The future, of course, is unwritten. It may even turn out to be both just and liveable — if we’re both smart and lucky. On the other hand, it’s getting easier to imaine worst case scenarios — not to mentin nonlinearities and “threshold events” — which is exactly what hard-eyed Mike Davis does in Has the Age of Chaos Begun And if you want another, check out The Heat Death of American Dreams.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have done what environmental activists couldn’t — they’ve put global warming on the mainstream agenda. Now the question is what can be done about it Dr. Kevin Trenberth (National Center for Atmospheric Research) lays out the problem, while EcoEquity’s Tom Athanasiou links climate change to global justice. And it’s a podcast folks — you can listen instead of read!
The first thing to say about Kyoto’s entry into force is that it is a significant victory, won particularly by the Europeans, over social and economic complacency, cash-amplified, flat-earth pseudo-science, the carbon cartel, and, of course, the Bush Administration. The second is that, if it’s not soon followed by other victories, deeper and even more challenging ones, the Earth’s climate will soon – think 2050 or even sooner – be transformed into one that is far more inhospitable, and even hostile, than even most environmentalists imagine. Continue reading “A Glass Half Full? The Kyoto Protocol, and Beyond”
The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research is Germany was already known for original thinking before it released Keep Cool: Gambling with the Climate, a board game that may, only a few decades hence, seem less comic than prescient. In the Risk-like world of Keep Cool, it’s even possible for, say, the developing countries to drive the climate over the edge, hoping all the while for the rich world to pay enough to make that destruction unnecessary. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it
Now that the tide seems to be turning, at least a wee bit, it’s a good time to recall the bad old days – like, say, two years ago – when most folks in the US “climate community” were still discretely minimizing the urgency of the situation. That, of course, was before Jim Hansen started telling us we less that ten years to bring global emissions to a peak. And before Al Gore brought the rhetoric of “planetary emergency” into common usage. And it was, less famously, before “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change,” better known as “the Exeter Conference,” provided the occasion by which the scientific community, by whatever mysterious process that scientists use when deciding these sorts of things, finally decided to set aside its traditional reserve and start speaking frankly.
If you think there’s a whiff of panic in the air, you’re right. If you want to know the details, this is the place for you.
If you’ve spent any time at all on this site, you know that we’re partisans of the “Two Degree Limit” school, and that we argue that an average planetary warming of greater than 2C would threaten us with global, not merely local, climate catastrophe. In this new study, WWF (also members of 2C school) go onto the bad news, reviewing a number of recent modeling studies that indicate that we’ll hit 2C between 2026 and 2060, and that when we do the Arctic will warm three times as much. The consequence will be hard to exaggerate, and the lesson clear — 2C is too much.
In this report, a few of our German friends come right out and think the unthinkable. Indeed, in Implementing the Kyoto Protocol Without the United States: The Strategic Role of Energy Tax Adjustments at the Border, Frank Biermann and Rainer Brohm of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research go so far as to argue that, if the U.S. remains indefinitely outside a future greenhouse regime (assuming we ever get one) even existing world trade law would permit the European Union to enact “well designed” and “comprehensive” border adjustments against its exports.
Want some freedom fries with that
As it becomes obvious that there will be no rapid decarbonization (not, at least, on the scale needed to avoid a global climate catastrophe) unless “the rich” pay the costs of that rapidity, the question of who is rich, and how rich, is taking on a strange new importance. Which is why we like this little calculator. The data behind it, by the way, is taken from the work of Branko Milanovic, whose new book Words Apart: Measuring International and Global Inequality sets the gold standard, when it comes to, well, measuring international and global inequality.
It’s been a while since the last climate conference, COP8, long enough for the remorse to fade and long enough, even, for a bit of revisionist history. It’s certainly been long enough for lessons to be counted, and conclusions drawn. And, alas, they have been, with a vengeance.
If you’ve been following the climate talks, you’ll know what we mean. For while the new science demands new urgency, the negotiators can step only haltingly, if at all. With the U.S. withdrawn into its strange neo-conservative agonies, the global economy gone manic-depressive, and Kyoto’s progress stalled by Russian temporizing and, no doubt, sleazy back-room deals, no nation North or South seems much disposed to visionary leadership. The long term seems long away, and it is given to the scientists to tell us that, in fact, it is breathing down our necks. In the corridors and plenary halls, another logic rules. Realism, the usual realism of short-term, national self-interest, is the watchword. Continue reading “The Writing on the Wall”
Optimism, they all tell us, is a precondition of effective political action. And they are no doubt quite correct. Despair, after all, hardly motivates sustained political engagement. Drinking, more like it.
Optimism, unfortunately, is a problem, for enviros in particular but in fact for anyone determined to look, hard and critically, at the truth of our predicament. Few of us are able to consistently follow Antonio Gramsci’s advice, to combine “pessimism of the intellect” with “optimism of the will.” Most of the time, it seems more like a choice between one and the other. Or, even worse, a choice between paralyzing pessimism and idiot, right-wing confidence.
We, for our part, still believe that realism (the real thing, not the ersatz neo-con variety) is the best ground for an honest optimism, and in that spirit we’d like to start off this issue of Climate Equity Observer with an effort to look reality in the eye. Continue reading “First, the Bad News”