Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Our Own Worst Enemies.

Topping Out: The Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change is unlikely to produce any sort of useful agreement in Paris. Only the world’s scientists understand the width of the gulf between the extinction level event seriousness of anthropogenic global warming, and those whose will and resources are required to, at best, soften its impact.
 
PARIS IS ALREADY A FAILURE. The world has already exceeded the target it’s leaders have gathered to enforce. Scientists estimate that the amount of man-made heat already absorbed by the world’s oceans has locked-in a global temperature rise of 3.5°C. That’s already 1.5°C higher than the Paris target of 2.0°C.
 
Bad enough news, you might think, but it gets worse. All around the Arctic Circle, but especially in the uppermost reaches of the Russian Federation, rising temperatures are giving rise to massive burps of methane. The recorded incidence of these emissions has soared over the last five years. This is seriously alarming information, because methane is a much more dangerous “greenhouse gas” than carbon-dioxide.
 
But, newswise, it gets worse still. The rising emissions of methane from the rapidly warming Arctic Ocean are but the feeble harbingers of the vast amounts of methane currently trapped in the planet’s permafrost. Gigatons of the gas will be released into the atmosphere as Earth’s hitherto frozen soil gives up its riches. (Strictly speaking, I should be using the present tense here because, even as you read these words, the permafrost is steaming.) The world faces “runaway” global warming of 5°C and upwards by the end of this century.
 
Fire In The Hole! Gigatons of methane will be released into the atmosphere as the world's permafrost begins to thaw.
 
A temperature rise of that rapidity and magnitude is not survivable – not by a human population numbering in excess of 7 billion. Runaway global warming will cause the Greenland and Antarctica ice-sheets to melt. When that happens the seas and oceans will rise by metres, not centimetres, profoundly reshaping the world’s landmasses. Civilisation, as we know it, will end.
 
Yes, whole cities will be drowned, but that’s not the half of it. The real worry are the inevitable and profound changes in the world’s climate that runaway global warming is bound to trigger. Regions which now produce a large percentage of the planet’s food surpluses will become arid and infertile. The glacial sources of many of the world’s great rivers will disappear. Very quickly water will become more valuable than oil, and men will kill each other with ever increasing ferocity to control it. Famine, Pestilence and War will raise their reeking banners above a sweltering earth. Billions will perish.
 
Could we have prevented this? Was the current unfolding climate catastrophe ever avoidable?
 
Probably not. The human animal is not very good at dealing with slow-moving threats. The slightest tremor in the leaves, the faintest rustle of crushed leaf-litter, and your average homo-sapiens is instantly alert, chipped flint spearhead, or rifle, in hand. Humankind’s evolutionary programming has equipped it superbly to handle immediate and short-term threats to its survival. Long-term threats, however, are much harder to resist, not least because the measures required to meet these less-than-imminent dangers will, themselves, be perceived as immediate and/or short-term threats!
 
As a species, we have evolved the intelligence to perceive long-term threats, but not the wisdom to come together and do what is necessary to eliminate them.
 
Faced with the imminent danger of being overwhelmed by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, the United States of America was prepared to direct (or take over) private enterprises, impose strict controls on the operation of the market, raise billions through higher taxes and the sale of war bonds, and require its citizens to restrict dramatically their consumption of fossil fuels. To free up resources for the war effort, neighbourhood “war gardens” were promoted and radical recycling measures made mandatory.
 
If, from the moment the world’s scientists agreed that it was real, the US Government had treated the threat of man-made global warming as the “moral equivalent of war”, the planet might have been spared.
 
Better still, if the nations of the world had truly united in the aftermath of World War II; if, instead of waging a Cold War against one another, the USA and the USSR had jointly waged a war against want, ignorance and disease; then maybe the peoples of the planet would have developed the wisdom necessary to avoid the catastrophe being cooked-up by their industrial civilisation’s relentless pursuit of economic growth and material consumption. If, in exploring the solar system, the world’s peoples had grown accustomed to thinking of their planet as a unique and fragile ark, carrying through the void of space everything they hold dear, then perhaps, just perhaps, humanity could have rung the changes necessary for its own survival.
 
Alas, it was not to be. The Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change is unlikely to produce any sort of useful agreement in Paris. Only the world’s scientists understand the width of the gulf between the extinction level event seriousness of anthropogenic global warming, and those whose will and resources are required to, at best, soften its impact.
 
That tremor in the leaves; rustling in the leaf-litter: it is ourselves.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 8 December 2015.

35 comments:

David db said...

Google Dr. David Evans and then do a remedial refresher of your Calculus.

At the very least read some of the comment stream to get an insight.
Please note there is a series of posts (Up to 20 with a threat of at least two more)

If you can't face that, then your opinion is at best Subjective only.
db..

Grant said...

