one go about measuring the temperature of the atmosphere? Although modern satellite-based instruments such as infra-red, microwave sounding, and GPS radio occultation are capable of measuring temperature and moisture in the upper atmosphere, they are not without their own issues. For instance, the microwave sounding units, the same ones that have been used to build a time series of atmospheric temperatures by the University of Alabama (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) research teams, offer only coarse resolution because they ‘peer down’ through the atmosphere. This results in the signal received at the satellite being contaminated by both the Earth’s surface and the stratosphere (Fu et al [2004]), the layer above the troposphere.

          • Don Dalton

            When data from two satellites accords well with data from millions of weather balloons, I’d say we have good data. Don’t you think they’ve already adjusted for signal interference in satellites, and also made appropriate adjustments to balloons? This work is done by professionals. So how does Sherwood come along with his own adjustments to balloon data that’s supposed to be the real data?

          • All data sets show warming over 30 or more years. We would have to open the paper up and take a look at it. THe paper is 10 years old now and is highly likely a very solid peice of information.

        • Below is just a summary. If you wish, we can go into more detail of models vs observations.

          All in all, the IPCC models do an impressive job accurately representing and projecting changes in the global climate, contrary to contrarian claims. In fact, the IPCC global surface warming projections have performed much better than predictions made by climate contrarians.

          • Don Dalton

            Jeff, I know what the Guardian says. For one thing the Guardian is focusing on surface warming; Christy is focusing on mid-troposphere, which, as you know, is more important for the theory of CO2 induced warming. Do you really think the Guardian has done its homework? I think not.

          • JohnGreenberg

            Don Dalton:
            “Do you really think the Guardian has done its homework? I think not.”

            What’s your evidence for that claim?

          • Don Dalton

            I’ve been explaining how observations for the mid-troposphere aren’t even close to model projections. If the Guardian had done its homework, they’d know this. More likely, they ignore it because that’s not “on message.”

          • JohnGreenberg

            Don Dalton:

            First, you assume that a theory based literally on tens of thousands of incredibly varied observations would be invalidated if one data point cannot be reconciled. In a previous comment, I addressed why models get discarded.

            You further assume that Guardian hasn’t written about the issue. But that’s false. Here’s an
            article from 2015 which I obtained by typing “troposphere” into the Guardian’s search engine. There are many others.

            Finally, you conclude that if the Guardian failed to write about this point, the only possible reason would be that it’s “not “onmessage.””

            Since by all appearances you attend only to what’s “on message” for you and other anti-AGW bloggers while ignoring literally thousands of peer-reviewed studies supporting AGW, perhaps your conclusion seems natural to you. But that doesn’t make it right.

  • bill_christian

    The key point of this article is false. The benefits of “industrial renewables” are NOT debatable. United States coal production has fallen 20% in the last two years and six of the biggest coal mining corporations are in bankruptcy, which is a good thing. The environmental damage done by coal completely and utterly dwarfs the damage done by wind power. The premise that wind farms do not reduce our coal and gas consumption is utterly ludicrous, but this is repeated and repeated and repeated. But it is not true no matter how many times it is said. But unfortunately, each time it is said, one more person is convinced by this foolish “power plants need to run anyway” thing. Please believe this next thing because it is TRUE: every power plant has a “gas pedal” to increase or decrease the fuel burning rate to very precisely match the electric output wanted. When enough of the power plants are running at a low enough output, they turn one off. And then another. They are really good at this. They have always done this. Please believe this and stop saying “they have to run anyway, they have to run anyway” because you will not be truthful. If a person says something untrue, but thinks that it is true, we should not say they are lying. But the effect is the same. Do not say something that is not true because it makes our community dumber, and then we’ll do dumb things like continue to burn up all our coal, oil, and natural gas.

  • bill_christian

    I agree that all of us must drastically reduce our energy use by radically changing our way of life. I admire the commitment of the very few people who have chosen to live off the grid. But I don’t see how we can all live off the grid and save the world. For one thing, many of the people living off the grid have crappy little inefficient propane generators, even though a big modern natural gas power plant (which I despise, don’t get me wrong) could provide that electricity with one third the gas. And if you are off the grid, you can’t send your excess solar electricity to your shady neighbor or the pizza place on a sunny day. Don’t forget that young people in Brooklyn, in apartments with their bikes and subways, burn LESS fossil fuel than us Vermonters who drive everywhere and live in stand-alone homes. So if we can put up wind farms and solar farms, we are offsetting some of our OWN waste. We are a society and must all play our part, all do what we can, to make it work.

