Sunday, November 06, 2016

Vote as if your life depended on it. It does.

The Paris accords are now international law.[1]
Under the agreement, all governments that have ratified the accord, which includes the US, China, India and the EU, now carry an obligation to hold global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. That is what scientists regard as the limit of safety, beyond which climate change is likely to become catastrophic and irreversible.
It is clear that Trump would not honor any such agreement.[2]
The Paris Agreement on climate change—the groundbreaking new global climate pact—comes into force on November 4. If Donald Trump is elected four days later, he has said he will “cancel” it.  
In OnymousGuy's opinion, this would push the world into climate disaster by the end of the century.

Since this issue is paramount, Onymous Guy has tried to answer some key questions about global warming and climate change.

Is 2°C of warming "a dangerous amount of warming"?
How much warming have we had since the beginning of the industrial age?
How close are we to 2°C of warming?
What is in the air now?
When do we hit the carbon ceiling?
Could it get worse?
Will Republicans in office help?
What can I do to make a difference?

Is 2°C of warming "a dangerous amount of warming"? Far too dangerous.

Here are some of the consequences.[3]
A rise of 2°C is considered the most the Earth could tolerate without risking catastrophic changes to food production, sea levels, fishing, wildlife, deserts and water reserves. Even if rises are pegged at 2C, scientists say this will still destroy most coral reefs and glaciers and melt significant parts of the Greenland ice cap, bringing major rises in sea levels.

“We have had a global temperature rise of almost 1°C since the industrial revolution and have already seen widespread impacts that have had real consequences for people,” said climate expert Professor Chris Field of Stanford University. “We should therefore be striving to limit warming to as far below 2°C as possible. However, that will require a level of ambition that we have not yet seen.”
Does this sound dangerous to you?

How much warming have we had since the beginning of the industrial age? Far too much.

Globally, the average temperature has increased by 1°C since 1880, but this includes the seas as well as the land. We live on land, not water, and most of the population (about 89% of it [4]) lives in the northern hemisphere, which has 68% of the world's land area.
 Land in the northern hemisphere has already experienced 2°C (that is 3.6°F) of warming since the 1880s.

Remember that this is an average temperature increase, and fluctuations can easily double that, so the population in the northern hemisphere has seen an increase in the frequency of days that are 4°C warmer on the average.

James Hansen, former director of , wrote[5] that these very warm days are ten times more likely:
An important change is the emergence of a subset of the hot category, extremely hot outliers, defined as anomalies exceeding +3σ. The frequency of these extreme anomalies is about 0.13% in the normal distribution, and thus in a typical summer in the base period only 0.1-0.2% of the globe is covered by such hot extremes. However, we show that during the past several years the global land area covered by summer temperature anomalies exceeding +3σ has averaged about 10%, an increase by more than an order of magnitude compared to the base period.
Cool days still occur, but with less frequency. Very warm days occur more frequently than in the past. The effect of warming is seen in the shift of the distribution of temperature anomalies as shown below.
Frequency of occurrence (vertical axis) of local June-July-August temperature anomalies (relative to 1951-1980 mean) for Northern Hemisphere land in units of local standard deviation (horizontal axis). Temperature anomalies in the period 1951-1980 match closely the normal distribution ("bell curve", shown in green), which is used to define cold (blue), typical (white) and hot (red) seasons, each with probability 33.3%. The distribution of anomalies has shifted to the right as a consequence of the global warming of the past three decades such that cool summers now cover only half of one side of a six-sided die, white covers one side, red covers four sides, and an extremely hot (red-brown) anomaly covers half of one side. Image credit: NASA/GISS.
Hansen et al. emphasize that, while weather might dictate where such heat waves occur, the increased frequency is due to global warming.
Specific meteorological patterns help explain where the high pressure regions that favor high temperature and drought conditions occur in a given summer, but the unusually great temperature extremities and the large area covered by these hot anomalies is a consequence of global warming, which is causing the bell curve to shift to the right.
The most obvious consequences include an increase in the frequency and intensity of forest fires, heat waves, and increased mortality.

