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Discussion in 'Political Discourse' started by Michael Scally MD, Oct 21, 2010.
Few things should make you as optimistic — or as pessimistic — as the rise of renewable energy. Optimism comes from a new sense of urgency as the UK, Germany and Spain set record highs for use of wind and solar power, and record lows for coal. Even the US can now generate more power from renewables than from coal, and last month, the “Ocean Wind” project in New Jersey was the largest ever offshore wind farm procured by a US state.
Yet pessimism comes from the fact that all of this may not be enough. In our research at UBS, we estimate that to avoid a dangerous level of global warming, the world would need to commission an asset the size of New Jersey’s Ocean Wind every day for the next 30 years, without missing a day. Or put another way: we need to triple wind and solar construction overnight and sustain that new growth rate for decades, with no room for setbacks.
The hard truth is that we are not on track for that. Nor are we close to an overnight technical solution to the many other challenges of the energy transition that must be solved before we can develop a 100 per cent clean energy system.
Of course, these realities do not stop us from telling ourselves fairy tales. The first one is that energy efficiency will save the day. The facts show just the opposite: over 50 years since the oil price crises of the 1970s, we have seen rising energy efficiency in almost all walks of life, yet in the same time period energy demand and carbon emissions have tripled. As the Victorian economist WS Jevons understood already in 1865, the more efficient you become in your use of a fossil fuel, the more valuable that fossil fuel becomes to you, and the more of it you will consume.
The second fairy tale is a type of deus ex machina, a divine intervention usually staged in the last act of a play. Variously we hear that carbon capture, or nuclear fusion, or geoengineering could play this role. Suggestions include sending mirrors into space to reflect away heat, or ploughing crushed volcanic rock into fields to soak up carbon dioxide. These concepts may one day have potential but few are viable today, and with government debt already at levels similar to the period immediately after the second world war, we see little hope for a programme of public sector investment to speed things up.
So the irony remains: the most realistic pathway to mitigate global warming is to deploy existing renewable technologies at maximum scale, and minimum cost, although the world is most likely now too late and too indebted to get the job done on time.
From this we reluctantly draw two contrasting conclusions: the first is that we may very well be on the cusp of a 20 or 30 year sustained bull market in renewable power — promising a fundamental reshaping of our energy industry; our natural landscape; and perhaps even similar in social importance to the rollout of clean water and sanitation in the 19th century, or mobile phones and the internet at the end of the 20th.
But the second conclusion is that we will still most likely fail to reach “net zero” emissions by 2050. Humanity may, therefore, achieve in the space of a hundred years what used to take 10,000 or 20,000 years — an increase in average surface temperatures of 2, 3, 4 degrees Celsius or more.
That means a belated prevention strategy will not be enough. We must now begin in earnest on a plan for adaptation. We must not only ask how we can switch on more sources of clean, renewable power — but also how we can live with the consequences of the fossil fuel sources we are not yet willing to switch off.
In short, we have started too late on the investments that could have allowed us to live without global warming. So we must now make a faster, better start on the investments that could enable us to live with it.
Rogelj J, Forster PM, Kriegler E, Smith CJ, Séférian R. Estimating and tracking the remaining carbon budget for stringent climate targets. Nature 2019;571:335-42. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1368-z
Research reported during the past decade has shown that global warming is roughly proportional to the total amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. This makes it possible to estimate the remaining carbon budget: the total amount of anthropogenic carbon dioxide that can still be emitted into the atmosphere while holding the global average temperature increase to the limit set by the Paris Agreement. However, a wide range of estimates for the remaining carbon budget has been reported, reducing the effectiveness of the remaining carbon budget as a means of setting emission reduction targets that are consistent with the Paris Agreement. Here we present a framework that enables us to track estimates of the remaining carbon budget and to understand how these estimates can improve over time as scientific knowledge advances. We propose that application of this framework may help to reconcile differences between estimates of the remaining carbon budget and may provide a basis for reducing uncertainty in the range of future estimates.
