For several years I blogged a lot about climate change. Eventually I made “climate change cheatsheets” containing choice links that were more organized which I could use as a reference. It’s time to update that cheatsheet because frankly research is being published so quickly. I am no longer on top of climate change news as I used to be – and frankly it’s somewhat harder for laypeople to make sense of it all.
Here are some primary sources I check regularly: Climate Crocks,
Podcasts: Climate Pod
Zero emissions and how quickly it brings benefits
Mark Hertsgaard et al on how we know that reaching Netzero emissions can produce benefits quickly:
For many years, the scientific rule of thumb was that a sizable amount of temperature rise was locked into the Earth’s climate system. Scientists believed — and told policymakers and journalists, who in turn told the public — that even if humanity hypothetically halted all heat-trapping emissions overnight, carbon dioxide’s long lifetime in the atmosphere, combined with the sluggish thermal properties of the oceans, would nevertheless keep global temperatures rising for 30 to 40 more years. Since shifting to a zero-carbon global economy would take at least a decade or two, temperatures were bound to keep rising for at least another half-century.
But guided by subsequent research, scientists dramatically revised that lag time estimate down to as little as three to five years. That is an enormous difference that carries paradigm-shifting and broadly hopeful implications for how people, especially young people, think and feel about the climate emergency and how societies can respond to it.
This revised science means that if humanity slashes emissions to zero, global temperatures will stop rising almost immediately. To be clear, this is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Global temperatures also will not fall if emissions go to zero, so the planet’s ice will keep melting and sea levels will keep rising. But global temperatures will stop their relentless climb, buying humanity time to devise ways to deal with such unavoidable impacts. In short, we are not irrevocably doomed — or at least we don’t have to be, if we take bold, rapid action.
Michael Mann on Zero Emissions Commitment and how it can bring immediate benefits:
So our best estimates today are that surface warming stops when carbon emissions stop, i.e.that there is no additional surface warming in the pipeline when emissions reach zero. The notion that there are decades of committed surface warming after emissions reach zero is based on outdated simulations that did not take into account the interactive role of the ocean carbon cycle. While the science on this is more than a decade old, this significant paradigm shift in our understanding of committed warming has still failed to be widely understood or recognized in much of the public discourse over climate science (see this op-ed I co-authored in the Washington Post about that last year). The point is that whether or not the 1.5C target is reachable is a matter of policy, not climate physics, at this point. It’s fine for Jim and his colleagues to explore scenarios where we do not act soon enough, and carbon emissions are not lowered adequately to avert specific warming targets such as 1.5C or 2C, but it should be clear that the differences in their conclusions are a result of those policy and behavioral assumptions, not climate physics.
Follies of Exporting Natural Gas
Mike Ludwig on how exporting US fracked gas is far worse than coal.
Climate Change Rhetoric
If an industry’s business model is dedicated to PERMANENTLY degrading the livable world for EVERY SINGLE baby born today, tomorrow, next year, next decade — even the next century, then it’s a no-brainer that we ought to act sooner rather than later to stop it, especially because we ALREADY HAVE the technology to solve the problem and already have a good idea about how to do it right.
Should we have a PITY PARTY for those who have been profiting from the permanent harm being done to the human habitat? No. Instead we should provide a humane way for EVERYONE to transition to a cleaner and less destructive economic model. This can be done by changing the incentive structure, so that each person can be rewarded for decarbonizing their lifestyle in a way he or she finds to be the most suitable. But now the financial incentive structures in the US are designed precisely to do the opposite — to reward bad behavior. Perversely, last year fossil fuel companies in the US received $500 billion in subsidies so they could extract and sell even more polluting energy. Eliminating tax breaks for fossil fuel companies would go a long way to improve this perverse incentive structure.
Many people who have become rich from this destructive business model will claim — FALSELY by the way — that “carbon pricing” will translate to higher taxes for everybody. Sure, carbon prices does increase the price on bad behavior — that indeed is the point. But most carbon pricing plans actually refund 100% of carbon taxes to consumers — indeed, taxpayers who decarbonize faster than everyone else can end up making a nice profit.
Sometimes people who understand the dangers of climate change worry about the costs of making the transition. Actually though, it is relatively easy for individuals and organizations to transition to clean solutions if they have enough lead time. If carbon reductions were gradually phased in over 10 years, that would minimize the economic disruptions. If you knew you had 10 years to transition to a carbon-free lifestyle, you would have adequate time to replace your vehicles, appliances and energy provider without needing to spend a lot of money. On the other hand, if Americans keep putting off agreeing to an emission target, that will only reduce the time they have to prepare for the transition — and end up forcing them to incur additional costs associated with a rapid transition.
We already know that fossil fuels are causing PERMANENT HARM to the livable world of all future humans. The sad thing is that the people who will suffer the most from global warming also happen to be the people least responsible for causing it in the first place. A 12 year old girl living today in Bangladesh did almost nothing to cause climate change. Most likely she does not own an iPhone or has ever ridden in a Hummer. Neither did her family or friends or previous generations of Bengalis. Compared to the typical American, the typical Bengali has an almost trivial carbon footprint. Yet according to several environmental reports, Bangladesh is the country most likely to experience the most devastating effects of climate change. Food supplies will be disrupted; flooding and sea level rise will render large portions of its coastal regions to be uninhabitable. Most likely the effects of climate change will trigger several waves of climate refugees from Bangladesh into nearby countries, aggravating the region’s economic and political tensions as well.
Imagine that this 12 year old Bengali girl spoke perfect English and could skype you directly. Imagine her question: “Your scientists had been telling you for over 20 years that fossil fuels had been causing permanent harm to the planet and especially countries like my own; why on earth haven’t you done anything yet ? Do you really think my life and my country are so unimportant? Do you really believe that I have less of a right to grow up and make a living in my own country than you did when you were born? Why have your people been so unwilling to take even modest steps to reduce the harms of climate change being done on countries which never caused it in the first place? Is this what human civilization boils down to — allowing entire states to collapse in order to preserve one nation’s precious right to drive gas guzzlers and blow up mountains to sell coal?”…
(Although I think the rhetorical points are still valid, the only things I would change is the word “permanently” in the first line. Michael Mann’s points about the timeframe for reversing global warming from Zero Emissions is both a reason to have hope and reject doomsayer rhetoric).