Near Boiling Point on Global Warming

Rising global temperatures if they exceed 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels threaten to unleash havoc across the planet, including mass dislocations of desperate people that will make the current flood of Syrian refugees look like a tiny warm-up, writes Nat Parry.

By Nat Parry

With more than 40,000 negotiators from 196 governments descending on Paris this week to negotiate a comprehensive accord to tackle climate change, it is hard to imagine that they could possibly reach an agreement that will satisfy everybody.

The interests that each country brings to the table are so complex and diverse especially when it comes to the touchy subjects of climate reparations and ensuring effective enforcement mechanisms for any sort of “binding” deal on how to actually reduce carbon emissions to safe levels it is inconceivable that everyone (or anyone) will feel content at the end of these marathon negotiations in two weeks.

Image of Planet Earth taken from Apollo 17

Image of Planet Earth taken from Apollo 17

This is likely why the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a Costa Rican diplomat named Christiana Figueres, has for months been lowering expectations for the outcome of the summit.

While the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) has long been deemed necessary to avoid the most serious effects of climate change a future of drowned cities, desertifying croplands, and collapsing ecosystems Figueres acknowledges that the negotiations, based on the declared “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) of each country at the table, will probably not result in reaching that 2-degree goal.

“I’ve already warned people in the press,” she said this summer. “If anyone comes to Paris and has a Eureka moment, ‘Oh, my God, the INDCs do not take us to 2 degrees!’, I will chop the head off whoever publishes that. Because I’ve been saying this for a year and a half.”

As Politico explains it, rather than reaching 2-degree goal, “What would be a success for Figueres, the UN and many of the countries taking part is setting in motion a process starting in 2020 that ups greenhouse gas cuts over time. Figueres calls it ‘the start of a long journey.’”

While it is true that taking the first step of this “long journey” is obviously necessary and long overdue in order to begin the process of mitigating climate change, and in that sense it is worth maintaining some optimism and positive thinking, what is less clear is whether nature will be as patient and understanding.

What the international community seems to be forgetting is that the environment is governed by natural laws and if the science is correct regarding global warming, we cannot continue to postpone meaningful action on tackling climate change. Indeed, it is clear that the effects of climate change are already taking hold in major ways and are only expected to get worse, with large parts of the planet potentially rendered uninhabitable, according to the world’s leading climate scientists.

Yet, an uninhabitable planet is what we should expect if participants in Paris fail to reach an ambitious and binding agreement this month that puts science and nature ahead of politics and profits. In this sense, the 40,000 negotiators engaging in two weeks of discussions and horse-trading in the French capital are not really negotiating with each other, but with Mother Nature. And the fact is, there is no reason to think that Mother Nature is willing or able to wait for humanity to start drastically reducing its carbon output.

As one analyst explains it, however, “emissions reductions are barely on the table at all” in Paris, with the talks essentially “rigged to ensure an agreement is reached regardless of how little action countries plan to take.” Because each submission for the reduction of carbon output is at the discretion of individual countries, “there is no objective standard it must meet or emissions reduction it must achieve.”

The “Climate Action Tracker,” a scientific assessment service that tracks countries’ emission commitments, offers an independent assessment estimating that the current national submissions, if fully implemented, could bring warming down to a 2.7 degree increase (above pre-industrial levels) by the end of the century. While this marks substantial progress from previous years, it is still only one third to half way to reaching the 2-degree-increase benchmark that has been deemed necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

In other words, it’s as if a heavy smoker has been advised by his doctor to give up cigarettes but instead of quitting he simply makes a vague commitment to cut down a bit. This might seem like an improvement in the mind of the smoker, but the ultimate outcome remains the same: severe health problems and an early death.

Of course, the 2-degree-increase threshold that we are set to surpass under current emission targets will just usher in the “worst effects” of climate change but consider how many effects we are already experiencing, having just broken the 1-degree threshold earlier this year. As a UN report recently documented, “Weather-related disasters are becoming increasingly frequent, due largely to a sustained rise in the numbers of floods and storms.”

