Climate change suffers from stiction

Climate change has a recurring problem called stiction. You’re probably familiar with the effect, although the term itself is mostly used in physics or engineering contexts. For example, when you’re trying to move an object that’s been sitting on the table or the floor for a while it may resist the move until suddenly it breaks loose and heads in the direction you’re pushing it. That initial resistance force is called stiction.

Many of us are pushing hard to combat climate change but nothing seems to be happening, as I commented in June. We’re all hoping that suddenly matters will begin to improve but so far they’re not. The global climate has a stiction problem. On 26 November 2019 the United Nations released a report on the Emissions Gap; the difference between the global rate of emitting greenhouse gases (GHGs) and the rate required to keep global warming below 1.5°C?. Not only are we not closing that gap, we’re enlarging it.

So all our pushing for emissions reduction has had no effect. Yet. For the last decade or so emissions have increased by an average of 1.5% per year. 2019, with its 1.7% increase, is on track to continue that trend. Instead, we should be reducing emissions by 7.6% annually for the next 10 years at least if we are to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C?. We seriously need to break the current trend and get it to go down instead of up. The earth has a fever and stiction is making it worse.

If we don’t get moving this year then we will need to reduce emissions by 8.8% annually for at least the next 9 years. If we don’t act for two years the required annual emission reduction rate goes up to 10% for the next 8 years (at least) and so on. So stiction is costing us. The longer it takes to get moving, the shorter the time we have left and the larger the cuts we must make if we’re to keep the global temperature at a sustainable level.

That means all of us have to get moving. Right now China is the greatest emitter of GHGs. Despite their positive efforts in developing sustainable energy technologies such as solar arrays, they are building new coal-fired power plants that will be emitting GHGs for decades. Decades we don’t have.

Lest Americans get too cocky about having lower GHG emissions than China, the U.S. has far higher GHG emissions per capita than China; we’re the global leader(!) in that respect. Therefore it should be easier for us to make the necessary cuts.

Thanksgiving is a good day to start if you haven’t done so already. Turn off those lights in unoccupied rooms. Keep your home heated to 21°C. in the winter and 24°C in the summer unless your HVAC is powered by renewable sources. Telecommute at least 3 days per week. Trade in your fossil fueled vehicle for an electric version. Above all, keep pestering your local politicians, corporations and whoever is an energy user to get off the dime and start cutting their fossil fuel use.

Stiction can be deadly.

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