Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Coping with Acceleration


Greetings Peaksters

     Chris Martenson  makes an interesting point in his  Crash Course  He points out that we have little experience with things that are accelerating.  We grow up trying to hit balls that are coming at us at a uniform rate.  We judge the distance of cars going by,  at a uniform velocity.   But we just don't have experience with things coming at us faster and faster.   So we don't know how to deal with it.

     But climate changes seem to be coming at us at an accelerating rate.    Maybe not the effects themselves, but our appreciation of those effects.   Was it only five years ago when the IPCC warned us that we might reach 1 degree by 2100?    Now that warning seems quaint.   Now, one degree isn't even discussed.  Probably because it'll probably be here by next Tuesday.   !!  (Maybe its already happened .  - see Scientists use Thoreau's journal notes to track climate change - 2.4 degrees rise since 1840 ) 

   .   And 2 degrees?    In 2009, it was predicted for 2100. Now,  who knows?    Lets say 2050, shall we?   Just pencil that in.  No doubt we'll change it.   Ooops wait a minute, make that  4 degrees by 2060.      

  See for instance:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (late 2007): 1 C by 2100
Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research (late 2008): 2 C by 2100
United Nations Environment Programme (mid 2009): 3.5 C by 2100
Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research (October 2009): 4 C by 2060
Global Carbon Project, Copenhagen Diagnosis (November 2009): 6 C, 7 C by 2100
International Energy Agency (November 2010): 3.5 C by 2035 2100
United Nations Environment Programme (December 2010): up to 5 C by 2050
 See here

    I find this very disorienting.   What is a reasonable response to these continually changing numbers?  And if we have already passed important tipping points, what then?

    It may be useful to check in with Guy McPherson, Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.    Not because I accept everything he says, but because, I want to see how he deals with what he sees - a continuing evolution of the worst case.     What he believes today, (and what most of us now think is too extreme) is  probably what the experts will be telling us tomorrow, or next week. 

   And despite his dismal view, he doesn't just "curl up and die".  He continues to push.  "Resistance is fertile". he says.  And he continues to do so with good humor.

     So here is something to consider

From  Nature Bats Last    

Let go, or be dragged

Wed, Sep 19, 2012
When called a quitter in somebody’s first-time comment in this space, my initial response was to serve the name-caller a big warm cup of ShutTheFuckUp. Then I gave it a bit more thought. One result is this essay.
Contrary to the respondent’s interpretation of my essay, I’m not suggesting we quit. Giving up is not giving in: Accepting our fate is not synonymous with jumping into the absurdly omnicidal main stream. Just because we’re opossums on the roadway doesn’t mean we should play possum. Resistance is fertile, after all. To employ a bit of The Boss: “In the end what you don’t surrender, well the world just strips away.”
Or, to employ a bit of Zen: Let go, or be dragged.
Or, to employ a bit of popular culture: Carpe diem.
Or, to employ a bit of Nietzsche: “Live as though the day were here.”
Climate chaos is well under way, and has become irreversible over temporal spans relevant to humansbecause of positive feedbacks. Such is the nature of reaching the acceleration phase of the nonlinear system that is climate catastrophe.
As a result of ongoing, accelerating climate change, I’m letting go of the notion that Homo sapiens will inhabit this planet beyond 2030. I’m letting go of the notion that Homo sapiens will inhabit this verdant little valley at the edge of American Empire after it turns to dust within a very few years. I’m letting go of the notion that, within a few short years, there will remain any habitat for humans in the interior of any large continent in the northern hemisphere. I’m letting go of the notion we’ll retain even a fraction of one percent of the species currently on Earth beyond 2050. But I’m not letting go of the notion of resistance, which is a moral imperative.
I will no longer judge people for buying into cultural conditioning. It’s far easier to live in a city, at the height of civilization’s excesses, than not. I know how easy it is to live in a city surrounded by beautiful distractions and pleasant interactions, and I fully understand the costs and consequences of dwelling there, as well as the price to be paid in the near future. I spent about half my life in various cities, and I understand the physical ease and existential pain of living at the apex of empire. Also, I know all about the small joys and great pains associated with living in the country. I spent the other half of my life in the country and in towns with fewer than 1,000 people. I understand why the country bumpkin is assigned stereotypical labels related to ignorance and, paradoxically, self-reliance.
It’s clearly too late to tear down this irredeemably corrupt system and realize any substantive benefits for humans or other organisms. And yet I strongly agree with activist Lierre Keith: “The task of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much personal integrity as possible; it is to dismantle those systems.” If it seems I’m filled with contradictions, color me hypocritical fully human in a Walt Whitman sort of way: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
Our remaining time on this orb is too short to cast aspersions at those who live differently from ourselves, as most people in industrialized countries have done throughout their lives. Most people in the industrialized world became cultural crack babies in the womb. There is little hope to break the addiction of ingestion at this late point in the era of industry, and I’m throwing in the towel on changing the minds of typically mindless Americans. No longer will I try to convince people to give up the crack pipe based on my perception of morality reality.
I’ll continue to speak. I’ll continue to write. But these efforts will be presented with less urgency than I’ve previously employed, and they will represent personal perspectives and actions. I’ll no longer recommend to others the path I’ve taken.
Nietzsche’s comment about seizing the day, every day, brings to mind the final words of Joseph Campbell’s 1949 book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces:
It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal — carries the cross of the redeemer — not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair.
With the preceding dire news in mind, it would be easy to forget how fortunate we are. After all, we get to die. That simple fact alone is cause for celebration because it indicates we get to live. As I wrote more than five years ago, our knowledge of DNA assures us that the odds any one of us existing are greater than the odds against being a particular grain of sand on all the world’s beaches. No, the odds are much greater than that: they exceed the odds of being a single atom plucked from the entire universe. To quote the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, “In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I that are privileged to be here, privileged with eyes to see where we are and brains to wonder why.”
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Here's his latest speech

