Still Kidding Ourselves…

Why are we still kidding ourselves, or what’s worse, not even having an opinion or a care?

No matter what happens this month in Paris, we are not going to hold down global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.  There is zero possibility of that happening and, even if there were a slight possibility, we have no carbon budget (any amount of CO2 we can still safely emit) remaining to us.  We have used all calculated budgetary allowances up already due to 30 years of political stasis, backed by our own complacency.

We are already at a 1°C rise.  A year or so ago it was only 0.8°C.  So global temperature increase is speeding up, not reducing.  Consider that it has taken over 100 years to get to that 1°C rise but at current rates of increase it now needs only one or at most two decades for the next degree rise to occur.

Furthermore, a 2°C limit is not a safe level to aim for in any case.  It is on the border between the experience of dangerous and very dangerous conditions. A state of life that none of us alive at the time will enjoy, and yet the very best that we are prepared to plan for.


I want to include here a quote from this article, written over a year ago, just to give a clear picture of the futility of what is being considered at the current Paris talks:

“It is now clear that the incremental-adjustment 2°C strategy has run out of time, if for no other reason than the “budget” for burning more fossil fuels is now zero, yet the global economy is still deeply committed to their continuing widespread use.

We all wish the incremental-adjustment 2°C strategy had worked, but it hasn’t.  It has now expired as a practical plan.

We now have a choice to make: we can accept much higher levels of warming of 3–5°C that will catastrophically affect the world’s natural and human systems in a manner more forthright scientists say are incompatible with the maintenance of human civilisation; or we can conceive of a safe-climate emergency-action approach which would aim to reduce global warming back to the range of conditions experienced during the last 10,000 years, the period of human civilisation and fixed settlement.

This would involve fast and large emissions reduction through radical energy demand reductions, whilst a vast scaling-up of clean energy production was organised, together with the remaking of many of our essential systems such as transport and food production, with the target being zero net emissions. In addition, there would need to be a major commitment to atmospheric carbon dioxide drawdown measures.  This would need to be done at a speed and scale more akin to the “war economy”, where social and economic priority is given to what is perceived to be an overwhelming existential threat.

After 30 years of climate policy and action failure, we are in deep trouble and now have to throw everything we can muster at the climate challenge.  This will be demanding and disruptive, because there are no longer any non-radical, incremental paths available.”

Let me make it absolutely clear what will happen whether we do nothing, a little, or even enough to prevent the worst from occurring – If you are alive today and under 50 years of age, you are unlikely to live out your entire period of life expectancy.  Human civilisation will largely have ceased to exist other than for small rural groups of people struggling to live at subsistence levels, way before the end of this century is reached. (Why would doing enough to prevent the worst outcome result in the same thing as if we did nothing?  Because the ‘enough’ that would be necessary for us to do, would mean that we must voluntarily end our current civilisation and lifestyles, and live frugally.  Which would also result in a huge die-off of humanity, and also because we have at least 1.5°C of increase already built in to our climate systems resulting from our past indifference.)

For more, read this: It is a degree by degree description of what to expect.

It doesn’t really bother me personally, what is going to happen.  I have most likely less that two decades of life remaining to me.  I will only live to see the ‘very dangerous’ levels of climate mayhem.  You, on the other hand, especially if you are under 50, should be quaking in your boots at the prospect.  That may appear to be a rather blunt statement, but tippy-toeing around the subject for the last 30-40 years has gotten us nowhere, has it?

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