By Simon Whalley, an educator in Japan, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion Japan and the author of the upcoming book, Dear Indy: A Heartfelt Plea From a Climate Anxious Father. Originally published at CommonDreams
Will this be the summer we all remember what we were doing? A monstrous landslide after record rainfall in Japan left fifteen dead and dozens missing. Biblical flooding in Germany has caused hundreds of deaths with many more unaccounted for. More than a million acres of the west coast of North America are on fire after temperatures soared to 122°F (49.9°C). Will this be the moment we woke up and demanded action? Or will it be the coolest summer of the rest of our lives?
With the planet only warming by just over a degree, natural-disaster loss events have more than tripled in the past forty years. Since 2004, the number of events has already doubled. What can we expect to happen if we continue on our current path?
One thing keeping scientists awake at night is the sleep inducingly named Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), or the Gulf Stream. This is the ocean current that begins in the warm Gulf of Mexico, carries warm water up the northeast coast of the United States, and across the Atlantic to Northern Europe. The Gulf Stream is often credited with stopping countries like the U.K. and Ireland from freezing over in winter. What has scientists concerned is that the current has been slowing down, and it is possible that it may ‘switch off’ completely. The slowing down is being caused by the increasing amount of freshwater melt coming off the Greenland ice sheets as a result of manmade warming. Between 1900 and 1970, 1,919 cubic miles (8,000 cubic kilometres) flowed into the seas surrounding Greenland, and that figure rose to 3,119 cubic miles (13,000 cubic kilometres) between 1970 and 2000. During the 20th century, the current slowed down between fifteen and twenty per cent. Scientists believe that Europe will still continue to get warmer due to climate change, unless the Gulf Stream turns off completely. They are unsure of this likelihood, although Western European winters are predicted to become colder as the stream slows down further.
Whilst Europe may avoid completely freezing over, the Gulf Stream, along with the North American Polar Jet Stream, are expected to drive extreme weather events. In research published in the journal Nature, scientists predict ‘climate chaos’ as water gushes from Greenland into the oceans. They expect weather to be strongly impacted and temperatures on both sides of the Atlantic to vary more wildly from year to year.
The jet stream is like the weather distribution manager for North America. It decides where to send high and low pressure, and how strong to make them. When the jet stream is managing the weather effectively, weather rushes along a torrent from west to east, bringing rain every three to five days. Unfortunately, as the Arctic warms, and the temperature difference between the equator and the North Pole narrows, the jet stream acts unpredictably. The flow is strongest when the temperature variance is highest, but as the Arctic is warming faster than the equator, the flow has slowed down. Recently, the weather is not really rushing, it’s more like a child dragging their feet, hanging around in areas for long periods. The June 2019 fires in Alberta, Canada, were caused by a high-pressure ridge hanging out and causing drought and fire. Then further out east, low pressure ridges cause rain and flooding which festers (33). Likewise, the jet stream was meandering slowly in an Omega pattern (Ω) in July 2021 and this helped caused the record heat and resulting wildfires in Canada and the western US. Whatever weather pattern emerges, be it a drought, heavy rainfall or heat wave; that pattern basically persists for longer and amplifies the associated risks.
It’s not only floods and wildfires that are being blamed on the lingering jet stream. The abnormally high number of tornados that hit America in May 2019, was also thought to be the work of the slower, wavering jet stream. It’s particularly difficult for scientists to pin the blame on climate change for this increase in tornados due to their rareness and the difficulty in observing their changes, but scientists believe a warming climate will help to produce the storms that manufacture tornados.
Extreme storms around the world are anticipated to happen more frequently, and be more destructive, as the planet warms. From typhoons in the Pacific, to cyclones in the Indian Ocean, and hurricanes in the Atlantic, the storms we have seen in the past few years will become the new norm, until they too, are overtaken by larger, more destructive storms. Already, storms worldwide drop between 5-10% more rain than previously.
In Asia, there is evidence that typhoons are not only increasing in frequency, but they are getting stronger. They are beginning to threaten the region’s mega cities. Over the past thirty-seven years, typhoons to strike east and southeast Asia have intensified by 12-15%. The number of the larger category four and five storms has doubled in that period, and in some areas, they have tripled in number. Their destructive power has also increased by 50%. Climate experts are warning cities from Tokyo to Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Jakarta to prepare for future super strength typhoons. Even smaller storms are thought to pose a risk to these metropolises as infrastructure losses are expected to rise from $3 trillion in 2005 to $35 trillion in 2070.
Asia is home to ninety-nine of the hundred most vulnerable cities on Earth, and the loss to life could be enormous in the coming decades as the tides surge, the winds rush, and the rains lash at both cityscapes and rural areas straddling the coast. The poorest will be hit hardest, and even at just half a degree of increased warming, 1.5 billion will be at high or extreme risk, according to a risk assessment carried out in May 2021.
The world’s second largest ocean has also witnessed hurricanes that produce 10% more rain in recent years. If our politicians fail to act, and the temperature is allowed to increase by 37°F-39°F (3-4°C), then rainfall from hurricanes could increase by 1/3 and wind speeds will be 29 miles (46 km) per hour faster. In a 37°F (3°C) warmer world, Hurricane Katrina, which killed almost 2,000 people in 2005, would drop 25% more water.
Cyclone Gafilo, which barrelled into Madagascar in 2004, and left 250 people dead and 300,000 homeless, would drop twice as much rain in a 3°C warmer world, while Cyclone Yasi which struck Australia in 2011, would carry around a third more water. Australia is a rich developed country, and may be able to ride out these storms, but low-lying countries like Bangladesh, and low-lying islands won’t be so fortunate. Storm surges will wash away land, and leave millions without homes, food and water.
The African continent will be hammered by devastating floods and storms leading to considerable disruption to farming. The population on the African continent is the fastest growing with annual rates of 2.5%, more than double that of any other landmass. As more and more people are added to the population, intense storms and flooding will damage vital food crops. Western, and central Africa will be worst hit with Niger, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo among the most vulnerable to flooding. Scientists predict that the severe rainfall witnessed today will become seven or eight times more frequent by 2100.