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more:

Climate-change summary and update

Sun, Jan 6, 2013
American actress Lily Tomlin is credited with the expression, “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.” With respect to climate science, my own efforts to stay abreast are blown away every week by new data, models, and assessments. It seems no matter how dire the situation becomes, it only gets worse when I check the latest reports.
The response of politicians, heads of non-governmental organizations, and corporate leaders remains the same. They’re mired in the dank Swamp of Nothingness. These are the people who know about, and presumably could do something about, our ongoing race to disaster (if only to sound the alarm). Tomlin’s line is never more germane than when thinking about their pursuit of a buck at the expense of life on Earth.
This essay brings attention to recent projections and positive feedbacks. There is little new here beyond my recent presentations on the subject. Specifically, I presented most of this information at the Bluegrass Bioneers conference (Alex Smith at Radio Ecoshock evaluates my presentation here). More recently, I presented an updated version on the campus of the University of Massachusetts. All information and sources are readily confirmed with an online search.
Large-scale assessments
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (late 2007): 1 C by 2100
Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research (late 2008): 2 C by 2100
United Nations Environment Programme (mid 2009): 3.5 C by 2100
Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research (October 2009): 4 C by 2060
Global Carbon Project, Copenhagen Diagnosis (November 2009): 6 C, 7 C by 2100
International Energy Agency (November 2010): 3.5 C by 2035 2100
United Nations Environment Programme (December 2010): up to 5 C by 2050
These assessments fail to account for significant self-reinforcing feedback loops (i.e., positive feedbacks, the term that implies the opposite of its meaning). The IPCC’s vaunted Fifth Assessment will continue the trend as it, too, ignores important feedbacks. On a positive note, major assessments fail to account for economic collapse. However, due to the feedback loops presented below, I strongly suspect it’s too late for economic collapse to extend the run of our species.
As pointed out by the United Nations Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases in 1990, “Beyond 1 degree C may elicit rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage.” Planetary instruments indicate Earth has warmed about 1 C since the beginning of the industrial revolution. However, plants in the vicinity of Concord, Massachusetts — where the instrumental record indicates warming of about 1 C — indicate warming of 2.4 C since the 1840s.
Whether you believe the plants or the instruments is irrelevant at the point. We’ve clearly triggered the types of positive feedbacks the United Nations warned about in 1990. Yet my colleagues and acquaintances think we can and will work our way out of this horrific mess with permaculture.
Let’s ignore the models for a moment and consider only the results of a single briefing to the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen (COP15). Regulars in this space will recall COP15 as the climate-change meetings thrown under the bus by the Obama administration. A footnote on that long-forgotten briefing contains this statement: “THE LONG-TERM SEA LEVEL THAT CORRESPONDS TO CURRENT CO2 CONCENTRATION IS ABOUT 23 METERS ABOVE TODAY’S LEVELS, AND THE TEMPERATURES WILL BE 6 DEGREES C OR MORE HIGHER. THESE ESTIMATES ARE BASED ON REAL LONG TERM CLIMATE RECORDS, NOT ON MODELS.”
Positive feedbacks
Methane hydrates are bubbling out the Arctic Ocean (Science, March 2010)
Warm Atlantic water is defrosting the Arctic as it shoots through the Fram Strait (Science, January 2011)
