Monday Reads: Climate Change is more Dire than we Knew

“Landscape with Rainbow (Right-hand part of the Three-part fire screen)”
Franz Marc – Painting – 1913

Good Day Sky Dancers!

All the headlines are rather dire today. The Andrew Cuomo stories of sexual harassment are growing with worse-than-ever details.  The Republicans have gone deficit hawk and are now refusing to increase the deficit level. The Delta Variant news just keeps getting worse.  However, the recent climate change research backs up our anecdotal stories on what we see and experience as intense outlier weather events are related to worsening climate change. A newly released UN report suggests that “Humans have pushed the climate into ‘unprecedented’ territory, landmark U.N. report finds. U.N. chief calls findings ‘a code red for humanity’ with worse climate impacts to come unless greenhouse gas pollution falls dramatically.  This coverage is from WaPo

The landmark report, compiled by 234 authors relying on more than 14,000 studies from around the globe, bluntly lays out for policymakers and the public the most up-to-date understanding of the physical science on climate change. Released amid a summer of deadly firesfloods and heat waves, it arrives less than three months before a critical summit this November in Scotland, where world leaders face mounting pressure to move more urgently to slow the Earth’s warming.

Monday’s sprawling assessment states that there is no remaining scientific doubt that humans are fueling climate change. That much is “unequivocal.” The only real uncertainty that remains, its authors say, is whether the world can muster the will to stave off a darker future than the one it already has carved in stone.

“What the world requires now is real action,” John F. Kerry, the Biden administration’s special envoy for climate, said in a statement about Monday’s findings. “We can get to the low carbon economy we urgently need, but time is not on our side.”

It certainly is not, according to Monday’s report.

Humans can unleash less than 500 additional gigatons of carbon dioxide — the equivalent of about 10 years of current global emissions — to have an even chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.

But hopes for remaining below that threshold — the most ambitious goal outlined in the Paris agreement — are undeniably slipping away. The world has already warmed more than 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), with few signs of slowing, and could pass the 1.5-degree mark early in the 2030s.

Max Pechstein, Untitled Palau Landscape (detail). Oil on canvas. From the estate of Vance E. Kondon and Elisabeth Giesberger.

This report is sliced and diced as the big headline in every news source around the world. Will it get a decent listen and bring about much-needed action?  This is from CNN: “Earth is warming faster than previously thought, scientists say, and the window is closing to avoid catastrophic outcomes .”

As the world battles historic droughts, landscape-altering wildfires and deadly floods, a landmark report from global scientists says the window is rapidly closing to cut our reliance on fossil fuels and avoid catastrophic changes that would transform life as we know it.

The state-of-the-science report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world has rapidly warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, and is now careening toward 1.5 degrees — a critical threshold that world leaders agreed warming should remain below to avoid worsening impacts.

Only by making deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, while also removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, can we halt the precipitous trend. “Bottom line is that we have zero years left to avoid dangerous climate change, because it’s here,” Michael E. Mann, a lead author of the IPCC’s 2001 report, told CNN.

Unlike previous assessments, Monday’s report concludes it is “unequivocal” that humans have caused the climate crisis and confirms that “widespread and rapid changes” have already occurred, some of them irreversibly.

“Burning Landscape”
Jackson Pollock, 1943

This from NPR cited in the Warren Tweet above.

The authors — nearly 200 leading climate scientists — hope the report’s findings will be front and center when world leaders meet for a major climate conference in November.

The effects of that warming are obvious and deadly around the world. Heat waves, droughts and floods are killing people and disrupting lives around the world this summer. Wildfires are burning with unprecedented frequency and intensity, including in places that used to rarely burn. Smoke and smog are choking people in cities and towns from Asia to the Arctic. Ocean heat waves are threatening entire ecosystems and supercharging hurricanes and typhoons.

The science is clear: Human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the primary driver of such changes.

One of the biggest recent advances in climate research is in the field of so-called attribution science, which ties global warming to individual weather events such as hurricanes or heat waves. Scientists can now say with certainty that humans are causing more extreme weather, including heavy downpours and extended heat waves and droughts.

“This whiplash — this increase in both extreme wet and dry events — is projected to increase through the 21st century,” says Kim Cobb, one of the report authors and a paleoclimate scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology.

This is the first time that paleoclimate researchers, who study the climate of the past to understand how Earth will change in the future, have helped write every chapter of the report. Their work helps put today’s climate in perspective. “We can now say global surface temps are reaching levels not seen in 100,000 years,” says Cobb. “The rate of warming since 1970 is higher than any 50-year period in the last 2,000 years.”

The report also confirms that global sea level rise is accelerating. Globally, sea levels rose about 8 inches on average between 1901 and 2018, although the water rose much more in some places, including in some cities on the East Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States.

Sea level rise is primarily driven by melting glaciers, and Arctic ice. There’s a lag between emissions and ice melting, which means even if humans were to stop all greenhouse gas emissions today, sea levels would continue to rise for a few decades, the report notes.

“Sea level change through the middle of this century has largely been locked in,” says Bob Kopp, one of the report’s authors and the director of the Institute of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at Rutgers University. That means no matter what, people living in coastal areas will need to adapt to higher seas.

This tweet links to the reports.

“The Rainy Season in the Amazon Rainforest ” , Kazuya Akimoto. ‘2008

Of course, nothing changes if we can’t get the world to change or even change things at the local level. My state’s politics are somewhat driven by the priorities of the Oil and Gas industry.  They throw money around to ensure it stays that way.  This is from Forbes. “Fugitive Methane Worsens Warming: New Assessments Point To Urgent Oil And Gas Fix.”  Methane is the third leg of this discussion.

The word fugitive methane conjures up the Harrison Ford movie, where the hero was always running and hiding. It’s a good concept for methane leakages that occur in all phases of natural gas production and processing, except they are not heroes.

Methane has also been hiding from the press which has paid most attention to controlling carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas (GHG). But the poor sister has now awakened to tell us she is responsible for 25% of present global warming. The world should have had a second Paris Agreement for methane back in 2015.

But its not too late as the “methane lever” can still be moved to make a substantial change to current warming by global GHG emissions.

Methane is the second important greenhouse gas. Methane emissions are surreptitious and really bad. The global warming effect of methane is 20-80 times that of carbon dioxide, depending on duration (how many warming years are counted).

The amount of methane in the atmosphere has more than doubled in the past 250 years since the industrial revolution

Fossil fuels, agriculture, and waste management comprise the big three sources of man-made methane. In the US, methane emissions from oil and gas are almost half of all man-made methane emissions.


So, that’s a lot to read and think about so I’ll leave the down thread shares to you as well as the discussion.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


6 Comments on “Monday Reads: Climate Change is more Dire than we Knew”

  1. dakinikat says:

    I certainly hope people read one of these articles and bother their congress critters.

    • djmm says:

      I attended a presentation by Dr. Smalley (who shared be Nobel prize for the discovery of C60 “Bucky balls” and the father of nanotechnology) on climate change in the 1990’s. He had been a skeptic and thought he could disprove it. To his shock and horror he found the reverse. Two things stick with me: (1) the change could be gain momentum exponentially and result in wild temperature swings and (2) the average temperature of Venus should be about 86 degrees F., but because of greenhouse gas driven climate factors, the average temp is about 850 degrees F — hot enough to melt lead.

      Already, it appears the convective ocean currents that form the Gulf Stream may be preparing to shut down because of salinity changes caused by melting ice. That will wake everyone up.

  2. dakinikat says:

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Thanks for this post, even though it’s scary as hell.