Monday, January 10, 2011

There's Still Time to Make a Huge Difference on Climate Change

A team of Canadian researchers has mapped out the consequences we'll be enduring for centuries to come from the global warming effects of existing carbon emissions.   Their study concludes that, even if we were to stop carbon emissions completely today, we and our descendants are in for a much different world.

What makes this study different from the depressing scenarios we've read so often before is that it identifies conditions in the Northern Hemisphere that are still reversible if we take action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"...many of the negative consequences in the Northern Hemisphere, such as loss of Arctic sea ice, are reversible. That means global efforts to cut greenhouse gases are not a waste of effort and money, said Shawn Marshall, a University of Calgary geography professor and one of the study's authors.
" But there are some parts of the climate that have a lot of inertia and it will take many centuries before they start to reverse,"   said Marshall.

The study, led by Nathan Gillett of the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

...Simulations show big differences in some parts of the world, however, between cutting emissions in 2010 and in 2100, including long-term temperature variations between 1 and 4 degrees Celsius, an argument for action on carbon dioxide, Marshall said.

"  You sometimes hear that defeatist argument that it's too late and there are a lot of changes that are going to happen, so just worry about adaptation,"   he said. "  But I think you do see a big divergence in potential futures depending on if there are some reductions in emissions."

In other words, we still have much to lose if we continue to ignore anthropogenic global warming.   Our descendants will pay dearly for our inaction but we can also leave them a better Canada if we take the initiative and move to curb carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions.   We can still do a lot of damage or do a lot of good.   It's up to us.  It's up to Harper and Ignatieff and Layton and Duceppe.  Oh dear, I guess that's one thought too many.


LMA said...

Unfortunately, the study suggests that there is no way to avoid Antarctic ocean warming, sea level rise, and desertification in Africa. These effects alone will cause a lot of misery, displace a lot of people, and drive a lot of species to extinction.

As far as action from our government is concerned, I've pretty well given up on that front. With Peter Kent now in charge, what hope is there for better monitoring of Tar Sands environmental damage?

Schindler and Suzuki have both recently said that Tar Sands expansion will no doubt go ahead. Even Nikiforuk views Tar Sands oil as a bridge to a low carbon economy.

The Republicans are determined to block EPA regulations to curb emissions in the U.S.

As you can tell, I'm feeling pretty pessimistic these days. Maybe I'm just suffering from the winter blahs?

The Mound of Sound said...

I think this study is a "glass half full" perspective. It's akin to saying we've already created significant damage to the earth's climate but, while some of that is still reversible, we can guarantee the world will be much worse for our children and grandchildren if we don't act effectively and soon.

LMA said...

Yes, but unless Cancun promises for green technology and funds transfers to developing nations are fulfilled, many not fortunate enough to live in the Northern Hemisphere are going to end up with an empty glass.

Also, I don't see how we can reduce our emissions in the Northern Hemisphere if we start to accept Tar Sands oil as a transition fuel. The millions that will be invested in new pipelines, new technology R&D, and subsidies to big oil are badly needed to develop renewables.

We may only have a couple of decades to get our act together, and I'm not sure that we have the will to do it.

The Mound of Sound said...

You're right LMA. It's not that we can't, it's that we won't implement the measures that will spare our grandkids, and the world, the worst outcomes.