Wang et al [6] have studied various temperature scenarios and have reported that up to 40% of the land area could experience "extremely hot" summers. (σ is defined in terms of local variability)

If the global mean temperature increases 2°C relative to the pre-industrial level, “extremely hot” summers are projected to occur over nearly 40% of the land area (multi-model ensemble mean projection). Summers that exceed 5σ warming are projected to occur over approximately 10% of the global land area, which were rarely observed during the reference period.
 Percentages of global land areas hit by summer temperature extremes.
The time series spans from 1901 to 2005. The thick lines are the results of 26 individual models averages. The shading in the plots denotes the 1σ uncertainty range of the 26 CMIP5 models.
 They add the caution
The area that experiences summers with warming of 5σ or more above the warming target of 2°C is likely to maintain rapid expansion of greater than 17%/°C. To reduce the impacts and damage from severely hot summers, the global mean temperature increase should remain low.
How close are we to 2°C of warming? Far too close

Chris Mooney, science correspondent for the Washington Post, wrote
Right now, due to causes ranging from deforestation to transportation, the world is emitting about 52.7 billion tons, or gigatons, of carbon dioxide equivalents per year as of 2014. That’s mostly just plain carbon dioxide, but it also includes emissions of methane, nitrous oxide, and other greenhouse gases that are converted into units comparable to carbon dioxide. If you leave those out, the pure carbon dioxide emissions are about 36 billion tons per year.

However, to hold global warming below 2 degrees (at least with good odds), the world can emit no more than 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the year 2011 onwards — the famous carbon budget. And given that it’s 2016 already, that number has already shrunken a good bit, by about 150 gigatons.
What is in the air now?

Here's the math. For non-SI folks, a metric tonne is 1000 kilograms (kg) or a megagram (Mg). A thousand metric tonnes is a gigagram (Gg), and a million metric tonnes is a teragram (Tg).  One thousand million metric tonnes (a gigaton) is a petagram (Pg) or 1000 Tg, and a thousand gigatons is an exagram (Eg).

The total mass of dry air in the atmosphere is 5148 Eg [8] or 5,148,000 Gt , and we currently have about 400 ppmv (that is, parts per million by volume) CO2 [10], so the atmosphere currently contains about 3122 Gt CO2. The effect of methane, NOx, and other greenhouse gases boost this to 485 ppmv CO2e, adding another 664 Gt CO2e.

Here are some conversion factors [9]:

(1) 1 ppmv of CO2= 2.13 Gt of carbon. * (44.01/12.011) = 7.80 Gt CO2e

so the current amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is 3129 Gt CO2.

(2) 400 ppmv CO2 = 400 ppmv*7.80 Gt/ppmv CO2 =  3129 Gt CO2


(3) (485-400)=85 ppmv CO2e = 85*7.80 Gt =  664 Gt CO2

When do we hit the carbon ceiling? Too damn soon.

The carbon ceiling is one thousand Pg CO2 equivalents (CO2e) or1000 Gt CO2e

We are currently emitting about 52.7 Gt CO2e per year, and this will probably increase to about 60 Gt/year by 2030. At the current rate of 52.7 Gt CO2e per year, we hit the carbon ceiling in 19 years from 2011:

time = (1000 Gt  CO2e / 52.7 Gt CO2e per year)  = 19.0 years. 

We hit the 2°C limit nineteen years from 2011. That is 2030.

We hit the 2°C limit in 2030, and as soon as 2028 if emissions continue to increase at the current rate of about 0.7% /year.

That soon.

Could it get worse? Yes.

Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, UK, has written extensively about the consequences of the "business as usual" scenario, which leads to 4°C of warming or more by the end of the century. The consequences will be dire [11].
Across many sectors—coastal cities, agriculture, water stress, ecosystems, migration—the impacts and adaptation challenges at 4°C will be larger than at 2°C. In some cases, such as farming in sub-Saharan Africa, a +4°C warming could result in the collapse of systems or require transformational adaptation out of systems, as we understand them today.
What would this mean for the world? Anderson is not sanguine. [12]
Can you imagine what 12°C (21.6°F) warmer would feel like in New York City in August? If you grew up on the East Coast in the '60s and you remember those August days when it was 90°F with 90% humidity, what do you think it would be like with 110°F with 90% humidity? Humans cannot live in that.

