Climate Hope and Tragedy

As I have said many times, Alex Smith’s Radio EcoShock is a favorite and boy does he deliver.  My segment is about 11:17 long, and those impatient or too busy can click here, to go right to my segment, starting at 21:13 mark.  Here I talk from Norway, about my constructive impressions and takeaways as to COP21.

Discussed the behind the scenes aspect of diplomats, negotiators, policy makers.   Comment on Stern Review, and percentage of global GDP allocated to climate change; regarding James Hansen’s black and white view, if not indictment; bi-lateral partnerships with China and Latin America.  See ball roll faster and faster.

‘Paris is only the beginning, not the end, I would argue’.  Conference of Parties, 196 countries.  Reading faces of folks like William. Gates who was there, or Kerry, Musk who are getting concerned about observed changes.  Like night and day, compared to Lima.  Medical institutions, reporting impact on health, including mental states.  Major impact of shipping industry was left out of COP but now being incorporated.  Negative impact of ‘climate casino’ on cities.

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In 1819 American author Washington Irving published the short story “Rip Van Winkle“. In this tale a man from a small village near the Catskill Mountains heads off into the mountains to hunt, and meets and drinks with an English explorer. He then falls into a deep sleep and awakens about 20 years later.

I felt like this man after I returned to Ottawa, but for a few days rather than 20 years. This was partly a result of the excitement and work intensity on my travels, and partly because I slept in the lounge of Oslo Airport to catch an early morning flight home. Fitfully, thinking that my luggage would vanish if I fell asleep, until I devised a security system. I tied a string from my big toe to my luggage bags and cart to allow enough peace of mind to catch some winks.

What if I had fallen asleep for 20 years? What type of world would I awaken to? The answer to that question depends on what we do NOW. Not tomorrow, or in the next year, or in the next 5 years. But NOW.

Door A:
If we carry on business-as-usual and continue to burn fossil fuels, the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans will continue to change, trapping more heat in the former and destroying the marine food chain in the latter.

The enormous Arctic warming has already disrupted Earth’s heat balance from the equator to the poles causing global circulation patterns in the atmosphere to go haywire, and now recently the ocean currents and surface heat patterns are completely changing. Extreme weather events around the planet are wreaking havoc on our cities and infrastructure and global food sources. If continued, with abrupt climate change, first cities will drop like dominoes cascading to nation state failure and even societal collapse.

Door B:
We accept that we have an unprecedented global emergency on our plate from abrupt climate change. We realize that this emergency threatens to take out our societies, and our technologies, and our subsidence and our humanity. Not only that, it threatens to remove all of our structures and science and historical signatures and achievements that have been accomplished on the Earth throughout human history.

Once we realize this, we must ACT, in concert and with all our resources and capital to fight this. We may fail in the end to reverse our course, but we must try. Nations of the planet must declare a global emergency, and act in unison.

To do what, exactly?

What we must do is simple; we must metaphorically provide stability to a three-legged bar stool.

Leg 1 is slashing fossil fuel combustion down to zero. Not by 2050, which is what many countries at the COP21 in Paris proposed to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees C. Not by 2035, which they say may keep that temperature rise less than 1.5 C. We must slash emissions immediately, as that is the only option that we have to start arresting the abrupt climate change that is underway. The Paris Accord gets the ball rolling on this, but absolutely must be followed by action on reductions and quick acceleration. But this is only one leg of the stool, and is not alone sufficient.

Leg 2 is carbon dioxide removal (CDR). We have changed the chemistry of our atmosphere and oceans. The former completely changes the heat balance and thus circulation, and the latter threatens to wipe out the base of the marine food chain, and thus most marine life. My Norwegian colleagues and I at Gaia Engineering are designing practical systems to rapidly implement CDR, but are lacking funds.

Leg 3 is equally important to the first two legs; all three are needed to stabilize the bar stool and our global climate system. Leg 3 is developing and implementing practical methods of Solar Radiation Management (SRM) to cool the Arctic. This is essential to restore Arctic sea ice and spring snow cover to restore the equator-to-Arctic temperature balance and thus halt the ever accelerating increases in frequency, severity and duration of global extreme weather events. My colleagues and I at Gaia Engineering in Norway are also working on practical devices to achieve this.

