Climate Endgame — Beyond the ‘Tipping Point’

May 31, 2011

Here in the wee hours of the last day of May 2011, the world keeps spinning, the rain keeps coming down (along the northern California coast) and bad shit keeps filling CBS’ early-morning-looped-news program, ‘Up to the Minute‘ — repeated stories that’s just flutter in the breeze compared to the horror coming via climate change.

All the evidence harshly points to the planet being near the midpoints or closer to the bad end of a catastrophic break down of the natural world enhanced by mankind’s arrogant, greedy desire for civilization’s tiny, tiny perks.

(Illustration found here).

One of the biggest differences between climate change and other worldly problems is about like the difference between a skeptic and a denier — one has room for change, the other no room at all.
Despite the overwhelming evidence from many divergent sources that indeed the planet is going through a shake-and-bake downsizing, there’s an enormous amount of denial, in other words, denying reality and truth, from a whole shitload of people.
A good look at the skeptic and the denier can be found at ABC News’ The Drum: Genuine skeptics consider all the evidence in their search for the truth. Deniers, on the other hand, refuse to accept any evidence that conflicts with their pre-determined views.
The horror of this: The biggest mouth can make the biggest impression on the enormous mob of unwashed masses.

Another good post on denying the undeniable is at Transition Voice, where Erik Curren now thinks even horrible, weird weather won’t change people’s minds about climate disruption:

When it comes to climate change “denial is still the dominant response,” writes Paul Gilding in The Great Disruption.
“We won’t change at scale until the crisis is full blown and undeniable, until the wind really kicks up speed. But then we will change.”
When I read Gilding’s book I thought it would take something like this year’s historic storms and floods in the Midwest and South to wake Americans from their stupor on climate.
But now I’m not so sure if even climate disaster will be enough.

Curren concludes: The weird weather is here. But the climate denial still isn’t gone. So we clearly can’t count on weird weather to do our political dirty work.

There is some light shining in the darkness.
In a Washington Post editorial earlier this month: Climate-change deniers, in other words, are willfully ignorant, lost in wishful thinking, cynical or some combination of the three. And their recalcitrance is dangerous, the report makes clear, because the longer the nation waits to respond to climate change, the more catastrophic the planetary damage is likely to be — and the more drastic the needed response.

Even as the denials are shown to be dumb-ass, assholes, the world continues to contort, rumble and get more, and more dangerous.

Next week is the annual World Oceans Day, which has been going on since 2003 in order to celebrate and honor the body of water which links us all, for what it provides humans and what it represents.
However, the oceans ain’t pretty anymore.
From the BBC:

Findings from a “natural laboratory” in seas off Papua New Guinea suggest that acidifying oceans will severely hit coral reefs by the end of the century.

The oceans absorb some of the carbon dioxide that human activities are putting into the atmosphere.
This is turning seawater around the world slightly more acidic – or slightly less alkaline.
This reduces the capacity of corals and other marine animals to form hard structures such as shells.
Projections of rising greenhouse gas emissions suggest the process will go further, and accelerate.

“The results are complex, but their implications chilling,” commented Alex Rogers from the University of Oxford, who was not part of the study team.
“Some may see this as a comforting study in that coral cover is maintained, but this is a false perception; the levels of seawater pH associated with a 4C warming completely change the face of reefs.
“We will see the collapse of many reefs long before the end of the century.”

And the situation is getting worse.
From AFP (via Raw Story):

“Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history, according to the latest estimates,” the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a statement.
After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt), a five percent jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt, the IEA said.

“This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than two degrees C,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist.

The only skepticism I have about climate change is time.
Although in the goodly chunk of those scientific papers on climate there’s talk of real-real-bad shit coming in 2015, or 2020, or the end of the century, etc., but based on evidence outside my window, I think in my total-non-science brain this stuff is already here.
Yes, Virginia, Chicken Little is right on, the sky really is falling.

In a thorough post at the Daily Beast, Sharon Begley, science columnist and science editor of Newsweek, takes a mean-and-nasty look at climate change, taking in account the current freakish US weather — record tornadoes and flooding — and shit going down worldwide, from the heat wave in Russia, floods in Australia and Pakistan to a months-long drought in China.
Some highlights:

From these and other extreme-weather events, one lesson is sinking in with terrifying certainty.
The stable climate of the last 12,000 years is gone.
Which means you haven’t seen anything yet.
And we are not prepared.

The game of catch-up will have to happen quickly because so much time was lost to inaction.
“The Bush administration was a disaster, but the Obama administration has accomplished next to nothing either, in part because a significant part of the Democratic Party is inclined to balk on this issue as well,” says economist Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
“We [are] past the tipping point.”
The idea of adapting to climate change was once a taboo subject.
Scientists and activists feared that focusing on coping would diminish efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
On the opposite side of the divide, climate-change deniers argued that since global warming is a “hoax,” there was no need to figure out how to adapt.
“Climate-change adaptation was a nonstarter,” says Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center.
“If you wanted to talk about that, you would have had to talk about climate change itself, which the Bush administration didn’t want to do.”
In fact, President Bush killed what author Mark Hertsgaard in his 2011 book, Hot, calls “a key adaptation tool,” the National Climate Assessment, an analysis of the vulnerabilities in regions of the U.S. and ideas for coping with them.
The legacy of that: State efforts are spotty and local action is practically nonexistent.
“There are no true adaptation experts in the federal government, let alone states or cities,” says Arroyo. “They’ve just been commandeered from other departments.”

So what lies behind America’s resistance to action?
Economist Sachs points to the lobbying power of industries that resist acknowledgment of climate change’s impact.
“The country is two decades behind in taking action because both parties are in thrall to Big Oil and Big Coal,” says Sachs.
“The airwaves are filled with corporate-financed climate misinformation.”

Maybe, the only thing we can actually do now is “hold on to your butts.”

Or be like the next US president, Sarah Palin, blubbering nonsense again this past weekend while astride a big, ole Harley, “I love that smell of the emissions.”

One thought on “Climate Endgame — Beyond the ‘Tipping Point’

  1. klem
    May 31, 2011 at 9:46 am

    “The stable climate of the last 12,000 years is gone.”

    Sharon Begley, science columnist and science editor of Newsweek said that? She didn’t say that, no way. I can’t beleive she would ever make a claim as absurd as that. I’m a geologist and paleoclimates are my thing. The climate of the earth has never been stable. Ever.

    Who is this person? Oh wait she has a BA from Yale. That helps explain her lack of science background and having the temerity to claim that the earth climate has been stable for 12k years. If I had made a claim like that where I work they would fire me, but it seems to be ok at Newsweek. I won’t buy that rag anymore. Thanks for the heads up.

    Cheers.

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