Monday, October 14, 2013

Get Ready for "Off the Charts" Heat in Your Own Lifetime

Lately, being older has come to feel like knowing you've got a reserved seat on the last chopper out of Saigon.  You know there's a slim to nil chance that you'll still be around to experience changes you would rather not have to go through.  See, there is a silver lining in every cloud.

What reminded me of this decidedly mixed blessing was a report from CBC News of a study that predicts global temperatures will be "off the charts" by 2047 which any older person will tell you is really not that far off.

Starting in about a decade, Kingston, Jamaica, will probably be off-the-charts hot — permanently. Other places will soon follow. Singapore in 2028. Mexico City in 2031. Cairo in 2036. Phoenix and Honolulu in 2043.
And eventually the whole world in 2047.
A new study on global warming pinpoints the probable dates for when cities and ecosystems around the world will regularly experience hotter environments the likes of which they have never seen before.
"This paper is both innovative and sobering," said Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco, former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who was not involved in the study.
To arrive at their projections, the researchers used weather observations, computer models and other data to calculate the point at which every year from then on will be warmer than the hottest year ever recorded over the last 150 years.
Environment Canada said in a statement that it is familiar with the study, "which is based on credible science using an ensemble of climate models, including Canada's earth system model."
The statement (from the EnviroCan climate change/bitumen bullshit department) said that the federal government has worked to "systematically address all major sources of emissions," and pointed to restrictions on coal and planned greenhouse gas reductions in vehicles.
The real question is when this all turns truly ugly.  When will densely populated parts of the world be rendered sufficiently uninhabitable to trigger mass migration met by resistance from marginally better off regions they must pass through.   These are scenarios being meticulously plotted and gamed by most major military establishments.

Look at it this way.  Sea level rise is going to cause some degree of retreat from our coasts where a significant percentage of urban populations reside.  Sustained and cyclical, severe floods and droughts are also going to necessitate relocations. The already water-stressed American southwest is especially vulnerable to 'off the charts' heat increases.   The United States is facing a substantial IDP (internally displaced persons) problem and the U.S. military is planning for that eventuality including the use of military force to quel civilian disorder.  Now ask yourself, with all these internal problems, how is America going to welcome waves of climate change refugees heading north out of Central America?


Marie Snyder said...

I did the same thing when I read it - figured out if I'll be long gone before the worst of it. This is why I insist my kids not have children, and why it's bizarre to me that people laugh at that suggestion.

And I agree, the most important thing to look at now, besides, of course, how to slow it down, is how to keep our heads and approach this disaster with as much kindness and compassion as we can muster! Let's go out with dignity and integrity.

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Lorne said...

The only problem for those of us closer to the precipice than others, Mound, is the mounting frustration we feel, given the history and context of our lives. We have seen many things over our years, and I suspect many of us have finely-tuned b.s. detectors, almost constantly chiming whenever a politician speaks, a corporate honcho pontificates, etc. Cassandra-like, we are relegated to the sidelines as the world lurches ever-closer to irreversible disaster, with only a very small hope of any substantive and adult policy-making emerging.

karen said...

I find all this as scary and heartbreaking as you.

But I find it kind of fascinating in a morbid kind of way too. Humans are so arrogant as to think we are the best thing to happen to the planet. Some of us even think the planet was made for us. (Have you ever read Douglas Adams' comparing humans to a mud puddle?) We are so smart and we have compiled so much data that we have evidence that there were at least 2 massive species die-offs in history. We have enough data to be pretty sure we are on the cusp of another one. (I count myself in the group who thinks we have done this to the planet ourselves) This time around we are living it in real time. And fiddling while Rome burns.

The Mound of Sound said...

It really does put a new spin on mortality, Marie. I decided not to tell my children what they should do about procreating. I did tell them that they have serious responsibilities to any child they might conceive and one of those was to first understand the world they were living in and the world their child would have to live in. This is no time to make an uninformed decision on conception.

It is frustrating, Lorne, frustrating and sad. The wonderful and bountiful world we enjoyed in the 60s and 70s seems like a faint dream. It's never coming back. People under 40 have no idea of the world that once was that they'll never have.

Even among our generation, the Lotus Eaters, there was always a core of individuals alarmed at our societies' addiction to constant growth as though a two-pack-a-day habit would solve the problems of a one-pack-a-day habit.

The world has come to resemble Mr. Creosote in the Monty Python sketch were Cleese offers him "only a wafer" and he then explodes.

@ Karen. I picked up a 2nd hand copy of Dr. Peter Ward's "Under a Green Sky" that addresses the 5 past extinction events. I have only read the first two chapters because I find it a bit discouraging, especially in its depictions of how the oceans change in these high-carbon periods.

