Mobilising to effect transformative climate change

There’s a new kid on the block in terms of climate activism – called The Climate Mobilization or TCM for short. Climate Code Red has reprinted a long and wordy post, The transformative power of climate truth. In fact they are dedicated to vigorous and direct action targeted at political candidates and politicians within the US context. Their raison d’etre is best stated on their Pledge to mobilize:

    1. Vote for candidates — on every electoral level — who have signed the Pledge to Mobilize over those who have not.

    2. Devote time, money, or both to elected officials and candidates who have signed the Pledge.

    3. Mobilize my skills, resources, and networks to spread the truth of climate change and the hope of this movement to others. When I spread the Pledge to Mobilize, I will do so with respect, truth, focus and courage.

    Thus I pledge to mobilize, in defense of civilization and the natural world.

There is a Blog – The Climate Mobilization and one of their founders, Margaret Klein Salamon, runs her own blog, The Climate Psychologist. They question whether climate activists have enough urgency, directness and ambition.

They say 350 ppm is not far enough. They quote James Hansen as saying that to restore summer ice in the Arctic we need CO2 levels of 300-325 ppm. For a safe climate Hans Joachim Schellnhuber says we may need to go back to 280 ppm.

They also believe two degrees is far too far. I’ve copied two sections below from their 52-page document The case for climate mobilization, which summarises our prospects at this juncture pretty well. For the sake of legibility I haven’t italicised.

Looming Threats between +0.85°C and +2°C Warming

  • Global warming of +1.5°C above pre-industrial levels will likely initiate a general melt of the land-based permafrost (frozen soils) in the Arctic regions — an event that could release hundreds of billions of tons of carbon over a period of hundreds of years, massively accelerating global warming. The land-based permafrost contains approximately 1.7 trillions of carbon, which is more than three times the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere through fossil fuel burning since the industrial revolution — roughly 500 billion tons. Much of the carbon is expected to be released in the form of methane — a short-lived, extremely potent greenhouse gas.
  • There is no conceivable way to return the carbon to the permafrost regions once it thaws. If we continue on our current emissions pathway, we will likely trigger the irreversible permafrost carbon warming feedback sometime between 2020 and 2030, when the global mean temperature is projected to increase +1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Warming of +1.6°C is likely to be enough to melt essentially all of the Greenland ice sheet, leading to a long-term 23 feet [7 metres] of sea-level rise, as well as the release of 8% of the world’s fresh water into the oceans, which could radically alter global ocean circulation patterns.
  • Researchers at the NASA Earth Observatory describe the impact of a Greenland ice sheet collapse this way: “Scientists estimate that if the entire ice sheet melted, sea level would rise 23 feet [7 metres]. Depending on how rapidly such a change occurred, it could be a global-scale catastrophe because nearly one-third of the world’s population lives in or near a coastal zone. The global impact of several billion refugees and the negative impacts on coastal economic activity would be staggering.”
  • Warming of +2°C would disrupt global agriculture and the global food supply, eliminating over 20 percent of U.S. corn, African corn, and Indian wheat yields. In Brazil, +2°C warming could cause a 50 percent decrease in wheat yields and a 70 percent decrease in in soybean yields. Warming between +1.5°C and +2°C could cause a 30 percent decline in total crop yields in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • The +2°C target is too high. It would likely cause a host of disasters, including a global food crisis, a major increase in international fresh water scarcity, and a long-term 82-foot [25 metre] sea level rise that would permanently inundate many of the world’s population centers, which have developed during a period of rare sea-level stability.

On Track to Exceed +2°C, Even if Global Emissions
Stopped Today.

