Postscript: The Time is Growing Short

POSTCRIPT
I published the blog post below in 2017. It discusses a scientific analysis and climate-change warning published in the journal Nature.
The critical element of the scientists’ conclusion was the absolutely necessity to begin immediately reducing CO2 emissions. Progress was pinned to six milestones that had to be reached by 2020. Here we are in 2020. Unfortunately, global CO2 emissions increased in 2018 and 2019 and none of the six milestones was reached. Likewise, the other disasters I mentioned are continuing to accelerate. The likelihood that human civilization will continue to progress and flourish in years to come is perhaps exactly equal to the number of times “biodiversity” or “global wildlife extinction” has been mentioned in the Democratic presidential debates: Zero. But who knows? Perhaps this year’s weather will provoke a massive mobilization similar to what it took to combat the Nazis.

[Alfred E. Neuman said “What, me worry?” — perhaps he was our spokesperson after all, eh Joe?]

The 2017 Blog Post

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.

Christiana Figueres and colleagues set out a six-point plan for turning the tide of the world’s carbon dioxide by 2020. NATURE.COM

CO2 Emissions Must be Cut Now

It’s Time to Cut CO2 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, and hope there’s still time to get it built before another intense storm comes along.

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 win the lottery next week.

Asking for More: Additional Carbon Cuts Please

GR: Moving from theoretical to practical, an article in Nature reports on the use of observed global warming to choose the best models for predicting future global warming. Future warming is normally estimated by combining several models. In the new research, the scientists found that the best models actually predict a warmer future than the combined models did. National commitments to reduce emissions have to increase.

Governments are curbing emissions, but not fast enough for 2C goal (Pic: Flickr/kris krug)

“Greater future global warming inferred from Earth’s recent energy budget”

Abstract:  “Climate models provide the principal means of projecting global warming over the remainder of the twenty-first century but modelled estimates of warming vary by a factor of approximately two even under the same radiative forcing scenarios. Across-model relationships between currently observable attributes of the climate system and the simulated magnitude of future warming have the potential to inform projections. Here we show that robust across-model relationships exist between the global spatial patterns of several fundamental attributes of Earth’s top-of-atmosphere energy budget and the magnitude of projected global warming. When we constrain the model projections with observations, we obtain greater means and narrower ranges of future global warming across the major radiative forcing scenarios, in general. In particular, we find that the observationally informed warming projection for the end of the twenty-first century for the steepest radiative forcing scenario is about 15 per cent warmer (+0.5 degrees Celsius) with a reduction of about a third in the two-standard-deviation spread (−1.2 degrees Celsius) relative to the raw model projections reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Our results suggest that achieving any given global temperature stabilization target will require steeper greenhouse gas emissions reductions than previously calculated.” –Brown and Caldeira.

Global CO2 Emissions Are Rising in 2017 After Three-Year ‘Plateau’

GR:  Cinch up your seat belts; CO2 emissions are still rising.

“Over the past three years, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have remained relatively flat. However, early estimates from the Global Carbon Project (GCP) using preliminary data suggest that this is likely to change in 2017 with global emissions set to grow by around two percent, albeit with some uncertainties.

“Hopes that global emissions had peaked during the past three years were likely premature. However, GCP researchers say that global emissions are unlikely to return to the high growth rates seen during the 2000s. They argue that it is more likely that emissions over the next few years will plateau or only grow slightly, as countries implement their commitments under the Paris agreement.

2017 emissions likely to increase

“The GCP is a group of international researchers who assess both sources and sinks of carbon. It has published an annual global carbon budget report since 2006. Its newly released global carbon budget for 2017 provides estimates of emissions by country, global emissions from land-use changes, atmospheric accumulation of CO2, and absorption of carbon from the atmosphere by the land and oceans.

