Progressing Toward Disaster

"The pledges that countries are making to battle climate change would still allow the world to heat up by more than 6 degrees Fahrenheit, a new analysis shows, a level that scientists say is likely to produce catastrophes ranging from food shortages to widespread extinctions of plant and animal life. ...
The planet has already warmed by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the temperature that prevailed before the Industrial Revolution, representing an enormous addition of heat. Virtually every piece of land ice on Earth is melting, the sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, droughts and other weather extremes are intensifying, and the global food system has shown signs of instability.
At a meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in 2010, climate negotiators from nearly 200 countries agreed that they would try to limit the warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius, above the preindustrial temperature, a level that would require that emissions from fossil fuels largely cease within a few decades."
- Justin Gillis and Somini Senguptasept, Limited Progress Seen Even as More Nations Step Up on Climate, New York Times, Sept. 28, 2015

If we do what humanity has always done in the past, we’re likely to burn all the fossil fuels, and then have a hard landing at a time of high population, with an unbearable climate posing existential risks, at just the time when we’re facing the crisis fossil fuels running out. That will hardly make for ideal conditions under which to decarbonize, and there is a severe risk civilization will collapse, leaving our descendants with few resources to deal with the unbearable environment we will have bequeathed them.
- Raymond Pierrehumbert, "Your Dot" contribution, NYT, Feb 15, 2015

“This long-term view shows that the next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far.”
- Consequences of 21st Century Policy for Multi-Millennial Climate and Sea-Level Change, quoted in The Climate Ahead, Ed Hayward, Boston College News, Feb. 11, 2016

If we move quickly enough to meet the goal of 80 percent clean power by 2030, then the world’s carbon dioxide levels would fall below the relative safety of 350 parts per million by the end of the century. The planet would stop heating up, or at least the pace of that heating would slow substantially. That’s as close to winning this war as we could plausibly get. We’d endure lots of damage in the meantime, but not the civilization-scale destruction we currently face. (Even if all of the world’s nations meet the pledges they made in the Paris accord, carbon dioxide is currently on a path to hit 500 or 600 parts per million by century’s end—a path if not to hell, then to someplace with a similar setting on the thermostat.)
- Bill McKibben, A World at War, New Republic, August 15, 2016

We’ve known that climate change was a threat since at least 1988, and the United States has done almost nothing to stop it. Today it might be too late. ...
Climate change is hard to think about not only because it’s complex and politically contentious, not only because it’s cognitively almost impossible to keep in mind the intricate relationships that tie together an oil well in Venezuela, Siberian permafrost, Saudi F-15s bombing a Yemeni wedding, subsidence along the Jersey Shore, albedo effect near Kangerlussuaq, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the polar vortex, shampoo, California cattle, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, leukemia, plastic, paper, the Sixth Extinction, Zika, and the basic decisions we make every day, are forced to make every day, in a world we didn’t choose but were thrown into. No, it’s not just because it’s mind-bendingly difficult to connect the dots. Climate change is hard to think about because it’s depressing and scary.
Thinking seriously about climate change forces us to face the fact that nobody’s driving the car, nobody’s in charge, nobody knows how to “fix it.” And even if we had a driver, there’s a bigger problem: no car. There’s no mechanism for uniting the entire human species to move together in one direction.
- Roy Scranton, When the Next Hurricane Hits Texas, NYT, Oct. 7, 2016

From the common barn swallow to the exotic giraffe, thousands of animal species are in precipitous decline, a sign that an irreversible era of mass extinction is underway, new research finds.
- TATIANA SCHLOSSBERG, Era of ‘Biological Annihilation’ Is Underway, Scientists Warn, NYT, JULY 11, 2017

In April, Mr. Turnbull met with Mr. Adani and later told reporters that the mine “will create tens of thousands of jobs,” adding, “Plainly, there is a huge economic benefit from a big project of this kind, assuming it’s built and it proceeds.”

If Adani and other mines in the Galilee Basin go ahead and reach maximum production, coal from the region would release as much as 700 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, or nearly as much as Germany generates in emissions, according to a study by Greenpeace.
- https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/14/world/australia/australia-adani-carmichael-coal-mine.html

After declaring that “climate change is an issue determining our destiny as mankind,” Ms. Merkel acknowledged that Germany was likely to miss the goals it had set itself for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 because of its continued reliance on coal power. ...
... the European Union... is currently on pace to fall short of its 2030 emissions goals.... ...
... the world’s nations are still failing to prevent drastic global warming in the decades ahead. ...
... industrial emissions of greenhouse gases have not yet peaked — instead, they are likely to rise again in 2017, driven in part by a rebound in coal use in China.
- BRAD PLUMER, At Bonn Climate Talks, Stakes Get Higher in Gamble on Planet’s Future, NYT, NOV. 18, 2017

Twenty-five years ago this month, more than 1,500 prominent scientists, including over half of the living Nobel laureates, issued a manifesto titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” in which they admonished, “A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.” ...
This month a new coalition of scientists, led by researchers at Oregon State University, published a new warning: “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.” ...
“Soon,” they write, “it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.” Over 15,000 scientists have signed the new call to action....
- ANTHONY DOERR, Anthony Doerr: We Were Warned, NYT, NOV. 18, 2017

To stay below 2 degrees Celsius of warming, global emissions would likely have to peak in the next few years and then be cut by half every decade all the way down to zero by midcentury.
- BRAD PLUMER, At Bonn Climate Talks, Stakes Get Higher in Gamble on Planet’s Future, NYT, NOV. 18, 2017

Opening the remote Arctic refuge to oil and gas drilling is a longtime Republican priority....
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and other Republicans say drilling can be done safely with new technology, while ensuring a steady energy supply for West Coast refineries.

Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said opening the refuge to drilling is "the single-most important step we can take to strengthen our long-term energy security and create new wealth."
- THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Tax Bill Boosts Oil, Gas Drilling _ and Renewable Energy, DEC. 16, 2017

Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, won a decades-long battle on Wednesday to open part of an Arctic wildlife reserve in her state to oil and gas drilling....
- REUTERS, Fight Over Alaska Arctic Drilling Has Just Begun, Opponents Vow, DEC. 20, 2017,

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