Friday, August 23, 2019

Obviously, That's the Cure, But We're Not Having It.

A 'global climate strategy.' That's what we need. Four words - don't hold your breath.

The Guardian's Larry Elliott is spot on when he contends that our 'green' gestures are all well and good but our only hope is for our leaders to forge a global climate strategy.

There's nothing new in this claim, no novel wisdom. We've known it all along. We have to act as a global community, all pursuing just one goal - survival. People of the world, unite!

It sounds good, in theory. Only it's a non-starter in practice. If you can't get Justin Trudeau to shut down the tar pits of Athabasca, it isn't going to happen. If you can't get China and India to tear down all their coal-fueled power plants, ditto.

As Hans Joachim Schellnhuber warned at the 2015 Paris climate summit, averting catastrophic climate change is entirely dependent on an 'induced implosion' of the fossil fuel industry.  Any sign of that on the horizon? No, that's not happening. To the contrary we're encouraging the carbon energy giants to expand. We're lavishing subsidies, direct and indirect, on them. We're even building pipelines for them. Does that sound like the foundation for a 'global climate strategy'?

Here's the thing. There is no uniform human experience to climate change. Poor countries and rich countries will experience this very differently. There's a good chance it's already too late for many, perhaps most, of those little brown people from the poorest and most vulnerable lands.

Those in 'steerage' class will feel the lash of climate change sooner than we of the upper decks. Some research suggests they'll be the guinea pigs for 'climate departure' that, sometime in the next decade, will send them reeling.

Camilo Mora leads a team of climate scientists at the University of Hawaii. In 2013 they released a paper predicting a new phenomenon, "climate departure," would set in starting in the early 2020s and spreading, region by region, to most of the populated parts of the world by 2047.

Climate departure isn't about conditions getting hotter. It is about the absence of cold years. It is a new climate in which every year after departure will be hotter than the hottest year before the shift. No more cold years only steadily hot, extremely hot years. Mora phrased it rather eloquently: "The coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past." 
Climate departure will be experienced differently in different regions. The cooler your existing climate the easier it will be to endure. However if you're from a warm/hot climate, it promises to be hellish. Climate departure may devastate agriculture, make working in fields difficult even dangerous, and claim the lives of those that typically succumb in heat waves - the very young and the elderly. 
Among the places identified as the first to experience climate departure are the Caribbean and Central America. That could be upon them in less than five years. What climate change is already inflicting on Central America is well chronicled. Crop failures have triggered famine. Nicaragua is the most recent country to urge its people to find sustenance from the local critters, iguana. Unfortunately it's a stop-gap measure at best. Honduras promoted the iguana diet four or five years earlier. The locals have grown so fond of iguana and especially iguana eggs that the creatures are nearing extinction levels. 
So if this is the plight of today's Central America, what will happen when climate departure hits? I suppose it's safe to say "nothing good."
Now, if I had mistakenly had a truckload of manure dumped on my neighbour's lawn, it would only be right that I come over with my wheelbarrow and shovel and help clean up the mess. If, as nations, we were as morally upright, we might help these casualties of our very own industrialism. Only our own energy policy demonstrates there's nothing morally upright with us. Just the opposite. There'll be no 'global climate strategy' for us.


Anonymous said...

An excellent post.

Germany is having a spot of bother with its industrial coal mining of lignite. They have the biggest machines in the entire world ripping it up in the Rhineland right across farmers' fields, too. All to be fed to power stations. And last week there was huge protests about the whole mess.

Well, they had to do something after closing their nuclear stations. Raping the earth came first and Report is from Deutsche Welle, Germany's national broadcster. A sample: "Reisch says the massive amounts of coal stripped from the Rhine district make it Europe's biggest source of environmentally devastating CO2 emissions. She says despite the fact that scientists have long known about the negative effects of climate change, the government still refuses to take action."

So unfortunately, Canada's not the only country with double-faced environmental standards. There's no hope for the future about India mired as it is in right-wing Modi-Trump neoliberalism, but China is much more likely to at least attempt to green itself up a bit:

They have much more advanced power stations than we do in North America. The article is a bit progressively breathless from my technical POV, but worth a look because it gets into detail.


The Mound of Sound said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, BM, but didn't Germany just announce a plan to close all its coal power plants?

Anonymous said...

Yes...they did Mound. But that was wishful thinking. The Germans are doing what BM wrote. Anyong