Examining the past two decades of data, the landmark report “The Human Cost of Weather-Related Disasters 1995-2015” found that flooding accounted for 47 percent of all weather-related disasters, affecting 2.3 billion people. Storms killed more than 242,000 people in the 20-year time period, with the vast majority of these deaths (89 percent) occurring in lower-income countries. Heatwaves and extreme cold were also particularly deadly, with high-income countries reporting that 76 percent of weather-related disaster deaths were due to extreme temperatures, mainly heatwaves.

The report notes that due to the high number of variables in climate science and extreme weather, “scientists cannot calculate what percentage of this rise is due to climate change” but points out “that predictions of more extreme weather in the future almost certainly mean that we will witness a continued upward trend in weather-related disasters in the decades ahead.”

A World Bank report, “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided,” is equally stark, warning that we’re on track for a world marked by extreme heatwaves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.

“A 4-degree warmer world can, and must be, avoided we need to hold warming below 2 degrees Celsius,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim in 2012. “Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today.”

Besides extreme weather, there are also the compounding security threats associated with climate change, with the Council on Foreign Relations for one warning as far back as 2007 that climate change was contributing significantly to terrorism and conflict. The organization noted that “declining food production, extreme weather events, and drought from climate change” could “contribute to massive migration and possibly state failure, leaving ‘ungoverned spaces’ where terrorists can organize.”

These concerns have also been raised by the Pentagon, which refers to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it “has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today from infectious disease to terrorism.”

In fact, it is well-documented that the current conflict in Syria, which has facilitated the rise of the Islamic State and led to Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War Two, was triggered by a series of factors, including climate change.

According to a recent report called “A New Climate for Peace,” an independent study commissioned by the foreign ministers of the G7 nations, a severe drought that hit Syria in 2006 was exacerbated by resource mismanagement and the impact of climate change on water and crop production.

The resulting food insecurity was “one of the factors that pushed the country over the threshold into violent conflict,” and now is the source of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants seeking asylum in European nations, which are evidently ill-prepared to deal with the influx.

Indeed, having recently witnessed the European Union’s dysfunctional response to the Syrian refugee crisis, one wonders what the reaction will be like once people truly start to leave their homes en masse due to global warming, with 150 million “climate refugees” expected by 2050, according to the Environmental Justice Foundation.

The truth is, when it comes to global warming and related environmental, security and environmental concerns, these matters are simply not up for negotiation. If we accept the reality of human-induced climate change as nearly 100 percent of scientists do we must address the issue in the most ambitious manner possible in order to ensure a planet that is even remotely livable for ourselves, for our children and for their children.

Nat Parry is the co-author of Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. [This story originally appeared at Essential Opinion, https://essentialopinion.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/international-community-attempts-to-negotiate-with-nature-in-paris/]

25 comments for “Near Boiling Point on Global Warming

  1. December 8, 2015 at 10:30

    So all the Toronto warming is based on 0.8 degrees of warming since the seventies? Nonsense. Local events on such a short time scale measured without a thermometer but with clothing choices do not a single fact make.
    CO2 is plant food. Plants start to die at levels below 150ppm, and double their yield at 800 (weeds grow slower.) IPCC wants levels at 200. Bill Gates wants levels at zero. Levels should be at 1500+ if one wants to feed the world. The Ehrlichs of the world disagree.
    Carbon tax is the game, that and global governance. We exhale carbon, should we be taxed? Increased CO2 is a result of heating, not the other way ’round. It’s called outgassing, and NASA wants to use it to create an atmosphere on Mars.
    The ‘facts’ on climate are starting to look like the ‘facts’ on 9/11, full of holes.
    Correlation is not causation.
    I repeat: correlation is not causation.
    You people should know better.

    • Antidyatel
      December 8, 2015 at 23:44

      Same points 3 comments above. Good to see other people not duped by fearmongaring and misrepresentation by sect of climatology, which is not science. But we have little chance to increase our numbers. Even among my friends the idea doesn’t stick. They still using talking points from “experts” instead of thinking

  2. voxpax
    December 2, 2015 at 10:13

    Hi dear refusers, stick to global politics, you are much better at this, and try not to pollute too much….or read Naomi Kleins latest book “This Changes Everything”.

