Saturday, August 01, 2015

Halfway to hell and still asleep at the wheel

Global Warming is halfway to hell. At 1 C we are only a few decades from the hell of a 2C world we have unleashed. Not only do we have to stop the further rise in greenhouse gases, we have to adapt to the consequences of what we’ve already put into the system.

Global warming halfway to UN’s 2C limit – New Scientist  All but one of the main surface temperature monitors has recorded a 1C rise since pre-industrial times, analysis shows  Countries have agreed to try and limit global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels. Beyond that threshold, scientists project escalating sea level rise and ever more intense and volatile weather. We might have already reached the halfway mark, according to analysis commissioned by the New Scientist. Four out of the five major surface temperature records are set to pass the 1C point this year, researchers found, measured from the 1850-1899 average. (July 30, 2015) Responding to Climate Change (RTCC)

However, if 1.5C above pre-industrial averages is a more realistic safe figure than 2C, then we are at least two thirds of our way to hell. Of course, thinking we can add any more greenhouse gases to our atmosphere than we already have since pre-industrial times may be extreme hubris; we may have long ago entered the gates of hell. 

Hell, in the secular sense, is when life on Earth becomes too hot for human civilization to handle. At least this is what was politically decided back in 1997 at the Kyoto Protocol. However, many scientists, including Dr. James Hansen (who spoke here in Rochester just before Earth Day this year about the danger of setting 2C as the limit we can tolerate) think that catastrophic sea level rise and other challenges will be baked in long before we reach 2C.

At the COP21 Paris Climate Conference in December, it’s going to be the dickens just to get 190+ countries to agree on what they’ve agreed to, let alone readjusting down what our upper limit should be for greenhouse gas emissions. That science is telling us the relentless temperature rise continues regardless of humanity’s social, political, and economic past failures to address the mother of all problems bodes ill for our species and all the others we are dragging down with us.

Somewhere around the middle of this century we will hit 2C even if we stamp on the brakes because we’ve already scorched in a century and a half of these long-lasting gases into our atmosphere. COP21 is attempting to let the temperature go no higher. But if we are being honest with ourselves, in order to actually achieve 2C we’d have to have stopped all our greenhouse gas emissions a while ago.  It’s more likely we are heading to 4C or beyond, which will create an unthinkable future for our children.

What’s very frustrating about passing these critical benchmarks (even though the experts are still trying to figure out exactly what are safe levels of greenhouse gas concentrations and temperatures) is that Americans know better. We should know the grim details just as well as (perhaps better than) most countries around the world.

“Specifically: In the U.S. — unlike everywhere else — being better educated doesn’t guarantee that you are more likely to believe that climate change is a real thing that is actually happening. Instead, education seems to polarize in the United States: More education is correlated with greater concern about climate change among liberals and Democrats, and less concern from conservatives and Republicans. It seems that being better educated just means you have more ammo for defending the belief that your existing partisan identification bequeaths to you.” Education increases belief in climate change — everywhere except in the U.S. (7/29/2015, Grist)

And yet we are still allowing more drilling in the Arctic, desperately searching for more ways to get at natural gas under our state regardless of the Fracking ban, railroading Bomb Trains of volatile crude oil through our communities, and giving almost no attention to this issue at the local level.

If the facts about Climate Change and appeals by our moral leaders don’t move us to mitigate Climate Change by making sure COP21 Paris is a success and to adapt to the changes locally, what will? What will finally convince us that Climate Change must be addressed immediately? At what point will we move out of our silos of immediate interests, pull back and see the big picture, and finally understand that all the stuff we hope to happen won’t happen until we address this rapidly warming planet?

One thing is for sure: Climate Change is not going away by itself.  We must wake up.   

Time passes. 

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