In climate news, the big-story is COP21, the UN talks starting Monday in Paris.
Despite the reality, a lot of the gloss is greased oratory:
“The stars are more aligned right now to reach agreement than I have ever seen them,” U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern told reporters last week.
“We are riding on the wave of those 170 targets that have been submitted.”
(Illustration found here).
As the heads of 140 countries are gathering-up in Paris, noted climate scientist James Hansen’s view of President Obama’s climate plan to be submitted to the conference as ‘“unadulterated 100-percent pure bullshit.”‘
In an online editorial published yesterday (via Columbia.edu), Hansen reports although the president seems to be trying, he’s not getting the real low-down, and that’s supposedly why the plan is completely-full of crap:
My thesis is that Obama actually means well, has some gumption, and wants effective actions to be taken, but he is being very poorly advised.
As a result, people at the working level have been given no effective direction and are producing little.
Mostly they are working on spin.
Again, the problem is the problem. In order to off-set climate change any meaningful way, drastic action is required near-immediately, as Hansen explains:
Another crucial fact is that we have already burned most of the carbon that we can afford to put into the climate system (even under the flawed proposition that 2-degees C global warming is a safe “guard rail”).
In other words, the West burned most of the world’s allowable carbon budget.
The scientific community agrees on a crucial fact: we must leave most remaining fossil fuels in the ground, or our children and future generations are screwed.
Yet Obama is not proposing the action required for the essential change in energy policy direction, even though it would make economic sense for developed and developing countries alike, especially for the common person.
Read the whole pdf editorial, Hansen’s been in the business a long time.
Some nutshell-details from Motherboard:
For Hansen, the fundamental issue is that fossil fuels are the cheapest source of energy for developing countries such as China and India, a result of the fact that the true cost of using them are not factored into their market values.
Yet rather than trying to stem the rising carbon emissions from developing nations by creating what he sees as yet another Kyoto Protocol (an agreement defined by its promotion of demonstrably ineffective cap-and-trade policies), Hansen suggests a “simple, transparent” solution: “an across-the-board (oil, gas, coal) carbon fee at domestic mines and ports of entry, [where] the funds collected are given in equal amount to all legal residents.”
Hansen admits that a carbon fee is not a perfect solution, but he sees it as the necessary groundwork for other necessary actions like developing climate friendly technology.
Some may disagree with Hansen that the Paris agreement is shaping up to be little more than a Kyoto 2.0, although a quick glance at the comprehensive list of climate pledges by country seems to buoy Hansen’s suspicions. What is more, a significant amount of research buoys his claims: in the US for instance, studies have shown that a fee-and-dividend model as advocated by Hansen would decrease carbon emissions by 20 percent within 10 years and more than 50 percent in 20 years, in addition to creating over 3 million new jobs.
Yet despite the convincing argument made by Hansen, he remains pessimistic about the upcoming climate talks.
The UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has already expressed skepticism about the viability of a carbon fee, calling the measure too “complex.”
So, Hansen ends his plea on a note of warning:
“Watch what happens in Paris carefully to see if all that the leaders do is sign off on the pap that UN bureaucrats are putting together, indulgences, and promises to reduce future emissions, and then clap each other on the back and declare success,” Hansen wrote.
“In that case President Obama will have sold our children, and theirs, down the river.”
Just as ‘100-percent pure bullshit‘ seems the climate game plan, another odd environmental event thrusts itself onto the field — just this week, scientists reported a microscopic marine alga that is growing by leaps-and-bounds in the North Atlantic ‘defies scientific predictions,’ and suggests ‘swift environmental change‘ due to all that CO2 (cited by Hansen above) being belched out by civilization. Research was from Johns Hopkins University scientists, who examined the Continuous Plankton Recorder, a continuing study of plankton, floating organisms that form a vital part of the marine food chain.
The odd, too, researchers still don’t understand if this discovery ‘is good or bad news for the planet.’
Details from yesterday’s Phys.org:
Published Thursday in the journal Science, the study details a tenfold increase in the abundance of single-cell coccolithophores between 1965 and 2010, and a particularly sharp spike since the late 1990s in the population of these pale-shelled floating phytoplankton.
“Something strange is happening here, and it’s happening much more quickly than we thought it should,” said Anand Gnanadesikan, associate professor in the Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins and one of the study’s five authors.
Gnanadesikan said the Science report certainly is good news for creatures that eat coccolithophores, but it’s not clear what those are.
“What is worrisome,” he said, “is that our result points out how little we know about how complex ecosystems function.”
The result highlights the possibility of rapid ecosystem change, suggesting that prevalent models of how these systems respond to climate change may be too conservative, he said.
The team’s analysis of Continuous Plankton Recorder survey data from the North Atlantic Ocean and North Sea since the mid-1960s suggests rising carbon dioxide in the ocean is causing the coccolithophore population spike, said Sara Rivero-Calle, a Johns Hopkins doctoral student and lead author of the study.
A stack of laboratory studies supports the hypothesis, she said.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas already fingered by scientific consensus as one of the triggers of global warming.
“Our statistical analyses on field data from the CPR point to carbon dioxide as the best predictor of the increase” in coccolithophores, Rivero-Calle said.
“The consequences of releasing tons of CO2 over the years are already here and this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
William M. Balch of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine, a co-author of the study, said scientists might have expected that ocean acidity due to higher carbon dioxide would suppress these chalk-shelled organisms.
It didn’t. On the other hand, their increasing abundance is consistent with a history as a marker of environmental change.
“Coccolithophores have been typically more abundant during Earth’s warm interglacial and high CO2 periods,” said Balch, an authority on the algae.
“The results presented here are consistent with this and may portend, like the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ where we are headed climatologically.”
Once again, the valued-words of the late Pinball: ‘“…Or as they say in Ebonics, “We be fucked.”‘