Ultimate Optimistic

June 8, 2014

photoshop finalBright sunshine this Sunday morning on California’s north coast — the weekend more than half gone, and the garish tomorrow fiendishly well in sight.
Clock-produced time a fascinating fantasy fueled primarily by presupposed notions, or words to that effect…

In early September 2008, David Letterman unleashed a climate change rant on his CBS program, continued in wild, impassioned form for several minutes, describing humanity’s fate with a warming environment: “We are dead meat…”
I can’t find the video — most sites have the little screen with ‘no longer available‘ printed, as HuffPost an example — but I’ve seen it several times or more in the time since then.

In 2008, the CO2 parts-per-million stats was 385.59 ppm.

(Illustration found here).

Last year, 2013, just five years later, the annual mean CO2 concentration had climbed to 396.48 ppm. And last year — although a few wisps of the dreaded 400 ppm threshold was reached in some parts of the Arctic the year before — that 400 milestone was obtained ‘a few days in the spring‘ while this past April, the planet experienced an event: But this is the first time scientists have seen a whole month over 400 ppm at monitoring stations across the Northern Hemisphere, says Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, who was not involved with the measurements.
In a nutshell, via Scientific American:

Some scientists argue we passed the safe level for greenhouse gas concentrations long ago, pointing to the accelerating impacts, from extreme weather to the meltdown of Arctic sea ice.
Others argue that we have yet more room to burn fossil fuels, clear forests and the like — but not much — before catastrophic climate change becomes inescapable.
And the international community of nations has agreed that 450 ppm — linked to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius in global average temperatures — should not be exceeded.
We are not on track to avoid that limit, whether you prefer the economic analysis of experts like the International Energy Agency or the steady monitoring of mechanical sensors.

The earth’s environment is now obviously, and quickly, going to shit in a wire basket. And faster it seems, mainly due to uncertainty — from Dr. Jeff Masters: Although scientists consider an abrupt climate change unlikely in the next 100 years, their understanding of the phenomena is still a work-in-progress, and such a change could be triggered instantly by natural processes or by human-caused global warming with little warning.

Yet indeed, a warning, plus the noted hesitancy: The US is cooking unevenly — the corners seem to be browning more than anywhere else. An analysis of federal temperature records reveals climate change right now is location, location, and location:

Northeastern states — led by Maine and Vermont — have gotten the hottest in the last 30 years in annual temperature, gaining 2.5 degrees on average.
But Southwestern states have heated up the most in the hottest months: The average New Mexico summer is 3.4 degrees warmer now than in 1984; in Texas, the dog days are 2.8 degrees hotter.
The contiguous United States’ annual average temperature has warmed by 1.2 degrees since 1984, with summers getting 1.6 degrees hotter.
But that doesn’t really tell you how hot it’s gotten for most Americans.
While man-made greenhouse gases warm the world as a whole, weather is supremely local.
Some areas have gotten hotter than others because of atmospheric factors and randomness, climate scientists say.
“In the United States, it isn’t warming equally,” said Kelly Redmond, climatologist at the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, Nevada.
“Be careful about extrapolating from your own backyard to the globe.”

Other than a wacky-weather-change in the backyard — duh!

Not until about mid-2007 did I pay attention much at all to climate change, “global warming,” and reality of the science behind the phenomenon. Even dumb as anything serious — as in completely ignore a focal point of the plot-narrative in “The American President” (1995), until years later.
In a short space, though, reality arrived. Due to being inter-laced within a gob of other disastrous financial/religious/political shit, climate change seemingly has been allowed to arrive easier, and come quickly. The big disclaimer-like item for continuing climate-related reports I’d read about, was that whatever shit was being discussed, it was worse than expected, or worse than past tests/research indicated.
Kind of like this: “New scientific findings are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is “worse than previously expected,” rather than “not as bad as previously expected,” strongly supporting the ASC perspective rather than the usual framing of the issue in the U.S. mass media.”
And as I’ve written before, it’s hard to imagine I’m actually watching the end of an age on my laptop — as, of course, anyone can.
A not-too-overly-optimistic attitude, I must agree.

This past week, in the somewhat mainstream media of modern media, Ezra Klein at Vox painted a picture of the reality of reality — and it ain’t pretty. Klein lists seven reasons America (but he should have included the world) will fail to turn the tide with climate change — a most-pessimistic assessment.
A couple of money bits:

Either way, we’ve waited so long to begin cutting emissions that two degrees looks flatly impossible.
We’re on track for 4°C of warming — which is nearly the temperature difference between the world now and the Ice Age.
That’s a nightmare for the planet.
The World Bank tried to model it and realized that they had no idea what would happen — or whether humans could manage.
There’s “no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible,” they concluded.

Global warming isn’t like that.
The pain of doing something serious about the problem is upfront.
But the worst effects of global warming won’t be visible, even in America, for a long time to come.
The true crisis is abstract while the sacrifice required to prevent it is tangible.
The American political system is not good at trading sacrifice now to prevent crises later.

Read Klein’s whole post — big headlines and charts.
A lot of feedback on the InterWebs about it, too — most such like this: Dessler added that he found the Vox post to be “unnecessarily pessimistic” in assuming that the world is unlikely to ever take climate action.
“I remain optimistic that we’ll figure some way out of this problem,” he told International Business Times. “Don’t bet against the cleverness of humanity.”

Maybe too-clever by half.

Joe Romm also answered Klein’s pessimism at Climate Progress, but overstretched the brightness. He touches on each of Klein’s seven points, some with hope, others not so hopeful — he does start off with this:

Over the past 8 years of blogging at Climate Progress, I have tried to focus on what the science says we should do (slash CO2 ASAP to avoid catastrophe) and what technology says we could do (as much as we need to) and what economics suggests it would cost (not bloody much).
Predictions of what America and the world “will” do in the future are essentially personal judgments on human nature and the national and global political system.
I fully understand why some people would be pessimistic about that (and I have been myself, as readers know).
But the science makes clear inaction is not a rational option and that technology/economics makes clear that action is super cheap.
If those involved in the political process (or in influencing or changing it) decide not to act, that is their choice.
But for a leading pundit to declare that he knows the future of this complex issue seems at the very least wildly premature and at the worst, as Dr. Mann says, a counterproductive self-fulfilling prophecy.

In this situation, can’t be helped. Romm reflects the human value of hope, too. Yet if Romm and all the others screamed at the top of their voices the earth is fucked, maybe shit would/will happen. Self-fulfilling reality — remember, too, Klein was also being way-optimistic: But the worst effects of global warming won’t be visible, even in America, for a long time to come.

In 2008, maybe we had a chance and David Letterman wouldn’t have been so dire — a sample of Letterman’s eloquence (of what little is transcribed, and my memory sucks!): “If everybody in the world, right now, right now, began riding bicycles — leave your limo in the garage — everybody, bicycles, and we cut carbon emissions a hundred percent, no more carbon emission, and that was improving the layer of carbon around the atmosphere — if everybody did that, the planet, the planet — and you’re thinking, well that would be great, wouldn’t it? Yes, it would be great — but the planet would continue to heat at precipitous levels for sixty years. We are so screwed!”

So goes the optimistic pessimist.

(Illustration out front: ‘Shelter from the Storm,’ found here).

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