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News from the Climate Front

Projection for 2090-2099 of the number of weeks per year where maximum daily temperatures exceed 100F. Based on the IPCC A1FI SRES business as usual scenario (source: Katherine Hayhoe, 2010, using NOAA data). Say good bye to Arizona. Wheat in Kansas could be in trouble too.

By Thomas Neuburger

“Everything new is old again.” —Yours truly, here.

As you can imagine, there’s news on the climate front. And as you can also imagine, it’s both shocking and more of the same. I’ll characterize the latest reports with three snippets and an afterthought.

1. The world of “infinite growth” — by which the wealthy mean “infinite profit” — has decided that burning “biofuel” (ethanol) and “biomass” (wood pellets) is a route to climate salvation.

First, in what world is burning anything made of carbon a route to falling CO2. In case you’ve forgotten, this is what burning looks like:

Note the wood. The formula is this:

Wood plus oxygen yields ash, CO2 and water. Yet there’s a world of wealth-friendly science people to tell you it’s OK to burn this stuff. Some of those people work for Biden’s EPA:

A new EPA proposal is reigniting a debate about what counts as ‘renewable’
The agency wants more ethanol, biogas, and wood pellet power in the nation's fuel mix. But is that actually a good thing?

The EPA is being pretty aggressive about this push:

The EPA’s recent proposal aims for nearly double the amount of the use of these fuels [ethanol, biogas, wood pellets, biomass diesel] by 2024. Then a 50 percent increase the year after, equivalent to 2 billion gallons.

That's money in the bank if you own forests and corn fields. If you want to know who’s behind this push, look no further than this fellow:

“We are pretty pleased with what the EPA proposed for 2023 through 2025,” Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuel Association, an industry group whose members primarily include ethanol producers, but also represent biogas and biomass producers, told Grist.

2. This madness, of course, is making the problem worse. James Hansen and colleagues have released another stiffening study, this time about the rate of climate change and why it’s accelerating.

The paper is titled “Global warming in the pipeline”. It's a good read (I do recommend it), but to boil it down, the concept of global warming “in the pipeline,” as Hansen explains, is a result of the “climate’s delayed response and the need for anticipatory action to alter the course of fossil fuel development.” In the Abstract, he states the problem succinctly:

Global warming in the pipeline is greater than prior estimates.

and later:

At this moment, humanity is taking its first steps into the period of consequences. Earth’s paleoclimate history helps us assess potential outcomes.

The piece contains two stunning graphs. Here’s the first:

Fig. 6. Observed global mean surface temperature (black line) and expected warming from observed GHG changes with two alternative choices for ECS. The difference (blue area) is an estimate of the cooling effect of the (unmeasured) aerosol forcing. The temperature peak in the World War II era is in part an artifact of inhomogeneous ocean data during that period.

The bottom line on this graph is: The two red lines represent global temperature change from the 1850 baseline if the air contained no pollution — sulfides, particles and other poisonous industrial crap that modern life throws into it. The lower black line is the global warming we’re witnessing. If the air were clean tomorrow, we’d soon see +2°C global warming, not the 1°C we’re now experiencing.

The second chart is worse:

Fig. 19. Accelerated warming rate post-2010 (yellow area) if aerosol [air pollution] reductions approximately double the net (GHG + aerosol) climate forcing. Upper and lower edges of the yellow area are 0.36 and 0.27°C per decade warming rates.

We could call this one “Where we’re headed.” If I’m not mistaken (carry the 2) most of us will still be alive in 2040. We can't kick this can down the road. There’s no road left.

3. But wait, there’s hope; the current system may yet produce a solution. Or so the UN believes:

UN Secretary-General to Convene “Climate Ambition Summit” in 2023
UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced he will convene a Climate Ambition Summit in September 2023, to generate “new, tangible and credible climate action” to “accelerate action at the mid-way point” of the SDGs. Going forward, he said he will push for a Climate Solidarity Pact, for all big emitters to “make an extra effort” to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the 1.5°C goal and provide support for those who need it.

Because of course the money-mad person quoted in point one will listen to the polite requests of the person in point three. Right.

4. Which brings me, snippets done, to point number four, my afterthought, a conclusion you should be drawing for yourself:

  • Asking won't get this job done. The people in charge need telling.

  • Someone not seventy or older is going to figure this out. Not everyone will stay blind.

  • Maybe a bunch of someones will figure it out together.

  • What “not asking, just telling” could look like, when a whole lot of people all do it, is messier than anyone I know is willing to contemplate.

We may pray for the day, long gone, when contemplation was all that was asked of us, when action wasn't forced because others are acting with force. We may pray for the day when that sun hadn't set. The way to answer those prayers is to act right now.


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