Climate models predicted extreme weather fluctuations. Can the damage be reversed?

Climate models predicted extreme weather fluctuations. Can the damage be reversed?

In western Germany this week, whole cities seem to be underwater after days of heavy rainfall filled rivers to capacity and quickly turned into flash flooding. As parts of Europe dig out of this latest weather disaster, the European Union this week revealed an ambitious climate change plan. William Brangham discusses the plan and its impact with NASA’s senior climate advisor Gavin Schmidt.

This short video clip from PBS (under 9 minutes) should be accessible to all. Kind of shocking when they say that parts of the Amazon Rain Forest are producing more carbon dioxide than they absorb!


Yes, it’s shocking to observe that these changes happen faster than predicted a few decades ago. What was supposed to happen after our death has already started.

I still believe it is possible to mitigate the severe damage caused by climate change, or at least slow the rate of change. Changes in attitudes and demand of actions have also changed faster than I would have believed possible. Few decades ago, who would have believed that Europe is banning the selling of cars that emit CO2 in the year 2035?

Reversing the change is more challenging. That would need negative carbon budgets.

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We should thank God that the first world is starting to suffer just a little. Reversing the change will take at least until 2200, the change will continue to get worse and worse until 2100 at least. Add another century to each. And the damage can never be reversed, the Amazon cannot be restored. Not unless we buy it and try and make it so over centuries.

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CO2 is part of the Greenhouse effect and the carbon cycle, both planetary events that are critical to the wellbeing of life. It has taken lengthy periods to get where we are now, and the amount of CO2 is increasing. Even under the most favorable CO2 reduction programs, bringing the planet back to a place where weather/ocean/human/animal/vegetable events would become ‘normal’ will take longer than the period during which we messed it all. When I think of permafrost and Siberia (for example), I can only pray that somehow we mitigate outcomes to reduce the enormous suffering that this planet and life in it will suffer.


Amazon can be restored. It just would need a major change in legislation, governance and attitudes in Brazil during the next two decades. Much of deforestation and degradation of forests happens because of illegal or ‘not officially accepted’ actions, so changes in legislation is not enough. Someone would need to prevent the illegal activities and motivate the locals to conservation of local forests.

If these actions are postponed, restoration would need more work because of a local change in humidity (moist tropical forests turning to drier savanna) and erosion. It would need massive planting of trees and taking care of the saplings.

Large parts of Amazon have been cultivated or at least populated in the past. These sites have returned to rainforest after humans abandoned the sites. Based on a site abandoned about 400 years ago, 300-500 years should be enough to create a forest that looks like the original, unless drier climate slows the process. Planting of trees would accelerate the restoration.

Persecuting the poor isn’t the answer. Paying them is.

Subsidies might help in the short term. Otherwise, pouring money from outside is not a sustainable solution. It’s much better to develop alternative sources of income, for example cultivation of valuable plants that grow in shade.

Buying cheap meat and soy produced in the former Amazonia support the loss of Amazonian forests. Unfortunately, there are countries and companies that only care about the price of products. It would be difficult to change this policy in countries like China. A local solution is therefore the preferable choice.

It’s got nothing to do with subsidy. We need to buy the Amazon and pay the locals to run it as a reserve with sustainable cottage and larger industries. Put our money where our mouths are.

Sure, that is one option if there is plenty of funding available.

The size of the Amazonian rainforest is about 5’500’000 km2, 60% of it in Brazil. Total area of the Amazon basin is about 7’000’000 km2.

I don’t remember the estimated tipping point of the local climate change from rainforest to savanna but it might be something like 60-80% forest remaining. That equals 3’300’000 - 5’600’000 km2 depending on whether we count the area from the remaining rainforest or the total area. The remaining rainforest area is already lower than the upper limit (20% deforestation of the total area).

It seems obvious that we would have to buy hundreds of thousands of km2 to make a significant contribution. After that, there is a need to pay the salaries of locals guarding the areas.
Not cheap.

Edit: my memory distorted the figures. Estimated tipping point is not 25-40% remaining, it is 20-40% deforestation (60-80% remaining).

Although expensive, the idea is not impossible. If 10 million wealthy persons would each buy 1 hectare of rainforest and ‘adopt’ it (pay the costs of guarding the plot), that would form a protected area of 100 000 km2.

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It seems to me damage is seldom if ever reversed, but life evolves in new ways to fill the voids produced. Large mammals replace large dinosaurs,


I am trying to reach my best friend and his wife who live in Germany with no luck.

To prevent asphyxiation on Apollo missions they used a “scrubber” to rid their air of CO2. We could try the same for our dear mother earth perhaps?
Things can return to better than normal. The amount of energy necessary to drive global climate change is so immense, by reducing it, entropy will bring back the environment washed clean.

That, or something like it, is one possibility but unfortunately expensive at the moment. One source claimed that we are already capturing one thousandth of global carbon emissions by using different carbon capture and storage methods. If true, that is a good start but unfortunately not enough.

One type of ‘scrubbers’ are plants. Plantation of trees is one of the cheapest ways to capture carbon.

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We don’t have the time. It’s fine while they’re increasing in mass, then what? Plants exhale CO2 in the dark most efficiently. They’d have to be buried. It’s all pathetically inefficient. We need to stop producing CO2 by stopping burning fossil carbon. End of. We need to go flat out for nuclear, wind and solar with accompanying storage for the latter two, ultimately hydrogen, for all vehicles larger than vans, on top of for wind and solar downtime, which is half the time one way or another. Solar - when it’s life cycle is virtuous - will green the deserts. An order of magnitude more electricity is needed globally. At least. Not least for massive desalination.

Sometimes we can reverse damage if it’s not too late. I hate to think or the world we might be building!

Both are needed, reduction of CO2 emissions and scrubbers like trees.

By planting a half trillion trees, it would be possible to reduce atmospheric carbon by about 25% (200 gigatons). This would be a valuable addition to the fight against climate change.
There are enough of land that could be transformed to forest (global estimate 900 million hectares) for the half trillion trees.

I would need to check the numbers (something like that sounds about right, as opposed to double that), but many of those estimates are overly optimistic about “suitable land”.

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Those figures are the estimated potential, taken from a publication in Science. Reality will be less than the potential but these figures show that trees could be a significant ‘scrubber’. Trees are not enough to stop climate change but taking up to 200 gigatons of carbon away from the atmosphere would be a great aid in the fight.

Yes, that is probably a better estimate than some I have seen (i.e. filling deserts with trees is probably untenable).

The enormity of the problems has not as yet sunk into our collective consciousness. Even if not a single new fossil fuel plant was built, and oil and gas were reduced, the present infrastructure that most nations depend on (esp the developing nations) will keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Obviously, we need to close down the huge number of fossil fueled plant, but the result will be catastrophic. Replacing the current plant with zero-emissions will be prohibitable, costly.

We have waisted time - a planned methodical approach from 1990, led by the wealthy nations over a 50 year period may have reversed the trend and sustained economies worldwide. But so many deniers stood in the way, and environmentalists focused their efforts on politics and PR - the result is becoming obvious.


I’m not sure I understand this part of your post. Could you explain this with more details?

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