Climate at the ‘Gap’

August 17, 2015

EmissionsFaded sunshine/overcast this near-noon Monday on California’s north coast, with a goodly touch of the surrealistic smoke-influenced air that’s been missing the last few days.
Although it’s cool here, the NWS  has a caution for triple-digit temperatures for the interior.

As California churns through a dry-drought, the future is fire — UC Berkeley professor Scott Stephens, co-director of the Center for Fire Research and Outreach (via Capital Public Radio this morning): ‘“We’re not having the recovery at night, we’re not seeing as much recovery in terms of temperatures — they’re not going down. Humidities are not coming up at night, so we’re seeing more active burning at night, and that happened in both of the recent fires that occurred in Lake County, with burning in the chaparral.”

(Illustration found here).

And the real culprit for all the drought-infected forest fires — climate change — continues unabated, and unchecked. And even despite the shit happening right outside your window, a big chunk of Americans don’t recognize the major problem — a majority, however, are getting worried.
Via Grist in mid-June:

About 69 percent of adults say that global warming is either a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem, according to a new Pew Research Center poll, up from 63 percent in 2010.
The level of concern has still not returned to that of a decade ago; in 2006, 79 percent of adults called global warming serious. …
The percentage of Americans who agree with the scientific consensus — that global warming is occurring and caused by human activity — has also bounced back in the last few years.
Sixty-eight percent of Americans also say there is “solid evidence of warming,” up from 57 percent in 2009.

Of course, a most-major hamper is politics, especially from Republicans. In this election cycle, a round-up of all the big runners in the running can be found at NPR last week, with the GOP heavyweights all standing firm against man-made climate change.
And from the loudest mouth — bullshit.
From Mother Jones last week:

Trump doesn’t selectively present the data or assert that it’s been rigged, he just ignores it.
If it’s cold outside in New York in the winter, Trump says, then there is no global warming.
His problem is twofold: He does not understand the difference between weather (still often cold in New York in the winter) and climate (gradually warming on average over the entire Earth), and he does not respect the difference between data and anecdote.

And right now, the next president will literally make-or-break humanity — per US News and World Report last Friday:

The needed changes are monumental: Halting climate change and heading off its worst consequences is going to require a wholesale switch from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to renewables like wind and solar – potentially upending utilities, energy producers and construction contractors, the sort of change “of the magnitude of the invention of the steam engine or the electrification of society,” says Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonpartisan energy research group.
“How quickly can we transform one of the most complex industrial systems – our energy system – across the globe in order to move toward low carbon?” he asks
“There is absolutely no doubt we have to act now.”
This presents an election – and a choice – with no historical analogues.
“This will be a make-or-break presidency as far as our ability to avert a climate change catastrophe,” says Michael Mann, meteorology professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, whose “hockey-stick” shaped graph warned of sharply rising emissions and temperatures.
Pick any issue throughout history, he and others argue, none has shared the three qualities that make climate change stand apart: its threat to the entire planet, the short window to respond, and how sharply it has divided the two parties’ candidates.
“Republicans and Democrats have argued over issues for years, but I can’t think of an example where one party didn’t even say that the issue exists,” says Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University who has advised Evangelical and conservative climate action groups, and who has urged policymakers to address warming.

Supposedly, the last-chance for the planet will be the UN climate conference this December in Paris — if that fails, and the world can’t come up with a workable plan to cut near- immediately emissions, then we be fucked.
Urgency is an understating word. Environmental writer Elizabeth Kolbert at the New Yorker has a long-read interview with Costa Rican Christiana Figueres, currently the UN climate chief.
The key climate points:

The purpose of the U.N.F.C.C.C. and of the many negotiating sessions and working groups and protocols it has spun off over the years is to prevent “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
In climate circles, this is usually shortened to D.A.I. In plain English, it means global collapse.

The ozone treaty had divided the world into two blocs: high CFC users, like the United States, and low users, like Bangladesh.
High users, who were largely responsible for the problem, were expected to act first, low users later.
The same high-low distinction held for climate change; some countries had contributed a great deal to the problem, others very little.
But almost immediately the blocs fractured into sub-blocs.
Oil-producing states, like Saudi Arabia, split with low-lying, easily inundated nations, like Maldives.
Rapidly industrializing countries, like India, saw their interests as very different from those of what are officially known as Least Developed Countries, like Ethiopia.
The European Union wanted a treaty with strict targets and timetables for reducing carbon emissions.
The United States — at that point the world’s largest emitter — refused even to consider such targets.
On the eve of what was supposed to be the final negotiating session on the Framework Convention, the working draft of the document, according to one participant, resembled a “compilation of contradictory positions more than a recognizable legal instrument.”
To hold warming to less than two degrees Celsius, the best estimates available suggest that total emissions will have to be kept under a trillion tons of carbon.
The world has already consumed around two-thirds of this budget.
If current trends continue, the last third will be used up within the next few decades.
What’s fundamentally at issue in Paris — although the matter is never stated this baldly, because, if it were, the conference might as well be called off — is who should be allowed to emit the tons that remain.
Another issue is what’s become known as “the gap.”
To hold warming to less than two degrees Celsius, global emissions would have to peak more or less immediately, then drop nearly to zero by the second half of the century.
Alternatively, they could be allowed to grow for a decade or so longer, at which point they’d have to drop even more precipitately, along the sort of trajectory a person would follow falling off a cliff.
In either case, it’s likely that what are known as “negative emissions” would be needed.
This means sucking CO2 out of the air and storing it underground — something no one, at this point, knows how to do.
The practical obstacles to realizing any of these scenarios has prompted some experts to observe that, for all intents and purposes, the two-degree limit has already been breached.
“The goal is effectively unachievable” is how David Victor, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and Charles Kennel, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, put it recently in the journal Nature.

In other words, we’re gaping beyond the gap…

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