Lead author of oct 2018 IPCC report says it's time to panic

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beneficii
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27 Nov 2019, 7:00 pm

A lead author of the October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, Raymond Pierrehumbert, says it's time to panic. In an editorial he wrote back in September, he said that there is a hard limit on the total amount of carbon dioxide humanity can produce before adverse consequences begin. The reason for this is that carbon dioxide once released into the atmosphere and oceans, tends to linger for hundreds of thousands of years (emphasis in original):

Quote:
Let’s get this on the table right away, without mincing words. With regard to the climate crisis, yes, it’s time to panic.

We are in deep trouble.

To understand why, it is necessary to understand something about carbon budgets.

Some of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activities such as fossil fuel burning is quickly taken up by the upper ocean and land ecosystems. Some of the rest is slowly absorbed into the deep ocean over the next millennium. However, a lot remains in the atmosphere, and it is only slowly removed by geological processes that take hundreds of thousands of years. Consequently, carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere throughout the lifetime of the fossil-fueled economy, and it will not drop much even after we finally kick the carbon habit and cease our carbon dioxide emissions.

The situation is analogous to mercury accumulating throughout the lifetime of long-lived fish and the humans who eat them: It is cumulative exposure rather than the rate of exposure in any given year that determines the harm. Consequently, the longer the exposure persists, the closer one approaches a deadly accumulation.

So too with climate. Unlike conventional forms of pollution like those causing smog, which depend on local emission rates over the past week or so, the harm done to the climate by carbon dioxide emissions is determined by the cumulative emissions over spans of time measured in millennia. Since cumulative emissions by definition only go up, not down, the harm done by carbon dioxide emissions is, in effect, irreversible on time scales of importance to human societies. A corollary is that in order to halt global warming, it is necessary to bring net carbon dioxide emissions by the world economy to zero. There is no so-called “safe” level of carbon dioxide emissions. As long as we continue emitting any carbon dioxide, the world will continue to warm.

Barring technological breakthroughs allowing for the active removal of massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the cumulative carbon we emit will determine the climate our descendants will have to cope with for at least the next 10,000 years, and probably much longer. Some calculations illustrating this point are detailed in a Nature article I was involved in, along with a cast of dozens.


http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/opinion/r ... no-plan-b/

Here is the Nature article he was involved in:

https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimat ... form=oscar

He mentions how government policy thus far has been highly inadequate:

Quote:
The upshot is that the total cumulative carbon allocation for humanity compatible with a 50–50 chance of keeping global warming under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is, in round numbers, a trillion tonnes.

That’s it.

Forever.

And of that trillion tonnes, we have already used up over 630 billion tonnes, leaving just 370 billion tonnes to go.

That might seem like a lot of tonnes, but at current emissions rate, we’d get there in just 37 years, or 2057. Up until 2016, there was reason to hope that perhaps the world emission rate had stopped growing and had leveled off; if the emission rate held steady at that level out to 2030, and thereafter trended linearly to zero by 2080, then with the help of the Paris climate accords we would have decarbonized without exceeding the trillion-tonne budget.

Sadly, those hopes have proved forlorn. While it is hazardous to draw conclusions about trends from just a few years of data, our recent carbon dioxide emissions record is gloomy; we are still on track for a perilous exponential growth rate. World emissions rose 1.5 percent in 2017, and an estimated 2.7 percent in 2018. For a time, US emissions continued to decline modestly despite the Trump administration’s environmental vandalism; the inexorable forces of the market meant that aging coal-fired power plants continued to be replaced by cheaper, cleaner, newer, and more efficient plants powered by natural gas and renewables. But growing carbon dioxide emissions due to industry and transportation have more than offset this progress, leading to an estimated 3.4 percent growth in US emissions in 2018. Chinese emissions went up nearly 2 percent in 2017 and 4.7 percent in 2018 – even while China put into place aggressive domestic energy policies in the past few years which may, eventually, bring down their national emissions. In addition, their “Belt and Road” – involving the creation of a vast, $1.3 trillion network of railways, energy pipelines, power plants, highways, and border crossings that seeks to create a China-led trading bloc involving two-thirds of the world’s population – is also funding a great deal of harmful fossil-fuel development, including $20 billion in funding for coal plants around the world.

Even in the European Union, which has expressed a strong commitment to decarbonization, emissions were up 1.8 percent in 2017. and down 2.5 percent in 2018, resulting in little progress toward decarbonization. Every year that passes where emissions fail to decrease puts the goal of staying under a trillion tonnes farther out of reach.

