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Global Warming is a Local, State, National and International Emergency that Will Only Worsen in Time, Not Get Better

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Unfortunately, as the volumes of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases that are being released to the atmosphere on a daily basis as a result of human activity (mainly from burning coal, natural gas, oil and jet fuel) continue to accumulate there; and Earth’s remaining green space (forests, prairies and other carbon dioxide (CO2) consuming (sequestering) vegetation) is reduced; and Earth’s oceans, seas, the Great Lakes and numerous other water bodies become evermore warmer and saturated with carbon dioxide (CO2), making them more acidic; the prospect of Earth being as hospitable as for life as it has been in the recent millennia in which humans have inhabited this planet is getting slimmer and slimmer.

Scientific studies have been showing for decades, and now with more and more clarity, that modern day living – particularly by residents in the developed countries of the world, who rely so heavily on burning fossil fuels in their daily living – for energy warmth in winter, and electricity generation and transmission, year-round, for shipping goods and trading, and, moreover, for personal or work related travel, the construction, pavement and land alterations that are done which not only allow for that activity, but promote it, that that kind of living by so many millions and even billions of people, will ultimately lead to grave consequences for our planet.

And with our human population continuing to grow geometrically, coupled with the outright refusal of much of the population, their political leaders, and even the recently elected president of our United States of America, Donald J. Trump, continuing to advocate for the highly resource consumptive “business as usual” lifestyle — many human and other lives have already been lost, and people all over the world have suffered, and many more people and animals living in the future will suffer, or be lost, and many  trillions of dollars will be lost as well as a result of climate change related “natural” disasters, and rising sea level, a situation which now is not only unprecedented but becoming increasingly dire and predictable.

It’s not like you can just turn the water faucet off and global warming will stop. As stated in Gavin Schmidt and Joshua Wolfe’s comprehensive textbook: “Climate Change – Picture the Science” (2008), it could take centuries and even millennia to reverse it. “even if we act to keep atmospheric concentrations at the same level they are now [atmospheric CO2 concentrations 400 parts per million], the global mean temperature will continue to increase for a few decades as a result of past greenhouse gas emissions [GHGs] and the thermal inertia of the oceans [Water holds heat and releases it much slower than hard surfaces such as cement and asphalt.]”

All we can do now is to slow the pace of global warming by conserving energy obtained either directly or indirectly from burning fossil fuels. Moreover, changing to energy alternatives that don’t add to the rising concentrations of GHGs takes more time and money [but creates more long term jobs], and finding ways to adapt to the changes in the climate and the effects brought about by those changes will also cost money and will hurt the poor and the very young and the more elderly individuals [very young have less body mass to buffer individuals to higher heat; older persons are more susceptible to heat stroke].

“In short, there are no shortcuts to addressing a challenge that is global, pervasive, profound, and long term. Global citizens must grasp the challenge, master its intricacies, and take responsibility, for our own generation, and those to come”.[Jeffrey D. Sachs, New York, 6/16/2008]

Related story.

Also see “UW-Madison Faculty Challenge DNR Climate Change Revisions”.

The following is from Lee Bergquist of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 22, 2017:

In a shift from the practice of two other state agencies, Wisconsin emergency management officials have released new information on climate change and its implications for the state.
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In a report that it posted online last week, the state Division of Emergency Management devoted extensive attention to climate change and how a warming planet could spur natural disasters such as floods, drought and forest fires.

The report contrasts with the Department of Natural Resources and the state Public Service Commission, which scrubbed mentions of climate change and human-generated greenhouse gases from their websites.

As recently as December, DNR officials removed language from a web page devoted to the Great Lakes that had earlier acknowledged the role humans play in global warming. Officials inserted new wording saying climate change is a matter of scientific debate [Not – true! Truthful scientists will tell you the scientific debate ended years ago. MTN]

The PSC, which regulates electric utilities, eliminated its web page on climate change at some point before May 1, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found recently. The scrubbed information included a link to former Gov. Jim Doyle’s task force report on global warming. The Democratic governor’s report in 2008 recommended that Wisconsin reduce the use of fossil fuels and rely more on renewable sources of power. The measures were never enacted.