“The figure below shows global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, divided into emissions from China (red shading), India (yellow), the U.S. (bright blue), EU (dark blue) and the remainder of the world (grey). After a rapid increase in global emissions of around three percent per year between 2000 and 2013, emissions only grew by 0.4 percent per year between 2013 and 2016.

Here’s an informative video on country-by-country emissions.

Half-way to Catastrophe — Global Hothouse Extinction to be Triggered by or Before 2100 Without Rapid Emissions Cuts

GR: It’s not all of humankind that is responsible for the great danger we face, It’s particular members of the species. The fossil fuel companies in America and Europe fooled most of us into thinking that unlimited coal and oil burning was safe. Are we just as guilty as Rex Tillerson and the other energy industry leaders who lied to us, or does our ignorance and gullibility make our behavior excusable? Perhaps. However, continuing to believe Rex Tillerson’s Exxon-Mobil deceit with so many scientists and independent voices calling out the warning is criminal negligence.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Rex W. Tillerson, chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation at their meeting in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Monday, April 16, 2012. Exxon is teaming up with Russian oil giant Rosneft to develop oil and natural gas fields in Russia and North America.The companies on Monday signed an agreement that was first announced in August.(AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Government Press Service)

Conservative climatologists such as Robert Scribbler have sought to avoid projecting alarmist images. However, in the article below Scribbler does not shy away from discussing the real possibility of human-caused mass extinction. We can still avoid our extinction, but if we fail to use our brains and heed the warnings of our scientists and thinkers, our punishment will be extreme.

Cholla Power Plant, Arizona. Photo by John Fowler.

 

Paul Beckwith recently reported that fossil fuel use appears to be rising instead of falling. Read his article to see what he discovered.

“Over recent years, concern about a coming hothouse mass extinction set off by human carbon emissions has been on the rise. Studies of Earth’s deep history reveal that at least 4 out of the 5 major mass extinctions occurred during both hothouse periods and during times when atmospheric and oceanic carbon spiked to much higher than normal ranges. Now a new scientific study reveals that we are have already emitted 50 percent of the carbon needed to set off such a major global catastrophe.

Fossil Fuel Burning = Race Toward a 6th Mass Extinction

“The primary driver of these events is rising atmospheric CO2 levels — often caused in the past by the emergence of masses of volcanoes or large flood basalt provinces. In the case of the worst mass extinction — the Permian — the Siberian flood basalts were thought to have injected magma into peat and coal formations which then injected a very large amount of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans.

“Higher atmospheric and ocean carbon drove both environmental and geochemical changes — ultimately setting off hyperthermal temperature spikes and ocean anoxic events that were possibly assisted by methane hydrate releases and other climate and geophysical feedbacks. The net result of these events was major species die-offs in the ocean and, during the worst events, on land.

“Considering the fact that present human activities, primarily through fossil fuel burning, are releasing vast quantities of carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans at a rate never before seen in the geological past, it appears that the world is racing toward another major mass extinction. In the past, the location of this dangerous precipice was a bit murky. But a recent study in Science Advances attempts to better define the threshold at which the worst of the worst mass extinction events — set off by rising ocean and atmospheric carbon — occur.

310 Billion Tons Carbon Entering Ocean = Mass Extinction Threshold

“The study used a relatively easy to identify marker — ocean carbon uptake — in an attempt to identify a boundary limit at which such mass extinctions tend to occur. And the study found that when about 310 billion tons of carbon gets taken in by the oceans, a critical boundary is crossed and a global mass extinction event is likely to occur.

