1.5C
December 12, 2015 2:26 PM   Subscribe

 
Today in Baltimore it was 70 degrees.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:29 PM on December 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


FTA: Mass extinction is likely to be the hallmark of our era. This is what success, as defined by the cheering delegates, will look like.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:32 PM on December 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


I missed this because I was outside all day putting up Christmas lights. In shorts. Did I mention Ohio?
posted by hal9k at 2:38 PM on December 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


You have to admit that it is amazing how a group of human beings can cut a deal with the global climate to tell it to stop at an additional 2C warming.
posted by perhapses at 2:42 PM on December 12, 2015 [47 favorites]


Eight months ago, I was planning the training for my Army Reserve unit. I scheduled chemical-suit training for this weekend, because those outfits (designed not to let in little tiny chemical molecules) get pretty damn hot, and it's kinda nice to "have" to put them on in December in Michigan.

Fucking sweated our asses off.
posted by Etrigan at 2:57 PM on December 12, 2015 [16 favorites]




Still, I'm amazed they set a target as low as 1.5C to be their goal. I mean, without meaningful action we could be looking at, what, 6C by 2100? And it's not like global warming stops at the end of the century.

With decreasing cost and increasing adoption of things like solar cells, storage batteries, and many of the other renewables, I'm at least reasonably hopefully we won't see the worst case scenario.

And on the bright side, we're setting the stage for a lot of evolutionary change with all the niches that will become available due to the mass extinction event already ongoing.
posted by Existential Dread at 2:58 PM on December 12, 2015 [7 favorites]




The targets exist only to prevent mass panic and civil uprising. The realistic expectations I've been seeing indicate that we're headed for a minimum 4C and likely 6C increase by 2100. Which is basically doomsday.

Mass migration and crop failure are going to be the biggest challenges, I think.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:01 PM on December 12, 2015 [22 favorites]


five fresh fish: "The targets exist only to prevent mass panic and civil uprising. The realistic expectations I've been seeing indicate that we're headed for a minimum 4C and likely 6C increase by 2100. Which is basically doomsday.

Mass migration and crop failure are going to be the biggest challenges, I think.
"

When I say things like this to friends they call me various derogatory names. Okay, fine. I probably won't be around to say I told you so.
posted by Splunge at 3:17 PM on December 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


I probably won't be around to say I told you so.

And you wouldn't want to be.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:27 PM on December 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


We used to have SSTs. Now 787s travel slower than 727s.

We used to have 4GHz CPUs. Now most are 1-2Ghz.

We used to have cars without speed limiters, now all kick in at some arbitrarily high speed.

It's all software now. There should be a global treaty, (like for CFCs) so any vehicle sold or re-sold must have its firmware flashed to invoke the speed limiter at some lower agreed upon speed.

Maybe phase it in by having the max speed depend upon the current year, say, max_speed = 100 km/h - min(60, (now_yyyy - 2015)*60/35) km/h

Less energy would be used. Accidents would have less serious consequences. EVs would have longer ranges.

If not a global treaty on car speeds, then at least something concrete, other than a temperature target without any means of achieving it.
posted by ecco at 3:33 PM on December 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


So what exactly does this agreement accomplish?

Gosh, really wish mefites who seemingly know nothing about
a) climate change
b) practice of international politics
c) multi-lateral agreements

could cool their jets a little. The constant doomsaying we get in these threads is exhausting, and little better than noise.

What does this agreement get us?

Explicit recognition that climate change is here, is serious, and that nations are committed to changing it; a strong signal to markets, finance institutions, investment funds, etc that there is going to be a "Green boom" just around the corner; another coffin in the nail of the coal industry in particular; a renewed push to stop fossil fuel subsidies; an opening for other international agreements like the Montreal Protocols to leverage climate change action; the first step for mechanisms that will increasingly ratchet up the pressure on nations to act. That's just off the top of my head.

Could the agreement have been better? In the realm of what is realisitically possible in the world we have, with the govts we have, with the lobbyist we have, etc. Not much better I think, honestly.

This idea that everyone will sit down and sing kumbaya and suddenly launch strict, aggressive, global targets is naive and silly; there's no point pining after it, it will never be.

Some facts: 1 It won't cost the earth. All major studies find that the costs of achieving deep reductions in carbon emissions are a small fraction of future economic growth. And that is before extra benefits such as reduced air pollution and more stable energy prices are taken into account."

2. People underestimate how fast this change will happen:
PARIS: There is considerable concern in Paris – and elsewhere – about whether the deal negotiated at the UN climate change conference will be strong enough to drive the global decarbonisation effort that everyone recognises is needed. Tony Seba, a leading academic from Stanford University, says it doesn’t matter. He says the plunging costs of technology will sweep away political inertia and the resistance of vested interests. So much so that by 2030, he believes coal, oil and gas generation and usage will be all but obsolete.

3. 2015 may not be peak emissions, but it's coming soon.
This is the first two-year period in a multi-decade record where the global economy shows clear signs of decoupling from fossil fuel emissions. In the past, every single break or decline in the growth of carbon emissions was directly correlated with a downturn in the global or regional economy. This time is different.

4. Investors are going to be running screaming from carbon heavy assets.
Climate change and the risk of stranded assets have been named as two major areas of increasing investor focus and concern in the latest global survey of institutional investors by Ernst & Young.

Can I suggest, if you don't actually know anything about climate change mitigation, instead of running around like a chook with its head cut off, you just step back and read a bit? No one cares about your ignorant opinion. If you think your opinion isn't ignorant (and reasonable people can disagree), then at least put up some qualified information supporting it.

