Climate goals rapidly moving out of reach
November 4, 2016 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Ars Technica: "UN report: climate goals rapidly moving out of reach." Paris Agreement made progress, but 2°C warming limit takes much more.

"With nations gathering in Marrakech to continue talks on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming, a new UN report is another stark reminder of the work to be done. This latest 'Emissions Gap Report' highlights the remaining differences between the talk that produced last year’s landmark Paris Agreement and the walk required to reach those goals."

The UNEP Emissions Gap Report. "World must urgently up action to cut a further 25% from predicted 2030 emissions..."
posted by Celsius1414 (31 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Frequently in climate change threads some people speak as though, if harm-minimizing targets for climate change are beyond reach, that's cause to throw up our hands in hopelessness because there's nothing more we can do.

But that's not so at all; there's more work to do to achieve the best standard of life for the greatest number of people, to avert or prepare for second-order and third-order disasters stemming from climate change, and to preserve as much biodiversity as possible.

Once we're beyond a binary yes/no outcome over whether accelerated climate change will happen at all, in some sense every incremental bit of effort made in dealing with climate issues matters all the more, because success in mitigation is on a sliding scale, and there are opportunities to prevent future deaths and preserve species at every turn.
posted by XMLicious at 5:04 PM on November 4, 2016 [54 favorites]

Really good point XMLicious. Some mitigation is so, so much better than giving up.

We don't actually know much about what 3+ would look like. So yes, limiting to 3c is probably much better than no efforts. But this is all so hard - I think we have to aspire to much more ambitious limits than we will actually achieve, because that's the nature of this wicked problem.

However at some point, when the denialists are at last being ignored as they should be, I wonder if/when there will be that mass realisation, and whether that will undo any efforts? Particularly at the geopolitical level, when shit starts to get real for the big economies it is quite disturbing to imagine what might happen.

In fact, the point at which people, leaders, etc begin en masse "give up" is beginning to look, to me, like one of the most frightening turning points.
posted by 8k at 5:16 PM on November 4, 2016

Yeah, I think it could be easily exploited by the right wing around the world as something they could offer the usual sham "give up your freedoms and we'll give you security" gambit on. The left really needs to plan out ways, and offer the leaders, to maintain and ensure credibility that we've got the best plans and best solutions for all eventualities. The political dimension makes it all the more important to not lose focus.
posted by XMLicious at 5:34 PM on November 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Flip through any newspaper, watch any nightly news broadcast the amount of vehicle advertising is staggering.

It is not in the interest of media to promote the end of one of their primary sources of income. Governments must eliminate advertising, (including product placement) for vehicles.

I have seen the media end the career of an intelligent, noble, and popular politician after he introduced a negligible vehicle tax, only to have the media throw a complete blind eye,
praise, and promote his replacement who was arguably the World's worst mayor.

Tobaco advertising was banned, so it is possible. It just requires a lot of political will. Reforming campaign finance to prevent corporations from donating is a first step. But even with that in place, politicians are still depressingly short sighted.

Here's another idea, which has two bonuses for the old vehicle manufacturers. Slower cars makes it easier for them to compete against the tech wizards at Google, Tesla, and Apple. And having baked in, forced maintenance, gives them a chance to up sell newer vehicles or bake in similar planned obsolescence.


posted by ecco at 6:16 PM on November 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I had been feeling hopeless about climate change for years, so (among other reasons) I bought a whole bunch of cleared farmland in the country and have been slowly—oh so very slowly—reforesting it, one tree at a time. I know it doesn't amount to anything in the grand scheme of things, but while my elected officials continue to sit on their hands, it's a small way I can move forward and not give in to despair.
posted by ragtag at 7:24 PM on November 4, 2016 [33 favorites]

In the grand scheme of things, the sun is gonna engulf the earth in a mere couple billion years. In the scale that we actually live on, kudos for doing what you can.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:13 PM on November 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is fine.
posted by Perplexity at 8:32 PM on November 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm okay with the events that are unfolding currently.
posted by Joe Chip at 10:19 PM on November 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm given to wonder why people should expect our species to collectively act on behalf of the greater good. What in human history leads you to believe otherwise? Are there instances in which our entire population has ever done this?
posted by onesidys at 10:26 PM on November 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

Getting a sense of urgency at any point helps, even if we can't stay under 2 C.

This year I have become, if not quite "pro-geoengineering" then at least geo-engineering curious. I was categorically opposed for a while based primarily on the idea that I didn't want to experiment deliberately with the Earth. At this point there's a good argument the more extreme experiment is being run by our fossil fuel emissions and we simply won't stop it in time; geo-engineering might lessen the impact.

I know it has a horrible reputation with many environmentalists, partly because of it's insincere embrace by people who were transparently indifferent to the damage being caused by fossil fuels. Heck, I was happy when the largest trial failed a decade or so ago because I stupidly thought a success would distract us from trying the better option of reducing emissions. But at this point the lack of serious research it gets, when it's possibly the only thing that can keep temperature rises in the 2-3 degrees range, needs to change.

