You are a Scientist
I heard someone ask “why do scientists lie so much.” Thinking about how I would answer, and with my grandchildren in mind, I composed the following statement:
I heard someone ask “why do scientists lie so much.” Thinking about how I would answer, and with my grandchildren in mind, I composed the following statement:
[Alfred E. Neuman said “What, me worry?” — perhaps he was our spokesperson after all, eh Joe?]
GR [in 2017]: An article from June, 2016 should be on everyone’s mind now. Here’s my discussion followed by a link to the article.
A group of scientists analyzed the sources of CO2 and the dynamic relationship between the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere and global temperature to devise a global carbon budget they could use to assess the effect of timing of changes in CO2 emissions. The analysis enabled them to calculate the changes we must make to preserve a livable climate. You’ll have to read the article to see the individual sources of CO2 that must be adjusted. I wanted to mention the timing for the budget. The analysis shows that if CO2 emissions begin to fall immediately and reach zero in 30 years, we will remain within the global warming limits set by the Paris treaty. After the flat emissions of 2014, 2015, and 2016, the authors believed that the fall in emissions was ready to begin. This is good, because their budget shows that if we wait to 2020 to start tapering off CO2 production, we only get 20 years to reach zero emissions. If we wait to 2025, we get less than 10 years to reach zero. Transforming our energy use that quickly would be impossible.
SO, how are we doing. Six months after the analysis was published, we find that 2017 emissions have gone up, not down. Lot’s of positive changes have begun, but we have to wait to see what happens in 2018. If we begin to taper off CO2 emissions by 2020, we will have 20 years to reach zero emissions. I suggest you take a look at the six milestones the authors believe must be reached by 2020. Then you can monitor the world’s progress toward painful climate change (the Paris treaty) or disastrous climate change (with too many storms, fires, heat waves, and rising seas).
Climate change is just one of the approaching disasters. Human population and its impact is growing, wildlife species are going extinct at incredible rates, freshwater supplies are dropping, and toxic wastes are building up. If we can’t do much more than take our CO2 emissions to zero over the next 20 years, most of the diversity and beauty of life on Earth will disappear.
Present day human impacts are causing global extinctions comparable in number to the dinosaur extinction of 65 million years ago. Research reports across all plant and animal groups are documenting falling numbers, and the losses are speeding up.
The loss of species and ecosystems is at least as dangerous as climate change. People cause both as we use and harvest soils, plants, animals, and fossil fuels. Soon we will begin to reach the limits of nature’s reserves. As marine fisheries and farming regions lose their productivity, there will be moments when the failure of one region to meet the needs of people will cause demands to shift to other regions. Then, like falling dominos, the cascading failure of ecosystems will force the same desperate international migrations that have already begun due to climate change. The great danger is that once it begins, the cascade of extinction and ecosystem failure will ripple around the world and will be unstoppable.
Here’s a story about the status of international efforts to halt biodiversity loss. As you can see, the extinction emergency is not being treated as an emergency. We need another Greta Thunberg to arise and lead the protest against extinction. And we need it now.
“The world must thrash out a new deal for nature in the next two years or humanity could be the first species to document our own extinction, warns the United Nation’s biodiversity chief.” —The Guardian.
More than 90% of the countries signing the Paris Climate Agreement have failed to meet their target emission reductions. Some countries, notably the U. S., have instead grown their emissions beyond the worst-case predictions.
The original goal was to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees celsius (2.7 degrees fahrenheit). However, national actions that would keep warming below 2 degrees celsius (3.6 degrees fahrenheit) were acceptable. Only three countries are on track to do either of these. Most are on the way to increases of 3 or 4 degrees celsius. Scientist fear that these higher increases will wipe out human civilization.
At the same time global warming is threatening humanity, global wildlife numbers are plummeting. This itself threatens the survival of human civilization even without the compounding effect of global warming. Under threat here is the soil, the foundation of life on Earth. And in the oceans, the delicate chemical and temperature balance that allows abundant marine life to exist.
As the majority of the world’s citizens become aware that both climate and extinction are in danger of spiraling out of control, there are growing efforts to direct our governments to take action. Since the time India separated from the British Empire, we have all known that peaceful demonstration and protest can force major changes. The Student Strike, the progressive politics embodied by the Green New Deal, and The Sunrise Movement are starting to have an impact on government policies. It is essential that these groups welcome and endorse the efforts of the Extinction Rebellion. It is essential that all of us take part in local demonstrations sponsored by these and other groups concerned with avoiding extinction.