This is a first step, just the first step on a long journey, but it's heading in the right direction. Compare to Copenhagen.
posted by smoke at 3:46 PM on December 12, 2015 [146 favorites]


Does anyone know of a good layman readable report that discusses future winters? Planting a piece of Ozarks savanna in trees that can't survive a winter die back seems pointless.
posted by ridgerunner at 4:07 PM on December 12, 2015


I only hope it makes the Koch brother nauseous.
posted by gottabefunky at 4:08 PM on December 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


The constant doomsaying we get in these threads is exhausting, and little better than noise.

But if we don't do the doomsaying, how can we convince people to engage in mass suicide? And where would be the fun of going into other threads and posting "Well, women voting in Saudi Arabia, or a white jury convicting a cop is nice and all, but don't confuse it with progress. Because in a couple decades climate change will reduce civilization to feuding warlords and oppressive dictatorships. Well be eating grandmas to survive."

It's like we have a website full of Harlan Ellisons.
posted by happyroach at 4:39 PM on December 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Good points smoke.

In response I'll raise you these:

1) The UK just approved £200M funding for diesel grid stabilisation over (plenty of) renewable options. There are still massive fossil fuel subsidies in place.

2) Tony Seba is a brilliant man – re: solar trillions. And whilst the cost of solar will fall to below fossil fuel parity levels, and solar will inherit the earth, there's significant gains that need to be made in the areas of storage and distribution.

Back to point 1), the issue with fossil subsidies in light of plummeting renewable generation costs is that for renewables, generation is only part of the story. The next part is storage – how to shift consumption – and then grids that are capable of absorbing the energy flows currently being enabled by shipping petrol/coal or pipping gas. That's the trouble with subsidies, it's all well and good to place the weight on generation, but renewables do something essentially different from fossils. For fossils, the moment of generation and distribution is the same moment. With renewables they're broken apart, which leads to huge gains in some ways, but also the misnomer that focusing solely on like-for-like on the generation aspect is adequate.

3) the decoupling point is unknown. It would be absolutely amazing if its true, for economic group without carbon emissions growth heralds a sustainable future. But there's a lot of dirty data there. First and foremost, are we in economic growth, or are we in economic reshuffling? Broadly, it looks like consumption is growing, but at the same time, it's shifting from consumption of physical assets to consumption of digital assets. There's certainly an extracting of stored value, in form of pensions and other long-term care plans. The underlying economy has been so distorted that it is unclear whether or not we have decoupled.

4) They already are. Gillian Tett made a great point in the financial times months ago about he oil price. How, the reason its crashing is not only because OPEC has keeled over near dead, but also because we're installing substitute capacity. One solar panel or one turbine or one Tesla may not seem like a huge gain, but taken together, there's been a shift of massive amounts of production and consumption off fossils to renewables. The aggregate looks very positive.

One watch area is that this is one of the fundamental drivers of political and social instability. As the oil price crashes, oil economies struggle. As oil economies struggle, societies become destabilised, and we have a moment of terrorism and concern. It's tricky because obviously we want to end oil economies, but at the same time, many many people rely on oil for their survival. We created a world that consumed their resource and paid them handsomely, and now we move into a post-oil economy.

While investors may run, there are very real consequences to shifting economic tides. It's not unlike the Uber argument in Europe. Uber will win, because it represents such a step-change in efficiency that traditional taxis cannot compete. Yet, that's also taking out a section of the economy on which there are numerous interdependencies. While net positive for climate change, it produces social instability, and we must take into account the social repercussions.

Overall, good deal. I don't think it will be enough to avoid 4C, because the momentum of climate change shows compounding impacts. We're just now seeing the impact of industrialisation. Reductions will stop runaway change, but at the same time, we're not even close to mitigation. What I feel we see here is the first step toward the "climate austerity" we're going to need to rebalance the climate itself. Great that there's broad base participation, but I'd still go short on long-term property prices in Miami and Mumbai.
posted by nickrussell at 4:42 PM on December 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


While I'm rarely the optimist, we need a little doomspeak to wake people up. However, we need to quickly say that we are not too late and we need some real urgency on new technologies. Tony Seba is no fool. He knows that solar power is the bridge to the future.
The Paris climate agreement may not be everything necessary to fix the problem but it at least gave a lot more credibility to the problem of climate change on a global scale.
Have hope! The UK Dailymail website had a great article yesterday about the newest fusion reactor having had a successul test. It is the Wendelstein 7-X.
posted by Muncle at 5:20 PM on December 12, 2015


As a Bostonian, one small thing I found to do about climate change in the past couple years is to support the Blue Hill Observatory, which has weather data going back over 100 years. With the data, it's possible to say objectively if temperatures have been getting warmer recently (they have), and by how much (a lot).
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:21 PM on December 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


>Overall, good deal. I don't think it will be enough to avoid 4C

I think those two statements are incompatible.
posted by anti social order at 5:23 PM on December 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Lots of talk about renewables and not a word about reduction of consumption. That's the hard sell in a capitalist world. In the end, though, it won't matter where the energy comes from if we keep using more of it. It all ends up as waste heat.
posted by oheso at 5:25 PM on December 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


There was a lot of media outlets reporting that the 31 page draft would be a binding agreement. However, as far as I can tell there are no actually legally binding provisions in the agreement (see http://www.vox.com/2015/12/12/9981020/paris-climate-deal for a good writeup). Compare this to the legally binding TPP agreement which is 6000 pages long and between 12 countries (as opposed to 195). I think we should all be a bit skeptical and hold our leaders accountable to their pledges.

I agree with smoke, however, that there is some reason for optimism. I live in Alberta, and even here the provincial govt has pledged to phase out coal by 2030 and is going to implement a $30 per tonne carbon levy.

History will tell...
posted by piyushnz at 5:33 PM on December 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Given our current understanding of climate science and barring some miracle invention the idea that we're going to prevent 2° much less 1.5° is farcical. Might as well claim we're shooting for reducing mean global temperature by a degree while giving everyone a magical telepathic pony friend.
posted by Justinian at 5:38 PM on December 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


What does this agreement get us?

