Sunday, September 30, 2018

More Thoughts on Trump and the Inevitability of Climate Change

The revelation last week in The Washington Post was shocking. A lengthy report out of the Trump administration acknowledged what so many feared, we're on course to 4 degrees Celsius of global warming by 2100.

What made Trump's report stand out was what they contend that means, how they spun it. By now we're used to hearing that we're heading for a 4C future and we have to act - now - to slash our greenhouse gas emissions so that we can avert that end-of-civilization catastrophe. We must decarbonize our societies. We must decarbonize our economies. As Hans Joachim Schellnhuber put it, we need to trigger an "induced implosion" of the fossil energy industries. We must do this if our grandchildren are to have a survivable future.

Trump's position, however, was just the opposite.
...the administration did not offer this dire forecast as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed
The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020. While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket. 
The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.
My initial reaction was anger, outrage. This was villainy of the highest order from the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the country that uses 25 per cent of the world's fossil energy for just 5 per cent of the world's population.  America, the country that is on a hydrocarbon rampage, hoping to flood world markets with everything from thermal coal to oil and gas, conventional and unconventional (seabed, fracking, etc.). America, whose president withdrew from the Paris climate accord. America, the monster.

To vent, I wrote a couple of essays, neither of which I posted. One focused on our grandchildren and how, in very real ways, we're today writing their reproductive future. We are preparing for them a world that may be too difficult, too uncertain, too dangerous to even consider having children of their own.

Young people of reproductive age today are beginning to wrestle with that question. Is it fair to bring a child into this world when the future, their future looks so bleak? Previous generations, up to and including my own that begat today's young adults, were never put in their unenviable spot. What we mainly worried about was the prospect of nuclear Armageddon, the threat we ourselves lived through in the turbulent 60s and 70s. Nuclear holocaust, ah, no big deal.

The point is that the carbon policies we're implementing today will gravely imperil those future generations and will powerfully shape their lives in endless ways. And, by what right are we doing this to them?

The other spiked essay I penned looked at the honesty of Trump's admission. Is his really the only government that assumes the planet's fate is already sealed? Or is Trump's the only government that's willing to be honest about that assumption?

Have other governments, including our own, reached that same conclusion? How can we tell? They say all the right things, vow their determination to act to protect us and the world community, but are they just telling us what we want or need to hear? Are they credible? There's an easy, albeit chilling, test.

Let's begin with the powerful warnings we're getting from the scientific community. They've been testing the central hypothesis of global warming across a massive number of scientific disciplines - geology, physics, chemistry, biology (marine and terrestrial), botany and agronomy, glaciology, hydrology, atmospherics, oceanography, meteorology, epidemiology, medicine, and virtually every Earth science there is. One by one these disciplines have been checking in with their own evaluation of the central hypothesis and, one by one, they've been corroborating it. They've contributed a steadily growing mountain of research, their findings and methodology readily open to challenge by skeptics who now recede into the shadows.

What have they told us? They have shown us that, for the first time in the planet's multi-billion year history, a species, mankind, has shoved the Earth into a new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene.  This is not the planet's doing.  It is our own.

They have told us that we may have set Earth on an extinction trajectory. A mass extinction. We may be in the process of wiping out life on Earth as we've known it.

They have shown us, in the clearest fashion, that our dwindling hope for averting civilization-ending climate change, depends on slashing our greenhouse gas emissions, rapidly decarbonizing our economies and our societies. The prescription is there. It is clear as it is powerful.

We know where we're at, we know where we're heading, we have had plenty of warnings and we know what we must do if we want civilization to survive. We know that time is not on our side. Just recently the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, said we have until 2020 to implement major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions if we're to avert truly runaway global warming.

We know that Trump's response is "meh." What about our own government's response? How is Canada's government moving to decarbonize our society and our economy? Is it on the side of Team Science or is it actually on the side of Team Trump?

The idea that, on climate change, we're in the same camp with Trump is going to offend some people.

