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Time to Face Up To the Truth About Abrupt Climate Change

Something quite important was published this week.

A group of European researchers published a paper that puts into context exactly what would need to happen, economically, for our governments to achieve what is necessary to stop and even reverse the abrupt climate change situation in which we find ourselves.

The paper was published in Science, here is the link and the summary:

Although the Paris Agreement’s goals (1) are aligned with science (2) and can, in principle, be technically and economically achieved (3), alarming inconsistencies remain between science-based targets and national commitments. Despite progress during the 2016 Marrakech climate negotiations, long-term goals can be trumped by political short-termism. Following the Agreement, which became international law earlier than expected, several countries published mid-century decarbonization strategies, with more due soon. Model-based decarbonization assessments (4) and scenarios often struggle to capture transformative change and the dynamics associated with it: disruption, innovation, and nonlinear change in human behavior. For example, in just 2 years, China’s coal use swung from 3.7% growth in 2013 to a decline of 3.7% in 2015 (5). To harness these dynamics and to calibrate for short-term realpolitik, we propose framing the decarbonization challenge in terms of a global decadal roadmap based on a simple heuristic—a “carbon law”—of halving gross anthropogenic carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions every decade. Complemented by immediately instigated, scalable carbon removal and efforts to ramp down land-use CO2 emissions, this can lead to net-zero emissions around mid-century, a path necessary to limit warming to well below 2°C.

Scientists… it takes one to know one, right?  It’s no wonder our politicians are so clueless.  If you had to check your dictionary a time or two while reading that then go read Brad Plumer’s article for VOX here . What follows are a couple of excerpts from that piece:

Back in 2015, the world’s governments met in Paris and agreed to keep global warming below 2°C, to avoid the worst risks of a hotter planet. See here for background on why, but that’s the goal. For context, the planet’s warmed ~1°C since the 19th century.

One problem with framing the goal this way, though, is that it’s maddeningly abstract. What does staying below 2°C entail? Papers on this topic usually drone on about a “carbon budget” — the total amount of CO2 humans can emit this century before we likely bust past 2°C — and then debate how to divvy up that budget among nations. There’s math involved. It’s eye-glazing, and hard to translate into actual policy. It’s also a long-term goal, easy for policymakers to shrug off.

So, not surprisingly, countries have thus far responded by putting forward a welter of vague pledges on curbing emissions that are hard to compare and definitely don’t add up to staying below 2°C. Everyone agrees more is needed, but there’s lots of uncertainty as to what “more” means. Few people grasp how radically — or how quickly — we’d have to revamp the global economy to meet the Paris climate goals.

Surely there’s a better, more concrete way to think about this. So, in a new paper for Science, a group of European researchers try to do just that — laying out in vivid detail what would have to happen in each of the next three decades if we want to stay well below 2°C. Fair warning: It’s unsettling.

and after Plumer lays out some bullets he concludes:

It’d be entirely understandable to look at this all and say, “That’s insane.” Phasing out sales of combustion engine vehicles by 2030? Carbon-neutral air travel within two decades? Cities going entirely fossil fuel–free in the next 13 years? Come on.

And fair enough. None of this is easy. It might well prove impossible. But this is roughly what staying well below 2°C entails — at least without large-scale geoengineering to filter out sunlight and cool the planet (a risky step). This is what world governments implicitly agreed to when they all signed on to the Paris accord.

“We wanted to show what meeting those Paris goals requires,” says Rockström. “Up until now, we felt that scientists haven’t been very effective in communicating what these carbon budgets actually mean in terms of concrete action.”

I’d say “unsettling” is putting it mildly.  It lays out a path that we will never, ever, absolutely not ever walk.  He is right 99.9% of humans would think this is insane!  It’s not going to happen. Period.

Some reasons why it is impossible:

  1. There are simply too many human beings on the plant at this point.  We’re over populated.  Government and corporate leaders see humans as part of the growth paradigm and therefore shun any plans at embracing negative population growth.
  2. Everyone wants the equivalent of the American Dream and the American lifestyle of luxury and waste.
  3. The owners of the large corporations – not just the CEO and board members but all the shareholders – don’t want change they want growth.  They also have no long term goals that they focus on, only quarterly earnings hold their focus.
  4. The politician are owners (including shareholders) of corporations and businesses or are paid for by big business.  The laws they offer are often written by corporate lobbyists / think tanks and they enact them at the request of very powerful interests. They very, very seldom represent the interests of middle to low class citizens.
  5. Ivy league and all other universities only teach one way when it comes to economics and that’s unfettered capitalism.  To bring up any other method, any other alternatives, is to be called a Socialist or, god forbid, a Communist.
  6. Even those leaders who fully believe in abrupt climate change and all of the reasons and causes for what’s happening are not pushing drastic change.  They push “sustainable goals” they still cling to the never ending GROWTH paradigm. They are more interested in somehow preserving our way of life than drastically changing it.
  7. Even we citizens who fully believe in abrupt climate change and all of the reasons and causes for what’s happening are not changing our lifestyles and are not raising our children differently.  We simply are not doing anything substantial about it.
  8. Time has run out. Had we started doing something about all this back in the 70s when we first started to have a clue then we’d be in a pretty good position now but we didn’t.  We didn’t then and we don’t now.

Locally you cannot get a town zoning board to implement changes allowing for tiny houses so how can it ever come to pass that leaders will make changes big enough to change that climate curve?  It’s a fractal pattern… what happens on a micro level is the same as what happens on a macro level.   Maybe that is the only way true change can happen, we change our locals first….?

And by the way, Geoengineering is a bad alternative and I predict when they get there it will be done badly and will have horrible unexpected consequences as is so often the case when humans tinker with complex systems they truly do not understand for reasons less than altruistic.

I am pretty tuned in to environmental news but I missed the reports this week about this paper by the European research team.  It just wasn’t something that important I guess.  We had another European terrorist again and we had more political shenanigans in the USA – who’s going to put on the front page, above the fold, something as erudite as this study?  It was called to my attention by someone I follow on Medium, Joe Brewer.  Here’s a link to his piece and an excerpt below:

Climate activism is filled with despair for a reason — it is now the year 2017 and we have committed ourselves to planetary-scale catastrophe. Why do I say this? Simply read this ambitious plan to completely redesign the global economy by 2050… then give yourself an internal reality check. It provides a roadmap for keeping the effects of global warming below 2 degrees Celsius with the necessity to have the majority of countries in the world moving in lockstep by the year 2020.

This is a mere THREE YEARS AWAY.

Do YOU think humanity has the political capacities, ethical maturity, and ability to cooperate to get this done? My assessment is that we are nowhere close to being able to do this in time.

It is nothing but despair to be involved in climate change activism – like the idiot who bangs their head against the wall endlessly.  If you’ve followed many of them for any length of time you can see what it does to them. It’s like shouting into a hurricane. The vast, overwhelming majority of humanity figures there’s nothing they can do about it so they just keep doing what they’re doing.

After more than a year of warehousing data on and five years previously on another blog I can freely confess that it is a soul wrenching effort and instead of finding reasons for hope there are only more and more reasons for despair – like our new and inept President Trump and his minions. The secret to continuing is to find something else to counter balance the horror; music, gaming, more time with friends and family, whatever is meaningful to you.  But more importantly than all of that, find your way to disconnect from the system and change local politics.  If we, all the people, made this change ourselves… well, that would be the miracle, wouldn’t it?



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