It gets us a nice little spreadsheet so we can see what everyone is promising. Here are all the countries above >1% of global greenhouse gas emissions:
Iran           1.05%          business as usual (BAU), less 4% if sanctions end                                                          Saudi Arabia   1.05%          "economic diversification"
Bolivia        1.19%          *denounces capitalism*
India          5.73%          lower "emissions intensity", i.e. increased emissions
Brazil         5.70%          Big emissions reduction, 37%!
Burma          1.01%          busy working on rural electrification
Indonesia      1.49%          BAU less 29%, probably still an increase?
Congo          1.53%          What are they even doing emitting so much
Australia      1.45%          26% reduction by 2030, matching the USA.
China          23.75%         Once again promises to keep increasing emissions
South Korea    1.28%          BAU less 37%, a modest decrease from present levels
Japan          2.82%          26% by 2030, matching Australia
Canada         1.96%          30% by 2030, good luck Canada
Russia         5.35%          reduction from 1990 level, already down a lot from then?
USA            12.10%         26% by 2030
Mexico         1.27%          reduction from BAU
Europe         8.79%          40% by 2030, 1990 level, showing off

Total          77.5%          17 countries/entities, at least 6 of which promise actual reductions.

posted by sfenders at 5:39 PM on December 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


What is the point of all this if China and India aren't going to play along with the rest of the world?
posted by neon meat dream of an octofish at 5:55 PM on December 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


The GOP reaction to the Paris talks brings home that the most irresponsible thing an American citizen can do is vote Republican. Even in local elections where science deniers have much less opportunity to do damage, a vote for the GOP candidate is a bad decision, for it's the farm team for future state and federal elected officials. Although I used to sneer at single issue voters, I've become one: in comparison, nothing else matters.
posted by carmicha at 6:07 PM on December 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


a renewable grid will be a radical change in the American way of life not just because it will require large decreases in consumption but because it will also mean an end to electricity on demand for non wealthy consumers. the current grid depends upon the bedrock of always on electrical generators whose existence encourages consumption of electricity to prevent the wholesale price/watt from going to low. when you can't predict the supply, total consumption will have to be less than the minimum possible supply with a significant safety margin on top of that to insure grid stability:

compared to today, a renewable grid will feel a lot like water usage in California right now, probably with similar class delineated pathologies.

the idea that giant LiIon batteries or pump storage or molten sodium are going to create enough storage to sustain not just the current level of consumption but the current pattern of consumption is, well

smoke at 6:46 PM on December 12
[44 favorites +] [!]

posted by ennui.bz at 6:08 PM on December 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


the idea that giant LiIon batteries or pump storage or molten sodium are going to create enough storage to sustain not just the current level of consumption but the current pattern of consumption is, well

smoke at 6:46 PM on December 12
[44 favorites +] [!]


I dunno....Hawaii is already doing it.

Solar is so widespread in Hawaii that they are disincentivizing homeowners from putting that energy back on the grid. Hook your solar panels up to a home-sized battery array and you've gone a ways towards stabilizing not only your own demand but also the grid. Battery installations on their their own allow you to charge at night and use during the day, normalizing a lot of demand so that you're not shutting off power plants at night and turning them on during the day. And battery price is coming down year by year.

Giant batteries? Maybe not, but a distributed system of home-sized batteries is a lot more feasible. And it's already happening. We'll need a smarter grid and smarter batteries, and those are being developed as well. Look to Hawaii, California, Vermont, and then look for it to spread.
posted by Existential Dread at 6:22 PM on December 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


There are a number of safe, real, tested metal cooled nuclear reactor designs that could easily provide a carbon-free base load if we could just get over, as a society, the far-overhyped fear of anything based on fission.
posted by rockindata at 6:33 PM on December 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


the idea that giant LiIon batteries or pump storage or molten sodium are going to create enough storage to sustain not just the current level of consumption but the current pattern of consumption is, well

smoke


"Saying science can't do something is like playing pool against a guy named after a state. You may be winning now, but don't leave your money on the table too long." -- Etrigan's father, who was named after a county but knew his limits
posted by Etrigan at 6:38 PM on December 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Er - China and India have their own issues but the country bringing a "legally binding is our red line" message was the US: treaties need to go through Congress and that isn't going to happen.

And I'm not sure current OPEC pricing is that much about future a solar and quite a lot about blocking Russia and Canada out of the game for a good few years. It's not the beginning of the end for the Gulf producers but it's their response to the end of the beginning.
posted by cromagnon at 7:02 PM on December 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ben Elliston, Iain MacGill and I have performed thousands of computer simulations of 100% renewable electricity in the National Electricity Market (NEM), using actual hourly data on electricity demand, wind and solar power for 2010. Our latest research, available here and reported here, finds that generating systems comprising a mix of different commercially available renewable energy technologies, located on geographically dispersed sites, do not need base-load power stations to achieve the same reliability as fossil-fuelled systems.

By 2030, scaled-up green power could meet the demands of a large grid 99.9 percent of the time, according to new research from the University of Delaware

More broadly, when you look at a distributed grid model, with grid connected homes running solar panels and small batteries like the powerwall from Tesla, it's very achievable, sourcing other power from wind (especially off shore) and industrial solar, it's very doable.

People don't realise, we can do this all with the technology we have today, we don't need a breakthrough. Take away subsidies for fossil fuels, incentivise renewables, and we will be there.
posted by smoke at 7:03 PM on December 12, 2015 [25 favorites]


"Saying science can't do something is like playing pool against a guy named after a state. You may be winning now, but don't leave your money on the table too long." -- Etrigan's father

I really like this quote. And may I just add a thank you to the people who are injecting a refreshing dose of sanity into this discussion, instead of the pointless headless chicken routine. This is so much more informative.

