Tuesday, December 25, 2018

They Are Going to Blot Out the Sun (Part 1)

The sun is our enemy.  We can't turn it off, but we can make it dimmer.

Things are getting funky, to put it mildly. 

Evidence of human caused climate change is everywhere around us, and we are doing precious little to stop it.  In fact, we are doing less than little.  

As much as we gnaw our fingernails and wring our hands with worry, as much as we point those finger nubs in the direction of others who are more to blame than we are, we are in fact doing the opposite of stopping climate change.  

We are accelerating it.  Yes, we are.  Every damn day. 

And we are running out of time.  The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC - by the way, the less than catchy name is probably why no one takes this panel seriously) suggests we have about 12 years to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, or prepare to suffer the consequences.  

What sort of consequences?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  Sea level rise and flooding along the coasts, for example.  Mega-storms.  Drought.  Wildfires.  Famine.  Deadly heat waves.  Mass refugee migrations.  Species die-offs.

"Wait a minute," I hear you say.  "Don't we already have those?"  

Yes, we do.  But picture them even more gigantic, deadly and horrifying than they are already.  Picture them so bad that they destabilize entire societies and regions of the world.  

Picture them so bad that human civilization collapses and we get into a last man (and woman) standing Mad Max scenario.  

Picture terrible people in charge - the kind of people who make the terrible people currently in charge look downright pleasant and reasonable.

Scary thought.  But is there any way to try to stop it?  Yes indeed.  There are three generally agreed upon methods for trying (not necessarily succeeding) to stop climate change.  

They are, in order of popularity: 1) Reducing Carbon Emissions; 2) Carbon Sequestration; and 3) Solar Dimming.  

Unfortunately, two of these ideas won't work.

Lord Humongus from Mad Max: The Road Warrior, soon to be mayor-for-life of what used to be your hometown.

Method #1: Reducing Carbon Emissions

This one is a bit of a laugher.  

It's funny (in a darkly ironic way, mind you).  Reducing carbon emissions has been our go-to solution ever since Al Gore galloped onto the environmental destruction scene like the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse nearly 30 years ago.

Gore's attempts to get people to take the impending catastrophe seriously were probably well-meaning, and certainly caused a stir.  But in retrospect, they also seem kind of quaint.  And maybe even misguided.  

Partially because of Gore, everybody's been pinning their hopes on reducing carbon emissions.  The global bigwigs and mucky-mucks have held large, important meetings about this.  They've deliberated and negotiated.  They've come to agreements. 

The first such agreement was the 1992 United Nations Framework on Climate Change.  Then came the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.  Most recently, it was the 2016 Paris Agreement. 

It's been well understood now for decades - the human race needs to lower its carbon emissions.  We need to reduce the coal and oil we're burning.  We need to stop burning down rainforests to graze cattle for hamburgers.  We need to drive and fly less.  We need to get those emissions down!

So how are we doing?

Uh... not good.

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US Department of Energy, 2017

If you click on and enlarge the chart above, you will see that around 1990, global carbon emissions were about 6,000 million metric tons per year.  You can also call that number 6 billion metric tons, if you like.

In 2014, the number was 10,000 million metric tons (or 10 billion), nearly double the amount from 24 years earlier.  But see, those were the 24 years when people were actually trying to reduce carbon emissions.  

And in case you're hoping that maybe the trend line in the graph leveled off after 2014... 

I love that about you.  

Hope is an endearing quality.  Regrettably, in this case, your hope is in vain.  2018 was the year with highest carbon emissions in human history.

Now before 1990, almost no one was talking about reducing carbon emissions.  Few people were even familiar with the concept.  The harder we try to reduce carbon emissions, and the more we talk about it, the more they increase.  There's your dark irony.

And by the way, the global population in 1990 was about 5.2 billion people.  Now it's about 7.5 billion.  We've added 2.3 billion people - more mouths to feed, more people to burn wood or coal or oil, more people to drive or fly.  More, more, more people to emit carbon into the sky!

Humans are a funny lot.  They get an idea in their heads, and then that becomes THE IDEA.  "I know!  We'll reduce carbon emissions.  We'll all, uh, drive less, and we'll uh, we won't use coal so much, and then... we're gonna reduce carbon emissions!"

Yes.  We will do that with 50% more people than we had a short while ago (a time when we already had too many), and with a global economy based on growth.  And with three billion people in India and China aspiring to the same lifestyles Americans and Europeans have had for decades.  Oh my, yes.  It could work.

But the data suggests otherwise.

When a plan or method isn't working, and hasn't been working for a long time, that usually means it isn't going to suddenly start working. 

Most ideas that aren't working continue to not work, on and on indefinitely.  That is because they are unworkable ideas.  Reducing carbon emissions is one of these.

In June 2015, a heat wave in Karachi, Pakistan killed about 2,000 people from heat stroke and dehydration.  Here, workmen bury the dead in mass graves.  Why do they do that?  At a guess, I'm going to go with: "It's hotter than Hades, and there is no way to refrigerate all these corpses.  Soon they are going to decompose."  More of this is on the way.  

See Related Article: They Are Going to Blot Out the Sun (Part 2)

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