Very good, Chris.

jh said...

I blame the left for not linking CO2 and population. The CO2 story makes no sense until population (ecology) is substituted for the social justice paradigm.

Anonymous said...

There may be 'rustling in the leaf-litter' but we should not blame ourselves, we should blame others,look at China, America, South America, Europe and India. Until these countries get serious on global warming nothing will change. "aint them the facts".

Grant said...

Yes everyone, please do Google denier David Evans.

Here's a read to get started with.

https://www.skepticalscience.com/David_Evans_arg.htm

and here's another.

http://bravenewclimate.com/about/

pat said...

@anon 13-04 ..assume will you cease the blame game around the time your children are starving, cooking , inundated or in conflict over diminishing resources?

Bushbaptist said...

@ David Db: You mean this David Evans:

https://www.skepticalscience.com/David_Evans_arg.htm

https://denierlist.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/dr-david-evans/

http://www.desmogblog.com/david-evans

Guerilla Surgeon said...

China South America and India argue with some justification that more mature industrialised countries had their industrial revolutions, produced all the pollution they wanted, and now want to stop less-developed countries from developing. I say with some justification, because it's not that simple as usual. But if the Chinese ever decide to act, and there are indications that they may do so, because it's a highly centralised and authoritarian government they will clean up pretty quickly I imagine.

Anonymous said...

I do not accept what David Evans now says, there are hundreds of scientists, across the world who vouch that CO2 is the cause of global warming.

pat, it is not a blame game, it is a fact that unless the large nations across the world get serious about CO2 emissions then the situation will get worse.

GS, agree with your comment about Chinese abilities, but will they ever act ?.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
This time I fully share your pessimism . Not ameliorated in the least by the sentiment revealed in most of the comment .
And I go to work and burn diesel all day so I can't claim any higher moral ground. We are doomed to cook and no doubt about it; but it will probably sort out Isis.
Cheers David J S

greywarbler said...

Latest on Chinese pollution protests and their 'red alert' and car-alternate days. Let's show solidarity with China's efforts by doing the same. They are worse than we are, but if they can keep up action, they will reduce their level to a mere moderate of 18% instead of 40%.
It's intereting to see the figures taken from the USA sampling that has chosen to label 4% pollution as hazardous. So anything they do above that won't count to the saintly Yanks. (Or else their chart has been mislabelled.)
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35026363
2012 China citizen journalism.
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/apr/11/china-environmental-press-awards
2013 pollution photo.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/18/campaigners-sceptical-china-environment-changes

Guerilla Surgeon said...

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/03/uruguay-makes-dramatic-shift-to-nearly-95-clean-energy#comments


"the key to success is rather dull ........: clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment..... "

Well that's it. We're fucked then.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/undercover-greenpeace-investigation-climate-change_5667464ee4b080eddf55ece1

Hmmmmmm.

Nick J said...

The planet and life itself will do very well without us. Better in fact because the moment our ape ancestors discovered technology we decided we were above, not part of our ecosystem. If it wasn't coal or oil we would have found something else. We have effectively laid the foundation's for a million years of radioactive poisoning from spent nuclear fuel rods.We are far to clever.

Richard McGrath said...

There has now been no significant rise in mean global temperature for 18 years and 9 months, despite 1/3 of anthropogenic forcings since 1750AD occurring during this period... makes the annual COP junkets a little less credible as each year goes by.

Charles E said...

The science on AGW is very clear now so deniers are decidedly unscientific.
But I'm afraid it is equally unscientific to be a GW Alarmist, which you show yourself to be Chris in this post.
Look at the IPCC analysis and they do not rate the risk of a runaway warming highly at all. They warn of a likely 2 degrees in 100 years and maybe a metre of sea level rise. Not good news but not the end of the species which the Alarmists predict, without much science behind it. Plenty of time to adapt for coastal populations and move food production to cooler places becoming warmer.

To the greenies who do now understand a little science as they accept AGW science, there is a similar scientific consensus that both nuclear power and GE are low risk and good technology we should embrace.
And as it happens, both are essential to ramp up to hold back AGW and feed the world.
But of course greenies, like you Chris are almost all political science practitioners not actually scientifically trained at all.

greywarbler said...

Richard McGrath and Charles E can take on the role of climate change deniers and procrastinators extraordinaire to the various people in the Pacific and elsewhere who are feeling the present unhappy results. The future ones will no doubt follow in time along the lines of prediction. In the near future though, I predict the first named here will vanish unaccountably on one of their diplomatic scientific belittling missions.

Grant said...

Ok Charles I'll bite. You're obviously gagging to tell us about your qualifications to lecture us on the science of climate change. Please, do tell. As you're so au fait with the scientific literature about AGW you will also be aware that the IPCC reports are widely regarded as being ridiculously conservative and politically sanitized to the point of being neutered.

