New UN climate report: Livability deteriorating now; ending carbon use is the only answer

There’s a new report out from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and it’s apparently a rough ride.

The IPCC has three “working groups” of scientists. Working Group 1 (WG1) deals with “the physical basis” of climate science — the physics, the mechanics of climate change. The latest Assessment Report (AR5) is being released over the next year, and the WG1 AR5 “Summary for Policymakers” (the “executive summary”) was released late last year. We covered that briefly here, though I’m now going through it more deeply. Stay tuned.

Working Group 2 (WG2) deals with “impacts, adaptations and vulnerability” — in other words, effects and consequences. Working Group 3 (WG3) deals with mitigations — what we can do. What was release just recently is the executive summary — the “Summary for Policymakers” — of WG2 for the latest Assessment Report.

Did I say it looks like a rough ride? For a sense of how rough, start here. At the link you can read the WG2 AR5 “Summary for Policymakers” in scribd form. If you want to download the PDF, click here.

As I said, this is new and most of us are still absorbing it. For now, I want to focus on this. The last figure in the report looks like this (the “You Are Here” markup is mine). I explain it below:

You Are Here. North or South, Mr. & Ms. Americans-with-Children?

“You Are Here.” North or South, Mr. & Ms. American-with-Children?

This figure really jumped out at me, especially in light of my recent push for “Zero Carbon awareness” (Zero Carbon means drastically cutting all carbon emissions — not just stabilizing them — until we get to zero carbon use, zero carbon emissions).

Here’s a description of the diagram that I wrote to a discussion group recently:

 “You Are Here” is today, the crossroads. Interesting decision tree. To put this in simple terms, that really is “Now”, and we’re going to head north (to the top-right “good” circle; roughly the RCP 2.6 scenario; or warming of 2–2.5°C from the pre-Industrial norm) …

… or we go the bottom-right “awful” circle (roughly RCP 8.5; the MIT “no policy” outcome; or +7°C) … all by 2100.

“Carbon neutral” is the current approved “sell,” and it needs to be pushed against, presented as unacceptable. Carbon-neutral is the same as “Keep Koch in walking change” and will lead to the worst outcome.

It hands us the nightmare, the bottom-right circle, since the hard and constant push back against any restriction always comes from Money (people who own trillions in unmonetized carbon assets, plus all of their enablers) and these people don’t do “incremental” or surrender. Barring some kind of general panic, the only “incremental solution” we’re going to get will have the paper-thin force of a politician’s (or carbon industry’s) PR campaign.

Put simply, without a general panic or discontinuous, step-wise jump in mass awareness, we won’t get those middle outcomes. Naomi Klein has it nailed in that regard. And starting from “now” (the circle on the chart) all delay drops us off the “You Are Here” mark and down to the next decision point below, our path to +7°C.

“Zero Carbon now” is a route to the best outcome, but it’s the only one. I think that’s a fairly simple message to be selling. The implications of Zero Carbon are a Manhattan Project–style rationing-and-buildout regime, as described here, and I agree people aren’t ready to hear that yet.

The only way to stop carbon is to … stop. Not a hard concept, but it needs to be presented simply and more often than it is. I’m hearing a lot of “it’s dire.” Not enough “the answer is to stop.” You can help with that.

I’ll have much more as I read and absorb the report. In the meantime, this is, I think, not incorrect, though I’m temporarily more optimistic than the writer. Something to think about, I think.


Twitter: @Gaius_Publius. Facebook: Gaius Publi.

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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30 Responses to “New UN climate report: Livability deteriorating now; ending carbon use is the only answer”

  1. Bill_Perdue says:

    Running away is your only answer. I read your comments and you used the same tactic every time you lose an argument. Thank you for running away.

  2. Badgerite says:

    Yeah! Bye now.

  3. Bill_Perdue says:

    Non responsive denial doesn’t but it.

  4. Badgerite says:

    Uh huh. Buh Bye now.

  5. Bill_Perdue says:

    Plutocracy is the enemy, in spite of your denials. Democrat and Republican politicians and their policies of war, austerity and attacks on the Bill of Rights are the enemy.

    Defense of plutocracy and the political prostitutes who manage things for the rich is becoming very difficult. Thanks for demonstrating that.

