Sunday, September 27, 2009

Climate Change Numbers Heat Up

There's a new phenomenon sweeping through the halls of climate science - realism. After nearly two decades of constantly understating the problem, of seeing successive projections unexpectedly overtaken by events - and with the ever-important Copenhagen summit just a couple of months away - they're really sharpening their pencils and you're not going to like their results.

Memo to Steve and Mike - these numbers are going to make Tar Sands shills about as welcome as having Nosferatu in to babysit your kids.

Here's the bottom line. Even if every nation fully met its ultimate carbon emissions reduction targets the earth will warm at least 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit or about 3.5 degrees Celsius. Another way of looking at it is that this forecast is almost double the estimated maximum permissible heating if civilization as we know it is to survive. From the Washington Post:

The United Nations Environment Programme report, "Climate Change Science Compendium 2009", breaks from the past. It's not a consensus-based report like the previous IPCC reports that have consistently understated the problem. The denialists and lobbyists aren't going to be allowed to sabotage this report, it's simply too important.

Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director, told reporters at the National Press Club on Thursday that the report aims to update the IPCC's 2007 findings to reflect both new physical evidence and a more sophisticated understanding of how Earth systems work.

"With every day that passes, the underlying trends that science has provided is . . . of such a dramatic nature that shying away from a major agreement in Copenhagen will probably be unforgivable if you look back in history at this moment," Steiner said. He noted that since 2000 alone, the average rate of melting at 30 glaciers in nine mountain ranges has doubled compared with the rate during the previous two decades.

"These are not things that are in dispute in terms of data," he said. "They are actually physically measurable."

...activists such as director Bill McKibben said politicians worldwide are not taking aggressive enough steps to address climate change.

"Here's where we are: The political system is not producing at the moment a result which has anything to do with what the science is telling us," said McKibben, whose group aims to reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, well below the 450 ppm target that leaders of the Group of 20 major nations have embraced.

What makes me so damn mad about this is that Harper, Ignatieff and Layton; the people who ought to be getting Canadians specific, reliable information about this issue, what each of our regions can expect by way of change and what we can do to prepare for it, stand mute and wilfully keep us in the dark. I'm sorry to say this but each of these guys is betraying the people of Canada.


Anonymous said...

We Canadians are not going to get anything from them all while they are in election mode. That's the problem.....the Canadian Government has always been secretive because of the way we ask questions in the the cuff and haphazard. We need to have the system the British Government uses. That being, questions are prepared and given to the PM at which time he has time to review and then answers at a given time. If we did that, there would be less chance that Canadians would be lied to as we are at the moment by everyone concerned. This confrontation attitude of Harper and the others has to stop. Look at the garbage that is going on about Gadhafi visiting Newfoundland. A person would swear there is a secret building in St. John's Newfoundland where the world's scientific secrets are kept and Gadhafi is going there to steal them. Sending what ever minister to reem Gadhafi out is another smoke screen and a stupid one at that. An attempt to keep the heat off what really needs to be discused in this country. A. Morris

Toronto Home Staging said...

Does anyone really still believe that our planet will warm up by 3.5 degrees Celsius in the nearby future? Because from what it looks like to me, we're seeing a bit of a cooling trend in these past few years. Last winter was one of the longest in a long time and this summer was nothing but a mild weather the whole time. The government may not be focused on the climate change but I see why, there just are more important issues than playing games with crazy scientists that all have different ideas about the climate.

Take care, Ella

The Mound of Sound said...

Actually Ella, yes. The heads of state of virtually every country on earth are assembling in Copenhagen in December to seek a meaningful climate change treaty because they "still believe." The national institutes of science of every Western country "still believe." The IPCC scientists "still believe."

Living in Toronto it's hard to believe, I understand that. Your immediate ecosystem is already heavily compromised by your urban reality so change is hard to detect.

Come to a relatively pristine ecosystem as we have here on Vancouver Island and you'll see the change quite noticeably. For example there's a real bellweather in species migration.

The Humboldt squid, nasty buggers that can grow to 6-8 feet long and have no hesitation in attacking divers, are found in the Sea of Cortez, the Baja's inland waterway. Two months ago they caused a furor when they were found in several hundred washing up on the beaches of San Diego. People wondered how they travelled so far. Then, a month after that, several hundred of these creatures washed ashore on the beaches of Tofino here on the island.

We see a gamut of species moving up to our waters and there's concern this may have something to do with the vanishing salmon. Salmon, in turn, are an essential link in our food chain that is relied upon by black and grizzly bear, coastal wolves, bald and golden eagles and other species.

Last winter was the result of a powerful La Nina in the central Pacific. This year it's been replaced by an even more powerful El Nino, so distinct they've even renamed it El Nino Modoki.

