Daniel H Garrett

Senior Associate

The Asia Institute


The Death of the Ice Fairy, The Rule of the Orange Monstrosity, and the Resistance of the Green Alliance


“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Albert Einstein



1. The Death of the Ice Fairy


If you want to understand the particular magic of the Good Fairy of the North Pole, it is important to recall one specific fact: the difference between specific heat, and latent heat. Specific heat is the amount of heat needed to raise one kilogram of a substance by 1 degree C. The specific heat of water is 1 kcal kg-1 which is the standard unit of heat, the calorie.  The latent heat of ice by contrast is 80 kcal kg-1.  This is an important magic to remember as polar ice disappears. Even mid-winter at the North Pole is 50 degrees above normal. As the collapse at the pole progresses and ice-free summers in the far north ensue -some 100 hundred years before the IPCC’s early predictions- we lose one of our most important climate buffers, a massive air conditioner dampening high temperatures. Furthermore, as the loss of albedo from that loss of ice further heats up the now bare, dark ocean, -amongst other things- climate chaos ensures as weather patterns that basically endured for 10,000 years are disrupted. Amongst other things, the melting permafrost releases methane, and our meager efforts to date to constrain runaway climate change, are basically undone.

It is true, there may be some scientists who give us a decade or two in which to radically reduce CO2 emissions, but at this point in time, there are probably an equal number who think we have basically waited too long, and that the arctic death spiral is exactly that: the initiation of a non-linear sequence, a climate phase change, a rapid climate change event which has the potential to essentially destroy civilization as we know it.

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

G.K. Chesterton


2. The Rule of the Orange Monstrosity

Not that there is ever a good time for a madman to take over a country, but now is probably one of the worst possible times. For not only will this disturbed person have a good chance of destroying his own personal country, but he may well also bring down the other countries of the earth with him.  The 45th President of the United States -a name that shall not be named- has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is in fact a malignant narcissistic, and at a time when the earth’s carbon budget can no longer afford it, he has surrounded himself with climate change deniers, and oil men, and politicians bought and sold by oil men.  He and his henchmen, having been helped to this position of power by fear and prejudice-driven manipulations of a superstitious and undereducated populace, in combination with well-done assistance from the Russian Federation, will (amongst other odious acts) probably seek to remove sanctions on Russia so as to fulfill a lucrative ($500 billion dollar) contract to develop the oil and gas reserves of the Russian Arctic.

The Russian Federation it can be presumed is doing this for regime survival (perhaps also thinking geoengineeering is safe and inexpensive), while the U.S., as is typical of much of its so-called leadership is doing it for short-sighted gains (money) and an obsolete understanding of what makes for national power.

And meanwhile, though the Ice Fairy of the North is dying, no one except those who have studied her, seem to understand that her death means calamity for all of us.  Wild weather and unpredictability are already with us, while we remain largely transfixed and preoccupied with trivia, instead of rising to the level of actually confronting this planetary crisis. And what is equally tragic, her sister, the Ice Fairy of the south is crumbling, far faster than anyone had predicted, or almost anyone, and so, if you live near the coast, or love one of the many great cities of the planet that are on or near the coast, it really is time you think of moving.


“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.”

Mo Willems, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs


3. The Resistance of the Great Green Alliance


So let us be clear.  The Paris Agreement, as Hansen said, is bullshit.  And unless we want to devolve into warring states, throwing up our borders as best we can to stop the desperate waves of climate change refugees who really have nowhere else to go, those of use who are still somewhat sane, and those nation states which understand that only a massive, quick, collective effort involving real cash, and real innovation, is the only way to save as many as possible, and pave the way to a truly human way of living on this planet, must act together.  We must form in fact, a Great Green Alliance, one that holds accountable any individual, company, or country, which holds itself above the need for collective survival.

Those who have worked to warn about the dangers of climate change over the decades will remember the time, not that long ago, when they refused, or were reluctant to even talk about adaptation, for fear it would take the focus away from the urgent necessity of mitigation.  As action was not forthcoming, this gave way to an understanding that some talk of adaptation was going to be necessary. Now it appears that we have waited too long and the momentum already built up in the earth system, and the fact that largely un-modeled positive feedbacks and black swan events meant that Earth System Sensitivity was at the high-end of the imagined range, we are rapidly swinging into a full-fledged global abrupt climate change event.  Mitigation of course must go on in the hopes of preventing various forms of essentially irreversible runaway climate change, but the level and type of adaptation required is of a whole new order of magnitude.