  3. Zachary Smith
    December 1, 2015 at 23:36

    Elmerfudzie

    Lolita

    I’m presently on my ‘travel’ laptop, but I’m still going to do something I ought to have done some time back. I’m starting a file of names of the utterly clueless types for whom I’ll attempt to skip over entirely in the future. Hopefully I’ll remember to transfer the file to my “main” computer and use it there. No promises, but I’m really going to try.

    I remember posting (on a now defunct blog) about 13 years ago that I’d willingly embrace the dumbass Bush as President For Life if he’d seriously tackle Climate Change. And how I’d also accept his Tequila Twins as the designated heirs for the same role.

    The issue really is that serious – the most important one in the world. I suppose I’m still in denial about the matter, but it’s increasingly difficult to keep from admitting that the game is – for all practical purposes – already over. The deniers have probably won, and on their end-life resumé (if there turns out to be such a thing) they can proudly cite their support for destroying the only planet we’re likely to ever have – along with the rest of creation.

    Oh, some “life” will survive, but with a time span in the millions of years for any kind of re-evolution. I wonder if God will be impressed.

    • Lolita
      December 2, 2015 at 02:00

      Zachary Smith, so you do travel -either swimming, walking or riding a bicycle I hope after that tirade of yours-… I doubt you hold a PhD in anything, lest in science. If you did, you would know that only the ignorant claim that we “deny” climate is changing, especially since we know about the 1970s climatic shift, extremely well documented in the Pacific and since, well, the 1980s. So do us a favor, go to school and study physics, meteorology and climatology, Earth history, and plain history but not what many colleges call these days “climate change science”, the veneer that pretends giving an education about climatic affairs through spewing the UN Gorespel for lawyers and carbon credits accountants. That is not science.
      As for threatening to start a file with names… The NSA may be recruiting, so your totalitarian tendencies could flourish today while saving the planet even before the end of the COP 21.
      Killing two birds with one stone. What’s not to love?
      Lolita Dupond

    • Antidyatel
      December 2, 2015 at 08:13

      Usual blindness in understanding the issue. But let me try to explain to you some facts:
      1) did human screwed up mother nature big way – true
      2) does climate change – yes.
      3) is there more CO2 in atmosphere – measured and confirmed
      4) does CO2 emission cause climate change – false. Increase in CO2 emissions is a consequence of climate change and human activity, it is not the reason for climate change. What is the primary agent that controls our climate – water and more specifically water cycle. Humans screwd up the cycle and will face consequences very soon. Why is CO2 emission pushed by fake science of climate change? It is a financial scheme developed/invented by JP Morgan. It has no relation to science but it is very convenient for taxation. It would be very hard to base taxation on water, plus CO2 is good for fearmongaring due to its complicity in human deaths during fires. CO2 is the gas that ensures that plants grow on this planet and is most critical for biosphere. Fighting against it is suicidal. But it is best suited for introducing final level of taxation by money landers. CO2 emission can be measured not only from factories and cars. It can be measured from each human. The wearable prototypes are already on the market, used in hospitals. Soon enough each of us will be forced to wear one. So when the Logic of carbon footprint will reach it’s ultimate goal, you will be paying for every breath you take. Enjoy the future. If you still don’t realise the danger, then you probably deserve such future.

    • Robert Bruce
      December 7, 2015 at 21:44

      Here, here! Finally someone on here gets it. The whole thing is a big scam to justify high taxation and more international aid going to the poor nations that don’t have enough $ to comply with the new Paris agreement. Either the poor nations will receive more aid from the West or go into debt borrowing$$ from international finance. In reality, it will probably be a combination of both.

  4. hseneker
    December 1, 2015 at 23:35

    Climate will do what climate will do. But when it comes to policy, it needs to be based on hard facts.

