It’s the End of the World As We Know It, Trump Feels Fine

President Ignores the Catastrophic Report, Focuses on His Victories

This week the UN’s scientific panel on climate change issued a report that stunned even veteran observers, as it paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought.

The biggest problem is that avoiding damage “would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems. These systems transitions are unprecedented in terms of scale, but not necessarily in terms of speed, and imply deep emissions reductions in all sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant upscaling of investments in those options.”

2040 is the critical year, as the scientists convened by the UN believe that, by then, we will see worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs – a period within many people’s expected lifetime.

Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, called the report “quite a shock, and quite concerning.”  He said, “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.”

One of the problems that this report cites is that a warming of 2.7 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2040 will cause, among other things, inundated coastlines, intensifying droughts and poverty.

While previous work believed that the damage would be a larger rise – 3.6 degrees, the new report shows that many of these impacts will come much sooner.

On Monday, President Trump greeted the new news by ignoring it.  The New York Times reported, “Mr. Trump discussed his successful Supreme Court battle rather than how rising seawaters are already flooding Miami on sunny days.”

In his wake, states like California, New York and others, as well as other governments and companies, continue to push forward “with regulations and technological innovations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Times notes, “That bottom-up activism is a source of hope for those who have watched in despair since last year when Mr. Trump declared he would pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord. But experts say it is no substitute for the world’s largest economy, and second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, turning its back on the fight.”

“You have this enormous discrepancy between the White House and, essentially, everyone else,” said Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “The leadership in Washington is really moving against the whole agenda.”

As we reported last week, the Trump administration, buried deep in an environmental impact statement, acknowledged: “In its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous seven degrees by the end of this century.”

Such a rise, scientists believe would be catastrophic, including “any coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.”

However, the administration has no dire warnings.  They do not recommend that the world cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

Instead, the analysis they offer simply “assumes the plant’s fate is already sealed.”

“While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket,” the Post reports.

“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.

The UN has a different view.  They note that to prevent even the 2.7 degrees of warming, “greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.”

They found that, by 2050, “use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40 percent today to between 1 and 7 percent. Renewable energy such as wind and solar, which make up about 20 percent of the electricity mix today, would have to increase to as much as 67 percent.”

The Trump administration also made the renewal of coal as an energy source a priority.

“This report makes it clear: There is no way to mitigate climate change without getting rid of coal,” Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at Duke University and an author of the report, told the NY Times.

The Times reports: “Despite the controversial policy implications, the United States delegation joined more than 180 countries on Saturday in accepting the report’s summary for policymakers, while walking a delicate diplomatic line.”

A State Department statement said that “acceptance of this report by the panel does not imply endorsement by the United States of the specific findings or underlying contents of the report.

“We reiterate that the United States intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement at the earliest opportunity absent the identification of terms that are better for the American people,” the statement said.

The report concludes that the world has already seen a 1.8 degree rise since the 1850s – more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark.

The report emphasizes the potential role of a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

“A price on carbon is central to prompt mitigation,” the report concludes.

The ramifications laid out in this report are staggering.  For example, at 3.6 degrees of warming, the report predicts a “disproportionately rapid evacuation” of people from the tropics.

“In some parts of the world, national borders will become irrelevant,” Aromar Revi, director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and an author of the report, told the NY Times. “You can set up a wall to try to contain 10,000 and 20,000 and one million people, but not 10 million.”

There is another alternative.  If governments fail to avert 2.7 degrees of warming, the world could overshoot the target and then hope to through “a combination of lowering emissions and deploying carbon capture technology, bring the temperature back down below the 2.7-degree threshold.”

In that scenario, however, some damage would be irreversible – such as the death of all the coral reefs.  But sea ice could return once the temperatures cool.

“For governments, the idea of overshooting the target but then coming back to it is attractive because then they don’t have to make such rapid changes,” Dr. Shindell said. “But it has a lot of disadvantages.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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37 thoughts on “It’s the End of the World As We Know It, Trump Feels Fine”

  1. Tia Will

    “We reiterate that the United States intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement at the earliest opportunity absent the identification of terms that are better for the American people”

    It would seem to me that “terms that are better for the American people” would include an acknowledgement that flooding of portions of our habitable land, increasing droughts and wildfires, and destruction of coral reefs are not any better for Americans than for people living in any other nation.

    1. Tia Will

      Media-fired alarmism for a political agenda can be ignored.”


      I certainly wish that more people had heeded this advice when selecting their choice during the 2016 election. Rapists, and gang members, and murderers, oh my !

    2. Tia Will

      I thought they already were!”

      Certainly they are in my mind. I will always value the humanity of an individual over the place in which they happen to have been born.

      1. Ron

        Regarding the irrelevancy of borders, that has more than one meaning (e.g., regarding the causes/impacts of global warming).

