New Video: Maureen Raymo – Welcome to the Pliocene

April 9, 2014

The climate community traditionally underestimates the rate of change in the climate system, Columbia University scientist Maureen Raymo cautions, raising questions about where things will stand once everything “comes into equilibrium” with the Pliocene era atmosphere we’re now experiencing.

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28 Responses to “New Video: Maureen Raymo – Welcome to the Pliocene”


  1. She said the climate science community has always underestimated the rate of change for climate. While I understand the desire to be conservative so as not to appear alarmist, I actually view this tendency to underestimate as itself being a sort of quasi-political stance. Of the conservative sort. Leaning toward the minimum is a bias.

    Time will tell where it all finally falls out (equilibrates), though by then we will all be dead and gone. Better, I think, to just give the range with confidence intervals. Not so for policy though, policy should be decided on the worst-case scenario, or near to that. Just as is done (presumably) when designing and building bridges, nuclear plants, airplanes, levies, et cetera.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Excellent thoughts, and ones that I’m sure have been “lurking” just below the conscious level in all our minds. You have nailed it with the ideas that we should not be so timid in presenting our analyses of climate change, and that failure to “overdesign” on policy is both bad engineering and adding a “quasi-political” bias towards the “conservative” (denier) side.

    • pendantry Says:

      “While I understand the desire to be conservative so as not to appear alarmist…”

      As for me, I’m wondering at what point the cry of “FIRE!” in a burning building is considered ‘alarmist’.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        In our modern world where so much is politicized (and “religionized”, if that’s a word), it depends on who’s crying “FIRE” and who’s listening.

        If Al Gore says it in a crowd of willfully ignorant conservatives, nobody listens. As a result, nearly all either burn to death or die in the stampede that eventually occurs (with many being shot by their gun-toting brethren because they “got in the way”). The few survivors gather outside and continue to ignore Al Gore, who is telling them that the building next door has caught fire too.

        If Al Gore says it in a crowd of liberal-progressive rational thinkers, there is a more-or-less orderly evacuation, with only a few casualties among those who stayed behind too long while wringing their hands and debating whether Gore was being “alarmist”.

        • Wes Says:

          DOG, you’ve outdone yourself with this one! I’m still wiping up the coffee I snorted. Thanks for making my morning!

        • skeptictmac57 Says:

          The denier’s attacks on Gore are almost the definition of ad the hominem fallacy.
          They tried to attack his (actually mainstream climate scientist’s) presentation of the AGW case at first,but soon realized that he was essentially correct,so then the relentless attacks on his personality,wealth,investments,weight,personal life,the internet 😉 ,etc was used to discredit him,rather than the ideas he presented in ‘An Inconvenient Truth’,and they blew all out of proportion the relatively few mistakes that he made in the film and book.
          Imagine if ALL of science was done this way. Yikes! We’d still be waiting on The Enlightenment.


          • The best one is the bitching about him being a lier about sea level rise when buying a “beach” house in Montecito. If they had bothered to check the location of the house that lies pretty far up the hillside they would see that it would be close to becoming a nice beach house if all the ice on our planet melted. Perhaps that was exactly why he bought it in that spot? 🙂

        • Andy Lee Robinson Says:

          Inspired post, DOG – the messenger is often more important than people realise.
          If Obama did a campaign on oral hygiene, Republicans’ teeth would start falling out!

      • lesliegraham1 Says:

        As for me, I’m wondering at what point the cry of “There is NO FIRE!” in a building that is rapidly filling with smoke can be considered criminaly negligent.

        • Andy Lee Robinson Says:

          That’s my analogy too, to which I extend:
          The building is a nightclub, the management removed the EXIT signs, blocked fire escapes and have bouncers on the doors to prevent people leaving with the shareholders and other pimps saying “There is NO FIRE” (via megaphone from outside), just so they can keep admitting new customers and milk the them at the bar until the last possible second.

          Occasionally, this exact scenario leads to the deaths of hundreds of people, and the common theme shared with the fossil fuel industry is obvious: Unbridled and unscrupulous human greed.

          However, with the biosphere the deniers don’t realise they have no escape either, but perhaps access to a back-room that’ll be the last to burn.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Excellent. We can go into planes without parachutes and ships without liiferafts for more good analogies.


  2. […] climate scientist Dr. Maureen Raymo claims in this video that global warming will “almost certainly lead to the collapse of ecosystems” and that […]

  3. redskylite Says:

    Welcome to the pliocene – what a journey, how long before (those thick skulled) people recognize the problem and stop dismissing learned academics as liberal progressives. ?

