It’s Global Warming, Stupid: telling it like it is in post-Sandy USA


Sandy was an astonishing storm1. Bloomberg Businessweek has taken the opportunity to state the obvious and create one of the great magazine covers to sell the story2. It’s worth reading the magazine’s coverage3 because the usual suspects are out there trying to deny the undeniable. Sandy was a storm made worse by the fact of climate change. We all have to live with that.

While the US mops up, and reinsurers check their cash reserves, we can be sure of one thing. The worst is yet to come — and that’s not being alarmist, just pointing out the consequences of unavoidable future warming. That’s truly alarming.

  1. See Jeff Masters for some of the reasons why. []
  2. The ageing magazine editor in me doffs his hat. []
  3. Or the parsing of it at Climate Progress. []

A mad deal in Durban

Let’s revisit that cold war phrase: mutually assured destruction. Fifty years ago, MAD meant that in the event of conflict the USA and USSR could and would ensure the total annihilation of the other, thus ensuring what Wikipedia rather tamely describes as “a tense but stable global peace”. Having lived through those years, the tension was notable, and in some cases inspirational.

The madness on display in Durban is of another kind, and of a different character. The destruction on offer will be (we can only hope) slower, but it is likely to be just as total — and is certainly being mutually assured. The governments of the world, by kicking the can down the road aways, have just ensured that the task of reducing emissions will be harder than it need be, and that the ultimate damage will be greater than it might have been. [Guardian]

Durban represents progress of a kind, as Climate Action Tracker’s analysis acknowledges:

As the climate talks in Durban concluded tonight with a groundbreaking establishment of the Durban Platform to negotiate a new global agreement by 2015, scientists stated that the world continues on a pathway of over 3°C warming with likely extremely severe impacts, the Climate Action Tracker said today.

The agreement in Durban to establish a new body to negotiate a global agreement (Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) by 2015 represents a major step forward. The Climate Action Tracker scientists stated, however, that the agreement will not immediately affect the emissions outlook for 2020 and has postponed decisions on further emission reductions. They warned that catching up on this postponed action will be increasingly costly.

What is mind-boggling is that so many leaders, so many highly-skilled diplomats and negotiators, can accept the evidence being offered by our understanding of climate system, and yet so comprehensively fail to act.

History and human nature, combined with the dysfunctional nature of international relations have conspired to give us what looks like it might be the worst of all worlds: one where lip service is paid to taking action, but where the big players are excused responsibility, and any efforts made are weak and meaningless. Plus c’est la même chose.

And so as not to beg the obvious question: I am left agreeing with Joe Romm. It will take a series of undeniable climate disasters, sufficient to provide the equivalent of a wartime motivation for action, before our politicians feel empowered to take the necessary action — before the world will act appropriately. One can only hope that the damage is not costly in terms of human welfare and wellbeing, and that they happen before nature rips the reins from our hands and the Anthropocene comes to an end.

The blind leading…

Evidence this week that the New Zealand Energy Strategy, trumpeted by the government as a key to the country’s prosperity, is making good on its promise to advance oil and gas exploration.  The NZ Herald carried a report of a meeting on Monday of high-powered global oil and gas exploration companies hosted by New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, a division of the Ministry of Economic Development. It’s described as push to encourage new interest in the country’s under-explored frontier basins.

It was no doubt a decorous occasion, attended by representatives of prestigious exploration companies, some of them state-owned. Duncan Clarke, of Global Pacific & Partners, is the strategic consultant engaged to facilitate the discussion of a new competitive bid round process for allocating exploration rights. He says the government is “very open”. It’s asking the companies “what do we have to do to get you here”?

Continue reading “The blind leading…”

Hulme: gone soft

Mike Hulme has added his ambiguous contribution to the climate change series on The Conversation. As per usual he’s in effect protesting that those who take the science at its face value are alienating the public. He offers an alternative to the first statement in the open letter from the scientific community which kicked off the series.

Here’s what the scientists said:

“The overwhelming scientific evidence tells us that human greenhouse gas emissions are resulting in climate changes that cannot be explained by natural causes. Climate change is real, we are causing it, and it is happening right now.”

Here’s what Hulme offers in its place: Continue reading “Hulme: gone soft”

Telling the whole truth

Not infrequently when reading and reviewing a book I find myself wishing there was some way of lingering longer on what it has to say before the spotlight moves on. David Orr’s Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse, published in 2009 and reviewed here, was one such book, and it was therefore with pleasure that I saw it highlighted on Joe Romm’s Climate Progress a few days ago. A paperback version is to be published in some months’ time and Orr (pictured) had sent Romm a copy of the new preface.

He contacted Romm because of a post Romm had written the previous day on the necessity of including science-based (dire) warnings as an essential part of good climate messaging, along with a clear explanation of the myriad clean energy solutions available and the multiple benefits they deliver. Romm was exasperated at the idea (and apparent White House practice) of not mentioning global warming or climate change but simply concentrating on green jobs, national pride, and reducing dependence on foreign oil. He regards it as a foolish strategy. Continue reading “Telling the whole truth”