What is the point of all this if China and India aren't going to play along with the rest of the world?

Remember that the current Western standard of living is built on a LOT of fossil fuel use. Asking the third world to "play along" reads (to them) like "We got ours, best if you don't" - and you have to admit they have a point. Of course, if they eventually don't turn things around, we're all doomed...

If there's a silver lining to be seen here, it is that smokestacks spewing pollution and kids with asthma create a lot of internal pressure for change in this age of social media. In New Delhi, for example, the pollution level has risen from dinner table concern to a high government priority, with proposals for odd/even license plate numbers on the roads suddenly being implemented.
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:08 PM on December 12, 2015


I'm not sure current OPEC pricing is that much about future a solar and quite a lot about blocking Russia and Canada out of the game for a good few years. It's not the beginning of the end for the Gulf producers but it's their response to the end of the beginning.

Yeah, but I filled our tank today at $1.94 per gallon - prices I haven't seen since maybe 1999? It's a bit terrifying.
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:10 PM on December 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


the current grid depends upon the bedrock of always on electrical generators whose existence encourages consumption of electricity to prevent the wholesale price/watt from going to low. when you can't predict the supply, total consumption will have to be less than the minimum possible supply with a significant safety margin on top of that to insure grid stability

No, the future grid will not run on the old supply-must-be-matched-to-demand model, and thus will not need predictable supply. For example, when transport energy has transitioned to electric instead from petroleum, a big chunk of the grid demand will be electric vehicle charging, and they are up-to-10-hour loads that can be remotely varied by the utility such that demand is tailored to supply.

When your car is charging while you're at work or at home, you almost never care if the utility turns a 5-hour charging into a 6-hour charging (and for those times that you do care, you simply veto the utility from altering your charge schedule) and in exchange for not vetoing, you get a fat discount or actual cash. (The technology and monetary incentives to do this are currently in testing in CA with some of BMW's electric cars).

Same with refrigerators, hot water, etc. A huge chunk of grid can operate just fine with cycles tweaked by grid need instead of simple timers and thermostats.
posted by anonymisc at 7:35 PM on December 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Oh, and the Saudis making sure the Iranians don't profit as much from sanctions relief as they might do, too.
posted by cromagnon at 8:10 PM on December 12, 2015


US is walking a real tight rope, pushing US agenda and protecting US interests while at the same time trying to come off as putting the planet before everything else.
posted by asra at 8:20 PM on December 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Screw the "USA Agenda". Get some solar on your roof, get a Powerwall battery from tesla, get an electric car. There's just no reason not to anymore, (sorry non-homeowners).
posted by Windopaene at 8:31 PM on December 12, 2015


Oh lord, America will never get a great solar grid going, when people think that "the solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun" and ban solar farms from their town with their vast ignorance.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:32 PM on December 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


it won't matter where the energy comes from if we keep using more of it. It all ends up as waste heat.

I'm no climatologist but it's my general impression that heat energy as an input isn't really the issue -- the planet is heated internally via residual radioactivity and externally by the ~1 kw/m2 of solar incidence -- but the coming crisis of climate change is simply driven by "greenhouse" gasses locking this heat energy in, with the attendant risk of positive feedback loops forming, like the frozen methane of the arctic getting vented, etc.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:38 PM on December 12, 2015 [5 favorites]




I am relieved to see that the road ahead of us is strewn with good intentions.

Still, it is a heck of a lot better than the Copenhagen result.
posted by bouvin at 12:23 AM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


US is walking a real tight rope, pushing US agenda and protecting US interests while at the same time trying to come off as putting the planet before everything else.

It is reminiscent of when President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, and the popular media narrative was that it was because of his concerns about climate change.

What was not reported at the time was that pipeline infrastructure within the US has, over the last decade, expanded to the extent that has been described as the equivalent of ten Keystone XLs, to help move all the domestic crude oil we are extracting here to our refineries. Also, we continue to import more crude from Canada, pipeline or no. So the environmental story we've been fed was mostly bullshit.

The outcome at Paris seems better than Copenhagen, but the agreements are non-binding. And given how economic interests always invariably corrupt the democratic process, and how the larger media often feeds us a narrative that ignores or hides less savory parts of the story, it is difficult not to be skeptical.

We are running out of time and the lies-by-omission are not helpful.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:51 AM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Heywood, I'm taking the long view. Yes, it matters how we produce energy in terms of environmental impact. So-called green energy sources may help us limp along for a few more decades (or, who knows? even centuries). But if we simply continue to consume more and more energy and create more and more waste heat as a result, we'll still face irrevocable climate change. Hell, if we were to switch tomorrow to full solar and wind power, without changing consumption patterns (meaning we would be producing and using as much energy as we are today), we'd still wreak hell on the climate and environment -- just a different kind of hell.
posted by oheso at 1:58 AM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


the idea that giant LiIon batteries or pump storage or molten sodium are going to create enough storage to sustain not just the current level of consumption but the current pattern of consumption is, well

I am in the very early stages of designing a house for some friends that will be built on 50 acres of land that is not currently served by the grid. They are almost certainly going to go off grid, which in their situation is basically a no-brainer these days. These are not overly practical people, not particularly interested in self-sufficiency or other lefty concerns and ten years ago would definitely have looked a lot more closely at pony-ing up for a grid connection. The tech and the associated economics are changing very quickly.
posted by deadwax at 6:01 AM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for your comments, smoke. I'm looking forward to the day that cynicism is no longer mistaken for rationalism.
posted by Alex404 at 6:21 AM on December 13, 2015


And given how economic interests always invariably corrupt the democratic process, and how the larger media often feeds us a narrative that ignores or hides less savory parts of the story, it is difficult not to be skeptical.

