The steady rise of Earth’s temperature as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and trap more and more heat is sending the planet spiraling closer to the point where warming’s catastrophic consequences may be all but assured.
You can see this metaphoric spiral become real in a new graphic drawn up by Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. The animated graphic features a rainbow-colored record of global temperatures spinning outward from the late 19th century to the present as the Earth heats up.
Hat tip to Grist, here. And see Ed Hawkins’ original, here.
A collection of internationally-oriented US-based groups has released statements on the Paris Agreements. It’s an interesting collection, neither optimist nor pessimistic, and the statement itself is short and focused. We agree on the fundamentals.
Here’s EcoEquity’s blurb:
Tom Athanasiou, executive director of EcoEquity, said “The Paris Agreement is a breakthrough but not yet a success. Not by a long shot. It marks the end of a long international stalemate, but the emergency mobilization we need is still only a hope. What we know for sure is that the Paris regime is nationally driven. As the wealthiest nation on Earth, the US has the responsibility to lead. We certainly have the capacity, and the technology, to do so. The question now is if we can wrest back control of our democracy, and finally act.”
And here’s the statement itself:
NEW YORK — Secretary of State John Kerry plans to join world leaders in the celebratory signing of the Paris climate agreement in New York tomorrow. In lieu of celebration, U.S. civil society leaders are urging the Obama administration to take immediate, aggressive action in order to give the world a fighting chance to meet the agreement’s goals.
The Paris agreement acknowledges the urgent need to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid catastrophic climate change, but the greenhouse gas pollution-cutting pledges of signatory countries fall critically short of meeting this critical target.
The U.S. has played a major role in the agreement’s inadequacy. It has refused to do its fair share and take responsibility for the country’s historical contribution to today’s global climate emergency. Instead, the U.S. has unjustly shifted this burden to the developing countries in the Global South and has failed to provide its fair share of financial support to enable developing countries to take meaningful climate action.
To fight the climate crisis, the U.S. must keep fossil fuels in the ground, undertake a clean energy revolution, and provide the Global South with the financial and technological assistance demanded by science, equity, and justice.
“many developing countries made huge strides towards deploying renewable technologies over the past decade — but this rise is now leveling off. Instead, these countries are turning towards fossil fuels to meet the energy demands of their citizens.”
“Nicholas Wagner, an IRENA programme officer who helped prepare the report, says countries such as Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria “have a high share of renewable biomass as part of their energy portfolios.” [This is mostly traditional biomass.] But rather than rapidly building out their infrastructures with modern renewables, these countries have “turned to fossil fuels to power greater demand for heating, cooling and transport, he says.”
“Beate Braams, a spokesperson for Germany’s energy ministry, says the drop in the proportion of energy coming from renewables in developing countries could be because growing energy needs are largely being met by other sources. “If there is a growing energy demand in an economy and if this additional demand is covered by fossil fuels, the relative share of renewables will decrease, even if there is no decrease in absolute terms for renewable energy,” she explains.”
Oxfam argued, back in January of 2015, that sometime in 2016 the top 1% of the world’s population would have more than everyone else. Here’s the study, if you want to follow the math. According to the folks over at therules.org (see their awesome video on global inequality) the global 1% only has 43% of everything. (The difference here is in the methodological noise and, in any case, good data is hard to get. As inequality scholar Branko Milanovic politely noted in The Haves and the Have-Nots, his excellent 2011 book on global inequality, the super rich don’t actually like to be studied.)
Oxfam is sticking to its own numbers. In a new (2016) study, An Economy For the 1%: How privilege and power in the economy drive extreme inequality and how this can be stopped, it argues that the 50% line has now been crossed. I’m going to trust them on this, because their data is from Credit Suisse, and who (what?) better than a Swiss bank to study “ultra high net worth individuals.” An Economy For the 1% is an interesting read. It goes on from the numbers to talk about the nuts and bolts of global stratification, tax havens in particular, and to connect the dots. And to continue its projections:
“If this deeply alarming inequality clock continues to tick as fast, by 2020 a mere 11 people could have the same wealth as half the world. That’s not even a dozen.”
For years now, the gas-as-a-bridge-fuel optimism squad has worked hard to reassure us. We could muddle through after all, and stop dreaming about, say, a global crash program to reach global “net zero emissions” by 2050. In effect, there’s a business-as-usual path forward to the renewable future. All you have to do is accept gas into your transition story, and you can avoid an “unrealistically” rapid phase out of fossil energy, while still avoiding the nuclear option.
Alas, it does not appear that the angels of history will be so kind.
In 2012, Bill McKibben’s Terrifying New Math thrust carbon-budget accounting into the mainstream. In the process, he made it clear to all that (as the scientists had already known), there would be no easy path forward. We were facing an emergency situation, and the first wisdom was to admit it. Now, if we’re lucky, his Terrifying New Chemistry will do the same for frack gas, which is to say fugitive methane, which is to say that, unless McKibben is wrong, the “gas as bridge fuel” path is not an option, not if we actually intend to avoid catastrophe. As The Nation’s pull quote has it, “Our leaders thought fracking would save our climate. They were wrong. Very wrong.”