As this blog has opined gloomily, it would seem evident that, after November, we are in for yet another 4 years of Wait-and-See policies. Meanwhile, there was this “Doomer check-in” from Gristmill commentator “Put the Carbon, Back” Pangolin:
Hey guys and gals,
In case nobody has noticed James Hansen has told us recently that we are past the tipping point for unavoidable positive feedback resulting in accelerated global warming. We have cracked the aquarium, dropped the basket, lit the big barbecue, melted the permafrost and the arctic ice cap.
Oh, and this summer untold tonnage’s of methane are going to go sailing up from Siberian and Canadian permafrost. Because it’s not frozen, you see?
So, whether you drive your plug-in Prius or Ford F-250 quad-cab diesel with turbo boost is pretty freaking moot as long as we keep burning coal, burning forests and dumping nitrates on fields.
No longer will we get normal grain crops, or freeze-thaw cycles in normal periods.
We won’t get productive fisheries; we won’t get rain, wind or snow, when or where we expect them.
We will get too much or not enough or both in the wrong seasons.
We won’t get tropical diseases staying safely in the tropics.
Now many of you have working and personal lives completely involved with purely artificial concerns like Second-life (?), Tivo, i-tunes, or completely artificial pharmaceuticals manufactured in completely artificial environments. I used to know somebody who kept plastic flowers in her garden and ate nothing but Slimfast and Starbucks mochas. It doesn’t cut it. Your comfy life is only possible because growing things, plants that is, manufacture an environment for you to live in that you can survive and thrive in. And the environment that supports those plants is increasingly infected by chaos. The biosphere that supports you is on the death watch.
So, it really doesn’t matter if you cut emissions in 2012, or 2014 or 2025 if what happens in the meantime is runaway climate change. We really should have gone to some sort of negative emissions profile sometime in the last ten years and should be clawing our way back to 300 ppm CO2 instead of rushing towards 400 ppm as we are now. What part of the phrase “dead oceans” do we not understand?
The point of this rant is this: Suppose somebody announced that he was going to legally kill your kids with a 30-06 rifle at a range of about 100 yards. He’s getting paid to do this as part of a reality TV series. You beg and plead and point out the moral outrage of this act and he says “Well, legislation is pending that will force me to take the shot from 150 yards and some real whackos are putting a bill out that says only past 175 yards but that will never pass.” You would still be outraged.
At 150 yards there is still enough energy in the system, the bullet, to kill your kids. At 375 parts-per-million of CO2 there is still more than enough excess energy in the atmospheric system to kill your kids. If not them then maybe your grandkids. Average global CO2 is at least 383 ppm and climbing fast. If we’re not carbon-negative we’re not addressing the issue.
The rant was prompted by the second in a series written for Gristmill by Tony Kreindler, Media Director for the National Climate Campaign at Environmental Defense. Deh warnz us, lol kitenz, that the price of waiting, even a year or two, is simply too high.
“Wait-and-see policies erroneously presume climate change can be reversed quickly should harm become evident, underestimating substantial delays in the climate’s response to anthropogenic forcing.” John Sterman
Carbon dioxide concentrations are higher today than they’ve been in 650,000 years, and our emissions rate is increasing. It’s crucial that we start aggressively cutting emissions as soon as possible.
Inaction is the most expensive option
“Deeper cuts mean a deeper impact on our economy. Study after study”, warns the Environmental Defense spokesperson, “shows that inaction is the most expensive option:”
- A recent report by the University of Maryland found that "negative climate impacts will outweigh benefits for most sectors that provide essential goods and services to society." For example, "New York State’s agricultural yield may be reduced by as much as 40 percent, resulting in $1.2 billion in annual damages."
- A more detailed study of Florida reached similar conclusions. Economic damage to just three sectors — tourism, electric utilities, and real estate — combined with hurricane damage would shrink the state’s gross domestic product by more than 5 percent by the end of this century.
- A study by McKinsey & Company also warns about the high cost of delay. Greenhouse-gas abatement can be highly affordable, but won’t remain so forever. From the executive summary: “Many of the most economically attractive abatement options we analyzed are ‘time perishable’: every year we delay producing energy-efficient commercial buildings, houses, motor vehicles, and so forth, the more negative-cost options we lose.”
The last word goes to the now deceased Kurt Vonnegut, “We could have saved the Earth, but we were too cheap.”