We now, in the year 2018, have a carbon problem of such gargantuan size and severity that it now presents an extinction level threat to most, if not all life on Earth no matter what we now do.
This problem remains totally unsolved. This dilemma facing all of humanity, indeed all of life on Earth is truly monumental. It staggers our ability to imagine the scale, scope and complexity of this threat. We’re still trying to come to grips with what this really means. Numerous past articles have tried to do exactly that – this is yet another attempt.
We are still emitting enormous amounts of carbon dioxide on a daily basis. Many governments around the world are simply choosing to ignore this issue for as long as possible, including the largest carbon-emitter per capita, the United States. In effect, the carbon problem is only getting worse, not better. Atmospheric levels of C02 continue to rise inexorably towards disaster.
Carbon is emitted by everything we do, every facet and activity of human civilization. Even when we devise renewable energy sources – we’re still emitting tons and tons of carbon. The problem is found in our insatiable demand to create energy – energy for heating, cooling, manufacturing, transportation, and resource extraction. We can’t even produce the food we require without emitting enormous amounts of carbon (agriculture is the largest carbon emitting source in the world).
The simplification of this problem can be broken down as this:
a) Carbon must be captured faster then it is being emitted.
b) Excessive carbon levels must be removed from the atmosphere and oceans.
c) Humanity does not have the time, resources, money or technology to do this.
By “time”, I am referencing the available window for life on Earth to survive due to excessive temperatures exceeding survival levels for plants and animals – known as “wet bulb temperature”.
If we reach 2C – runaway warming will occur anyway (and becomes virtually unstoppable). Parts of the Earth will become uninhabitable. The other parts become over-crowded with humans unable to grow enough food to sustain civilization. Chaos is guaranteed.
2C will lead to 4C (that’s what “unstoppable” means). The world continues to warm. At 4C, this is game-over for organized civilization. We lose habitability of the planet because we are now unable to grow the food we require. Plants absorb less carbon under climate change – and their nutrition levels also drop dramatically, which present a “global calorie problem”. We are not going to be able sustain our population levels – or most of the presently inhabited regions of the planet, triggering massive migration and chaos.
The assumption has always been that we’d plant more crops, trees and cover to improve carbon storage (temporarily – it doesn’t stay in the plants indefinitely). But rising temperatures causes major food crops to fail.
But we do not have any of the time that we’ve come to accept (decades, ie., until the year 2100). We have just a few years left before we are facing hellish conditions on Earth – if you can, take the time to read the following: What Lies Beneath – The Understatement of Existential Climate Risk
Roughly 12 years from now we start starving on a fairly large scale, or as early as 10 years by some estimates (see below). You’ll get a lot of naysayers that will disagree with the dates, but the math has been done. In this document, you will find the term “Existential human crisis” which means extinction, eventually, for the human race, but not as far off as some may think. Ecological systems are in fact degrading quite rapidly now all over world, accelerating faster and faster. We cannot survive in a 4C world. Civilization as we know it, will crumble and fail.
It’s not temperatures that kill most of us first – it’s food, or the lack thereof. There are already serious issues with crop production, seasonal variations, drought (obviously), deluge and infestations affecting food supplies. Higher temps also degrade nutritional quality of common foods, so there’s that consideration too as our populations continue to increase.
Rich, but water-deprives countries are already resorting to some extremely desperate measures (note the 2016 date) to produce food (alfalfa for animals in this case) – Saudis Buy More U.S. Alfalfa Farmland. Of course, this type of activity is extremely carbon-intensive and can only last as long as the energy supplies permit this exorbitant waste.
The Great Barrier Reef is Headed for Massive Death and nothing can be done to stop this in time. Reefs have been dying all over the world, which is having a enormous impact upon the fish we eat (reefs are breeding grounds for many species).
There are other related issues to food production, and this article just barely even mentions the whole water cycle / hydrological issues presently unfolding around the world right now. It’s already much worse then this in 2018, and only promises to get worse as time passes.
