Out Of Time, Out of Realistic Options

The Arctic Sea Ice Blog has posted a nice video on Arctic methane release and runaway global warming. Well worth watching:


I’ve also studied at some length a recent analysis by Kevin Anderson of why humanity cannot change its infrastructure in time to avoid catastrophic climate change (audio link).  While listening, you can go through the helpful slides (including the graphs) for this Kevin Anderson speech here.

Anderson takes you through the points of why our infrastructure simply cannot change in time, as this take multiple decades — time which he says that we do not have.

I concur with the main assessment, but not with the notion that individual humans will change on a sufficient scale to avert this catastrophe (there is simply no evidence anywhere that this will happen, this is Hopium). You owe it to yourself to take the time to listen, or at least read the presentation.

Anderson’s “hope” in humanity is severely misguided. There is zero evidence to support a voluntary decline in energy use. Examination of human behavior across the planet reveals that we simply will not stop our consumption. His point that scaling industry back “in time” is well-taken (impossible to do), but he’s misguided on assuming that the rest of us will do anything on a sufficient scale.

In effect, Anderson admits industry “can’t”, but fails to correctly identify that humanity “can’t” either. No voluntary de-consumption works. There are ample examples of proof.

I went through his entire slide show. Anderson is essentially saying “we’re completely screwed” on our present path (he’s not the first to admit this). We’re going to blow right past 4°C warming (at least) and are on track for 7°C or higher.

Emission lag times (decades), 2+ year report times are strong indicators that the state-of-the-art science “reporting” and how this affects national and international policy and practice is woefully behind actual expected climate collapse and its effects.

Good to see the research and analysis done, but he’s actually failed to admit that his solution is really no solution at all — a terrifying oversight in reality.

Anderson is really telling us when you come to understand what he’s really saying that “there is no answer to this crisis”, even if he somehow missed that conclusion.

There is also this, which is arguably better information from Anderson, An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces. Worth reading, but still offers a Hopium “solution” that has no basis in reality (sorry Kevin, you’re just missing the forest for the trees).

My own conclusions on all of this is we’re not going to solve this. I find it really strange that total honesty and full-disclosure is still not being widely embraced. I’m certain that there are very powerful people who understand exactly where we’re headed, you can even catch glimpse of this awareness if you’re paying close attention  — and I’m contemplating about the global economic crisis as being a part of this “forced de-consumption” Anderson mentions.  Could be true.  But even this doesn’t go far enough as we now know.  Too little, and way, way too late as Anderson does point out (emissions still going up).

Emissions Still Climbing

Anderson points out that is it the total emissions that matter.  Somehow, this was often missed in the past, but its now coming to the forefront as the 800 elephant in the room.  How’d we miss THAT?

2°C has long been considered the achievable “target”, (attempting) to limit temperature rise by no more then this amount.  But this is now being recognized as being woefully incorrect. First off, devastating effects are already occurring globally at less then 1°C warming, with 2°C being now considered to be twice as bad.  That’s sound ominous, and it is — Climate Change going beyond dangerous – Brutal numbers and tenuous hope:

The conclusion is clear. The impacts of 2°C are more serious than previously thought, and consequently the 2°C guard-rail lies in far more dangerous territory. If the logic of defining 2°C impacts as dangerous is to hold, the more recent impact analysis suggests 2°C represents the threshold between dangerous and extremely dangerous, rather than between acceptable and dangerous climate change.

Anderson correctly labels “2°C” warming as “extremely dangerous climate change”.  This is a Hail Mary event in other words, while the world’s media still thinks that 2°C won’t be that bad. There reasons for this, mostly the failure to connect all the dots together.

I don’t have the link handy, but there was a great article a while back on how 2°C was simply chosen because it was politically expedient to do so — and was even published on that basis in the IPCC reports, having absolutely nothing to do with reality or desirability. Somebody can probably find it online.

He points out that the extreme (impossible) difficulties to achieve any sort of meaningful reduction.  Actual emissions are growing nearer to 3% – 5% per year, and are set to continue on this path. This contradicts “virtually all mainstream analyses assume that emissions will grow by only 1% – 2% per-cent per year before peaking”. It is the cumulative carbon contribution (total emissions) that makes this very significant.

But it does get worse, as readers of this blog probably already know:  we’re already going to blow past 4°C warming.  And it will be happening very soon, probably in the next 28 years or so. This rate of climate change is not only unprecedented in all human history (and quite possibly, all Earth’s history).

How bad is 4c?