We must avoid 4°C of warming at all costs. In Anderson's view, this is "incompatible with an organised global community".

Will Republicans in office help? No.

In 2013, The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication reported on the results of a national survey of 726 adults who recently identified as a Republican or a Republican-leaning Independent.[13]

Here are the main conclusions (and remember this was three years ago, before the astonishingly hit years of 2015 and 2016):

A Majority Think Climate Change is Happening and Support an American Response to the Issue
A majority of respondents (52%) think climate change is happening, while 26% think it isn’t, and 22% “don’t know.” When presented with one of two conservative arguments saying America should respond to climate change, a solid majority (62%) say America absolutely should (23%) or probably should (39%) take steps to address climate change.

Only 1/3 Agree with Republican Party Positions on Climate Change and 1/2 on Energy
Only a minority of respondents agree with the Republican Party’s position on climate change (35%),
while a slight majority of respondents agree with the Party’s position on meeting America’s energy
needs (51%).

Elected Leaders are Perceived as Unresponsive to Respondents’ Views about Climate Change
Few respondents (less than 20%) think people like themselves have influence over what elected officials think or do regarding climate change. 

Here is the bottom line: Not even Republican voters support Republican office holders on climate change.

What can I do to make a difference? Vote, and vote the GOP out of office.

On Tuesday, November 8, the USA will decide on its next president. The election will also decide if the country will head into the 21st century leading the world in reducing carbon emissions, or if it will instead turn its back on science and become an outlaw nation determined to pollute the world at will, dragging every other nation into a hellish world unfit for humans where they now live by the end of the century.

Vote for Clinton. Don't forget the down-ballot votes. Vote out every climate-denying Republican, out of the Senate, out of the House, out of every Governor's office, out of  all our state houses and senates, out of every county, and out of every municipality. Sweep them away. Were they to remain in office, we would be headed to 4°C of warming by the end of the century.

Is this the future you want for your grandchildren? Your vote will make this difference.

[1] Paris climate change agreement enters into force, The Guardian, Thursday 3 November 2016 22.35 EDT
[2] The global climate-change agreement is about to take effect — but a President Trump could endanger it, Business Insider, Nov. 2, 2016, 10:52 PM
[3] World will pass crucial 2C global warming limit, experts warn, The Observer, Saturday 10 October 2015 17.30 EDT
[4] The Southern Hemisphere, Wikipedia
[5] The New Climate Dice: Public Perception of Climate Change, James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Reto Ruedy, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Science Briefs, August 2012
[6] Changes in Extremely Hot Summers over the Global Land Area under Various Warming Targets, Wang L, Huang J, Luo Y, Yao Y, Zhao Z (2015) PLoS ONE 10(6): e0130660. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0130660
[7] The world is racing to stop climate change. But the math still doesn’t add up,
By Chris Mooney November 3,(2016), Washington Post.
[8] The Mass of the Atmosphere: A Constraint on Global Analyses, Kevin E. Trenberth and Lesley Smith, 2005:  J. Climate, 18, 864–875, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-3299.1.
[9] Frequently Asked Global Change Questions, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center,
[10] NOAA's Annual Greenhouse Gas Index,
[11] Four degrees and beyond: the potential for a global temperature increase of four degrees and its implications, Mark New, Diana Liverman, Heike Schroder, Kevin Anderson
Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 2011 369 6-19; DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2010.0303. Published 29 November 2010
[12] Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous, Kevin Anderson, July 2011,Tyndall Centre, Manchester, UK.
[13]  A National Survey of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents on Energy and Climate Change, 2013, Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

1 comment:

MarkMcLeod said...

This is a beautifully and powerfully crafted statement! Thanks!