Globally, one in four cities do not have money available to protect them from the impacts of the climate crisis. In a survey of over 800 cities, it was found that 43% of them, home to 400 million people, did not even have a plan in place to adapt to the looming crisis.
The harsh reality is, that even if cities can afford to pay for flood prevention and storm damage, they will be completely at the mercy of diminished food supplies which will be obliterated by the monsters about to be unleashed on our unsuspecting global population.
There is still time to avoid the catastrophe we have set in motion, but it is going to take drastic behaviour change and huge grassroots pressure on governments to force them to act immediately. Without this, none of us are prepared for Pandora and her box. We never could be.
Sawdust, it’s “Domestic Violent Extremists”.
It’s the “Potential Domestic Violent Extremists”, people who oppose globalisation or who criticize the Government that are the real worry for TPTB.
Pre crime algo’s, total information awareness and public/private partnerships will be needed in order to protect our freedoms from those who would incite the ignorant masses.
It’s under control, don’t worry!
“There is still time to avoid the catastrophe we have set in motion, but it is going to take drastic behaviour change and huge grassroots pressure on governments to force them to act immediately.”
40 years ago perhaps…
I’m really wondering if humans aren’t able to comprehend mortality because of our disconnect with nature for the last part of the industrial revolution.
I was going to say exactly this. Though I think even twenty years ago we could have still done something meaningful. But to still be talking about ‘there’s still time’ at this stage is frankly insane.
That suggests we should do nothing. i mean you’re right of course. when my students ask if it’s “too late ” i say yes it’s too late to avoid a catastrophe. but not too late to avoid an apocalypse. the difference is huge.
One problem is that there is more profit to be made from disaster response than disaster preparedness.
So our already rich corporate masters are leading the merry way, because, hey, you can’t have too much money.
Just think of the profit opportunities to be provided by an apocalypse!
Not nothing, but the focus needs to shift entirely from prevention to mitigation and damage control.
The rest of the article grimly belies the last paragraph.
Geoengineering here we come … in the hands of the merry band of sociopathic f*c*ups.
Renewables growth is past exponential, flattening towards linear.
The slowdown in deployments of renewables, revealing true “S-curve” behavior that will peak out at a lower value than we need, isn’t a surprise. The fundamental problem is “curtailment”, where renewable energy assets are deliberately turned off during periods of low electrical demand to avoid oversupplying the grid: http://www.caiso.com/informed/Pages/ManagingOversupply.aspx. This results in capital costs being spread out over fewer kilowatt-hours. Suddenly “cheap” renewable energy isn’t as cheap.
Even worse, early providers of renewable power were guaranteed “first access” to the grid, which means that providers who get into the business later will always be the first ones to get kicked off. This ruins the economics, and many potential providers will look at the math and conclude: “Why bother?”. The rate of adoption inevitably slows. It’s already happened in Germany and Spain and will undoubtedly happen elsewhere.
This trend could be reversed with energy storage (where surplus power could be stored for use later when wind and/or solar aren’t operating), but the current costs for storage are far too high. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University infamously put together a plan for a “100% WWS” grid that relied on 540 TWh of energy storage. At today’s costs, you’d need over $150 trillion in batteries to back ~$3 trillion in wind and solar assets. It’s not a viable plan.
The storage required is so large as to be improbable at best, and impossible at worst.
Large scale electricity storage is generally pumped storage, which requires many large sites, effectively “large bowls.” and large amounts of water. If salt or saline water it would probably in increase toxicity due to increasing salt accumulation, over time.
A possible best large scale site in the US is possibly a combination of Death Valley, and the Sea of Cortez.
With annual evaporation rates exceeding 12%, you need a lot of water.
Eagle Mountain PSH, still mired in permitting and litigation after a dozen years, proposes to tap the Coachella aquifer to fill (and top up) 2 giant pits at the old Kaiser mine in the Palm Springs area.
I think the developer is one Wile E. Coyote, Super Geeenius.
California energy continues to be a real option on crazy.
After nine days, I let the horse run free
‘Cause the desert had turned to a sea…
When you are trying to avoid a sixth extinction, who cares what it costs? Do you say “Oh Well, we can’t afford it. So let’s go extinct. Have a nice day.” Of course not, You come up with the money, the resources and do it in a rush.
Cost absolutely matters. Why? Because when you buy something that costs $150 trillion, you’re having to purchase enormous resources to make it happen. This could be vast amount of raw materials, vast amounts of equipment, vast amounts of people’s time, and/or vast amounts of energy. If a “plan” for the US requires 2500 years worth of worldwide lithium production, 25 years labor by 100 million people, and 900 terawatt-years of energy, then there’s no way to “do it in a rush”. The resources needed simply aren’t available in the quantities required, regardless of how many dollars are printed.
That’s why low-cost plans are preferred. It’s not just the dollars. Lower-cost plans require fewer resources, and they can generally be done more quickly. Usefully spend $1 billion on power generation equipment in a year? No problem. Usefully spend $150 trillion in a year? Not possible.
How about usefully spend $1 trillion on energy solutions in a year?
Hmmm… That’s actually an interesting question: How much could we usefully spend on energy solutions in a year?
A full $1 trillion might be feasible (as it’s about 5% of GDP), but it would definitely require a well-organized plan where permits were granted rapidly and NIMBY efforts were firmly suppressed. We don’t have any of that yet.
As a prior data point, Obama’s $800 billion ARRA stimulus plan set aside $33 billion for infrastructure projects. They struggled to spend the money usefully, as too few projects were truly “shovel ready”. I think a combination of permitting & paperwork delays and insufficient workers contributed.
As another data point, the US today spends less than $100 billion per year on all “energy solutions” combined (i.e., renewables, conventional, transmission & distribution). Trying to ramp up by a factor of ten in short order? Hoo boy… I won’t declare it impossible, but in today’s political and regulatory environment, I’m not optimistic.
Perhaps we need to learn about the creative thinking which has already been done in odd little corners of reality about storing the things which electricity can do instead of storing the electricity itself, which we really can’t do.