“Presently, human beings are dumping carbon into the atmosphere at an extremely high rate of around 11 billion tons per year. Today, about 2.6 billion tons per year of this carbon ends up in the ocean. In total, since 1850, humans have added about 155 billion tons of carbon to the Earth’s oceans — leaving us with about another 155 billion tons before Rothman’s (the study author) extinction threshold is crossed.” –Robert Scribbler (Continue reading and review the graphs: Half-way to Catastrophe — Global Hothouse Extinction to be Triggered by or Before 2100 Without Rapid Emissions Cuts.)| robertscribbler

The Present Threat to Coastal Cities From Antarctic and Greenland Melt

GR: With rising global temperature and increasing threat of rapid glacial melt, Scribbler concludes:

“The only way to lower this risk [coastal city inundation] is to rapidly reduce to zero the amount of carbon hitting the atmosphere from human sources while ultimately learning how to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. The present most rapid pathway for carbon emissions reductions involves an urgent build-out of renewable and non-carbon based energy systems to replace all fossil fuels with a focus on wind, solar, and electrical vehicle economies of scale and production chains. Added to various drives for sustainable cities and increasing efficiency, such a push could achieve an 80 percent or greater reduction in carbon emissions on the 2-3 decade timescale with net negative carbon emissions by mid Century. For cities on the coast, choosing whether or not to support such a set of actions is ultimately an existential one.” –RobertScribbler (The Present Threat to Coastal Cities From Antarctic and Greenland Melt | robertscribbler)

These ‘Missing Charts’ Reveal That Fossil Fuel Use Is Still Increasing

CO2 – August 5, 2017

GR: Good news is beginning to overwhelm the bad. Countries, cities, and U. S. states are accelerating their efforts to cut CO2 emissions. Unlike the mouse who just wants a little milk to go with our cookie, however, we need much much more. The problem is that emission cuts haven’t begun. If emissions had slowed, the line in the chart at left would have begun to relax. Perhaps it’s too soon to tell if it’s changing. The material below indicates that it’s not.

I’m repeating portions of Barry Saxifrage’s article here to point out what’s really happening. We need to call on everyone to keep their commitments and make the cuts in emissions. If we can’t, we will be forcing our children and grandchildren to live in the dark future depicted here.

Final thought: For all those Trump supporters who accepted the idea that we had to leave the Paris Accord because we couldn’t trust other nations to keep their promises: You were right. But being right won’t save us. The world needs a leader, not a loaner off in the corner somewhere.

There are more charts in the original article. They reveal more details about the growth in fossil fuel use.

“To address the twin threats of climate change and ocean acidification, nearly every nation has promised to reduce fossil fuel burning.

“But so far, humanity keeps burning ever more. Last year we did it again, burning an all-time record amount.

“That’s according to data compiled from the latest “BP Statistical Review of World Energy.” This annual report is one of the most widely used and referenced around the world. It’s big and comprehensive with fifty pages, thirty-three spreadsheets and forty charts. The report highlights most of the important trends in global energy. Most. But one critical trend was nowhere to be found….

“Conspicuously absent was the basic statistic on fossil fuels that I, as a climate reporter, was looking for: how much fuel is the world burning each year? Such a simple question, and the answer tells one of the most important stories in the world: are we finally turning the corner on our fossil fuel dependency?

“To find that missing story, I needed to download and combine multiple BP data sheets, do the math, and then build my own charts to reveal the trends. Here (drumroll, please) are the “missing charts” and what they have to say to us…

The missing charts: how much carbon-polluting fuel is humanity burning?

“I built three charts using the compiled BP fossil fuel data. This first chart shows the total energy consumed from burning fossil fuels each year.

“As you can see, the amount we burn continues to rise. Last year humanity set another fossil fuel energy record of 11.4 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (Gtoe). A decade ago we were at 10 Gtoe of energy. In 2000, we were at 8 Gtoe.

“There is certainly no sign in this chart of a turning point in our relationship to fossil fuels.

“My next chart uses the same BP data, but this time shows the annual increase from year to year:

“In 25 of the last 26 years, we burned more fossil fuels than the year before.

“The only year in the last quarter century with a decrease was 2009. That was caused by a sharp global recession. And within a year, that rare respite was wiped out by a massive surge that followed.

“Sadly, there is no sign of a turning point in this chart either.