The United States isn’t immune to these effects either, it’s particularly susceptible to climate change because of our inter-dependency, farming practices, water usage and shortages, population exposure (most people live in dense cities, many in regions that will become uninhabitable), immigration, with US refugees and sea ports being particularly affected (we will lose 95% of our international trade which comes through sea ports) and so on. That, all by “itself” means a economic collapse on a colossal scale. We will not only not be able to keep feeding the world, we won’t be able to adequately feed ourselves for two primary reasons: economic collapse and cascading crop failures.
The “third-world” emphasis that some believe will be the real victims of climate change is factually indefensible and downplays what we will likely experience here. The third world is already massively suffering from the effects of climate change right now. It’s being reported as “migration” for the most part, but if you look into these stories, they’re actually suffering from ecological collapse. They won’t “suffer the most” as some might believe – they’re just suffering sooner then we will. But we will have our own climate refugees and inhospitable regions, conflicts, shortages and so forth too. It is much more likely we will actually suffer the most, because we have much farther to fall, and we’re very poorly prepared, mentally and physically to deal with losing everything and having nothing.
Climate change isn’t a political or border or national and nation-state issue either, it’s a global physical process that is dramatically changing environmental systems globally. We’re not “exceptional” in this regard (if you’re in the US). We’re susceptible with numerous weak-links. Numerous inter-dependencies that support the United State are at risk (noted already in some of the links provided) which clearly state the United States is at an existential risk. This alarm is gaining more and more traction now, as science continues to make new advancements with technology, measurements and assessments.
Everyone alive today is already experiencing the effects, in terms of changing climate, extreme weather events, heat stress, drought, deluge, increased prices, laws, restrictions and codes, and so forth. Nobody is immune and we’re all already making “adjustments”, but what promises to come will be beyond anything we can fully imagine or comprehend.
Moreover, the lifestyle that probably everyone reading this post has been “permitted” by our choices to live beyond Earth’s energy balance in everything that we do. We all know the US has the largest carbon footprint per capita (by far) and this is the easiest, quickest example I can think of to demonstrate what this represents for the energy imbalance. Young, old, and in-between, we’re all living way beyond Earth’s energy balance, so yes, we’re are experiencing the effects and contributing towards their cause. Our fatal mistakes was thinking that we could escape the consequences when it is already clear we cannot.
For further reading on this point, An inversion of nature: how air conditioning created the modern city makes it clear – we exist now because we have stolen from our own future.
Indoor farming won’t work as promised or expected either (or we’d be doing it already, but we’re only growing things nutritionally deficient). It’s fine for lettuce and hydroponic crops, but that’s about it. And what production levels are met at what cost is not going to be even remotely sufficient to feed our suffering population. The calorie content of indoor crops that are successfully grown is pretty far down on the nutritional scale. The breakdown for nutritionally dense foods required for the US population is simply “not there” with indoor gardening and never will be (something has to give, and it will wind up being us).
Higher temperatures also means dramatically higher operating costs, requiring extensive cooling equipment. My own greenhouse got so incredibly hot this summer that you cannot touch any of the doors, metal, etc. if left closed (at all) during summer. Even with 80% shade cloth, large fans and the doors on each end wide open, it cannot be used (northern latitude, about 100 miles from Canada) at all during summer time for food production.
I could never afford the cost / calorie ratio either, if it was being used with the required cooling (air conditioning) during summer to create tolerable plant temperatures, which means we just “lost” the entire summer growing season (the most productive time of year) for our food production if we’re being forced to grow indoors. Then we’re just left with the “off-seasons” where we would try to grow sufficient calories. I’m sure we’ll try. And I’m sure we will fail.
The United States is but one or two crop failures “away” from triggering global hunger. Climate change at the projected temps discussed guarantees many more of these failures, in succession. We do not have a workable plan to feed ourselves under these conditions.
This is a good video with highly depressing news:
America is very much “food insecure” in this presentation (1:01:17), and so is every other nation on the planet.
You can skip to 27:51 if you like. Here are some points to ponder from the video:
- We are on track for 930 ppm CO₂ (business as usual scenario).
- The ocean will be 3 times more acidic then it is today, most if not all corals will die.
- 2 billion people depend upon the oceans for their survival.
- Acidic oceans will lose critical habitat like coral reefs (breeding grounds for fish).
- By 2050 all food fish are expected to be depleted from the oceans.
- 90% of the worlds reefs are expected to be dead.