Something like six of the hottest ten years in history have occured in the past decade.

When you consider last winter you're looking at weather, not climate. Weather is always erratic and, as an indicator of climate, almost meaningless.

It's too bad you haven't taken time to consider the plight of climate change refugees around the planet. Sitting in Toronto you don't have much idea of what's happening to the people in small ocean states or in sub-Saharan Africa ...and that's just beginning.

You may not but the British Ministry of Defence and the Pentagon certainly understand the reality and dangers of climate change. You can read some of their research online. Climate change will be a core item in the Pentagon's upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review. I would recommend that you pick up Gwynne Dyer's book "Climate Wars" to learn what this could mean for civilization. Here's a hint - long before climate change gets us directly it'll drive us to destroy ourselves.

So, yes, when you speak of 'playing games' and 'crazy scientists' you comne off sounding like one of those people who really doesn't want to know, who prefers to whistle past the graveyard. Today the 'crazy' people are those who don't get it. Sorry about that.

Toronto Home Staging said...

The Mound of Sound - You do make a point but I am not trying to sound crazy or not informed well. I've read multiple papers and articles on this topic and I just don't think this climate change is such a huge threat to us. Climate changes have been happening for thousands of years, you can recall the Little Ice Age in the 15th century or so or the time thousands of years ago when Antarctica used to be a Jungle. And have humans caused those too? I don't think so. And no matter what steps we take, there is no way of telling the planet how to change the climate. Plus, when referring to the last winter, I wasn't just talking about the weather. I've read couple of articles saying that in the past decade we've seen a cooling trend in the climate and last winter just adds up to it. And yes, maybe I don't see the huge differences in climate change in Toronto but that doesn't mean I don't notice it all around the world. Thanks for your comment though, I always like a little opposition to my theories ;)

Take care, Ella

The Mound of Sound said...

Here's a question for you Ella. Do you think that there's even the remotest chance that the IPCC climate scientists overlooked the "little ice age" you refer to or the climate that existed in the polar regions hundreds of thousands of years before that? Do you really think that's even possible? If so, I have a nearly new, one owner UFO to sell you.

Here's what I think you should consider. Go to Every one of the denialist arguments, including the two you've mentioned here, are addressed there. The arguments are complete and compelling and they're all borne out on scientific research.

This isn't alarmism. It isn't a hoax. It isn't a conspiracy for a bunch of scientists to score research grants. It isn't a plot to cause some mind-boggling global transfer of wealth. It isn't any of the things that the shills for Big Oil and Big Coal have been telling you. Sorry Ella but you've been scammed.

The Mound of Sound said...

A couple of other things you should really consider Ella. Consider the ramifications if the global warming community, despite all their peer-reviewed scientific research, is wrong. Then consider the ramifications if the other side, the denialists, are wrong. What do you come up with?

If those advocating real action are wrong, we'll have invested about 3% of GDP in the result. But that money won't be squandered. Much of it will go into alternative energy which we'll be calling upon sooner or later anyway due to problems such as Peak Oil. The global warming campaign is accelerating the efforts for alternative energy but they're going to happen anyway.

Now what if the denialist arguments you advance are wrong? Well, we're dead and civilization as we've known it ends. Now weigh those two up and tell me, on balance, which seems reasonable to you.

Here's something else to remember Ella. Global warming is a major issue but it's one of several interconnected threats, all of which must be dealt with. These include deforestation, desertification, resource (particularly freshwater) depletion, species extinction, air, water and soil contamination, overpopulation.

Global warming is an existential threat but climate change-driven shifts in precipitation are just as dangerous.

Look around the world today. There are two phenomenon present - floods and drought. Now if you're a peasant herder does it really make much difference if your cow dies from drought of a flash flood? It's still a dead cow.

Now Canada is spectacularly blessed in these times. We're not overpopulated and we lie in the region that will be "last and least" affected by global warming. But, as Dyer points out in "Climate Wars," no matter in which hemisphere, each nation's greatest threat is that country that lies nearest between it and the equator. Think about that for a minute.

Anonymous said...

If climate change is such a problem, then why hasn't the temperature avg steadily CLIMBED ov the last 20 years??? Why should we destroy our economy for some theory that CLEARLY isn't coming true? This winter was snowy and cold, last year was warmer and dry, yet EACH year you all say 'global warming' caused this weather. If you truly believe this, then why is Al Gore still flying around on a BIG PRIVATE JET? Practice what you preach!

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon 10:46, you're beyond ridiculous. Get your facts straight, go to genuine scientific agencies. It's all there and it shows that whatever you're swallowing, it's horseshit.