Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thanks, But I'll Pass

That seems to be the attitude of the world's political leaders today in the face of warnings that our civilization's last best opportunity to avert devastating climate change is slipping through their fingers.  "Thanks but I'll pass."

The dire and blunt warning yesterday from the International Energy Agency that we have until 2015 to reverse our rapacious consumption of fossil fuels or totally forfeit our last chance to keep global warming within the 2C safety zone seems to have fallen on deaf ears in capitals around the world, including Canada's.

Why less than five years?  Because there's a limit to the quantity of carbon dioxide our atmosphere can absorb before we blow straight through that 2C threshold.  By the most optimistic projections, that's 450 parts per million.  Many, like NOAA's James Hansen, contend the safe limit is actually far lower, 350 ppm.  We're already at 390 ppm.

Understand, this is the best-case scenario.  The others are far worse.  The IEA analysis concludes that, the way global fossil fuel consumption is trending and without drastic government action, we're on track for long term temperature increases between 3.5C and 6C.

Using the best-case scenario figures, IEA chief economist Fatih Birol says we've already used up 80% of the maximum carbon budget and we're heading toward 90% by 2015.  At that rate, by 2017 we'll have consumed our planet's safe carbon carrying capacity and mankind's exit door will be closed forever.  And that's the optimistic calculation.

So, what's with the "thanks but I'll pass" attitude of the NDP and LPC?   This is what may be the final warning of an imminent existential threat to the future of our country.  Isn't that serious enough to drive this issue straight to the top of the priority pile of the opposition parties?   Shouldn't this be their prime focus in Parliament?  If not, why not?  Do they have some right to transform future generations of Canadians into Easter Islanders?   This is the greatest challenge, the greatest threat and the greatest opportunity of our lifetime and it is up to the opposition to rise to it when the government will not.   If they don't, they're complicit in Harper's deadly neglect.


Anonymous said...

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, I don't know if you've read much of the report itself but the FinPost, being the FinPost, has taken the inevitable spin on this report.

I too found it remarkably inconsistent and contradictory. At one breath it expounds on all sources of fossil fuels, including the most unconventional (i.e. Tar Sands), as essential. Yet overall it says if we go that route we doom our very civilization.

Now any NatPo publication, being egregious swine, will take what suits them and omit the rest, especially the tricky bits like wiping out civilization if we don't reverse our fossil fuel consumption by 2015. Joseph Goebbels was a master at the very same sort of thing.

So thanks for the link, now do yourself a huge favour and read the report instead of a slanted report on the report. You might just get your eyes opened. Sounds like you need tthat.

LMA said...

Excellent discussion of the report over at Climateprogress. Also, the suggestion that by 2017 the world is going to be a lot more desperate as a result of climate change, and we may be forced into taking drastic measures (like shutting down existing fossil fuel infrastructure) to lower CO2 emissions.

MoS, the failure of leadership in this country is beyond discouraging. We may not be subject to dustbowlification and drought as is the U.S., but how can we justify economic profit by exporting misery to the rest of the world? How can we justify subsidizing oil companies while they are destroying the environment?

Since our leaders are missing in action, it seems more and more that it is now up to the people. Canadians have a real opportunity to make a stand following Obama's decision today to delay the Keystone XL decision to 2013. The oil companies will be pushing hard for the Northern Gateway pipeline through B.C. We have to follow the lead of the U.S. protesters and organize protests to stop this pipeline as well. Time for action.

Anonymous said...

The time for action, real action, was 20 years ago. Its been functionally too late since then.

What *now* is the time for is trying to figure out ways of adapting and surviving.

I find it amusing that the western world is concerned with how the primitive peoples of the world will fare.

How many people do you yourself know who can go out into the woods and immediately identify what plants are safe to eat? How many people do you know know who are capable of tracking, apprehending and killing an animal that they can also dress, butcher and preserve safely without aid of electricity? Not bloody many I'd wager.

If the worst predictions are accurate the only hope homo sapiens has is the few remaining primitive peoples of the world.

The survivors sure as shit won't be people who think meat and vegetables come in plastic wrapping.

Want to survive what's coming? Get yourself out to the wilderness, far away from a coastal region, start clearing and tilling and planting and building and learning animal husbandry and hunting and building and self-protection and water resource skills.

Otherwise shut up and have a drink.

Anonymous said...

Mound, I posted the link.

I agree with your take that it is remarkably inconsistent and contradictory. I just posted it to get your comments on it. Thanks :)

The Mound of Sound said...

@LMA - our hypocrisy is boundless. We in the developed West achieved our dominance and prosperity directly via fossil fuels, particularly coal. Now we tell India they have no right to replicate our fossil fuel history because that would surely destroy us all. No sooner is that out of our mouths than we indignantly defend our right to produce the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet.

If we want to tell India that they can't attempt to achieve our per capita carbon footprint, we have to show them that we too will dramatically throttle back. We have to sharply shrink our own carbon footprint to narrow the gap between ours and theirs.

@anon11:00. You find it "amusing" that a few in the West are concerned for how primitive peoples of the world will fare. Really?

Are you so obtuse as to not realize that the worst impacts of anthropogenic global warming will hit the equatorial and tropical zones? Climate change may well render their homelands utterly uninhabitable.

As for sitting back with a cool drink, that's nihilistic. Yes adaptation is essential, the very sort of adaptation Harper avoids so much as discussing. But remediation is also vital. We can still make what's coming much, much worse than need be - not for us but certainly for our children and grandchildren and generations to follow them. We have no right to do that. We have a positive obligation to the young and to the generations to come to reverse this as much as possible. The first step in that is overcoming your lethal egocentricity.

Saskboy said...

I see Anon11's point though, I don't think he was saying we should sit back, he's just pointing out that most people (myself included) would probably poison themselves if they tried to survive a year with no electricity. That's not taking into account the environmental damage underway that might destroy habitats for tribal peoples.

Anonymous said...

Well....for anyone's information...many mainland Canadians like to refer to Newfoundlanders and native people....and in a detrimental manner as...wait for it....Hunters and Gathers! It's good to know that there are some people still around who know how to survive what is coming. During the dirty thirties, Newfoundlanders did not stave.