- Warming will still continue for centuries, so we are not going to get out of this.
- Sea level rise will continue for many centuries too, inundating coastlines and coastal aquifers. Better, more up-to-date estimates are 20 feet or more by 2100.
- Some areas will receive 50% less rainfall annually.
- For reference on what this will mean, the Dust Bowl was only about 7% less annual rainfall. This caused massive levels of migration.
Watch segment 34:50 –
- During the 1998 – 2001 drought (3 years), Iran lost 80% of its livestock, 35% – 75% reduction in wheat and barley. Afghanistan lost 40% of its livestock, Pakistan 50% and Tajikistan 50% of its grain crops.
- By the end of the century, similar water stress on agriculture will be the norm throughout the tropics and subtropics due to climate changes associated with increasing CO₂.
Temperature will have a stupendous impact upon global crop production. The 3-month average temperature increase during the critical growing season will be 3°C – 4°C degrees. This has been measured before, with France and northern Italy experiencing 36% drop in maize (corn), 30% drop in fodder, 25% drop in fruit harvests and 21% drop in wheat yields.
Similar heat temperature stress is expected to be the norm throughout the tropics and subtropics (resulting in massive starvation and immigration). It will even be too hot to live in France.
The odds of exceeding the world’s “highest temperature every recorded” in summer, wherever you are, is 100%. Since this is also the primary growing season for the world’s food production, this means that food yields will drop dramatically globally too. For every degree centigrade, yield is reduced by 10% – 17% (already measured in controlled environments under optimum soil and water conditions). We can expect worse in actual real-life conditions.
If you are beyond optimal temperatures for growing crops, this affects fertility, smaller grains, increasing water stress, increased respiration. Grains also produce decreasing levels of protein as temperature increases (poorer nutrition). Higher temperatures also mean higher disease rates in crops (increase bacteria).
Do the math: 3°C – 4°C temperature increases means 30% – 40% decrease in crop yields. And it could be worse (4°C @15% yield loss = 60% crop yield losses).
The world cannot survive these threats – these temperatures expected mean starvation levels on a scale the world has never, ever experienced. And it will happen here.
Mid-latitude regions (like the United States, Europe and Ukraine) will see high volatility in crop yields. At just 2°C warming, crop yields drops significantly, and at 4°C, crop yields can even drop to as low as zero (0). Consider this chart and the frequency of losses (shown at 51:46).
For the United States – By 2050 (if warming is just 2°C and the latest estimates indicate 4C a definite possibility) crop losses of 20% will occur every 2 years, 30% every 5 years. At 3°C warming in 2050, 30% losses will occur at least every 3 years. We can’t survive as a civilization with these types of food losses. Chaos will ensue.
The bottom line: You cannot do farming like we do today and expect to stay in business. No farmer could withstand these kinds of losses in the United States (or any other similar region) and survive economically. This means the food production within the United States and the world will take a massive loss in productivity on such a scale that it threatens the survival of mankind.
In addition to heat stress crop losses, the United States, Europe, China is expected to suffer an additional losses of 40% from pests (maize, rice, wheat) which also increase due to temperature increases.
- In some places, staple crops will have to be abandoned entirely (and there goes the essential nutrition and calories).
- Monsoons will be more intense, but also shorter, resulting in no second crop. India and Indonesia depend on this for their survival now and will suffer dramatically.
- More nutrients will be leached from the soil (more intense rainfall on drier soils) resulting in increasingly poorer yields.
- Climate change will decrease soil organic content and impact soil biodiversity.
- The only option to avoid this increased volatility and decrease in yield is to create wheat varieties that are designed for the optimal temperatures – but this is something that wheat growers and maize growers around the world have been working for 30 years with no progress. They know about this problem.
- Increased carbon dioxide will impact plant physiology. This will cause a net loss for plants for food everywhere (globally). The thinking that carbon dioxide is “good” for plants ignores the net loss this will cause.
Climate change poses a severe threat to human survival and stability, but it is not temperature that will kill us first – it is the loss of the biosphere (habitat) which cannot adapt quickly enough to survive. We starve to death first as we fight over critical resources like food and water and living space. Immigration and refugees will be absolutely massive and totally uncontrollable (unfolding now). This doesn’t all suddenly happen in the year 2100 or in 2050 – it began years ago as temperatures began to climb, increasing volatility, yield, drought, fire and rains.