    • Jim Manahan

      We should all abandon Vermont and move to Brooklyn, in an apartment with our bikes and ride the subway.

      • bill_christian

        Did I say that? I want to continue living in Vermont, and I want to do right for our children. There isn’t much that can provide for their future better than by building a clean safe majestic wind farm in a good spot and putting up with the view.

    • John Zuppa

      You are kidding us, right?…

      The carbon pollution of one traffic jam from Brooklyn to Manhattan is enormous…not to mention heating and lighting ALL the buildings on ONE block in Brooklyn…please…stop kidding…

      The entire carbon footprint of Vermont is so small…that you would need a bonafide Abanaki tracker to find it…

      Tell them to remember that WE are the problem….WE being the (to paraphrase an economic saying… “It’s POPULATION, stupid..!!”

      • bill_christian

        John, it takes WAY more heat to heat 100 stand-alone homes in Vermont than to heat 100 units in a few apartments in Brooklyn. The average New York City dweller uses less energy than the average Vermonter. That is a fact, even though it surprises people. It is true. I live in Vermont and I love it but I know it is wasteful. That’s one reason I support wind power which can offset some of our waste.

        • John Zuppa

          OK…I understand when the discussion is hopeless…

  • I don’t know where to begin to untangle the Gordian Knot of faux logic that this essay espouses. I can only shudder and mourn for future generations.

  • George Plumb

    Right on Suzanna! About 50% of our green house gas emissions come simply from our lifestyle choices. These include choices like driving unnecessarily large vehicles like pick up trucks, driving long distances for recreation, going on jet plane trips and cruises, mowing huge lawns, and eating primarily a meat based diet. Even environmental leaders in addition to Bill McKibben never say a word about reducing our consumption. I wrote a commentary on this in the February 19th issue of vtdigger but unlike earlier times, despite spending several minutes trying, I could not find the link.

    You apparently walk the talk and thank you for writing such a thoughtful editorial.

  • Bruce S. Post

    Thank you, Suzanna, for a prophetic commentary.

    If the good students at Sterling College want a truly exceptional role model, someone who had a passion for protecting Vermont’s mountains, they should walk across the street from their library to the Craftsbury Common Cemetery, go in about five rows and turn left and walk toward the fence line. Toward the head of that row, they will find the headstone of Shirley Strong. It reads: “Lover of Mountains and their Trails.”

    Shirley was a dominant force in Vermont’s environmental community in the 1960s and 70s. Her passion was protecting Vermont’s mountains. She once said, “If you’ve got the ecological, scientific reason for protecting the mountains and you have a resource up there that’s worth protecting, and it’s the backbone of Vermont, you’re gonna do something about it.”

    Shirley may be gone, but her spirit is still alive, at least among people such as you.

    • George Plumb

      Yes, Shirley was an amazing woman. I worked closely with here when she was the President of the Green Mountain Club and led an effort to protect our mountains. She would roll over in her grave if she knew what we are doing to some of our mountains with wind towers.

    • bill_christian

      Did Shirley use electricity and did she ride in automobiles?

  • George Plumb

    It is hard to understand the human caused climate change deniers. The world has warmed twice, by as much as 4-6 degrees, in last 60 million years, as a consequence of natural cycles but these occurred over thousands of years. Today, we are talking about a possible increase of 4-6 degree over the next 100 years. It’s that rate of change that is testing when it comes to adaptation for all species, humans as well.

    • Don Dalton

      We can see back maybe 50 years with our advanced technology. We can’t tell how rapidly the climate warmed in the medieval warm period, the Roman warm period, or the Minoan warm period. We know from historical records that Europe cooled rapidly in the transition from the medieval warm period to the Little Ice Age.