With continued 2.5 percent compound growth, we hit our trillion-tonne limit in under 27 years. And if the trend continues beyond that time, the dark magic of exponential growth brings our planet to two trillion tonnes in 50 years (4 degrees Celsius of warming, or 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) and three trillion tonnes (6 degrees Celsius warming, or roughly 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) just 86 years from now. Just 2 degrees Celsius of warming would have been bad enough; 4 degrees Celsius of global warming would be “cataclysmic,” said a report by the World Bank – hardly a bunch of radical environmentalists. The impacts are familiar: increased forest fires, drought in some places but deluges in others, loss of Arctic sea ice, increase in deadly heat waves, increased food insecurity, sea level rise, and biodiversity loss, among many other impacts – and we know for certain that the hotter it gets, the worse it gets.

And land warms more than the global average, and Arctic warming is even more amplified than land warming. An additional consideration is that there’s a 50–50 chance that the warming is worse than these mid-range forecasts, perhaps much worse. Heat stress could make half the planet uninhabitable for mammals outdoors.


He acknowledges there is quite a bit of confusion over this, even critiquing AOC's claims (but hardly blaming her for it):

Quote:
This has led to headlines such as “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe” in The Guardian. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), in launching her largely worthy version of the Green New Deal, incorrectly stated that human-caused climate change will “destroy the planet” if action is not taken within 12 years – symptomatic of the misperception of the situation in many quarters. Statements like this fail to recognize the meaning of a warming target such as 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2 degrees Celsius.

Instead, such targets are just guideposts as to how bad things get for various levels of warming. A 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer world is going to be pretty bad – but it is distinctly better than a 2 degree Celsius warmer world.


He says that reflecting sunlight away is nonsensical, because the carbon lingers for a long time, while the aerosols that block out the sun will fall within a few years--requiring maintenance of the aerosol production. Thus, he says, it cannot be used as a substitute for decarbonization:

Quote:
Albedo hacking has been touted as a sort of Plan B to make up for the world’s failure to make a responsible start on decarbonization of the economy. This is the scenario envisioned in an editorial by the noted atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen in 2006, and it has tended to dominate the perception of the role of albedo hacking ever since.

But of all the possible scenarios in which albedo hacking would be deployed, using it to make up for a failure to decarbonize is the most nonsensical. Carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere, but stratospheric aerosols do not. Therefore, albedo hacking as a response to failure to decarbonize requires injecting ever-increasing amounts of chemicals into the stratosphere, up to the point where the physical limits of the technique are reached or unanticipated adverse consequences become unbearable.

The excess carbon dioxide that human activities inject into the atmosphere has a warming effect that extends essentially forever, whereas the stratospheric aerosols meant to offset that warming fall out of the atmosphere in about a year. It’s just a matter of gravity – stuff denser than its surroundings falls – aided a bit by atmospheric circulations that enhance the removal. This is why the cooling effects of even a major volcanic eruption like Pinatubo dissipate after two years or so. Hence, whatever level of albedo hacking is needed to avoid a dangerous level of warming must be continued essentially forever.

Otherwise, an abrupt termination would catastrophically unleash pent-up warming in a matter of a few years – a snapback known as Termination Shock – and the magnitude of this potential climate shock would increase, the longer that albedo hacking is used to offset our failure to decarbonize. Deployment of albedo hacking does not in any way “buy time” to get carbon dioxide emissions under control, since once emitted, carbon dioxide cannot to any significant extent be unemitted with known economically feasible technology; if albedo modification becomes necessary, it must be maintained essentially forever. The problematic need to continue albedo hacking essentially forever, if it becomes necessary at all, is called the problem of Millennial Commitment.


There is so so much more in this article than what I've quoted.

So I think this is a highly informative article, and that it should have received far more coverage than it did. His main point is that we need to seriously cut down on our emissions of carbon dioxide and aim for zero carbon emissions.


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Last edited by beneficii on 27 Nov 2019, 8:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Magna
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27 Nov 2019, 7:55 pm

I'm not going panic. Actually, I try everything within my power to live out my life with as little fear as possible. I do, however, respect other people's desire to do otherwise. If someone were to say: "I choose to live my life in constant fear and panic.", I wouldn't judge.

The older I get the more I realize how unbelievably short a typical human lifetime actually is.


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shlaifu
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27 Nov 2019, 8:59 pm

Magna wrote:
I'm not going panic. Actually, I try everything within my power to live out my life with as little fear as possible. I do, however, respect other people's desire to do otherwise. If someone were to say: "I choose to live my life in constant fear and panic.", I wouldn't judge.

The older I get the more I realize how unbelievably short a typical human lifetime actually is.


It feels short, but actually the rate of change in our times is massive. Except, our pop-culture makes it feel like nothing is happening.
Climate change denial has been a fixed thing throughout my entire life. And I'm guessing it'll stay tgat way for a few more yeras, and then there's going to be a wartime-like effort to save the northern hemisphere.
The rest might not fare so well.