  6. Badgerite says:

    Who cares what label you put on him. Stalin and Mao took power through the ideology you espouse and frankly I can see it when you talk about a “worker’s state”. What the hell is that. Who defines who is a “worker” and who is not? How does that translate into anything in terms of legal or governmental process? And who,exactly, calls the shots in the ‘worker’s state’. Please don’t tell me the workers. In short, you talk gibberish.
    You are like the Supreme Court of late. You make up a fiction and pretend that it is real.

  7. Bill_Perdue says:

    Stalin was a counter-revolutionary. Not understanding that is a serious political disability.

    Venezuela is a capitalist country with a military reformist government which will go the way of Chile if they don’t move left and abolish capitalism. Do they to keep up.

  8. Badgerite says:

    Well, let’s see. Trotsky got hit in the head with an ‘ice pick’, I believe. The problem with ‘pre-Stalin USSR’ is that Stalin was just around the corner. Isn’t it?
    You cannot disassociate Stalin and Mao from the ideology that put them in power.
    I will actually take a ‘plutocracy’ any day over the ‘worker’s paradises’ created by those ideologies and that includes Venezuela, or Cuba.
    What I love about the process of western democracy is it provides the society with a fighting chance to overcome its worst tendencies.
    To paraphrase from Steinbeck’s East of Eden, timshel. Translation: Thou mayest triumph over evil.

  9. Bill_Perdue says:

    Your lack of historical knowledge is as astounding as your fealty to plutocracy.

  10. Badgerite says:

    Worker’s state says it all. You kind of defend my perspective for me by the things you say.
    As far as I’m concerned, I know all I need to know about your thought processes. There has never in the history of the world been a ‘worker’s state’. It is a tired and worn out concept that never had any kind of correlation to the real world and the real lives of people. Sometimes you sound just like a computer.

  11. Bill_Perdue says:

    Are you still unwilling to defend your right wing perspective. I can’t say that I blame you. It must be awfully embarrassing.

  12. Badgerite says:

    Workers state? Uh huh. Which is why I just cut to the chase and say uh huh to start with. Why waste time.

  13. Bill_Perdue says:

    Obama embraces anti-environment policies whether you’re in denial about that or not.

    No change will come from any President or Congress in a banana republic ruled by the rich and their lap dogs. It will come from a workers state. Relying on Democrat politicians is as suicidal as relying or Republican political because they have the same program.

  14. Silver_Witch says:

    Been waiting for that other shoe to drop for quite some time now. It should be quite exciting.

  15. 4th Turning says:

    This is why I hope doc can pull together a post showing how the very
    latest research in brain science is explaining this curious “immobility”…
    My very elementary reading suggests there is not much chance using logic and reason will effect urgent change. So brace yourself for some major catastrophic attention-getter.

  16. Badgerite says:

    I wouldn’t say ’embrace’. I would say there is no support in Congress so long as it is controlled by the GOP for anything like a Manhattan project for renewable energy.
    That being the case, he has to keep in mind that our current economy is run on fossil fuels. Like it or not. I get my electricity from a coal powered plant. Not my idea of the thing to do, but there has to be an affordable alternative for that to change. Congress is where the legislation has to be passed and for that to occur people, all people, have to realize how important this is to the future. Right now, there are too many people who think shit like, “It isn’t that bad” or that science will find a way to fix it. I think the Koch brothers, et al, are in that group. What’s more, the oil and gas shale that Canada is looking to exploit is in Canada. At some point, especially so if oil shortages develop, the money will be so overwhelming that it will be exploited Keystone pipeline or no Keystone pipeline. The proposed pipeline would just be the best way for Canada to get it to market. They could and probably will find other ways to do that if we continue on fossil fuels. And the only way to see that that is NOT the case, that is that we do not continue on fossil fuels, is for there to be developed affordable alternatives. It really is the only way. Or rationing, as the poster here asserts. And an alternative would take public support in Congress. Obama could propose all he wanted. Congress has to pass it.
    Rationing requires catastrophe to occur. Going after the Democrats and Obama does absolutely nothing. It only cedes control to the GOP and they think ‘creationism’ (otherwise known as the Bible) should be taught as science in schools.

  17. Silver_Witch says:

    I lived in WV a while and they just kept rebuilding their houses in the flood zone, even when FEMA offered to give them a little more money to build up on higher ground. Nope that was their mother’s, mother’s, father’s property and they were not leaving the Family Home – even though many died each year.