“Take last year for example. The increase wasn’t particularly large, but it wasn’t particularly small either. In fact, it was right in line with the 1990s average. And the nineties certainly weren’t anyone’s idea of a retreat from burning fossil fuels. Nor were they a turning point in our fight against climate change or ocean acidification. The 1990s were business-as-usual.

“Finally, here’s a third view of the same BP data. This one illustrates fossil fuels’ share of all global energy. Turning point?

“What this chart says to me is that fossil fuels continue to absolutely dominate global energy consumption. Even a quarter century of global efforts to transition to safer energy sources was unable to make any meaningful dent in the dominance of fossil fuels.

“Together, these three “missing” charts of BP’s fossil fuel data — ever rising amounts; increasing every year; and maintaining uncontested dominance — paint a sobering picture of humanity’s lackluster response to the growing threat.

“As California Governor Jerry Brown lamented in a recent New York Times interview: “No nation or state is doing what they should be doing. This is damn serious, and most people are taking it far too lightly than the reality of the threat. You can’t do too much to sound the alarm because so far the response is not adequate to the challenge.” –Barry Saxifrage (Continue reading: These ‘missing charts’ may change the way you think about fossil fuel addiction | National Observer).

Go to the article for several more revealing charts and explanations.

Fossil Fuel Use is Rising Like There is NO Tomorrow–July 27, 2017

GR: Climate scientist Paul Beckwith is a reliable source for climate-change information. I’ve included the text of Dr. Beckwith’s introduction to his latest video. There’s not much I want to add. I will say that I watched the video twice and did some fact checking and have to say that unfortunately, Beckwith’s report is accurate. I don’t know how many times we have to discover that things are worse than we thought, but here we are again. [My transcription is a lightly edited version of Beckwith’s introduction.]

Image by Syracuse University iSchool.

Paul Beckwith– “If you think that 25+ years of global climate change policy meetings (IPCCs & COPs), and today’s much discussed growth in clean energy and efficiency are reducing global fossil fuel usage and thus greenhouse gas emissions then you are mistaken. The truth, illustrated by cold hard data, is brutal in its stark revelation of the lack of effort to prevent the coming traumatic events. You need to see the facts for yourself. Fossil fuel growth is backed by enormous government subsidies. Emissions are climbing like there is no tomorrow. No safe tomorrow, not for your grandkids, not for your kids, and not for you.”

Discovery: Aliens from Outer Space Working for Decades to Destroy Human Civilization–Bad

Image by Alien Policy

GR: Heads of major corporations, public utilities, and governments have worked for decades to hide the dangers of CO2 emissions, global warming, and climate change. The people involved have been well aware of the danger to civilization that they were supporting, but they went ahead because they were well paid to betray their race. Many elected representatives helped them. The post title represents the idea that no human would do what these people did; the traitors must be aliens in disguise.

The article below describes evidence that public utilities participated in the betrayal.

Like Exxon, Utilities Knew about Climate Change Risks Decades Ago | InsideClimate News

“A study issued Tuesday by an energy watchdog group offers important new insights into the fossil fuel industry’s extensive early understanding of climate change and the risks it poses.

“This time, it’s the electric utility sector that’s under the microscope.

“The detailed study, backed up by reams of archival documents, was issued by the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI), an environmental advocacy and research group that favors the use of clean energy over fossil fuels.

“Forty years ago, the documents show, industry officials told Congress that the looming problem of climate change might require the world to back away from coal-fired power—something that is only now beginning to happen.

“The research presents a distinct echo of an investigation of Exxon’s climate record published by InsideClimate News almost two years ago, and casts significant new light on the duration and depth of industry’s climate research—and how electric companies that use fossil fuels responded to the emerging science from the 1960’s onward.

“The 66-page report unearths research documents and testimony published but then largely forgotten decades before the climate crisis emerged as a key public issue.

