27 October 2013

Happy Halloween ... It Doesn't Get Any Scarier Than This

Just a bunch of scary stuff for you this week, in honour of Halloween. (Wouldn't want to take our minds off the whole climate change emergency just cuz of a fun little holiday, now would we?)

Here's a very good movie called Last Hours. Scarier than heck, but presented in calm, soothing tones. Kinda creepy how that works.


A couple of thoughts. I was reading an online article called How to Get People to Give a Damn About Climate Change and wanted to comment: "Really, all this is moot. Who cares what the public knows, understands or believes? It's governments that have to make sweeping changes …."

And then I thought, "Oh yeah, wait. The public votes in governments! Now I get it." (When people ask, "What can I do about climate change?" I often respond, "Help create the political will for the government to do something about it.")

There was a comment below that article: "It wasn't long ago that German scientists had a 100% consensus that eugenics was an excellent policy."

"Ah," I said to myself, "that could explain the IPCC's phobia about policy." (Did you know that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change refuses to say whether all this warming and climate chaos is dangerous?)


Guess what? I discovered (rather belatedly) why Canada's last Environment Minister, Peter Kent, lost his job! "You don't have to convince me that climate change is a very real and present danger and we need to address it." Oh my, what a way to get fired by Not-so-Prime Minister Stephen Burn-It-All! Harper. 

The (okay, almost year old) article that I read reported Kent as saying "he talks to his U.S. counterparts on a 'more than monthly basis' and there's a general consensus that it's an issue that has to be addressed. 'We would ignore it at our peril.'" Which kinda proves my point that governments know exactly what's going on ... and they're ignoring it at our peril. 


Did you know that there's a Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change? Me neither. But yup, there is. Retired Bangladeshi Major General ANM Muniruzzaman chairs it. And here's what he said about the climate change emergency and global security
"When I was a major general in Bangladesh’s military, my job was to avoid conflict while planning for the worst-case scenario. And, from the perspective of the military, the consequences of global warming constitute the worst-case scenario. 
"When I meet with my colleagues at the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change — generals and admirals from around the world, all with career-long experience in military planning and operations — I am struck by the similarity of our concerns. All countries of the world are experiencing changes that are destabilizing communities and increasing security concerns. Diseases are spreading, wells are drying up, storms are smashing cities and destroying crops, and rain is either a distant memory or an acute danger.  
In global security circles, we often speak of the 'international community.' Climate change is the ultimate global challenge and global threat, and the global community must meet it together. We cannot have our separate attitudes and plans."


And I'll leave you with something that isn't scary. Once Halloween is over, it'll be November. And you know what that means, right? Yup, Christmas carols in shopping plazas! (Okay, maybe that is scary.) So here's a new idea. An alternative gift registry, where you sign up to let loved ones know what you don't want to receive (sort of). Anyway, have some fun exploring whether this would be useful in your life. SoKind Registry. Their motto is More Fun, Less Stuff. It's a project of The Center for a New American Dream, so to be honest, I don't even know if it'll work for the rest of us. If not, let the idea start to inspire some fun gift-making between now and the holidays. 

20 October 2013

The IPCC: "All About Modelling, Not About Protecting the Earth"

I've waited awhile to let the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) hype die down a bit. Man, it sure was loud! But I'm not sure which was worse: the deniers saying that the report "proved" (huh?) that global warming has stopped or the enviros claiming that the report says "we face a global climate emergency" when it doesn't say that at all (but should).

Both groups are wrong. But for different reasons. 

The deniers? Well, we've been pumping 90 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every DAY for ages (almost half of which has been absorbed by the oceans). Where do they think all the heat radiated by those extra greenhouse gas molecules has gone? (The answer, by the way, is that the oceans have been warmed and ice sheets and sea ice have been melted. It takes some heat to accomplish that!)

The enviro groups? Well, the mistake they've been making is not noticing how much the IPCC has left out — namely all positive (that is, amplifying) carbon and climate feedbacks. So the IPCC's new ("RCP") scenarios are actually underestimates of the dangers we are unleashing in the climate system. In other words, the situation is much worse, and much more urgent, than the IPCC's Working Group I (Physical Science Basis) report.

It's all very complicated and complex, and clearly the media have to simplify it for the public. But how can we rely on the IPCC's assessments when they don't include all possible sources of warming in their computer models (due to "carbon cycle uncertainties")? How can we trust the IPCC assessments when they offer a range, but then only speak to the "mean warming projections" (what they call "most likely")? 