    There are some crucial, verifiable facts – with citations – about human-generated carbon dioxide and its effect on global warming people should know at

    hseneker.blogspot.com

    The discussion is too long to post here, but is a quick and easy read. I recommend following the links in the citations; some of them are very educational.

  5. Lolita
    December 1, 2015 at 18:26

    Not your finest hour. Rehashing alarmists’ fear mongering is not what I usually expect from Consortium. But what to expect from people who do not have the tools to assess the foundation of the science that is proposed to them, people who are forced to rely on arguments of authority? Does Nat Parry need someone else to explain how to read the weather processes at work on a satellite image? If yes, Nat Parry has no understanding of weather and thus, cannot have any comprehension of climate and how it does evolve, since weather is the mean by which climatic changes are implemented.

    • david thurman
      December 2, 2015 at 11:57

      Like we don’t know the “anti” climate change crowd are paying by the word for these responses?? Go to Conservapedia.com and answer an ad for “working from home.”

    • David Smith
      December 2, 2015 at 13:04

      100% accurate comment Mr. Thurman. Even worse, The Fartland Institute has software that continuously scans the internet for any article on climate change, this is why every article is swarmed by cut and paste bots. By the way, Fartland Institute Trolls, here in Toronto Canada , it is like a spring day, I have all the windows open and the heat is off, I can go outside in a T-shirt, so I do not need a climate scientist to tell me that global warming is not a hoax.

    • Lolita
      December 2, 2015 at 16:53

      David Smith, and this morning it was – 31C in Iqaluit (Baffin Island, Canada).

      Readership might be interested in this insurance report for the year 2014 from AON insurers, hardly a “denier” group:
      “Down Again: 2014 Catastrophe Losses Below Average
      Global natural disasters in 2014 combined to cause economic losses of USD132 billion, 37 percent below the ten-year average of USD211 billion

      http://thoughtleadership.aonbenfield.com/Documents/20150113_ab_if_annual_climate_catastrophe_report.pdf

      Finally your readership might also find interesting that “although snowfall coverage analyses at the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC) have only been generated since 2003, it is interesting to note that U.S. snow cover on the morning of Dec. 1, 2015 is the highest on record for this day of the year.”

      Facts are rather more interesting than insults.

    • David Smith
      December 2, 2015 at 19:28

      I don’t live on Baffin Island, Lolita, stick with the facts in my comment: I said its December 2nd in Toronto Canada, I have the windows open during the day, if I turn the thermostat up all the way the heat doesn’t go on, not that I need it, and yes it works. When the climate was normal (twenty years ago) we needed the heat on in mid september. Now summer extends to the end of October. I do not need a winter coat until January, and ” winter” is over end of February. We used to have heavy snow cover to April 1st. Barely any snow all winter now, and green leaves persisting to end of November. Before all leaves dropped with beautiful fall colors first week of September. Those are facts Lolita, and your posts are full of the rancid LIES defecated by The Fartland Institute.

    • Lolita
      December 2, 2015 at 23:07

      David Smith, I am terribly sorry to break it to you… but, Toronho is not the Center of the Universe.
      LOLita

    • Lolita
      December 2, 2015 at 13:12

      Once again the typical “anti climate change” wording… How many times do you need to be reminded that no one denies climate evolves and changes, especially since the climatic shift of the 1970s? Or is that such an easy straw man argument that you cannot refuse?

    • Bart
      December 2, 2015 at 12:42

      We don’t need a weather man to know what way the wind is blowing.

    • Lolita
      December 2, 2015 at 13:17

      “Man, you should have come up with this line earlier on and help save billions of $ spent on climate models calculation runs, especially when all of them come up with red maps by 2100” would have said your eponymous TV character…

  6. Ray McGovern
    December 1, 2015 at 17:45

    An article more important than all others; nicely and icely put together. If I had no grandchildren, and if I didn’t care about anyone else, why should I care? But I do, and I do So, what am I going to do, in the time I have left? “Nothing” is not a moral option.

