Peter Sinclair on Climate Chage and Deniers

Quote of the day

Renfrey Clarke wrote:

If the limits for adaptation to climate change of natural systems are crossed, ecosystems must soon collapse. If modern industrial capitalism were a person, he or she would be on suicide watch.

The system that has brought us quantum physics and reality television, modern medicine and the columns of Andrew Bolt is set on a course which, by all the best reckoning, points directly to its doing itself in.

If capitalism goes on — everything goes. Climate, coastlines, most living species, food supplies, the great bulk of humanity. And certainly, the preconditions for advanced civilisation, perhaps forever.

Moreover, we’re not just talking risk, in the sense of an off-chance. These are the most likely outcomes for capitalism’s current policies and performance in the area of climate change.

Having read Clarke’s article, one might conclude that the author merely made hyperbolic claims in order to serve a survivalist position. That assessment presumes that any prediction of a global ecological catastrophe — and a great extinction — overstates the case. Does it? I think not. Radical action is needed, but such action is rarely on the agenda. Rather, more of the same defines our age. This is why revolution today entails pulling hard on the emergency break (Walter Benjamin) while hoping against hope that we engaged the emergency break in time.


John Oliver lampoons ‘fair and balanced’ journalism

Quote of the day

Mark Fischetti of Scientific American addressed the question of the hour:

If you’ve followed the U.S. news and weather in the past 24 hours you have no doubt run across a journalist or blogger explaining why it’s difficult to say that climate change could be causing big storms like Sandy. Well, no doubt here: it is.

The hedge expressed by journalists is that many variables go into creating a big storm, so the size of Hurricane Sandy, or any specific storm, cannot be attributed to climate change. That’s true, and it’s based on good science. However, that statement does not mean that we cannot say that climate change is making storms bigger. It is doing just that — a statement also based on good science, and one that the insurance industry is embracing, by the way.

Drill, baby, drill….

A once-in-a-generation storm

Avenue C in Lower Manhattan

This was a claim made by the New York Times. I suspect the writers and editors were befuddled by wishful thinking. The reason, of course, is the existence of global warming. Storms of this kind and magnitude may become common events as the globe stores greater and greater amounts of energy. We can expect longstanding weather patterns to pass away along with a greater and greater number of extreme weather events.

Drill, baby, drill….

Progress in enlightenment comes slowly

According to a new Pew Research Center study, a strong majority of Americans are once again willing to consider the reality of global warming. Unfortunately fewer Americans are willing to attribute recent warming trends to human activities.

Republicans are the laggards in this matter, as any sentient person would expect:

Americans also misjudge the degree of consensus among scientists over the global warming hypothesis.

Climate scientists have achieved a remarkably strong consensus (.pdf) on the reality and causes of global warming.

Quote of the day

A beleaguered Kathy Deacon looks forward, not backward:

So I suppose I’ll get used to the mysterious noise, just as I’ve adapted to everything else — the odors from old Exxon MTBE spills, the onslaught of drunken yachters whose number seems to multiply exponentially each year — and struggling to breathe from time to time. I guess it’s no big deal in the scheme of things. Maybe these troubles are all a bit quaint and nostalgic anyway — even petty, as my friend here seems to think. The world we know is getting fairly uncomfortable and may be at the dawn of something really bad, runaway global warming — with a hundred million or so dead by 2030, according to informed reports — will we just have to get used to that?

Yes, I do believe we’ll adapt to the horrific death tolls now sitting on the horizon line — we’ll adapt if we’re among the lucky ones who actually survive the holocaust. What choice would the living have save for suicide? We’re programmed to carry on. We’ve survived volcanic supereruptions, ebbing and flowing ice ages, modern warfare and much else. Our existence is and always was improbable, so too our continued existence. We can thank the Industrial Revolution for our probable demise, a cause greatly strengthened by our inability to recognize in a meaningful way our common humanity and our true place in nature.

Ostriches lead us to our doom

While a global catastrophe looms before us, one symbolically presented to us by the melting of the Arctic ice, George Monbiot exclaimed:

Our governments do nothing [about global warming and its causes]. Having abandoned any pretence of responding to the environmental crisis during the earth summit in June, now they stare stupidly as the ice on which we stand dissolves. Nothing — or worse than nothing. Their one unequivocal response to the melting has been to facilitate the capture of the oil and fish it exposes.

The companies which caused this disaster are scrambling to profit from it. On Sunday, Shell requested an extension to its exploratory drilling period in the Chukchi Sea, off the north-west coast of Alaska. This would push its operations hard against the moment when the ice re-forms and any spills they cause are locked in. The Russian oil company Gazprom is using the great melt to try to drill in the Pechora Sea, north-east of Murmansk. After turning its Arctic lands in the Komi Republic into the Niger Delta of the north (repeated oil spills are left unremediated in the tundra), Russia wants to extend this industry into one of the world’s most fragile ecosystems, where ice, storms and darkness make decontamination almost impossible.

Drill baby, drill….

Consider Corn

You don’t, do you. Well, you should because corn is a component of ethanol and meat production. People eat it too. Corn prices have risen a bit over the last month because the drought of 2012 has punished America’s corn producing states. Thus:

A wise person will adjust her personal spending habits to account for this problem.

Apocalypse now

In a recently published monograph (.pdf), James E. Hansen and Makiko Sato began by stating that:

We conclude that Earth in the warmest interglacial periods of the past million years was less than 1°C warmer than in the Holocene. Polar warmth in these interglacials and in the Pliocene does not imply that a substantial cushion remains between today’s climate and dangerous warming, but rather that Earth is poised to experience strong amplifying polar feedbacks in response to moderate global warming. Thus goals to limit human-made warming to 2°C are not sufficient — they are prescriptions for disaster. Ice sheet disintegration is nonlinear, spurred by amplifying feedbacks. We suggest that ice sheet mass loss, if warming continues unabated, will be characterized better by a doubling time for mass loss rate than by a linear trend. Satellite gravity data, though too brief to be conclusive, are consistent with a doubling time of 10 years or less, implying the possibility of multi-meter sea level rise this century. Observed accelerating ice sheet mass loss supports our conclusion that Earth’s temperature now exceeds the mean Holocene value. Rapid reduction of fossil fuel emissions is required for humanity to succeed in preserving a planet resembling the one on which civilization developed [citations added].

Hansen and Sato support their conclusion with statistical data, not the products of a climate model. I want to point this out although no one should infer from my remark a rejection of climate modeling (as if I or most critics were competent to make that judgment). The point I want to make is a simple one which an outsider like me can make without fear: The critics of the anthropocentric thesis cannot rely upon their reservations about climate modeling which criticizing the defenders of the anthropocentric cause thesis. The climate change controversy is, of course, is an effect of a red herring strategy. Eventually, we may expect this strategy to give way to a use of the idiot defense: “We did and could not have known that we were causing the apocalypse.”

But we do know.