Friday, August 19, 2016
And We're a Long Way From Done Yet
Here's the problem. When our leaders are debating how little they can get away with doing about climate change, they're looking only at the tip of the iceberg, the part above water. That's their frame of reference.
Despite how much publicity it has received, most of us have a poor if not erroneous understanding of atmospheric greenhouse gases and what they hold in store for the next few decades and over the two centuries following that.
There's already a lot of atmospheric GHG, enough that we've already locked in 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming even if we abandoned fossil energy entirely tomorrow. The stuff is very persistent, especially CO2, and it will continue to cause the planet to heat until, over a very long time, we're long gone and it finally dissipates.
At last December's Paris climate summit there was general agreement to limit warming to 1.5 C. We are effectively already there, just give it a few more years to work its magic.
Then there are the knock-on effects this 1.5C will create. That could add another 1.5C over a couple of centuries from the heating effect of the loss of reflective ice caps and glaciers. That's a total of 3 degrees Celsius without factoring in other natural feedback loops such as a massive methane release from melting permafrost and warming northern lakes and seabed.
Now, bad as this mess already is, we have a new government dragging its heels in the footsteps of its predecessor, intent on driving the extraction and export of ever increasing amounts of Athabasca bitumen. The greenhouse gas emissions from that initiative go directly on top of the basic 1.5 C plus the additional, long-term 1.5C plus the added warming from the methane feedback loop and so on.
Is "genocidal" too strong a word to use? There is credible scientific opinion concluding that we're on the path to a major extinction event, the first in our planet's history created by any species of life, by one species - mankind. It lacks the malevolence of concentration death camps of the Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia or the slaughterhouse of Rwanda yet, in raw numbers, it could eclipse all of them in sheer numbers.
Some, such as Gaia hypothesis creator, James Lovelock, foresee mankind emerging from this century with a population reduced to a few hundred million. If he's remotely correct that's talking not about millions of deaths or even hundreds of millions but many billions of humans wiped out through man's own indifference, greed and neglect. How genocidal is that? Global, encompassing almost every species, the lot wiped out. Maybe we should change it to "omnicidal."
Think about the image of that iceberg the next time you're treated to a heaping helping of climate change nonsense from Trudeau enviromin, Lady Cathy - especially when she gets to the part about keeping warming under 1.5C. When she starts on about 1.5C you know she's talking with her head up her past.