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Hullabaloo


Saturday, January 11, 2014

 
Yes, the climate crisis really IS that bad

by David Atkins

I got some pushback from a few readers over posting this piece from The Onion about the devastating severity of climate change. People insist that it can't possibly be that bad, and that talk about civilization collapse and the end of society as we know it is overwrought.

I've posted about this before, but it needs to be done again. Yes, it really is that bad. Reality check time. Let's start with David Roberts here, who knows a thing or two about climate:



For a longer, more detailed case on video, check out this more recent University of California presentation:



Or you could listen to the World Bank, which says this of a mere 4 degree Celsius increase (which at this point is almost unavoidable absent a miracle technological or political breakthrough):

Among the effects anticipated by the report:
Average monthly summer temperatures Mediterranean, North Africa, Middle East and parts of the United States could increase 6 degrees or more.
Sea levels could rise up to three feet or more, affecting coastal cities in Mexico, India, Bangladesh, Mozambique, Madagascar, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as small island nations, which could become uninhabitable.
Ocean acidification could cause coral reefs to stop growing or dissolve, threatening biodiversity as well as the income and food sources for humans.
Drought could affect 44 percent of global croplands, threatening the world's food security.
Water sources for humans could become scarce in northern and eastern Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
Not noted there are the social and economic consequences and ripple effects of that. Global economic catastrophe doesn't even begin to describe what even that degree of change looks like, which itself understates the case. But what do those commies at the World Bank know? Let's try the unAmerican flag burners at The Pentagon:

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.

Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response.

An exercise last December at the National Defense University, an educational institute that is overseen by the military, explored the potential impact of a destructive flood in Bangladesh that sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into neighboring India, touching off religious conflict, the spread of contagious diseases and vast damage to infrastructure. “It gets real complicated real quickly,” said Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, who is working with a Pentagon group assigned to incorporate climate change into national security strategy planning.
And keep in mind that most of the sources I referenced are old. As in, two to four years old. The fact is that the more we learn about climate change, the worse the projections get. The World Bank report was hopeful that a four-degree Celsius change with all of its devastating consequences could still be avoided. The latest news suggests otherwise:

Climate change may be far worse than scientists thought, causing global temperatures to rise by at least 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, or about 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Nature, takes a fresh look at clouds' effect on the planet, according to a report by The Guardian. The research found that as the planet heats, fewer sunlight-reflecting clouds form, causing temperatures to rise further in an upward spiral.

That number is double what many governments agree is the threshold for dangerous warming. Aside from dramatic environmental shifts like melting sea ice, many of the ills of the modern world -- starvation, poverty, war and disease -- are likely to get worse as the planet warms.

"4C would likely be catastrophic rather than simply dangerous," lead researcher Steven Sherwood told the Guardian. "For example, it would make life difficult, if not impossible, in much of the tropics, and would guarantee the eventual melting of the Greenland ice sheet and some of the Antarctic ice sheet."

Another report released earlier this month said the abrupt changes caused by rapid warming should be cause for concern, as many of climate change's biggest threats are those we aren't ready for.

In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said it was "extremely likely" that human activity was the dominant cause of global warming, or about 95 percent certain -- often the gold standard in scientific accuracy.

"If this isn't an alarm bell, then I don't know what one is. If ever there were an issue that demanded greater cooperation, partnership, and committed diplomacy, this is it," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said after the IPCC report was released.
It's also worth noting that even all of these projections are probably too optimistic. If that sounds nuts, think again. The chart below lists projections for probable global temperature increases:



Note that A1FI line projecting a global temperature increase of 7 degrees Celsius by 2100, which would basically guarantee the end of civilization as we know it, and that's no exaggeration. But that's just an outlier projection, right? Actually, via Gaius Publius at Americablog:

Can we confirm that A1FI is the path we’re taking? The Emissions Scenarios report was written in 2000, which is why the solid black line, showing observed changes, stops there.

But we’ve had a number of years in which to add observations. So here’s an update, one of many we could offer. In 2009, information from previous IPCC assessment reports (the third, or “TAR”, in 2001; the fourth, or “AR4″, in 2007) was combined and updated for the Copenhagen climate conference of 2009. The resulting document, the Copenhagen Diagnosis, is both readable and informative — and beautifully produced; take a look if you get a chance. We’ve already referred to it here.

The chart below shows several of the IPCC scenarios, again projected out from year-2000, overlaid with observations of CO2 emissions predicted by the scenarios. Note that A1FI is one of them, the red line.

We’re smack in the middle of the A1FI range by this measure as of summer 2008 readings. Since then we’ve had the summer of melting Arctic ice and recent news that this is the hottest decade on record.
Reread that. Smack in the middle of the A1FI range by summer 2008 readings. But there's more:



I don’t see a reason to assume that A1FI is unlikely. Do you?

Last bottom line — A1FI puts us on track for as much as +7°C by 2100. And we’re on track for A1FI based on most recent observations.
I'll close with a brief note of some hope by Gaius Publius, as my own thoughts about the situation closely reflect his:

It’s not hopeless if we act, especially if we act before the window of opportunity closes. If Hansen is correct (above), that window closes at +3°C. We’ re at +1°C (more or less), with another +1°C in the pipeline. (The coming IPCC assessment report, AR5, will tell us more about that.) I’m worried that when +1.5°C is present and the same is in the pipeline, we’re in trouble. But we’re not there yet. Stay tuned.

We can stop. It will take dislocations at this point, and we’ll have to counter the big money people (carbon criminals) and their enablers and defenders in politics and the press, but it can be done.
So when I say that only massive immediate changes and/or technological miracles will save us this point, or that knowingly deceptive climate deniers are committing crimes against humanity for which appropriate punishment should be meted out, those are not exaggerations.

That is reality. It's a reality that a lot of people have a hard time grappling with, but it's reality all the same.


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