Optimistic’ed to Oblivion

Good read in Climate Progress on Nature’s latest set of climate change articles

For a long time the vast majority of climate scientists never modeled the impacts of high CO2 concentrations because they assumed humanity would never be so self-destructive as to allow them to occur.

Time to move to higher ground…

There are a lot more people saying that 2ºC almost automatically leads to 5ºC (due to feedbacks involving tundra, albedo, methane clathrates, etc.) and 2ºC is now all but inevitable. The weasel words “all but” are the same ones that have allowed the inaction to go on for decades. It’s hard to image the world ‘hitting the brakes hard‘ for all the same reasons.

The graph referenced in the Climate Progress piece is indeed very nice… but the commentary is telling. The article notes that it is good because it comes from peer-reviewed articles. Which tells you that the real battle is still convincing people that we need to act. Sticks to beat the anti-science brigade.

It’s interesting to see the interaction point with the economy. At a time where we need to cut energy use (good correlation to both emissions and economic growth) by something like 80%, a relatively minor drop, say 5%, in the growth rate of world economy gives us an idea of the whirlwind we shall reap.

Growth at any cost…

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Decline and Fall

There was a big climate change meeting in Copenhagen last week:

Don’t be misled by the recent cold winter in Europe and north America – or by this week’s conference of vocal climate change sceptics in New York. Pay attention instead to the larger gathering in Copenhagen, where mainstream scientists have issued a series of dire warnings that global warming is proceeding far faster than the scenarios published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change two years ago.

Many politicians who believe in global warming have taken some comfort from the IPCC consensus opinion that average temperatures will rise by about 2°C this century, an increase to which the world could just about adapt. Unfortunately that view is out of date, according to recent evidence presented in Copenhagen and elsewhere – ranging from the rapid thinning of Arctic ice to the unexpected vulnerability of the Amazon rainforests to drought and heat.

Rather sobering to think that that quote is taken from the Financial Times…

I’ve not really been paying enough attention to such things for the last couple of months, there has been another ‘meltdown’ going on that demanded attention and understanding. While that situation is obviously far from over (as previously noted, i think it’ll drag on for at least a decade) the general outcome doesn’t appear to be in much doubt.

We are going to see a decline and fall of anglo-saxon capitalism, and with it an overall subsidence in the wealth of the world. Trillions of dollars of wealth has already been eradicated since mid 2007, and as the basis of so much of that wealth (property) is still falling in value, there isn’t much reason to assume that the leveraged decent is going to ease up.

Along with that, there has been a huge decline in world trade, the sentiment has turned against consumption. Fear and frugality are the order of the day. The longer the descent continues, the more people are swindled out of their savings / pensions / “investments” (come on, they were bets!), the longer it’s going to take to get back to what we considered normal. Of course, that ignores the idea that we’re living in normal times, and that all we were doing was pissing away our inheritance…

Where does this leave of beleaguered environment? On one hand the collapse of economic activity will probably end up buying the next generation some time (remember, we are only just starting to pay for the sins of our fathers). The reduction in world trade, transportation, tourism, industrial activity means that more coal / oil will stay in the ground… for longer.

However, on the other hand, it seems very unlikely that America, China, India, and Europe are going to pushing through the kind of radical investment programs that are needed to de-carbonise their economies. In times of economic hardship, the environment suffers, a luxury that cannot be afforded, and a hardship that can be spread thinly enough to never really be an issue… especially if you’re worried about where your next meal is coming from! More than that – there is a good chance that some of the G20 nations are actually bankrupt, and unable to take on any more debt.

Nick, The Modern Mystic, over on YouTube makes a good case for believing that we are now at a point where the governments of the world will have to admit failure, and overturn 500+ years of contract law, or tough it out through societal collapse / civil unrest, with un-payable debts. The later seems unpalatable, while the former seems merely impossible…