Years ago I read a little post on a blog called The Ergosphere by a self-styled right-wing environmentalist and energy efficiency engineer calling himself Engineer Poet. And the post went like this. The Netherlands has a bunch of wind turbines. Sometimes they make more power than the grid can handle. Sometimes they make less power than the grid needs. What to do? The Netherlands has a bunch of super-deep-freeze meat-storage warehouses. So they decided to use the times of surplus wind power to freeze the meat-storage warehouses even colder than they need to be for safe frozen meat storage. And when there is a wind-power shortage, such that all the windpower needs to go into the grid, the super-chilled meat warehouses let the temperature go back up to the proper deep frozen temperature. If there is still a windpower shortage after that, then the meat warehouses use conventional grid power to keep themselves at the proper freeze temperature.
But by using surplus windpower when it exists to get colder than they need to be, they can spend days using zero power at all slowly floating up to being only as cold as they need to be. And when the windpower goes surplus again, they go right back to upsoaking the surplus by super cooling the meat lockers below where they need to be. They are storing the chill-down which windpower makes possible when windpower is in surplus.
Applying that kind of thinking in various areas can reduce the need for battery storage. Store more of what electricity does, and we don’t need to store as much battery electricity.
Here is the link to The Ergosphere.
Perhaps we need to learn about the creative thinking which has already been done in odd little corners of reality
another small solution–just laying there to use
bet someone else will put up another before I get to the bottom of comments
and you never even mentioned the unmentionable–conservation /s
Conservation is certainly worth a mention . . . or three.
At work I use gallons of electricity and I am not going to quit my job in this “no money = you die” society just to “show green go green”.
But my last electric bill at my home revealed that I used 2.2 kilowatt-hours of electropower per day. If that is better than average for the average retail-level homedweller, then that shows that electricity conservation is possible without an unpleasant personal-four-walls lifestyle.
Here are two little suggestions that I apply in my own daily life within my 4 co-op dwelling unit walls.
My water heater is gas-fired. It has a pilot light. I discovered that if I turn it all the way off, that the pilot light still stays on. And the pilot light all by itself keeps the heater-water warm enough for two reasonably warm showers per day . . . . and I normally only take one. And for shaving water, I heat up just enough water on the stove in a teakettle to mix with some warm heater-water in the sink in order to get the sinkwater hot enough to shave with.
My fridge is electric. I read in a how-to-save-energy book that the “milder” a setting you put the fridge at, the less electricity it uses. So I put it at barely on. After a while I noticed that it was cycling on and off and on and off every few minutes. I thought ” this can’t be more energy saving”. So I started measuring the lengths and numbers of the fridge’s on cycles and off cycles at every coolness setting colder, one setting at a time. I discovered that the fridge spent the longest time on “off” between each “on” cycle at a setting almost halfway between luke-cool and quite-cold. So I leave it now at that setting.
What if several other fridges in America have a highest-cooling-efficiency sweet spot like mine does? What if a hundred million fridge owners of America took the time to measure their fridges’s on cycles and off cycles at various coolness settings? How much electricity would be saved if every homedweller fridge in America were set at it own highest efficiency sweet spot?
I used about 100 kilowatt-hours of electric power in my 640 square foot dwelling unit last bill-month.
well i was wrong on the more solutions before the end of comments thing.
Except for (and it is a big one) Krysten Podgajski:
“I do not understand why there is no mass boycott of, well, any of the mass polluter consumer product companies.”
this is his link:
I submit–your last 100Kw month beat my 428Kw month(but my electric water heater is over 80 years old and consistantly 60% of my split meter usage)
Since we are not packing the fridge(set mid range ’cause of that cycle thing I too noticed) like before, I store some sinks in there (some solid bricks as well as the Hurricane Water to displace the air space.
” What if a hundred million fridge owners of America took the time…”
Well, I live alone and I have time and a strange little mind . . . . so I do things like that.
If electricity costed enough to be painfully expensive, ” a hundred million Americans” would be motivated to take the time to find the sweet spot in their fridges. We just have to make electricity cost enough. And ban trade with countries which don’t charge as much for electricity within their borders, so we won’t suffer electricity-dumping on their part.
And some of my conservation is just lazy inertia. And some of it is acknowledging pre-defeat at the hands of certain building flaws where I live. For example, the insulation is somewhat poor. So trying to air condition would mean air conditioning the great outdoors. So instead of that, I just endure the heat.
If our co-op gets seriously up-insulated, then I will get air conditioning to see how I can use it most efficiently to achieve tolerable coolness with least AC use. Useful results might inspire others who . . . . lets get real . . . . will HAVE their Air Conditioning . . . . and will NEED their Air Conditioning when its a Death Valley Heat Wave outside.
” No Air Conditioning for you” is not an answer that most First Worlders are ready to accept just yet.
If your water heater is also electric, then you are ” not using” the gas I am using in my hot water heater, even though it is only the pilot light still.
Also, my gas-fired forced-air furnace system uses gas and electric, so if you are not using any gas for any of your indoor climate control, then my use of gas has to be counted in my overall home-energy use. And my cooking is gas, so if your’s is electric, then my gas-for-cooking also has to be counted up into my totals.
Our insulation is currently poor. If/when we get it upgraded to good again, then I will be able to experiment with most efficient use of gas to keep warm or warmish in winter. As it is, I keep my indoor temperature as low as I can long-term stand without genuine discomfort. But that is not living smarter, that is just living harder, and will not inspire many people.
I look forward to our getting retro-up-insulated, so I can start doing little experiments in decent comfort for least gas use.
A sustainable society will have to learn to use energy when nature provides it.
A sustainable society will also have to learn to unbox our current thinking.
Or store up the energy-when-provided to use it when needed. For example, growing trees provide their energy into their own lignified cellulose trunks and branches during the growing season. But we cut them back or down for firewood which we use during winter NON-growing season. Hopefully that counts as “when nature provides it”, for example.
Here’s a Peter Tosh number that seems appropriate for this bit– Downpressor Man
You gonna run to the sea
But the sea will be boiling
When you run to the sea
The sea will be boiling
Change the taxes – make it more taxing to pollute, extract, rentier, asset appreciate. Make it less taxing to work, improve the ecosystem, implement true sustainability, improve energy efficiencies etc.
