Tuesday, January 01, 2019

"A Raging, Howling Signal"

That's now the Washington Post summed up 2018 in climate change news. A raging, howling signal.

As if to emphasize the state of this looming environmental catastrophe, hundreds of scientists from 13 federal agencies produced a 1,600 page National Climate Assessment that, by law, had to be released by the White House.  Trump's response to this massive professional assessment? "No, no I don't believe it."  Those are the words of a lunatic. As if whatever he chose to believe was what mattered, not what science foretold. This coming from the man who never takes responsibility, who never admits when he's wrong, who always summons up a scapegoat to wear the blame for his massive blunders.
Just off the top of his head, climate scientist Kevin Trenberth can recount many of the weather disasters that hit the planet in 2018. Record rainfall and flooding in Japan, followed by a heat wave that sent tens of thousands of people to the hospital. Astonishing temperature records set across the planet, including sweltering weather above the Arctic Circle. Historic, lethal wildfires in Greece, Sweden and California, terrible flooding in India, a super typhoon with 165-mph winds in the Philippines, and two record-setting hurricanes that slammed the Southeast United States. 
“Climate change is adding to what’s going on naturally, and it’s that extra stress that causes things to break,” said Trenberth, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. “It takes the experience well outside anything that’s been experienced before. It crosses thresholds. As a result, things break, people die, and things burn.”
... But it was definitely a hot and perilous year. Perhaps most striking were the temperature extremes. It was not the hottest year on record in terms of overall global temperature — the three previous years were slightly warmer — but many places around the planet set high-temperature records. 
Africa may have endured the hottest temperature ever reliably measured since record-keeping began: 124.3 degrees Fahrenheit in the Sahara Desert city of Ouargla, Algeria, on July 5. 
That same day, temperatures may have reached 90 degrees F. on the coast of the Arctic Ocean in northern Siberia. And in the Middle East, the low temperature of the day in Quriyat, Oman, on June 28 was 109 degrees F.
...Trenberth believes that major reports from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. National Climate Assessment have been too conservative in estimating the costs of changing climate. 
“Climate change is here, and it’s already costing tens of billions of dollars a year. I think the climate costs in the future are greatly underestimated,” Trenberth said.
Will 2019 be worse than 2018, even 2017? Who knows? Climate change, if it's taught us anything, is not linear. It shows up in spikes, peaks and troughs. Those highs and lows, averaged out, give us a year by year, climate picture.

My wish for the New Year is that we somehow manage to close off the Memory Hole where every major climate report of the last decade and more has vanished from public consciousness within a matter of days.  There's a stacatto rhythm to these reports as they come and just as quickly go and, by losing sight of them, we lose our ability to clearly hear that "raging, howling signal."

We have unwittingly become masters of "creeping normalcy," a form of mass amnesia where the past is rapidly forgotten and the present, whatever it may be, is accepted as normal. We lose the signal and so momentum for change stalls even as the climate challenges grow rapidly and the window of opportunity to deal with them narrows.

As for what 2019 holds in store for us, all I can say is - brace yourself.


the salamander said...

.. mother earth is writing the book - trying patiently to school us
The chapter titles are the species we eliminate by destroying their habitat
Collapse of the west coast wild salmon ? To enrich foreign owned fish farmers
Collapse of the caribou ? In part to enrich the Koch Brothers
Entire marine and inland food chains will collapse with them
Trump is right.. he won't be around, and would deny it anyway - as fake news

The Mound of Sound said...

Hey, Sal. A happy 2019, I hope. My guess is it won't be boring.

Anonymous said...

I think the real problem is corruption and willful ignorance on BOTH sides.

One side says they are the good people trying to save the world. But they propose absurd solutions: carbon tax the West and export the GHG emissions to the unregulated East via free-trade globalism.

The other side takes the Flat Earth position largely because they can see how phony and corrupt the globalist position is: they will be forced to pay for a corrupt pretense that does absolutely nothing to slow global GHG emissions growth.

If anyone is serious about global warming, which is founded on rock-solid science, they will come up with serious solutions that, like science, can withstand the test of fire.

The most efficient and effective way to solve the problem is with green tariffs and international fair managed trade. This has been the progressive position for decades! (Bring the fire!)

The Mound of Sound said...

I understand your concerns, Anon, but you overlook the urgency of our predicament. We have to achieve a result, partial decarbonization, in an extremely short period of time.

OPEC, the IEA and other bodies predict a 30 per cent jump in fossil fuel consumption over the next two decades that, if realized, will negate our best efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030.

This is a candle burning fiercely from both ends.

Schellnhuber, at the 2015 Paris climate summit, warned that our only hope of significant cuts in greenhouse gases depended on an "induced implosion" of the fossil energy industry. I can't think of a government, certainly not our own, that is prepared to do that.

Anonymous said...

That's the problem with free-trade globalism and global treaties: 1) They are hard to hammer out. 2) They're hard to enforce. 3) The system has holes leaking out all over the world. Weasel corporations that want to pollute will find some place somewhere.

Fair managed trade, based on green and social tariffs, is a whole different ball game. Instead of creating some indirect carbon taxation scheme polluters can get around, you tax the polluters with tariffs directly. It's easy to move production around. But the Western markets are where the stuff goes. You can't move them around!

If you analyze the game, a globalist treaty requires that every nation be on board for it to work. But with green tariffs, the EU just has to wave a magic wand and the polluters suddenly lose half their market access.

This is the kind of market pressure that corporations will simply adapt to by going green because it will be the cheapest option. If there's no easy payoff moving production around, they won't do it.

Green tariffs are easier to achieve politically, as well. They only target specific sectors. Parts of the supply chain. More people will vote for them. Less people will be outraged over them.