Here are the basic demands of the Extinction Rebellion. I expect these will be expanded in the months ahead:
These demands only represent XR US. They are still in the process of development.
The Government must enact legally-binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and take further action to remove the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases. It must cooperate internationally so that the global economy runs on no more than half a planet’s worth of resources per year.
We do not trust our Government to make the bold, swift and long-term changes necessary to achieve these changes and we do not intend to hand further power to our politicians. Instead we demand a Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes, as we rise from the wreckage, creating a democracy fit for purpose.
We demand a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all.
The first U. S. XR (Extinction Rebellion) events begin tomorrow.
Though you will see very little about this on major news media, the Midwest cyclone of three weeks ago set records and is still causing problems for many people. More than 500,000 domestic livestock and unknown numbers of wild animals have drowned. “Across the nation 34 river gauges are in major flood stage, 55 in moderate and many of those are in the Midwest. With 2 feet of snow (water equivalent of 2 to 4 inches) possible mid to late week – and rapid spring melt starting late weekend – concerns for river more flooding. pic.twitter.com/JJoioSLTU0 “— Jeff Berardelli (@WeatherProf) April 8, 2019
This spring’s record-setting storms are just the beginning. In fact, they will seem quite feeble compared to what’s coming. Of course, no one is surprised since scientists have warned us for years that this would happen (https://garryrogers.com/2019/02/01/fast-climate-change, and http://www.scientistswarning.org). We should get a break next year as El Niño fades, but the year after could be the worst yet. And the year after could be the worst and the year after that could be the worst . . . .
Planners must prepare for the likelihood that disasters will continue for at least the next 200 years. If we cut GHG emissions to zero within 10 to 12 years, Earth’s climate systems could stabilize by then. If we continue burning fossil fuels, stabilization will take longer.
There are many growing threats to nature and humanity. The growing human population that now exceeds the Earth’s carrying capacity is producing toxic wastes and is eliminating natural habitat. Food and water shortages for people and wildlife are causing hardship, death, and for wildlife, extinctions. Those first loose snowballs of the coming avalanches of destruction are rolling by and the only way we will break the inertia of capitalism and its plutocratic and kleptocratic governments is to take control of our political systems. The hour is late, but there is still time to save some of our planet’s health and beauty. The message below came to me from the Alliance of World Scientists (AWS) that formed after last year’s Warning to Humanity.
You may wish to join in the “. . . upcoming global day of public demonstrations on March 15th, with details available at fridaysforfuture.org. This event was inspired by Greta Thunberg, the internationally famous Swedish youth activist whose one person Student Strike for the Climate has engaged hundreds of thousands of students around the world to demand policy change that considers their climate future with the utmost clarity and gravity that it deserves.
The youth demonstrating that day will be joined by additional thousands of adults (including scientists) who come to support their demands, which are demands for the kind of action that will benefit of all life on Earth. We make you aware of the day of demonstrations should you wish to personally attend, or share the information with your students, family, or friends. (Map of global events here.)” — Alliance of World Scientists
See Greta on this short video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5iHuSFJIEI
It’s starting to look like it. CO2 emissions this year (2019) are expected to be the highest yet. Even if we achieve AOC’s 2035 end to fossil fuels, we may not avoid the tipping points..
“A series of recent studies and reports suggest that, without immediate and drastic action, the worst-case climate scenario will become the rule rather than the exception”–Kate Wheeling.
GR: Instead of building a wall on our southern border, we should look closely at the causes of emigration from the south. Is there anything we can do in Central and South America to help reduce immigrant numbers? Worldwide, the growing human population is destroying wildlife habitat and polluting the Earth’s surface. Rather than solving our emigration problem, a wall merely treats a symptom of over population and climate change. And it causes problems for wildlife.
Drought-prone places like Arizona, Syria, and the dry west coast of Central America are facing increasing emigration pressure as surface and subsurface supplies of water decline. We should be analyzing potential steps to take to mitigate drought effects in the Central American Dry Corridor (CADC). Drought is increasing in the tropical dry forest region on the Pacific side of Central America that stretches from the Pacific Coast of Chiapas, Mexico, to the western part of Costa Rica. The drought is impacting portions of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Is there an environmental solution to the decline in productivity or is population reduction through emigration and birth control the only answer?
