Saturday, January 26, 2019

Can We Not Stop Ourselves?

It's called AGW or anthropogenic global warming. It's warming that is anthropogenic, i.e. man-made, and it's global, just as humans now populate just about every corner of the Earth.

Nobody gets a pass. We're all in on this and we all bear the obligation to deal with it through mitigation, emissions cuts, and adaptation, bracing for the crash.

Nobody gets a pass but some are certainly more accountable than others.  We call this group the major emitters and, when you get into their ranks, you run into the real distraction machine.

When it comes to the major emitters club there are two kinds of memberships. There are countries that, by virtue of their enormous populations, emit far more than other nations. Then there are countries, like our own, where the population has a massive, per capita, emissions problem.

Countries like ours often resort to disgustingly greasy sophistry. That begins with the fairy tale that, because we're so small in numbers, we really don't make much difference so now, if you'll just step aside, we'll be on our way. We don't do that so overtly any more but you can still find oblique references on government web sites.  And, when we crunch our numbers, we take no responsibility for the future emissions from the highest-carbon, ersatz petroleum also known as bitumen that we sell abroad.  We'll flood the world markets with the stuff if we can get that pipeline up and running.  One thing I know is that Andrew Scheer's people and Justin Trudeau's people both think that flogging bitumen is a proper and principled thing for Canada.

We got a blunt warning recently. If we want a reasonable chance to avoid  catastrophic climate change, we must cut humanity's greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030. We've now got less than a dozen years, the smallest of windows, to make this happen. A dozen years in which we may decide the future of human civilization if there even is to be one. So, as that old commercial asked, "where's the beef?"

There's that line about when you want to get yourself out of a hole the first thing you must do is stop digging. We're still digging and faster than ever.  Global emissions shot up in 2018, partly thanks to Trump's "burn the place down" energy policies. 2019 is going to be another record year for CO2 levels.

OPEC, the global oil cartel, sees a bright future for all forms of fossil energy, coal included.
Opec’s annual report significantly revised production estimates upwards. Most of the production increase will come from countries outside Opec, led by explosive growth from frackers in the United States, with China and India leading the increase in demand. 
Opec expects global oil demand to reach nearly 112m barrels per day by 2040, driven by transportation and petrochemicals. That is up from almost 100m today and higher than last year’s projection. 
Coal will continue to be be burned in record amounts, despite concerns about its impact on climate change. Opec estimates that coal usage in the OECD countries will plummet by a third by 2040, but it will increase by 20% in developing countries to reach five times the volumes burned in the west.
So, did you get that? We're supposed to cut emissions by half by 2030. We're now burning up 100 million barrels of oil per day. By 2040 we'll have ratcheted that up, not down but up, to 112 barrels per day. And, while the developed nations may have cut their coal consumption by a modest third by 2040 (I know, WTF!) developing countries will more than make up for it.

The OPEC numbers aren't wishful thinking. The International Energy Agency projections bear them out.

Meanwhile Earth, our one and only biosphere, the environment without which there is no life on this planet, is showing increasing signs of contagion.

We just learned that the Greenland ice sheet is melting four times faster than we had imagined. Globally, our oceans are heating at a record pace. We're told that, within the decade, the rich Barents Sea could transform from an Arctic marine environment to an Atlantic Ocean environment and eventually lose its bountiful cod stocks. Australia this summer isn't baking, it's on "high broil."

Meanwhile, a 16 year old girl goes to Davos to ask world leaders and the titans of commerce and industry to abruptly reverse course, to spare the world and humanity from their predations, even as she knows full well they won't.

I'll end this with a comment left on this blog by reader, Cap.

We have only one chance to get this right, and only a decade to do it in. Failure leads to human extinction. You'd think that would focus the mind. But no, it's business as usual.

As 16-year-old Greta Thunberg told the Masters of the Universe in Davos,

"Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is not true because if everyone is guilty, then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame. 
"Some people, some companies and some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people. 
"I want to challenge those companies and those decision-makers into real and bold climate action. To set their economic goals aside and to safeguard the future living conditions for humankind. 
"I don't believe for one second that you will rise to that challenge. But I want to ask you all the same. I ask you to prove me wrong." 
Well, JT, what are you waiting for? 


Toby said...

Kids get it. Why can't adults?

The Mound of Sound said...

Better yet, Toby, of all people why can't the son of Pierre Elliot Trudeau get it?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for adding my words to yours, Mound.

The lack of seriousness among our so-called leaders is utterly maddening. Given the stakes and the short time available, I would expect Trudeau to form a peacetime war cabinet of key people, including opposition leaders.

This cabinet should exclude anyone with ties to the fossil fuel industries. It should also follow Churchill's lead in excluding the finance minister, as the threat is sufficiently dire that money should not be a constraint.

Doing this would immediately change the public's perception and back-foot the fossil fuelers with their media mouthpieces. It would underline the seriousness of the threat we face and put all other considerations on temporary hold until we're on the right track. I don't see how to make the momentous changes needed in any other way.