        Regarding humanity and the place one is born, I would agree in theory.  However, the subject generally reminds me of the scene from the movie “Titanic”, in which the lifeboats didn’t go back for survivors (due to the probability that they’d swamp and sink the lifeboats). I think this type of fear might cause further shutdown of borders and conflicts, as conditions become worse.

        Essentially, global warming will lead to political/global instability and conflicts.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          You’re going way off track here. The point of the UN report is that if tens of millions of people are displaced in the tropics, then it will create mass upheaval. Do you dispute this? Otherwise, all this is extraneous.

        2. Ron

          I think you’re misunderstanding the point I made.  I’m basically saying the same thing as the U.N. report.

          How the world ultimately responds is unpredictable. Are the countries/areas that are less-impacted going to accept mass immigration and/or provide direct assistance?

          Do we “save” people, even now? (And no, I’m not referring to someone who complains about not being able to live as cheaply as they’d like, in an areas that they “prefer”.)

        3. Ron

          And yet, I’m planning to emit some greenhouse gases, today!

          What a hypocrite! 🙂

          I’m pretty sure it’s someone else’s fault, though. If only those other folks would stop driving, etc. (The same ones who purposefully come out “in mass”, whenever I’m on the road.)

        4. David Greenwald

          “They can move to Greenland because it will be green again like it was during the Medieval Warming Period 1000 years ago when there were fewer Priuses.”

          I wasn’t aware that the Middle Ages were 125,000 years ago.

        5. H Jackson

          Jeff M: “They can move to Greenland because it will be green again like it was during the Medieval Warming Period 1000 years ago when there were fewer Priuses.”

          Based on this dating, the researchers reported in Science Advances that the glaciers were at their maximum extent from about 925 to 1275. So, while Iceland and Europe may have been warmer during this period, it seems that Greenland remained cold enough to allow glaciers to advance, Young says. “It was cold when [the Vikings] got there and it was cold when they left,” he says, adding that “if they entered Greenland when it was cold, it’s unlikely they were driven out by cold.”

          The findings support the idea that the Medieval Warm Period was confined mainly to Europe, Young says. “The Medieval Warm Period is very well documented in Europe, but it wasn’t global. source

        6. Jeff M

          David need to catch up on the historical science of climate:

          The “science” on this is weak… very weak.  It is almost laughable in what it claims other natural causes for the increase in temperature while rejecting the same today.  It also claims that other areas were colder and thus the over all temperature of the globe “must have been” lower than modern times.  The evidence backing this claim is scant to non-existent.  But the Medieval Warm Period is inconvenient to the politics of global warming.

          If liberals been around during that time they would not have been able to blame industrialized man.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Warm_Period#/media/File:2000_Year_Temperature_Comparison.png

          1. Don Shor

            The “science” on this is weak… very weak. It is almost laughable in what it claims other natural causes for the increase in temperature while rejecting the same today.

            The science of anthropogenic climate change is very robust. You are simply wrong about this. It’s past time to stop debating whether it’s happening, and start discussing what policy measures can reasonably be implemented to mitigate and adapt to the change.

        7. Jeff M

          It’s past time to stop debating whether it’s happening, and start discussing what policy measures can reasonably be implemented to mitigate and adapt to the change.

          I agree with this.
           

        8. Jeff M

          Adaption is generally non-partisan because it does not matter the cause or even if the warming is temporary with natural causes that science has not yet understood.

          Even science says that their models indicate that global warming cannot be stopped even if we stopped burning fossil fuel today.

          We cannot stop it.  And we don’t agree that man is the main cause.  And we don’t agree that the hit to the human condition chasing a scarcity agenda is acceptable.  So we should just focus on adaption.  Building in hurricane territory needs to change.  All coastal construction and location needs to change.  Nuclear power should be developed and installed.  Irrigation and water storage plans for areas that will get less rain should be planned and developed.  Flood control for areas that might get more rain should be developed.  The list goes on.

          1. Don Shor

            I personally would like to see cabinet-level coordination of these types of efforts. But I suspect that any effort to do so would get mired down quickly and is probably a non-starter politically. Good thing the military just keeps quietly planning and doing what it needs to do.

          2. David Greenwald Post author

            “Even science says that their models indicate that global warming cannot be stopped even if we stopped burning fossil fuel today.”

            Actually the Trump administration says that, science does not.

        9. H Jackson

          Jeff M: “Even science says that their models indicate that global warming cannot be stopped even if we stopped burning fossil fuel today.”

          Not in the short term.  In the longer term (decades), it would slow down or stop the increase in warming.  If CO2 (and other GHG’s) keeps getting dumped into the atmosphere the warming only continues to increase.

        10. H Jackson

          The NPR link above notably says this:

          “People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide that the climate would go back to normal in 100 years or 200 years. What we’re showing here is that’s not right. It’s essentially an irreversible change that will last for more than a thousand years,” Solomon says.