Severe drought has continued for several years. Here’s a map that shows locations.
“Besides the 600 miles installed, there may be 1,953 miles of border wall yet to come. In one generation, humans will have successfully disintegrated an extraordinary biodiversity web that evolved over millions of years. It is a legacy of which we should not be proud. Building the border wall sacrifices the ancient biodiversity of North America for the momentary political gain of one president. Our biodiversity is less flexible, requiring millions of years to evolve to its intricate state of ecological intactness. Further construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall will undoubtedly lead to the death of countless species in the process—adding to the 10 million species marching towards extinction worldwide as a result of the broader human footprint” –Jennifer R. B. Miller.
BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – “Poor harvests caused by drought in parts of Central America could leave more than two million people hungry, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday, warning climate change was creating drier conditions in the region” –Anastasia Moloney.
2556 scientists have endorsed a study that shows just how devastating Trump’s wall will be for wildlife.
GR: I suppose that we all know what’s causing habitat loss. The human population has grown without limits and like bacteria in a petri dish, we are using up the Earth’s resources. The outcome was predicted long ago. Couple those predictions with the unexpected rapid intensification of climate change and you can see why our ultra rich citizens are hoping to find water on Mars and other planets. They hope to soon be saying, “So long and thanks for all the fish.” Of course, the rest of us can’t wait for the day that they all fly away in an Elon Musk version of the Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B.
“Amid the worst loss of life on Earth since the demise of the dinosaurs, the agenda at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh could hardly be more important, but the spirit of international collaboration appears to be as much at risk of extinction as the world’s endangered wildlife. The United States has never signed up and Brazil is among a growing group of countries where new nationalist leaders are shifting away from global cooperation.
“The two-week meeting of the CBD is its first in two years. It has always been the neglected sibling of its twin, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The two organisations were conceived amid great hope at the Rio Earth summit in 1992 but while the energy transition has attracted heads of state interested in billion-dollar renewable projects, the effort to save the natural world has been left to weak environment ministries, conservation NGOs and underfunded scientists” –Jonathan Watts. Habitat loss threatens all our futures, world leaders warned | World news | The Guardian
Greetings: I’m updating this post from three years ago as a reminder that we have a deadly national emergency slipping up on us that will kill far more people than COVID-19. If you click the CO2 link in the sidebar you can see that we haven’t yet begun responding by cutting emissions.
Yesterday at my house we received 2.25″ of rain (with hail) in less than an hour. In arid regions, that’s a lot. The gutters clogged with hail, spilled over, and contributed to ponding in the yard that came within 1/4 inch of flowing over the patio door sills. I have a flood wall planned, but eventual flooding will probably flow over any wall I can build.
We can expect increasing storm size and intensity because of the amount of CO2 we have already released into the atmosphere. If we could limit emissions and subsequent temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the storms would continue to grow, but away from the coasts, little flood walls and rooftop solar panels would probably let most of us survive. However, limiting the storms by limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius is impossible now. We might still limit the increase to 2 degrees, but we have to act fast.
The graph below shows the best scientific estimates of the cumulative effect of delays. If emissions begin to fall now, we can stay below 2 degrees of rise if we reach zero by 2040. If emissions do not begin falling until 2025, we must reach zero by 2033 to stay below 2 degrees. Eight years? Having had a strong taste of the coming catastrophe by then, we might try. But the effort itself would be so costly, we probably wouldn’t make it. Dropping to zero in 21 years if we begin now will be incredibly difficult. It will require a global switch to wartime economies dedicated to building renewable energy and making emission cuts. Emissions are still rising as we approach 2020, and reaching zero in 21 years seems unlikely.
All we can count on for sure is that nature will force human emissions to begin falling in about 20 years due to massive loss of life as heatwaves and wildfires increase, and as farms, water delivery, power delivery, and transportation fail. That’s when positive feedbacks, including the ice-free arctic, melting permafrost, soil erosion, and other sources of CO2 will begin growing without our contribution. At that point, our species could begin spiraling down toward extinction.
Christiana Figueres and colleagues published the graph below last year. I blogged about it last December. You can find a link to the original article there.
To keep all this positive, glass half full and so on, I will close by saying that the world’s scientists could be wrong about climate and we will all find a ten pound gold nugget in the alley and win the lottery next week.