Our leaders are reckless fools

Another day, and another conference in which the participants accomplish nothing meaningful:

The United Nations climate conference ambled toward a conclusion on Friday, with delegates saying that the meeting would produce no more than a modest set of measures toward a new international agreement two years from now. As usual, the biggest dispute was over money.

The talks, the 19th annual meeting of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, opened nearly two weeks ago in the shadow of a devastating typhoon in the Philippines. The disaster added momentum to a proposal by poorer nations for the creation of a new mechanism to compensate developing countries for damage from climate-related disasters.

With the clock winding down and the talks likely to extend into Friday night, the so-called loss-and-damage proposal remained alive. But the wealthy countries that would presumably provide financing for the plan were offering a weaker alternative that would wrap it into an existing area of the climate treaty.

The dangerous and thus compelling problem we face is, of course, reducing greenhouse gas emissions around the world, not compensating some of the billions who will become victims of the growing climate chaos. But why would the 1% and their retainers work towards reducing global temperatures when going with the flow of history is much less taxing.

A bit more than 25 years has passed since James Hansen testified before Congress. What remains to be done? Everything?

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.