Global anomalies in June 1936 relative to the 1881-1920 climate. Significant warmth over parts of the North America, Northern Europe and Western Asia and parts of the Arctic. Much of the planet is covered in areas near normal or below normal.
Now, compare to June 2019...the warmest June on record going back to 1880 in the NASA dataset.
Nearly the entire globe is in a heatwave...it's not even a heatwave any longer, but a heat veil. Where once +1-2 C anomalies were in smaller regions with even smaller areas +3-4 C, they now cover wide swaths of the planet. In June 2019, very few places were near normal relative to the late-19th century/early-20th century. Very few places were below normal.
Seeing the stark differences between these two months 83 years apart is grief-inducing. One quickly realizes the suffering the biosphere is taking from this rapid and accelerating rise in global heating and how much warming still remains.
As I deal with heat indices around 110 F/43 C at the time of this post for a second day in a row, (two more days to go) I'm taking the time to appreciate what life has to offer as well as Nature, which otherwise is being destroyed because human's desire for more and more energy.
We should've been wiser, but perhaps we just weren't evolved to understand such problems until it was too late. In many cases, too few people understand our predicaments even as we march closer to the collapse of civilization, my inevitable path toward becoming a climate change refugee and the 6th mass extinction of species.
CO2 450 ppm by 2030 ...
By 2050, CO2 500+ ppm ... Insanity ...
The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere increases every year, and the rate of increase is accelerating.
The early years at Mauna Loa saw annual increases averaging about 0.7 ppm per year, increasing to about 1.6 ppm per year in the 1980s and 1.5 ppm per year in the 1990s. The growth rate rose to 2.2 ppm per year during the last decade.
The current annual rate is ~3.0+ ppm.
The 2019 high was 415.70 ppm on May 15 (Scripps).
The 2018 high was 412.60 ppm on May 14 (Scripps).
The next 30 years are likely, instead, to resemble the slow disaster of the present: we will get used to each new shock, each new brutality, each “new normal,” until one day we look up from our screens to find ourselves in a new dark age—unless, of course, we’re already there.
This was not the apocalypse I grew up with. It’s not an apocalypse you can prep for, hack your way out of, or hide from. It’s not an apocalypse with a beginning and an end, after which survivors can rebuild. Indeed, it’s not an “Event” at all, but a new world, a new geological era in Earth’s history, in which this planet will not necessarily be hospitable to the bipedal primate we call Homo sapiens. The planet is approaching, or already crossing, several key thresholds, beyond which the conditions that have fostered human life for the past 10,000 years no longer hold.
This is not our future, but our present: a time of transformation and strife beyond which it is difficult to see a clear path. Even in the very best case—a swift, radical, wholesale transformation of the energy system upon which the global economy depends (which would entail a complete reorganization of human collective life), coupled with massive investment in carbon capture technology, all occurring under the aegis of unprecedented global cooperation—the stressors and thresholds we confront will continue to put immense pressures on a growing human population.
It is psychologically, philosophically, and politically difficult to come to terms with our situation. The rational mind quails before such an apocalypse. We have taken a fateful leap into a new world, and the conceptual and cultural frameworks we have developed to make sense of human existence over the past 200 years seem wholly inadequate for coping with this transition, much less for helping us adapt to life on a hot and chaotic planet.
Our lives are built around concepts and values that are existentially threatened by a stark dilemma: either we radically transform human collective life by abandoning the use of fossil fuels or, more likely, climate change will bring about the end of global fossil-fueled capitalist civilization. Revolution or collapse—in either case, the good life as we know it is no longer viable. ...
So we have to confront two distinct challenges. The first is whether we might curtail the worst possibilities of climate change and stave off human extinction by limiting greenhouse-gas emissions and decreasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. The second is whether we will be able to transition to a new way of life in the world we’ve made. ...
[T]he fact that our situation offers no good prospects does not absolve us of the obligation to find a way forward. Our apocalypse is happening day by day, and our greatest challenge is learning to live with this truth while remaining committed to some as-yet-unimaginable form of future human flourishing—to live with radical hope. Despite decades of failure, a disheartening track record, ongoing paralysis, a social order geared toward consumption and distraction, and the strong possibility that our great-grandchildren may be the last generation of humans ever to live on planet Earth, we must go on. We have no choice.
