I’m writing this on Earth Day, 22 April 2019. This is a change from my usual blog but bear with me. Lately I’ve been spending much of my time contemplating climate change, its rate and its likely impacts if left unattended. None of those potential impacts are very encouraging. Many of them are horrific. Therefore we must seriously change things if we are to avoid the bad news in favor of some less bad news 20 years from now. The problem is that my personal changes won’t make much difference. Nor will yours. But together, with millions of other earthlings, we might be able to move the future to a better place than where it’s headed now.
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.
After a very tumultuous year I want to wish you a very happy, satisfying and productive next year — and thereafter. Onward to 2019. Here are some things to think about for the new year.
If you haven’t already, try to expand (or start) formal teleworking in your organization. As the world economy starts to slow down it is time to think about ways you can increase your competitiveness and versatility while also reducing operating costs. Contemporary technology almost transparently enables close coordination among team members and between teams, regardless of the physical location of their members. As more than one manager has told me in the past: “I didn’t get this at first. In fact I resisted it. But my experience as a telemanager has shown me that I spend significantly less time in those tedious administrative tasks and much more time in getting the job done with my co-workers.” That, and the fact that trained teleworkers tend to stick with their employers — and take less sick leave — is what makes those bottom-line-checkers smile.
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.
I have tried to keep the content of this blog non-political but the political environment has become too toxic for me to keep silent. In particular there is the growing disdain for the facts on the part of our President and, apparently, most or all of the Republican Party who favor alternative facts. Alternative facts indeed! Facts are facts and repeatedly testable, alternative facts are distortions at best, outright lies at worst.
I have been continually fretting about this state of affairs, wondering how to reverse the situation. Now Dr. David Brin, the renowned astrophysicist, science fiction author and fellow futurist, has come up with a direct approach: the FACT ACT. Let’s not just stand there complaining about alternative facts, let’s do something about it. First some background. Continue reading Just the facts, Ma’am→
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!