Sunday, 9 November 2014

The 'severe, widespread and irreversible effects' of Global Warming

Reblogged from the Weather Network

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist, theweathernetwork.com

Tuesday, November 4, 2014, 1:17 PM - It may not appear so, given its dire warning of "severe, widespread and irreversible" effects from climate change, but the latest IPCC report is really pulling its punches when it comes to delivering its message to the world.
This report, the Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report, is one that the world needs to take notice of, and needs to take seriously

As the wrap-up of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 5th assessment of Earth's climate, it contains the final message and summary of the previous three reports issued over the past year - the Physical Science Basis, Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability and Mitigation of Climate Change
On his Facebook page, Penn State climate scientist Michael E. Mann outlined the key points of the report, and the the difference between this and previous reports:
"The world’s scientists are more confident than ever that climate change is not only real and caused by us, but that it is already taking a toll: on our health, on our economy, on our security, and on the health of our environment. The good news is that it it still possible to solve the problem cheaply. But if we delay acting, it will be far more expensive, and the damages will be far greater."
"The latest report is far more definitive than the past reports in terms of the level of confidence that human activity in the form of fossil fuel burning is not only responsible for some of the warming of the globe, but in fact all of it. The report is far more definitive that climate change isn't some nebulous, far off threat—it is negatively impacting us already, where we live."
The stark warning contained within the Synthesis Report, which it delivers with high confidence, says:
"Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally."
The striking part of this warning is that - regardless of how dire it reads - it reflects only the lowest common denominator of consensus. With hundreds of scientists working with the IPCC assessments and dozens of governments reviewing the reports, the only way the process moves forward is for the final product to satisfy all of them. Thus, as it only contains language that everyone could agree on, the warning has been downplayed to satisfy the most conservative of outlooks and to present the most mild of expected consequences. Therefore, with the predictions of the report at the lower extreme of the scale, the warning - as written - very likely represents but a tap on the chin compared to the 'haymaker punch' that climate change may throw at us.
Where does the warning fall short? According to Mann:
"Personally, I feel that the potential threat of low-probability but potentially catastrophic events gets somewhat short thrift. As much of the potential damages is associated with the possibility of such events, they are critical in any assessment of climate change risk."
"There is an emerging body of evidence in the peer-reviewed literature, for example, that we may have already crossed a tipping point in ice sheet behavior that commits us to more than 10 feet of sea level rise. There is quite a bit of uncertainty about the timescale on which this will unfold, but timescales as short as a century or two cannot confidently be ruled out."
"There is also a body of evidence that is now emerging in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that extreme events like the current California drought might be associated with the response of the Northern Hemisphere jet stream to disappearing Arctic sea ice."
"If so, this would imply that climate change is already taking an even greater toll than the IPCC assessments imply."
What is this leading up to?

This assessment, with its more definitive statements about where the observed warming is coming from, the strong warning about what's to come (even as downplayed as it is), and the recommendations for what we need to do moving forward, is a very important document for governments to carry with them when they step into the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris next November.
The hope is that, with the United States and China making much stronger commitments to action on climate change as of late, there could be a significant agreement coming out of this conference. However, in order for that to happen, the nations in attendance will need to come together in seeing this as a global problem - one that we're all in together, regardless of who is causing it, and one that we all will have specific roles to play in solving it.

If this means that richer countries will need to step up and carry a heavier burden of the action, while the poorer nations of the world catch up, then that is what should happen. The end result is the focus here - a world where we don't have to worry about rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather events, where the availability of food and clean water does not become a daily concern, and where decreased security and increased risk of conflict and war is not on the horizon.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Apocalypsi Library at the End of the World

For all of you doomsters, collapseniks and apocalypticists out there, Gail Zawicki has just opened an incredible online resource covering pretty much every aspect of the unfolding ecological crisis, crisis of civilization and anthropocene mass extinction event.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Wit's End and the Paucity of Hope

I've been following Gail Zawacki's blog, Wit's End, for a couple of years now and it has very usefully introduced me to another of the quiet killers of the unfolding ecological catastrophe: tropospheric ozone pollution (check out her science links if you are interested in the peer reviewed research materials). Below is the introduction to her latest post: A Fine Frenzy - The Universal Dance of Delusion ... and the Paucity of Hope. Nice to see her work getting wider distribution too (e.g. at Desdemona Despair and Op Ed News).
"To the philosopher, the physician, the meteorologist and the chemist, there is perhaps no subject more attractive than that of ozone." ~ C.B Fox, 1873

There is a man who lives on the other side of my village (it is said) who one day, setting out for errands, inadvertently ran over his child as he backed out of the driveway. Ever since I heard this tragic tale, I have thought I can imagine the moment that, thunderstruck with horror and frozen in disbelief, he gazed upon that little mangled body.  I think I know the ferocious dread that overcame him when first he realized that the car of which he was so proudly enamored - that quintessential symbol of success, the pinnacle of modern technology and shiny avatar of individual freedom - was the very same mighty instrument of folly that had literally crushed the one thing most important to him - his progeny, his future.

I suffer his tumultuous and inconsolable grief because that is how I greet every new day since abruptly I came to understand that the splendid, intricate, exquisitely entwined tapestry of life is unraveling. This realization rushed into my consciousness like a dark sinister flood by an odd circumstance.  In the summer of 2008 I suddenly noticed an irrefutable signal - that trees, the essential foundation of so much biodiversity, are dying prematurely.  It was a hot, dry August, and everywhere the leaves were drooping, limp and lifeless.  My curiosity piqued, the more I looked, the more I found indisputable, incontrovertible symptoms of irreversible decay.  It was only the beginning recognition of an ominous trend.  Now, the mute indicators of deterioration are common - swathes of bare branches protrude above the canopy.