Here in Canada the National Post ran a piece yesterday by founder Conrad Black: The perfectly respectable environmental movement has been hijacked by climate radicals. It begins with an admission that yes, less smog, less acid rain and fewer sewage-choked rivers are good to have. Then the NatPost stance begins to emerge as he reveals that this cleanup was of course "very costly to the corporate sector."

We move swiftly from here to dire warnings that "pell-mell decarbonization, if implemented, would disemploy tens of millions of people." A short and baffling digression on a shift in the Associated Press Style Guide from "climate change deniers" to "climate change doubters" follows.

Then Lord Black confidently assures us that the Paris climate change conferences steps this week are complete fol-de-rol because the earth "hasn't appreciably warmed in 18 years" and "polar ice is not now melting." Good news, everyone!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:04 AM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm looking forward to the day that cynicism is no longer mistaken for rationalism.

In case anyone needs their cynicism refuelled after all that optimism.
posted by sfenders at 7:25 AM on December 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


"very costly to the corporate sector."

he says that as if it's a bad thing.

wealth is the state of being well.

it is also the goods and services that provide the utility of satisfying needs and wants that make us "well" again

it is also the capital goods and knowledge that enable us to provide these goods and services more efficiently

it is also the financial and legal markers that signify who gets to possess and exercise "ownership" of the goods, services, and organizations that provide much of this wealth.

Our planet has an immense amount of wealth -- air, water, food, scenic attractions -- for all of us still, but is (by the looks of it) at terrible risk of having this wealth destroyed by assholes defending their relative wealth position, able to bamboozle the idiots who make up so much of the conservative polity here.

Future generations who happen to read this -- if the environment was destroyed this century by my generation, sorry I didn't do more.

Buying a Leaf was pretty much the least I could do. It's a start, but not enough.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 9:14 AM on December 13, 2015




But if we simply continue to consume more and more energy and create more and more waste heat as a result, we'll still face irrevocable climate change.

All of the energy produced by humans annually (coal, oil, gas, nuclear, etc) is only 1 part in 10,000 of the energy absorbed from the sun each year, about 0.01%. "Waste heat" isn't really a significant factor in the earth's annual energy budget.

And if you get more of your useful energy directly from wind and solar, then you aren't adding any waste heat at all. You are just temporarily borrowing the same solar energy that would have gone to "waste" anyway.

There is an argument that solar panels, because they are dark, reduce the albedo of the earth which absorbs more solar heat, but again, the amount is tiny in the overall energy budget of the earth.
posted by JackFlash at 10:47 AM on December 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


> Lots of talk about renewables and not a word about reduction of consumption. That's the hard sell in a capitalist world. In the end, though, it won't matter where the energy comes from if we keep using more of it. It all ends up as waste heat.

Climate change isn't about the waste heat from burning fossil fuels (which is utterly insignificant, see above), the warming comes from the increased greenhouse effect. No qualms regarding your first sentences, though.
posted by Bangaioh at 1:05 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Are we more concerned about climate change, or about the impacts of climate change on human, animal and plant life? There seems to be a pervasive assumption that the most efficient way of mitigating the negative impacts of climate change is to reduce what current science suggests (but does not know for certain) are one of its major causes: greenhouse gas emissions. I'd rather we spent cash on saving people and the environment from adverse climatic events, however they're caused. If the best way of doing that is to reduce ghg emissions: fine, but it's not good strategy to assume that, and then to implement (or pretend to implement) a divisive, expensive policy where all the costs are upfront and all the benefits remote, unprovable and nebulous. Our scientific knowledge is growing rapidly: we need an adaptive solution - one that will target ghg emissions only if that's the best way of dealing with adverse climatic events.
posted by TristanPK at 1:24 PM on December 13, 2015


Compare this to the legally binding TPP agreement which is 6000 pages long and between 12 countries (as opposed to 195). I think we should all be a bit skeptical and hold our leaders accountable to their pledges.

This is an excellent point.

I think it speaks volumes about our society that we consider the laws of economics to be more important -- and more critical to legislate -- than the laws of science.

I'd rather we spent cash on saving people and the environment from adverse climatic events, however they're caused.

Google "ocean acidification" and then get back to me. You could completely eradicate climate change and still irrevocably change the world's largest ecosystem(s).
posted by steady-state strawberry at 1:32 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Google "ocean acidification" and then get back to me. You could completely eradicate climate change and still irrevocably change the world's largest ecosystem(s).The health of the oceans is one of the environmental impacts that we should target for improvement. Target that, rather than one of the alleged causes of its degradation.
posted by TristanPK at 2:00 PM on December 13, 2015


TristanPK you seem to be under the misconception that there is some doubt as to what is causing climate change or what its impact is likely to be. There is no such doubt among the people who actually study this stuff with numbers. There is no doubt about the increase in atmospheric CO2. Lately there isn't really much doubt that methane clathrates are going to be a big problem. There is no doubt about the danger of Greenland and West Antarcta melting to the bare rock within a few human generations. These are all things that everyone who is not in the pay of a coal or oil company will admit are terrifying.

It does not really matter what else you do to combat ocean acidification if atmospheric CO2 keeps going up. It doesn't really matter what you do to protect cities like New Orleans, New York, or London if the sea level rises 40 feet, which it will if Greenland and/or West Antarctica melt down.

Many of the effects will be difficult to anticipate and the only way to mitigate them is to stop the whole process if it's not too late. In 2014 ice storms closed down the city of New Orleans twice, making all travel impossible. This had never happened before. It happened because the circumpolar vortex, a jet stream which circles the Arctic Ocean and normally keeps supercooled air confined in the arctic, has become unstable. Nobody with any sense believes this happened for any other reason than as a side effect of climate change -- yes, global warming froze New Orleans solid for several days. As heat transport mechanisms which have been stable for millennia are destabilized similar things will happen all over the world. Trying to react to those problems as they arise isn't an "adaptive" solution, it's reactive and it's doomed to fail.