The carbon trading bull will not work – Tax polluters and business cheats to effectively remove the profit motive — don’t enable work arounds by instituting a carbon trading system designed to be scammed and worked to ones advantage and at the expense of non-participants (the entire ecosystem).
The only sectors that need burning down are the FIRE sector and, the only polititcians that need voting out are the ones ‘hoeing’ for the FIRE sector.
The same old ( hundreds or thousands of years) scams, puffery, thefts, cons, cheats, thuggery, rackets, supremecy, bigotry, racism and swindles. They have only been further enabled and bloomed by our, so called, digital advancements and scientific achievments surrounded by privelege and monopoly
we can’t even raise the min wage to $8/hr so good luck with that
Our best hope is that a category 8 hurricane unexpectedly hits Washington DC. while congress is in session talking about tax breaks and enhanced corporate welfare so all the ‘critters and the lobbyists they carry water for are present.
We could if we became the United States of Autarkamerica behind a Big Beautiful Wall of militant belligerent protection.
We could raise our minimum wage if we forbid low-wage dumping from low wage countries and companies.
We could raise our Black Hat Perpetrator taxes if we could forbid imports from countries which don’t have the same Black Hat Perpetrator taxes or even stronger ones.
We could apply the Full Metal Hansen FeeTax and Dividend Plan against Fossil Carbon if we could forbid imports from countries which don’t have the same exact plan or even a stronger one.
But we can’t do any of that until we pull out of every single free trade agreement, probably going all the way back to GATT Round One. And that would probably require winning a civil war against the Free Trade Supporters, at the end of which we would have to shoot them all in the back of the head, Stalin style, and bury them in mass graves, so that they could never impose Free Trade on us ever again. We would have to kill as many millions of Free Trade supporters as it takes to exterminate the Free Trade concept from within America’s borders.
And then we would have to prepare to live under the kind of Free Trade Conspiracy blockade against Autarkamerica which America currently imposes on Cuba. But Autarkamerica is big enough to handle such a blockade from the wealth and work within its own borders.
yes DW, we need solutions–like those first three, but without the shooting part..
Well, if we can get there without the shooting part, that would be nicer. People should organize to try achieving the first three ideas in a kinder and gentler way to see if they get traction and conquer success.
If they don’t or can’t , then someone else will arise with the promise of ” harsher methods ” . . .
Carbon Trading… just make sure that Goldman and JP Morgan get the business.
On another note, there are silly marketing driven surveys on MSN home page. Today’s (7/21) has to do with perceptions of warmth, changing weather, and one’s belief in climate change, and personal action.
The results , shown after each question answered, were the most depressing thing I have seen yet today.
But it is early…
If anyone cared gas would be 10 bucks per gallon. Granted an imperfect regressive tax…but a start.
A VAT tax increases economic efficiency. This is why Western Europe does better with less.
The US has the most resource wasteful economy in the world, especially when we include what China wastes on our behalf. And that much of the cutie stuff China produces for us is essentially instant trash, anyway.
China doesn’t waste it on our behalf. We didn’t ask for China to make anything that we used to make. Our ruling elites made that choice and trick-forced it upon us. If we withdrew from all Free Trade Treaties and Agreements, we could begin step by step restoring a lower level of survival thingmaking and thingdoing industry and service. Because we would ban imports from all lower-cost differential-arbitrage racketeers, we could pay enough and charge enough for things and services to make long-life durability of things profitable within a protectionized political-economy-society.
The Hansen FeeTax Dividend Plan was designed to achieve that goal over time . . . time enough for people to adjust themselves and their technology, but unrelentingly irreversibly enough that people all knew they would reach that point . . . where fossil-derived energy came at a punitive price.
The dividend part was to feed back some money to the poors so they could buy enough survival gasoline to survive. And the non-poors might have enough money to spend some of it on such non-fossil alternatives and successors as would emerge in a controlled market forcefield of rising and then punitive and then exterminative prices for fossil fuel.
I don’t believe that is true: there never was ‘time to avoid’ before and there still isn’t now. For me, the idea of ‘time to avoid’ is closely linked to the notion that we are in any kind of control, at a species/global scale. Shit, ‘we’ cannot agree to live together in peace, as ‘we’ unleash wars and plagues (I assume COVID was biowarfare, until I see solid evidence to the contrary – its the only safe assumption).
So, I find it touchingly naïve to think that somehow we will start acting like grown-ups now, because ‘time is running out’. Our dear Earth (biosphere) seems to be on a corrective path and there never was a goddamn thing we could do about it.
I do agree that we will be reacting to emergencies from here on in. But I also think we will adapt. I expect us to become very practical about life and living. And, imo, probably the least practical thing to do would be to unleash biowarfare on the planet. – actually we don’t need biowarfare – we’ve got enough on our plate already. And there is no question that all sorts of opportunistic pandemics will occur naturally. Our economic system (the absurd “free market”) is done for – but we are adapting to it pretty fast (just one obvious example). We have the technology to organize ourselves to do stuff to make life more livable. And some low-lying places will be abandoned. We can see a recognition of this reality in the way western countries are opening their doors, against the will of the people usually, to migrants. I see all sorts of international cooperation going on. Tracts of agricultural land being granted or sold to China; infrastructure going up in Africa; government taking control of the oil industry. Much more is needed. But “biowarfare” added to the mess is like a drop in the bucket. There’s one reason to doubt we are plagued by intentional biowarfare. Another is the opinion of some virologist/geneticists. Edward Steele (Australian) for instance – he says he doubts that Covid was engineered to be biowarfare because the virus is mutating naturally, like any other virus. (I don’t know, but it sounds like biowarfare is designed to be so deadly as to kill fast and not bother wasting energy on mutations – ?). So anyway, we’ve never had “control” over the planet – we’ve always just been happy and hapless opportunists. Now that will be more difficult. And humans will be less delusional.
If the warfare becomes economic, then something which debilitates the enemy economy by debilitating the enemy population would be the preferred biowar weapon for an Economic War.
A quick kill of many would leave the survivors healthy, angry and out for revenge. Whereas a universally spread debilitating disease that lasts for years will merely make the target weaker in the Economic War phase short-run.