Possessing just a rudimentary knowledge of the timescales involved in evolution was enough for me to realize the formidable outcome that must result as trees die off, when myriad crashes reverberate throughout the biosphere.  Eventually, a total collapse of the ecosystem will be inevitable. Initially I speculated that the reason trees manifest terminal afflictions could only be attributed to the changing climate - surely the sole influence extensive enough to instigate such a colossal catastrophe.  And yet, the climactic mechanisms - precipitation and temperature - did not consistently correlate with the empirical evidence I found, which was puzzling.  It turns out, as incredible as it may seem, that the primary reason all species of trees - old and young, coniferous and deciduous - are in precipitous decline is their exposure to pollution.  [MORE HERE]

On A White Horse


Friday, 3 January 2014

Prospects / Retrospects

I was vaguely contemplating making some comments about both the year in retrospect  and the year ahead, but typically for this time of year I’m swamped by a soul destroying mountain of grading. Fortunately, Jason Heppenstall over at 22 Billion Energy Slaves has done a sterling job of sketching out some prospects  for the UK in 2014 with which I heartily agree. I duplicate these below:
 
·         The government and press will continue to confuse asset price inflation with economic recovery. The fact that the FTSE has inflated like a giant floating pig at a Pink Floyd gig will continue to be heralded as proof that an economic recovery is underway. If further proof were needed, house price rises will continue to such an extent that home ownership will slip even further from the outstretched grasp of Mr and Mrs Average, while multi million pound mansions in London will continue to be snatched up like hotcakes by Chinese, Russian and Arab buyers.
·         At the same time, the number of families who rely on food banks will continue to climb. As will the number of children turning up hungry to school and unable to afford school uniforms. Austerity will continue to bite deeper and harder and more people will end up living on the streets. More families will break down and the number of people with a decent job that allows them a good standard of living and a chance to put some aside for the future will continue to fall.
·         The public will become increasingly fed up. British people don’t get angry, they just get miffed. There will be more peeved letters written to The Times, and mostly they will be about the price of petrol and food, and the fact that energy bills and train fares are going up almost as fast as savings rates and pensions are going down. 
·         There will be a growing realisation among people that the retirement age is accelerating away from them as they age, like a mechanical rabbit at a greyhound track. 
·         The government will continue to enact policies that may have made sense ten or twenty years ago before energy supplies had plateaued but which now make no sense whatsoever unless interpreted through the lens of cargo cult behaviour. They will promise more housing development on protected land, more nuclear power stations, more ‘golden age of energy’ fracking, more high speed train lines that nobody needs or can afford, more airports and more road building to promote GROWTH!
·         More people will see through this increasingly desperate tissue of lies and start wondering why they hadn’t seen through it all a few years earlier when they had more cash. They will start reading books on peak oil and searching the internet for somewhere ‘safe’ to go and live. Their fiends will think they are weird and have ‘lost the plot’.
·         Usury will continue to be the most profitable business in the country. More and more people will consider it to be normal behaviour to turn to companies like Wonga.com that feature cute animated 'normal people' characters on prime time adverts and take out loans at 5,853%.
·         The weather will be awful, again. Floods, torrential rain and storms will continue to turn this once green and pleasant isle into something from a dystopian sci-fi B movie where it never stops raining. As a result, more homes built on flood plains, beside rivers or a bit too close to the sea, will become uninsurable. And when it does occasionally stop raining it will turn into a scorching drought that gives old people heat stroke and dries up all the rivers.
·         More and more councils and local authorities will slip into the red and have to cut the services they offer. At the same time, the ongoing wholesale privatisation of council services will massively drive up costs as inefficient and bloated corporate behemoths stuffed with thousands of salaried middle managers attempt to make money out of vital public services - and succeed … at the expense of the public. 
·         Ditto with public health services.
·         More public assets will be sold off at fire sale prices to overseas ‘investors’ and this will be spun as a ‘good thing’ and positive for the economy..
·         The number of road miles driven will continue to fall (it has already fallen by 18% since its peak in 2008) and this will again be put down to increased haulier efficiency and better SatNavs.
·         The number of street lights switched off will continue to climb and safety campaigners will continue to insist that we we are going ‘back to the dark ages’.
·         I will finish writing my book entitled “When the Lights Go Out: A Survival Guide for Energy Descent” and a handful of people will place orders for it through this blog.
 
I'm looking forwards to Jason's book and should have something thematically similar finished later in the year, The Future is Pagan: Collapse and the New Indigeneity, assuming that I can creatively lever the time to finish it.
 
With regard to the year in retrospect, I would consider some of the most salient points to be starkly captured by the 50 Doomiest Images of 2013, the 50 Doomiest Graphs of 2013 and the 45 FossilFuel Disasters the Industry Don’t Want You to Know About.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Scorched Earth

James Hansen and colleague's latest paper, 'Climate Sensitivity, Sea Level and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide', appearing in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society here and here [warning: pdf download], is suitably blunt. Burning all fossil fuels would generate approximately 20 degrees C average warming over land areas and appoximately 30 degrees C at the poles. Certainly fatal for civilization, most human life as we know it and countless other-than-human species and beings too. Hansen et al conclude that, '[i]t seems implausible that humanity will not alter its course as consequences of burning all fossil fuels become clearer.' But they then add the caveat, '[y]et strong evidence about the dangers of human-made climate have so far had little effect.'  Quite - or arguably there is no evidence whatsoever of the brakes being applied yet. The race for unconventional fossil fuels is just heating up.