In the cases of the DNR and the PSC, the information can still be found on the Wayback Machine, an online archive.

In a new five-year disaster preparedness plan, the Division of Emergency Management cites research such as from the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. It shows global warming is likely to produce more extreme weather. Examples: more days of 90-degree-plus temperatures and more intense rain events.

Bursts of rainfall, the report said, could lead to natural calamities such as flooding, collapse of dams, sinkholes and lake bluff failures.

While other agencies have removed references to the role of human activities in global warming, officials at the Division of Emergency Management included such a statement.

“Although it is widely accepted by the scientific community that the observed changes in global temperatures are the result of human actions, there is considerable uncertainty about the impacts these changes will ultimately have,” the agency wrote.

The document also acknowledges “some debate about the cause of climate change,” but added that statewide temperatures have increased 1.1 degrees in the past 50 years and that more extreme weather events are likely.

The new planning document was approved in December by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Lori Getter, spokeswoman for the state Division of Emergency Management.

Wisconsin was one of the first states to complete a new plan. As part of the process, FEMA required states to consider potential climate effects, she said.

Big Time Media Blew It Big Time – They Failed to Fact Check Donald Trump’s Denial of Human-caused Global Warming

 

President-elect Donald Trump’s pre and post U. S. Presidential Election statements describing his unscientific “belief” that global warming is not human-caused is flat wrong and the media should have corrected him. It is a scientifically accepted truism that human activity – especially coal and natural gas (methane) burning to generate electricity, petroleum product burning including automobile gasoline, diesel and jet fuel burning, the latter for use by the U. S.’s military aircraft, commercial airplanes and private jets, and humans having either paved over or replaced billions of acres of land formerly in tropical rain forests, prairies, wilderness, or in other lands containing carbon dioxide sequestering vegetation with greenhouse gas producing uses by humans.industries resulting changes in the climates on all of the Earth’s continents, the rising sea levels, worldwide, due to the measured acceleration of the melting of all the Earth’s glaciers, most notably Greenland’s, massive GreenlandIce Sheet  are very wrong and very threatening to our planet. Global warming, which is known to be an inevitable consequence of increased trapping of radiated heat energy at the earth’s surface which originates from the sun, due to the known increase in the volume of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, and other human engineered trace gases), primarily caused from excessive burning of fossil fuels over time, and by the paving over of the planet’s land surface, is factually undeniable.

The U. S. mass media (TV, radio, newspapers, social media, other) are most responsible for Trump’s deception filled presidential election victory, which will exacerbate global warming heaviest toll on the children of today, future generations of people and other living things having no choice but to struggle to live on a much more inhospitable planet which is destined to become more and more unlivable as time goes on – because of our uncaring actions of excessive fossil fuel burning today.

People in the U.S. and elsewhere could do so much more than they’re currently doing to stop projects such as the Dakota Pipeline project, and other environmentally disastrous energy, transportation, and natural resource consuming unsustainable projects with countless unintended negative consequences that will unquestionably hurt the living conditions for people and all other life on Earth by simply making more thoughtful decisions in how and where they choose to live, recreate, work, travel, etc.

In particular, it is essential for all to MINIMIZE the burning of oil (fossil fuels) in recreational and other needless travel, especially long distance travel, by jet airplane and daily solo motor vehicle commuter travel. In that way, we all reduce the economic need oil and other fossil fuel extraction and pipeline projects, reducing the eventual burning of the fossil fuels and adding to the already catastrophic volumes of atmospheric greenhouse gases, scientifically established to be warming our planet, melting the earth’s polar ice caps, and virtually all the world’s glaciers, thus causing sea levels to rise, the oceans and the earth’s other water bodies to warm and acidify, killing off an untold number of earth’s species, including significant degradation of earth’s many wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef to say nothing about the countless loss of life and human suffering caused by the increase in extreme weather events including droughts, flooding and severe storms such as have already been transpiring across the globe including the heavy costs borne by our own United States over the past year and right now. The losses already occurring to the world and its people and other life on the planet are beyond measure yet our political representative are doing virtually nothing to stop this terrible tragedy to our planet and its future and those who will have no choice but to call it their home.