Our civilization is nowhere near as robust as it was 100 years ago. Nearly everything of any importance to our high-tech way of life is made in only a handful of plants, or even one plant, in the entire world. Hit that plant with a flood or other catastrophic weather event and the whole economy tilts. Do that to a few plants at the same time and recovery becomes a very expensive and perhaps perilous venture.

There is a very simple solution though which will stop all these bad effects if we can pull it off, before we even know just how bad they will be: Stop putting carbon in the damn atmosphere. If we can keep the greenhouse down maybe it won't be a fucking catastrophe. If we don't, though, the smart money has already bet that the downside will be unbelievably steep.
posted by Bringer Tom at 2:23 PM on December 13, 2015 [22 favorites]


In case anyone needs their cynicism refuelled after all that optimism.

That's a tough exponential course to flatten out, let alone reverse.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 3:28 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks Bringer Tom for your thoughtful response. But: what if climate change is not solely due to ghg emissions? What then? Our scientific knowledge of relationships and techniques is growing rapidly. We need an adaptive response that can deal with all climatic threats to human, animal and plant life, whether they originate in ghgs, other anthro activity, or nature. And note too that that the solution I (indirectly) point to would encourage cuts in ghg emissions if they turn out to be the best way of achieving our environmental goals. As well, my reading indicates that, ok, there might not be much doubt about the fundamental processes (though there is some), but there is quite significant doubt about, for example, the effects of different types of cloud. We need a policy that can respond to our expanding scientific knowledge and changes in contributions to adverse climate impacts other than ghgs.
posted by TristanPK at 3:34 PM on December 13, 2015


But: what if climate change is not solely due to ghg emissions? What then?

You mean, what if we've solved A) an indisputably major-if-not-sole cause of climate change, B) ending global reliance on a finite resource that C) is often found in countries with really, really shitty human rights records and D) the extraction, processing, transport, and sale of which enriches some horrible people?

Then we go to work on the next problem, is what then.

We need an adaptive response that can deal with all climatic threats...

Why do we need a response? I don't think anyone is saying that cutting greenhouse gases is the only thing that ever needs to be done, even in this arena. You're explicitly making the perfect the enemy of the good here.
posted by Etrigan at 3:46 PM on December 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Thanks Etrigan. But cheap fossil fuels have lifted millions out of poverty, drudgery and (probably) slavery. They've enabled vast improvements in the quality and quantity of human life. They have good impacts as well as bad you know.

You mean, what if we've solved ... an indisputably major-if-not-sole cause of climate change
. I'm more concerned about adverse climatic events, however caused. I'm advocating not a response, but an array of responses that will target, on a diverse, adaptive basis, negative impacts on human, animal and plant life, rather than supposed or spurious causes.

And what's the objection to tackling human rights abuses head on? Why suppose that cutting fossil fuel use will do anything to improve human rights? It might well have the opposite effect.

Essentially I'm talking about targeting goals, rather than what some of us currently think are the best ways of achieving them. That is not only more efficient; it gets you buy-in - something that's as essential as it's absent from the current policymaking process.
posted by TristanPK at 4:07 PM on December 13, 2015


But: what if climate change is not solely due to ghg emissions? What then?

The math is unambiguous. Whatever other effects may be in play the addition of CO2 and methane to the atmosphere is at catastrophic levels. Other causative effects are relatively minor. The main reason there is any doubt anywhere is because of chaotic pre-effects, like the New Orleans ice storm, which do not seem like obvious direct results of warming.

Let us do a thought experiment. Let's think about putting two boxes in your back yard on a sunny day. We put a thermometer in each box and then put a piece of glass over one of them. What do you think will happen?

Now we can imagine all kinds of tweaks to this experiment. We can put a bowl of water in each box, or some plants, or paint the insides of the boxes various colors. The fact is none of that will make very much difference compared to the greenhouse effect of the plate of glass.

If you want to know the real downside of climate change the past is the wrong place to look. The real worst case scenario is 30 million miles closer to the Sun. The Earth doesn't look like Venus mainly because living things have hoovered up the carbon put in the atmosphere by not just other living things but also volcanoes. Whole rock strata are made of carbon sucked from the atmosphere and deposited on the seafloor by algae and bacteria. Earth's atmosphere has been much more finely balanced than we ever suspected, and that "balance" has included swings which would wipe our our civilization and probably our species very quickly. Earth has been "snowballed" twice in its deep past, and at the time of the K-T impact which ended the reign of the dinosaurs there was a lot more oxygen, no ice caps, and sea levels were about 600 feet higher than they are today. The entire modern Mississippi valley was a vast sea.

In the very earliest experiments done by Carl Sagan modeling planetary atmospheres, originally done to understand the goings-on at Mars, models which were about to catastrophically fail tended to show a "desert belt" around the equator. Take a look at a map of the world's deserts, many of which were not deserts 10,000 years ago.

Deforestation is a problem, smog is a problem, acidification is a problem, changes to heat transport mechanisms like the jet stream and ocean conveyors are problems, but the math says these are all pretty small problems compared to the greenhouse effect, which will be an even bigger problem if the methane clathrates start evaporating. We cannot afford to wait for a glacial collapse that inundates all our coastal cities in a few years, which is a real possibility. Our civilization will not survive that because too much of our tech infrastructure is in those coastal areas. Climate change is a survival imperative. It is that horror movie monster which, if you wait until you can be sure it's there to run, will surely eat you.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:27 PM on December 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


But cheap fossil fuels have lifted millions out of poverty, drudgery and (probably) slavery.