          The article is mainly pushing back on the notion that climate conditions can be restored to an original condition, like the way pollution regulations restored some cities to a kind of pre-polluted condition, which I agree with.

        11. Jeff M

          Yes, which is why we should not be accepting of an anti-industrialism agenda in the name of global warming as not only will it not change the warming trends, it will cause other harm to the human condition (fewer jobs, less economic opportunity) while giving people a false sense that something useful is being done and thus cause them to ignore the need for adaption measures.

        12. Jeff M

          The question is, how much more additional irreversible change should we accept by continuing to do things the way we have done them?

          By business brain works on a cost vs. benefit, risk vs. reward cycle.

          Considering that we are progressively replacing fossil fuels with sustainable energy, and considering that technology will keep advancing there, and considering that we will continue to see supplies of fossil fuels decline and get more expensive, and considering that politics that are anti-industry are harmful to the human condition… especially the more vulnerable low income and middle-income working class, and considering that UBI is a stupid idea that would destroy civilization, and considering that adaption is non-partisan and a good idea no matter what happens… especially given science’s proclamation that it cannot be reversed, and considering that other countries are doing much less than the US in reducing their carbon output…. in consideration of all these things, and the fact that the scientific of anthropgenic global warming has been politicized and thus is very divisive… I say jump on the adaption bandwagon and stop with the anti-industrialism agenda.

        13. Jim Hoch

          Since we have not been successful to date in controlling the human population perhaps this is the answer.

          “The question is, how much more additional irreversible change should we accept by continuing to do things the way we have done them?”

  2. Don Shor

    The IPCC report consists of a summary for policymakers, a summary of headline statements, and then the full body of the report itself. They give degrees of confidence in their conclusions (medium confidence, high confidence, very high confidence). You can read the supporting evidence in the main report.

    So if you prefer to get the actual data and the reasons for their summary conclusions, rather than just the headlines and commentary about it, you can find the whole thing here:

    http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/

     

  3. Don Shor

    Some discussion at realclimate.org:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2018/10/ipcc-special-report-on-1-5oc/#comments

    The crux of the matter:

    “To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, the report said, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050. It also found that, by 2050, use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40 percent today to between 1 and 7 percent. Renewable energy such as wind and solar, which make up about 20 percent of the electricity mix today, would have to increase to as much as 67 percent.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html

    The problems:

    Any carbon tax that would be effective in reducing carbon-fuel use would be politically impossible in any democratic country.

    Joe Romm and Roger Pielke Jr both concluded that we need to add 26 nuclear power plants per year per ‘wedge’ of carbon-free energy. That was about seven years ago. It isn’t happening.

    The methods of carbon capture are not really viable or tested, so far as I can recall, as being practicable at anywhere near the needed levels.

    So this IPCC report is mostly an exercise in telling us how bad things are going to be at various levels of continued use of carbon fuels. Given that the reduction ‘needed’ won’t be happening, then obviously continued focus needs to be on adaptative measures rather than entirely or even primarily on mitigation measures.

    We have seen the impact of mass migration. Climate signals are very easy to identify already. The Paris accords were pragmatic and achievable. The next president will simply need to rejoin the Paris agreement and continue to work to reduce the carbon output wihin the constraints of a growing economy. Also, in my opinion, expanding US foreign aid directed at agricultural development and engineering of existing water supplies can help stabilize some difficult regions of the world and reduce their tendency toward desertification — and the added bonus of helping to stabilize their governments, feed their people, and reduce the likelihood of failed states, migration, and havens for terrorism.

    Note that the focus on extreme weather events is a distraction that takes the focus away from where it really needs to be.

    Roger Pielke Jr comments about the IPCC on extreme weather events:

    https://twitter.com/RogerPielkeJr/status/1049109464035414017

    1. Ken A

      I think that most will probably agree with me when I say that I don’t think that the ten fastest growing countries in the world will be even close to 50% renewable energy (or have mandatory rooftop solar for new construction) by 2050.

      https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-20-countries-with-the-highest-population-growth.html

      It seems like a lot of the “climate science” guys have a good heart, but with less than 5% of the world’s population I really don’t think that even bringing in a relative of Jim Jones to pass out Kool Aid to ~300 million people on a globe with ~7.5 BILLION people will change the “global climate”…

      1. Jim Hoch

        Not sure I agree with this assessment. Many developing countries skipped the “landline” phase of telephony and went direct to cell. As countries build out and the price of solar drops it may be that they skip the central generation phase and go direct to distributed.

        Most of these have lots of sun and real challenges, either engineering or security, to building a power grid.

        Oman

        Lebanon

        Kuwait

        Qatar

        South Sudan

        Niger

        Burundi

        Chad

        Iraq

        Angola

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