Now, a slow un-ascribable death for hundreds of millions would be the goal of a bio-attrition agent if the objective were population reduction. That would be an OverClass “class-war” war against the Lower Class.
I’m kind of the opposite. There’s a lot of things that might be true, but I’m not going to start assuming they are true without any solid evidence to support that assumption. Occam’s razor and all that I guess.
3-4°C is ~5-7°F. You don’t include the 32° freezepoint shift when comparing the magnitude of scale.
I think all the usual metaphors for this have been used up – frogs in a pan of water, lemmings going over a cliff, WWII type mobilisation needed, etc. But it is true that there is a type of global cognative dissonance going on. People know its happening, they are aware of the dangers, but its always someone elses job to do something. Ultimately, we are far, far beyond the stage when individual action or even a single nations action can make a difference (except symbolically). The infuriating thing is that the delay has made action all the more expensive – back in the early 1990’s there was very close to a global consensus that something must be done (even The Economist magazine back then was writing earnest reports into the type of policy needed to shift carbon emissions), but it broke down. i suspect the decade of very cheap oil and gas was a key element, and the aftermath of 9/11 killed off any political interest in doing something for two decades.
One thing history tells us is that human societies are very resistent to change unless disaster is staring us in the face. There are numerous historical examples of apparently stable societies facing a major peril, but not doing anything until the hordes were on the doorstep, so to speak. I think unfortunately, this is the case with climate breakdown. Its not until the majority of people feel genuinely gut level terrified of what is on their doorstep that politicians will have no option but to act (FDR’s comment that ‘I know what needs to be done, now make me do it’ is relevant). By then of course, its too late. And right now it is far too late to stop climate change – the very best we can possibly do in 2021 is to build up resiliance and ameliorate the worst impacts.
Its interesting that in Germany the Green Party is refusing to talk about climate change with regard to the floods there. They’ve decided (probably on good advice), that talking about it will sound like they are politicising a tragedy, and that its better for the electorate to add things up themselves. Maybe that is the best approach, I don’t really know anymore.
Interesting, and I think clever take by the Germans. Though in the end the tragedy will help to push for policies to combat climate change, not behaving like the typical populist they are really thinking big and seem to have at least a few priorities to avoid derailing initiatives and finally get rid of the inertia. Solidarity has been great during this tragedy and that is another good outcome that suggests a large majority would be favourable to new policies.
I read that there is some fear in the Union that new yellow-vest like revolts could erupt as a consequence of the rise in electricity prices driven in part by recent increases in the price of CO2 emissions that are ‘naturally’ passed 100% to the consumer (may be passed 150%?).
The fact is that we are witnessing record electricity quotes these days.
On that issue, Ireland is facing a major electricity supply problem this summer. The two biggest CCGT plants have gone off line unexpectedly at the same time, and its anticipated it will take months to get them up and running. Its very unusual for gas turbine plants to go down like this – I’ve been trying to find out the reason, but there is no information available. I suspect its an issue with the supply chain for key parts, but it could be just a coincidence.
That is why I have been hoping for “climate educational” F6 and F7 tornados and Cat 6 and Cat 7 hurricanes to visit the global warming denier majority areas . . . . to educate them without any boring lectures from boring liberals and boring leftists.
And also Death Valley heat waves like the recent one centered over the heartlands of coal, gas and oil production . . . . so the climate denialists of those areas can put two and two and two together at their leisure.
I am trying to imagine the effects of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation shutting down. It picks up heat from the tropics and is carried north. When it dives down deeper, the heat is released where the prevailing wind blow it towards Europe which gives it its temperate climate. I read that if it shuts down, then the UK and Europe end up with Siberia’s climate. I am trying to imagine how that would work out in terms of Europe growing food crops but am failing badly. I doubt that there would be surplus to have for export with but most would have to be dedicated to feeding the population. But how will they be able to refit all the buildings for that type of climate?
And not just the UK and EUrope. NorthEastern North America also, because the Gulf Stream takes heat up there before crossing the North Atlantic to EUrope and UK.
So all that festering heat will build up in the Gulfa Mexico instead. And then go where and do what? Probably many Hurricane Harveys each summer over the South and Central US. And also Death Valley Heat Waves.
And Donner Pass Style snowdumps randomly here and there every winter in Southern and Central US.
What if, for example, we got a Hurricane Harvey-load of rain some winter, but the temperature was just right for it to freeze in place upon contact with surfaces and left a 3 foot thick layer of ice over everything in its area?
Would that be educational enough?
“Humanity, Playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded cylinder”
I have seen one (hopefully there are more out there) article over the past few months confronting the seemingly incontrovertible fact that people are not going to change behaviors anywhere near an effective degree ( those in control are paying minimal lip service to what is happening)
Preparation based on what is likely to occur would seem to be sensible but that will include deciding who gets a seat in the life boats. Not the makings of popular headlines.
Perhaps the best preview of what is in our store for us would be the Bizarro World version of climate change in the guise of the Little Ice Age, when worldwide temps dipped a couple degrees.
Evolving thinking suggests that the Little Ice Age was brought on by reforestation first due to the Mongol Massacre of a million square miles of farmers, and then due to the European Germocaust of the Indian Nations in North and South America, resulting in 2 million more miles of reforestation.
That pulled enough carbon down out of the air to lower earth’s heat-retention break-even temperature. Which goes to show that broad scale eco-management or dis-management one way or the other clearly does have a climate effect.
“It is going to take drastic behaviour change and huge grassroots pressure on governments to force them to act immediately.”
Ergh… If we’re waiting for people to adopt drastic behavior changes and to apply huge grassroots pressure, we’ll never get there. A fair percentage of the population believes that global warming is a scam. Others believe in it, but don’t think it’ll be bad and don’t see the need for change. Others are willing to make changes, but only minimally so. [How minimally? Try a mere $16.25 extra on their electric bill. That’s it.] Only a small portion of the population is willing to make major lifestyle changes for environmental reasons. Just look at how much push-back there was on COVID-19 restrictions. AWG restrictions could potentially be much more intrusive, and they’d certainly last much longer.
