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.

Methane Releases May Be Accelerating

Methane Release (Washington Post photo by Jonathan Newton

Greenhouse Gas, Methane, Release May be Accelerating

Methane (CH4) released from warming permafrost is one of the scariest of the possible climate-change feedbacks. Goes like this: Arctic warms > permafrost melts > methane escapes > this increases solar heat trapping in Earth’s atmosphere > this accelerates Arctic warming > permafrost melting accelerates > methane release accelerates > solar heat trapping accelerates > . . . . As Earth warms, its radiant heat will gradually overcome the barrier imposed by greenhouse gasses. Eventually, the atmosphere will find a new balance between incoming solar energy and outgoing heat. Reaching the new balance will take hundreds, probably thousands, of years. Earth will probably be uninhabitable by large-bodied organisms long before that.

Don’t you wish your politicians and fellow citizens would realize that this issue is way more important than whether or not some college student waved his penis in a girl’s face? Of course, that crap needs to stop, but let’s just stop it and let it assume the minor position among today’s concern that it merits, and turn our attention to scarier events.

News of methane releases is accelerating. If researchers begin finding lots of lakes like this one, we could have passed the point at which we can slow global warming.