    Silly humans!

  18. 4th Turning says:

    The downright crazy irony here is instead of taking this to heart ie. a teachable
    moment, it apparently had the opposite effect of sparking a subsequent frenzy to build in all available floodplains, on all identified earthquakes faults, in tinderbox woods, tornado alleys, and hurricane lovin’ beaches. So this is where we are. (By the way, appreciate your running commentary.)

  19. emjayay says:

    I’m quite sure the president we already have understands all of it. Unfortunately he is only interested in expressing any kind of vision in vague airy nonspecific ways. When it comes down to anything real, he is only willing to go about one percent to the left of center, advocate what is just possible given the moron level of the country, and not offend any clowns and deniers.
    Because he is, you know, a Dictator.

  20. Bill_Perdue says:

    The solution is political and given the fact that Democrats and Republicans are all paid political prostitutes in the service of the rich we’ll have to create our own leftist and labor parties to effect change.

  21. Bill_Perdue says:

    Obama embraces offshore drilling and fracking and when he adds support for Keystone to the package he will become the worst president in history on environment questions. Like virtually all Democrat and Republicans politicians he does what he told by energy companies and by the rich.

    The Koch Brothers and the rich are half of the problem, Democrats and Republicans are the other half.

  22. Dave of the Jungle says:

    As long as Big Oil and Big Business control the Government and Big Media, we are screwed.

  23. Silver_Witch says:

    Perhaps if we played this video over and over and over again for those who are deniers they would get the message – I doubt it – we could hope though!

  24. lynchie says:

    You better get to high ground.

  25. lynchie says:

    This problem will never be dealt with as long as Congress is owned by the 1% and Corporations. The Koch brothers invest in Washington millions, lobbying and paying off our elected officials. When we see 3 governors and a former governor trek to Las Vegas to get approval from a gambling mogul for their run for president you know they are owned. Not that the Dems don’t do the same thing with banks and wall street that cozy relationship is about protection and the flow of cash in the same way the mafia owns judges and politicians.
    Here is a great video on using liquid Thorium for electrical reactors without the danger of Uranium.

    In fact the Chinese are way ahead of us in adopting Thorium as a nuclear fuel.

    Thorium has a very short half life, a few years, and if you read the last article it shows how harmless it is to operate.

    “The British have an (underfunded) research project – ThorEA –
    anchored at Huddersfield University under Professor Robert Cywinksi. He
    says the technology is intrinsically safer since the metal must be
    bombarded with neutrons to drive the process. “There is no chain
    reaction. Fission dies the moment you switch off the proton beam,” he
    told me.

    Thorium may at least do for nuclear power what shale fracking has done
    for natural gas, but on a bigger scale, for much longer, and with near
    zero carbon dioxide emissions.

    China’s thorium drive is galling for the Americans. They have dropped
    the ball. As I reported last year, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in
    Tennessee actually built a molten salt thorium reactor in the 1960s. It
    was shelved by the Nixon Administration. The Pentagon needed plutonium
    residue from uranium to for nuclear bombs. The imperatives of the Cold
    War prevailed.”

    So the need for weapons grade Plutonium took presidence over a comparatively safe, manageable fuel of which the U.S. has a reserve of 3216 metric tons.

  26. Badgerite says:

    This, to me, is the most important issue facing any nation, any people. If the Koch brothers could realize that, maybe we could get somewhere. Is there anything that could be done to convince the moneyed elites in this country, that such a Manhattan Project for sustainable and renewable, non-polluting energy would be in their own interests and the interests of their children? People who are attempting to control the political process with their ‘free speech’ (money) have to be brought on board somehow to make it possible to get this done. Don’t they?

  27. JeffAtMinetfiber says:

    We are SO screwed. :-(

  28. Indigo says:

    I remember that vividly. And it’s okay.

  29. Wombat in Exile says:

    Please identify the US presidential candidate(s) and senate/house candidates who will champion this zero carbon future with not only words but deeds – rationing laws, roadmaps and actual achievements. I’ll be happy to send them my contributions, letters, etc. It would of course be best if these candidates were from one of the two major parties. Not because I like either that much but because they are likely to win.

    If they don’t exist, any advice on which swim fins and ammunition producers to invest in?

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