We have no choice. Balancing a bar-stool with less than 3 legs is impossible. Let’s get a move on with rapid design and implementation.
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I wish I could just scream and let everybody know how big this is!‘ // Published on Dec 19, 2015

‘A first-hand report as Mike MacFerrin @University of Colorado at Boulder shows us extraordinary ice melt on Greenland. What will be the effects of the changing climate and what gives him hope?’
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2015 Arctic Report Card: Visual Highlights:  Increasing air and sea surface temperatures, decreasing sea ice extent and Greenland ice sheet mass, and changing behavior of fish and walrus are among key observations released today in the Arctic Report Card 2015.’

Includes links to cogent, Global Climate Dashboard:

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Daffodils in bloom, the warmest ever December: ‘How worrying is the world’s strange weather?  Good round up from The Guardian:  December temperatures in London have been warmer than July’s. Scotland is balmier than Barcelona. Artificial snow covers European ski slopes. Africa faces its worst food crisis in a generation as floods and droughts strike vulnerable countries.

With unusual weather from Britain to Australia, scientists are blaming climate change – but also the natural phenomenon called El Niño, which is raising temperatures and disrupting weather patterns. A double whammy then, but how disturbed should we be as the records tumble?
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Nick Breeze conducted an impromptu interview with Jason Box, Professor of Glaciology and Greenland Ice Sheet specialist, at COP21.

Box has been studying the Greenland ice-sheet extensively for years and has accurate data on how global warming is creating changes that, left unchecked, will affect both weather patterns in the UK and Iceland, as well as sea-level rises around the world.

In the following excerpts from the conversation with Box, we discuss the cold freshwater “blob” that has appeared in the north Atlantic that could have impacts for places like the UK in terms of increased rainfall.

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ICIMOD Releases Himalayan Climate and Water Atlas.  ‘Nowhere is this more true than in the world’s mountain regions, which have been identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as among the most vulnerable to climate change.  Global water resources are facing increasing pressure from climate change and rising consumption.’
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We’re Doomed. Now What?, NY Times.  ‘The time we’ve been thrown into is one of alarming and bewildering change — the breakup of the post-1945 global order, a multispecies mass extinction and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it. Not one of us is innocent, not one of us is safe. The world groans under the weight of seven billion humans; every new birth adds another mouth hungry for food, another life greedy for energy.’
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Permafrost: The Tipping Time Bomb, good video.  h/t Kevin Hester, think it was.  dk
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A+ from Sam Carana (dk), referred by Paul:  On The Paris Agreement.  He asks, ‘How much have temperatures risen already? As illustrated by above image, NASA data show that during the three-month period from September through November 2015, it was ~1°C warmer than it was in 1951-1980 (i.e the baseline).’
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Must Watch: Climatologist Breaks the Silence on Global Warming Groupthink, 4:57 video from Corbett Report.

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Sixteen years in academia made me an a-hole, Salon:  ‘After a decade at the Ivies, I work at a bar. But I’ve learned more waiting tables than I did as a professor’.
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Norway Offers Bees Safe Passage on the World’s First “Bee Highway.   Norwegian bees will soon be living the high life. Construction of a “bee highway” in Oslo aims to give these insects food, shelter and safe passage through the city. Bee hives and smatterings of flowering plants are popping up in backyards, on rooftops and on the terraces of companies and private citizens alike.’
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The world of threats to the US is an illusion:  ‘WHEN AMERICANS look out at the world, we see a swarm of threats. China seems resurgent and ambitious. Russia is aggressive. Iran menaces our allies. Middle East nations we once relied on are collapsing in flames. Latin American leaders sound steadily more anti-Yankee. Terror groups capture territory and commit horrific atrocities. We fight Ebola with one hand while fending off Central American children with the other.