      Observations are telling us that the world isn’t warming nearly as much as the models predict. There is no evidence today that tells us we’re in any king of catastrophe from warming. Sea level rise isn’t accelerating. The temperature of the upper troposphere isn’t warming according to model predictions. Pacific islands aren’t vanishing. The problems in Bangladesh– that overpopulated and overfished area of the world’s largest delta composed of sands and silts– are current and real; future catastrophe is speculation that the observational record doesn’t back up. Coral reefs are dying primarily because of pollution and overfishing, and coral bleaching can occur with any number of stresses, and then recover as corals change symbionts.

      CO2 might raise temperature one degree C by itself; this is established science. The “deniers” and the observational evidence tell us that we have the feedbacks to that one degree of warming wrong: the feedbacks are neutral to negative. That is what the observational evidence tells us.

      • Matthew Davis

        This is a very contradictory statement: “We can see back maybe 50 years with our advanced technology. We can’t
        tell how rapidly the climate warmed in the medieval warm period, the
        Roman warm period, or the Minoan warm period. We know from historical
        records that Europe cooled rapidly in the transition from the medieval
        warm period to the Little Ice Age.”

        Care to explain how you know so much about the “Little Ice Age” when “We can see back maybe 50 years with our advanced technology.”?

        • Don Dalton

          It was a broad statement; we have historical records for some things that tell us of rapid climate changes (warm weather suddenly followed by cold and wet weather in the space of a decade, for example) but our temperature resolution for much of the past is measured in hundreds of years, not decades or years.

          • JohnGreenberg

            Don Dalton:

            Please provide evidence for your claim that “our temperature resolution for much of the past is measured in hundreds of years, not decades or years” and reconcile it with this statement from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory on ice core dating: “Temporal uncertainty of the EPICA 800,000-year series increases with
            core depth, but estimates indicate that it is usually less than 5% of
            the true age and is frequently much less than that.”

            ORNL’s measure would put uncertainty at 50 years or fewer per 1000 years. For times more recent that 1000 years ago, the uncertainty period would be considerably smaller.

            Ice cores are just one method; there are others.

          • Don Dalton

            You did notice that these are CO2, and not temp? I was talking about the temperature. Are you claiming that we can measure global temperature changes of a degree per decade for 500,000 years ago? Are our proxies that accurate?
            My point is that we can’t easily measure temperature changes from the past 1000’s of years to the degree of accuracy that we can for the last century. We assume that our changes are “unnatural,” but as I’ve pointed out before, we’re had “unprecedented” warming of the arctic in 1817 and 1922. We also could have had unprecedented, but unnoticed, warming in the past.

          • Matthew Davis

            You speak of minor regional variations in climate which do not directly compare to global variations. It’s like saying that we had a cold winter here in VT three years ago and then two warm winters since. Therefore climate change is natural…

            Global climate variations are the point…not what happened in the arctic in 1817 and 1922.

            Yes our proxies for past climate are quite accurate…

          • Don Dalton

            John and Matthew, there is very little debate about what temperatures were 10 years ago, or if there is, it’s expressed in hundredths of a degree. By contrast, there’s huge debate over temperatures of the medieval warm period, for example. The 1st IPCC report showed medieval temperatures much higher than today’s; the third report showed them much lower, while at the same time as that report there were contemporary studies showing much higher medieval temps. Today you’ll find published studies that show warmer medieval temps and studies that find cooler. The point is that we assume today’s warming is unnatural (without knowing for sure) and is therefore CO2 induced; as I’ve tried to point out, the data we have of CO2 feedbacks contradicts model predictions of what CO2 should be doing. Therefore, the models are most likely wrong. See

            We are mistaking our models for reality. We should be listening to data first. I’m not arguing against an influence of CO2; I’m arguing that the alarmist scenario, one constructed entirely of models, is flawed, and we know this because the models don’t match the best data we have from satellites and balloons. Are you arguing that our data is flawed and that the models are correct? Are you arguing that Christy is paid off by oil companies and is lying? But Christy’s satellite data matches the RSS data from the alarmist camp, and both satellite data match balloons. How do you explain that?

          • JohnGreenberg

            Don Dalton:

            “Today you’ll find published studies that show warmer medieval temps and studies that find cooler.”