If the previous link is more correct, and I am inclined to think it is for various reasons (2040 @4C) – then all this happens much, much faster then some of these estimates.
We are all in a damned if you, damned if you don’t real life scenario. Even if all emissions went to zero, there would be a dramatic increase in global temperatures within 1 – 2 months, so the power-down, stop-emitting, let’s hit the brakes totally “scenario” isn’t a solution either. These particulates also associated with emissions are preventing more radiation from raises temperatures faster right now. So we have to keep emitting for now… which sucks because we’re in a real Catch-22 situation.
Nuclear power opens up another paradox (it’s called Jevons Paradox, but there is more to it then this). Concrete production is extremely unfriendly on emissions. Nuclear power also permits our civilization to continue (energy wise – excluding all other issues which we should not do) by enabling more human activity (industry, business, growth, ie., “civilization”). It does not solve anything, nor does it actually address the core issues of a) emissions; b) past emissions; c) energy consumption; d) growth (industry, business, activity, human population – all net increases on emissions). Nuclear is actually going to enable more of everything we don’t want IF we are truly trying to solve this issue.
Nuclear power sounds good – and so does the euphemistically called “renewable energy” but none of these are solutions, and that is ultimately what is needed, because nuclear, wind, hydro, wave and any other form of renewables that we currently know about, don’t stop the warming already guaranteed to occur. This is why carbon sequestering is so absolutely essential – and we don’t have the power, resources, time, money or political will – or the technology to do this.
So – we have to emit emissions (or some other substitute) just to keep things going; and we have to find a way to sequester past emissions fast; and we have to stop adding more emissions. That’s a rather massive paradox.
There’s more – all renewables are downstream outputs of fossil fuels (they can’t be built or maintained without fossil fuel energy, most likely indefinitely). None are zero-carbon and never will be. Only photosynthesis is zero-carbon energy and we’ve yet to learn how to use that to power our civilization.
Jevons Paradox teaches that we will use any efficiencies we might gain towards more growth and expansion, thus exacerbating our collective “problem”. Past evidence pretty much proves this is what we will actually do with whatever whiz-bang technology we attempt.
Personally, I suspect we’re headed for a massive population crash, chaos, crisis, etc., as we “try everything” but succeed at nothing, always making the C02 content worse, and not addressing the root problem (too much energy demand, too much resource usage, too high population levels, civilization that constantly works against the natural environment).
Some examples of how we’re “trying” but still getting it absolutely wrong:
We just want to dig the hole ever deeper – because we can’t even imagine anything else (any other way to live).
A few more:
Note the 2050 C02 projections:
“The study showed that by the middle of this century, when atmospheric CO2 concentrations are expected to reach around 550 ppm, 1.9% of the global population—or roughly 175 million people, based on 2050 population estimates—could become deficient in zinc and that 1.3% of the global population, or 122 million people, could become protein deficient. Additionally, 1.4 billion women of childbearing age and children under 5 who are currently at high risk of iron deficiency could have their dietary iron intakes reduced by 4% or more.”
Meanwhile, China has abandoned its one, then two-child policy, citing a aging population / population growth “problem”.
I don’t get excited anymore about the move to renewables. Since they still require fossil fuel, and still create C02, and still enable more growth, and still try to maintain everything that we have, it’s hard to me to accept that they are any kind of an answer to the core problems.
No matter where you actually look, the problem just keeps getting worse and worse:
Arctic’s strongest sea ice breaks up for first time on record – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2…st-sea-ice-breaks-up-for-first-time-on-record
Largest king penguin colony has shrunk nearly 90% – http://www2.cnrs.fr/en/3143.htm
Amazon rainforest degradation in Brazil up 224 percent in July 2018 – http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2018/08/amazon-rainforest-degradation-in-brazil.html
The environmental collapse continues to accelerate. This might be why we are seeing so many environmental issues related to ice, lack of food (up welling) for sea creatures, and old ice in Greenland succumbing to melt. Unfortunately, the hubris of man is manifold, as we all too-often claim, “we’re not the cause” on the strident side of stupidity, and “we can fix this” on the cornucopian side of utter fantasy.