Oliver Morton's The Planet Remade did a good bit to change my opinion. (Morton has come up on the blue earlier this year on this topic, but indirectly so my quick search didn't find it. This and this give a bit of why it is worth at least researching.)
posted by mark k at 10:32 PM on November 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

I'm given to wonder why people should expect our species to collectively act on behalf of the greater good. What in human history leads you to believe otherwise? Are there instances in which our entire population has ever done this?

Banning CFCs. Eradication of smallpox.
posted by mark k at 10:34 PM on November 4, 2016 [11 favorites]

I'm given to wonder why people should expect our species to collectively act on behalf of the greater good. What in human history leads you to believe otherwise? Are there instances in which our entire population has ever done this?

You've kinda loaded that up, but our present is filled with the glad results of prior generations' work to the common good. You're typing into one! The present climate challenge requires a broader view of common than we've achieved heretofore, but that's no guarantee of failure. Despair is reactionary. Despair is a sin! Buck up, stop worrying about the collective, and do your part. It's the only way forward, same as ever.
posted by notyou at 11:44 PM on November 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

What in human history leads you to believe otherwise? Are there instances in which our entire population has ever done this?

Quite a lot actually, but colonialism did its best to try and erase all memory of it.

Aboriginal Australians view humans as Earth's caretakers, and that it is our sacred duty to respect, protect, and aid Earth.

Several Native American tribes hold similar beliefs. European colonists did not arrive to a wild North America – they arrived at a continent-wide garden. "Underlying this is the understanding that it is our capacity for consciousness that dictates our role as caretakers of the earth."

I don't want to link more for several reasons; first it would be too easy to brush off the links. Second, dead words on paper/on a screen are anathema to everything surrounding it – dead words were used to kill tribes, steal land, erase beliefs. Go talk to people. These beliefs are alive and lived. That was how I learned them.
posted by fraula at 4:04 AM on November 5, 2016 [10 favorites]

Can we cloud fund ragtag.
posted by sammyo at 4:18 AM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

My MetaFilter handle is a self-deprecating joke on my nearly complete failure at transplanting volunteer trees. In the last few years, with the okay from the city, I've been putting oak seedlings from the yard into an oak forest that is protected from future development. I thought it would be straightforward, but a number of factors have thwarted this effort so far. The squirrels giveth and the squirrels taketh away.
posted by AppleSeed at 5:26 AM on November 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Quite a lot actually, but colonialism did its best to try and erase all memory of it.

I won't disagree with your point about the custodial attitudes of various aboriginal* cultures, but surely this is not a refutation to the argument that global co-operation is (hmmm, how to put this?) difficult and/or unlikely for humans.

Those colonists were humans too, and can't be erased from consideration of that conjecture - just as we now have climate-change-denialists ranging from the profiteers to the loon-religious.

* in the general, not Australian, sense of the word.
posted by pompomtom at 6:09 AM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Can we cloud fund ragtag.
Thanks, sammyo, but money isn't the constraint—trees are cheap!—it's time, and willpower. I did some napkin math a few months ago that, if I reforest my entire property back to the maple-beech-birch forest it was a century ago, it's enough to offset one average American's carbon footprint. (My family and I use far less than that, so I hold the hope that we'll hit carbon neutrality one of these days.)

If you want to contribute, I'd love it if you could plant a tree for me somewhere. ♥
Am I misunderstanding, or is this a repudiation of the entire concept of the written word?
IAmUnaware, I don't think so. I think fraula is saying that if you want to learn about active, living, growing, changing things, you should go to an active, living, growing, changing source. Whatever books are—and, indeed, they are quite valuable—they are not those things.

In fact, it is something of an embarrassment to me that I live right up the road from an Iroquois museum (the dominant peoples of my area prior to colonization) and that I haven't asked to learn from them. I should remedy that.
posted by ragtag at 6:17 AM on November 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

While I continue to push for collective action, it seems to me we each have an individual responsibility to take action in our own lives.

Switch to an electric vehicle, or stop driving so much if you can't afford one. Second, if you live in your own house, power your house and vehicle with solar. Third, stop flying on airplanes if you don't have to. Basically, cut down on those forms of consumption that produce greenhouse gases.

I've done all these things, and quite frankly, it hasn't really required a great deal of sacrifice on my part. I had to spend some money on the car and solar, but I'll earn that back over time. Giving up flying was the biggest sacrifice, but honestly I don't really miss it that much. There are plenty of places to vacation around here. Sure, I'd like to fly all over the world, but yeah -- there's some degree of sacrifice involved.

Anyway, your mileage may vary, but you don't have to wait for government to start doing something.
posted by mikeand1 at 8:15 AM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

What struck me was this figure from the BAU findings.

Specifically, if the data and policy velocities are accurate, China has a 3:1 GGE footprint vs. the G20 Western economies. This was not what I had naively expected.