            You appear to believe that’s a problem, but it isn’t. It’s exactly how scientific research works.Research teams – often independently of one another – study a given problem, often employing slightly
            (or very) different methodologies. There is absolutely no reason to expect their results to be identical. They rarely are. Indeed, if they were, all that would be shown is that the money and time were invested uselessly: we don’t need a new study of what we already know with certainty.

            “The point is that we assume today’s warming is unnatural (without knowing for sure) and is therefore CO2 induced ….” Not so. There is no
            such assumption. Why WOULD there be? What really happened is that none of the natural causes examined could account for warming, so scientists looked elsewhere and discovered that greenhouse gas emissions could explain what “natural” causes

          • Don Dalton

            The model projections– nearly all of them– are not reflecting actual mid-tropospheric temperatures, not even close, and so far this very important fact is being ignored. You may want to do more reading to figure out why the tropical troposphere is so important. Notice figures 9.1c and 9.1f, and compare them with what I linked to before: Granted you have to look at these and take some time to understand. We all believe that the model projections of catastrophe are real, but they are not. If you insist on believing in catastrophic warming because the climate scientists tell us so, based entirely on proved inaccurate models, then go ahead.


          • JohnGreenberg

            Don Dalton:

            “We all believe that the model projections of catastrophe are real….”

            I don’t. Model projections are theoretical guesses about the future.

            In many scientific fields, predictions take the form: if you expose x number of people to y, then c will happen to z percent of them. Individual exceptions do not disprove such models. They anticipate exceptions; that’s why they’re probabilistic.

            Climate modeling requires massive variables from all kinds of sources, as well as numerous assumptions about what will happen over time. Predictions compare “business as usual” to specified changes. But “business as usual” is
            itself not predictable; major changes, even less so.

            Policy makers always work with incomplete information, aiming to achieve the greatest benefits with the fewest risks, based on limited knowledge.

            Cherry-picking (or making up) problems to disprove the best models available lends itself to inertia and unwillingness to change, which is why vested interests have spent so heavily to foment

          • Don Dalton

            John, how do you call observational evidence from two satellites and four balloon datasets, all of which accord well with each other, “cherry picking?”

            The entire point I’ve been trying to make is that the model predictions are wrong for the mid-troposphere, which in terms of CO2 feedbacks is the most important region. Yet all of our alarmist scenarios are based 100% on those very same models. This ensemble of models is called CMIP-5, used by the IPCC and other official sources. And they’re wrong for the mid-troposphere– not even close.

          • JohnGreenberg

            Don Dalton:

            How do you call observational evidence from two satellites and four balloon datasets, all of which accord well with each other, “cherry picking?”

            I do so because of what you ignore: thousands of years of data from other sources, probably millions of observations from multiple sources on land and sea, and a whole lot of predictions that HAVE proven correct over time.

            When a fact or set of facts appears to disagree with a well-formed existing theoretical model, theorists abandon the model only when they have one which accounts for all of the facts explained by the existing model AND this new one. Otherwise, they’d be abandoning a whole body of reliable knowledge because of one puzzle piece which so far doesn’t SEEM to fit.

            Instead, they do exactly what they did here. First, check the discordant data to make sure that it’s not the source of the problem. Then, look for confounding factors.

            When you have a theory which explains MORE than the AGW hypothesis, I’m sure you’ll tell us.

          • JohnGreenberg

            Don Dalton:
            “the data we have of CO2 feedbacks contradicts model predictions of what CO2 should be doing. Therefore, the models are most likely wrong.”

            Taking your factual premise at face value, what really happens when data contradict a model?

            If the model is new, untested, and explains little other data, it will get discarded as useless.

            But that’s not the case here at all. The AGW model grew in acceptance precisely because it DOES account for more and more data from widely
            disparate sources and disciplines.

            So then what? First, we take a better look at the new data: was there an error in obtaining it? Have we interpreted it correctly? Next, we look for confounding factors not previously considered, in this case, by reconsidering the respective roles of the atmosphere and the oceans in retaining heat.

            Discarding a working model is the last measure, not the first. Historically, it happens only when a) there’s a new model available and b) there’s more than one data set causing problems.