    • elmerfudzie
      December 1, 2015 at 23:03

      Ray, worry not! The “sky-is-falling” crowd, those who created a legacy or script for climate change, could not foresee an unexpected revelation, both in the credibility and scientific method of their so called expert(s) and testimonies. I refer to an article that appeared in Conservapedia.com see Climategate. Various e-mails were exchanged between Australian scientists regarding this deliberate attempt to fashion a new climate model. In short, through the efforts of some savvy hackers, they exposed that this climate data was indeed fudged to fit that new and fictitious model. I also suggest reading the works of Patrick Wood, reference: Technocracy Rising, as well as profound statements made by a geologist, Professor Ian Plimer during his address to the UK Parliament. The new climate change script began with the likes of Maurice Strong, noted as the most dangerous man in the world, he wanted nothing more than to destroy our great nation by De-industrializing it. Let me digress a little, the official cover story to hide this climate change plot, was concocted by the same bank-sters who ushered in the Panic of 1907 -But all they wanted back then, was to corner the stock market, now they seek to corner a WORLD market in human transaction(s) of every kind and sort. The new plot begins with the allegation of planetary over population (human existence causes dangerous pollution(s)) and consequently, a sharp rise in atmospheric CO2 from various industrial sources. By deliberately excluding research to monitor an estimated one million or so small volcanoes dotting the five ocean floors, (belching CO2 whenever they please) mankind’s contribution to CO2 production may be quite minuscule in comparison to mother natures contributions-but who can tell? when skewed data-graphs are all we have to look at! Today, I believe our climate scientists monitor about a dozen or so volcanoes and thus, on a grand scale of geologic activity, our fancy computerized models, don’t add up to much of anything in the way of accurate projections. No RIP for you Mr Strong! and please! NO more social engineering tricks from you big time banksters and neo-con artists. We will never have a one world, one government, one currency, one big fat bank, one language and one smothering big brother, future. I don’t know what those fat cats are smoking in their pipes these days, but it is a dream….their dream!

    • Brad Owen
      December 2, 2015 at 05:55

      You are right, more or less. The environmental movement is saturated with the ideas of Oligarchs who have held to perverted (read “NAZI”) Eugenics theories. They generally want to inculcate the idea in peoples’ minds that Human=BAD, a pestilence. It’s a typical attitude of Feudal Lords towards their human property; can’t live with ’em (serfs), can’t live without ’em (serfs). What’s especially galling to the OverLords is that well-trained, organized LABOR is the ONLY source of ALL wealth. Only LABOR can take rocks out of the ground and turn them into Hondas and Toyotas. Only LABOR enables the OverLords to wipe their butts with soft, absorbent paper so that they don’t have to go around in poop-stained, coarse, robes. THEIR anti-human/anti-technology environmental movement ties in with the wars and the Austerity/Monetarist policies to generally reduce and immiserate the population…culling their herd of Serfs to make the Herd more manageable. Not to worry though; BRICS will have none of it, and the OverLords of The Western Empire have set THEMSELVES upon the path to monetary extinction.

    • elmerfudzie
      December 2, 2015 at 19:41

      Brad Owen, yes, the horrors of manipulating currencies, governments and even life itself (GMO’s) by corporate interests and “old money” is finally coming home to roost. Coming home, for a totally anachronistic class of billionaires. The last gasps of modern day feudalism has thrown every conceivable dagger at humanity, the worst of which are attempts to seize “ownership” of the global food chain process, reducing second and third world family farming into a restrictive and coercive “intellectual property” issue. The GMO lawyers have crushed first world farmers many times over already….This last dagger will foster a new war (s) atop all the other “low intensity” on-going wars, invented by, then initiated with, approval from a known set of financial overlords (Monsanto’s crowd and those old money Prince-lings) . Further, there are technologies that will converge, for example; carbon fiber overtaking steel production, 3-D printing overtaking the drudgery of assembly line work. CAD-CAM will fuse with 3 D and this will transform the auto industry; the Morgans will need to whistle a new tune and try edging into the Japanese market for strong carbon fiber (good luck there boys). Oh yes, and the billionaires best be sitting in on lectures by Martin Ford who’s name is directly connected with Silicon Valley and he is renowned for developing the Valley’s cutting edge software programs. Ford has authored an insightful book, the Rise of the Robots. In a nut shell, “work” will vanish, as we now know it thus the entire planet be shopping for these new creations with their (equivalent of) a social security check. Why? because there will be VERY little work to do once the robots, 3-D printers and thinking computer(s) coined as the sixth generation, all merge to give humanity a real face lift- these developments together will certainly provoke consternation and disgust within the now crumbling ruling class!

