Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It keeps getting scarrier...

A new report from the World Bank – not exactly a radical left-wing organization, eh? – has this to day:
  • Even if all emissions-reductions commitments are kept, we’ll hit 4 degrees Celsius (that’s over 9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by the end of the century. If they aren’t, we’ll hit it by 2060.
  • The impact of a 4-degrees-warmer world will be: “unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods in many regions, with serious impacts on human systems, ecosystems, and associated services. “
  • The observed changes in climate have been escalating, not stabilizing and certainly not slowing down.
What will the 4 degree world look like?
  •  Extreme heat – with consequences (heat-related deaths, forest fires, harvest losses) that “could be expected to vastly exceed the consequences experienced to date, and potentially exceed the adaptive capacities of many societies and natural systems.”
  •  Rising sea levels – expect a rise of 0.5 – 1.0 meters (that’s over 9 feet) at a minimum with several meters more in the centuries to follow (there’s a lot of momentum in climate change – we can’t just shut it off today and expect things to return to normal tomorrow).  You’ve seen the maps – this affects a huge percentage of the area where we live.
  • Everything we rely on for our daily lives will be affected: clean water, crops, food animals, even just the ability to travel around safely. Life as we know it, basically, will be drastically altered, mostly for the worse.
Any hope?
The report states what we’ve known for the last two or three decades, that we have the “technical and economic” means to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. It even holds out hope we can keep the warming below 2 degrees (I don’t share that hope – the 2 degree number was a politically chosen one, and at the time it was chosen, the full effects of feedback loops was not incorporated into the scientific models).

Trouble is, the technology and money won’t help if we don’t have the political will to use them. So far, it’s been nearly completely lacking. Let’s hope the Climate Change talks going on in Doha this week get us started on the path.

You can get the report here: http://climatechange.worldbank.org/

Saturday, August 25, 2012

It's not the heat, its....oh, wait

Climate scientists have been telling us for a couple of decades now that, even though global warming is the cause, we'd be seeing its effects in other areas besides straight temperature rises. For the record, not only have their predictions come true by and large, but they have been too conservative...but that's another column. For today, it's worth noting during these unprecedented heat waves that the temperature effects are finally showing up as well. There's a very good article on the subject at Climate Communication (view it here). Here's a sample, looking at a very simple and easy to understand data point, the ratio of record highs to record lows over the last 60 years. If normal, random variations in climate were occurring, you'd expect that ratio to be close to 1.0. In other words, in any given period, you'd expect just as many record highs and record lows to occur. Random changes, 50-50 chances. Back in the 1950s, when the effects of human greenhouse gas generation was just kicking in to high gear, the ratio was 52/48 in favor of record highs. Pretty close to random. In the last three years, the ratio went from 56/44 to 73/27 (in 2011) and is 90/10 so far this year.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Beef: the new delicacy

Doing the math:
Cost: 60% of world's agricultural land
Benefit: 5% of protein and 2% of calories

Normally, when a food item is really expensive, we eat it rarely and call it a delicacy. Trouble is, the expense of tying up that much agricultural land (significant contributions to world-wide hunger and global warming) isn't borne by the consumers of beef, so we in the "developed" world think it's much cheaper than it really is, and eat it all the time.