Please sign my petition for the U.S. Congress to establish and sufficiently fund federal and state programs that would offer the American public monetary incentives to reduce their unsustainable travel levels. Tell your elected representative to legislative act now before it’s too late! http://www.allthingsenvironmental.com.

Please do not patronize TV networks. Their so called “news” programs, sports coverage, and many other programs are financed heavily from automobile industry commercials, while Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television are funded by the travel industry, heavily promoting airline and long distance travel motorized travel, which contributes huge volumes of greenhouse gas emissions, from jets,automobiles and other fossil fuel powered vehicles, mostly for recreational purposes, leaving a permanent, indelible mark for succeeding generations live with. National Public Radio is funded by the Koch Brothers. They all say they are “neutral” on political issues. But Climate Change is Science. It is continuing and in fact accelerating, regardless if the president-elect believes in it or not. To say otherwise does not comport with the facts.

Either we act now or life as we know it on this planet may soon be history.

“The Sun will never disappear, but the Earth may not have many years…. Remember, Today… Well well well, oh, well”
– John Lennon (9 October 1940 -8 December 1980), musician, peace activist, artist, band leader of rock band “The Beatles” and founder of “The Plastic Ono Band”, humanist, dreamer … murder victim.

Reducing the Current Suicidal Rate of Global Warming and Planning for Adapting to Changing Climates Demands Review of Goals, Principles and Actions by World’s Past Leaders and the Movements and Demonstrations by the People Who Expressed their Demands for Change

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Today’s Populations, Businesses and Governments Responsible for Ensuring and Prolonging Earth’s Beauty, Economic Potential, Safety, and Humane Conditions for All It’s People and Animals Ought Not Ignore Leadership, Inspirations, Dreams and Concerted Actions of Millions of People and Leaders Who Lived Before Us, or Are Still Amoung Us, for Help in Music Guidance, Leader

To be continued….

President Obama Should Request U.S. Congress to Issue Declaration of War to Fight Global Warming

On December 8, 1941, the United States Congress declared war on the Empire of Japan in response to its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in the U.S. Territory (soon to become state) of Hawaii the morning of December 7, 1941.

The Declaration of War was formulated an hour after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous Infamy Speech at 12:30 pm on December 8, 1941. The declaration quickly passed the Senate and then the House at 1:10 p.m the same day. Roosevelt signed the declaration at 4:10 p.m., December 8, 1941. The power to declare war is assigned exclusively to Congress in the United States Constitution; however, the president’s signature was symbolically powerful and resolved any doubts.

Two days later, a similar war declaration against Germany and Italy passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In the Joint Resolutions declaring war against the Imperial Government of Japan, Germany and Italy, the Congress pledged “all the resources of the country of the United States” … “and the president is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the government to carry on war … to bring the conflict to a successful termination.”

The magnitude of the threat of accelerating global warming and a rapidly changing climate that would undeniably accompany the continued and increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as a direct consequence of human actions, mainly from too much fossil fuel burning and continuing and increased deforestation, especially in the tropics, upon the United States of America and the rest of the world, both now and into the future, easily dwarfs the loss of life, injury and misery to humans and animals wrought by all known wars, and therefore justifies a declaration of war by all countries of the world to slow and ultimately halt global warming and climate change, worldwide. Such declarations should be made now, without delay, to ensure an hospitable and safe world for all Earth’s current and future generations.

It is morally essential that Government, businesses, individuals and families begin to meet this challenge of increasing global warming and climate change that has already begun to cause loss of human lives, other species living in the world, and brought pain and misery to so many. To ignore and campaign against actions that reduce this growing threat, which will unquestionably hurt the people of the world’s poorer countries and Earth’s millions and millions of species, is utterly and morally reprehensible and is a practice that ought stop immediately because it needlessly delays progress in attacking this major problem of untold negative consequences for centuries to come.

Catastrophic Climate Change and National Security

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World faces catastrophic climate change unless it takes action, National Security Adviser Susan Rice tells Stanford University audience 12 October 2015

Selected Remarks by National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice on Climate Change and National Security at Stanford University, October 12, 2015: [Full Text of Speech]

… In 1985—fall quarter of my senior year—scientists from around the world met to express concern that a buildup of greenhouse gasses, and specifically carbon dioxide, would result in “a rise of global mean temperature…greater than any in man’s history.” By 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its first report, detailing how a warming climate would affect our ecosystem. There have since been four more reports, each with more sophisticated science to support ever more dire warnings.