          • JohnGreenberg

            Don Dalton: You’re right: the data my link referred to is CO2 rather than temperature data.

            Thanks to my carelessness, I understated my case. From everything I’ve been able to find, historical temperature dating is MORE accurate than CO2 dating and actually can be annualized year by year, thanks to annual rings, deposits, etc. See, eg.

            As my previous comment noted, many different techniques are used and then compared to one another. Ice rings are just one of them.

          • Matthew Davis

            “but our temperature resolution for much of the past is measured in hundreds of years, not decades or years.” Still not following…you claim that our temp. resolution (whatever that is) is measured in hundreds of years, not decades or years. How can you have data (if that’s what you mean by temp. resolution) that goes back hundreds of year but not decades or years?

        • Glenn Thompson

          “Care to explain how you know so much about the “Little Ice Age” when “We can see back maybe 50 years with our advanced technology.”?”

          I’m assuming you have heard of the term “history”? There is plenty of documentation of past human history. For example, the Southwest Indian tribes over the past several hundred years constantly moved from one area to another. Of course, the reasoning was “climate change”. So…..there you go!

          • Michael McMahon

            Dude….seriously?? The native tribes did not move from one area to another due to climate change, they were nomadic, they moved for hunting.

  • Edward Letourneau

    Communist Russia tried the solution proposed in this article. The writer and the believers ought to study the results of the Russian experience before proceeding. And while they are at it, please study the warming that melted the mile think ice that covered Vermont 13,000 years ago. Its wasn’t man and mankind is still here.

  • Kathy Leonard

    Thank you, Suzanna.

    Our industrialized civilization is eating our planet alive and that calls for drastic and collective change on our part. Wildlife and landforms should not pay for the sins of our rapacious species.

    We have become soft and dependent…and would do well to revisit those Vermonters who preceded us, those who valued their land above their convenience.

    • bill_christian

      I agree. But do I get rid of my car? Have you gotten rid of your car? It was built by an out-of-state corporation using extremely industrialized processes. Do you use any electricity? Not just at home, but at work, at a restaurant, shopping, or at the dentist? Do you ride in someone else’s car, or travel by airplane? If a wind farm is evil, what of the rest of our actions? A wind farm is so extremely much better for the environment than traditional sources. So unless you don’t use any, you should not falsely blame one energy source and give others a free ride.

    • Ken Egnaczak

      Didn’t ” those Vermonters who preceeded us” cut down the forest, overgraze the land, and then move west ?? We have been a rapacious species for a long time.

      • Kathy Leonard

        Today’s equivalent of that contingent of Vermonters you mention would be those who are developing/industrializing our sensitive ridgelines and deforesting our national forest land for a profit, Ken.

  • JohnGreenberg

    There are approximately 7.5 billion people on earth, almost ½
    of whom live on less than $2.50 per day. In sub-Saharan Africa, “over 80 percent of the population depends on traditional biomass for cooking, as do over half of the populations of India and China.” “Indoor air pollution resulting from the use of solid fuels …is a major killer,” resulting in “4,000 deaths per day.” Worldwide, 1.6 billion people live without electricity.

    In short: 1) reducing energy use won’t work for everybody, and actually kills significant numbers of people every day. Moreover, 2) it
    actually creates significant environmental issues: deforestation, air pollution, water pollution, etc.

    In other words, simply discarding the industrial-scale solutions
    attacked here would condemn billions of people around the world to ongoing poverty while also failing to improve the planet’s environment.

    Global problems require a wider perspective than that offered

  • JohnGreenberg

    This argument fails to compare “industrial renewables” to our
    existing sources of energy: mainly, fossil fuels, nuclear power, and hydro (all industrial). However much we can reduce usage, the environmental costs of wind projects need to be compared to the power sources they replace. The only real-world comparison is between the total costs of an energy system which includes “industrial renewables” to one which doesn’t.

    In addition, if reduced use and “small-scale, decentralized,
    locally controlled renewable energy projects that really do have minimal impact on the environment” are the only acceptable solutions, we need to ask what kind of lifestyle would result from the amount of energy these sources would provide. It may be convenient to ignore the commercial and industrial needs of Vermont’s economy, but without them, many Vermonters would lose their means of support.