Is this where Justin gets his ideas about flooding world markets with high-carbon bitumen.? He hasn't said that our planet's fate is already sealed but he certainly acts as though he believes it. And he's following in the footsteps of his predecessors.

This goes back to Chretien and the Kyoto Accords. We have had three prime ministers with powerful majority governments and not one of them has come up with any real action to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Chretien was dead at the switch. He signed us on to Kyoto but failed to follow through. Harper begrudgingly introduced watered-down targets for cutting greenhouse gases but also did nothing. Trudeau, after staging a wonderful photo op at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit isn't even on track to meet Harper's emission cuts target. It's almost hilarious. Oh, sure, we're going to have carbon pricing and that, kids, given the urgency of the moment is a smokescreen to excuse Trudeau's real priority, flooding world markets with high-carbon bitumen.

Trudeau is out to sell just as much of that climate-wrecking bitumen as possible. He's bought a pipeline at vastly more than market value, seven times by some estimates. They'll be offering customers a "too good to refuse" discount price that I call HRP or High-Risk Price. That's the ultra-low price they achieve by not refining their crud on site in Alberta and instead externalizing the environmental risk of coastal catastrophe, keeping it off the books in order to show a supposed "profit."

This, Trudeau claims, is the key to a green future for Canada. Yet not one dime of the federal government's hoped for bitumen bounty has been allocated to adaptation or mitigation strategies. Somebody gotta pay for the Justin Trudeau Memorial Pipeline and the market players don't want it. As for his vaunted carbon pricing and supposed deal with Alberta, that's turning out to be a non-starter with Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan flat out opposed.

Trump has admitted it. We're fucked. Trudeau is doing everything in his power to ensure that we're fucked while he spins outrageous lies about a green future for Canada. I guess sleight of hand makes Justin better if you don't look too closely.

Chretien, Harper and Trudeau, birds of a feather.

Just because those millions of barrels of bitumen produced each and every day will be shipped overseas, turned into oil and petcoke, and burned somewhere else, doesn't absolve us of responsibility for the damage they cause. Like Pilate, we wash our hands of the outcome as soon as the stuff leaves our borders. If we didn't, if we took responsibility for what we're putting on the market, how that will impact the environment and our own future generations, we would look like monsters.


Owen Gray said...

It's pretty depessing, Mound. Period.

John's Aghast said...

Like a rainy day in summer, On a long weekend.

Jay Farquharson said...

After 73 years of a win/loss record of 3/17, with 28 unwinnable wars still "on the books", and growing, with a tapped out Military, it's starting to dawn on some "centerist" American's that Military Might ain't all it's cracked up to be.

After 24 years of the ReThug's declaring a Civil War on the Constitution, Courts and Governance, it's started to dawn on some Democrats that they are engaged in a life or death Cold Civil War with the ReThugs.

The Ususal Suspects have not yet come to the realization that you can't wait out Global Warming in a Gated Community or fly away ftom it with a quick trip to Innsbruck.

crf said...

It is a bit depressing when you realize that applying your society's best actions towards a problem will not make the problem actually "better" in an absolute sense, just a little less worse than it would otherwise be.

People don't like to tackle problems on that basis. But honesty matters.

We are not going to stop global climate change. It is analogous to Donald Rumsfeld convincing George Bush that liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein via a war would actually improve the lot of that country, because Saddam (in truth) was making that country worse off, year by year.

We should try to manage climate change aiming for the least worse outcome objectively achievable.

the salamander said...

.. Population .. on a finite planet with finite resources and capability to support life (water - soil - air - sunlight - species) Somewhere in my simplistic analysis or equation I need to fit in at least two other things. Common sense AND Religion (or is it Common Sense versus Religion ?) Another ingredient is Geography ie where the ever growing Population tends to congregate (or migrate to). That brings in other requirements. Like fuel for heat, or species (like fish) to eat. A growing season comes in handy. Damn but we could go back to the Iroquois & the Hurons lr the west coast tribes and the salmon - before whitey showed up. You know, before the time of Pocahontas and Raleigh..

