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

Saving Nature and Human Civilization

Government Inaction on the Climate Emergency

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.

BLUNDELL

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.

Government Inaction on the Mass Extinction of Wildlife

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.

The Extinction Rebellion

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.

 

Photo: Rupert Read

Here are the basic demands of the Extinction Rebellion. I expect these will be expanded in the months ahead:

WE DEMAND:

These demands only represent XR US. They are still in the process of development.

  1. That the Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, it must reverse all policies not in alignment with that position and must work alongside the media to communicate the urgency for change including what individuals, communities and businesses need to do.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Storms and Global Warming

Midwest Storms and Flooding

NASA Image

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

Climate Disaster Will Continue for More Than 100 Years

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.

Like the March “bomb cyclone,” it might set some records.

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.