It sort of makes all of our 'Solar City,' 'Nissan Leaf,' etc. efforts seem futile. I'm looking for a more neutral source than Greenpeace's Energy desk-- but last I had read, there were 150+ coal energy plants in the pipeline for China's mainland. (source)

And, from the standpoint of complete fairness and international economic justice: are we to deny basic human rights, in terms of material standards of living to half a billion people, just because they are reliant on a cheaper fuelstock for electropower generation?

Of course, hopelessness and despair are not good solutions to any emergent problem.
posted by mrdaneri at 9:34 AM on November 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

ragtag, what if you had a bunch of people show up with trees, time, and willpower one weekend? Would that be a help?
posted by amtho at 9:41 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

From the EPA: Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data. See especially the "Global Emissions by Economic Sector". The top 4, representing 84% of the emissions:

Electricity and Heat Production (25%)
Industry (21%)
Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (24%)
Transportation (14%)

So, what can an individual do?

1) Use less electricity and try to use renewable sources.
2) Buy less stuff in general.
3) Eat less or no meat, especially beef.
4) Use public transportation if at all possible.
5) Walk or bike.
6) Figure out a way to offset the carbon directly a la ragtag.*

* If you don't own land, another option is to support tree planting, such as the National Forest Foundation's program where $1 = one tree planted.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:43 AM on November 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

Using that offset calculator I linked, if I for example put $10/month toward tree planting (along with the other listed measures), I would probably offset my carbon footprint for a year in slightly less than a year. If I keep doing that, every additional year I contributed could mean another person's footprint. And that feels like a pretty good thing to do.

(Disclaimer: roughish numbers.)

posted by Celsius1414 at 9:56 AM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

re-forestation and afforestation is geo-engineering.

but don't forget about the oceans. at least on the coasts where there's still freshwater flowing to the ocean, freshwater that buffers the acidification, we can re-build historic oyster reefs, and thus sink the carbon as oyster shell.

the beauty of carbon sequestration is that we already know how to do a lot of it, we just have to reverse some of the economic priorities, reverse some of what industrial civilization undid. to change some of those Spreadsheets of Power, though, there has to be much political will.
posted by eustatic at 10:16 AM on November 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Buy less.
A lot less.
Consume less.
A lot less.
posted by Mister Bijou at 10:26 AM on November 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

I want an app that shows every phone user's carbon footprint in realtime. The privacy ramifications are serious because it would need to precisely calculate "your" emissions every waking and sleeping moment in order for a person to get meaningful feedback. And I hope they hook it up to Facebook/Twitter/Pokemon Go as a social motivator.
posted by polymodus at 12:21 PM on November 5, 2016

amtho, it certainly helps restore my faith in humanity a little! Thanks for that. ☺ But having a bunch of people burning a bunch of carbon in order to offset my carbon seems a little counterproductive. Spend the time and effort to find a local place to help, it'll make a much bigger difference!

Celsius1414's calculator come to very different (and much lower!) numbers than my napkin math did. Planting 70 trees a year is a very easy-to-achieve goal; I planted a few dozen cherry seeds this weekend, in an hour or two.

Coming from a tech background, I actually find digging in the dirt relaxing—the feedback and progress are much more immediate, and it feels a lot more real than all that software I write. I recommend giving it a try, especially if, like me, you're prone to anxiety in the winter: it's a great way to unwind at the outset of spring.
posted by ragtag at 5:32 PM on November 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think the carbon tax on kids sounds like a good idea both for rich countries, as Travis Rieder proposes in knoxg's NPR link, and for poor countries, just because it's easier now. I'd worry about poor countries becoming more affluent with larger populations might be disastrous. I think social pressure against having kids must play a part in that, so Rebecca Kukla's worries seem a distraction.

I'm dubious about Travis Rieder proposal that rich countries should boost their economies by boosting immigration. I think this need hard data : If immigrants moving into rich countries do not themselves produce more carbon, or even teach the natives how to produce less, then by all means we should encourage immigration. We'll likely find that immigrants to rich countries quickly produce as much carbon as the natives, so the only carbon being saved by immigrants is the carbon due to the parenting process itself. In fact, some immigrants might've characteristics, like having big families, that make this even worse. It needs data.

There are immigrant categories that do not boost carbon consumption as much as others : Gay people are far less likely to have any kids. Anyone who comes from a small family sounds likely to have fewer kids. Any already large families already sound problematic, as their kids will grow up basically native. I'd suspect single women tend to adopt the native birth control and family practices by virtue of observing them, while single men do not even pay attention until they get married and want a family like their parents had.

A priori, a safer alternative than boosting immigration would be to go all in on carbon neutral automation to try to avoid needing the immigration to boost the economy, but obviously automation is not automatically carbon neutral either. Again we needs data, but this path sounds more carbon neutral.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:50 AM on November 7, 2016

New App Helps Designers Assess Their Carbon Footprint
Luxury goods conglomerate, Kering, has just launched a free environmental calculator to help designers “discern the ways sourcing and manufacturing choices can influence a product’s carbon footprint.”
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:27 AM on November 8, 2016

Thread on new model predicting 7 C
posted by jeffburdges at 7:47 AM on November 11, 2016

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