    I have a feeling we’ll soon see some desperate geoengineering attempts, not looking forward to that.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Those thick skulled people don’t recognize the problem precisely because they ARE “thick skulled”and and typically display thought processes very much different from those displayed by liberal-progressives.

      Learned academics (i.e., scientists and such) employ rational and logical analysis of facts to form hypotheses and ultimately reach reach conclusions. They are open-minded and willing to adjust their thinking as new information becomes available. And they DO tend to be “liberal progressives”.

      The thick skulled ones operate from a base of feelings, belief, and authority and a will hold positions contrary to fact if those positions agree with their feelings and closely held beliefs. They are closed-minded and fearful of new information that conflicts with what they WANT to believe. They tend to be “conservatives”.

      It’s a question of the more highly developed ACC (Anterior Cingulate Cortex) in the frontal lobes of the “liberal progressive learned academic” brain versus the Amygdala in the more primitive portion of the conservative brain. (So primitive that is often termed the “reptilian” brain).

      I will yet AGAIN recommend The Republican Brain by Mooney for a survey of the latest research on brain function that has bearing on this topic.

      PS I’m not looking forward to “desperate geo-engineering attempts” either, but I DO want to see Wally and R2D2 dragging those reflective covers of E-Pot’s over the ice sheets.

      I have a feeling we’ll soon see some desperate geoengineering attempts, not looking forward to that.


      • I feel Steven Novella’s talk on the Skeptical Neurologist is good about understanding how our brain is really working hard at deceiving ourselves and some are more prone to accept it than others. But the good news is that you can train your brain to be skeptical and learn to control thought processes. I believe people in the academia are generally more skeptical because learning sort of relies on the brain being able to focus enough to grasp the information. Hence people in the academia is also more in touch with reality and being able to step out of the bubble and be self critical or just trying to understand the core of a problem rather than distracting oneself all the time like many do. Watch it, its good:

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Seen this before, and it’s excellent. Novella’s talk gives a great overview, and portions of it parallel what Mooney says in The Republican Brain. Mooney’s book focuses more on the field of political neuroscience, and goes a few steps beyond what Novella says.

  4. redskylite Says:

    Some more reporting from Al Jazeera as we head back to the pliocene and maybe even beyond:

    http://www.aljazeera.com/video/americas/2014/04/coastline-us-state-louisiana-vanishing-201449171217730433.html

    n.b warmer air holds more water vapour than cold cooler air a law of physics, and thank god for the tropopause, else we would be on the way to looking more like Venus.

    http://www.aljazeera.com/video/asia-pacific/2014/04/solomon-islands-struggles-after-flash-floods-201449154753101506.html

  5. astrostevo Says:

    AS some one asked in the youtube comments is it Pliocene or Pleistocene? She’s the expert so I’d expect she has it right but yeah, I’m confused. Must go wikicheck.

    (Pause) Okay :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pliocene

    “The Pliocene follows the Miocene Epoch and is followed by the Pleistocene Epoch. Prior to the 2009 revision of the geologic time scale, which placed the 4 most recent major glaciations entirely within the Pleistocene, the Pliocene also included the Gelasian stage, which lasted from 2.588 to 1.806 million years ago, and is now included in the Pleistocene.”

    So that’s the answer in case anyone else was also wondering.

    Seems they’re too seperate things but with overlap and they’ve revised the epochs /eras annoyingly – just like botanists are always renaming plants. Seriously scientists wish you wouldn’t do this! Pick a name and stick to it! Grrrr…


  6. I just found this clip from a 1990 program called ‘after the warming’…

    I thought it might be useful for one of your future videos Peter

    • Andy Lee Robinson Says:

      Classic James Burke! Brilliant!
      And here we are, the whole scientific community still calling for, and now screaming for action 25 years later, and guess what…

      It’s clear that no amount of evidence will force any change until the planet starts hurting people… oh wait!…

    • redskylite Says:

      Brilliant classic clip – summed up in a nutshell by the master science historian himself – thanks for sharing


  7. […] Pliocene! Is the latest in Peter Sinclair’s TINC series of video shorts on climate change. Here he interviews geologist and climate scientist Maureen Raymo who joins the likes of Charles Darwin […]


  8. […] 2014/04/09: PSinclair: New Video: Maureen Raymo – Welcome to the Pliocene […]


  9. […] Pliocene! Is the latest in Peter Sinclair’s TINC series of video shorts on climate change. Here he interviews geologist and climate scientist Maureen Raymo who joins the likes of Charles Darwin […]


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