What are our chances of making the grade proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPPC)? The limit to global warming proposed by the IPPC is 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level. The world is now above 1.05°C and climbing. The latest report by the IPCC calls for elimination of additional greenhouse gases (GHGs), mostly CO2, in our atmosphere by 2060. Or else!
The or else implies a variety of unfortunate climate events will occur as the atmosphere and the oceans warm. We are already experiencing some of the effects with the warming at the 1.05°C level. These include drought; forest fires; flooding; crop failures; deaths from heat exhaustion; melting of glaciers and polar ice; and rising ocean levels, to name a few. Oh, then there’s also the polar vortex plaguing us in wintertime while polar temperatures are significantly warmer than normal.
As I have commented in the past, we seriously need to do something about climate change, each of us. On 6 October 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest special report. The bad news is that the IPCC lowered its bad-things-will-happen threshold from 2°C (in the earlier report) to 1.5°C. By, say, 2030.
That is to say that, if we don’t limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2030, then global warming and effects will likely be even worse — and sooner — than was forecast in the earlier IPCC report. By the way, those temperature numbers refer to increases from the temperatures before the industrial era began. In 2015 we arrived at the 0.87° point. So we need collectively to begin today to diminish or eliminate all sources of global warming, most of them due to human activity, by 2030.
If we don’t eliminate those sources in time, particularly by 2050, a number of unfortunate events will occur. Some of them have already happened at least once. They will also worsen in proportion to the increase in temperature. Those unfortunate events include: major storms, flooding, drought, rising ocean levels, melting glaciers, crop failures, human migration, disease spreading and extinctions, to name a few. All of these have occurred to some extent in the past year or two.
No single option will act to solve this global problem but several options are available that, adopted with sufficient intensity, may keep us below that 1.5°C limit.
Today I had an iMessage exchange with my astute grand-niece about climate change, ending up with thoughts about change dynamics. This was triggered by her comment that she was confined to the house because of the miserable air quality in Seattle. Now Seattle is not one of the places that frequently comes up in discussions of air quality. Yet, for the second time this week, Seattle’s air quality was comparable to Beijing’s (112 vs. 151 today; a few days ago Seattle was more polluted than Beijing).
The reason for this? Forest fires in British Columbia and smoke therefrom drifting down to Seattle. Advice to all, but especially to women of childbearing age: Stay indoors!! This is what was annoying my grand-niece. It is also what is annoying many women around the world as global warming aids in the ignition of forest fires. The west coast of North America has had a disastrous fire season so far this year, attributable to climate change.
As to the topic of climate change; those of you who live in the northern hemisphere, have you noticed that it’s warmer lately? Here in Los Angeles we’re into the third day of a heat wave, or as the weather guessers put it, a Heat Advisory. It’s the second time this year. Normally such things don’t happen around here until September or October. But forget about the old normal; it’s the new normal we have to worry about. Heat and floods constitute the new normal. Climate change. And it’s all your fault so don’t complain. Can’t say I didn’t warn you here and here and here for example.
Sustainability apparently means different things to different people. Fundamentally, sustainability refers to the ability of the human race to survive into the indefinite future. The crux of the sustainability dilemma is the tension between what we want to do and what Mother Nature allows us to do while remaining on Earth. I would like to summarize and expand upon an article that appeared recently in Nature Sustainability. The article’s title is “A good life for all within planetary boundaries”. It was produced by a team from the Sustainability Research Institute of the University of Leeds, UK and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Berlin, Germany.
The fundamental constraint on sustainability derives from the fact that we’re stuck here on Mother Earth, therefore we must take pretty good care of her if we are to be around very long. What Mother provides us is breathable air, potable water, arable soil, sources of energy and a variety of raw materials that we can make into useful products. The fundamental constraint on “the good life” is our ability to realize at least a minimum level of health and other human needs. The researchers for the paper quoted above described this as the ability of humanity to stay within a doughnut; the inner boundary of the doughnut comprises the human needs requirements while the outer boundary comprises the constraints imposed by nature.
Despite all our sage advice the world, at least the United States, seems intent on accelerating our race to the climate cliff. It’s well past time to put on the brakes. For example, energy and climate notes that:
In the 1990s, the transportation sector saw the fastest growth in carbon dioxide emissions of any major sector of the U.S. economy. And the transportation sector is projected to generate nearly half of the 40% rise in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions forecast for 2025.3
Congratulations all you movers. Transportation finally is producing more greenhouse gases than coal-fired power plants. As my mother used to say to me when I was a sprout: Stop moving around so much!
Our accounting practices may soon change to include the carbon tax. We have spent years encouraging people to look at the benefits of teleworking versus its costs. Our cost-benefit analysis focuses mainly on the standard cost elements such as space rental, technology, training and unspecified “externalities”. But soon many organization will be thinking about another benefit of teleworking, the carbon tax. Continue reading Telework and the Carbon Tax→
In June I posted a piece about global warming. The focus was on the role that methane could play in accelerating the warming process. On 23 August 2017 the New York Times published an article about the disappearance of permafrost in Alaska. The article, by Henry Fountain, begins with this:
The Arctic is warming about twice as fast as other parts of the planet, and even here in sub-Arctic Alaska the rate of warming is high. Sea ice and wildlife habitat are disappearing; higher sea levels threaten coastal native villages.
The media have frequent stories about one aspect or other regarding global warming. What they often don’t do is discuss the tradeoffs; the rocks and the hard places on the path to a livable and sustainable climate. The problem with all these bits and pieces of information is that, while we are discussing them, the climate is changing — mostly for the worse — while we continue to be locked in unproductive discussion. The climate clock is ticking whether or not we’re paying attention. I’ve written about this before, here and here, but now it’s time to expand on those ideas.