So, it’s not that we didn’t see climate change coming. It’s that for the better part of three decades we failed, repeatedly, to treat this challenge with the seriousness and the urgency it deserves. As an international community, we succumbed to divisive global politics that set developing countries against industrialized nations and stymied international consensus on climate change.

At home, we succumbed to divisive domestic politics that allowed entrenched interests to push a calculated agenda of doubt, denial, and delay. And, we focused, quite understandably, on other critical national security priorities—from coming to grips with globalization, halting proliferation, and above all, keeping the American people safe in a post-9/11 world….

We are seizing opportunities and meeting challenges head on. And, today, we face no greater long-term challenge than climate change, an advancing menace that imperils so many of the other things we hope to achieve. That’s why, under President Obama, we have put combating climate change at the very center of our national security agenda….

In the past 15 years, we’ve had 14 of the hottest years on record—which is exactly the kind of change those climate scientists back in 1985 suggested we could be seeing by now. Last year, 2014, was the hottest. And, scientists say there’s a 97 percent chance that we’ll set a new record again this year. The seas have risen about eight inches over the past 100 years, and they’re now rising at roughly double the rate they did in the 20th century. Arctic sea ice is shrinking. Permafrost is thawing. The Antarctic ice shelf is breaking up faster than anticipated. Storms are getting stronger. Extreme precipitation events are becoming more frequent. Heat waves are growing more intense. The bottom line is this: we’re on a collision course with climate impacts that have inescapable implications for our national security. Let me sketch out a few of them.

First, climate change is a direct threat to the prosperity and safety of the American people. We’re losing billions of dollars in failed crops due to extreme drought. Millions of acres of forest have been lost to fire. In addition to longer fire seasons and drier summers here in the West, on the East Coast we’re seeing record rain events. Last week in the Carolinas, unprecedented amounts of rain fell—enough in just five days to put a serious dent in California’s multi-year drought. And, while we can’t say that climate change is the direct cause of any specific weather event, these are exactly the trends that we expect to see more of, if climate trends continue on their current trajectory.

Along our coasts, we’ve got thousands of miles of roads and railways, 100 energy facilities, communities of millions—all of which are vulnerable to sea-level rise. Remember Super Storm Sandy—how it hobbled America’s largest city and plunged everyone south of 34th Street into darkness for days? We saw a cascading failure of infrastructure. Water flooded an electrical substation, and backup power was either flooded or insufficient. Over 6,000 patients had to be evacuated from powerless hospitals down stairwells. Transportation broke down, because you can’t pump gas without electricity. Wastewater treatment plants shut down. One critical sector pulled down other vital systems. And, with warmer oceans and higher seas, New York City will have to be prepared for Sandy-level flooding to happen every 25 years.

When I visited Alaska with President Obama last month, we saw rapidly disappearing glaciers and a native community whose island home is already being washed away. The question for them is not if they will have to abandon their traditional homes and way of life, but when. These are real threats to our homeland security, and they’re happening now.

Second, climate change will impact our national defense. We’ve got military installations that are imperiled by the same rising seas as our civilian infrastructure. Here in the western United States, ranges where our troops train are jeopardized by heat and drought. In fact, this summer we had to cancel some training exercises, because it got too hot.

Climate change means operating in more severe weather conditions, increasing the wear on both service members and their equipment. There will also be new demands on our military. A thawing Arctic means 1,000 miles of Arctic coastline and new sea lanes to secure. Around the world, more intense storms—like the massive typhoon that decimated part of the Philippines two years ago—will mean more frequent humanitarian relief missions. And, our military will have to deal with increased instability and conflict around the world.

That’s a third major national security concern, because climate change is what the Department of Defense calls a “threat multiplier”—which means, even if climate change isn’t the spark that directly ignites conflict, it increases the size of the powder keg. A changing climate makes it harder for farmers to grow crops, fishermen to catch enough fish, herders to tend their livestock—it makes it harder for countries to feed their people. And humans, like every other species on this planet, scatter when their environment can no longer sustain them. As the Earth heats up, many countries will experience growing competition for reduced food and water resources. Rather than stay and starve, people will fight for their survival.