And when we pressure governments to “act immediately“, what actions do we want them to take? Build hundreds of nuclear power stations? Open hundreds of lithium mines and refineries so that we can make enough batteries to back a renewable grid? Hire 10 million people to crawl into people’s attics to add insulation? Chop down forests by the square mile to use as bio-fuel? Outlaw private vehicles to force everybody to use public transportation? Cut off fuel oil and natural gas supplies to force switches to heat pumps and electric hot water heaters? Shut down all coal- and gas-fired power stations and use the resulting blackouts to force lifestyle changes? Implement large scale geoengineering?
Here’s today’s LXATimes response: https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021-07-21/californias-electric-car-revolution-designed-to-save-the-planet-inflicts-a-big-toll-on-it
Storage is a huge problem for renewables. I’ve been toying with the idea of building a storage system in my home for the 6kW solar array I currently have. Maintenance and environmental impact of batteries have me looking at potential energy. Hoisting a 1000kg mass (could be construction waste, a composter, anything) 5m in the air yields 50kJ of potential. Releasing that over an hour gives you about 13W continuous. So you can see the difficulty. My array can produce 40kWh in 10 hours on a sunny summer day. If I tried to store that in lifting a 1000kg mass, I’d have to lift it 15km into the air. So obviously the mass has to increase but I can’t have a 1000 ton counter weight in my yard dangling 15m off the ground. Attractive nuisance anyone?
The point is that we need to reduce our energy use dramatically. My household energy balance is about 25MWh per year for the home, 10MWh per year for driving (assume 500Wh per mile), and (2500 kcal ~ 3kWh) our family of 4 uses another 20MWh in food assuming 20% efficiency conversion (more likely 10%). The grand total is roughly 60MWh per year, 165kWh per day. My experience with solar in MN is that we get roughly 1MWh per year per 1kW of nameplate generation capacity. The result is that we’d need an array of 60kW or 10 times what we currently have in order to produce our energy needs. Doable, maybe.
If we got a passive house (~80% of home energy is HVAC), electric cars with 250Wh per mile and switched to vegan diet that is twice as efficient we could get that down to 5MWh for the home, 5MWh for the cars, and 10MWh for food, neglecting any air travel or the energy of other goods (clothes?) needed we have a 20MWh per year footprint and with a 1lb CO2 per kWh energy mix that is 20 tons of CO2 per year for our family, or 5 tons per year per person. Currently the US average is 15 tons per year per person.
Now, changing the energy mix to get 10kWh per pound of CO2 is the only way to go, and to do that we need storage. Lots of it. We’re in trouble.
Compress air .
Total efficiency of such a system would be 25-35%. Triple or quadruple the solar panel array requirements….better than nothing but we need serious work on industrial scale vanadium flow batteries or similar.
Liked your work up reflecting the time you’ve thought about it:
My household energy balance is about 25MWh per year for the home,
is this mixed energy(for Htg) or just Electrical?
My 1k sf 1940s Estate Cottage (no AC/Insul. — but wooded) in the Piedmont of SC averages 700Kw a month in Electric ( original H2O htr still working)
You could put a Timer on your water heater(s) and check the results…
pennies and nickles/pennies and nickles…
(multiply by your neighbors)
but you probably know this…
I included the total natural gas usage for water heating and space heating backup (have an air source heat pump). Electrical is the less of the two household energy uses, more like 8MWh, not including the solar offset.
I’ve been hearing words to the effect “we still have time to avoid climate catastrophe if we act now” for the past 20 years. We have yet to act and still I hear those same words. At what point will scientists utter the words “we’ve run out of time”? Maintaining a positive attitude is useful in some situations, but the climate emergency requires a different approach. Alarms should be sounded loud, clear, and incessantly because we have run out of time for more dithering.
Scientists have uttered those words and the insurance industry pays close attention (I’d like to emphasize that the second link is from way back, 2014)
The 3 academic climatologists I know *all* say that we have run out of time. One worked on instrumenting seismicly the Greenland ice sheet breakup (sadly he is deceased), another is modeling the Atlantic circulation, the 3rd is modeling African monsoons. All funded by NOAA or NSF. The latter is my nextdoor neighbor. We commiserate over the fence on the death of all our hardwoods due to climate change. He has an EV and ground loop heat pump FWIW. I don’t drive enough to justify the former and heard his tales of woe re inept installation of the latter.
I do not understand why there is no mass boycott of, well, any of the mass polluter consumer product companies. Personal consumption is responsible for up to 60% of climate change.
I have started, just yesterday, with Amazon. I did not use it much but did use it because I live in poverty and it makes things easier and much cheaper. But I could pay for it now or later, so no more. Plus Be(o)zo’s comments after his space ride were also a tipping point. Also, Apple iCloud Storage; canceled. We really need to stop fueling the engine of capitalism. And all we need to do it is “less”.
So how many here who still use Amazon will stop? Today?
You make think this is only individual action, but it is collective action if other people are doing it with you.
Agreed. Easy for me to say as I’ve had a personal boycott of Amazon since they started annihilating bookstores in the early days. And, as you said, for those who are poor it’s hard. The other aspect that is hard is rewriting our brains for what is needed vs. what is wanted. I know you’ve taken huge steps in that regard. I’ve tried as well but know I have a ling way to go to cut waste from my life.
Last week I spent a few days at a friend’s off-the-grid self-made cabin. He’s made it so even the waste water is recycled into an ecosystem for earthworms and other critters he then uses for composting and soil regeneration to grow his own crops. The whole place is really a marvel. He has a few luxuries (a wash machine he can only use on sunny days due to solar power limitations, as an example) but overall it’s a simple yet beautiful life he’s built.
But, it was (relatively) expensive and took almost a decade to make it habitable full time. Plus, few of us have the land available to us to do such a thing. I doubt my landlord would appreciate me undoing all the power and plumbing of my apartment and redoing it so we’re off the grid!
As you said though, making changes like not supporting Amazon is a big step. I wish there were “indie” options for tech alternatives to Apple/Samsung/etc. Been trying to get my mobile provider (Credo Mobile) to allow FairPhones for a decade now but no luck. Other than that one company I’m not sure of any other tech companies trying to make sustainable tech.
