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Hullabaloo


Friday, January 11, 2013

 
It's only the biggest issue facing humanity. No worries.

by David Atkins

Dave Roberts has yet another timely reminder about just how high are the stakes of climate change:

So in the name of getting our bearings, let’s review a few things we know.

We know we’ve raised global average temperatures around 0.8 degrees C so far. We know that 2 degrees C is where most scientists predict catastrophic and irreversible impacts. And we know that we are currently on a trajectory that will push temperatures up 4 degrees or more by the end of the century.

We know we’ve raised global average temperatures around 0.8 degrees C so far. We know that 2 degrees C is where most scientists predict catastrophic and irreversible impacts. And we know that we are currently on a trajectory that will push temperatures up 4 degrees or more by the end of the century...

Warming to 4 degrees would also lead to “an increase of about 150 percent in acidity of the ocean,” leading to levels of acidity “unparalleled in Earth’s history...”

It will also “likely lead to a sea-level rise of 0.5 to 1 meter, and possibly more, by 2100, with several meters more to be realized in the coming centuries.” That rise won’t be spread evenly, even within regions and countries — regions close to the equator will see even higher seas.

There are also indications that it would “significantly exacerbate existing water scarcity in many regions, particularly northern and eastern Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, while additional countries in Africa would be newly confronted with water scarcity on a national scale due to population growth.”
After mentions of increasing extreme weather events, major loss of crop yields and dramatic reduction in biodiversity (read: millions of species going extinct), he concludes:

All this will add up to “large-scale displacement of populations and have adverse consequences for human security and economic and trade systems.” Given the uncertainties and long-tail risks involved, “there is no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible.” There’s a small but non-trivial chance of advanced civilization breaking down entirely.

Now ponder the fact that some scenarios show us going up to 6 degrees by the end of the century, a level of devastation we have not studied and barely know how to conceive. Ponder the fact that somewhere along the line, though we don’t know exactly where, enough self-reinforcing feedback loops will be running to make climate change unstoppable and irreversible for centuries to come. That would mean handing our grandchildren and their grandchildren not only a burned, chaotic, denuded world, but a world that is inexorably more inhospitable with every passing decade.

Take all that in, sit with it for a while, and then tell me what it could mean to be an “alarmist” in this context. What level of alarm is adequate?
And yet the Very Serious People spend their days desperately worrying about whether billionaires have enough tax cuts to give a few more people minimum wage jobs, which genetic tribe of desert nomads should control some scrap of desert somewhere, and how best to overcome silly liberal resistance to burning all that glorious carbon in the Canadian tar sands so we can "add jobs" without driving up that pesky deficit.

Pitiful. As a general rule, the more seriously a pundit is taken by the traditional press in America, the more frivolous are the issues and positions they care about.


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