Tristan, I don't know if you're aware of it - but given your other denialist talking points, I can't help but think yes - but you are peddling a line coal companies have been trying to launch for a couple of years now, and one I might add that has been thoroughly debunked, multiple times.

It makes it challenging to take your statements at both face value and in good faith, when you are tossing nonsense out about the "alleged" causes of global warming, the so-called doubts (find me a denialist that hasn't taken bribes from polluters [note, please don't actually try to find me a denialist that doesn't take money, this is a rhetorical request].) and your Lomborgian focus on 1) counselling delay, 2) focusing on orthogonal issues 3) overhyping the cost of action, and 4) looking at currently non-existent technological solutions, specifically hinting at geoengineering.

Forgive me for being stroppy about this, but you are inadvertently or not using rhetoric from companies that have tried to hide the effects of global warming, tried to avoid responsibility for the health effects of the products they sell, and continued a business model that is rife with human rights abuses and has killed many people. I mean, they are evil.
posted by smoke at 5:09 PM on December 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


Essentially I'm talking about targeting goals, rather than what some of us currently think are the best ways of achieving them.

Yes, that's what everyone else is doing too -- targeting the goal of the world not getting even hotter than it is now, and which many, many, many, thevastmajorityof, many, many scientists are saying is the result of greenhouse gas emissions. The fact that other good things will happen, even if all of those many, many etc. scientists are 100 percent wrong is just a bonus and doesn't mean that those good things are not worth working on themselves.
posted by Etrigan at 5:18 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


We need an adaptive response that can deal with all climatic threats

I don't know why I'm even engaging, but --- this is not a new idea. Look up disaster risk reduction/ mitigation and resilience. There is a whole field dealing with how to help ensure that people, societies, communities and systems can withstand shocks of all kinds - whether manmade (eg conflict), geophysical (earthquakes) or caused by climate change. Just like there is general agreement in the field that it is better to avoid or reduce conflict whilst building resilience against its effects, there is agreement that it is important to prevent climate change so far as we are still able, even while building culverts against flooding etc. It's not an either/or. Action is required on both counts, most crucially in preventing climate change from occurring in the first place.
posted by tavegyl at 6:39 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


But: what if climate change is not solely due to ghg emissions?

Where do you think the misjudgement could be?
Are you suggesting that the planet Earth is actually ten times bigger than our current maps (and there are a dozen Pacific Oceans somewhere that we haven't noticed yet), thus we have enough extra atmospheric volume that our known emissions would not be catastrophic?

Or are you suggesting that the every gas pump in the world is secretly pumping just a thimble of gas for each gallon that customers have been charged and paid for, and no-one has noticed they were being ripped off because fairies have been making the cars keep running even though there is no gas in them, resulting in a difference between the amount of carbon that our financial accounts show have been released vs the amount actually released?

Or are you suggesting that the laws of physics have been broken, such as thermal properties of CO2, or the chemical equation by which CO2 is a fixed combustion product of octane and atmospheric O2?

You can test these things yourself. You can fly around the globe and discover that it is roughly the size that we think it is. You can measure how much gasoline is in a gallon of gasoline. You can check physics and the chemistry yourself.

The math is crystal clear. If you think something else might be causing climate change, then it is even more critical for the world to get off carbon even faster because even just our carbon alone is enough to destroy us, and if there are worsening factors on top of that, then things are much more dire and our only hope is to move much much faster away from ghg emission.
posted by anonymisc at 6:53 PM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]






see http://www.vox.com/2015/12/12/9981020/paris-climate-deal for a good writeup

i like the biggest loser analogy: "Or, if you like metaphors: Think of the countries making climate pledges as a bunch of out-of-shape slobs trying (and failing miserably) to qualify for a relay event. The Paris agreement can't force these people to train harder. But it can put their names up on a whiteboard, track their progress, work out gym subsidies for those who can't afford it, and facilitate peer pressure. Obviously the exercise is the crucial part, and that ultimately depends on each individual. But that other stuff can help."

How US negotiators ensured landmark Paris climate deal was Republican-proof

i heard on the radio last night they were relying on a treaty signed by bush I...
Trick or treaty? The legal question hanging over the Paris climate change conference - "Whatever agreement emerges from Paris, [Obama] has no intention of submitting it to the Senate for ratification as a treaty. The administration argues that any agreement does not bind the United States to a course of action. Moreover, it says the Clean Air Act and the United Nations Framework on Climate Change signed by former President George H.W. Bush already give Obama the authority he needs to carry out climate commitments."

In case anyone needs their cynicism refuelled after all that optimism.

Changing energy production in the world:
-Renewables rising 15.9% per year
-All others rising less than 2% per year

so back of the envelope rule of 72 and eyeballing it, 4.5 years just to get around where nuclear and hydro are, assuming straight lines, which are a ~quarter of oil and coal each and a third of gas; so hopefully[*] we'll be on the back half of the chessboard in about 15 years at current rates... 15 years of sustained political pressure, technological innovation and trench warfare against, uh, entrenched interests. it took decades just to get here and we're just getting started.

also btw...
-Adoption of technology in the U.S., 1900 to present
-The Coming Electrification of Everything[*]

James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks 'a fraud'

ramez says: "Funny. We addressed ozone depletion, acid rain, lead emissions, and smog, even though it was 'cheaper' not to."

speaking of which hansen thinks nuclear needs to be ramped up as well and naam agrees! (so does peter thiel and shinzo abe ;)

I'm not sure current OPEC pricing is that much about a solar future and quite a lot about blocking Russia and Canada out of the game for a good few years.

US frackers too; default probabilities for the shale oil industry are through the roof.