F**king up the Gulf Stream and Jet Stream are frightening things indeed.
I know the ‘Population Problem” comments are on their way–however Business as Usual may be giving some partial solutions and this should be some ‘happy’ news for them:
this is about PFAS and a common method of exposure:
this is about PFAS and Phthalates, primary ingrediants of Plastic and there effect on Human Fertility
Transcripts follow the Links.
Some are not (on Line 3) Resigned or Idle:
and you know it is complicated on a number of levels:
of course, as linked above:
PFAS and xeno-estrogens everywhere may be just another stealth part of the secret OverClass Plan to attrit world population over this century by stealth.
maybe, though Human Hubris has thrown off a lot of unintended consequences also…
With all the different kinds of “population control” methods the “elites” have implementing over the past however many decades, you would think that the world population would be going down by now.
As far as a wakeup call on climate catastrophe, the oligarchs ripped the phone line out of the wall decades ago, and they aren’t taking any calls now.
The U.S. had an opportunity back in the 1980s to address climate catastrophe — for instance, when James Hansen testified to the Senate in 1988. The plutocracy said no — they were just going to enjoy their party.
Recently, in response to the epic flooding in Germany, Merkel said more attention to ‘climate change’ was needed. This seemed like a bad joke because Merkel has been Chancellor of Germany since 2005… and is now retiring.
Merkel is fascinating because she does not seem to be one of the typical sociopaths that the Anglo-sphere belches up with regularity — the Bush clan, the Clintons, Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison … well, no need to go on for hundreds of pages.
Merkel, unlike most U.S. politicians, is actually quite intelligent — and a trained scientist with a PhD. in Quantum Chemistry! Merkel understands, obviously, the science of greenhouse gases so cannot plead ignorance.
And yet her legacy, tragically, is that she is an absolute mediocrity, whose entire career is ‘go along, to get along’ with the American Empire.
Merkel has made many bleating sounds about the Stasi and growing up in East Germany, but did what exactly when the Obama Administration was caught (by Wikileaks) spying on her? Nothing. Snowden applied for asylum in Germany and she did what? Again, nothing.
And regarding the imprisonment and torture of Julian Assange who helped reveal the U.S. spying on Germany? Nothing. So the Stasi were very naughty but when the Empire spies on you? Oh, well.
Despite some hand-wringing, Merkel has gone along with the NATO crazies, the putsch in Ukraine, the anti-Russia hysteria, the U.S. regime change wars, — all the ‘business as usual’ for the Empire.
Recently, 120 or so German journalists and politicians pleaded with Merkel to “beg” Biden— when she met with the President a week ago — to stop the persecution of Assange . And she did what exactly? Obviously nothing. Wouldn’t want to upset the Masters even while she was slinking off into retirement.
I have German friends who adore Merkel (Hillary, too), and are quite distressed when I refer to her as an immense couch potato who has accomplished absolutely nothing in her career — except ‘go along, to get along’ with the Empire
Why pick on poor Angela when American homegrown politicians are obviously so much worse? Because change in the U.S. — except for accelerating derangement — now seems impossible as the ‘heartland’ has been so corrupted by oligarchs gone wild.
Merkel, as the leader of the most powerful nation in Europe, might have made a difference on climate catastrophe, but she took the easy road and her legacy on a dying planet is exactly nothing.
Germany is fully occupied territory and, being part of EU, is a project run from a basement office at the Pentagon (I think Michael Hudson said that). So, it doesn’t matter how clever or stupid Merkel might be, orders are orders aka ‘go along, to get along’.
Effective leadership is rare. Merkel, in my distant observation, may have understood the catalysts in chemistry, but was neutralized by the real world of politics.
It’s funny how the hyper-rational technocrats and science types that neoliberals promote as natural leaders can’t seem to figure out a way to “tackle” climate change. It’s observable, there’s lots of data to draw on and it’s a problem that can only be approached in a very rational and methodical way.
If Angela Merkel, a leading politician who is also a scientist, is unable, or unwilling, to overcome political inertia on climate change action, perhaps the system really is irredeemably broken and not fit for purpose? Nah, that can’t be…
“There is still time to avoid the catastrophe we have set in motion, but it is going to take drastic behavior change and huge grassroots pressure on governments to force them to act immediately.”
The climate catastrophe our Power Elites have set in motion is a gargantuan creature with enormous mass, and now enormous momentum. There is still time to try to predict and adapt to what will come. While worrying over climate systems Humankind would do well not to forget the many fragile human systems and networks increasingly likely to collapse.
What kind of “grassroots pressure” can the Populace apply to force our Power Elite to act? As Randy G comments [12:21 pm above] — “the oligarchs ripped the phone line out of the wall decades ago, and they aren’t taking any calls now.” Worse still, a growing faction of our Power Elites smell profits to be made taking ‘drastic’ actions to ‘avoid’ catastrophe. I fear what they might attempt more than I fear that they will simply continue the ongoing destruction as usual.
The world and the way of life we knew is doomed. The best thing individuals can do is try to save something of our Civilization’s knowledge and technology. The future will not be a cozy version of Little House on the Prairie. In our times, we possess the collected knowledge and technology of five or ten millennia of human genius and ingenuity — perhaps more. Humankind will need all we can save of that great wealth to survive and rebuild a new Civilization in some distant future.
People at various levels of organization might try organizing for small and tiny social-technosystems survival . . . . perhaps of the sort that John Michael Greer describes.
It would be good if the non-upperclass survivors could have some kind of plan to exterminate the upper classes when they re-emerge from their Ride-Out-The-Storm bunkers.
Or maybe just seal up their air vents while they are still inside their bunkers, so they never re-emerge to begin with.
Several decades ago I read a book by Roberto Vacca called The Coming Dark Age. At that time, the threats he saw were not climate or eco-related. He expected society and civilization to become so complicated that it would collapse from unmanageable complexity. He called for engineers, scientists, technologists and technicians, thingmakers/ fixers, etc. to form settlements separate and apart from “society” to serve as scientific and technology monasteries keeping some science and tech knowledge alive for when the dark age society finally settled down enough to be able to re-learn and re-use some of these things. Something like the Irish monks who “saved Western civilization” in a prior Dark Age.
