Lima Climate Summit.

 

With the Lima Climate Conference outcome being received by most as an insipid dish of consommé rather than a healthy broth of fervour where did that leave the Paris Climate Summit in 2015?

To me, the conventional wisdom that modern civilization will either adapt to whatever weather conditions we face and that the pace of climate change will not overwhelm the adaptive capacity of society is utter gibberish, as we have no idea how sever, how fast or how frequent climatic events will be upon us. It is all best ‘guesstimate’ as those climate modelling computer programs continuously get outfoxed by climate events. The notion of “adapting” or living with climate change is a farce. A climate in which conditions will change fast and escalate to the point that isn’t suitable for stable human civilization (or for the continued existence of a majority of the planet’s species) is plain ludicrous!

Greenhouse gas emissions have been steadily rising since the first Kyoto summit. In 2013 we hit 6.9 percent growth in emissions, a record. We’re not only going in the wrong direction — we are accelerating in the wrong direction! The thing is; if 2 degrees C is extremely dangerous, 4 degrees C is absolutely catastrophic! So this is where our future leaves us: stuck between temperatures we can’t possibly accommodate, and carbon reduction pathways governments are unwilling to achieve. 

 

The ultimate objective of any Climate Summit is the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system…

However, the consensus of politics today is that there’s nothing to be gained from talking about climate change as it is divisive, the electorate has more pressing concerns, and very little can be accomplished anyway until the subject rears its ugly head by way of a summit, conference or statement from the IPPC. It is only then that pointless, meaningless rhetoric is spewed out for votes or green credibility until the subject yet again fades away like a morning mist in spring.  

Most governments have counseled an approach that backgrounds climate change, but, refocuses the discussion on adaption, sustainability, innovation (geo-engineering) energy security, and economic competitiveness. However, all are political tools of choice to avoid what people really don’t want to hear and to sustain votes.  

Because people do not want to believe it they bring to bear an enormous range of psychological and behavioral defense mechanisms to avoid the subject as it sounds “extreme” and our instinctive heuristics conflate “extreme” with “wrong.”

If there is to be any hope of avoiding civilization-threatening climate disruption, we must act immediately and aggressively on an unprecedented scale. The 2 degrees C number; before we risk “dangerous” changes in climate, has been around for over a decade and was reaffirmed at that ‘optimistic, trumpet blowing’ Copenhagen summit. But in reality (far away from politics, the IMF and climate summits), deciding on an “acceptable” level of temperature increase is plain lunacy as we are already suffering the effects of increased temperatures.  

Stopping a rise in climate temperatures at 1 degree C is physically impossible (we can thank our past inaction for that) 2 degrees C, which is extremely dangerous is now close to impossible, which leaves the logical conclusion that there is no longer any reasonable chance of avoiding “dangerous” climate change. As for our future, it leaves us with the objective of damage limitation.

 

 

CO2 stays in the atmosphere for over a century; the atmosphere doesn’t care what year it arrives. (Though targets in the distant future are comforting to politicians, for obvious reasons.) When the total concentration of GHGs (Green-House Gases) in the atmosphere rises, temperatures rise that, is the reality, the science, the correlation that matters! However the only thing that matters right now is limiting cumulative emissions, the total amount we dump into the atmosphere now!  

Right now global emissions are rising, faster and faster! Between 2000 and 2007, they rose at around 3.5 percent a year; by 2009 it was up to 5.6 percent. In 2010, we hit 5.9 percent growth, a record. We’re not only going in the wrong direction — we’re accelerating in the wrong direction! The thing is; if 2 degrees C is extremely dangerous, 4 degrees C is absolutely catastrophic!

One of the most uncertain areas of climate science today has to do with feedback — processes caused by climate change that in turn accelerate change. For instance, heat will melt the Arctic permafrost, which releases methane, which accelerates climate change, which melts more permafrost, etc. So, will hitting 2 degrees C trigger runaway positive feedbacks? YES, without any doubt!

Which brings me to the question of the government’s policy of ‘adaption’ to global warming. The notion of “adapting” or living with climate change is a farce. A climate in which conditions will change fast and escalate to the point that isn’t suitable for stable human civilization (or for the continued existence of a majority of the planet’s species) is plain ludicrous!

So this is where our future leaves us: stuck between temperatures we can’t possibly accommodate, and carbon reduction pathways governments are unwilling to achieve.