All of these consequences are exacerbated in fragile, developing states that are least equipped to handle strains on their resources. In Nigeria, prolonged drought contributed to the instability and dissatisfaction that Boko Haram exploits. The genocide in Darfur began, in part, as a drought-driven conflict. In the years prior to civil war breaking out in Syria, that country also experienced its worst drought on record. Farming families moved en masse into urban centers, increasing political unrest and further priming the country for conflict. In fact, last year, a Stanford research group determined that a rise in temperature is linked with a statistically significant increase in the frequency of conflict. There is already an unholy nexus between human insecurity, humanitarian crises, and state failure—climate change makes it that much worse.

Around the world, more than 100 million people now live less than one meter above sea level—including entire island countries in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Consider the impacts—to the global economy and to our shared security—when rising seas begin to swallow nations whole.

Fourth, we face spreading diseases and mounting threats to global health. Already, more mosquito-borne diseases are spreading from the tropics to temperate zones as climates warm. Viruses like West Nile and Chikungunya are growing more prevalent in the United States. India is currently in the grip of the worst dengue fever outbreak in years. Livestock diseases are expanding northward into Europe. These advancing diseases cost billions of dollars a year to treat and contain, not to mention the immeasurable cost in human lives and suffering.

Finally, we cannot dismiss the worst-case predictions of catastrophic, irreparable damage to our environment. If the Greenland ice sheet melts, seas could rise not just the one to four feet many scientists predict, but eventually as much as 20 feet. If the oceans continue to acidify, it will devastate the marine coral reefs, compromising the food chain, and imperiling a major source of protein for 3 billion people worldwide.

These aren’t marginal threats. They put at risk the health and safety of people on every continent.

Often in the shadows, 12 special interests wage aggressive anti-solar campaigns

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Often in the shadows, 12 special interests wage aggressive anti-solar campaigns
By Environment America
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Phoenix, AZ –The Koch brothers, Duke Energy, and Arizona Public Service are among 12 special interest groups waging aggressive anti-solar campaigns across the country, often coordinated and behind the scenes, a new Environment America Research & Policy Center report said today.

While American solar power has increased four-fold since 2010, state by state, utilities and powerful industry front groups have begun chipping away at key policies that helped spur this solar boom, according to the analysis, Blocking the Sun: 12 Utilities and Fossil Fuel Interests That Are Undermining American Solar Power.

“Fossil-fuel interests and their allies have been using the same playbook to undermine solar power across the country,” said Bret Fanshaw, the solar program coordinator for Environment America. “And they’ve largely been operating in the shadows.”

The playbook: a national network of utility interest groups and fossil fuel industry-funded think tanks provides funding, model legislation and political cover for anti-solar campaigns. The report examines five of these major national players — Edison Electric Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council, the Koch brothers and their front group Americans for Prosperity, the Heartland Institute, and the Consumer Energy Alliance.

Then, in state after state, electric utilities use the support provided by these national anti-solar interests, supplemented by their own ample resources, to attack key solar energy policies. The report features seven utilities — Arizona Public Service, Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Berkshire Hathaway Industries, Salt River Project, FirstEnergy, and We Energies.

“We found that most attacks on solar energy happen behind closed doors in utility agencies, or in dense regulatory filings — away from public view,” said Gideon Weissman of the Frontier Group, co-author of the report. “That’s probably because they’re aimed at very popular policies that give regular consumers the chance to go solar.”

Charles and David Koch have an enormous financial stake in the fossil fuel industry through their company Koch Industries and its many subsidiaries. Koch Industries alone operates around 4,000 miles of pipeline, along with oil refineries in Alaska, Minnesota, and Texas.

Through its front group Americans for Prosperity and funding to other like-minded entities, the Koch brothers have attacked solar laws in several states including Florida, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington state.

