Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dangerous Delusion

Denying climate change, Joe Ingrham and Bernard Schutz write, is a dangerous delusion. But it is understandable -- because it's hard to accurately predict the effects of climate change:

What is confusing to some, however, and allows others to claim that global warming is just nature’s way or is divinely predetermined, is that it is hard to predict how local climates will be affected. Like a pot of water, we know that with continually increasing heat the water will boil, but what we don’t know is how the bubbles in that boiling water will behave.
Like the bubbles in boiling water, changes in circulation are fiendishly hard to predict with precision. Cold melt-water from the decreasing ice-mass creates colder oceans nearby. Elsewhere, warmer air boosts ocean surface temperatures. These effects distort the circulation in ways complicated by the rotation of the earth and the shape of the continents, combining with the warming air currents to create a complex pattern of regional climate effects.
The North Pole’s ice cover produces a striking example since it consists of relatively thin sea ice, which during recent summers nearly disappears. This makes for big seasonal changes in the polar weather. It should be little surprise therefore that in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere we are beginning to experience unusual weather patterns. Some can be traced to Greenland’s ice cover and increasing melt-water, which contribute to a difference between how air flows over the north Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
In the case of the Pacific, warm air is now flowing almost unimpeded into the Arctic, accelerating the ice melt, while in the case of the narrower Atlantic, continental Greenland inhibits warm air from circulating northward in winter. Unbalanced, the warm Pacific air pushes cold Arctic air out, spilling it over the continents, bringing frigid winter spells to the areas of North America closest to the Atlantic and to northern Europe especially.
In summer, the warm air spreads northwards everywhere, leading to the unprecedented forest fires now consuming large areas of Arctic boreal forests and releasing methane from the permafrost. This pattern of extremes and fluctuations of weather may be the norm for the northern hemisphere for some time, depending on how fast the Arctic ice disappears and Greenland melts.
South of the equator, with the ice-melt from Antarctica spreading out all around the South Pole and running up against warm mid-latitude water, people may experience steadier warming but also seasonal extremes of destructive storms and calamitous flooding. Those least able to cope with these events will be the world’s poorer – farmers or slum dwellers in the southern hemisphere, rural or coastal inhabitants in North America and Europe.

These extremes are interpreted by some as flukes -- anomalies that we can't control. But when one looks at the evidence over the last five decades, it's clear. The planet is warming -- and carbon emissions are the cause. But lots of people don't want to give up carbon. So they proclaim that there must be a technological fix to the problem:

Indeed, the newly released green plan of Andrew Scheer and Canada’s Conservative Party falls right into that trap, calling not for the reduced use of fossil fuels but rather their increased use and instead mitigating their impact through the application of enhanced carbon capture technology. Essentially, without establishing any targets consistent with the Paris Climate Accord, the plan calls for leaving it largely to the private sector (ie. the oil and gas companies) to develop the technology, thereby avoiding the need to tax carbon emissions. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house!

There are differences in emphasis. But, essentially, the Liberal plan is the same. The private sector will solve the problem. But the private sector isn't -- and won't -- solve the problem. This is government's problem:

Governments today need to recognize that we face a crisis every bit as urgent as global war, and that we do not yet have enough of the technological weapons to address the crisis comprehensively. Public funds need to be poured into the development of carbon-free energy sources and storage methods that are scaleable and affordable. Elected officials and national leaders, including those in Canada, need to stop taking their policy cues from established industries like oil, gas and coal, and they must abandon the ideological fiction that public sector support undermines the free market. Indeed, if they don’t, there is every chance that neither the free market nor liberal democracy will survive for much longer.

Something to think about in the upcoming election.

Image: The Telegraph


The Mound of Sound said...

I read another opinion piece today warning that governments have to begin shutting down fossil energy infrastructure because nothing else will succeed. This is what Schellnhuber was getting at in Paris in 2015 when he called for an "induced implosion" of the fossil fuel industry. Nothing short of government intervention stands a chance of averting catastrophic climate change.

Trudeau and Scheer do, as written, want the markets to solve the problem. Those market players (IEA, OPEC and others), however, foresee a booming demand for ever more fossil fuels right into 2040 and beyond. They see future growth for coal and oil in the range of 30 per cent or more by 2040. The fossil fuel giants are banking on it and every year of governmental inaction only reaffirms their approach.

Trudeau's new and expanded Trans Mountain pipeline is a 60-year investment. That's roughly how long it takes to recoup the construction and operating costs. It's not something you do for 5 or 10 years.

Trudeau is playing straight into the hands of white supremacists who, especially in the States, are coming to view catastrophic climate change as a means to rid the world of a lot of unwanted brown people.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link to your blog, Mound. Scapegoats are those who pay the price for our own sins. Brown people are convenient scapegoats.