As to your claim of the IPCC warning of 2 deg in 100 yrs, here is what a quick Google found:

"The first installment of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report confirms the overwhelming scientific consensus that the impacts of climate change are accelerating, and they’re largely driven by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. For the first time, the report also quantified the global “carbon budget,” the amount of carbon dioxide emissions we can emit while still having a likely chance of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If emissions continue unabated, the world is on track to exceed this budget in only about 30 years—exposing communities to increasingly dangerous forest fires, extreme weather, drought, and other climate impacts."

http://www.wri.org/ipcc-infographics

Note that this is a prediction by the IPCC which is very conservative. Plenty of Climate scientists think that we will get much warmer, much faster.

I have oceanographers and climate scientists in my social circle who are starting to sound quite panicky about the situation and several reckon we're in a tail spin we can't pull out of.

You say: "To the greenies who do now understand a little science as they accept AGW science, there is a similar scientific consensus that both nuclear power and GE are low risk and good technology we should embrace."

Firstly, this is a very poorly cast piece of English prose. Would you care to rewrite it so that it makes good sense without the clunky backhander at 'greenies' who 'do now understand a little science'.

You arrogant tosser. It is precisely 'greenies' who as a group have always been much more aware of the science of climate change and have been fighting to get the problem recognised for decades in the face of opposition from the likes of you.

You say: "The science on AGW is very clear now so deniers are decidedly unscientific."

Oh yeah. And just when did you personally come to this realization? Have you ever written comments denying the existence of AGW and consequent climate change? Be honest now..

Bushbaptist said...

2014 was the hottest year since records began and 2015 is heading to be hotter still!

There has been a pause in atmospheric heating as the excess heat is being absorbed by the oceans. The hotter the water gets the more violent the storms. The storm that hit Mexico just recently was the strongest hurricane ever recorded! We can expect more such storms too.

That CO2 increases the temps has been known and recorded since the 1930's when commercial Glasshouse operators discovered that when they increased the CO2 in the glasshouse the temp. went up in proportion.

We need to be aware that there is a "Domino Effect" too, as the temps rise more methane is released from the Arctic regions. Methane is a worse GHG than Co2!

Anonymous said...

Its all because of the desire for money and profit. There is too much of that to be made out of pollution.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

There is something like a 97% scientific consensus on global warming. The only greater consensus is on evolution :-).

Charles E said...

Oh foul mouthed Grant, you asked for it.
I'm a forest scientist (and a lawyer) and have studied this subject for twenty years. Learned the blanket effect of CO2 at school in biology & chemistry where I got top marks and school prizes for science. I'm a member of the Skeptics Society which is really a pro good science society and we constantly debunk bad science. Both AGW denial and GW Alarmism are bad science, indeed they are politics.

The greens only in the last ten years have stopped harping on about the evils of nuclear power and cottoned on to the evils of coal. I recall about 15 years ago talking to a Greenpeace activist at a forest field day and telling him the world desperately needs less coal and more nuclear, the opposite of the green led trend in many countries. And we need millions of hectares more plantations, which greens opposed (then, not so much now). He spat tacks and was abusive like you. He said plantations are not forests and coal is less an issue than nuclear. He also said the only solution to all issues is a virus that kills 75% of humans. I suppose you agree with that as most GW Alarmists probably quietly hope for Armageddon too. No different to religious nuts and just as dangerous.

Alarmism is also idiotic if you really want change as the obvious reaction will be, 'we're all going to hell so why bother doing anything, just party on'. You're that idiotic? Greenies seem utterly unaware that they are bad for the environment because they create rednecks and nihilists as quickly as bombing creates jihadis.

Charles E said...

My bet is you have a Pol Sci or Sociology degree Grant?

Bushbaptist said...

Ooops, forgot the dinky linkies.

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/summary-info/global/201412

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/climate-change-2015-will-be-the-hottest-year-on-record-by-a-mile-experts-say-10477138.html

http://weatherplus.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2015/12/09/florida-experiencing-warmest-year-since-1894/

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/11/2015-set-hottest-year-record-151125154306485.html

Bushbaptist said...

Well Charlie Boy here's some links from the very society you claim to be a member of:

http://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/how-we-know-global-warming-is-real/

http://www.skeptic.com/tag/global-warming/

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/12-02-08/

They all agree about AGW and the human cause. Including the temp increase that is happening.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I think a lot of scientists are beginning to panic just a little now Charles. Whether this is alarmism will not, we don't seem to be doing a great deal – either planting forests or going nuclear.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Sorry, I should have said climate scientists. What most other scientists think is largely irrelevant.

Grant said...

@ Charles.

