Monday, December 7, 2015
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 .
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.]
Posted by Charles Kingsley Michaelson, III at 7:30 AM