Weblog Archives

  Monday  May 30  2011    10: 21 PM

global climate change

Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink
Record rise, despite recession, means 2C target almost out of reach

"Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach, according to unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency.

"The shock rise means the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius – which scientists say is the threshold for potentially "dangerous climate change" – is likely to be just "a nice Utopia", according to Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA. It also shows the most serious global recession for 80 years has had only a minimal effect on emissions, contrary to some predictions."

Memorial Day, 2030

"The three worst direct impacts to humans from our unsustainable use of energy will, I think, be Dust-Bowlification and sea level rise and ocean poisoning: Hell and High Water. But another impact — far more difficult to project quantitatively because there is no paleoclimate analog — may well affect far more people both directly and indirectly: war, conflict, competition for arable and/or habitable land.

"We will have to work as hard as possible to make sure we don’t leave a world of wars to our children. That means avoiding decades if not centuries of strife and conflict from catastrophic climate change. That also means finally ending our addiction to oil, a source — if not the source — of two of our biggest recent wars. As the NYT reported in 2009:

"The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.

"Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.

"That’s a key reason 33 generals and admirals supported the comprehensive climate and clean energy jobs bill last year, asserting “Climate change is making the world a more dangerous place” and “threatening America’s security.” The Pentagon itself has made the climate/security link explicit in its Quadrennial Defense Review.

"Sadly, the chance that humanity will avert catastrophic climate impacts has dropped sharply this year (see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2“). And that means it is increasingly likely we face a world beyond 450 ppm atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, which in turn means we likely cross carbon cycle tipping points that threaten to quickly take us to 800 to 1000 ppm.

"It is a world not merely of endless regional resource wars around the globe. It is a world with dozens of Darfurs and Pakistani mega-floods, of countless environmental refugees — hundreds of millions by the second half of this century — all clamoring to occupy the parts of the developed world that aren’t flooded or desertified.

"In such a world, everyone will ultimately become a veteran, and Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day may fade into obscurity, as people forget about a time when wars were the exception, a time when soldiers were but a small minority of the population. And if we don’t act swiftly and strongly to stop it, the worst impacts could last a long, long time (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe and Nature Geoscience: ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years”).

"So when does this start to happen?"