Tuesday, November 10, 2015

226.6 - Outrage of the Week: Promises on global warming fall short of minimum needed

Outrage of the Week: Promises on global warming fall short of minimum needed

But speaking of global warming - and I note again, as I will from time to time, that despite what some of the nanny-nanny naysayers try to claim, the terms global warming and climate change are synonyms, they refer to the same causes and the same effects and they mean exactly the same thing - speaking of global warming, it is becoming hard to not feel discouraged. Not that it's impossible to avoid the catastrophic effect of climate change, not that it's impossible to prevent them, but that it feels impossible to imagine that we will actually do it even as we tell ourselves we're working as hard as we can. And in that conflict between between what is being done and what needs to be done lies the Outrage of the Week.

Consider this: The UN just issued a report on an analysis of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs, of 146 countries. The INDC's represent the pledges each country has made to reduce its output of greenhouse gases. The press release for the report starts off with happy talk:
An unprecedented world-wide effort is underway to combat climate change, building confidence that nations can cost effectively meet their stated objective of keeping a global temperature rise to under 2 degrees C.
An increase of two degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is the level generally agreed to be the upper limit if we're to avoid the worst effects of climate change, remembering always that lower increases will still cause problems, are already causing problems - but if we can keep the increase below 2 degrees C., we should be able to manage.

It's not until the ninth graph of this press release that you read that the actual prediction for temperature increases by 2100 based on the analysis of the INDCs is 2.7 degrees Celsius - a third higher than the upper safe limit. What's more, you also read that the INDCs "have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100."

What does that mean? It means that the overwhelming majority of the pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions end by 2030. If you assume all of those same countries commit in the future to keep reducing emissions after 2030 at the rate they did before 2030, you can limit warming to 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100. If they don't, warming easily could reach 3.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, which is disaster territory.

This comes at a time when a new study of high-resolution climate models says that without significant action, by the end of the century some areas of the Persian Gulf could experience something unknown since the start of civilization: temperatures that are literally too hot for human habitability, temperatures and humidities so high that even the healthiest people literally could not survive outdoors for more than a few hours, even in shaded, well-ventilated areas.

And still the nations of the world - more particularly, the industrialized nations of the world, the rich nations of the world - hem and haw and stumble and make non-binding promises of some future actions, while the temperatures continue to edge up and 2015 is on track to be the hottest year on record - beating the old record set way back in 2014.

It's not that we can't do it - just about a month ago I described new studies that showed how the US and the entire world could go to fully renewable-energy-based economies by 2050. We have the technology, we have the resources, we even have the money. What we don't have is the will to challenge entrenched corporate interests and the interest in inconveniencing ourselves.

And it is our children and especially our grandchildren who will pay the price for our hubris, our greed,  our laziness, and our indifference. And that is an outrage.

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