    So I would ask Ms. Jones to show, at least in general terms, what she’s asking Vermonters to give up (e.g. most of their income sources, all mechanized transportation) and describe the lifestyle she expects
    to see as a result.

  • Nancy Anne Bouffard

    Suzanna: Thank you for writing this – you have well-articulated the crux of our problem.

  • Don Dalton

    It’s interesting that there are so many different points of view on this. The writer says industrial renewables are a “shell game”; others say these renewables are the key; some say depopulation is the key; some, like me, say the alarmist vision is simply wrong. How then do we proceed? The “low consumption” people may be right, but I hardly think this will fly in a world where consumption keeps the world’s economies going. I would favor this view– for different reasons. I agree with the writer’s last paragraph, but I also don’t agree that climate catastrophe will result if we don’t do this: I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I believe climate science is just plain bad science, and one day we’re going to wonder how we all got duped.

    How exactly will we accomplish our goal of getting CO2 below, say, 350ppm? Will we enforce one-child population control throughout the entire world? Will we need special passes to travel out of state, or go on a plane, or light up a barbecue, or buy a TV or a new car? Will the sizes of our houses be limited? Will there be huge taxes to the detriment of the people but to the delight of banks and hedge funds who will make trillions off of jacking up the price of carbon and trading carbon credits (have we forgotten how Enron jacked up California electricity by manufacturing blackouts? Don’t tell me it can’t happen again.)There are a heck of a lot of people who simply don’t buy into the alarmist scenario, and look around: even the ones who do, take unnecessary trips, jet around to vacation lands, and don’t seem too bent on limiting consumption.

    Is totalitarian government the solution? Is that what we’re proposing? Because otherwise there is no way in hell we’ll get CO2 below 350ppm. Even with our efforts so far, what do we see? A steady and relentless increase in CO2 concentrations. To “save the world” do we need a totalitarian government? Think about it. How else would we lower CO2 to supposedly “safe” levels? It ain’t gonna happen without a firm hand from the top.

    • JohnGreenberg

      Don Dalton:

      Actually, there are many non-totalitarian solutions on the
      table. Several have been suggested here: in developed countries like ours, energy efficiency and conservation can cut
      our demand for energy by substantial amounts. In fact, since the oil crises of the 1970s, many countries have reduced the ratio of energy to GDP by substantial amounts as has Vermont.

      The costs of solar and wind have dropped precipitously and
      continue to fall, resulting in double digit growth rates around the world. In other parts of the world, concentrated solar, geothermal and other technologies can be utilized to minimize the need for fossil fuels. New technologies are emerging. All of this is happening mainly due to market forces, not repressive measures.

      Governments can advance progress without adopting
      totalitarian measures: almost every country has had gas taxes and energy subsidies of various kinds for years.

      I see no evidence for your statement that “otherwise
      there is no way in hell we’ll get CO2 below 350ppm.”

      • Don Dalton

        John, do you not see the graphs of CO2 levels steadily advancing, despite any new windmills or electric cars? By the way I’m all for electric cars. I’m all for clean energy. I’m against bad science, but I’m fighting a losing battle because everyone believes that Michael Mann stands next to Jesus. I take Mark Steyn’s view: Mann is a disgrace to the profession.

        Not to be antagonistic, but how do you propose we get to a safe level of CO2 without the heavy hand of government control? There are a lot of people who are skeptics and as the actual (as opposed to fabricated) science gets clearer, there will be more.

        Fear not: I’m getting tired of banging my head against the wall. VTDigger has been very fair about this overall, but if you all want to believe that CO2 is going to burn us up despite the clear evidence to the contrary from weather balloons and satellites (see my comment below) then go for it. I tried.

        • JohnGreenberg

          Don Dalton:
          The process that has taken roughly 200 years to develop has not reversed itself in the last few years. The world economy does not turn on a

          “How do you propose we get to a safe level of CO2… ?”

          I gave you some suggestions above: energy conservation and efficiency, switching to renewable technologies, & development of new technologies.