    • Brad Owen
      December 3, 2015 at 06:38

      Very well said. Your detailed analysis of progress in manufacturing technology tallies with what R. Buckminster Fuller forecasted; we’ll perform increasingly more “work actions” using less and less time units, pounds of material, and ergs of energy, per “work action”…tending towards the unobtainable “doing everything with nothing, instantly”. BTW, I’m a maintenance electrician; those robots will have human crews swarming over them, repairing & maintaining…truth. We’ll come to a time when the National WorkForce shall be as small, in relation to population, as the National Military Force (which’ll hardly exist in the future), and Social Security shall become a National Guarranteed Income, connected to the awesome productivity of our automated manufacturing system…gentlemen hobby farmers (with a guaranteed income) will become the new rage, and the deserts shall bloom.

    • david thurman
      December 2, 2015 at 11:48

      “he wanted nothing more than to destroy our great nation by De-industrializing it.” 30+ years of Regeanonomics and their associated trade policies, enacted by the right (mostly) & moderate dems, has taken care of de-industrializing our once great country.

      I have yet to see one iota of evidence contrary of anthropomorphic climate change that you can’t track back to resource extraction hustlers, e.g. the heartland institute, koch industries, etc.; Including the event you reference, “through the efforts of some savvy hackers.”

    • james fisher
      December 5, 2015 at 17:18

      I would not attempt to educate you on climate change since you already have an opinion that you are unlikely to change. I would like to point out one of the consequences of climate change that you might have not considered. The oceans are acidifying as a natural consequence of the additional carbon dioxide dissolving in ocean water. This acid is already affecting oceanic food production by affecting bivalves and pteropods, which are oceanic animals which posses a calcium carbonate shell. These animals play a very important part of the oceanic food chain and problems for these animals will result in increasing dire consequences for food production. In case you did not know it a large part of the worlds population depend on the oceans for food. Problems for these peoples food production will result in deaths and suffering. So do you have any curiosity about what the facts are? I challenge you to google ocean acidification and read about the problem. Then perhaps you might see why carbon dioxide is a problem.

    • Brad Owen
      December 6, 2015 at 16:06

      The issue is not whether-or-not there is climate change. Yes there is climate change, right now. Yes there is anthropogenic climate change. Yes there has been plenty of catastrophic climate changes (massive die-offs, ice ages) on Earth long before there were any “Anthropos” around to generate any of it. The issue is NOT even what to do about it; there’s probably a goodly number of viable solutions for the problem (humans-as-a-group, are amply gifted with genius, and WE are Mother Nature’s ONLY “boots-on-the-ground” for this battle; and coal&oil are ONLY dreadfully important to the coal&oil Barons…they’re sooo attached to their portfolios). The issue is the immovable obstacle of a World-wide ruling class of rich, powerful malcontents who are more concerned with culling their herd of human property (especially the ones of the wrong color) to make their herd more manageable. And THEIR preferred solutions tend towards an outcome of 500 million loin-clothed, stone-chipping humans living an austere, harsh life of 35 or 40 years (human raw material for future propagation), while the few tens-of-thousands of Oligarchs, and their few million craftsmen & techmen live the high life, commuting over “fly-over country”. This would solve the environmental and climate change issues..good luck selling it to the people. THIS, in plain language, is WHY we cannot reach a clear policy conclusion on what to do about climate change; NOT until “who’s in charge around here” is finally resolved. If the people lose, then the “500 million cavemen” policy will prevail. If the Oligarchs are dethroned, then the people WILL listen to constructive policy suggestions, and pursue them in their own collective interest.

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