Bolsonaro’s regime is a direct threat to the Amazon rainforest.
The Amazon is the largest forested area in the world, one of the most biodiverse places on earth, and an enormous carbon sink for the atmosphere. Deforestation for agricultural purposes has been a concern for the last half-century, as an area the size of Texas has been slashed and burned. But what many policymakers may not be aware of is that if another fifth of the Amazon were to be destroyed for farmland or development, it could trigger something called a “dieback” where the forest would collapse in on itself, creating a carbon bomb released in the atmosphere. It would release the equivalent of 140 years of human activity.
According to the new data from the World Meteorological Organization and Copernicus Climate Change Programme, July at least equalled, if not surpassed, the hottest month in recorded history. This follows the warmest ever June on record.
The data from the Copernicus Climate Change Programme, run by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, is fed into the UN system by WMO. The figures show that, based on the first 29 days of the month, July 2019 will be on par with, and possibly marginally warmer than the previous warmest July, in 2016, which was also the warmest month ever.
The latest figures are particularly significant because July 2016 was during one of the strongest occurrence of the El Niño phenomenon, which contributes to heightened global temperatures. Unlike 2016, 2019 has not been marked by a strong El Niño.
“We have always lived through hot summers. But this is not the summer of our youth. This is not your grandfather’s summer,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, announcing the data in New York.
“All of this means that we are on track for the period from 2015 to 2019 to be the five hottest years on record. This year alone, we have seen temperature records shattered from New Delhi to Anchorage, from Paris to Santiago, from Adelaide and to the Arctic Circle. If we do not take action on climate change now, these extreme weather events are just the tip of the iceberg. And, indeed, the iceberg is also rapidly melting,” Mr Guterres said.
Climate scientist speaks about letting down humanity and what to do about it
Climate scientist speaks about letting down humanity and what to do about it
Preamble: In June 2019 I met with Dr Wolfgang Knorr, a climate scientist with Lund University. With his dozens of peer reviewed climate papers generating thousands of citations, it is clear he has spent decades at the heart of the climate science profession. He wanted to talk about my work on Deep Adaptation, to help me understand more about how the climate science profession had been letting us down. He wanted to work out what he and other scientists like him could do now, given that real time measurements of global heating and the impacts on nature and society are so shocking. Over the coming weeks we met and corresponded. What follows is an edited version of our conversations and correspondence. It is a detailed discussion of the science and the scientific profession. As a Q&A, it is not referenced, but some of the arguments that Dr Knorr mentions can be explored via a compendium of research papers from July 2019 to July 2020. I share the discussion here to encourage climate scientists, food security specialists and other scholars with grave concerns about our predicament, to speak out.
Me: Are you worried?
Dr Knorr: I must admit that I am mostly worried for my children and their own children and grand-children if they one day choose to become parents themselves. This is absolutely my personal view, and might be to some degree the result of professional denial.
My gut feeling says that it will take another 20-30 years until we see really massive impacts, but that these impacts will look very different from what we expect. The problem is that the image we have right now is so much influenced by modelling studies, at least in the scientific community.
But with these climate and other simulation models it is just like the way it is with artificial intelligence. These are mere algorithms that lack any real understanding. The understanding is the work that needs to be done by the scientist. So what I worry about is that too much reliance on established scientific methods has led to a lack of imagination, and that there will be things that we have not considered.
Last year, almost the entire Greek olive harvest was unfit for human consumption. The reason: it was unusually wet, just the opposite of the trend we expect from modelling, and that led to the spread of certain diseases that could thrive in the increased humidity.
I am planning to initiate a project to look into this, with the hope that confronting the IPCC-based image of climate change impacts with in-depth analysis of how climate change is playing out in the real world right now. There will be thousands of other subtle effects playing out in ways we won’t understand. This is what makes me worried most.
Me: Why aren’t more scientists speaking out about it being too late to stop the disaster spreading?
Dr Knorr: There are actually quite a few scientists who are warning about an impending catastrophe, but you are right, they all stop short of saying publicly that it is too late. What they tend to say is that things are getting worse, there are feedback loops and tipping points and if we don’t do anything radical soon, then it might be too late.
It always goes like this: there is problem X and it is urgent and we only have Y years to do implement some radical changes. And then nothing specific about these measures and how they might affect our daily lives. The issue I always had with this is the use of the word “we”. I believe it has actually been “too late” from the start of industrialization.
Looking back at history, there is no evidence that our current prevailing technology-based civilization has any way of stopping progression towards some kind of environmental crash. There is no collective mechanism to do that. There are many people who believe that technology will save us, but what I see is that in the face of danger, exaggerated belief in what technology can deliver only increases.
To see that our way of life, the way we grew up and we see our children grow up is doomed, is probably too painful to fully realize. And it is also painful to me, which you can see in the use of words here, “probably” and “fully”, qualifiers to create some distance between the thought and myself.
What I tend to believe is that there will be another 30 years or so until we will fully experience and thus realize the scale of climate change will do to us. But I might be wrong. Some people believe that the crisis in Syria is the direct result of climate change, a persistent drought that has brought destabilization of an ancient society.
Climate change might already play out in this kind of way, with humanitarian disasters where we don’t even see that they are caused by climate change. The next crisis of this kind might happen very soon and somewhere unexpected. Yes, I am reluctant to say this publicly because I don’t want to sound like a Cassandra, a doomsayer. So the problem of not speaking out, of not warning the public sufficiently might have to do with social pressure. With not wanting to be perceived as an outlier.
A heat wave is causing unprecedented melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization just declared July 2019 the hottest month ever recorded. We speak with Jason Box, professor and ice climatologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, about the intensifying climate crisis. He says humanity must move toward living in balance with the environment.
“If we don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately stabilize CO2 … there’s no real prospect for a stable society or even a governable society,” Box says. “Perpetual growth on a finite planet is, by definition, impossible.”
The massive heat dome that shattered all-time temperature records across much of Europe last week has settled in over Greenland, driving temperatures across the vast region to as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. In July, Greenland’s ice sheet lost 197 billion tons of ice, the equivalent of around 80 million Olympic swimming pools.
This comes as the World Meteorological Organization said Thursday that July was the warmest month in recorded human history. It followed the hottest June on record, as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels climbed to a record high of 415 parts per million earlier this year. We speak with Jason Box, professor and ice climatologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.
Time’s Up, CO2
McNutt M. Time’s up, CO2. Science 2019;365:411. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6452/411.abstract
Forty years ago this summer, a small group of atmospheric and ocean scientists met in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to project the future impacts on Earth's climate from atmospheric release of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel combustion. Frank Press, head of the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy and Science Adviser to President Carter, requested that the National Academy of Sciences conduct the study for the benefit of policymakers.
On the basis of then-current trends, the 1979 committee, led by Jule Charney of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, assumed that atmospheric CO2 concentrations would reach double the preindustrial values sometime in the first half of the 21st century. They calculated that as a result, the average global surface temperature would increase by 3° ± 1.5°C, with the greatest warming at high latitudes—the first assessment of its kind.
The Charney committee also noted in the models a lag on the order of decades between CO2 release and the resulting temperature rise. This delay, from disequilibrium effects with the ocean, masks pending temperature increases long before they are apparent. https://www.bnl.gov/envsci/schwartz/charney_report1979.pdf
Fast-forward to 2019, and these calculations of the sensitivity of climate to a doubling of CO2 have proven to be remarkably on target. Indeed, on the basis of today’s more sophisticated climate models, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms the climate sensitivity proffered by the Charney report.
Furthermore, the lag between emission and resulting temperature increases has contributed to society’s inaction on a degree of warming to which the planet is already committed from existing emissions. Four decades later, time is running out to control greenhouse gases. What else can scientists do to spur action to avert the worst impacts of climate change?