In fact, this world of threats is an illusion. The United States has no potent enemies. We are not only safe, but safer than any big power has been in all of modern history.  Geography is our greatest protector. Wide oceans separate us from potential aggressors. Our vast homeland is rich and productive. No other power on earth is blessed with this security.’
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Mark Austin, at Nature Bats Last.  Paul might not view things as this bad, but some do.  Many have said this is the best PodCast on the show in years.  You decide.  Many who heard it had to listen to it two or three times.  dk

George Mitchell, overlooked environmentalist, reflects on climate change:  His book ‘World on Fire: Saving an Endangered Earth,’ ‘which addressed ‘the gathering environmental tragedy,’ came out 25 years ago next month.’
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Who Owns the Federal Reserve Bank and Why is It Shrouded in Myths and Mysteries?  The Federal Reserve Bank (or simply the Fed), is shrouded in a number of myths and mysteries. These include its name, its ownership, its purported independence form external influences, and its presumed commitment to market stability, economic growth and public interest.

The first MAJOR MYTH, accepted by most people in and outside of the United States, is that the Fed is owned by the Federal government, as implied by its name: the Federal Reserve Bank. In reality, however, it is a private institution whose shareholders are commercial banks; it is the “bankers’ bank.” Like other corporations, it is guided by and committed to the interests of its shareholders—pro forma supervision of the Congress notwithstanding.’
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There is a saying that all roads lead to Rome. We set out on 3.375.746 journeys to check if that was really true.’
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Curious folks asking ‘who is Paul’s helper David Korn and what is he like?’ can view the real undiluted ‘dk’, here.  Appreciations and Outrages.



About paulbeckwith

Well known climate science educator; Part-time Geography professor (climatology, oceanography, environmental issues), University of Ottawa. Physicist. Engineer. Master's Degree in Science in Laser Optics, Bachelors of Engineering, in Engineering Physics. Won Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario gold medal. Also interested in investment and start-ups in climate solutions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Avid chess player, and likes restoring old homes. Married with children.
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6 Responses to Climate Hope and Tragedy

  1. Pingback: Daffodils in December » Survival Acres Blog

  2. drtom6 says:

    Slashing fossil fuel consumption to zero immediately (within a few days?), which seems to be what you’re saying is impossible. If that is not what you mean, you should say specifically what you do mean.
    The best fit curve seems questionable to me but even accepting it and using the worst case as indicated by the light blue shaded area, 1.5 deg rise occurs around 2026 or 2027 not 2024. Exaggerations like these just provide fodder for the other side.


    • paulbeckwith says:

      I think that I said that we need to start the slashing process immediately, and proceed as quickly as humanly possible…


      • Dale Lanan says:

        Fast as humanly possible can best be made real by bar stool seat i.e Act of God writ as if -well as if our lives depended on it. What do you think of that because if Open System vs perfect storm is made where the world’s work aligns toward what heals Earth Open Sea at law, basically so thermodynamics is law Biosphere for profit taking and over-population or determinant of greed NOT, then in my opinion a will-to-live force with hope real can engage ingenuity-of-youth n+1^ w Peace and Harmony some people have spoken of in a test of true grit in universe Real..
        There is an overarching need for quantum change so work goes toward Biosphere at HZ.
        The specifics of transition can test theory of what’s best time to use as policy w surprise..
        It would be fun to create the house of logic at law with an eye to leave none stranded 2C..


  3. says:

    Thank you for this Christmas post. Like getting several unexpected presents to spend the next several days to take in. In your link to The NY Times, We’re Doomed. Now What?, the author challenges something in E. O. Wilson’s idea that humans have an agency of free will to avoid humanity’s demise. Wilson explains this in his book The Meaning of Human Existence. This work seemed one of the most helpful explorations I have encountered by far, of where we descended and how we might manage to preserver as thriving beings. It was difficult for me to understand the disagreement.

    Mike Macferrin’s account of arctic melt and his wanting to shout it out that we all need to do individual little things to arrest climate disaster reached my ears. I believe this most of all – notwithstanding the enormity of system change before us.
    Thank you for the trove of stories and being so forceful and articulate in this fight,


  4. Pingback: Daffodils in December – Survival Acres

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