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28 Nov 2019, 12:10 am

shlaifu wrote:
Magna wrote:
I'm not going panic. Actually, I try everything within my power to live out my life with as little fear as possible. I do, however, respect other people's desire to do otherwise. If someone were to say: "I choose to live my life in constant fear and panic.", I wouldn't judge.

The older I get the more I realize how unbelievably short a typical human lifetime actually is.


It feels short, but actually the rate of change in our times is massive. Except, our pop-culture makes it feel like nothing is happening.
Climate change denial has been a fixed thing throughout my entire life. And I'm guessing it'll stay tgat way for a few more yeras, and then there's going to be a wartime-like effort to save the northern hemisphere.
The rest might not fare so well.


80 years, give or take, is the blink of an eye in regard to time. I don't mean in regard to climate change. I mean in regard to the life of a human being. A person's life is very short. Live it how you choose to live it.


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beneficii
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29 Nov 2019, 6:03 am

shlaifu wrote:
Magna wrote:
I'm not going panic. Actually, I try everything within my power to live out my life with as little fear as possible. I do, however, respect other people's desire to do otherwise. If someone were to say: "I choose to live my life in constant fear and panic.", I wouldn't judge.

The older I get the more I realize how unbelievably short a typical human lifetime actually is.


It feels short, but actually the rate of change in our times is massive. Except, our pop-culture makes it feel like nothing is happening.
Climate change denial has been a fixed thing throughout my entire life. And I'm guessing it'll stay tgat way for a few more yeras, and then there's going to be a wartime-like effort to save the northern hemisphere.
The rest might not fare so well.


Yeah, we're going to need that kind of society-wide and economy-wide mobilization.

There is this article from CNN, which mentions how we're moving toward a "global tipping point":

https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/28/health/c ... index.html

Summarizing it, it looks like a lot of carbon and methane (which is even stronger than carbon as a greenhouse gas, though it's less persistent) is stored under permafrost, which is frost in the polar regions that tends to stay frozen even during summer. If the earth continues to warm, the permafrost will begin to melt and release the carbon and methane. The release of this carbon and methane would warm the earth even more, creating a feedback loop that results in more melting of permafrost releasing carbon and methane, and the cycle would continue. Scientists initially thought the tipping point wouldn't come until temperatures reached 5 degrees Celsius or more than the preindustrial age, but now they're thinking it would come between 1 and 2 degrees (with current warming being about 1 degree). These "hothouse" conditions would make some areas of the earth uninhabitable.

So I think it's crucial that we address this soon.


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30 Nov 2019, 10:23 pm

Scientists warn of 9 tipping points and come up with a way to measure risk:

Quote:
Tipping point risks are now much higher than earlier estimates, while urgency relates to how fast it takes to act to reduce risk.

Exiting the fossil fuel economy is unlikely before 2050, but with temperature already at 1.1°C above pre-industrial temperature, it is likely Earth will cross the 1.5°C guardrail by 2040. The authors conclude this alone defines an emergency.

Nine active tipping points:

Arctic sea ice
Greenland ice sheet
Boreal forests
Permafrost
Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation
Amazon rainforest
Warm-water corals
West Antarctic Ice Sheet
Parts of East Antarctica
The collapse of major ice sheets on Greenland, West Antarctica and part of East Antarctica would commit the world to around 10 meters of irreversible sea-level rise.

Reducing emissions could slow this process, allowing more time for low-lying populations to move.

The rainforests, permafrost, and boreal forests are examples of biosphere tipping points that if crossed result in the release of additional greenhouse gases amplifying warming.

“Scientifically, this provides strong evidence for declaring a state of planetary emergency.” — Johan Rockström

Despite most countries having signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to keep global warming well below 2°C, current national emissions pledges — even if they are met — would lead to 3°C of warming.

Although future tipping points and the interplay between them is difficult to predict, the scientists argue: “If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilization.

“No amount of economic cost-benefit analysis is going to help us. We need to change our approach to the climate problem.”


https://scitechdaily.com/scientists-war ... ilization/


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30 Nov 2019, 10:51 pm

Adverse consequences are already beginning.



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01 Dec 2019, 12:51 am

Not sure if anyone has been keeping track of the news but the latest research suggest we are past the tipping point
https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/28/heal ... index.html

In effect this means that ecological collapse is inevitable, taking action on climate will delay the time and magnitude of the collapse but not the eventual outcome.

We may be living in the end of time for our species and yet people are more concerned about how they look on instagram.

We reap what we sow....