I have famous saying “You can’t replace the missing ice”. Until that were to happen, these processes are unstoppable and non-restorable. Meanwhile, we’re still dumping trillions of tons of C02 in the atmosphere, while Extreme heat is killing America’s farm workers. And it only promises to get much, much worse.
This is one of those videos that appeals to no knowledge and hopium about climate change. Frankly, this kind of garbage for public connedsumption infuriates me because it present numerous lies, omissions, assumptions and falsehoods that the unaware and uninformed will not necessarily realize. It creates a false sense of security and hope, versus telling it like it REALLY is and what we are REALLY facing which is what I have been trying to do for years and years on this blog.
Watch the video link above first, it’s short.
Breaking this down in sequence:
1) The so-called “deadline” of 2C is bogus. This amount of warming is inevitable now.
2) The “point of no return” is also bogus. We will never have the same climate again, not for tens of thousands of years (unless magical technology is invented that can draw down carbon from atmosphere, water, soil, oceans – and restore the missing ice globally).
3) The “2035” date for “governments to act decisively” is also bogus. This is 17 years off into the future when dangerous climate change is already well underway. 2C is already predicted to happen by 2040.
4) “limiting global warming below 2C in 2100 will be unlikely” – This is the understatement of the century. We’re looking at 4C+ by then, period (unless magical technology is invented).
5) “research show the deadline to limit warming to 1.5C has already passed” – which means 2C is guaranteed to happen, refuting ALL of the previous claims in this video. The climate doesn’t just “stop warming” when we stop emitting, it will continue to warm for centuries to come unless magical technology removes the carbon…
6) At the 48 second mark – notice the near empty room calling for “radical climate action”. Yeah, right. That’s the level of interest this information generates in today’s political climate which remains in strong denial.
7) “The deadline depends on how fast we can reduce emissions through renewable energy” – except this is mostly NOT true. Emissions are not going down much through renewable energy. All sources of renewable energy continue to rely upon fossil fuels for their creating, maintenance and development.
8) “Assuming we could increase the share of renewable energy by 2% every year” also uses the bogus “2035 point of no return” claim. It’s false.
9) “Removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere using ‘negative emissions technology’ is vaporware. It does not exist. Nobody has devised this technology to date. But they’re assuming “it could buy us more time” which is also false because it is premised upon a previous assumption, non-existent technology. The real danger here lies in these chosen paths – let’s “assume” we will invent and deploy sufficient negative emission technology “just in time” – instead of STOPPING emissions we’re currently emitting NOW. It’s obvious that the former path vs the latter is fraught with enormous risks.
10) “But even with strong negative emissions, humanity would only be able to delay the point of no return by 6 to 10 years” – a honest admission that hides the billions of dollars we’ll spend trying to do the impossible – and FAIL ANYWAY.
11) “Using renewable energy is key to reducing fossil fuel consumption” is true – but it still requires fossil fuel consumption and therefore carbon emissions to create, maintain and operate. And it still fails to address the core issue – stop using so much energy, period.
12) “Clean energy is now growing faster then fossil fuels” – so what? It’s not clean and never will be. It still produces carbon, still requires fossil fuels, still fails to address exorbitant energy demands by humanity, and will STILL fail to solve climate change. Let’s not get too excited about what WON’T WORK.
13) “With the right policies in place, the energy sector could be emissions-free by 2050”. This is total bullshit based on endless assumptions and conjecture, vaporware technology and ignoring the fact that renewable energy is NEVER going to be “emissions-free”. It can’t because it requires fossil fuels to even exist (and always will, most likely).
14) The “carbon storage” solutions presented have long been known – and are not capturing sufficient levels of carbon (that’s why emissions keep going up). They’re helpful, but insufficient and we all know it, but the video implies by presenting them that they’re going to solve the problem. They won’t. They can’t. Not by themselves. Not when we keep dumping trillions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere and keep increasing our energy demands.
We are is serious peril. Honesty needs to prevail over deception and empty promises. Don’t give up – keep demanding the real facts on what we are really facing, even it does mean we’re screwed. The longer we keep lying to ourselves and to each other about what is now unfolding, the worse things are going to be.