          Governments around the world subsidize fossil fuels by around $500 billion a year. We could stop that. In an ideal world, governments would reform their tax systems to tax pollutants and other things we do NOT want, moving away from taxing income, work, property and the things we do want,
          while raising the same amount of revenue as we do now.

          Governments can provide the early research funding for infant energy technologies (such as fuel from algae), until these industries reach competitive parity with fuel sources that have built capital resources and market share over decades.

          None of these requires “the heavy hand of government control.”

    • JohnGreenberg

      Don Dalton:

      It’s ironic that someone who professes to doubt the basic
      tenets of climate science is now adopting the 350 ppm measure as a standard for public policy.

      In a previous comment, I noted a variety of non-totalitarian
      measures which have been and are being taken to address global warming. The most salient feature of all of them is that they make excellent environmental sense whether or not one accepts the notion that manmade pollution is causing the planet to warm.

      Just two days ago, for example, WHO reported that
      pollution is responsible for ¼ of the deaths of children under 5. Much of that pollution is from fossil fuels and other energy sources which pollute our air and water.

      • Don Dalton

        The 350 ppm is taken from McKibben’s website, for convenience. I’m not adopting anything, but this is the level of CO2 that many say is “safe.”
        I, like many other skeptics, am against pollution. I see no evidence that CO2 is a pollutant, despite what the EPA says. I am not for pollution.

        Exactly how are we going to get to any safe level of CO2? Because it ain’t happening now. And what’s your definition of “safe”?

        • JohnGreenberg

          Don Dalton:

          “Exactly how are we going to get to any safe level of CO2? …And what’s your definition of “safe”?”

          I answered your first question – in VERY broad and general terms – above.

          I do not profess to have the expertise in climate science to pontificate on what “safe” levels would be; experts disagree among themselves (to some degree).

          The same energy policies which would reduce the amounts of greenhouse gases spewed into the atmosphere actually make sense for reasons
          which are totally independent of climate science, because they also reduce other pollutants that no one contests.

          The contribution I try to make is to advocate for
          sound energy policy and to live according to what I preach as much as I can. I lack the credentials, the background, as well as the interest to contribute to
          climate science.

  • This is directed more at the naysayers that renewable energy can’t run the country. Reality is different. It can and the observations show we are now. We will reach 100% renewable energy.

    Five Heartland states – Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota – all sourced more than 20% of their electricity generation from wind power during 2016, says the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), citing newly released data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

    iStock-92187664 With Five States In ’20 Percent And Up’ Club, Wind Thrives In Rural U.S.
    In addition, the EIA report shows that wind supplied more than 5.5% of electricity nationwide – compared with 4.7% in 2015.

    With 99% of wind turbines located in rural areas, explains AWEA, wind power’s steady growth as a share of the nation’s electricity supply has been accompanied by a surge of investment in rural America

    • Don Dalton

      And the CO2 concentration is going down, right? No. CO2 concentration doesn’t even show signs of slowing. This tell us that Suzanna Jones might be right: industrial renewables are a shell game.

      • You have made a very disconnected statement. How about co2 emissions? China has been able to flatten out their emissions levels from renewable energy exactly.

    • As more and more renewable energy is added to the grid, news like this won’t be a big deal anymore. It will just be ordinary business as usual. But for now, its just incredible. Renewable energy actually overproduced in which it is sold off to its neighboring countries or it is put into storage for future use.

      Denmark has once again demonstrated the remarkable strength of its wind resource, producing 98 GWh of energy from onshore and offshore wind turbines over a 24-hour period on Feb. 22 – representing a remarkable 104% of the country’s entire energy demand.

      offshore-wind Milestone In Denmark Shows Off ‘Power Of Wind’
      The wind on this particular day didn’t cause a momentary spike in energy generation, as was the case with the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which set a new wind penetration record only 10 days earlier, but supplied electricity continuously throughout the day and night.

    • There are other all electric buses now available. If a city goes all electric transportation, for now the pollution is kept outside the city. Over the next fifty years renewable energy will become nearly all of our electricity. This will improve our health and put money in our pockets going to clean energy world wide.

