Real News About the Climate

Here are two recent “real news” stories that should make you worried about the self-serving fools in charge of our government, corporations, and just about any other person or institution with a financial incentive to keep things as they are:

“Going Negative: Can carbon dioxide removal save the world?” by Elizabeth Kolbert (The New Yorker, 20 Nov 2017) Kolbert explains why we’re in dire straits (quote #1), why CO2 removal (so-called ‘negative emissions’) looks appealing (quote #2), and why it might not be possible to get there (quotes #3 & #4).

(#1) When the IPCC went looking for ways to hold the temperature increase under two degrees Celsius, it found the math punishing. Global emissions would have to fall rapidly and dramatically – pretty much down to zero by the middle of the century.

(#2) The IPCC considered more than a thousand possible scenarios. Of these, only a hundred and sixteen limit warming to below two degrees, and of these a hundred and eight involve negative emissions.

(#3) “You might say it’s against my self-interest to say it, but I think that, in the near term, talking about carbon removal is silly,” David Keith, the founder of Carbon Engineering, who teaches energy and public policy at Harvard, told me. “Because it almost certainly is cheaper to cut emissions now than to do large-scale carbon removal.”

(#4) “…many experts argue that even talking (or writing articles) about negative emissions is dangerous. Such talk fosters the impression that it’s possible to put off action and still avoid a crisis, when it is far more likely that continued inaction will just produce a larger crisis.

The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell (Little Brown, 2017, reviewed in Science, 20 Oct 2017) also considers one of the more agreed-upon consequences of climate change: sea-level rise. Unfortunately, ‘agreed upon’ doesn’t necessarily include the Florida politicians and Miami Beach voters who live next to the Atlantic coast (quotes #5 & #6 from the 24 Oct 2017 Fresh Air interview of Goodell)


GOODELL: They are hoping that – you know, a lot of people who live in Miami Beach aren’t there for – they’re not thinking about being there for the next 50 years. They’re thinking about being there for the next five years and how much fun they can have and, you know, how they can enjoy their retirement or their parties on the beach. And there’s not a lot of long-term thinking going on in a place like Miami Beach. And so basically people’s time horizon is the next five years. And will I be OK for the next five years – you know, probably. And so that’s where it’s at. People who think more broadly about it – and there are a number that I know – are selling and moving.


GROSS: What’s Governor Rick Scott’s position – the Florida governor – on climate change?

GOODELL: Rick Scott is, you know, a pioneering climate denier. Rick Scott has, you know, unofficially kind of prohibited government employees from using the phrase climate change in any kind of government communication. I mean, he’s this sort of prototype for what we’re seeing in the Trump administration with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and others who are basically just trying to deny that this is a problem.

And it’s a particular disservice in Florida because Florida is, you know, so obviously at risk. It’s not like he’s the governor of Oklahoma or something where, you know, sea level rise is not going to be a problem. In Florida, it’s a direct risk not only to people’s lives with flooding but also just to the economic future of the state.

Carbon Emissions Set to Spike. Science magazine (In Brief, 17 Nov 2017, p. 845) relays a new report from the Global Carbon Project on greenhouse gas emissions that says carbon emissions will rise 2% this year due to increasing coal consumption in China (quote #7).

(#7) New projections of global carbon dioxide emissions are dashing hopes of holding the greenhouse gas in check. Figures published this week by the Global Carbon Project suggest that emissions from fossil fuels and industry—which make up the vast majority of all carbon released by human activities—will grow by 2% this year. Emissions have held steady for the past 3 years, fueling speculation that reduced coal burning, increased use of wind and solar power, and gains in energy efficiency were turning the tide. Analysts attribute the spike in part to increasing coal consumption in China, the world’s top carbon emitter in 2016; its emissions are predicted to rise by 3.5% this year. The figures, presented during United Nations climate talks in Germany, further imperil the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord, which include cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

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