Utilities like Arizona Public Service augment resources from interests like the Kochs to forward an anti-solar agenda. APS admitted to funding anti-solar ads by 60 plus, a national Koch-backed front group that purports to represent seniors, and it has been accused of improper influence with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

“I’ve seen first-hand how some energy monopolies have used money in campaigns to intimidate and manipulate policy makers and elected officials,” said Rep. Ken Clark, a state representative from Arizona who has pushed APS to disclose its political spending. “Aside from the question of renewable energy, this activity has become a threat to our electoral system.”

APS’s latest stealth move against solar has been to withdraw its request to raise fees on solar owners until the commission completes a study that would only examine costs, and not benefits, of the resource.

In Florida, where solar capacity is far beneath its potential, Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and Duke Energy, the largest utility in the U.S., have teamed up to block pro-solar policies. Duke Energy spent heavily to help re-elect Gov. Rick Scott, who campaigned against a state renewable electricity standard. AFP has mobilized its members and waged an aggressive ad campaign against a ballot initiative to expand rooftop solar by allowing third-party sales of panels. Duke Energy has also contributed to that effort.

The anti-solar coalition Consumers for Smart Solar, backed by AFP, Duke Energy, and others, has now put forward a competing ballot measure in Florida to undermine the rooftop solar amendment and is spreading misinformation about both measures.

“By wide margins, Americans support pro-solar policies,” said Fanshaw. “That’s why fossil fuel interests and their front groups have resorted to shady and deceptive tactics to undermine them. Ultimately it’s up to state leaders to reject these attacks and support a clean energy future.”

One-year Anniversary of “Planet Earth: It Needs Our Help Now More Than Ever”, Broadcast on WORT-FM’s Public Access Hour on Labor Day 2014

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Last year on Labor Day WORT-FM in Madison, Wisconsin I had the privilege of recording an hour of music and commentary on a subject I have researched for going on 16 years now: the likely effects of rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, in the oceans, on the landscape; in other words, our planet earth. Since other than president Obama, Pope Francis, the environmental community and the state of California are about the only ones talking seriously about starting to do something to head off what is certain to be catastrophic effects upon our planet and all its livings things in decades and centuries to come, it only seem appropriate to remind folks who would like to listen to the show again. Here it is. Planet Earth – It Needs Our Help More than Ever!

Touring Alaska last month to shine a spotlight on global warming, President Obama warned that “climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here; it is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety. Now. Today.”

This wasn’t supposed to happen. In 2009, 114 countries signed the Copenhagen Accord, agreeing “to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system;” “recognizing the scientific view” that the increase in global temperature should be held to no more than 2 degrees Celsius” (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial level; and promising greater “long-term cooperative action to combat climate change.”

Paradoxically, an accord that should have spurred the world to immediate action instead seemed to offer some breathing room. Two degrees was meant to be a ceiling, but repeated references to an internationally agreed-upon “threshold” led many people to believe that nothing really bad could happen below 2 degrees—or worse yet, that the number itself was negotiable. Perhaps the biggest failure of the Copenhagen Accord was its pact for “long-term” action. Forty years ago, climate change was a “long-term” problem. Today it’s an emergency.

As we’re coming ever so close to the dreaded 2-degree mark, which will have devastating effects especially on people and families less economically fortunate, everywhere, Pope Francis last week called upon the members of the U.S. Congress to find solutions to the problems of growing poverty, everywhere, and climate change, including warming and acidification of the oceans. As civilization’s industrial machinery marches on, we’re already at 400 ppm of carbon dioxide, and likely to go much higher and faster under current “business as usual” practices continue.

Such numbers may mean little to the general public, but they matter a lot to negotiators who will be at Paris climate change talks in December. Unfortunately, the numbers that these negotiators plan to propose will only be part of non-legally-binding pledges—and they represent only what is achievable without too much difficulty, rather than the drastic austerity measures needed to stabilize emissions. In fact, 2 degrees is not an upper limit that the nations of the world recognize and respect, only a target that negotiators know they will overshoot with their expected pledges. The very idea that the Paris conference is a negotiation is ridiculous. You can’t negotiate with the atmosphere.

What were they thinking? As Naomi Klein points out in her book This Changes Everything, the 2 degree goal “has always been a highly political choice that has more to do with minimizing economic disruption than with protecting the greatest number of people.” In theory, the Copenhagen Accord relied on the best available science of the time—an international scientific symposium held in 2005 and assessment reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 and earlier, which in turn were based on even older scientific studies. You can trace the 2 degrees notion all the way back to a 1977 paper by Yale economist William D. Nordhaus.

