2-Degrees of Phony

December 9, 2015

2010HanDark and rainy this Wednesday morning on California’s north coast, and a hard rain, too, as an ‘atmospheric rivers (AR)‘ situation currently pile-drives through the region.

Weather forecasts (and a peek outside my apartment) appear to indicate a thick-series of storm fronts will create heavy rain, indulged by gusty winds over the next couple of days.
Along the shoreline, gusts could top 50 mph tonight and stronger wind in the mountains.
Accordingly, tomorrow will bring lower temperatures, low snow levels, small hail, and maybe even thunderstorms.
This morning, the NWS seems to near-frivolously understate: ‘The weather is going to be busy over the next few days!
And supposedly lasting into next week.

(Illustration found here).

In the last few years, weather has become more than just idle conversation. Global warming is a nasty reality, and a shift in climate will also twist local weather into an ugly picture.
A good, detailed accounting of the planet’s future came on Monday at FiveThirtyEight, with a look at the so-called 2-degree warming level:

Two degrees isn’t a magic number that will somehow hold catastrophe at bay.
We have already nearly arrived at a 1-degree temperature rise, and as Reto Knutti and his colleagues argue in this week’s Nature Geoscience, the 2-degree goal is not a scientific one.
Although the 2-degree limit is often referred to as a “guardrail,” Knutti told me, “there’s no scientific research to show that 2 degrees of warming is safe.” And there’s a reason for that — science alone can’t determine what’s an unacceptable level of danger.

The 2-degree limit is similarly a compromise between costs, benefits and risks.
Set the warming limit too high, and it may not inspire the appropriate urgency.
Set it too low, and it may be so strict that countries don’t sign on to the agreement because they’re afraid their economies will become too stunted if they have to stop using fuels that produce emissions.
Given the social, political, and economic factors at play, science can’t provide a one-size-fits-all solution.
Climate change affects regions and countries differently, and it’s difficult to precisely predict at which temperatures and greenhouse gas emission levels climate change will become unbearable. Residents of the Persian Gulf region may cry uncle sooner than those living in northern climates, and island states will feel the change before landlocked countries.

Some scientists argue that it’s folly to pretend that we can meet the 2-degree goal without revolutionary change.
In a commentary published in the journal Nature Geoscience in October, energy and climate expert Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, concludes that “even a slim chance of ‘keeping below’ a 2°C rise now demands a revolution in how we both consume and produce energy.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has proposed 400 scenarios calculated to achieve a 50 percent or better chance of meeting the 2-degree target.
But, Anderson writes, most assume either an ability to travel back in time (to prevent emissions that have already happened) or the successful and large-scale adoption of technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere that do not yet exist in a scalable form.
Sure, new tech can do wonders, but not in a 2-degree time frame, he writes.
The scenarios that don’t rely on this type of magical thinking assume that global emissions peaked around 2010, a concept hard to square with what we’ve seen thus far.
Some climate experts, including Knutti, say that arguing over the right limit just distracts from the more important problem of the planet burning.
While the world gathers for yet another climate conference, emissions continue to accumulate in the atmosphere.
In the words of climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, “If you are driving in completely the wrong direction, arguing about where you’ll park if you arrive isn’t your highest priority.”

(h/t The Big Picture).

Not ‘just‘ talking about the weather…

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