Siberian methane vents have increased in size from less than a meter across in the summer of 2010 to about a kilometer across in 2011 (Tellus, February 2011)
Drought in the Amazon triggered the release of more carbon than the United States in 2010 (Science, February 2011)
Peat in the world’s boreal forests is decomposing at an astonishing rate (Nature Communications, November 2011)
Methane is being released from the Antarctic, too (Nature, August 2012)
Russian forest and bog fires are growing (NASA, August 2012)
Cracking of glaciers accelerates in the presence of increased carbon dioxide (Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, October 2012)
Arctic drilling was fast-tracked by the Obama administration during the summer of 2012
As nearly as I can distinguish, only the latter feedback process is reversible. Once you pull the tab on the can of beer, there’s no keeping the carbon dioxide from bubbling up and out. Because we’ve entered the era of expensive oil, I can’t imagine we’ll voluntarily terminate the process of drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic (or anywhere else).
See how far we’ve come
Never mind that American naturalist George Perkins Marsh predicted anthropogenic climate change as a result of burning fossil fuels in 1847. Never mind that climate risks have been underestimated for the last 20 Years, or that the IPCC’s efforts have failed miserably. After all, climate scientist Kevin Anderson tells uswhat I’ve known for years: politicians and the scientists writing official reports on climate change are lying, and we have less time than most people can imagine. Never mind that even the Atlantic is displaying “five charts about climate change that should have you very, very worried.” Never mind that atmospheric carbon dioxide is affecting satellites. Never mind that even the occasional economic analyst is telling climate scientists to be persuasive, be brave, and be arrested.
Never mind all that: Future temperatures likely will be at the higher end of the projected range because the forecasts are all too conservative and also because climate negotiations won’t avert catastrophe.
Then see where we’re going
The climate situation is much worse than I’ve led you to believe, and is accelerating far more rapidly than accounted for by modelsIce sheet loss continues to increase at both poles, and warming of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is twice the earlier scientific estimateArctic ice at all-time low, half that of 1980, and the Arctic lost enough sea ice to cover Canada and Alaska in 2012 alone. In short, summer ice in the Arctic is nearly gone. Furthermore, the Arctic could well be free of ice by summer 2015, an event that last occurred some three million years ago, before the genus Homo walked the planet. In a turn surprising only to mainstream climate scientists, Greenland ice is melting rapidly.
Ocean acidification associated with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is proceeding at an unprecedented rate and could trigger mass extinction by itself. Already, half the Great Barrier Reef has died during the last three decades. And ocean acidification is hardly the only threat on the climate-change front. As one little-discussed example, atmospheric oxygen levels are dropping to levels considered dangerous for humans.
An increasing number of scientists agree that warming of 4 to 6 C causes a dead planet. And, they go on to say, we’ll be there by 2060. The ultra-conservative International Energy Agency, on the other hand,concludes that, “coal will nearly overtake oil as the dominant energy source by 2017 … without a major shift away from coal, average global temperatures could rise by 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, leading to devastating climate change.” At the 11:20 mark of this video, climate scientist Paul Beckwith indicates Earth could warm by 6 C within a decade.

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