Should not climate scientists use the upper end of the temperature range when talking of risk? Especially since risk equals probability multiplied by magnitude (and the upper range of possible temperature increases is the potential magnitude)? Yet we're not just risking the mean warming projections, are we? We're also risking the upper ranges. And we're not just risking the upper ranges, we're risking those upper ranges with several degrees caused by carbon feedbacks tacked on.

Unfortunately (and perhaps ironically), the IPCC does not "do" risk. This intergovernmental panel that synthesizes the science of climate change has a code of silence on dangerous, disastrous, or catastrophic climate change. They claim that they cannot define "dangerous" climate change because that is a "value judgement" that science cannot make. (Gee, last time I checked, doctors were scientifically trained and they can tell you what's dangerous and deadly to human life.)

I'm not sure why the IPCC hobbles its scientific contributors and their discussions this way. But perhaps if each country's general public asked for more scientific honesty and a scientific assessment of how dangerous climate change could become, they'd be able to change their terms of reference.

If human beings (and our food/agriculture systems) have never experienced the temperatures that we're heading for, doesn't that at least imply danger ahead? Not "Ooh, it's not looking good," but "Holy flying %$#!, we're heading into a dangerous climate change emergency!"

Worth writing a letter or two, anyone? After all, changing political will is about the only transformative action (beyond individual reductions in carbon emissions) the public still has the power to take.

So, with apologies to the great Welsh bard, I'll leave you with a Dylan Thomas rendition by my husband that reminds us what our response to the AR5 ought to be. 
Do not go gentle into this unnatural night.
Real people burn and rave at Mother Earth's deplorable plight.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Rage, rage, rage with all your might.
— Peter Carter 

p.s. That quote in the title is also from my hubby, someone who spends many, many hours every day reading and synthesizing research on climate change.

13 October 2013

Blog Action Day: Climate Change and Human Rights

Blog Action Day is this Wednesday, October 16 and this year's theme is human rights. So you can probably already guess what my questions to you are going to be.

Is a safe climate a human right? Do we have a right to a safe climate? Do we? Conversely, do we humans ("we" as in EuroAmericans and those who have adopted the Western economy that we've globalized) have a right to make the climate increasingly unviable for other species? Indeed, isn't the climate change crisis a perfect point of overlap between human rights and the rights of all other living things?

And when we talk of human rights, which humans are we talking about? When it comes to climate disruption, are we talking about people in developing parts of the world? Today's children and future generations? Or just old white guys? 

And which rights are we discussing? I swear, some capitalists (the ecologically illiterate ones, and that seems to be most of them) believe that they have the right to "earn" (I use that term loosely) as much money as they want, damn the consequences. That's the whole basis of the neoliberal agenda.

If we can't decide, globally, as a species, that food and water — and the stable climate upon which both depend — are basic human rights, then the rest is moot. If we don't get this one right, then by default we're saying that we don't have the right to life.

06 October 2013

Compassion Tune-Up: How Hot Will It Get in Their Lifetime?

How how will it get for a child born today?
Every time I turn around, I read or hear "two degrees." Two degrees this, two degrees that. Two degrees has wormed its way into our climate-changed brains as though it's a goal or a target we're aiming for, instead of a temperature rise we don't want to go near.
The Independent: "A rise of two degrees centigrade in global temperatures [is] the point considered to be the threshold for catastrophic climate change ...." 
The Conversation: "Two degrees [is] the temperature rise we need to stay under to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change ...." 
European Union: "Limiting Global Climate Change to 2 Degrees Celsius" 
The Guardian: "... the agreed 'safety' limit of 2ºC."
I've talked before (here and here) about the ill wisdom of setting 2ºC as some sort of guardrail, especially when we've got a bunch of yahoos driving the global go-karts. "Guardrail? Yeehaw, let's go for it!" Considering what's happening already with only an additional 0.8ºC of warming, how could anyone wish 2ºC on their progeny and descendants? 

Having said all that, if one recognizes the catastrophic danger that continued global warming poses, then one might find The Guardian's interactive How Hot Will It Get in My Lifetime? of use as a compassion tune-up. For example, here are screenshots for my birthdate versus the birthdate of my beloved niece. This helps me see that it's all inexorable without a huge push for zero carbon emissions.

Warming in my lifetime (click on image to see the whole graph)

Warming in my niece's lifetime (click to see the whole graph)
On current emissions trends (which show no sign of slowing, let alone stopping), when my niece reaches my current age in 2048 (and I'm in the ground or in deep decline), we'll have blown past the 2ºC "guardrail" and will be heading to over 6ºC of warming. 

By the way, here's how I look at that best-case lower limit of the range of warming. If emissions keep rising and the global temperature keeps going up, then there is no "best case." It's just a matter of the speed at which we're committing this greatest of crimes against humanity: progenycide.