In hindsight, though, the idea that even 2 degrees of warming would be tolerable is baffling. Homo sapiens have never lived in a world that hot. In an excellent series of special reports for CNN on what 2 degrees of global warming would mean, John D. Sutter lists some of the expected impacts: a melting Arctic, enormous wildfires, more intense hurricanes, water shortages, reduced crop yields, and animals and plants at risk of extinction. Even if warming can be held to 2 degrees, scientists predict that global sea level will rise by at least 20 feet as a result.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a coalition of 20 nations that expect severe global-warming effects, has called the 2-degree goal “inadequate” to protect fundamental human rights. “How can we possibly subscribe to more than double the current warming?” asked Mary Ann Lucille L. Sering, secretary of the Philippines Climate Change Commission.

Although the 2-degree target was endorsed in Copenhagen in 2009, and again in Cancún the following year, the parties also agreed to periodically review the adequacy of the target and to consider strengthening it. The majority of countries that have signed and ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change now support a lower target of 1.5 degrees, and a review process reported that the lower limit would be “preferable” but that the science supporting it is “less robust.”

What is feasible? The World Bank has warned that a 1.5-degree rise is “locked in,” and that we’re headed toward a warming of 4 degrees by the end of the century. “Scientists, policy-makers and the public already accept that progress will not be enough to keep global average temperature rise within the 2°C limit,” wrote Oliver Geden, head of the EU Research Division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, in a recent Nature commentary. “The negotiations’ goal has become what is politically possible, not what is environmentally desirable.”

If you add up the pledges that have been made so far, and nations keep their promises, the world is in for about 3 degrees of warming by 2100. Limiting the warming to 2 degrees would require rapid emissions reductions over the next few decades, declining to zero net emissions shortly after 2050.

It is still possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2100 (after a temporary overshoot), according to a paper published in Nature Climate Change a few months ago. But it would mean becoming carbon neutral even earlier than required for a 2-degree scenario.

A national security approach. President Obama made headlines in Alaska—and before that, New Orleans—with fervent talk about the urgency of the climate problem, the need to make communities more resilient, and the “failure of government to look out for its own citizens.” Can this be the same president who, a few months earlier, gave Royal Dutch Shell permission to begin drilling for oil off the coast of Alaska? Developing fossil fuel resources in the Arctic is “incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2°C,” according to a study by scientists at University College London.

There is an alternative to meaningless numbers and endless negotiations: going to war against climate change. If the United States can spend nearly $1.7 trillion on the “war on terror,”surely we can spend at least that much to keep our planet from overheating.

The 2-degree goal was chosen based on what was considered to be a scientific consensus about the most likely scenario for climate change. That is not how national security risks are evaluated. “When we think about keeping our country safe, we always consider the worst case scenarios,” said British Foreign Office Minister Baroness Joyce Anelay in a statement introducing a new climate risk assessment commissioned by her office. “That is what guides our policies on nuclear non-proliferation, counter-terrorism, and conflict prevention. We have to think about climate change the same way.”

In a foreword to the report, Anelay writes: “We must remember that in one way, climate change differs from any other subject of diplomatic negotiation: It is governed by a physical process. A process where the risk increases over time, and will continue to do so until we have entirely dealt with its cause.”

Increased risk is not an abstraction. It is record-setting heat, year after year. It is coastal erosion washing away villages in Alaska. It is massive wildfires raging in the American West. “We have to attack these at the source, which is carbon pollution,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told the Northwest News Network after flying over the worst fires in his state’s history. “It is difficult to comprehend a central fact of these fires,” Inslee said, “which is nature bats last.” Unfortunately, there won’t be any extra innings.

By Dawn Stover, from Bulleten of Atomic Scientists
Stover is a science writer based in the Pacific Northwest and is a contributing editor at the Bulletin. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Conservation, Popular Science, New Scientist, The New York Times, and other publications. One of her articles is included in the 2010 Best American Science and Nature Writing, and another article was awarded a special citation by the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism.