Paris Agreement: Twelve Days That Damned Our World?

15 01 2016

An excellent article from Boomer Warrior.  May the looming crisis save us from ourselves, because the powers that be sure as hell won’t……

Paris Agreement: Twelve Days That Damned Our World, boomer warrior

The world is ruled by those who show up. And world leaders did show up last December in Paris to sign the first climate agreement that would shape climate action for decades to come and perhaps to the end of this century. After 20 years of international climate negotiations, The Paris Agreement was formally adopted on December 12, 2015. So, will the Paris Agreement save the planet or has it damned our world?

“This is truly a historic moment…For the first time, we have a truly universal agreement on climate change, one of the most crucial problems on earth.” (United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon)

Like millions of others around the globe I got caught up in the euphoria of the moment; I was filled with hope and optimism. We have finally come to our senses I allowed myself to think. But then climate reality set in.

Now that the celebrations are over, now that the champagne has stopped flowing and now that the high-fives and congratulatory back-slapping for a job well done are over, it’s time to take a more sober look at what has really been accomplished.

Former NASA scientist James Hansen calls the agreement a fraud and a fake with “no action, just promises…..we’ll have a 2 degree warming target and then try to do a little better every five years. It’s just worthless words.” Hansen claims we are already at a level of emergency. We do not need more blue-sky pledges.

Paris Agreement has Damned Our World


Published December 5, 2015
Standard YouTube License

Naomi Klein, Canadian environmentalist and climate activist, has called the climate deal scientifically inadequateBill McKibben (350.org) stated that, “The world’s governments have now announced their intentions. And so the rest of us can hold them to those promises, or at least try. What, you want to build a pipeline? I thought you were going to go for 1.5 degrees. You want to frack? Are you fracking kidding me? You said you were going for 2 degrees at the absolute worst.”

Inadequacies of the Agreement

Paris Agreement: Twelve Days That Damned Our World, boomer warrior

Mock Eiffel tower at Le Bourget conference centre (credit: IISD/Kiara Worth)

Citizens Climate Lobby Canada points out four facts to keep in mind:

  1. It is not a formal commitment to a 1.5 oC limit–just a promise to pursue that limit.
  2. The actual plans from the 195 countries that took part in the Paris Agreement currently still commit the world to a temperature rise well above the two degree limit.
  3. In November 2015 the world hit the one degree rise above pre-industrial levels.
  4. Also in November 2015, humanity passed another ominous milestone: the last time anyone alive experienced global carbon dioxide (CO2) levels below 400 ppm. The scientific data strongly suggests that the safe level is 350 ppm. For over 10,000 years of human civilization, until the last hundred years, atmospheric COwas below 300 ppm.

Gap between evidence and promise

The gap between what is needed to make the planet livable for future generations and the tenuous promises of the agreement is shocking. Even if the 195 signatories to the deal attain their respective emissions targets, the agreement will lock us into a future of 3-4 degrees of planetary warming–a truly catastrophic and unimaginable nightmare.

Just before the start of the Paris talks, Dahr Jamail (Truthout Report) claimed that the Paris climate talks would be too little too late:

Well in advance of the Paris talks, the UN announced that the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere has locked in another 2.7 degrees Celsius warming at a minimum, even if countries move forward with the pledges they make to cut emissions. Hence, even the 2 degree Celsius goal is already unattainable….The faux goal of 2 degrees Celsius continues to be discussed. Meanwhile, the planet burns.

Profit or the Planet

The Paris agreement will operate within an economic framework that fails to recognize the primary culprit of global warming and climate change–capitalism is inherently unsustainable. The deal continues to support an economic system that demands infinite growth on a planet with finite resources, a system which has already produced climate chaos around the globe.

We have twiddled with the temperature dial–1.5 or 2 degrees–while failing to address the real causes–a debt-bound economic system, the myth of progress and our millennia-long separation from wild nature on which we depend for everything.

Price on Carbon

Putting a price on carbon is recognized world-wide as the primary tool for reducing emissions and reaching a  zero-carbon reality sometime in the second half of this century. But the Agreement fails miserably to address carbon pricing. It includes murky semantics where carbon trading is referred to as“internationally transferred mitigation outcomes”Article 6 provides for an entirely new, UN-controlled international carbon market mechanism where countries will be able to trade carbon to help each other to achieve their own targets for emissions cuts. A CounterPunch article claims that Paris has set us up for failure:

Carbon markets basically function as a delaying tactic. It’s been that way ever since their first inclusion in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The EU-ETS for instance, the first, biggest and most significant of all trading schemes, simply hasn’t delivered. It took the best part of ten years for it to start after Kyoto, and once in action it was riddled by fraudcorruptionover-allocation of permits and perverse incentives for carbon offsetting – all contributing to the fact that the price for carbon is so low that nobody cares.

Two Untouchables

According to the U.N., livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And yet, animal agriculture and the consumption of meat have been largely ignored at the Paris climate talks leading up to the climate deal.

A University of Cambridge study finds that business-as-usual food consumption will eat up all of our global GHG budget by 2050, with nothing left for energy, transportation and other sectors.

The discussion surrounding “overpopulation” continues to be ignored. And yet, it is the proverbial elephant in the room. It is a taboo to even talk about this issue. By 2050, another 2 billion people will have been added to the planet putting even more strain on already depleting resources.

“Without pressure from ordinary people, world leaders would have gladly ignored this problem [global warming] entirely. It’s  pressure from people that will close the gap between what was signed today and the action we need“, wrote May Boeve of 350.0rg in a December email. I started this piece by saying that the world is ruled by those who show up. But change only happens when people on the streets take action.

That will happen in 2016.

*

RollyRolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Reality leader, a Blogger and a Climate Activist. He’s a member of Climate Reality Canada, Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa) and 350.Org (Ottawa), the Ethical Team (as an influencer)  and Global Population Speakout.

Rolly has been published widely in both print and online publications. You can follow him on FacebookTwitterLinkedin and Pinterest.

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Compounding problems for sea level rise…

28 01 2015

Another guest post by Mark Cochrane…..

One of the larger concerns in recent years has been the question of just how fast sea levels might rise due to collapsing ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland. In the IPCC AR4 report (2007) there was considerable furor because the 2005 cut off for literature and the natural conservative nature of the ‘consensus’ interpretation resulted in estimates of sea level rise that were known to be too low at the time of publication: specifically, from 0.18 to 0.59 m by 2100, depending on which scenario you chose and the low-to-high extremes. In the more recent AR5 report (2013), they conclude that for the best of emissions cases, if we start immediate and extensive carbon emission reductions (RCP 2.6), sea level is expected to rise by 28-61 cm by 2100, while in the worst of cases (RCP 8.5) sea level rise is expected to be 52-98 cm. This is still conservative but much better than the AR4 estimates.

The real question is whether sea level rise occurs at close to a linear rate (fixed amount per year) that is slow and easily projected, or if it is increasing at a nonlinear rate (fixed percentage per year) that could yield unpleasant surprises in future years? Dr. Richard Alley (2010) compared projections of sea level rise going forward and basically found that most included 1m within their error range, with the exception of one serious outlier at 5m made by Dr. James Hansen (2005, 2007, 2012). Hansen’s predictions have not been well-received by the community of experts on ice sheet dynamics. They point out that, so far, there has been nothing like the amount of sea level rise observed that would be necessary to reach 5m in a linear fashion. Hansen however premises his ideas of rapid ice sheet collapse on nonlinear phenomenon caused by things like glacial melt water being transported to the base of the ice sheets and acting as a lubricant to speed their movement dramatically.

In the mean time, more traditional approaches to looking at glacial melting rates have had values centered more on 1 meter, to maybe 2 meters under worst conditions, of sea level rise by 2100 (NOAA 2012). Hansen has been intransigent in his estimations and the rates of sea level rise keep exceeding the best estimates of the ‘experts’. Glacial melt within dynamic ice sheet models has typically been modelled based on simple top down melting with unchanging processes for explaining the ongoing flow of ice sheets. However, the accelerating rates of observed ice sheet flow and disintegrating ice shelves have led to reappraisals of what is going on. As I recently detailed (post #2340), warmer ocean waters have been melting ice sheets from underneath in some regions, removing the stable grounding lines and now the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is in irreversible collapse (Rignot et al 2014, Joughlin et al. 2014).

Similarly, Pollard et al. (2014) have recently tried to improve continental ice sheet models by adding the processes of oceanic melting and hydrofracturing (melt water from the surface pouring into cracks and forcing them further apart) and also account for ice cliff failures (when they get so large the ice face crumbles). Both processes they added are based on observations made in the field in recent years. They looked at the effects on both the WAIS and the Eastern Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS). The interesting thing (to me at least) is that cliff failure and hydrofracture combine to cause very large changes in expected sea level rise that either process alone does not create. By itself, cliff failure does little to accelerate collapse over the standard model representation. Conversely, hydrofracturing, by itself, causes expected sea level rise to roughly double from 2 to 4 m over thousands of years. When both processes are included though, the sea level rises by 17 m, with about 4 m happening in the first 100 years! Clearly the two processes interact to strongly enhance the collapse rate.  The EAIS collapses slowly over thousands of years but the WAIS collapses in decades.

The Pollard et al (2014) paper is not expressly addressing our future as it was aimed at explaining formerly unexplainable sea level rises during some previous interglacial periods – which their results ended up matching fairly closely. They forced their model using 400 ppm CO2 so it isn’t wildly different from what we currently have though.  In the model, roughly 3 m of sea rise come from the WAIS alone, within 100 years. If you add the much slower response of the EAIS and the undiscussed but very similar ice sheet collapse from Greenland, suddenly Hansen’s 5 m sea level rise call doesn’t look so outlandish after all. Interestingly, the senior author on the Pollard et al. paper is none other than Richard Alley who previously did not see how such rapid ice sheet collapse could be occurring.

This still doesn’t mean that we definitely will get 5 m of sea level rise in this century (let’s pray that we don’t!) but it certainly increases the perceived risks of much larger sea level rises than the IPCC AR5 report states (again). It also helps explain the increasing rates of sea level rise from 1.0 mm/yr to 3.0 mm/yr in recent decades. Things seem to be proceeding in a decidedly nonlinear way.





Some wisdom from James Hansen

1 01 2014

As crackpot advisers like Maurice Newman whisper total rubbish into our PM’s ear….:

THE unprecedented cost of energy driven by the renewable energy target and the carbon tax had destroyed the nation’s competitiveness, Tony Abbott’s chief business adviser has declared.  Maurice Newman also says climate change policies driven by “scientific delusion” have been a major factor in the collapse of Australia’s manufacturing sector. “The Australian dollar and industrial relations policies are blamed,” Mr Newman said. “But, for some manufacturers, the strong dollar has been a benefit, while high relative wages have long been a feature of the Australian industrial landscape.”  In an interview, Mr Newman said protection of climate change policies and the renewable energy industry by various state governments smacked of a “cover-up”.

He said an upcoming review of the renewable energy target must include examination of claims made in federal parliament that millions of dollars were being paid to renewable energy projects that allegedly did not meet planning guidelines. Mr Newman’s comments follow those of Dow Chemicals chairman and chief executive Andrew Liveris, who said Australia was losing its natural advantage of abundant and cheap energy.

“As far as new investments go, our primary energy sources of natural gas and electricity are now or will soon become negatives to any comparative calculation,” Mr Liveris said.  “Average prices of electricity have doubled in most states in recent years and the unprecedented contraction in consumption threatens a ‘death spiral’ in which falling consumption pushes up prices even further, causing further falls in consumption,” he said.

Mr Newman said Australia had become “hostage to climate-change madness”. “And for all the propaganda about ‘green employment’, Australia seems to be living the European experience, where, for every ‘green’ job created, two to three jobs are lost in the real economy,” he said.  “The scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling. Global temperatures have gone nowhere for 17 years. Now, credible German scientists claim that ‘the global temperature will drop until 2100 to a value corresponding to the little ice age of 1870′.” NB: [NASA defines the term as a cold period between AD 1550 and 1850]  so the deniers can’t even get that right…

Mr Newman said the climate change establishment, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, remained “intent on exploiting the masses and extracting more money”.  “When necessary, the IPCC resorts to dishonesty and deceit,” he said.  In Australia, Mr Newman said, Victorian Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan had told parliament how politicians and bureaucrats were paying tens of millions of dollars annually to wind turbine operators that had not received final planning approval.  “It could be hundreds of millions of dollars and we have a government that is keen to rein in the budget deficit,” he said. “If you can save a million dollars that should never have been spent, we should be doing it.”

Senator Madigan said the issuing of renewable energy certificates to one of the non-compliant wind farms, at Waubra in Victoria, reflected “a culture of noncompliance arising from systematic regulatory failure that impacts every wind farm in Victoria”.  He said the issue involved “the pain and suffering of little people living in rural Australia, environmental damage, fraud on a grand scale, deception, lies and concealment”.

The clean energy regulator has defended the decision to allow the Waubra wind farm to receive renewable energy certificates.  Mr Newman’s comments came as the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission revealed that in the 18 months since the carbon tax commenced, it had received 3132 complaints and inquiries in relation to carbon price matters.

JAMES HANSEN et al come along and publish this on Dec 3, 201……..

Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature

Humans are now the main cause of changes of Earth’s atmospheric composition and thus the drive for future NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies Dr James Hansenclimate change. The principal climate forcing, defined as an imposed change of planetary energy balance , is increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel emissions, much of which will remain in the atmosphere for millennia. The climate response to this forcing and society’s response to climate change are complicated by the system’s inertia, mainly due to the ocean and the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica together with the long residence time of fossil fuel carbon in the climate system. The inertia causes climate to appear to respond slowly to this human-made forcing, but further long-lasting responses can be locked in.

More than 170 nations have agreed on the need to limit fossil fuel emissions to avoid dangerous human-made climate change, as formalized in the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, the stark reality is that global emissions have accelerated  and new efforts are underway to massively expand fossil fuel extraction by drilling to increasing ocean depths and into the Arctic, squeezing oil from tar sands and tar shale, hydro-fracking to expand extraction of natural gas, developing exploitation of methane hydrates, and mining of coal via mountaintop removal and mechanized long-wall mining. The growth rate of fossil fuel emissions increased from 1.5%/year during 1980–2000 to 3%/year in 2000–2012, mainly because of increased coal use.

A crucial point to note is that the three tasks [limiting fossil fuel CO2 emissions, limiting (and reversing) land use emissions, limiting (and reversing) growth of non-CO2 forcings] are interactive and reinforcing. In mathematical terms, the problem is non-linear. As one of these climate forcings increases, it increases the others. The good news is that, as one of them decreases, it tends to decrease the others. In order to bestow upon future generations a planet like the one we received, we need to win on all three counts, and by far the most important is rapid phasedown of fossil fuel emissions.

It is distressing that, despite the clarity and imminence of the danger of continued high fossil fuel emissions, governments continue to allow and even encourage pursuit of ever more fossil fuels. Recognition of this reality and perceptions of what is “politically feasible” may partially account for acceptance of targets for global warming and carbon emissions that are well into the range of “dangerous human-made interference” with climate. Although there is merit in simply chronicling what is happening, there is still opportunity for humanity to exercise free will. Thus our objective is to define what the science indicates is needed, not to assess political feasibility. Further, it is not obvious to us that there are physical or economic limitations that prohibit fossil fuel emission targets far lower than 1000 GtC, even targets closer to 500 GtC. Indeed, we suggest that rapid transition off fossil fuels would have numerous near-term and long-term social benefits, including improved human health and outstanding potential for job creation.

A world summit on climate change will be held at United Nations Headquarters in September 2014 as a preliminary to negotiation of a new climate treaty in Paris in late 2015. If this treaty is analogous to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol , based on national targets for emission reductions and cap-and-trade-with-offsets emissions trading mechanisms, climate deterioration and gross intergenerational injustice will be practically guaranteed. The palpable danger that such an approach is conceivable is suggested by examination of proposed climate policies of even the most forward-looking of nations. Norway, which along with the other Scandinavian countries has been among the most ambitious and successful of all nations in reducing its emissions, nevertheless approves expanded oil drilling in the Arctic and development of tar sands as a majority owner of Statoil. Emissions foreseen by the Energy Perspectives of Statoil, if they occur, would approach or exceed 1000 GtC and cause dramatic climate change that would run out of control of future generations. If, in contrast, leading nations agree in 2015 to have internal rising fees on carbon with border duties on products from nations without a carbon fee, a foundation would be established for phaseover to carbon free energies and stable climate.”

2013over





Time to stop waffling about degrees of climate danger

7 12 2013

The Conversation

by Peter Christoff

Associate Professor at University of Melbourne

Peter Christoff is the editor of the 30-author book, Four Degrees of Global Warming: Australia in a Hot World. The profits from this book will be donated to The Climate Council.

“Erratic”, “inconsistent”, “highly political” and “lacking in direction”. That’s the unvarnished verdict on Australia’s climate policy, according to experts within our own Parliament House.

It wasn’t a statement from the government or even the opposition. Instead, it came from the well-respected Parliamentary Library, which this week quietly released a helpful timeline of Australian climate change policy since the 1970s.

By chance, that timeline came out just ahead of an important new paper by a team of global experts, and a new book here in Australia.

Both highlight how little the world has done to tackle climate change in all that time. But they also point to some clear solutions that could help us avoid a dangerously hot future, including: tougher emissions targets, putting a price on carbon emissions, rapidly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, and – in Australia’s case – ending its insupportable boom in coal and gas exports.

Two degrees is one too many

It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here. – NASA scientist Dr James Hansen, June 1988.

Twenty-five years ago James Hansen warned a US Congress hearing that global warming was a problem they could no longer afford to ignore.

His latest research, published yesterday, warns that the widely-supported international target of stopping the average global temperature from rising to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above the pre-industrial level would have “disastrous consequences”.

Co-written with a high-profile global team including US economist Jeffrey Sachs and Australian coral expert Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, their Assessing Dangerous Climate Change paper finds:

some climate extremes are already increasing in response to warming of several tenths of a degree in recent decades. These extremes would likely be much enhanced with warming of 2°C or more.

Critically, the authors argue that it would be “exceedingly difficult… yet still conceivable” to limit human-induced warming to about 1°C (1.8°F) with strong action.

They support a carbon tax, which they say is simpler and easier than an international emissions trading scheme; greater investment in technology development; and cutting energy subsidies, including “large direct and indirect subsidies” for fossil fuels.

But to achieve their aim of about 1°C of warming, current global emissions would need to be cut by 6% per year starting from this year – when in fact, emissions are continuing to rise.

Extreme risks for Australia

Based on existing emissions trends and insufficient national mitigation pledges, we’re actually on track to see average global warming of around 4°C by the end of this century, if not earlier.

Released last night, the book Four Degrees of Global Warming: Australia in a Hot World – of which I am the editor – reports the latest research on what 4°C of warming would do to Australia’s environment, society and economy.

Given current trends, by the end of this century Australia will be a continent under assault: hotter, subject to greater extremes of weather such as bushfires, floods, storms, droughts, possibly hungrier, poorer and more insecure.

For instance, increasing temperature and declining rainfall could undermine agricultural production. By the end of the century, Australia could go from exporting its surplus food to struggling to feed its larger domestic population.

Other significant contributors to Australia’s economy – tourism, fisheries and mining – would be substantially transformed and severely affected.

A 4°C world would batter Australia’s environment. Extreme events and rising temperatures would force more Australian species to extinction. The Great Barrier Reef would be devastated by gradual warming, high-heat bleaching events, and ocean acidification. The A$6.4 billion tourism industry it supports would likely collapse.

Pressures on the national economy would be compounded as governments and communities struggle to deal with the rising costs of adaptation and remediation in the face of extreme events. Basic services like public transport and housing, water, sewerage, health and communications would be under increasing stress.

By the end of the century living in Melbourne could become climatically like living in southern NSW, Sydney like Rockhampton, and Alice Springs like the Sudan. In Darwin, the number of days over 35°C is projected to rise from an average of 10 a year now to more than 300 – which would be like nowhere on Earth today.

What we can do

Assessed against these threats and their costs to Australian communities and ecosystems, the weakness of current policies and targets becomes starkly evident.

To avoid this scenario, Australia – as well as other countries, particularly those that contributed the most cumulative emissions over the years (see charts below) – must dramatically step up its efforts in this critical decade.

Fossil fuel CO2 emissions. Pie chart (A) shows 2012 emissions by source region, while (B) shows the cumulative emissions from 1751 to 2012. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081648.g011

We have to change our emissions reduction target, from aiming to cut emissions 5% below 2000 levels by 2020 to, at minimum, aiming for a 38% reduction by 2020.

That target is appropriate given what climate science is telling us: it’s the necessary contribution Australia has to make to bridging the emissions gap between a 4°C world and a path to warming closer to 1.5°C.

Leading economists such as Nicholas Stern and Ross Garnaut agree that early and effective action will be less expensive and more effective than delay. If countries like Australia stopped being so erratic on climate policy, and finally committed to long-term, serious emissions reductions, we would be providing the international leadership needed to start making the “exceedingly difficult… yet still conceivable” changes proposed by Hansen and his co-authors.

No regrets

But the grounds for hope in Australia are presently thin; the political climate is, euphemistically, challenging.

As the Parliamentary Library’s timeline reminds us, back in the 1980s Australia adopted a national target of cutting emissions 20% on 1988 levels by 2005 – but only as a “no regrets” strategy. The loophole was that any reduction would not be “at the expense of the economy”.

Similar short-termism has largely won out in decades that followed – and it looks like it could prevail again with the Coalition government’s push to repeal Australia’s carbon price.

Australian efforts and international negotiations are increasingly at odds with the scientific evidence on the need for urgent, substantial emissions cuts.

Unless we can break from this pattern of political and policy neglect, Australia will reap a 4°C future. In what way is that a “no regrets” strategy?





‘Sleepwalking to Extinction’: Capitalism and the Destruction of Life and Earth

23 11 2013

Reblogged from http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/11/15-3

“even if we immediately replaced every fossil-fuel-powered electric generating plant on the planet with 100% renewable solar, wind and water power, this would only reduce global GHG emissions by around 17%.”

When, on May 10th, scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii announced that global CO2 400ppm
emissions had crossed a threshold at 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in millions of years, a sense of dread spread around the world and not only among climate scientists. CO2 emissions have been relentlessly climbing since Charles David Keeling first set up his tracking station near the summit of Mauna Loa Observatory in 1958 to monitor average daily global CO2 levels. At that time, CO2 concentrations registered 315 ppm. CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have been rising ever since and have recently passed a dangerous tipping point: 440ppm.

For all the climate summits, promises of “voluntary restraint,” carbon trading and carbon taxes, the growth of CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have not just been unceasing, they have been accelerating in what scientists have dubbed the “Keeling Curve.” In the early 1960s, CO2 ppm concentrations in the atmosphere grew by 0.7ppm per year. In recent decades, especially as China has industrialized, the growth rate has tripled to 2.1 ppm per year. In just the first 17 weeks of 2013, CO2 levels jumped by 2.74 ppm compared to last year.

Carbon concentrations have not been this high since the Pliocene period, between 3m and 5m years ago, when global average temperatures were 3˚C or 4˚C hotter than today, the Arctic was ice-free, sea levels were about 40m higher and jungles covered northern Canada; Florida, meanwhile, was under water along with other coastal locations we now call New York, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney and many others. Crossing this threshold has fuelled fears that we are fast approaching converging “tipping points” — melting of the subarctic tundra or the thawing and releasing of the vast quantities of methane in the Arctic sea bottom — that will accelerate global warming beyond any human capacity to stop it.

“I wish it weren’t true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400 ppm level without losing a beat,” said Scripps Institute geochemist Ralph Keeling, son of Charles Keeling.

“At this pace, we’ll hit 450 ppm within a few decades.”

“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.

Why are we marching toward disaster, “sleepwalking to extinction” as the Guardian’s George Monbiot once put it? Why can’t we slam on the brakes before we ride off the cliff to collapse? I’m going to argue here that the problem is rooted in the requirement of capitalist production. Large corporations can’t help themselves; they can’t change or change very much. So long as we live under this corporate capitalist system we have little choice but to go along in this destruction, to keep pouring on the gas instead of slamming on the brakes, and that the only alternative — impossible as this may seem right now — is to overthrow this global economic system and all of the governments of the 1% that prop it up and replace them with a global economic democracy, a radical bottom-up political democracy, an eco-socialist civilization.

Although we are fast approaching the precipice of ecological collapse, the means to derail this train wreck are in the making as, around the world we are witnessing a near simultaneous global mass democratic “awakening” — as the Brazilians call it — from Tahir Square to Zucotti Park, from Athens to Istanbul to Beijing and beyond such as the world has never seen. To be sure, like Occupy Wall Street, these movements are still inchoate, are still mainly protesting what’s wrong rather than fighting for an alternative social order. Like Occupy, they have yet to clearly and robustly answer that crucial question: “Don’t like capitalism, what’s your alternative?” Yet they are working on it, and they are for the most part instinctively and radically democratic; in this lies our hope.

Capitalism is, overwhelmingly, the main driver of planetary ecological collapse

From climate change to natural resource overconsumption to pollution, the engine that has powered three centurieshttps://i0.wp.com/www.newscientist.com/data/images/archive/2605/26051202.jpg of accelerating economic development, revolutionizing technology, science, culture and human life itself is, today, a roaring out-of-control locomotive mowing down continents of forests, sweeping oceans of life, clawing out mountains of minerals, pumping out lakes of fuels, devouring the planet’s last accessible natural resources to turn them into “product,” while destroying fragile global ecologies built up over eons of time. Between 1950 and 2000 the global human population more than doubled from 2.5 to 6 billion. But in these same decades, consumption of major natural resources soared more than sixfold on average, some much more. Natural gas consumption grew nearly twelvefold, bauxite (aluminium ore) fifteenfold. And so on. At current rates, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson says that “half the world’s great forests have already been levelled and half the world’s plant and animal species may be gone by the end of this century.”

Corporations aren’t necessarily evil, though plenty are diabolically evil, but they can’t help themselves. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to do for the benefit of their shareholders. Shell Oil can’t help but loot Nigeria and the Arctic and cook the climate. That’s what shareholders demand. BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and other mining giants can’t resist mining Australia’s abundant coal and exporting it to China and India. Mining accounts for 19% of Australia’s GDP and substantial employment even as coal combustion is the single worst driver of global warming. IKEA can’t help but level the forests of Siberia and Malaysia to feed the Chinese mills building their flimsy disposable furniture (IKEA is the third largest consumer of lumber in the world). Apple can’t help it if the cost of extracting the “rare earths” it needs to make millions of new iThings each year is the destruction of the eastern Congo — violence, rape, slavery, forced induction of child soldiers, along with poisoning local waterways. Monsanto and DuPont and Syngenta and Bayer Crop Science have no choice but to wipe out bees, butterflies, birds, small farmers and extinguish crop diversity to secure their grip on the world’s food supply while drenching the planet in their Roundups and Atrazines and neonicotinoids.

This is how giant corporations are wiping out life on earth in the course of a routine business day. And the bigger the corporations grow, the worse the problems become.

In Adam Smith’s day, when the first factories and mills produced hat pins and iron tools and rolls of cloth by the thousands, capitalist freedom to make whatever they wanted didn’t much matter because they didn’t have much impact on the global environment. But today, when everything is produced in the millions and billions, then trashed today and reproduced all over again tomorrow, when the planet is looted and polluted to support all this frantic and senseless growth, it matters — a lot.

The world’s climate scientists tell us we’re facing a planetary emergency. They’ve been telling us since the 1990s that if we don’t cut global fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions by 80-90% below 1990 levels by 2050 we will cross critical tipping points and global warming will accelerate beyond any human power to contain it. Yet despite all the ringing alarm bells, no corporation and no government can oppose growth and, instead, every capitalist government in the world is putting pedal to the metal to accelerate growth, to drive us full throttle off the cliff to collapse.

Marxists have never had a better argument against capitalism than this inescapable and apocalyptic “contradiction.” Solutions to the ecological crisis are blindingly obvious but we can’t take the necessary steps to prevent ecological collapse because, so long as we live under capitalism, economic growth has to take priority over ecological concerns.

We all know what we have to do: suppress greenhouse gas emissions. Stop over-consuming natural resources. Stop the senseless pollution of the earth, waters, and atmosphere with toxic chemicals. Stop producing waste that can’t be recycled by nature. Stop the destruction of biological diversity and ensure the rights of other species to flourish. We don’t need any new technological breakthroughs to solve these problems. Mostly, we just stop doing what we’re doing. But we can’t stop because we’re all locked into an economic system in which companies have to grow to compete and reward their shareholders and because we all need the jobs.

James Hansen, the world’s preeminent climate scientist, has argued that to save the humans:

“Coal emissions must be phased out as rapidly as possible or global climate disasters will be a dead certainty … Yes, [coal, oil, gas] most of the fossil fuels must be left in the ground. That is the explicit message that the science provides. […] Humanity treads today on a slippery slope. As we continue to pump greenhouse gases in the air, we move onto a steeper, even more slippery incline. We seem oblivious to the danger — unaware of how close we may be to a situation in which a catastrophic slip becomes practically unavoidable, a slip where we suddenly lose all control and are pulled into a torrential stream that hurls us over a precipice to our demise.”

But how can we do this under capitalism? After his climate negotiators stonewalled calls for binding limits on CO2 emissions at Copenhagen, Cancun, Cape Town and Doha, President Obama is now trying to salvage his environmental “legacy” by ordering his EPA to impose “tough” new emissions limits on existing power plants, especially coal-fired plants. But this won’t salvage his legacy or, more importantly, his daughters’ futures because how much difference would it make, really, if every coal-fired power plant in the U.S. shut down tomorrow when U.S. coal producers are free to export their coal to China, which they are doing, and when China is building another coal-fired power plan every week? The atmosphere doesn’t care where the coal is burned. It only cares how much is burned.

Yet how could Obama tell American mining companies to stop mining coal? This would be tantamount to socialism. But if we do not stop mining and burning coal, capitalist freedom and private property is the least we’ll have to worry about. Same with Obama’s “tough” new fuel economy standards. In August 2012 Obama boasted that his new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards would “double fuel efficiency” over the next 13 years to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, up from 28.6 mpg at present — cutting vehicle CO2 emissions in half, so helping enormously to “save the planet.” But as the Center for Biological Diversity and other critics have noted, Obama was lying, as usual.

Four tonne Ford Excursion

First, his so-called “tough” new CAFE standards were so full of loopholes, negotiated with Detroit, that they actually encourage more gas-guzzling, not less. That’s because the standards are based on a sliding scale according to “vehicle footprints” — the bigger the car, the less mileage it has to get to meet its “standard.” So in fact Obama’s “tough” standards are (surprise) custom designed to promote what Detroit does best — produce giant Sequoias, mountainous Denalis, Sierras, Yukons, Tundras and Ticonderogas, Ram Chargers and Ford F series luxury trucks, grossly obese Cadillac Escalades, soccer-kid Suburbans, even 8,000 (!) pound Ford Excursions — and let these gross gas hogs meet the “fleet standard.” These cars and “light” trucks are among the biggest selling vehicles in America today (GM’s Sierra is #1) and they get worse gas mileage than American cars and trucks half a century ago. Cadillac’s current Escalade gets worse mileage than its chrome bedecked tail fin-festooned land yachts of the mid-1950s! Little wonder Detroit applauded Obama’s new CAFE standards instead of damning them as usual. Secondly, what would it matter even if Obama’s new CAFE standards actually did double fleet mileage — when American and global vehicle fleets are growing exponentially?

populationCO2In 1950 Americans had one car for every three people. Today we have 1.2 cars for every American. In 1950 when there were about 2.6 billion humans on the planet, there were 53 million cars on the world’s roads — about one for every 50 persons. Today, there are 7 billion people but more than 1 billion cars and industry forecasters expect there will be 2 to 2.5 billion cars on the world’s roads by mid-century. China alone is expected to have a billion. So, at the end of the day, incremental half measures like CAFE standards can’t stop rising GHG missions. Barring some technical miracle, the only way to cut vehicle emissions is to just stop making them — drastically suppress vehicle production, especially of the worst gas hogs.

In theory, Obama could simply order GM to stop building its humongous gas guzzlers and switch to producing small economy cars. After all, the federal government owns the company! But of course, how could he do any such thing? Detroit lives by the mantra “big car big profit, small car small profit.” Since Detroit has never been able to compete against the Japanese and Germans in the small car market, which is already glutted and nearly profitless everywhere, such an order would only doom GM to failure, if not bankruptcy (again) and throw masses of workers onto the unemployment lines. So given capitalism, Obama is, in fact, powerless. He’s locked in to promoting the endless growth of vehicle production, even of the worst polluters — and lying about it all to the public to try to patch up his pathetic “legacy.” And yet, if we don’t suppress vehicle production, how can we stop rising CO2 emissions?

In the wake of the failure of climate negotiators from Kyoto to Doha to agree on binding limits on GHG emissions, exasperated British climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows at the Tyndall Centre, Britain’s leading climate change research center, wrote in September 2012 that we need an entirely new paradigm:

Government policies must “radically change” if “dangerous” climate change is to be avoided “We urgently need to acknowledge that the development needs of many countries leave the rich western nations with little choice but to immediately and severely curb their greenhouse gas emissions… [The] misguided belief that commitments to avoid warming of 2˚C can still be realized with incremental adjustments to economic incentives. A carbon tax here, a little emissions trading there and the odd voluntary agreement thrown in for good measure will not be sufficient … long-term end-point targets (for example, 80% by 2050) have no scientific basis. What governs future global temperatures and other adverse climate impacts are the emissions from yesterday, today and those released in the next few years.”

And not just scientists. In its latest world energy forecast released on November 12, 2012, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warns that despite the bonanza of fossil fuels now made possible by fracking, horizontal and deepwater drilling, we can’t consume them if we want to save the humans: “The climate goal of limiting global warming to 2˚C is becoming more difficult and costly with each year that passes… no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2˚C goal…” Of course the science could be wrong about this. But so far climate scientists have consistently underestimated the speed and ferocity of global warming, and even prominent climate change deniers have folded their cards.

Still, it’s one thing for James Hansen or Bill McKibben to say we need to “leave the coal in the hole, the oil in the soil, the gas under the grass,” to call for “severe curbs” in GHG emissions — in the abstract. But think about what this means in our capitalist economy. Most of us, even passionate environmental activists, don’t really want to face up to the economic implications of the science we defend.

That’s why, if you listen to environmentalists like Bill McKibben for example, you will get the impression that global warming is mainly driven by fossil fuel powered electric power plants, so if we just “switch to renewables” this will solve the main problem and we can carry on with life more or less as we do now. Indeed, “green capitalism” enthusiasts like Thomas Friedman and the union-backed “green jobs” lobby look to renewable energy, electric cars and such as “the next great engine of industrial growth” — the perfect win-win solution. This is a not a solution. This is a delusion: greenhouse gasses are produced across the economy not just by power plants. Globally, fossil-fuel-powered electricity generation accounts for 17% of GHG emissions, heating accounts for 5%, miscellaneous “other” fuel combustion 8.6%, industry 14.7%, industrial processes another 4.3%, transportation 14.3%, agriculture 13.6%, land use changes (mainly deforestation) 12.2%. This means, for a start, that even if we immediately replaced every fossil-fuel-powered electric generating plant on the planet with 100% renewable solar, wind and water power, this would only reduce global GHG emissions by around 17%.

What this means is that, far from launching a new green-energy-powered “industrial growth” boom, barring some tech-fix miracle, the only way to impose “immediate and severe curbs” on fossil fuel production/consumption would be to impose an EMERGENCY CONTRACTION in the industrialized countries: drastically retrench and in some cases shut down industries, even entire sectors, across the economy and around the planet — not just fossil fuel producers but all the industries that consume them and produce GHG emissions — autos, trucking, aircraft, airlines, shipping and cruise lines, construction, chemicals, plastics, synthetic fabrics, cosmetics, synthetic fiber and fabrics, synthetic fertilizer and agribusiness CAFO operations.

Of course, no one wants to hear this because, given capitalism, this would unavoidably mean mass bankruptcies, global economic collapse, depression and mass unemployment around the world. That’s why in April 2013, in laying the political groundwork for his approval of the XL pipeline in some form, President Obama said “the politics of this are tough.” The earth’s temperature probably isn’t the “number one concern” for workers who haven’t seen a raise in a decade; have an underwater mortgage; are spending $40 to fill their gas tank, can’t afford a hybrid car; and face other challenges.” Obama wants to save the planet but given capitalism his “number one concern” has to be growing the economy, growing jobs. Given capitalism — today, tomorrow, next year and every year — economic growth will always be the overriding priority … till we barrel right off the cliff to collapse.

The necessity of denial and delusion

There’s no technical solution to this problem and no market solution either. In a very few cases — electricity generation is the main one — a broad shift to renewables could indeed sharply reduce fossil fuel emissions in that sector. But if we just use “clean” “green” energy to power more growth, consume ever more natural resources, then we solve nothing and would still be headed to collapse. Producing millions of electric cars instead of millions of gasoline-powered cars, as I explained elsewhere, would be just as ecologically destructive and polluting, if in somewhat different ways, even if they were all run on solar power.

Substituting biofuels for fossil fuels in transportation just creates different but no less environmentally-destructive problems: converting farm land to raise biofuel feedstock pits food production against fuels. Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas or grasslands to produce biofuels releases more CO2 into the atmosphere than the fossil fuels they replace and accelerates species extinction. More industrial farming means more demand for water, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. And so on. Cap and trade schemes can’t cut fossil fuel emissions because business understands, even if some environmentalists do not, that “dematerialization” is a fantasy, that there’s no win-win tech solution, that capping emissions means cutting growth. Since cutting growth is unacceptable to business, labor and governments, cap and trade has been abandoned everywhere.

Carbon taxes can’t stop global warming either because they do not cap emissions. That’s why fossil fuel execs like Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil (the largest private oil company in the world) and Paul Anderson, CEO of Duke Energy (the largest electric utility in the U.S.) support carbon taxes. They understand that carbon taxes would add something to the cost of doing business, like other taxes, but they pose no limit, no “cap” on growth. ExxonMobil predicts that, carbon tax or no carbon tax, by 2040 global demand for energy is going to grow by 35%, 65% in the developing world and nearly all of this is going to be supplied by fossil fuels. ExxonMobil is not looking to “leave the oil in the soil” as a favor to Bill McKibben and the humans. ExxonMobil is looking to pump it and burn it all as fast as possible to enrich its shareholders.

Hansen, McKibben, Obama — and most of us really — don’t want to face up to the economic implications of the need to put the brakes on growth and fossil fuel-based overconsumption. We all “need” to live in denial, and believe in delusions that carbon taxes or some tech fix will save us because we all know that capitalism has to grow or we’ll all be out of work. And the thought of replacing capitalism seems so impossible, especially given the powers arrayed against change. But what’s the alternative? In the not-so-distant future, this is all going to come to a screeching halt one way or another — either we seize hold of this out-of-control locomotive, or we ride this train right off the cliff to collapse.

Emergency Contraction or Global Ecological Collapse?

If there’s no market mechanism to stop plundering the planet then, again, what alternative is there but to impose an emergency contraction on resource consumption?

This doesn’t mean we would have to de-industrialize and go back to riding horses and living in log cabins. But it does mean that we would have to abandon the “consumer economy” — shut down all kinds of unnecessary, wasteful and polluting industries from junkfood to cruise ships, disposable Pampers to disposable H&M clothes, disposable IKEA furniture, endless new model cars, phones, electronic games, the lot. Plus all the banking, advertising, junk mail, most retail, etc. We would have completely redesign production to replace “fast junk food” with healthy, nutritious, fresh “slow food,” replace “fast fashion” with “slow fashion,” bring back mending, alterations and local tailors and shoe repairmen. We would have to completely redesign production of appliances, electronics, housewares, furniture and so on to be as durable and long-lived as possible. Bring back appliance repairmen and such. We would have to abolish the throwaway disposables industries, the packaging and plastic bag industrial complex, bring back refillable bottles and the like. We would have to design and build housing to last for centuries, to be as energy efficient as possible, to be reconfigurable, and shareable. We would have to vastly expand public transportation to curb vehicle use but also build those we do need to last and be shareable like Zipcar or Paris’ municipally-owned “Autolib” shared electric cars.

These are the sorts of things we would have to do if we really want to stop overconsumption and save the world. All these changes are simple, self-evident, no great technical challenge. They just require a completely different kind of economy, an economy geared to producing what we need while conserving resources for future generations of humans and for other species with which we share this planet.

The spectre of eco-democratic revolution

Economic systems come and go. Capitalism has had a 300 year run. The question is: will humanity stand by and let the world be destroyed to save the profit system?

That outcome depends to a great extent on whether we on the left can answer that question “what’s your alternative?” with a compelling and plausible vision of an eco-socialist civilization. We have our work cut out for us. But what gives the growing global eco-socialist movement an edge in this ideological struggle is that capitalism has no solution to the ecological crisis, no way to put the brakes on collapse, because its only answer to every problem is more of the same growth that’s killing us.

“History” was supposed to have “ended” with the fall of communism and the triumph of capitalism two decades ago. Yet today, history is very much alive and it is, ironically, capitalism itself which is being challenged more broadly than ever and found wanting for solutions.

Today, we are very much living in one of those pivotal world-changing moments in history. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that this is the most critical moment in human history.

We may be fast approaching the precipice of ecological collapse, but the means to derail this train wreck are in the making as, around the world, struggles against the destruction of nature, against dams, against pollution, against overdevelopment, against the siting of chemical plants and power plants, against predatory resource extraction, against the imposition of GMOs, against privatization of remaining common lands, water and public services, against capitalist unemployment and precarité are growing and building momentum.

Today we are riding a swelling wave of near simultaneous global mass democratic “awakening,” an almost global mass uprising. This global insurrection is still in its infancy, still unsure of its future, but its radical democratic instincts are, I believe, humanity’s last best hope.

Let’s make history!

This article is an excerpt from Smith’s essay, “Capitalism and the destruction of life on Earth,” published in the Real-World Economics Review.





Have we fired the Clathrate Gun?

29 12 2012

I haven’t finished it yet, but my daughter gave me a great book this Christmas, and I’m really enjoying it;  it’s called “Bullspotting”, by Loren Collins.  The internet can be a frustrating double edged sword.  Full of amazing information, and also full of utter bullshit……  telling them apart is sometimes easy, but also often a challenge.  The one issue that feeds such a dichotomy is Climate Change.  If Climate Change wasn’t so important, it wouldn’t matter, but forget the fiscal cliff and Peak Oil, they can be dealt with and they will be survived; whereas if the climate goes AWOL, you can kiss humanity goodbye.  One such dilemma I recently came across was when another blogger told me atmospheric methane concentration had stopped rising.  So I did my duty and investigated, and sure enough, Google turned up a whole heap of graphs that demonstrated this.  Trouble is, all those charts ended five years ago…… and five years can be a long time in Climate Science.

Yesterday, I posted an article here which I lifted from Xraymike’s blog, and have since “pulled” in the interest of fraternity in the blogosphere.  I know XRM from the good old days of the Chris Martenson website before it became Peak Prosperity, a place now full of people worrying about their gold and their guns.  I urge you all to read it if you missed it here.  Mike did a great job parsing through the information to turn it into a lucid argument.

I would prefer to not believe its contents mind you.  Raising the globe’s temperature by 6°C within fifty years is a truly gruesome thought, and the jury’s still out, because Mark Cochrane, a climate scientist who started the only thread worth reading on Peak Prosperity these days recently wrote this when asked about such a prospect:

“Getting 6 C by 2050 seems farfetched unless we intentionally trigger the so-called clathrate gun. Even then, I am not sure that it is likely to happen that quickly simply due to the thermal inertia of the oceans and glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. Roughly 90-95% of the incipient energy imbalance goes into warming or melting water. We’ve warmed by around 0.7C in the last 30 years or so. Getting an extra >5C in the next 40 years would require truly massive changes in greenhouse gases and Earth’s albedo. This certainly wouldn’t mean that all is well if we don’t manage this incredible feat of climate suicide in 40 odd years. We may get there yet around 2100.

Such rapid warming would lead to greatly accelerated mass loss from the icesheets in Greenland, Western Antarctica and increases from East Antarctica. Melting those giant ice blocks would be a giant heat sink that would attenuate the rise in temperature but it would do so at the cost of flooding the worlds oceans very quickly. In other words, although we might not warm so fast the cost would be rapid sea level rise of several meters this century, flooding coastlines and yielding terrible storms. As things stand, most estimates are for 1-5 meters, which will make many, many cities untenable.

Some recent food for thought on that score came out in the last week in Nature Geoscience showing much of the western Antarctic icesheet is warming twice as fast as predicted (see BBC article here, and Bromwich et al 2012 abstract here))”

“The map is just correlation coefficients but the warming has been 2.4C between 1958 and 2010. While Greenland gets much of the press, the Western Antarctic ice sheet may be more unstable because most of it is currently grounded below the waterline. Basically the ice is frozen to the ground or still too heavy to lift but once the water level gets higher, then much of the sheet could rapidly float (just like an ice cube in your glass) and collapse with an ultimate 5 m sea level implication. The big brother in East Antarctica only has 30% below water line but that is another 20-25 m of sea level. Ultimately, if we somehow manage to stay on the ‘business as usual’ emissions path then over the next few centuries we will have changed coastlines world wide with 10s of meters of sea level rise (See Hansen new pdf).

Lest you think he is just a harbinger of doom touting positive feedbacks, Hansen and Sato (2012) see exponential increases in the rate of ice melting/sea level rise with a 5-10 year doubling time, they ultimately believe that once we reach about 1 m of sea level increase that strong negative feedbacks from all of the melting icebergs will dampen the temperature rise and hence slow the exponential rate of increased melting. I can’t grab the figure from the pdf, but if you go to the Hansen and Sato pdf linked above and scroll down to Figure 9 you will see the future simulations with (left) and without (right) ice melt. As you can see the melting would lead to a much cooler North Atlantic and a moderate cooler Southern Ocean with an overall global amelioration of land temperature increases. If you think the ice will somehow hold off from melting, plan for a heck of a lot warmer near future.

Overall, if we manage to keep finding more and more fossil fuels to burn or accidentally release (melting permafrost etc) then we will have an atmosphere akin to what existed 32 million years ago before Antarctica froze up. It would take a while, hundreds to thousands of years, but we’d be putting an end to ice ages for the foreseeable future.”

Much of what Mark talks about is covered in XRM’s blog entry, which is why I copied it here to begin with.

So the key question now is, “have we triggered the so-called clathrate gun” ?

Someone who definitely thinks we have is Guy McPherson.  He recently pointed me to those hemp wearing hippies in the IEA, the energy agency for developed countries who said earlier this year that “without a major shift away from coal, average global temperatures could rise by 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, leading to devastating climate change.”  So there you have it…. even the Devil says so….!

Our only saviour might well be a physical phenomenon called “phase change”.  Get a saucepan full of cold water, and put it your stove with a thermometer in the water.  The heat from the stove will raise the water temperature to 100°C, but will then stop rising even though the stove is still on.  So where is all the heat going?  it’s actually being “used up” turning water into steam.  Phase Change.  Exactly the same thing that happens when you melt ice, another phase change.

I’m told it takes some 80 times more energy to melt ice than it does to raise it the last degree just before it melts.  And that is where all the heat we have now trapped beneath our blanket of CO2 and now growing levels of CH4 has been going; instead of raising air temperatures, it’s melting ice.  And all the deniers on the net will tell you it hasn’t warmed in 16 years…..  so the ice melted by magic.

Obviously, Hansen and Sato quoted above know about phase change, it’s physics 101.  Therefore there can only be one reason for a fast tracked 6°C temperature rise: we are trapping way more energy than we used to, and the methane timebomb has started ticking.  We have reached a tipping point, simultaneously, the ice is melting and the temperature is going up too.  The deniers must be silenced.  They are one hell of a dangerous group of people who think gambling with our kids’ future is OK.

As an aside, while the post I pulled last night was still up, Don, a frequent visitor here left this comment:

Hi Mike,
I came across a good article today that among other things gave some very good hints for how to achieve using less. Its a long read but has lots of excellent info, particularly with regard to political collapse and disintegration. The location is:

http://www.doingitourselves.org/sites/default/files/zine1v3.pdf





Earth Indicator: 3σ

18 08 2012

Many times here, I have mentioned how unfolding events, even as I was expecting them, continually take me by surprise…  Why am I surprised by my own predictions?  Whatever the reason, it’s bloody annoying!  The latest “nasty” surprise is the unfolding disaster in the Arctic.  I’ve had a gut feeling for the past few years that the symptoms of Climate Change were being hidden by La Niña, especially when I discovered “the escalator”…..

Image

Take that upper blue line (the latest one).  It shows a cooling trend, and so called deniers (you have to call them something..) use it to disprove what is really occurring.  To me, it feels like CC is happening in steps, and the next step up is overdue….. and it could prove a bit harsh too.  This chart proves my gut feeling.  This gut feeling (let’s face it, I’m no climate scientist, I’m not even a scientist, just a smart person..!) is that these steps are in line with La Niña and El Niño cycles, also known as Southern Oscillation (ENSO).  Notice, by the way, how the blue lines get less and less steep with very step?

I have now found an interesting explanation of the statistics of what is going on in the Arctic here.

In Greek, sigma (σ) is the 18th letter of the alphabet. In statistics, it’s a symbol for standard deviation, a measure of how spread out a set of data points are from the average (which is often called the mean by statisticians). Data with a low standard deviation indicates that the data points are bunched up and close to the mean. A high standard deviation indicates the points are spread over a wide range of values.

In a standard bell curve, most data points (68 percent) fall within one standard deviation (1σ) of the mean (see the pink section in the graph below). The vast majority (95 percent, the combined pink and red sections of the graph) fall within two standard deviations (2σ). An even higher percentage (99.7 percent, the combined pink, red, and blue sections) fall within three standard deviations (3σ) of the mean. Just a tiny fraction of points are outliers that are more than three standard deviations from the mean. (See the parts of the graph with arrows pointing to 0.15%).

Now imagine that instead of generic data points on a generic bell curve the values are actually measurements of summer temperatures. That will give you a foundation for understanding the statistical analysis that James Hansen published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Get it?  We’re in for a torrid time.  Just like the US and other places in the Northern Hemisphere.  It’s only a matter of waiting for our Summer…..

At the same NASA site, there is also this short video that graphically explains what is happening to temperatures.  You know what they say, one picture tells a thousand words?  Well now with the internet, one video tells a squillion data points!

If you still don’t get it……..  go back to watching the footy on the telly.

Like Guy says, bring on the collapse, because nothing else will save us.

Fortunately, lots of commentators are now predicting it might well be all over by some time next year.  Like Marc Faber.  Who’s almost never wrong.