Friday, January 11, 2019

So, Anything New To Report?

Well, the world becomes harder to understand. Despite my many years on this earth, the irrationality of humans is still the thing that most perplexes me. Despite the fact that it is much later than we like to think, we are still partying like it is the 1950's. And payment is coming due.

Kendra Pierre-Louis reports that the world's oceans are warming 40% faster than had been previously estimated:
“2018 is going to be the warmest year on record for the Earth’s oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, an energy systems analyst at the independent climate research group Berkeley Earth and an author of the study. “As 2017 was the warmest year, and 2016 was the warmest year.”
The fact that the oceans are absorbing so much heat means that surface temperatures are not nearly as high as they would be without this buffer. However, there is a massive downside to this reprieve:
... the surging water temperatures are already killing off marine ecosystems, raising sea levels and making hurricanes more destructive.

As the oceans continue to heat up, those effects will become more catastrophic, scientists say. Rainier, more powerful storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 will become more common, and coastlines around the world will flood more frequently. Coral reefs, whose fish populations are sources of food for hundreds of millions of people, will come under increasing stress; a fifth of all corals have already died in the past three years.
An additional effect is rising sea levels.
As the oceans heat up, sea levels rise because warmer water takes up more space than colder water. In fact, most of the sea level rise observed to date is because of this warming effect, not melting ice caps.

The warming alone would cause sea levels to rise by about a foot by 2100, and the ice caps would contribute more. That could exacerbate damages from severe coastal flooding and storm surge.
Some of the worst effects of climate change were once thought to be waiting until 2050 and beyond, a measure of time people had a hard time getting agitated about. The fact that some of those worse effects are already being felt through more intense storms, hurricanes, wildfires, etc. should be sobering.

And yet we largely continue to ignore all of this, get outraged at the mere mention of piddling carbon taxes and felt massively aggrieved when people suggest moderation of our bloated, carbon-intensive lifestyles.

Can our species be saved or, more to the point perhaps, do we deserve any manner of salvation from what we have wrought?


  1. Dar Jamail, in his soon to be released book, put it this way: "...While western colonialist culture believes in “rights”, many indigenous cultures teach of “obligations” that we are born into: obligations to those who came before, to those who will come after, and to the Earth itself. When I orient myself around the question of what my obligations are, a deeper question immediately arises: from this moment on, knowing what is happening to the planet, to what do I devote my life?"

    A similar question is at the heart of the Dark Mountain community. How are we to live our lives going ahead? I've chosen to reduce the issue as much as possible. Instead of focusing on the miserable environment we bequeath to future generations, focus instead on how we can prevent it from being worse than it need be.

    That's where I fault our government(s), Lorne. They have their own scientists. They have full knowledge of what the future holds. They must be deemed to understand the consequences of flooding the world with high-carbon bitumen. It's akin to our shameful reluctance to ban asbestos exports many years after we banned the product from our own markets.

    1. I think that the void in real political leadership is at the heart of our failure to act, Mound. Were we to be mobilized, worldwide, into a fight to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, we could succeed. As it stands now, no one wants to make the kinds of sacrifices necessary if others are not sharing in that sacrifice. So it seems that the majority act only out of the worst kind of self-interest, an every man/woman for himself/herself mindset.

      That is not likely to change.

  2. This brings to mind Jared Diamond's book, "Collapse." The full title is "Collapse, How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail." It seems irrational that a society could simply choose to fail. Who wishes for their own ruin. It's more complex than that. Societies have a track record of choosing something that is quite rational in the short term even while aware that it means devastation in the long term. It's happened before. It is happening now. From an observer's perspective it's frightening, frustrating, infuriating to see it unfold but those who benefit from it don't see it the same way. Recall when Joe Oliver called environmental advocates "inimical" to Canada. Hostile, ill-disposed, malevolent. Enemies of the state?

    1. Essentially, then, history is repeating itself, Mound. What is it about our species that prevents us from seeing beyond the short-term?

  3. Western oligarchs are partying like it's 1950. Global GHG emissions continue to grow because the Men of Always pretend to reduce them in their own countries, while moving them to the unregulated East.

    Free-trade globalism creates an international deregulating race to the bottom. Because corporations capitalize on certain countries' comparative advantages: a) they don't care about the environment; b) they don't care about their own citizens.

    It's a Friedmanian crackpot idea that's meant to create cracks in the pot – so High Born moochers from around the world can suck all the capital leaking out.

    The only solution is fair managed trade with social and green tariffs. That way savage, nihilist oligarchs in the West and the East can no longer pull their weasel shell-games that put civilization and the biosphere at peril.

    If they move production out of the country to skirt regulations that protect workers and the environment, they get hit with social and green tariffs.

    For example, the EU controls half the West's market access. They could wave a magic wand and bring real change, real fast. Of course, the EU was created to empower oligarchs and trash European social democracy from above the fray. But if a movement brings it and the people vote for it, oligarchs get dethroned and the EU becomes something positive in the world.

    These tariffs are also a good way to maintain a Ricardian balance of trade. Today oligarchs from the undeveloping world run massive trade surpluses to get enormously wealthy – and powerful. Social and green tariffs force them to invest in their people and their infrastructure. (Force them to become heroes in their countries' histories!)

    This has been the progressive position for decades. Neocons and neoliberals, on the other hand, are dogs that eat the scraps that fall from their masters' table. Hence their Orwellian bent on 'progress' via Wild-West free-market globalism which has brought the exact opposite since Nixon went to China to put it all in motion.

    1. A very interesting commentary, Anon. I wonder, though, what the chances are of the EU oligarchs getting dethroned. While I know that Europeans are more progressive and aware in some ways, is there the critical mass to bring about the kind of revolutionary change the world so sorely needs?