      Porterville, CA orders ten 40′ all-electric buses from GreenPower; option for 20 more
      10 March 2017
      Canadaa-based GreenPower Motor Company has entered into a sales contract to supply 10 GreenPower EV350 40-foot zero-emission all-electric transit buses with the City of Porterville in California for deployment on all nine Porterville Transit routes. The order includes 11 charging systems to be installed at the maintenance facility and transit center for a total purchase price of approximately $9 million.

      The funds for the acquisition were granted from the competitive California Air Resources Board (ARB) Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Pilot Program. The EV350 bus is spec’d with a 320 kWh LiFePO4 pack and a presumptive range of more than 185 miles (200 km).

  • Penny Gray

    Water vapor is the most potent greenhouse gas. Ground all aircraft. Ban air travel. My guess is, that ban would never fly. But for more on the contrail effect:

    • Kathy Leonard

      I like to share this link now and again – it explains how CO2 is no longer in the driver’s seat for global temp increases and that water vapor has largely taken over. (Proceedings of the National Acaemy of Science, 2014)

      • Co2 controls the level of water vapor in the atmosphere. It (co2) is called the thermostat of the earth.

        The fact that water vapor is the most dominant greenhouse gas underscores the need for an accurate understanding of the changes in its distribution over space and time. Although satellite observations have revealed a moistening trend in the upper troposphere, it has been unclear whether the observed moistening is a facet of natural variability or a direct result of human activities. Here, we use a set of coordinated model experiments to confirm that the satellite-observed increase in upper-tropospheric water vapor over the last three decades is primarily attributable to human activities. This attribution has significant implications for climate sciences because it corroborates the presence of the largest positive feedback in the climate system.

        • Kathy Leonard

          There are now ^^ rivers in our atmosphere – rivers that will descend on us ala Tropical Storm Irene with increasing regularity. If you were in Vermont during that tragic event, Jeff, you would understand what Vermont has learned indelibly — and that is the critical importance of intact mountain habitats as the first line of defense during such an event. Being an urban resident from Illinois, the factors controlling climate resilience where you live are likely quite different.

          I don’t see that the species that created this dilemma has the right to spend resources frivolously as other species go extinct in shocking numbers each day. Other species are moving north as I write, and I’d hope that Vermont would consider these flora and fauna climate refugees as we talk about developing our ridgelines. In other words, “it is not all about us.” I don’t see concern about personal comfort and convenience as the big issues going forward; rather, the ability to grow food and secure clean water as the storms and droughts and other disruptions proceed. (No leaf blowers in that future). We are currently experiencing the results of what we did to the atmosphere 10-15 years ago, so we are in for some interesting years ahead.

      • Don Dalton

        How do you reconcile the alleged feedbacks from CO2 warming (in terms of water vapor, not temp) in the PNAS paper to the observed neutral to negative temperature feedbacks from satellite and balloon data? What we are keen to know is not necessarily if water vapor increases (because that still leaves important questions of the mechanisms of heat transport by clouds and water vapor in the atmosphere unanswered) but if temperature increases with CO2 levels as predicted by models. Our observations, from two satellites and four balloon datasets, tell us that temperature feedbacks are neutral to negative, and this, not water vapor per se, is the real test of feedbacks.

  • Kathy Leonard

    It would be refreshing to know what relationships commenters on this renewables thread have to RE-related trade groups, industry or non-profit or environmental groups – so as to better understand their perspective.

    Jeff Green, for example, has a solar electric business – in Frankfort, Illinois – which helps me understand his promotion of electric cars, electric heat pumps, electric lawn mowers and lawn tools.

    • I do not work in the solar electric business. I have a business name but just never moved on it. I do promote renewable energy with an energy fair in Illinois.

      I am one of the founding members of IREA illinois renewable energy association. This year will be the 16th or 17th year of having an energy fair.

  • Rebecca Jones

    I completely agree with this. We can be uncomfortable now doing the right thing, or uncomfortable later when the industrial scale “solutions” to climate change do things like add to the gyre, increase vehicles on the road that will edge out any chance of us walking or biking, create more inequity, and continue the “progress” toward automation and making people obsolete. This is what uncomfortable now looks like: face our racism, and join with those who do not look like ourselves; start carrying our own to go cups; stop blaming the poor, and start blaming corporations; carpool.