Citizen Action Monitor

Even with emission cuts, increasing CO2 concentrations will shatter 450ppm warning limit by early 2030s

Harsh evidence leads to one conclusion – There is no carbon budget left to reduce the speed of emissions’ mitigation.

No 1861 Posted by fw, January 2, 2017

Roger Boyd

Roger Boyd

red-flagThe irresistible inertial force of economic growth is colliding with the immovable object of the limits of the Earth’s systems. Positive feedbacks in the climate system are now being triggered, much earlier than had been previously assumed, that will make it increasingly difficult for society to find an escape route. Even just two of those feedbacks (none of which are taken into account by the United Nations climate change scenarios), soil carbon emissions and Arctic Amplification, may rapidly outrun society’s ability to change course…. the only conclusion that can be drawn is that there is in fact no carbon budget left. Anthropogenic emissions need to be rapidly falling toward zero – right now. In the absence of that, the picture painted above of the early 2030’s is all too probable. This will be ‘within our lifetimes’, even for most in their fifties and sixties. The option of leaving the problem for the next generation has already passed.”Roger Boyd, Humanity’s Test

Roger Boyd, BSc, MBA, MA Global Studies, MA Economics For Transition, unveils an unsettling view of the early 2030s based on current scientific evidence. His book, “The Schizophrenic Society”, covers the reasons for the inability of human societies to take the actions necessary for their own survival in the face of climate change, peak resources, and ecological degradation.

Below is a repost of his article, featuring added subheadings, and endnotes have been converted to inline hyperlinks. To read the piece of his website, click on the following linked title.

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The View From The Early 2030’s  by Roger Boyd, Humanity’s Test, December 6, 2016

Positive feedbacks in the climate system will make it increasingly difficult for society to find an escape route

The irresistible inertial force of economic growth is colliding with the immovable object of the limits of the Earth’s systems. Positive feedbacks in the climate system are now being triggered, much earlier than had been previously assumed, that will make it increasingly difficult for society to find an escape route. Even just two of those feedbacks (none of which are taken into account by the United Nations climate change scenarios), soil carbon emissions and Arctic Amplification, may rapidly outrun society’s ability to change course.

By the early 2030’s we may have already passed the historic milestones of 450ppm atmospheric CO2 and 20C warming.

Soil Carbon Emissions

Cuts of 10-20% in anthropogenic emissions would be needed just to stabilize the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations

As temperatures increase, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, carbon-consuming organisms in the soil that emit carbon dioxide become more active. A recent study estimates that with 10C warming by 2050, these emissions would increase atmospheric CO2 by 0.4ppm/year. With a 20C scenario, it estimates 0.7ppm/year. Cuts of between 10-20% in anthropogenic emissions would be needed to offset these, just to stabilize the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Emission estimates do not include emissions from beneath the immediate surface layer of the soil

The scientists involved state that these are conservative estimates, and do not include emissions from beneath the immediate surface layer of the soil. Also not included would be increased emissions, and reduced CO2 uptake, from increased forest fires and tree deaths. So the increase in the natural emissions treadmill could easily be running faster than these scientists estimate.

Even with emission cuts, the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations are on track to shatter the 450ppm warning limit by early 2030s

The resulting probability is that even with some level of anthropogenic emission cuts, the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations will continue at about 2.5ppm per year. That’s 25ppm per decade. On track to break through the 450ppm ‘dangerous climate warming” limit by the early 2030’s. If those anthropogenic emission cuts involve significant reductions in coal use, the resultant reduction in climate cooling sulfate aerosols will only add to the rate of climate change.

Arctic Amplification

Ice free Arctic could push global temperatures through 20C in the 2030s

The Arctic sea ice acts as a planetary air conditioner, reflecting the majority of the Sun’s energy out to space. As the area covered by the sea ice reduces, it is replaced by dark open water that takes in the majority of the Sun’s energy. This has already had an effect equal to 25% of anthropogenic climate change during the past 30 years. As more sea ice is lost during the summer months, when the Sun is high in the Arctic sky, the effect will accelerate. At the peak of the Arctic summer, that region receives more energy from the Sun than is ever received at the Equator. On current trends, the Arctic could be free of ice in September during the 2020’s, and during the summer months in the 2030’s. Another additional climate forcing that has not been taken into account by the U.N. With 450ppm atmospheric CO2, and accelerated Arctic Amplification, perhaps only the nudge of an El Nino year will be required to push global temperatures through 20C – at least on a monthly basis.

The View from the Early 2030’s

Assumptions that tomorrow will be much like yesterday will no longer be violable in the face of runaway climate change

Modern society is based upon assumptions of geographical and ecological continuity, and continued growth, assumptions that will no longer be viable in the face of runaway climate change. By the early 2030’s, an acceptance of significant sea level rise, chaotic weather patterns, and Atlantic “super-storms” by mid-century, may be taking hold. This will be an acceptance that huge chunks of human society will be inundated (e.g. Southern Florida, the Pearl River Delta, and much of Holland), others rendered uninhabitable by drought and heat, and that the predictability of the weather needed for agriculture will no longer exist.

The transformative adaptation to climate change will be turbulent, as we stumble from crisis to crisis

In the face of such challenges, governments may be strained to maintain social and political stability, let alone manage an orderly transformation to a sustainable economic and social system. Societies may simply stumble from one crisis to another on the path of descent, with untried and untested geo-engineering and carbon capture initiatives attempted in a desperate attempt to reduce the speed of that descent.

No Carbon Budget Left & Global Denial

The harsh evidence leads to one conclusion – There is no carbon budget left to reduce the speed of emissions’ mitigation

If the effects of increased soil carbon loss, Arctic Amplification, and other positive feedbacks are realistically taken into account, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that there is in fact no carbon budget left. Anthropogenic emissions need to be rapidly falling toward zero – right now. In the absence of that, the picture painted above of the early 2030’s is all too probable.

This will be “within our lifetimes”, even for most in their fifties and sixties. The option of leaving the problem for the next generation has already passed.

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Roger Boyd has worked as an executive within the financial industry for the past 25 years, and is also a research member of the B.C. Alberta Social Economy Research Alliance (BALTA) looking at the linkages between issues of sustainability and models of ownership and finance. In addition, he also presents at international conferences on such things as climate change adaptation and energy systems, as well as acting as a peer reviewer for academic journals.

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