1. Climate as an existential threat
Last September I half-finished a post on this topic, with a paper by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop as the centre-piece. Their 28-page report on the state of climate science, action and politics entitled What lies beneath? The scientific understatement of climate risks is introduced as a post at Climate Code Red, but I suggest you go directly to the paper itself. Read any part of it, and I can promise you will be alarmed.
Dr Barrie Pittock, a former leader of the Climate Impact Group in CSIRO, wrote in 2006 that: “until now many scientists may have consciously or unconsciously downplayed the more extreme possibilities at the high end of the uncertainty range, in an attempt to appear moderate and ‘responsible’ (that is, to avoid scaring people). However, true responsibility is to provide evidence of what must be avoided: to define, quantify, and warn against possible dangerous or unacceptable outcomes.”
Unfortunately little has changed since then and that statement itself downplayed what was going on. For “downplayed” substitute “ignored” and often it’s the mid-range rather than the high end of the uncertainty range, which, indeed is not all that uncertain. Spratt and Dunlop attempt to set the record straight.
Temperature rises that are now in prospect could reduce the global human population by 80% or 90%. But this conversation is taboo even for scientists, and the few who speak out are admonished as being overly alarmist.
Prof. Kevin Anderson considers that “a 4°C future [relative to pre-industrial levels] is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable” (Anderson 2011). He says: “If you have got a population of nine billion by 2050 and you hit 4°C, 5°C or 6°C, you might have half a billion people surviving” (Fyall 2009).
Asked at a 2011 conference in Melbourne about the difference between a 2°C world and a 4°C world, Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber replied in two words: “Human civilisation”. The World Bank reports: “There is no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible” (World Bank 2012). Amongst other impacts, a 4°C warming would trigger the loss of both polar ice caps, eventually resulting, at equilibrium, in a 70-metre rise in sea level.
The problem is that even in their science many scientists are understating the true state of affairs.
A more detailed examination of the state of affairs is still on my bucket list.
2. What goes up must come down
At Climate Code Red Spratt has another post What goes up must come down: It’s time for a carbon drawdown budget.
We have to come to terms with the fact that we have already put enough carbon into the atmosphere to overshoot the 1.5°C target, which in any case is not safe. So any new carbon put into the atmosphere should be matched by carbon taken out.
A new target of 0.5°C should be established if we care about the future of the planet. I notice he says:
- In past climates, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels of around 400 parts per million (ppm) have been associated with sea levels around 25 metres above the present. Prof. Kenneth G. Miller notes that “the natural state of the Earth with present CO2 levels is one with sea levels about 20 meters higher than at present”. (Emphasis added)
You don’t see that much in the literature, but I’ve been saying it since 2008. I didn’t make it up, I was just reporting science. For 2100 NOAA has a 2.5 metre extreme scenario, but we should be looking beyond 2100.
3. Senate sees climate as an existential threat, but…
Spratt has just taken a look at the Report of the Senate Inquiry into the implications of climate change for Australia’s national security.
He says the good work was done, not by our scientists, but by:
- Mark Crosweller, the Director General of Emergency Management Australia, Sherri Goodman the expert witness from the US, and the former senior Shell executive and emissions trading advisor to the Howard government, Ian Dunlop, who put the issue of existential climate security risks on the inquiry’s agenda.
The world’s response to the Paris accord will likely give us 3°C or more, everyone knows that. However, they don’t necessarily know what 3°C will do to the planet, nor that the 3°C doesn’t include longer term feedbacks. 3°C probably means 6°C with longer term feedbacks, which would mean the planet is cooked (see item 1 above).
Spratt says the committee understood that climate change was an existential threat, but didn’t react as though they were at risk of being wiped out. Hence there was a disconnect between the ‘findings’ and the ‘recommendations’.
So, on the right track, but a fail.
4. Turnbull ‘takes credit’ for French solar deal
Yep, that’s what he did and did not invite the Victorians to the party.
PM Malcolm Turnbull and Emmanuel Macron attended the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Neoen, France’s biggest renewable energy producer, and Anglo-Australia’s Zen Energy at Admiralty House beside Sydney Harbour on the Wednesday morning during Macron’s visit.
The Victorian government had rendered assistance to the project, whereas big Mal contribution has been to slag off at the states for engaging in renewable energy ideological fantasies.
Macron knew what was going on. The Victorians had only found out about the party because the French inquired of them who was coming. Read Macron’s lips at the Opera House speech on Tuesday night:
- “I am fully aware of the political and economic debate surrounding this issue in your country, and I respect this,” Mr Macron said.
“But I think that actual leaders are those that can respect those existing interests, but at the same time decide to participate to something broader, to something more strategic.”