National Research C. Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 1979. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/12181/carbon-dioxide-and-climate-a-scientific-assessment
The Charney Report: 40 years ago, scientists accurately predicted climate change
We are hurtling towards the Blue Ocean Event (BOE) in the Arctic. Nobody knows for sure when it will happen.
From my analysis, which I discuss in this video, my best guess is that the BOE will happen in 2022. There will be essentially NO sea ice in the Arctic Ocean for a few weeks to a month in September, 2022.
After this BOE happens, then what will follow in subsequent years? I think that by BOE+2 years the Arctic Ocean will be ice free for August, September, and October. By BOE+4 years it will be ice free for 5 months, and by BOE+10 years the Arctic Ocean will be free of sea ice year round.
During this decade of gut-wrenching transition, our climate and weather patterns will be profoundly disrupted, chaotic, and unstable, for example presenting enormous risks to our global food supply.
1. There is no shortage of scary facts in the major new report on climate change and land, a summary of which was released today by a United Nations–led scientific panel. Chief among them: For everyone who lives on land, the planet’s dangerously warmed future is already here.
Earth’s land has already warmed more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since the industrial revolution, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That’s the same amount of warming that climate activists are hoping to prevent on a global scale. ...
And land temperatures are what humanity usually cares about. Land, really, is what humanity cares about. That’s the point.
2. If the report has an overarching theme, it’s that land is extremely scarce, we need it for everything, and we are already using most of it. More than 70 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is already shaped by human activity, the report says.
As trees are felled and farms take their place, this human-managed land emits about a quarter of global greenhouse-gas pollution every year, including 13 percent of carbon dioxide and 44 percent of the super-warming but short-lived pollutant methane.
But unlike other sources of pollution—such as the burning of fossil fuels, which must be quickly reduced globally—land can’t just be shut down. It must be made into a tool in the climate fight.
5. Nearly every American knows what our peculiar national grid of farm and field looks like. During a drive across the Midwest, it rolls past, flipbook-like: field-field-road, field-field-road.
During a coast-to-coast flight, it unfurls outside the plane window like a vast Cartesian quilt, lines meeting lines at right angles, circles of irrigation locked within squares.
This grid system, formally known as the Public Land Survey System, covers much of the land outside the 13 original colonies.
What every American may not realize is that this grid gives us a great advantage when thinking about area. Each of those grid squares is about one square mile.
The Earth’s total land surface is about 52 million square miles. So we only get 52 million grid squares to work with as a species. ...
These 52 million grid squares cannot only service our needs. They are all the land, period. They must also hold the vast, lovely, unknowable thing that we call nature—every shady spot, every mountain stream, every sand dune. (The IPCC authors call this, somewhat dryly, “biodiversity and ecosystem services.”) Every grain of rice and cobalt mine, every sidewalk square and platypus, has to be somewhere on that 52 million.
These were the “really complex political issues” at the center of the IPCC talks. “Land can’t, at the same time, feed people, and grow trees to be burned for bioenergy, and store carbon,” Stabinsky said.
“That conflict of what’s going to take priority as we face greater and greater climate challenges” defined the talks, she said. “There’s going to be more and more desire to try to use land to pull carbon out of the atmosphere, and that’s going to interfere with food production.”
6. Even if the authors mumble about the future, they can clearly denounce the present crisis: That system of 52 million is already badly damaged.
The planet’s land absorbs carbon pollution today only because of a great “natural subsidy,” said Louis Verchot, the report co-author.
The 70 percent of ice-free land surface managed by people actually produces five gigatons of greenhouse gases a year.
The remaining land surface—the 30 percent in nature’s control—sucks up 11 gigatons. So while the land surface absorbs about six gigatons of carbon on net, this has nothing to do with people.
“The land is out of balance in areas that we are managing,” Verchot said. “The biosphere is offsetting the carbon emissions, but that’s not a reason to call the land in balance.” He called this absorption an “additional gift of nature,” but it may be more apt to call it the final gift of nature.
And at some point in the coming century—as more forests are felled and as demand for beef grows—this gift could become a curse, and the land will spew greenhouse gases into the air as ferociously as humanity does today.