First. If you don't like the way I address you, then perhaps you could learn to show a modicum of respect for others. I will remind you that you have been chastised on this point by our host on several occasions and invited to take yourself elsewhere if you can't do so. As you are unable to discipline yourself I thought I would give you a little taste of what you're always prepared to dish out.

"My bet is you have a Pol Sci or Sociology degree Grant?"

Well you'd be wrong there, but then, you often are.

I note that in your glee at telling us about your qualifications (are 'forest scientists' always so selective with the details they bring to a debate?) you omitted to address the salient points about the IPCC I mentioned in my comment. Oh, hang on, that'll be your 'lawyer' side in operation won't it?

Despite your anecdata about a conversation with an activist, you are also wrong about the history of the Green movement (Greenpeace is not the whole Green movement) with regard to climate change. Bearing in mind the fact that global warming and climate change were not brought to the awareness of the general public until the late 1980's, both the new Green Party and their offshoot the Progressive Greens were actively lobbying on the issue from the very early 1990's.

http://www.hotairfilm.co.nz/

Trying to draw a link between Green activists and human population cleansing ("GW Alarmists probably quietly hope for Armageddon too.") is also drawing a long and dirty bow which is typical of the tactics you employ and which earns you my contempt on many occasions.

Grant said...

@ GS "Sorry, I should have said climate scientists. What most other scientists think is largely irrelevant."

Yes.

Charles E said...

Grant: '...learn to show a modicum of respect for others'. Breathtaking hypocrisy. Yes I have been censored and censured but somehow you get away with it like teacher's pet.

And Bushbaptist. Read what I wrote. I am fully convinced about AGW and have been long before you even heard of it I expect. I first learned about it at school 40 years ago (as said above) and have read feet of paper on it over the last 20 years (see above again) while doing 1500 hectares of re-forestation which will sequester an indefinite average of over 500,000 tonnes of CO2. Enough for 6,500 lifetimes of my CO2 emissions.
What have you two blow-hards done for the planet?

Bushbaptist said...

Oh Dear Charlie Boy hit a nerve have we? First of all, I learned about the Carbon Cycles and the blanket effect at high school in the mid 50's. I realised that we humans were having a disastrous effect on the climate in the 1960's long before it became an issue.

What have I done? Well this for a start. I bought and paid for 80Ha of land with my own money and planted it is trees that I paid for. I set up a solar and wind generating system at my own house that supplies the grid with some power for you to use in your little palace. I ran my tractor and diesel ute on WVO, all of which I PAID FOR MYSELF!! How much of the 1500ha did you pay for? I put my money where my mouth is -- have you?

You stated here; ~"Look at the IPCC analysis and they do not rate the risk of a runaway warming highly at all. They warn of a likely 2 degrees in 100 years and maybe a metre of sea level rise. Not good news but not the end of the species which the Alarmists predict, without much science behind it. Plenty of time to adapt for coastal populations and move food production to cooler places becoming warmer."~ And I pointed you to your own society that refutes that claim.

What about the people who live in low-lying lands that are being inundated by the sea? You say that they can move to higher ground but what if there is no "higher ground" where they are? Kiribati, Maldives etc. Is it their fault that their land is going under water or ours? What about droughts? What about the increased intensity of the storms? What about the damage to crops and livelihoods of the people who are affected?

My background is 14yrs in the Army, a B.Sc.Eng. degree in Structural Engineering. I have spent and are spending 1000's of hours as a volunteer assisting the people that your Neocon policies have hurt so badly and that you just don't care about. Can you say the same?

Grant said...

@ Charles. "Breathtaking hypocrisy." Yes you are a breathtaking hypocrite. Lets remember it's you who's default setting is to use derogatory language and put downs about 'greenies', activists, progressives and almost anyone else who doesn't share your socially conservative, individualist, elitist view of the world, and then you complain because you get a slap down over it. Poor Charles.

Bushbaptist said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKSXFrb9OWM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EU_AtHkB4Ms

pat said...

heres your proof how this bunch of self interested fools plan on dealing with the issue.....

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201782669/government-won't-need-to-change-policy-for-deal

you article of despair is vindicated Chris

Bushbaptist said...

Some links:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/vast-methane-plumes-seen-in-arctic-ocean-as-sea-ice-retreats-6276278.html

http://www.colinandrews.net/Denial-and-Methane-ClimateChangeKillers-Colin_Andrews.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2073686/Fountains-methane-1-000m-erupt-Arctic-ice--greenhouse-gas-30-times-potent-carbon-dioxide.html

http://www.carolynbaker.net/2012/12/02/global-extinction-within-one-human-lifetime-as-a-result-of-a-spreading-atmospheric-arctic-methane-heatwave-and-surface-firestorm/

http://thiscantbehappening.net/node/2941?page=2

http://thiscantbehappening.net/node/2941