Thursday, November 10, 2016

Brace Yourself. This Is Hard to Take.

With all the endless political lipflap about keeping global warming under 2 degrees Celsius or 1.5C or 3C, new research into how greenhouse gas emissions create even more warming in an already warmer atmosphere shows we could be headed for a 7C warming within the lifetimes of kids being born today.

In a paper in the journal Science Advances, [an international team of researchers] said the actual range could be between 4.78C to 7.36C by 2100, based on one set of calculations.

Professor Michael Mann, of Penn State University in the US, who led research that produced the famous “hockey stick” graph showing how humans were dramatically increasing the Earth’s temperature, told The Independent the new paper appeared "sound and the conclusions quite defensible".

“And it does indeed provide support for the notion that a Donald Trump presidency could be game over for the climate,” he wrote in an email.

Dr Doug Parr, [Greenpeace] chief scientist, said: “The worrying thing is the suggestion climate sensitivity is higher [than thought] is not incompatible with higher temperatures we have been seeing this year.

“If there is science backing that up, that there’s a higher sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases, that puts at risk the prospect of keeping the globe at the Paris target of well below 2C.

Anybody who understands the situation we find ourselves in would have already have realised we are in an emergency situation.”

Just don't tell that to the Trudeau government or to any of the western provincial governments. There response to the existing "emergency situation" is to flood world markets with the highest carbon ersatz petroleum on the planet, bitumen.

What the researchers have discovered is that climate sensitivity to greenhouse gas emissions isn't linear. The sensitivity itself, the rate at which warming occurs, actually accelerates as the atmosphere heats up. In other words, a few gigatonnes of greenhouse gases in a cold atmosphere may result in X degrees of warming. However the same few gigatonnes of greenhouse gases emitted into a warmer atmosphere will result in much more warming than had previously been expected. Our targets have been based on the old, linear concept that has now gone by the boards.

That has led scientists to conclude that we're on the path to upwards of 7C of warming by 2100.


Lorne said...

I saw this yesterday. Hard to have hope, eh?

The Mound of Sound said...

We keep telling ourselves that we'll get around to it, eventually. We keep telling ourselves that there's plenty of time, a still open window for expanding fossil fuel production. We keep telling ourselves to just look the other way.

Marie Snyder said...

I was out walking yesterday and thought, of the breeze and the smell of leaves, it feels like Thanksgiving's almost here. Some people must be working really hard to refuse to see the changes around them. I'm in a liminal state of grieving while continuing to hope that we can slow it down a little if anyone useful will listen. I even hold out a bit of hope that Trump's win will arouse a new breed of strong, faster activists who can create plausible goals and fight to the finish to get them enacted or die trying, dammit.

There will be time? Nope.

The Mound of Sound said...

No matter what, Marie, don't say "nope." I've met a lot of people who "get" climate change and now treat doing anything effective about it as futile.

What we always have to keep in mind, especially when these new findings come out, is that, no matter how discouraging the news, we can still make our kids' and grandkids' lives far worse than they need be - simply by capitulating.

Western societies have not yet truly mobilized on adaptation responses. Precipitation management, for example. How to capture water from deluge and retain it for use during drought, that sort of thing. (I just checked the Weather Network local, 14-day forecast. Every day for the next two weeks is shown as bringing rain. Fortunately in my little town anything short of Biblical quickly runs off into the sea.)

Bold action is badly overdue but I'm not confident we'll see that from the current government. What infuriates me, especially now that we have Trump to deal with, is that the time we lose on these intransigents may be time that is not ours to squander. The old adage about "stop digging" has no currency with these supposed leaders. With each passing year they diminish our chances of climbing out of that hole.

Let's see if Trump really does re-open the West Virginia coal mines.