Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Question of Time We Don't Have

The last line came with a jolt unexpected from a Guardian article:

At the risk of losing objectiveness but keeping candor, we are fucked.

That from John Abraham, a professor of thermal sciences and a very busy climate monitor.

I admit that after Trump’s election victory, I secretly hoped and even though that his rhetoric was worse than its bite. He only said those crazy things during the campaign to get elected. He wouldn’t really follow through on his plans to completely gut the US commitment to keeping the Earth habitable. Oh how naive we were. Trump’s plan to fill positions in his administration shows things are worse than we could have ever feared.

According to recent reports, Trump has picked long-time climate denier and spokesperson for the fossil fuel industry Myron Ebell to head the Environmental Protection Agency transition. This basically means the EPA will either cease to function or cease to exist. It also appears that the US will pull out of any agreements to limit greenhouse emissions.

It means we have missed our last off-ramp on the road to catastrophic climate change. That may sound hyperbolic, but I study the rate that climate change is happening – the amount of heat accumulating in the Earth’s system. We didn’t have any time to waste in implementing Obama’s aggressive plans, and Trump will result in a decade of time lost.

If there has been one failure worse than all the others in the climate story we get from our mass media, it's been their near total failure to convey the time factor, the urgency in shutting down the fossil energy industry before the window closes on us for good.

Our leaders, Canada's included, act as though we're still in the 80s. That's why so much of their climate change narrative is preposterous, utter fantasy. Trudeau's EnviroMin, Dame Cathy, bleats about holding global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius. That's over. We've already locked in 1.5C. The GHG, greenhouse gases, that will propel us through 1.5C are already in the atmosphere and every gigatonne of GHG we emit from here on in will only increase that 1.5C.

Did I mention that atmospheric CO2 is persistent? It lasts a very long time and just continues warming the atmosphere until it finally dissipates. How long? The stock answer is somewhat more than a hundred years. A recent article in Nature, contends that the lifetime is a few centuries but 25% essentially lasts, and warms, forever.

We all know the line about how, if you want to get out of a hole, the first rule is to stop digging. When it comes to catastrophic climate change, we're already in a very deep and difficult hole and we have to get out fast. But we're still in digging mode and we're making that hole deeper by the day. The deeper we dig this hole the harder it is going to be to get out if we can get out in time. Which is the way you have to start thinking of Canada as a petro-state and our governments, federal and provincial, so insistent on speeding up their shovel work.

Maybe professor Abraham is right. Maybe with Trump headed for the White House we are well and truly fucked. 


Lorne said...

You know, Mound, I often think that were it not for reading blogs like yours, articles from alternative news sources like Alternet and Truthdig, etc., I would not have any sense of urgency about climate change.

The strange thing is that they say many, many people have forsaken conventional sources for their news, so it puzzles me how so many people are still in the dark on this vital issue.

The Mound of Sound said...

I have no answers for the questions you pose, Lorne. As societies, even a global civilization, with unheralded technologies at our fingertips, we seem incapable of communicating effectively on so many critical issues.

What I find most remarkable - and disturbing - is our ability to forget. Information, knowledge emerges that, atop a growing mountain of other corroborative knowledge, should motivate us to action. Instead it gets consigned to the Memory Hole, usually before a week is out. I'm sure there are many plausible explanations for this but I don't know that drawn out debates over causation would accomplish much.

Perhaps the demands required to ensure our survival for another two or three generations has become too much to accept. That has certainly happened at various times throughout history only not on the scale of today with our global civilization.

Dana said...

We're only clever apes once all is said and done. We became very skilled at building things, creating technology and even works of art. But at bottom we're still apes grunting and waving our arms in fascinated, and now terminal, excitement at the shiny thing.