  • Unfortunately, if greenhouse gas concentrations remain even at current levels for a long period of time, the earth will warm more than +2°C above preindustrial levels.
  • The earth’s growing energy imbalance is presently disguised by several factors, such as the effect of short-lived atmospheric aerosol particles, which are released into the atmosphere through human industrial, agricultural, transportation, and construction activities.Some aerosols, such as black carbon, have a short-term warming effect, while others, such as sulfates, have a short-term cooling effect.
  • Overall, aerosols are currently cooling the earth by approximately -1.2°C. Fossil fuel burning is the source of about 72% of sulfate aerosol emissions, the primary cause of the global cooling. The aerosol effect is known as “global dimming,” since growing cumulative aerosol emissions collectively reflect an increasing amount of sunlight back into space. The aerosols generally fall out of the atmosphere after about 10 days, but are continually replenished due to human activities.
  • In other words, fossil fuel burning is warming the earth through greenhouse gas emissions, but also masking a portion of the warming in the short-term through short-lived cooling aerosol emissions.
  • Apart from this temporary “global dimming” effect, there is also a 6.6 to 30.7-year lag between greenhouse gas emissions and the consequent maximum warming effect, as it takes a long time for the huge mass of the oceans to warm up. Approximately +0.6°C of warming is delayed due to this effect, which is known as “oceanic thermal inertia.”
  • If all greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions had been suddenly and completely curtailed in 2005, the earth would have eventually warmed about +2.4°C, according to a 2008 study published by Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan, director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. The study assumed that greenhouse gas concentrations remained at 2005 levels well into the future.
  • Humans have emitted record amounts of greenhouse gases since 2005. Failing a rapid, large-scale mitigation effort, the current concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is on track to eventually cause temperatures to increase approximately +2.65°C, once the net aerosol cooling effect (-1.2°C) wears off and the surface warming delayed by thermal inertia is realized (+0.6°C). This estimate is largely derived from an extrapolation of the calculations used in Ramanathan’s 2008 study.
  • Current atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations would cause enormous sea- level rise over a period of centuries. Between 3 and 3.5 million years ago, when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were very close to the current level, the sea level was 66-98 feet [20 to 30 metres] higher than it is now.
  • By the end of this century, sea levels could rise some 16 feet [5 metres], if we continue on a business-as-usual trajectory and sea level rise proceeds in a non-linear fashion, according to climate scientist James Hansen, the former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. More conservative projections suggest global sea levels are on track to rise between 2.6 and 6 feet [0.8 and 1.8 metres] by 2100.
  • According to climate scientist Michael Mann, the earth is on track to warm +2°C by 2036, failing a large-scale mitigation effort starting now.

End of quote.

I’d make two comments on the substance of their case. Firstly, if Greenland goes it doesn’t go separately. West Antarctica and part of East Antarctica go too (see Climate clippings 139, Item 1).

Secondly, they don’t mention that preserving more than 10 per cent of coral reefs worldwide would require limiting warming to below +1.5°C.

The message appears to be, stop, go back, we’ve already gone too far. The Climate Mobilization is neutral on nuclear energy, pro geoengineering, not against economic growth providing it is non-material, and looking at the very least at a more regulated form of capitalism. A direct, war-scale effort is required, they say, and along with Naomi Klein we have to be prepared to ‘change everything’.

They acknowledge a debt to two Australians, David Spratt and Philip Sutton, authors of the original book Climate Code Red published first in 2008.

See also:

The folly of two degrees

Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality

A failure of ambition: the UNEP Emissions Gap Report

8 thoughts on “Mobilising to effect transformative climate change”

  1. Brian: As you well know I believe that the the world needs the war against climate change (WACC) to save the world economy. Any environmental benefits will be a bonus.
    So I have to say that “The Climate Mobilization” looks like being a distraction. A distraction because the underlying message will come across that people who are already suffering because of world economic dysfunction will be expected to put up with even more suffering.
    Done well WACC will provide the economic stimulus that the world economy badly needs right now and, if financed appropriately will give us a world where energy is very, very cheap.
    Done poorly, WACC may be good for a few countries, add to the debt for the rest of the world and leave many countries with more expensive energy than we have now.
    We need to have a conversation about what done well and done poorly might mean in terms of WACC.

  2. The Case for Mobilization has this quote:

    The land-based permafrost contains approximately 1.7 trillions of carbon, which is more than three times the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere through fossil fuel burning since the industrial revolution — roughly 500 billion tons.

    I’ve just been looking at old methane stories and unearthed that in 2009 the amount of carbon emitted since industrialisation was 817 billion tonnes. I’ll do a post on methane soon. It may not be such a big problem.

  3. Brian, the methane issue is more about the rate of release rather than the total amount. It is the compounding effect and the timing. If the Atlantic conveyor delivered an inordinate amount of heat into the Arctic Ocean during a period of minimal Arctic ice and in conjunction with an energetic Arctic high pressure system there could very well be a substatial methane release with longer lasting consequences. As with the European heat wave which set Russia ablaze it was the accumulation of affects that exacerbated the impact of the heat.

    I don’t think that it is seredipity, I think it is about climate influences with a different cyclic phases which periodically align to deliver extreme effects. Global warming I believe serves to alter the phases of the influences do that they align more often and for longer periods.

    As with governments and economies where regulating business activity and interest rates are the only mechanisms available, governments and the climate regulating human activity and CO2 emisdions are the only mechanisms available. But both interest rates and CO2 release management have their limirations.

  4. As with governments and economies where regulating business activity and interest rates are the only mechanisms available, governments and the climate regulating human activity and CO2 emisdions are the only mechanisms available.

    Now that is hilarious !

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