Studies released in the past few months track today's ocean acidification and find that we've probably already passed the tipping point of the beginning of a mass marine life extinction event. Most people can't begin to grasp what that's going to mean for terrestrial life. They'll seize on something like the rate of warming of one temperature parameter slowing, use it a shovel to dig the hole in which they stick their head in the sand.

The fact is this is coming at us in a variety of forms from widely different directions all at once. Globally our political leadership languishes so far behind the power curve that even their most ambitious proposals are inadequate when they're announced much less if and when they ever come into play.

ThinkingManNeil said...

Some years ago, back in the mid-1990's, I was witness to a terrible airplane crash at at an airshow that killed the entire crew aboard the aircraft. In an instant I can still call up every single detail of those few horrific minutes and be there, watching it unfold before me, and with nothing in my grasp or power to stop it.

After reading that article last night I had the same sick, cold feeling in my gut when I watched those men die so many years ago. I fear that whatever tipping points the world's climatologists have been warning us about for years now have been passed, that through lack of political will - or rather corporatist politics that is openly hostile to such concerns - and our species' rapaciousness and shortsightedness, that just as that RAF Nimrod patrol plane plunged headlong into disaster, humankind is now hurtling towards a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions for our civilization, and that there is little or nothing now that we, caught in the very middle of this inexcusable homemade apocalypse, can do to stop it. All we can do is watch this mad Greek Tragedy play itself out...


The Mound of Sound said...

Hi Neil. Is that your auto-gyro? I always wanted to try one of those.

For years I tried to rein in my pessimism, to contend (without the slightest justification) that we would act effectively and in time to avert the worst. That has become nearly impossible to maintain today.

In the book I referred to previously, paleontologist Peter Ward's "Under a Green Sky", it revealed how four of our planet's five extinction events (excluding the comet strike incident) were triggered by rapid-onset global warming and ocean acidification. You might find Dr. Ward's Medea Hypothesis interesting

The situation may indeed be similar to the Nimrod that went into Lake Ontario at the CNE airshow. You wait too long to pull out of a dive and you reach a point where you have no option but to ride it out.

ThinkingManNeil said...

Hi Mound;

No, not my gyro; just a fan of those very frisky machines. Scads of various types of them out there.

I have read Ward's "Under a Green Sky" - it's in my personal library, in fact - and I would strongly urge anyone and everyone to read it; it's both a compelling good read as well as alarming as the parallels to our current situation are unmistakable. The consequences are as significant for our planet as those found during the Snowball Earth epoch.

The Nimrod that crashed at the CNE CIAS didn't wait too long to pull out of a dive. He'd made a low, westerly, high-speed pass down the show line and then pulled up sharply into a climbing left hand turn to port. When he reached the apex of his climb and leveled out, I noticed a slight bobble from the nose of the aircraft as well as the left wing tip, which then suddenly dropped to the left, followed quickly by the nose dropping and rolling sharply into the stalled wing, and then entering a dive, which looked to be roughly 30 degrees from my vantage point, north towards the show line. I stood there frozen as I could clearly see he did not have a lot of room left to pull a large aircraft like the Nimrod up in and I remember I started yelling "power! Power!! POWER!!!", which I'm sure probably drew a few stares. I saw black smoke begin to pour from all four engines as he must've gone to full takeoff or perhaps even emergency power, but he just sliced into the water, throwing up a huge, white cloud of spray and some debris (I remember seeing a large, polished metal ring going skyward and then falling back, wobbling, into the water). I remember a woman standing near me with man turn to me and ask "What just happened?" "You just watched ten or twelve people die." I said. I later found out that there had been a crew of seven on board that day.

The eeriest thing I remember was the noise. There was little sound when the aircraft rolled and pitched down into the dive, and when the pilot went to power the sound took a second or two to cross the distance over the water, so when it did the aircraft's nose was just a few tens' of feet off the water. Then came the splash, followed by the roar of the engines as they screamed, a big, muffled "WHUMPF!!!". and then utter, silence from the water and the crowd.

He simply didn't have enough altitude or time left to recover. I think I shook for three days after that.


The Mound of Sound said...

So it was a differential stall, the bain of multi-engine airshow performers. Without altitude and lacking useful power you're pretty much doomed before the wing even drops. A B-52 being handled by a rogue pilot wildly exceeded safe bank and augured straight in a couple of years ago.

I consider myself lucky that I never had to observe anything like that.

I suppose it is an apt metaphor for how our political leadership throughout the world are flying dangerously at the very margins of departure. Worse, they've disabled the stick shaker.

Purple library guy said...

Migrants heading north out of Central America? If current trends continue, and we're talking late 2020s, by then the US may have turned into a sufficiently noisome shithole that migrants will head south out of Central America.