Quickly-Approaching Climate-Change Catastrophe: ‘A Failure Of Leadership’ (And The Rich!)

November 20, 2023

As we start Thanksgiving week this Monday morning in the US, the world is on the edge of shit-storming climate change seemingly barreling out of control without much reactions — UN Secretary-General António Guterres warns: ‘“Present trends are racing our planet down a dead-end 3C temperature rise. This is a failure of leadership, a betrayal of the vulnerable, and a massive missed opportunity. Renewables have never been cheaper or more accessible. We know it is still possible to make the 1.5 degree limit a reality. It requires tearing out the poisoned root of the climate crisis: fossil fuels.”

Yeah right! António’s call hasn’t gathered much support in the last few years, in fact, petroleum extraction is bigger than ever: ‘“The death of the oil industry has been greatly overstated,” said Kevin Book, managing director at the consulting firm ClearView Energy. “The realities of demand and the limitations of alternatives haven’t changed.”

Despite the reality as showcased last Friday:

Details via The Washington Post yesterday morning:

That does not mean efforts to limit global warming have failed — yet. Temperatures would have to surpass the 2-degree benchmark for months and years at a time before scientists consider it breached.

But it’s a striking reminder that the climate is moving into uncharted territory. Friday marked the first time that everyday fluctuations around global temperature norms, which have been steadily increasing for decades, swung the planet beyond the dangerous threshold. It occurs after months of record warmth that have stunned many scientists, defying some expectations of how quickly temperatures would accelerate this year.

“I think while we should not read too much into a single day above 2C (or 1.5C for that matter) it’s a startling sign nonetheless of the level of extreme global temperatures we are experiencing in 2023,” Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist with Stripe and Berkeley Earth, said in a message to The Washington Post.

Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, said Sunday on the social media platform X that Friday’s global temperatures were 1.17C (2.1F) above the 1991-2020 average, a record-setting margin.

Just to be clear — from Reuters this morning:

Countries’ current emissions pledges to limit climate change would still put the world on track to warm by nearly 3 degrees Celsius this century, according to a United Nations analysis released Monday.

The annual Emissions Gap report, which assesses countries’ promises to tackle climate change compared with what is needed, finds the world faces between 2.5C (4.5F) and 2.9C (5.2F) of warming above preindustrial levels if governments do not boost climate action.

At 3C of warming, scientists predict the world could pass several catastrophic points of no return, from the runaway melting of ice sheets to the Amazon rainforest drying out.

“Present trends are racing our planet down a dead-end 3C temperature rise,” said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “The emissions gap is more like an emissions canyon.”

World leaders will soon meet in Dubai for the annual U.N. climate summit COP28 with the aim of keeping the Paris Agreement warming target of 1.5C alive.

But the new U.N. report does little to inspire hope that this goal remains in reach, finding that planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 42% by 2030 to hold warming at 1.5C (2.7F).

Even in the most optimistic emissions scenario, the chance of now limiting warming to 1.5C is just 14% — adding to a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting the goal is dead.

Global greenhouse gas emissions rose by 1.2% from 2021 to 2022, reaching a record 57.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

The report assessed countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which they are required to update every five years, to determine how much the world might warm if these plans were fully implemented.

It compares unconditional pledges — promises with no strings attached, which would lead to a 2.9C temperature rise — to conditional pledges that would hold warming to 2.5C.

“That is basically unchanged compared with last year’s report,” said Anne Olhoff, chief scientific editor of the report.

The anticipated level of warming is slightly higher than 2022 projections, which then pointed toward a rise of between 2.4C and 2.6C by 2100, because the 2023 report ran simulations on more climate models.

However, the world has made progress since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015. Warming projections based on emissions at that time “were way higher than they are now”, Olhoff said.

Added emphasis on being timely — per the BBC last week:

While the rate of warming seems to have sped up in recent decades, this has not yet consistently exceeded the range of possible temperatures that scientists expected from climate models.

This provides some reassurance that the world hasn’t yet tipped into a new phase of runaway climate change.

