No 103 Posted by fw, January 11, 2011
“There is currently nothing substantive to suggest we are heading for anything other than a 4C [4 degree Celsius] rise in temperature, possibly as early as the 2060s. Yet . . . it is hard to find any scientist seriously engaged in climate change who considers a 4C rise within this century as anything less than catastrophic for human society and ecosystems.” Professor Kevin Anderson. director of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Research
In a December 15, 2010 article, Small Steps Offer no Respite from Climate Effects, Professor Kevin Anderson. the director of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, issued the above dire warning, lamenting the disappointing outcome of the UN climate summit in Cancun:
When are we going to find the courage to move . . . towards the science of climate change? . . . [The public is told] that Cancun represents a platform for future and more substantive agreements after which low-carbon technologies will save the day. The science tells us climate change is an issue of emissions accumulating in the atmosphere and consequently every time we fail to agree to meaningful reductions we lock our future into higher temperatures. In other words, next year’s negotiations cannot compensate for this and previous years’ failures. . . . Climate change impacts have a timeframe of decades to centuries. . . . To avoid what are commonly considered dangerous levels of such impacts, emissions need to begin to reducing rapidly now.
“Next year the problem will have become worse”
Instead, . . . — through either ignorance of a desire to save face — it is assumed the problem will be the same next year as this. The science, however, tells a very different story. Next year the problem will have become worse — as it has done each and every day that we have failed to reduce emissions since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.
We want technological solutions that demand little personal sacrifice
The difficulty with the science is that it lays bare the inadequacy of our favoured response to climate change. Despite increasing mutterings about behaviour and consumptions, the only ‘solutions’ we’re really prepared to countenance are low-carbon technologies that confer win-win economic benefits and demand nothing more of us than a substitution of high-carbon technologies by low-carbon alternatives.
Low-carbon technologies can’t replace fossil fuel technologies fast enough to reduce emissions
[This approach] is at odds with the science of emissions building up in the atmosphere. However many virtues we bestow on low-carbon technologies, they cannot replace the high-carbon incumbents at a sufficient rate to make anything other than a dent in the rate of reductions we require. Consequently, whilst such technologies are a prerequisite of a transition to a low carbon future, they are wholly inadequate for the pressing issues of rising emissions we face today. The upbeat utterances on which we are told international diplomacy and negotiations depend have so far failed to trigger any meaningful action to reduce emissions.
A catastrophic 4C rise in temperature is possible by the 2060s
There is currently nothing substantive to suggest we are heading for anything other than a 4C [4 degree Celsius] rise in temperature, possibly as early as the 2060s. Yet . . . it is hard to find any scientist seriously engaged in climate change who considers a 4C rise within this century as anything less than catastrophic for human society and ecosystems.
Is it time for climate scientists to be “blunt and direct publicly?”
Against such a backdrop, is it therefore not time for those of us who work in climate change to refrain from finessing our analysis, and instead be as blunt and direct publicly as we are prepared to be privately? Until such time, policymakers will remain ill-equipped to embrace the science . . . and next year’s negotiations in Durban and those the following year in Rio will be doomed to failure before they even start.
My comment: Dire warnings from the climate science community are not new. And yet, for any number of reasons, and as Anderson himself acknowledges, neither policymakers nor the public appear to be listening. Fossil ‘Fuelish’ behaviours and policies remain stubbornly entrenched. So what makes the professor believe that a hard-hitting “blunt and direct” approach will change hearts and minds? In essence, this is a communication problem. So, all we citizen activists have to do is to find a way to communicate Professor Anderson’s blunt message to folks who probably don’t want to hear it.