“And in this episode of the nation’s climate history, once again, the same industry that foresaw the ultimate end of coal as a main fuel for power generation later supported actions to cast doubt on the science and to stave off policies to address the problem, funding groups that deny the scientific consensus and joining the main industry group that opposed participation in the first climate treaty. To this day, there are few federal limits on emissions of carbon dioxide by utilities, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases.

“It’s a story with striking parallels to the investigations into ExxonMobil’s early knowledge of climate change and later efforts to deceive investors, policymakers and the public on the issue,” EPI said.

“Asked for comment, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, one of the trade associations scrutinized in the report, said only that the industry has made deep reductions in its emissions of carbon dioxide since 2005.” –John H. Cushman Jr. (Source: Like Exxon, Utilities Knew about Climate Change Risks Decades Ago | InsideClimate News).

8 Ways to Sequester Carbon to Avoid Climate Catastrophe

GR: Developing and testing atmospheric CO2 capture technology is underway. That, at a cost of perhaps a trillion dollars per year, and other less mechanical techniques for preventing climate-change devastation. At the same time, an immediate end to fossil fuel use is necessary.

Reading this article, one gets the impression that by making a total effort, we could control climate change. Of course, wealthy investors will fund and control the technological efforts. So, we pay them to solve the problem they caused? Perhaps we need to concentrate more  on distributed solutions that people can fund and control. Things like dropping meat from our diet, planting trees, and growing our own food.

Saving ourselves from climate change solves only part of our trouble. The other problems are just as serious and will require equally creative solutions.

The true disaster is the careless and relentless destruction of nature in which human-caused climate change joins farming, fishing, hunting, dumping, and urbanization as an instrument of nature’s destruction.

As we struggle to control our fossil-fuel addiction and begin drawing carbon back from the air, we also need to take all those recommended steps to reduce our population and its impact on the Earth. The outlook is not hopeful, the future isn’t bright, and right now, humanity doesn’t much care. Perhaps that will change during the next few years.

This article contains a useful discussion and explanation of carbon-capture solutions.

“Klaus Lackner has a picture of the future in his mind, and it looks something like this: 100 million semi-trailer-size boxes, each filled with a beige fabric configured into what looks like shag carpet to maximize surface area. Each box draws in air as though it were breathing. As it does, the fabric absorbs carbon dioxide, which it later releases in concentrated form to be made into concrete or plastic or piped far underground, effectively cancelling its ability to contribute to climate change.

“Though the technology is not yet operational, it’s “at the verge of moving out of the laboratory, so we can show how it works on a small scale,” said Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University. Once he has all the kinks worked out, he figured that, combined, the network of boxes could capture perhaps 100 million metric tons (110 million tons) of CO2 per day at a cost of $30 per ton—making a discernible dent in the climate-disrupting overabundance of CO2 that has built up in the air since humans began burning fossil fuels in earnest 150 years ago.

“Lackner is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of scientists around the world who are working on ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, capturing carbon from the atmosphere using plants, rocks or engineered chemical reactions and storing it in soil, products such as concrete and plastic, rocks, underground reservoirs or the deep blue sea.

“Some of the strategies—known collectively as carbon dioxide removal or negative emissions technologies—are just twinkles in their envisioners’ eyes. Others—low-tech schemes like planting more forests or leaving crop residues in the field, or more high-tech “negative emissions” setups like the CO2-capturing biomass fuel plant that went online last spring in Decatur, Illinois—are already underway. Their common aim: To help us out of the climate change fix we’ve gotten ourselves into.

“We can’t just decarbonize our economy, or we won’t meet our carbon goal,” said Noah Deich, co-founder and executive director with the Center for Carbon Removal in Oakland, California. “We have to go beyond to clean up carbon from the atmosphere … [And] we need to start urgently if we are to have real markets and real solutions available to us that are safe and cost effective by 2030.” –Mary Hoff (Continue: 8 Ways to Sequester Carbon to Avoid Climate Catastrophe).