Let’s look at a snapshot of a 4°C world. A global mean surface temperature rise of 4°C equates to around (5-6°C warming of global mean land surface temperature. According to the UK’s Hadley Centre (Sanderson, 2011;New,2011) a 4°C world would likely see the hottest days in China
being 6-8°C warmer than the hottest days experienced in recent heat waves that China has struggled to cope with; Central Europe would see heat waves much like the one in 2004, but with 8°C on top of the highest temperatures; during New York’s summer heat waves the warmest days would be around 10-12°C hotter – all as a consequence of an average global warming of around 4°C. As it is, our infrastructures and our way of living are not attuned to these temperatures, with the very real prospect of dire repercussions for many – particularly for vulnerable,communities.

At low latitudes, 4°C would result in reductions of around 30-40 per cent in the yields of important staple crops such as maize and rice, at the same time as the population heads towards 9 billion by 2050.

It is fair to say, based on many (and ongoing) discussions with climate change colleagues, that there is a widespread view that a 4°C future is incompatible with any reasonable characterization of an organized, equitable and civilized global community. A 4°C future is also beyond what many people think we can reasonably adapt to. Besides the global society, such a future will also be devastating for many if not the majority of ecosystems.

Beyond this, and perhaps even more alarmingly, there is a possibility that a 4°C world would not be stable, and that it might lead to a range of ‘natural’ feedback’s, pushing the temperatures still higher (Lenton, 2008).

Hmm, not so bad?  Only 4°C hotter?  Let’s put these figures into American math (Fahrenheit).  Normal summertime high temperatures (now):

100° F (37.8° C) –> with 4°C increase –> 107°F
104°F (40° C) –> with 4°C increase –> 112°F

This would (will) have dramatic impact on crop pollination, growth, survival and harvests. Rainfall patterns will also be dramatically affected (as will insects, including pollinating insects). Much of our existing infrastructure (roads, bridges, building, electrical grid, waterways) will fail, exceeding tolerable limits / demands.

A hotter world - unsurvivable

What is the likelihood of this outcome?

The blunt reality: in Annex 1 countries [First World nations, ie., “us”] had no emissions left. This means that we would have to switch the lights off today; in fact, we should have switched them off yesterday.

The only potentially achievable way (right now) to avoid truly catastrophic climate change effects is if we had completely powered down 100% (yesterday). No cars, no lights, no heat, no planes, trains, buses, not even any mechanized agriculture (ie, no food).

There is literally no emissions space left for those of us in the Annex 1 parts of the world, in order to have a roughly (50:50 chance of staying below 2°C temperature rise; of avoiding extremely dangerous climate change. This is a challenging situation, to say the least. But even this non-Annex 1 pathway may be too optimistic. To better understand the reality of current emissions, it is vital to pay careful attention to emissions from China and India, in particular. There is often a naivety underlying the dominant Western ways of analyzing these issues.

Wait, didn’t you say we’re going to blow past 4°C?  Yep.  Factor in what is happening in China and India, which Anderson does, concluding:

‘…it is difficult to envisage anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with stabilisation at or below +(650 ppm CO2e.’ [i.e. ~4°C] (Anderson and Bows, 2008)

Personally, I’m deeply concerned about what this means. In past articles, I’ve shown (or tried to) where several elements were not working in our favor, such as denialism, scientific reticence, lag times, positive feedback’s, methane hydrates, deforestation and political pandering to Big Oil have all deliberately or inadvertently worked together to create “unstoppable condition”, ie., a future that nobody will want and few will survive.  The latest scientific assessments and analysis indicate that this all happening far, far faster then earlier predictions and exceeding even the “worst case scenarios” previously considered, a term that is now being increasingly used by the scientist themselves.  I’ve gone on record several times stating exactly this — and now here is additional information claiming pretty much the same thing.

Anderson epically fails on his final points, ie., “What can we do”?  His answer is to voluntarily “scale back” (millions of us, especially in developed countries, where it matters most). Optimistic, but unrealistic. We simply won’t, it’s not in our nature or even in our desires to do so.

I suppose that despair might have made him offer such a weak conclusion on what can be done. I feel the same way, knowing that there really isn’t anything I can really do.  He says on one hand, that we should ‘mitigate for 2°C and to plan for “4°C”, but as “recently observed, we are in effect doing the opposite: mitigating for 4°C (by doing almost nothing to reduce emissions), while only preparing for 2°C. This is the worst kind of scenario.”

