Monday, December 7, 2015

SAR #15341


Carbon Copy
Uncertainty Principles: Climate science is not rocket science. Rocket science is pretty simple compared to trying to measure, weigh and track a few hundred ever changing variables which interact in countless ways and form feedback loops both expected and unknown.
Despite some (wholly tongue in cheek I suspect) formulae that predict the earth's atmosphere will pass the magical 2ºC of warming in 17 years, 2 months and 14 days, no one knows when, exactly, such an event will happen, only that it will. And no one knows exactly what bad things will happen by then, only that they will. And that more bad things will happen after a 2ºC rise is also certain, but the details and timing are at best vague.
One thing is entirely certain; the current COP21 conference in Paris isn't going to affect anything at all. It is a feel-good moment for the world's leaders before they return home to (mostly) business as usual. Ad business as usual will lead to at least a 4ºC rise by 2100 and 6ºC soon thereafter. And that will bring not just Bad Things, but Disastrous Things.
And the empty promises being made in Paris will not delay our doom one day or 0.1 degree.
Here's the hard math, which is reliable with the understanding that a lot of the input numbers are a little vague - we just discovered last week that China has been understating its CO2 emissions by at least 17% for years. Anyway...
In 2010 the IPCC's best estimate was that a 2ºC rise in global atmospheric temperature will result from the addition of 2,900 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere above pre-industrial levels. We have already thrown about 2,050 GT into the air, leaving about 850 GT to go if we want to have an 80% chance of limiting global warming to a 2ºC rise.
At today's 40-plus GT per year emission rate, we have about 20 years left before the magic amount leading to a 2ºC is baked in the cake, after which we may never, ever burn another scoop of coal or gallon of gasoline. For the mathematically challenged, that means by 2035 we have to do away with all our cars, trucks, buses, trains, ships, tractors, artificial fertilizers and so on or face Perdition.
And we are not going to do that and Paris's COP21 won't do a thing to help - for the promises made there are non-binding, unenforced and unenforceable .
Why?
One, such a conversion away from a fossil fuel economy cannot be achieved that quickly and even if it could we don't have the financial resources to construct a replacement for the fossil fuel economy in that length of time.
But more importantly it would mean telling Exxon, BP, Shell, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, India, China and the Koch Brothers that they cannot dig up and sell the fossil fuels they are sitting on. Ain't gonna happen. Especially with all the non-binding, non-enforceable feel-good promises being made by the mendocrats in Paris.
Remember, the 1992 Rio UN Framework Convention on Climate Change specifically states that measures taken to fight climate change may not include "arbitrary or unjustifiable discriminations in international trade or disguised restrictions to trade." To back that up, both the TPP and TiSP explicitly permit corporations to sue countries whose environmental regulations constrain profits... such as from mining and selling fossil fuels.
Rather than curtailing global warming, the COP21 makes it probable that most if not all of the fossil fuel reserves now known will be burned, cheapest first - which is coal, the dirtiest.
Welcome to 4ºC (7ºF) and more by 2100.  All so a few could be rich...
Welcome to your future. 
[I could have footnoted everything here, but it's Sunday and I want to watch the gladiators.]

9 comments:

McMike said...

We are the frog in the frying pan. That parable is about us, not frogs. Even frogs are smarter than human society.

While Miami slowly slips below the waves; while the East Coast is battered annually by biblical hurricanes; while the southwest burns in one contiguous sheet of flame, without a drop of water to quench themselves; while fire ants and killer bees march into Minneapolis/St.Paul, along with malaria; we will not change one bit.

We will not agree that there is a problem. We will not agree on a solution. We will refuse to ask the economic elites to make a single sacrifice; and meanwhile as the Koch and Walton family heirs will ready their space station to carry the powdered sperm and cryogenic heads of its founders; we will quibble about semantics and manufactured distractions all the way down the drain.

We will - as Hemingway might have said - smother ourselves in our own excrement quite slowly, and then all at once.