However, a group of leading climate scientists recently warned that the climate may change more quickly than expected in the future.

They suggest that the climate is yet to fully respond to the greenhouse gases already emitted. One reason could be the artificial cooling effect of aerosols. This leaves more warming “in the pipeline” than previously thought, they argue.

Not all scientists agree with this view, but the devastating climate impacts currently being experienced highlight the challenges the world is already facing.

Ahead of the crucial COP28 climate summit, this “should really spur action to accelerate the phase out of fossil fuels,” explains Lili Fuhr from the Centre for International Environmental Law.

“It doesn’t have to be worse than we expected to be a huge problem that society urgently needs to deal with,” says Dr Hausfather. (Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth.)

“Climate change is as bad as we expected. And that’s bad enough.”

And to get shitty on the whimsy side:

Plus as a kicker on the rich assholes who won’t ever let go of the cash flow — Rebecca Solnit at the Guardian this morning and the shit-rich climate-change ripple effect:

Let me put it this way: if you made $10,000 a week – a princely sum by the standards of most people – you would have to work every week from the year of Jesus’s birth until this week to earn over a billion dollars. To earn as much as Elon Musk’s net worth at that rate – currently $180bn, according to Forbes – you’d have to work every week for more than a third of a million years – that is, since before Homo sapiens first emerged in Africa.

Another way to put it is: one day last year, walking on San Francisco’s western edge, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I saw whales spouting, and then I came home and rescued a bee buzzing at my window. The extremely disparate scale of these two wild creatures impressed me, and so I did the sums: a honeybee weighs about 0.11 grams and 4,000 bees weigh a pound; a grey whale weighs between 60,000 and 90,000 pounds, meaning that, even at the lower weight, it weighs about as much as a quarter of a billion bees. According to Oxfam, 81 billionaires hold more wealth than the poorest half of all humanity, meaning that in monetary terms 81 people are bigger than 4 billion people. So when it comes to wealth and impact, billionaires are whales and poor people are bees. Except that whales aren’t a menace to bees.

But billionaires are a menace to the rest of us: their sheer political size warps our public life. Disproportionately older, white and male, they function as unelected powers, a sort of freelance global aristocracy who are too often trying to reign over the rest of us. Some critics think that the supergiant tech corporations that have spawned so many modern billionaires operate in ways that resemble feudalism more than capitalism, and, certainly, plenty of billionaires operate like the lords of the Earth while campaigning to protect the economic inequality that made them so rich and makes so many others so poor. They use their power in arbitrary, reckless and often environmentally destructive ways.

Howver,  if the T-Rump or any Republican gets control next year — we’re up shit creek without a boat, much less a paddle. Noted climatologist Michael E. Mann in an op/ed at The Hill earlier this month:

All of this progress is in jeopardy, however, if Trump wins the presidency again, particularly if Republicans hold or, worse, expand their control of Congress. Congressional Republicans have already indicated their intent to eliminate loss and damage funds. And this speaks to an even larger problem. While we have seen renewed leadership on climate by the Biden administration, other nations are wary of what a second Trump presidency could portend, particularly on climate where they fear he will refuse to honor our commitments to the rest of the world and derail four years of progress on climate.

The GOP has threatened to weaponize a potential second Trump term against domestic climate action. In the event they also keep the House of Representatives and retake the U.S. Senate, they will fast-track the most climate-averse policy agenda in the history of our nation to be signed into law by Trump.


So, we are truly at a “fragile moment.” Global climate action lies on a knife edge, hinging upon American leadership that is threatened by a prospective Trump second term and a radicalized GOP intent on undermining climate progress both here and abroad.

It is not an overstatement to say, one year out, that we face an American election unlike any other. It will determine not only the course of the American experiment but the path that civilization collectively follows. On the left is democracy and environmental stewardship. On the right is fascism and planetary devastation. Choose wisely.

You freakin’ got that shit right!

Immediate horror of a non-CGI future:

Cut the fossil fuels, or not, yet here we are once again…

(Illustration out front found here.)

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