By way of reference consider the PETM event.  Carbon was emitted during the PETM event at a rate of about 6.2 billion tons of CO2 per year, and about 1.1 billion tons of methane per year.  The current emission rate of CO2 from humans is about 30.6 billion tons of CO2 per years, and about 1.1 billion tons of methane per year. In other words we are emitting CO2 at about five times faster than the PETM, and about 27 times its methane emission rate.  We are in uncharted waters, and it is hot and moreover acidic.

4. Some Policy Recommendations for the Great Green Alliance

1) Legal and trade defenses against individual, companies and nations which are not adopting emergency rates of decarbonization (we need teeth).

2) Heavy national and transnational taxes on extreme wealth with proceeds transferred to the global poor (6 individuals have as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity; moreover for this rapid survival transition to be possible, if levels of inequality remain as they are, civil disturbance will be so great as to disrupt all well-laid plans).

3) Most known geoengineering schemes are known to be dangerous.  Solar shielding the arctic and Antarctic regions though expensive might be worth considering. Other possibilities that evaluations so-far do not appear to have eliminated from consideration are converting 9% of the ocean’s surface to seaweed farming, and radical afforestation schemes involving water-from air technology assistance or of course some combination thereof.

4. Innovative drop-in climate change lifeboats which provide self-sustaining  systems of water, energy and food for the global south where possible.

5. Rapid development of smart-skins for the global south (and elsewhere). In other words, instead of trying to air condition everything, simply provide smart-skins to individuals which locally regulate temperature and allow life to continue in the new climate regime.

6. Massive programs of emergency vertical farm construction for cities as the new chaotic weather regime makes traditional farming extremely difficult and undependable.

7. Careful planning for orderly relocation from the coasts so as to avoid chaos and mass civil disturbance.





1.”The Arctic is the First and Possibly Last Defense Against a Climate Transition to an Uninhabitable Earth” D. H. Garrett, Truthout, December 2013 http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/20463-the-arctic-is-the-first-and-possibly-last-line-of-defense-against-a-climate-transition-to-an-uninhabitable-earth


2. “A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic” Peter Wadhams, Penguin Books Ltd (2016)


  1. Reconciled climate response estimates from climate models and the energy budget of Earth”Mark Richardson, Kevin Cowtan, Ed Hawkins & Martin B. Stolpe Nature Climate Change 6, 931–935 (2016) doi:10.1038/nclimate3066Received 17 November 2015 Accepted 27 May 2016 Published online 27 June 2016


4. “Climate science bedeviled by ‘tipping points’”January 19, 2017 by Marlowe Hoodhttps://phys.org/news/2017-01-climate-science-bedeviled.html


5. Evidence for a rapid release of carbon at the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum James D. Wrighta,1 and Morgan F. Schallera,b Edited* by Wallace S. Broecker, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, and approved August 5, 2013 (received for review May 14, 2013) PNAS


6. Reply to Pearson and Nicholas, Stassen et al., and Zeebe et al.: Teasing out the missing piece of the PETM puzzle

James D. Wright and Morgan F. Schallera

Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Mar 25; 111(12): E1068–E1071.

Published online 2014 Feb 26. doi:  10.1073/pnas.1321876111


7. CO2 Currently Rising Faster Than The PETM Extinction Event

Posted on 17 June 2011 by Rob Paintinhttps://skepticalscience.com/co2-rising-ten-times-faster-than-petm-extinction.html


8. “North Pole Temperatures May Soar to 50 Degrees Above Normal Freakishly warm pole weather is likely to peak on Christmas Eve” By Brian Kahn on December 21, 2016, Scientific American


  • 9. “Nonlinear climate sensitivity and its implications for future greenhouse warming” Tobias Friedrich Axel Timmermann, Michelle Tigchelaar, Oliver Elison Timm and Andrey GanopolskiScience Advances  09 Nov 2016:

Vol. 2, no. 11, e1501923


10. Lloyd’s: Emerging Risk Report: 2015: Innovation Series: Food System Shock http://www.lloyds.com/~/media/files/news%20and%20insight/risk%20insight/2015/food%20system%20shock/food%20system%20shock_june%202015.pdf


11. “Potential climate engineering effectiveness and side effects during a high carbon dioxide-emission scenario” David P. Keller, Ellias Y. Feng & Andreas Oschlies, Nature Communications 5, 2015








over the pole

in its death spiral

of disappearing ice


I still feel the clutched

embrace of my little son

crying daddy daddy

wanting no one else

to hold him

as if he knew I was leaving today


do I grieve for him

grieve for myself

grieve for the earth

we are leaving him


or is it all


will love somehow

find a way to save

the beauty and the child


my heart still aches

with the warmth and trust

of his hug

but the climate is changing

12000 years of calm sedateness

are out the window now

and the storms walking boldly

amongst us

are not so easily