Actually, I see scant little evidence at all (beyond ongoing lip-service) that we’re “preparing for 2°C” in any meaningful way.  Look at the so-called Presidential debates, climate was almost exclusively off the table.  Now, post (s)Election, there are many in our own government of the most powerful country in the world that still thinks it’s all fabricated nonsense. Big Oil continues to sling millions and millions of dollars at huge ad campaigns designed to down-play this, hiring deniers to haunt the online forums and boards, attacking anyone that challenges their kindergarten intelligence (go to hell you assholes).  It is indeed “the worst kind of scenario” imaginable.

Perhaps it is my perspective, taking a layman’s view of all the science, analysis, news, discoveries and assessments that give me this perspective.  I’m not stuck in any ‘discipline’ with vertical blinders on. But then again, neither am I a scientist (although I think I could have been). What I’m “seeing” by reading what the world’s scientist are producing in their literature is a very, very scary future that is unfolding far, far faster then being widely admitted. It’s as if they can’t see completely see it (yet) themselves, being stuck on their particular piece of the pie on whatever they’re involved in.  Yet a few more of them now coming forward (notably increasing year by year), having either heard or learned of recent developments, and like Hansen and Waddell, speaking out. Many are putting their careers on the line out of a sense of obligation, a real planet-wide emergency is unfolding before their eyes.

Unfortunately, it’s already too late, but still, I applaud those that are still trying.  So am I — still trying, trying to break through the log-jam in people’s minds, the disconnect between what is happening all over the world.  Nobody knows the future (despite what some claim), but we can identify the probabilities fairly well, based on our study of the past and present and what it signifies.  We’re not being hit with a curve ball here, this isn’t “news” or even a recent discovery, it’s just being better understood now because it’s being more closely studied. And what is being found is very sobering indeed.


admin at survivalacres dot com

2 thoughts on “Out Of Time, Out of Realistic Options

  • November 18, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Thanks admin for yet another elaborate (and well-condensed) attempt to raise real awareness. Most people I know don’t want to contemplate the issue, let alone discuss it. I guess it’s (amongst other things) cognitive dissonance, self-delusion and fear stemming from uncertainty. This also applies for other ignored or downplayed (or opportunistically and selectively addressed) issues like global resource depletion. However, such issues are completely and utterly minor issues compared to the unfolding global climate chaos. I agree with your opinion about seeing the ’complete picture’, you don’t have to be a scientist evidenced by a piece of paper, you have to USE your brains and common sense and think for yourself instead of following the pre-programming which took place earlier during your life. I’m a scientist myself (not on climate science though), and I have most ‘difficulties‘ with my peers as they seem stuck in their ‘religion’ of ‘technology will solve everything’. I quench my thirst for un-programmed information on places like your blog, sounding the voice of someone who actually uses his brains and thinks for himself.

  • November 19, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Hi–first time posting a comment here. I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now. I agree with you–most people are simply going to ignore the reality of climate change–even in places in the US that have been hit with major weather disasters in the last few years, people simply shrug these things off as a big weather event, but nothing more. They look at past tornado outbreaks, or droughts or hurricanes that were just as powerful, but refuse to accept the fact that extreme weather events are increasing with frequency, and will continue to do so.

    Even many of those who accept the fact that climate change is real are seriously deluded when it comes to developing survival strategies–the worst are the ones who think they are going to get a place back in the woods some where, and live like people did back in “the old days.” As someone who was born and raised back in the woods in eastern KY, and who had a taste of that life growing up, I can tell you that most of those folks don’t know the first thing about how to raise your own food, or keep livestock, or even how to build a fire in a wood stove–or any of the other survival skills those old timers had…

    But even if you know how to live the way people did back then, how do people expect to adapt to living in a very changed world? How will you grow your own food in 100+ degree temperatures, when many of plants we depend upon stop photosynthesis at 104 degrees? How will you pollinate your crops if most of the pollinators die? And even if the winters in your area become mild enough to grow food during that time, how will the change in the amount of sunlight affect your crop yields? And how will you raise at least an acre garden (enough for a typical family) without the benefit of tools that need fossil fuels in order to run, like a tiller? And if you keep any kind of livestock, you’re going to need even more acreage, in order to feed your animals. And none of the above even takes into account what you will do for water if the area where you live becomes more drought prone.

    Survival is going to require us to completely change the ways we do nearly everything–in essence, adapt to life on an alien and very different world. Like you, I don’t think most people are going to be able to do it. And even for those who are aware of the realities, it’s going to be damned hard.

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