Hostage to myopic self-interest: climate science is watered down under political scrutiny

In his book Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell describes a double-speak totalitarian state where most of the population accepts “the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane.”

Orwell could have been writing about climate change and policymaking.

International agreements talk of limiting global warming to 1.5–2°C, but in reality they set the world on a path of 3–5°C. Goals are reaffirmed, only to be abandoned. Coal, by definition, is “clean”. Just 1°C of warming is already dangerous, but this cannot be said. The planetary future is hostage to myopic, national self-interest. Action is delayed on the assumption that as yet unproven technologies will save the day, decades hence. The risks are existential, but it is “alarmist” to say so. A one-in-two chance of missing a goal is normalised as reasonable.

Read the full article by Ian Dunlop, published by the Guardian on 11/9/17, at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/11/hostage-to-myopic-self-interest-climate-science-is-watered-down-under-political-scrutiny

Australia, deep in climate change’s ‘disaster alley’, shirks its moral responsibility

A government’s first responsibility is to safeguard the people and their future well-being. The ability to do this is threatened by human-induced climate change, the accelerating effects of which are driving political instability and conflict globally. Climate change poses an existential risk to humanity that, unless addressed as an emergency, will have catastrophic consequences.

In military terms, Australia and the adjacent Asia-Pacific region is considered to be “disaster alley”, where the most extreme effects are being experienced. Australia’s leaders either misunderstand or wilfully ignore these risks, which is a profound failure of imagination, far worse than that which triggered the global financial crisis in 2008. Existential risk cannot be managed with conventional, reactive, learn-from-failure techniques. We only play this game once, so we must get it right first time.

Read the full article by Ian Dunlop, published by the Canberra Times on 22/6/17, at http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/australia-deep-in-climate-changes-disaster-alley-shirks-its-moral-responsibility-20170621-gwvhs6.html


Paris 1.5-2°C target far from safe, say world-leading scientists

This is why we do what we do!

So what would be safe? The answer is that “limiting the period and magnitude of temperature excursion above the Holocene range is crucial to avoid strong stimulation of slow feedbacks”.
In other words, aim to get temperatures back under the Holocene maximum of 0.5ºC, which implies a level of greenhouse gases below 320 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), compared to the current level of 405 ppm.

Read the full article by David Spratt, published at Climate Code Red on 27/7/17, at http://www.climatecodered.org/2017/07/paris-15-2c-target-far-from-safe-say.html


The Planet Is Warming. And It’s Okay to Be Afraid

Another article in response to David Wallace-Wells’ recent controversial article in the New York Magazine.

Last Week, David Wallace-Wells wrote a cover story for of New York Magazine, “The Uninhabitable Earth,” on some of the worst-case scenarios that the climate crisis could cause by the end of this century. It describes killer heat waves, crippling agricultural failures, devastated economies, plagues, resource wars, and more. It has been read more than two million times.

The article has caused a major controversy in the climate community, in part because of some factual errors in the piece—though by and large the piece is an accurate portrayal of worst-case climate catastrophe scenarios. But by far the most significant criticism the piece received was that it was too frightening.

Read the full article by Margaret Klein Salamon, published by Common Dreams on 17/7/17, at https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/07/17/planet-warming-and-its-okay-be-afraid

Also read her excellent analysis of the benefits of ’emergency mode’ at Leading the Public into Emergency Mode


The Uninhabitable Earth

It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.

Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

Read the full article by David Wallace-Wells, published by New York Magazine on 09/7/17, at http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html?utm_campaign=nym&utm_medium=s1&utm_source=tw

This article sparked a huge response, with numerous articles appearing over the next week either condemning or supporting him for saying it like it is (more or less). For example:

by David Roberts: https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/7/11/15950966/climate-change-doom-journalism?mc_cid=0f0999589c&mc_eid=0b9f078224

by Victoria Herrmann: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/12/doomsday-narratives-climate-change-dangerous-wrong

by Margaret Klein Salamon: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/07/17/planet-warming-and-its-okay-be-afraid


Our Aversion to Doom and Gloom Is Dooming Us

I worked for over 35 years in the environmental field, and one of the central debates I encountered was whether to “tell it like it is,” and risk spreading doom and gloom, or to focus on a more optimistic message, even when optimism wasn’t necessarily warranted.

The optimists nearly always won this debate. For the record, I was—and am—a doom and gloomer. Actually, I like to think I’m a realist. I believe that understating the problems we face leads to understated—and inadequate responses. I also believe that people, when dealt with honestly, have responded magnificently, and will do so again, if and when called. ….

Read the full article by John Atcheson, published by Common Dreams on 19/07/2017, at https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/07/19/our-aversion-doom-and-gloom-dooming-us