It May Be Too Late to Stop Catastrophic Warming From Happening
I’ve got good news and bad news.
The good news is, US President Obama was re-elected. Now, that doesn’t mean anything is going to be done about climate change. But at least, Americans didn’t elect Mitt Romney, the man who thought that stopping sea level rise and healing the planet were good punch lines. And, even better, President Obama actually mentioned climate change in his acceptance speech:
We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet
Now, will that translate into any kind of action? We can only hope. But in the mean time, the good folks at Climate Progress have done their best to give the President some ideas of actions that could in order to deal with the USA’s carbon addiction and the warming of the the globe. These include:
- Talking to the people about climate change with respected scientists and “Republicans of good conscience”.
- Taxing consumption rather than income (what Ralph Nader once called “Tax What We Burn, Not What We Earn”)
- Ending subsidies to polluters
- Putting in place financial mechanisms that will allow and encourage middle-class families to invest in home renovations (that improve energy efficiency) and in renewable energy projects.
- Getting tough on China by assessing imports according to their carbon footprint.
- Investing in electrified rail networks – the apparent direction of transportation as petroleum prices continue their inevitable rise.
- Investing in green tech research.
(Sounds like some great ideas for Canada too!)
Now, the bad news….
As you may know, +2 degrees Celsius is the maximum warming that the world’s governments have set as a target. However, according to scientists, +2 is probably the point where “dangerous” warming become “catastrophic” warming. Either way, according to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, we may be “too late for two degrees”:
Our Low Carbon Economy Index evaluates the rate of decarbonisation of the global economy that is needed to limit warming to 2oC. This report shows that global carbon intensity decreased between 2000 and 2011 by around 0.8% a year. In 2011, carbon intensity decreased by 0.7%. The global economy now needs to cut carbon intensity by 5.1% every year from now to 2050. Keeping to the 2oC carbon budget will require sustained and unprecedented reductions over four decades.
Governments’ ambitions to limit warming to 2oC appear highly unrealistic.
Unfortunately, the conclusions gets worse:
Even to have a reasonable prospect of getting to a 4°C scenario would imply nearly quadrupling the current rate of decarbonisation.
And when considering that prospect, remember how climatologist Kevin Anderson has described a 4 degree world:
a 4 degrees C future 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.“
I don’t know if I should cry or laugh.