Sunday, November 10, 2019

Fiddling as the planet burns. Climate change is upon us.

We saw it coming, but we did not know it would come so fast.

Climate change, long a threat for future decades, for the grandchildren, is here now.

In part, after a century of comparatively stable climate, the very concept of sudden dramatic change seemed so bizarre that many scientists have underplayed the possibilities.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in early years issued conservative predictions. Some say the authors felt nobody would pay attention to the more alarmist predictions. Bizarrely, when scientists couldnʻt agree on how much Antarctic and Greenland ice melting would add to sea level, they just left those contributions out of their calculations entirely, vastly understating possible sea level rise.

In the Hawaiian Islands, king tides now regularly flood low coastal areas that 50 years ago and 25 years ago were always dry. Thatʻs going to keep getting worse.

The IPCC is getting up to speed and has been more realistic in its 2018 report. It has had to: "One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1 degree of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes," said Panmao Zhai, co-chair of IPPCʻs Working Group 1.

In Hawai`i, as temperatures rise, mosquitoes are able to survive at higher and higher elevations—where they carry fatal diseases to Hawaiian forest birds. I attended a meeting last week at which a bird researcher, when asked what was happening right now with Kaua`i forest birds, he said "theyʻre quietly dying of malaria."

Recently 11,000 scientists, exhausted with inaccurately conservative predictions, raised the alarm in a paper in Bioscience Magazine. There is an "urgent need for action," they said. 

Our planet has a fever, itʻs just starting on a long uphill trajectory, and so far, weʻre doing virtually nothing about it.

In our Hawaiian Islands, reduced rainfall associated with climate change has parched forests, and exacerbated wildfires that have burned thousands of acres on all the major islands. 

So, if we continue doing too little, itʻll get a little hotter and weʻll just to adapt, right? Wrong. All the evidence suggests it will keep getting worse, keep getting hotter, keep getting less tolerable.

The central Pacific—our part of the ocean—is seeing corals bleaching and dying. They are impacted by changes in water temperature, changes in ocean acidity, changes in current patterns, all related to climate change.

Here is the summary for policymakers issued by the IPCC in October 2018.

Little blogs like this one have been raising the alarm for years, with little apparent impact on policymakers. Examples? Here from January this year, here from 2016,  here from 2015, here from 2012, here from 2010, here from 2009. And those are just a few of the articles. 

But itʻs hard to feel isolated, because mainstream science has been suggesting ever more alarming scenarios. And while smaller responses to climate change might have worked in the past, what is now required is perhaps more alarming than the threat.

"Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state. Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values."

That is from a paper, "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene," published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

It suggests that if we donʻt act fast and now, the warming instead of stabilizing, will run out of control. That we are on a path to a tipping point, a threshhold, that will keep driving despite our intervention: "If the threshold is crossed, the resulting trajectory would likely cause serious disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies."

In the Hawaiian Islands, on several islands, coastal roads are already being eroded away, forcing highway engineers to consider alternative routes, or extraordinary coastal armoring scenarios.

Here is the list of the more than 10,000 scientists who signed the extraordinary paper in Bioscience. They represent 153 countries, including the U.S., China, Russia, Canada, India, France, most of the nations on the planet, and all the major nations.

Their message is stark: "Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are still rapidly rising, with increasingly damaging effects on the Earth's climate. An immense increase of scale in endeavors to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis."

It is not a long paper. Please consider reading it. Hereʻs the link again.

And yet globally, human populations continue to rise. Our energy use continues to rise. Weʻre raising more ruminant animals. Our forest cover is dropping.  In Hawai`i, we celebrate increased air travel as a good thing, we keep buying gas guzzler vehicles, we buy our air conditioners as we complain about the heat.

The first rule about holes is that if youʻre in one, stop digging.

Our Legislature this year started the session with a laudable array of bills to address climate change, and then killed almost all of them. Nathan Eagle at Honolulu Civil Beat reviewed the distressing result

© Jan TenBruggencate 2019

1 comment:

Kalanikumai ("Branch Harmony". said...

The immediate step to midi gate climate "change" locally in Kona Moku, Kaua'i Island, is to restore vegetation bands along restored, replenished waterways, tributaries, streams, and rivers leading unobstructed to their estuaries with sufficient healthy flow.
Aquatic, vegetative, avian health restoring proliferation of greenery.