Here is a link to a free pdf version of the book.
Worse still, a growing faction of our Power Elites smell profits to be made taking ‘drastic’ actions to ‘avoid’ catastrophe
Power Elites, by definition, are psychopaths and sociopaths who do not give a shit about the rest of us. But they are not idiots, so I would not ‘fear’ any ‘drastic’ actions in pursuit of profit. They may take other types of ‘drastic’ actions (think culling, think WHO and Bill Gates) because of their inherent evil natures (greed is not good, its evil) but, again, not for profit.
The world and the way of life we knew is doomed
If you mean ‘world’ is Earth, then no: the biosphere will correct and survive. I think that much is certain. But I agree our way of life ain’t got no future.
To clarify — the world we knew and the way of life we have known is doomed. I believe neither Humankind nor the Earth and its biosphere is doomed. I hope we might go on together living in somewhat greater harmony than we have for the last many centuries. — The expressive power of written language is difficult to master.
I believe the Power Elites all share the same illusions as the French Aristocracy — apres moi le deluge. But just in case, as a low cost insurance [relatively speaking] — many of the Power Elite and the merely wealthy have their bunkers to flee to.
Let us hope that there is a plan and armed action groups to exterminate that Power Elite and their merely wealthy pets and butlers when they come back up out of their bunkers.
Top US scientist on melting glaciers: ‘I’ve gone from being an ecologist to a coroner’
I continue to be amazed at the earth’s ability to exceed climate science’s worst expectations and our elites ability to do nothing. But given that I’ve come to think that any neoliberal “solutions” will also be a nightmare, my predictions for climate change have settled into –
It will get much worse before it gets worse.
The OverClass considers the UnderClass majority of about 7 or 8 billion people to BE the problem.
The OverClass considers global warming to be part of the solution . . . . their Final Solution to the Underclass Majority Question. That is why the OverClass deliberately creates and maintains global warming on purpose.
The “advanced nations” can’t even handle a relatively mild pandemic that they’ve been war gaming for decades before it finally broke out.
The approach to climate chan— er, the climate emergency (experts say using the correct terminology is very important) will mirror the haphazard approach to the pandemic, complete with competing “narratives” backed by rival media ecosystems and podcasts fueling conspiratorial paranoia and righteous outrage ala Covid 19.
Those who have the resources to mitigate their exposure to climate chaos will do so, and those who can’t will get to practice their “climate resilience” (i.e. facing the brunt of a frying planet with a few token handouts from climate NGOs set up by the WEF and friends).
In the meantime, buy “green” and don’t forget to doomscroll those clickbait climate articles until we find a suitable scapegoat to blame for neoliberalism’s inability to get sh!t done.
The approach to climate chan— er, the climate emergency (experts say using the correct terminology is very important)
Good and very correct point, but curious you didn’t use ‘Crises’ to mirror your attitude.
Why will globalisation be an environmental disaster?
Western companies couldn’t wait to off-shore to low cost China, where they could make higher profits.
Maximising profit is all about reducing costs.
China had coal fired power stations to provide cheap energy.
China had lax regulations reducing environmental and health and safety costs.
China had a low cost of living so employers could pay low wages.
China had low taxes and a minimal welfare state.
China had all the advantages in an open globalised world.
Environmentally friendly measures cost money and reduce profit.
The goal is to maximise profit.
Why do firms move to Mexico and export into the US?
Companies prefer Mexico with its cheap labour, lax health and safety standards, and lack of environmental regulations.
They can expose workers to hazardous chemicals and just pump toxic waste straight out into the environment, without incurring the costs associated in dealing with them in an environmentally friendly way.
Every avenue must be explored to reduce costs.
The lower the costs, the higher the profit.
We have created a system where the incentives encourage people to be environmentally unfriendly.
“Show me the incentive and I’ll show you the outcome” Warren Buffet’s partner Charlie Munger
“Meanwhile, Chinese banks are financing a blizzard of new coal plants across South East Asia as part of the Belt and Road”
Coal is one of the cheapest forms of energy.
It will help them keep costs down.
How are you going to get an American to give up his F-150, when you can’t even get him to wear a mask?
Focus your concern and organizing efforts on the Americans who either don’t have F-150s and/or those Americans who currently wear masks. Of whom there are millions and millions. Really. Truly.
And let Darwin take the others.
I’ve come to the sad realization that humans will stop putting increasingly huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere soon after billions of us die from the massive crop failures climate change will bring. We as a species are incapable of taking action on climate change. It will be done for us.
I’d start with capture methane at plants, oil and fracking fields rather than flaring it off or letting it leak. Cap all old wells and fracking sites. Scrap space tourism now.
Look at the behaviors of the world’s top 10% and see what they are willing to give up as opposed to what they are willing to have the bottom 90% give up. They are primarily responsible for the jump since around 2000. So what do the approx. 800 million people say they should give up?
Does the bottom 90% need bitcoins? Does the bottom 90% need private jets, helicopters, yachts or cruise ships? Does the bottom 90% need fracking and the resources it uses / contaminates like water? Does the bottom 90% need billionaire / millionaire rows which require workers to have massive commutes to support them? Does the bottom 90% need quantitative easing, massive leverage, fiat currencies which allow rich countries / individual to exploit and destroy their natural and human resources while making the bottom 90% “pay for” it? Neat trick that. etc., etc., etc.
We need an international eco-socialist movement, focused on the practical necessities of survival for the species. We need the world’s nations all working together to solve our collective problems. What’s more important than how we are different, is how we are alike. We need to abolish billionaires, and private ownership of the means of production. We have to stop Capital from annihilating us. We can only cast off the oppression that is on us all if we do it together, globally. Are we any closer to any of these things than we were yesterday? Nope. Is our species going to make it out of adolescence or whatever this is? It’s not looking good.
Most of this seems to me to be coming from the bargaining stage of the 5 stages of grief. Civilization is a heat engine operating in a finite environment which it has heated up..there is no turning back, we will be extinct just like so many other species before us. So gather ye rosebuds while ye may.