Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm Sorry, Son.

The Copenhagen Accord is an unmitigated disaster. Sure, it looks reasonable, the two largest polluters have agreed to take a look at their emissions and possibly decide on a target sometime in the future.

As I've said before, the international community has just a few years to agree to, engineer, and implement a full solution. We're expected, on our current course, to hit 650 ppmv CO2 by 2100. That's without all possible feedbacks included, such as methane release from the ocean bottom, or sudden and complete melting of the permafrost.

If we can't even agree to our limits until 2020, there is no possibility of reducing them enough to avoid 2 or 3 degrees C warming. I've hinted at problems associated with various warming scenarios before, but here are a few that we are going to see. Not "might" see, but going to see because of the failures of vision at the Copenhagen summit.

This is what's going to happen as we hit 2 degrees C warming, which was avoidable ten years ago, mostly avoidable five years ago, and is completely unavoidable now:
  • Dramatic changes to weather patterns worldwide
  • Elimination of fresh water for 1/3 of world's land surface
  • Permanent drought in US southwest, Australia, and Africa
  • Much of inner Australia will burn
  • Aquifer levels under the US Great Plains, Saudi Arabia, and Northern China are falling fast, without replenishment.
  • Rise of sea levels by at least 1.2 meters (2.75 billion people affected)
  • Food & water shortages will cause unstable States to fail:
    • African states, Pakistan*, North Korea*, Somalia, Iraq,
    • India*, China*, Afghanistan, Israel* Sudan, Lebanon*, ...
  • 1 degree of warming: wheat, corn, rice yields drop 10%.
  • Global food reserve was at less than 62 days and declining in 2008.
  • Disease epidemics will become worse and last longer
  • Over-Consumption is worse than high population.
Those states with a "*" after them are declared or undeclared nuclear states. We need to plan on Pakistan and North Korea failing or worse within the next 50 years. India's inability to provide clean water to its 1.1 billion people is going to make it unstable in the next few decades as well. China may be able to weather most of the problems, but its lack of clean water is going to be a huge problem to its 1.3 billion people. In 1997, Israel was withdrawing 287 cubic meters of water per capita. It's available resources were only 265 cubic meters per capita. The extra 8.3% came from other countries.

At 3 or more degrees C warming, we will see the following (in fact, some of this is happening already--we don't fully understand all of the feedback mechanisms):
  • At or above 2 degrees of warming, positive feedback systems become active.
    • Permafrost will begin to melt more quickly, releasing CO2.
    • Methane will be released from the seafloor bottoms, adding more GHG to atmosphere.
    • Composting rate of organic matter increases, CO2 release.
    • Amazon forest, grasslands die & burn, releasing CO2.
    • Plants begin to release CO2 instead of absorbing it.
  • At 3 degrees warming, run-away permafrost melting will begin, releasing more and more CO2.
  • 3-4 degrees warming is avoidable if we cut emissions by 80% by 2020.
  • At 6 degrees warming, hydrogen sulfide gas makes up a large part of the atmosphere.
  • We will hit 5-7 degrees of warming by 2100 at current emission growth rate of CO2.
Since the Copenhagen Accord doesn't commit anyone to cutting emissions 80% by 2020, but instead commits nations to talking some more, we have guaranteed 3-4 degrees warming, and that means that feedbacks will almost guarantee 5-7 degrees of warming by 2100. With the last, best hope having faded, we need to start talking about large-scale adaptation in addition to mitigation. See the blue arrow in the graphic below? That assumes that next year we'll start cutting emissions, not just talking about it, but actually cutting. So, we're looking at the orange or, more likely, the red arrows.

So, let me just say, son, that while we love you, we didn't think your future is important enough to protect by sacrificing any of our own comfort. Sorry. We hope that some of you will forgive us, but understand if that's difficult to do. Also, those morons who thought it would be a good idea to dump billions of tons of chalk into the oceans in 2025? We didn't do anything to stop them because, well, we just couldn't be bothered.

See this video of a talk at AGU last week.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

This is so unforgivable of us....It is truely depressing. Not the inheritance that I wanted to leave my grandson and any other grandchildren I may have....

I just don't get why we are not getting this ..... and try to make it a made up story.

The positive in me wants to think that we as a global people will wake up now .....and start changing things....