All major studies find that the costs of achieving deep reductions in carbon emissions are a small fraction of future economic growth. And that is before extra benefits such as reduced air pollution and more stable energy prices are taken into account.

I think it speaks volumes about our society that we consider the laws of economics to be more important -- and more critical to legislate -- than the laws of science.

on the whole cost and affordability issue, AGW/climate change is perhaps the biggest (negative) externality[1] of them all (except maybe nuclear proliferation, MDROs and v.large meteors?) and could easily dwarf 'gross planet product' in economic terms (which is anyhow starting to fall again) if left unchecked. so faced with an existential threat, it's hard to say that fixing AGW could ever 'cost too much'; was WWII ever considered unaffordable?

yet the concept of externalities is still rendered as a footnote -- carbon taxes/pricing anyone? -- by 'very serious'tm policymakers and 'free' market defenders. faced with the mother father of all market failures staring us in the face (that are not nazis, communists or terrorists), "the real game... is to unleash the forces of capitalism in the name of fighting climate change." that's the rallying cry; get rich saving the planet.[2] what's going on?

i think it's because for a long time it's been possible, and then convenient, to divorce economics from the ecosystems they're embedded in -- this already sounds clichéd -- and essentially treat mother nature as a giant, costless 'heat sink/thermal reservoir'. now financial market (capital) heat sinks -- insurance companies[3] -- have stopped renewing homeowners' policies in coastal areas and are warning about solvency risks (or going about providing protection badly). anyway, the point is that in the face of mounting negative externalities, the people in charge -- politicians and the captains of industry who employ them -- are no longer the people who know how to fix the problem,[4] which entails a loss or diminishment in their power, control and status.

if as einstein said, "we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them," and capitalism and markets are no longer the answer, then i'd suggest that in the same way that economics is only a subset of environmental ecosystems, then economic transactions can be seen as just a lower level abstraction of data and information,* which shifts the, uh, source of deontological epistemic authority from capital to knowledge (and wisdom?) writ large. so what does than mean? instead of an economic priesthood maybe we'll finally get a scientific priesthood who can truly (sustainably) improve the material conditions of society.

I mean, they [Lomborgian denialists] are evil.

Lomborg imagines a world where:
1. Clean tech isn't advancing.
2. Nations aren't increasing commitment.

Lomborg isn't an honest discussant.

---
[1] concentrated (private) rewards/benefits, diffuse (public) risks/costs across space and time; the neat corollary to the reduction of carbon pollution is that the alleviation of a negative externality is itself a positive externality :P if we were to undertake a program of politics and economics for the 21st century i don't think we could go too wrong trying to systematically identify and eliminate negative externalities while trying to generate and sustain positive externalities!

[2] well if that's the case then collectively ask humanity what the planet in terms of all the 'environmental services' it provides -- air, water, crops, scenery, etc. -- is worth to us, and set up some arbitrarily massive bounty to pay for/invest in its preservation, or alternatively go into debt as all get out (like in WWII) because hey it doesn't matter if you lose and where's everyone gonna go anyway?

[3] also central banks...

[4] so i have this working hypothesis/conspiracy theory that scientists were preemptively waylaid when it became apparent that intellectual ability -- not might makes right (strength/charisma) per se -- was a precondition for political ascendancy, while the financiers were more easily co-opted...
posted by kliuless at 11:42 PM on December 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Kerry says Paris agreement crafted to avoid Congress
Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday the climate agreement reached this week in Paris did not contain any enforcement provisions because Congress would not have approved them.

"It doesn't have mandatory targets for reduction and it doesn't have an enforcement, compliance mechanism," Kerry said during an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

Kerry said such mechanisms were not included because Congress would have refused to greenlight the deal.

Binding legal requirements would have made the Paris agreement a treaty, requiring approval from two-thirds of the Senate. Because no climate change measure could close to the high bar in the chamber, the Paris deal was written to avoid it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:58 AM on December 14, 2015






Silence on the Climate Pact From the Republican Candidates - "There could be two reasons for this. They’re not interested in acknowledging a victory for President Obama. Perhaps more important, blocking international action on climate change is not necessarily what Republican voters want."

Is climate change a plus for neoliberalism? - "One of the biggest challenges for neoliberal public policy is creating artificial scarcity. ... How much easier will it be when there is once again real scarcity, when the earth stops giving as much?"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:55 PM on December 15, 2015


We need an adaptive response that can deal with all climatic threats

#allclimatesmatter
posted by happyroach at 2:08 PM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]




So, the first US domestic legislation passed after the Paris agreement is set to lift the longstanding oil export ban as part of the must pass omnibus funding bill, and incentivize even further expanded drilling in the US.

That didn't take long.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:08 PM on December 15, 2015




So, the first US domestic legislation passed after the Paris agreement is set to lift the longstanding oil export ban as part of the must pass omnibus funding bill, and incentivize even further expanded drilling in the US.

That didn't take long.


And similarly in Britain...
posted by dng at 1:08 PM on December 16, 2015


And in California
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:30 PM on December 16, 2015


I am old and probably will not be around when everything goes to shit. I understand this. None of the people with the money care about his. But I do. And I try to tell my son. I try to tell him about this thing that will happen. I try to tell him that he has to be the next guy. The next guy that cares about this. But it's too late even for him. Hey, I tried. Seriously I fucking tried.

But he is a consumer. And he is not caring. And I wonder what I could have done that I did not do. What the fuck could I do to teach him better? See, if you have a kid. If you have a child. You either make them a part of the solution. Or you have made them part of the problem.

My son is part of the problem now. Sneakers and clothes. Ignorance and happiness. And I am stuck in a horrible place. What did I do wrong? Why isn't he better?

To be clear here. He is now in his 30s. We don't talk anymore. But I occasionally cry. Just a bit.
posted by Splunge at 9:53 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]




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