Jan 24, 2012

Climate Change -- 's worse than you think (pt. 2)

My first post in this series was, “here’s the bad news.” Let me elaborate. 

This summer is very similar to what is projected under a +2°C global mean temperature increase,” Dr. Katharine Hayhoe (August 2011), director of the Texas Tech University Climate Science Center, referring to 2011's record-breaking heat. 

Source, or toggle the U.S. Drought Monitor archive for visuals.

Calling Dr. Hayhoe's statement "measured," is an understatement. But that's one of the points of science -- to provide us with unbiased assessments based on thousands of hours of high powered research. So check this out. Based on scientific assessment, in 2009 the world's international policy-making big wigs agreed that two degrees Celsius (2°C) is the only threshold of warming human civilizations can endure. Any more than that and climate projections indicate doomsday. Note that climate science shows our planet's mean temperature has risen about 0.8°C since the Industrial Revolution began around 1850. That leaves us 1.2°C headroom over the next 90 years. 

How ’we doing? Climate / Energy scientist Kevin Anderson has been attracting some attention lately thanks to his "carbon budget" graph, which shows how soon and how rapidly our always growing global economy would have to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions to stay under the certified 2°C threshold.(1) Effectively, we're talking about: Chinese, Americans, Europeans, Indians, Russians, and Japanese (in order of biggest emitters) reducing their emissions dramatically, among others, immediately.(2)

Here's what really jumps out about Anderson's graph (below):

1) Emissions have to stop, now. According to Anderson, the peak of world emissions must be “by” 2015, “by” 2020, or “by” 2025 -- and then decline dramatically year on year (see below). Otherwise it’s too late. We have four options.

2) The longer we wait … the bigger the task. Here’s the deal. The graph shows: If we peak emissions in 2015, we have until 2060 to meet the overall reduction target. If we wait till 2020, we have to meet the overall reduction target by about 2042 (a rate of global greenhouse gas reductions equaling around 10%, year over year, for 22 years). David Roberts, "The total collapse of the USSR knocked 5 percent off its emissions. So 10 percent a year is like … well, it’s not like anything in the history of human civilization." If we wait till 2025, we have just 10 years – till 2035, to meet the global emissions reduction target.
Click to enlarge.

Does anyone think today’s efforts will get us there?


Part III of this series tomorrow.

1.  Hear audio and/or view slides of Mr. Anderson's  presentation, "Beyond Danger." Obviously the business people, the scientists, and the policy-making people are not talking to each other re: climate projections. Perhaps THAT should have been Gore’s strategy all along: international business development conferences, correlating economic growth and necessity to ecological projections, and developing consensus on the next step fwd. Is there still time to convene a billionaire’s U.N. on the subject of economic growth? Perhaps this could be done in the United States first? Let’s expand the values around the purpose of business -- past pure profit to include corporate and social longevity. “Is sustainability really an option in our current economic model?” might be a good name for such a conference. Comments, anyone?

2. There’s lots more to say about the mechanisms needed to achieve such a revolution. In short the options seem to be, 1) Everyone gets on board, 2) Policies are created to coerce such change, 3) The economy we know and love is shut down by internal and/or external factors.

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