As the end truly nears, we will disgrace ourselves one last time, with a cargo cult grand finale of magical thinking. Akin to the cyanide tent revivals of Australia in the movie "On the Beach," as Gregory Peck slides beneath the waves to die in his underwater time capsule, while searching vainly for his long-dead wife.

A few humans perhaps, caricatures of post-nuclear cockroaches, might cling to this rock a little longer. Leaving behind some DNA and artifacts of our regression to interest and confound whatever sentient life form emerges in the coming millennia. Or not.

As a father of young children I don't think of these things too much or too often. There's no point in thinking about the world that my generation and the one before me will leave for them. It seems a goddamned shame to omit a grand narrative or striving and evolution from the conversation, but it feels like a lie. The comfort of the reward in heaven feels just as empty as the promise of a better life for their children's children. Maybe its the shame of a sense of collective guilt, or simply sadness for it all, but we skip the topic almost entirely.

So we have, by necessity, embraced living in the present. Talking about what happens when they grow up, when they have kids, on the other hand, feels a lot like talking about Santa Claus.

This is, to me, the greatest sadness.

I know, it felt this dark before. 1864, 1933, 1942, 1956... but in in those past times, we were merely squabbling among ourselves, and had not physically triggered a doomsday machine.

Daddy, tell me again about how people had the chance to turn off the carbon killer, but chose not to...

Oh wait, technology is going to save us...

George Anderson said...

All so a few could be rich...

Charles Kingsley Michaelson, III said...

George, I stole your line and promoted it to the penultimate locus. Thanks. ckm

Anonymous said...

I ran for the state legislature last year against an incumbent who is., simultaneously a coal company executive. in a debate before the editorial board of a local paper, when asked, what is the greatest threat facing our state and our country i responded, "human induced climate change.. global warming". my opponent responded that mt pinatubo emitted more co2 during its eruption in the 90s than all the co2 emitted by burning fossil feels since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

I immediately challenged my opponent to a bet that he was wrong by orders of magnitude…. a bet of $1000, payable to his or my favorite charity, depending upon who "won" . He refused to accept the bet and the news paper refused to print my challenge.

We are doomed because insatiable greed and a lust for power blinds our leaders and the plutocracy. Of late i work full time to call for a constitutional amendment that will overturn the supreme court decisions including "Citizens United v F.E.C." so we can stop huge multinational corporations and billionaires from "buying" our government. I have personally gathered over 5000 signatures on an initiative petition calling for a 28 amendment. We have over 300 volunteers statewide working together.

alas…even under the most optimistic assumptions curbing the corporatist state will come to late to save the planet. As a matter of principle i will not give up…but, reality demands it is time to brace for impact. We need a miracle, we need an Apollo energy program, a crash program, that rushes into operation all forms of renewable energy AND finances these programs as if we were fighting WWII all over again and then some.

michael s.

McMike said...

Anon. Perhaps you are familiar with CELDF? http://celdf.org/

They are pursuing state-level constitutional amendments to create (legal) community rights.

kwark said...

Another little human factor: not many folks alive today will be around to sing auld lang syne in 2099. My kids might live long enough to experience a foretaste of what's to come but they (and no one their age) ain't callin' the shots . . .

Charles Kingsley Michaelson, III said...

Yes and no, kwark. While I certainly won't be around to see much of the first act (exit, stage left, about 2030) there'll be lots of "coming events" trailers by then. And my grandchildren, at age 50 (2050) will be at 3 degrees and rising - And they can vote now.

I would guess that my great-grandchildren, whom I expect to meet, will experience all sorts of terrible things by the time they get to be 50. If they do.

But I agree that a lot of people, even some in their 50's, figure they'll be dead and the hell with tomorrow.

D. George said...

Prompts me to wonder whether a nuclear war might not be a good thing, as long as only a few weapons are used -- enough to put the survivors back in the stone age -- or the iron age? who knows, silicon age? -- but not enough to cause a nuclear winter. The survivors would not need all the coal and so on. And they would be a lot sadder and wiser.

Charles Kingsley Michaelson, III said...

Optimist.