I hadn't intended to do this. Why one more post after I retired this blog? It's because the next few weeks are so very important. Can the governments of this planet come together and agree on a binding carbon reduction plan that will continue to make our world a livable one? This is an important question for future generations and the wildlife that depend on it.
Starting today through December 11th, the UN climate change conference:COP 21 will start in Paris. Their goal will be to limit a global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels by reducing greenhouse carbon emissions. The official name for the conference is 21st Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. That a mouthful so that explains COP21
In the background is the fact that 2015 will be the hottest year ever recorded, the predictions that carbon levels will remain above 400 ppm permanently for the first time ever, and that we have blown through half the 2°C increase already. I wrote over two years ago that 80% of all fossil fuel must remain in the ground to prevent catastrophic warming of the planet. Legislation has finally been introduced in congress to try to do just that. An interesting read about the situation comes from a climate scientist. We don't hear enough from them.
I'm hoping to find many in-depth reports on the climate conference in the media but won't hold my breath. The media these days are concerned with the Middle East Wars and it's refugees (a climate change created problem), police killings, Black Friday Christmas sales, and terrorists attacks. The Paris terrorist attack has already affected the climate conference by preventing planned massive rallies in favor of a climate deal from assembling. But hundreds of thousands rallied around the world. Activists are having to come up with innovative ways of getting their points across.
Billboards begain showing up (ironically for me at bus stops) pointing out the hypocrisy of some of the conference's co-sponsors.
So the stage is set. Our President Obama will be one of more than 190 heads of state and governments expected at the conference, taking place at Le Bourget outside Paris. More than 170 countries have submitted plans (INDC's) to curb carbon emissions. In conjunction with the event will be the World Climate Summit 2015.
It will be a big deal with celebrities and activists from around the world. Many of those activists will be from island nations asking for a plan that will stop their homes from being inundated by sea level rise. Hopefully Miami, Florida will send a representative.
What do terms like the Durban Platform, common but differentiated responsibility, Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), Loss and damage, and Ratchet mechanism mean? Check out how to understand the jargon coming out of the conference.
How do the numbers on the submitted plans of each country add up? Will they keep the planet under 2°C? The short answer is no! There is some controversy concerning the numbers but there's no difference of opinion that 2°C will be breached.
This means that an awful lot of extra work on lowing carbon emissions needs to be done and there's some evidence that that extra work is coming. When you have Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerman joining forces there's billions of dollars involved. Local commitments will be important.
Thousands of cities, states, regions, provinces, businesses, and non-governmental organizations have already started to move aggressively on climate change. For cities, this means setting transportation, building, and power standards that substantially lower emissions. For companies, this can mean making sustainability a core business practice all the way down the supply chain, recognizing it as a sound policy that will not only help the planet but likely also bolster profits.
What will prevent us from keeping temperatures below 2°C? There are of course the skeptics who will have their own conference in Paris. There are the billions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry confusing the issues. I'm looking at you Exxon but you're are not alone.
And of course there's the Republicans in congress willing to take much of those billions to win elections.
At a hearing Wednesday, Senate Republicans said that any financial commitments made by the United States to help other countries curb carbon emissions would not be approved by Congress, effectively promising to undercut the Paris negotiations before they even begin.
What are people around the world thinking about climate change?
Majorities in all 40 nations polled say it is a serious problem, and a global median of 54% consider it a very serious problem. Moreover, a median of 78% support the idea of their country limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international agreement in Paris.
However, according to most respondents, confronting climate change will entail more than just policy changes; it will also require significant changes in how people live. A global median of 67% say that in order to reduce the effects of climate change, people will have to make major changes in their lives.
How about the numbers in the United States?
Nearly three-quarters of Americans see global climate change as a “very serious” (45%) or “somewhat serious” (29%) threat, and two-thirds (66%) say people will have to make major changes in the way they live to reduce the effects of climate change, according to a Pew Research Center report released earlier this month.
People have received all sorts of advice over the past few decades about how to reduce their climate impact – from driving less to recycling more to insulating their homes. Actual changes in behavior, though, have been very much a mixed bag.
And American drivers are showing few signs of shifting away from fossil fuels. Fewer than 3% of the cars, SUVs, pickups and other “light-duty” vehicles sold through October of this year ran on anything other than gasoline or diesel – an even smaller market share for alternative-fueled vehicles than in 2013 or 2014, according to data from the National Automobile Dealers Association.
The EPA also suggests that people consider carpooling, mass transit, working from home or other alternatives to driving to and from work solo. But driving alone remains by far the most common commuting method: About three-quarters of Americans reported last year that that was their main commuting mode, a figure that’s changed little since 2000.
This attitude is what I've found to be the case. With few exceptions, in my little part of the planet, I find that people know about climate change but are unwilling to change their lifestyles. It's business as usual.
Just a fact–the planet will continue to warm even if we stopped carbon emissions today.
Many greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for long periods of time. As a result, even if emissions stopped increasing, atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations would continue to increase and remain elevated for hundreds of years. Moreover, if we stabilized concentrations and the composition of today's atmosphere remained steady (which would require a dramatic reduction in current greenhouse gas emissions), surface air temperatures would continue to warm. This is because the oceans, which store heat, take many decades to fully respond to higher greenhouse gas concentrations. The ocean's response to higher greenhouse gas concentrations and higher temperatures will continue to impact climate over the next several decades to hundreds of years.
There has always been an odd tenor to discussions among climate scientists, policy wonks, and politicians, a passive-aggressive quality, and I think it can be traced to the fact that everyone involved has to dance around the obvious truth, at risk of losing their status and influence.
The obvious truth about global warming is this: barring miracles, humanity is in for some awful shit.
I didn't want to sugarcoat this post. Are we too late? It depends on who you talk to. We should know shortly if if the world has the resolve to take action. Will the future be like the little book titled, The Collapse of Western Civilization-A View From the Future? Will it be worse? Will it be better? Time will tell.
I will leave you will some graphs. I think they tell the story of our situation. If people looking at them can't take action I don't know what will.
The one graph that I've found that explains it all is this one. I wrote about it in a post that I feel was one of my darkest.