Yes, times have changed.. every Population now knows what other Populations are up to.. (cel phones & internet) and yet another ingredient comes into the big picture.. OK .. two more. Ignorance and Greed ! The Ignorance I refer to is lack of comprehension due to outdated knowlege or being isolated - I am not talking about Donald Trump or Ezra Levant type Ignorance, as they have no excuse. Yet I saw video of approaching tsunami tidal waves from the Indonesian earthquake & on the beach, people were still setting up stalls for a beach festival. Greed of course has benchmarks & those who raise the bar - Trump and his entire family, or the Koch brothers or the Kardashians will do for now.. and to me that's the other ignorance.. or that just crudity or self centered viciousness ? Now everyone wants an automobile.. or Netflix or a 600$ Ivanka pair of shoes.. but it just won't work. All of us on the planet cannot belong to a country club ot take our Tiger Woods clubs with us if we have to migrate.

Nothing good happens if you try to eliminate the key ingredients to support life. Greed & Ignorance are inedible, as is a cel phone or a Nintendo game. Remove the arable soil and one cannot grow corn. pollute the water & there aint no fish to eat. Remove the trees and what to breathe? Screw with the sunlight somehow, and its all over Rover.. Maybe it will all collapse at once.. maybe there will be vast & shocking scourges.. like Ebola or some sort of little beetle will toxify all or part of us ? There seems no method to the madness here in North America. In the USA with almost 1 in 5 are evangelicals.. and how many of them are focused on denying LGBT from using public washrooms ! Do we really believe Judge Kavanaugh gives a fig re blacks being denied their voting rights? Andrew Scheer is still whining for Energy East to be brought back from the dead.. and young Justin is basking in LNG investment about to smoke Kitimat and northeast BC with a new natural gss pipeline ! Trump wants coal ! Offshore drilling too.

Unless we learn to control and direct political parties and politicians we are just going to get their road map to The Rapture & endless floods of environmental migrants from the entire planet.. and they will ultimately all be headed here.. to Canada. (back to the neccessities to support life ! And we got most of them except Common Sense)

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Owen, John and Chris. Yes this is depressing but that's inevitable in any discussion of these almost incomprehensible issues. We are in completely uncharted waters, full of shoals and with the wind rising.

I'm with Chris. My position has been that we may no longer be capable of affording future generations a safe and secure life. How bad it will be is beyond any accurate assessment at this point. What we do know is that if we continue doing what brought us to where we are today we will make their lives much harder and more dangerous than need be. We have to stop serving our own needs and leaving them to pick up the tab.

The Mound of Sound said...

Sal, interesting that you touch on religion. In the next week or two I'll be taking an online course on the topic of religion and conflict presented by the University of Groningen.

I've long held the opinion that the Abrahamic religions are drawn into fundamentalism, particularly by slavish adherence and radical interpretation of the Old Testament and on into the Christian Bible and the Muslim Koran.

We shall see what the educated folks think.

Northern PoV said...

Funny how the Guardian covers this Canadian focussed climate story.

And I am thinking the reviewer and headline writer did a poor job in capturing the message.

Northern PoV said...

Found a better, Canadian (but not MSM) review from April:

Another interesting concept. Rising (parts of) earth from melting ice:

Deacon Jester said...

How to adapt to the end of the world.

Purple library guy said...

Seems to me if the position is, we're on track for 4 degrees, and this is going to cause catastrophe and death, and the people who stalled until we ended up this way now want to continue doing the same thing--that is, they wilfully created this disaster which will impoverish and kill millions, perhaps billions, of people and they propose to keep doing it--then OK, if we accept that it's too late to do anything useful (much the way after someone murders someone, it's too late to bring the victim back to life), then what remains is punishment for the crime. I think for that level of mass murder, everyone complicit should be in line for life sentences and confiscation of all their possessions, which are the proceeds of crime.
If they are showing no remorse, as in people who admit the crime and propose to keep on compounding it with continued ramping up of fossil fuel use, I think the death penalty is reasonable.