Sea ice is thinner and more fragile, fires scorching northern forests and tundra are sending plumes of soot into the atmosphere, and wild weather might persist in the Arctic and beyond, according to the seventh annual Arctic Report Card, presented Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report, which updates interlinking factors rapidly changing the Arctic environment, was presented at the American Geophysical Unions fall meeting in San Francisco.
Today, in 2013, we face an unavoidably radical future. We either continue with rising emissions and reap the radical repercussions of severe climate change, or we acknowledge that we have a choice and pursue radical emission reductions: No longer is there a non-radical option. Moreover, low-carbon supply technologies cannot deliver the necessary rate of emission reductions -- they need to be complemented with rapid, deep and early reductions in energy consumption -- the rationale for this conference.
It’s wrong to think that we can campaign to stop climate change in the same way we might campaign to end a war. All the evidence says we are well past that stage now. That is, even if by some impossible, magical course of events all carbon pollution on Earth was stopped tomorrow, we’d still be in really, really deep trouble. So many greenhouse gases have been pumped into the Earth’s atmosphere that we have rushed far past the safe upper limit — the famous 350 parts per million of CO2, the number that climate action group 350.org took for its name.
Australia must drastically increase its emissions reduction target to 40% by 2020 to avoid “almost unimaginable social, economic and ecological consequences” from climate change, a new book penned by leading scientists and economists, including Ross Garnaut, has warned. The book, Four Degrees of Global Warming: Australia in a Hot World, sets out a series of stark scenarios facing the country should global temperatures rise by 4C above the pre-industrial average.
Humankind’s greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address. By the late 1980s, when it became clear that manmade climate change endangered the living planet and its people, the world was in the grip of an extreme political doctrine, whose tenets forbid the kind of intervention required to arrest it. Neoliberalism, also known as market fundamentalism or laissez-faire economics, purports to liberate the market from political interference.
Ever since the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, world leaders have agreed on 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) as the maximum acceptable global warming above preindustrial levels to avert the worst impacts of climate change (today we're at about 0.8 degrees C). But a new study, led by climatologist James Hansen of Columbia University, argues that pollution plans aimed at that target would still result in "disastrous consequences," from rampant sea level rise to widespread extinction.
Hang on. Get Ready. Those are at least two of the takeaways from a new report released by scientists in the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday which says the sudden impacts of climate change this century and beyond are inevitable but warn that far too little has been done to prepare for them. "If you think about gradual change, you can see where the road is and where you're going. With abrupt changes and effects, the road suddenly drops out from under you." –Prof. Tony Barnosky.
National Academy of Sciences, N.A.S., December 4, 2013
Both abrupt changes in the physical climate system and steady changes in climate that can trigger abrupt changes in other physical, biological, and human systems present possible threats to nature and society. Abrupt change is already underway in some systems, and large scientific uncertainties about the likelihood of other abrupt changes highlight the need for further research. However, with recent advances in understanding of the climate system, some potential abrupt changes once thought to be imminent threats are now considered unlikely to occur this century.
Governments have set the wrong target to limit climate change. The goal at present – to limit global warming to a maximum of 2°C higher than the average for most of human history – “would have consequences that can be described as disastrous”, say 18 scientists in a review paper in the journal PLOS One. With a 2°C increase, “sea level rise of several meters could be expected,” they say. Increased climate extremes, already apparent at 0.8°C warming, would be more severe.
If you’re already in your mid-50s or later, and you’re lucky enough not to reside in any areas that are traditionally prone to hurricanes or flooding, you’ll miss the worst of our imminent destruction. But for those of us who are younger residents of this fragile orb, who hope to live long, healthy, happy lives — well, tough shit.