Written By: - Date published: 8:53 am, July 31st, 2016 - 116 comments
Categories: capitalism, climate change, Conservation, disaster, Economy, energy, Environment, farming, food, Mining, sustainability - Tags:
NASA recently reported that the first 6 months of this year have been the hottest on record by far – a neat 1.3 deg C above the pre-1900 baseline, even as the atmosphere warming El Nino recedes. They also updated the chart which displays data points stretching back to 1880 which I have mucked about with below, using my own annotations.
Using the tried and true scientific method (/sarc) of ‘finding lines of best fit by eye’ I now present to you the following stunning findings:
While it took a full 106 years (1885 to 1991) approx for global temps to rise the first 0.65 deg C, it has taken only 25 years (1991 to today, 2016) for global temps to rise another 0.65 deg C, for a total global warming of 1.3 deg C to date.
In other words, the most recent half of global warming occurred more than 4x faster than the first half.
The big question: will the next 0.65 deg C of warming also occur 4x faster again. That would make a total of 1.95 deg C warming by 2022 (just in case you are counting).
This would confirm the existence of what Guy McPherson and others label “abrupt climate change” where natural positive feedback loops kick in and accelerate climate change above and beyond the GHGs our industrial civilisation is emitting, unpredictably changing the basic stability of the climate system that we have taken for granted for thousands of years.
In other words, “abrupt climate change” is where Mother Nature takes the climate change steering wheel completely out of our hands.
Personally I think that the ‘avoiding 2 deg C ship’ sailed circa 1980. (And the ‘avoiding 3 deg C ship’ sailed 10-20 years ago).
Something that most do not consider is the delay in warming caused by the massive thermal inertia of the world’s huge oceans.
Simply put, it takes many decades for the warming from a single years emissions to fully express itself, like how a cold pot of water on the stove only warms up gradually even if you crank the stove top up to max. (By the way if you read that 2005 New Scientist link, the level of global warming that they suggest would happen into the early 2100s = 0.4 deg to 0.6 deg C above 20th century levels, we have already now hit in 2016, almost a century ahead of their forecast).
The spike in temperatures we have seen this year is predominantly due to the GHG emissions we put up way back in the 1970s and 1980s. On the other side of the coin, we’ve experienced next to none of the warming that the last ten years of emissions put up by our carbon fuel dependent civilisation will cause.
Including emissions from the ~3,500 megatonnes of coal per annum (yes, that’s 3,500 million metric tonnes of coal per year) that China burnt during that timeframe. That warming will largely take place over the next 40 to 50 years.
Some who continue to take the position that 2 deg C warming is still avoidable can now be regarded as “bargaining stage climate deniers”.
While regular vanilla climate change deniers discount the very phenomenon of anthropogenic climate change, bargaining stage climate deniers take a more subtle position. While they accept that anthropogenic climate change exists, they deny that it is no longer possible to avoid catastrophic levels of climate change.
Bargaining stage climate deniers express an understandably human but ultimately mistaken hopefulness that the reality that we find ourselves in is not really as bad as it looks, and that the climate change situation can be ameliorated to a greater degree so that the worst scenarios unfolding upon our civilisation can somehow be reversed, invalidated or swapped for a much less impactful reality.
Bargaining stage climate deniers might also be appropriately considered as ‘abrupt climate change deniers.’
I finish this post with a video of James Hansen speaking in 2005, while he was head of the NASA Goddard Space Centre, saying that we have less than a decade to avoid 1 deg C warming. Because 1 deg C warming was a “point of no return” enough to cause “very bad effects.”
Well, that ship has definitely sailed.