Climate Change Solutions

We should be mobilizing to cut carbon emissions fast and by fast I doin’t mean 80% by 2050. I mean 80% by 2020 and that’s going to take almost a world war II type mobilization. There’s a lot at stake. In world war II we were trying to protect a way of life. Now we are trying to protect the future of civilization itself.

- Lester Brown, Founder of Earth Policy Institute, author of World on the Edge and Full Planet, Empty Plate

Global warming…is a negotiation between human beings on the one hand and physics and chemistry on the other. Which is a tough negotiation, because physics and chemistry don’t compromise.

- Bill McKibben


Lester Brown on the food as the weak link , the connection to climate change and planet’s scarcest resource: time
Climate denial propaganda by business and ideological interests with very little scientific evidence (but a lot of media savy) has created a great deal of confusion surrounding the seriousness of anthropogenic global warming. This intentional confusions has fractured the global community on belief in whether CO2 emissions are causing global warming or if there is indeed global warming occurring at all.

We take the scientific consensus view that CO2 is the cause of global warming and it is now a serious risk for human civilization. How serious? …That depends on who you ask. On the extreme end of pessimism, there is a minority of scientists such as Dr. Guy McPherson who believe that it is already too late for any solution. Dr McPherson is a former Professor Emiritus of Conservation Biology at the University of Arizona who believes that we have triggered irreversible earth system changes that are rapidly approaching tipping points and that these trends will lead to the Near Term Extinction (NTE) of the human and many other species.  And by near term, he means within two decades.  He believes this will happen first in the northern hemisphere followed by extinction in the southern hemisphere a few decades later. The time difference being due to the greater amount of land mass in the northern hemisphere which will result in more rapid changes. Even a global collapse of the industrial technocracy cannot stop the changes we have triggered says Dr. McPherson.

Most scientists views are not as extreme as Dr. McPherson’s and still believe that there is a short time window to act but that decisive and very unpopular decisions and action must be taken now, otherwise, these scenarios will indeed play out.

An unprecedented global mobilization must take place yesterday. Lester Brown, author of Plan B and director of the Earth Policy Institute states that nothing short of a war mobilization effort is needed.  It is clear that a mobilization of every level of society is required. Activist Bill McKibben’s 350.org is on the leading edge of the fight – mobilizing against the Keystone pipeline, promoting education about the unburnable carbon & the carbon bubble to investors to bring about divestment in fossil fuel funds and organizing the global powershift movement to create a global strategy.

Options

To review our situation, outspoken climate scientist Dr. Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall research center notes, we are between a rock and an extremely hard place. Even the 2 Deg C target is already very dangerous but we have two options before us: one terrible and the other, unthinkable:

  1. Option 1: completely unprecedented 10% per annum decarbonization
  2. Option 2: Shoot above 2 Deg C and aim  towards a more feasible 4 Deg C
  • When Russia suffered total economic collapse, it only achieved 5% decarbonization.
  • For 4 Deg C peaking by 2020, an unprecedented 3.5% decarbonization rate is very painful but achievable
  • But should we set 4 Deg C as a new target?
  • A 4 Deg C world is one in which:A 4 Deg C future is incompatible with organized global community, is likely to be beyond adaption, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems and has a high degree of not being stable
    • Land mean temperature is 5 to 6 Deg C
    • Hottest days will increase by:
      • 6-8 Deg C in China
      • 8-10 Deg C in Central Europe
      • 10-12 Deg C in New York
    • In low latitudes, this means a 40% reduction in maize and rice yields
  • 4 Deg C would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level
  • From 2001 to 2007 global emissions grew 3.5% per annum from the previous year
  • From 2009 to 2010, global emissions grew 5.6% per annum from previous year
  • The dramatic recession in 2008 had virtually no impact of carbon emission growth rate
  • After all the international talks and public awareness, carbon emissions are actually growing!

Solutions: Mitigation vs Adaptation – Minimizing the Cause or Treating the Effects?

Jorgen Randers, one of the principles of the Limits to Growth study and member of the Club of Rome warns that Short Termism, the inability for investors and democratic political systems to respond to change in a timely manner is the principle culprit for the lack of action to prevent our global ecocide.  Leading investor Jeremy Grantham echos the same sentiments in some of his recent talks –  that investors must change there views from short term to long term to prevent global ecocide.

Investors cannot make corporate decisions beyond the next quarter and democratic leaders are hamstrung by the political systems 4 year election cycle. The funding of political office by big business leaves political leaders obligated to continue ecocide in the name of corporate profits.

The continued inaction has set in motion the trail of global ecocide we are now witnessing. Randers believes that many large scale negative earth system trends have now been set in motion which may be very difficult or impossible to stop. The options which Dr. Kevin Anderson outlines appear to be too unattractive for political leaders to promote.

Already climate systems throughout the planet are changing rapidly with huge consequences for local ecology and humanity. Climate change is causing both oceanic and terrestrial climate zones to shift by up to 5 kilometers annually towards the poles. Species that industries depend on Instead, Randers and many others are shifting their focus to adapting to the inevitable changes coming our way through resiliency.

Focus Areas

We will have to apply two concurrent strategies:

  1. Decarbonizing
  2. Developing Resiliency to Adapt to the coming Changes

As part of Decarbonizing, in developing countries where economic growth is a necessity to uplift people from poverty, we must prevent carbonization – any new developments must be done with an objective of achieving net zero carbon footprint or better.

Overarching Solutions

  • Rapid Emissions Reduction – videos and slide presentations from Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research’s Rapid Emissions Reduction Conference 2013
  • Degrowth – Talks from the 2014 Degrowth Conference held in Leipzig, Germany in 2014
  • Zero Growth – Professor Tim Jackson and the Zero Growth paradigm

Technology-based Solutions

Cities

Large cities around the world only occupy 2% of the global land mass yet contribute 70% of carbon emissions. The C40 initiative is moving forward while UN climate talks have failed to result in any substantial action.

The Wealthy 

Pareto’s 80:20 Rule holds that 80% of something relates to 20% of those who are involved

In climate change, Pareto’s rule applies. 80% of carbon emissions come from 20% of the population or 50% of the world’s carbon emissions come from 11% of the population. At 7 billion, people, this means that about 770 million people are responsible for 50% of all emissions. This gives us another focus area…targeting the affluent.

The World Resource Institute’s CAIT database reveals that the Least Developed Countries (LDC)  contribute  about 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2005 and only 0.3% of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions from energy.

Who are these 70 million? Primarily the wealth Northern countries of the world

  1. Anybody who gets on a plane
  2. any university academic
  3. anyone earning over $50K / year

If you are middle class, have a white collar job, own 1 or 2 new automobiles, a home, take flights, drive your kids to school, then chances are that you are part of this 1%.  The climate emergency is NOW. There is no time for a gradual approach. If you are part of this 1% or 20%, are you ready to make drastic lifestyle changes NOW?  Are you ready to transition from a high energy lifestyle to a low one NOW?

At the same time, we need to prevent the rapidly developing southern countries, especially China and India from ballooning into high ecological footprint countries.

Approaching a Social Tipping Point