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01 Dec 2019, 12:58 am

cyberdad wrote:
Not sure if anyone has been keeping track of the news but the latest research suggest we are past the tipping point
https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/28/heal ... index.html

In effect this means that ecological collapse is inevitable, taking action on climate will delay the time and magnitude of the collapse but not the eventual outcome.

We may be living in the end of time for our species and yet people are more concerned about how they look on instagram.

We reap what we sow....


If it's true that we're past the tipping point and the effects are literally irreversible and the extinction of our species is literally assured to happen sooner than later, what do you propose we do?


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01 Dec 2019, 1:06 am

Magna wrote:
cyberdad wrote:
Not sure if anyone has been keeping track of the news but the latest research suggest we are past the tipping point
https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/28/heal ... index.html

In effect this means that ecological collapse is inevitable, taking action on climate will delay the time and magnitude of the collapse but not the eventual outcome.

We may be living in the end of time for our species and yet people are more concerned about how they look on instagram.

We reap what we sow....


If it's true that we're past the tipping point and the effects are literally irreversible and the extinction of our species is literally assured to happen sooner than later, what do you propose we do?


If you are in a sinking boat you keep trying to bail out water to stay afloat...we need to keep working on solutions to sequester carbon and reduce emissions. I for one am planning to work on reducing my consumption....



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01 Dec 2019, 1:11 am

If you're in a sinking boat and you bail the water out, the boat stays afloat and doesn't sink.

You're saying that it's not a sinking boat we're on, it's an airplane that's falling from the sky. You're saying according to someone's opinion it's irreversible (falling airplane). What do passengers in a falling airplane do?


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01 Dec 2019, 2:18 am

The previous metaphor was to say that the boat has a hole that's letting in water and will eventually sink...bailing water out slows down the sinking but it's too late to stop sinking altogether....

Nothing slows down a falling plane



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01 Dec 2019, 9:37 am

The that person's opinion is in fact correct, that human extinction due to man made climate change is inevitable, then do you mean our current generation should focus all attention on "bailing out the boat" to delay extinction?

If humans were surrounded by rapidly multiplying feral creatures that only ate human babies and were impossible to kill (ie assuring the doom of the human race), would the best protocol be to spend all effort on trying, ineffectively, to beat back the creatures to buy the next generation a bit more time before being eaten or...not have babies?

Or, if our doom is in fact now secured and irreversible, what about not "doing" anything?


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01 Dec 2019, 12:58 pm

Magna wrote:
The that person's opinion is in fact correct, that human extinction due to man made climate change is inevitable, then do you mean our current generation should focus all attention on "bailing out the boat" to delay extinction?

If humans were surrounded by rapidly multiplying feral creatures that only ate human babies and were impossible to kill (ie assuring the doom of the human race), would the best protocol be to spend all effort on trying, ineffectively, to beat back the creatures to buy the next generation a bit more time before being eaten or...not have babies?

Or, if our doom is in fact now secured and irreversible, what about not "doing" anything?


But we don't know if it is "secured and irreversible". We need to do as much as we can, because with that at least we have a chance.

Actually, what you're doing here is itself a form of denialism, and one practiced even by the Trump Administration, that says eh, it's too late anyway, so let's just crank out the carbon like there's no tomorrow! Of all the positions to take on the climate crisis, this is the most pathetic and self-defeating.


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01 Dec 2019, 1:15 pm

beneficii wrote:
Magna wrote:
The that person's opinion is in fact correct, that human extinction due to man made climate change is inevitable, then do you mean our current generation should focus all attention on "bailing out the boat" to delay extinction?

If humans were surrounded by rapidly multiplying feral creatures that only ate human babies and were impossible to kill (ie assuring the doom of the human race), would the best protocol be to spend all effort on trying, ineffectively, to beat back the creatures to buy the next generation a bit more time before being eaten or...not have babies?

Or, if our doom is in fact now secured and irreversible, what about not "doing" anything?


But we don't know if it is "secured and irreversible". We need to do as much as we can, because with that at least we have a chance.

Actually, what you're doing here is itself a form of denialism, and one practiced even by the Trump Administration, that says eh, it's too late anyway, so let's just crank out the carbon like there's no tomorrow! Of all the positions to take on the climate crisis, this is the most pathetic and self-defeating.


I want to start seeing people who are utterly devoted to saving the planet for the benefit of future generations focus equally on helping those that are suffering right now from war, famine, poverty, abuse, etc. It's hard for me to see so many people beat the doomsday drum incessantly but not talk about personally helping people right now that are suffering in the world and even in each person's communities, neighborhoods, etc.

I picture a dying supine beggar weakly lifting his quivering outstretched hand toward a passerby asking the passerby for help. The passerby is holding a sign that says: "Save the planet for future generations!" and walks around the beggar ignoring him as the beggar takes his last breath.


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