Top climate scientists argue that the world must reach zero carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution by 2050 and, all men being equal, that world leading annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution countries like the US and Australia must reduce to zero by 2020. The Republican victories in the US mid-term Congressional elections (they now have a majority in the House of Representatives) are widely seen as a huge setback for the Cancun Climate Change Summit (Mexico, 2010) and for any effective US cutback on its enormous GHG pollution.
It is not hyperbole to suggest that the Republican mid-term victories spell doom for the Planet. As outlined below, leading climate scientists say that major per capita GHG polluters like the US, Australia and Canada must act urgently within the next decade in order to avoid disaster for Humanity and the Biosphere. However Republican (and Democrat) climate change deniers and climate change action delayers will mean Business As Usual (BAU) and inevitable disaster.
Already 16 million people (about 9.5 million of them under-5 year old infants) die avoidably every year due to deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease – and man-made global warming is already clearly worsening this global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust. However the predicted 10 billion avoidable deaths due to unaddressed, man-made global warming this century yields an average annual avoidable death rate of 100 million per year.
Collective, national responsibility for this already commenced Climate Holocaust is in direct proportion to per capita national pollution of the atmosphere with greenhouse gases (GHGs). Indeed, fundamental to any international agreement on national rights to pollute our common atmosphere and oceans should be the belief that “all men are created equal”. However reality is otherwise: “annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution” in units of “tones CO2-equivalent per person per year” (2005-2008 data) is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), less than 3 (many African and Island countries), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 23 (Canada), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; or 54 if Australia’s huge Exported CO2 pollution is included) (see: “Climate Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/ ).
Professor James Hansen ((top US climate scientist; Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; member of the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences; 2007 Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science; adjunct professor at 76-Nobel-Laureate Columbia University, New York) speaking at the Climate Change Research Conference, Sacramento, California, USA (2006) : “I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change ... no longer than a decade, at the most.”
Johan Rockström and colleagues in Nature (2009), “A safe operating space for humanity”: “Identifying and quantifying planetary boundaries that must not be transgressed could help prevent human activities from causing unacceptable environmental change, argue Johan Rockström and colleagues. New approach proposed for defining preconditions for human development. Crossing certain biophysical thresholds could have disastrous consequences for humanity. Three of nine interlinked planetary boundaries have already been overstepped. Although Earth has undergone many periods of significant environmental change, the planet's environment has been unusually stable for the past 10,000 years. This period of stability — known to geologists as the Holocene — has seen human civilizations arise, develop and thrive.”
Johan Rockström and colleagues in Nature (2009), “A safe operating space for humanity”: “Figure 1. Beyond the boundary. [Circular display of status of 9 key planetary systems areas, namely] Biodiversity loss, Atmospheric aerosol loading (not yet quantities), Chemical pollution (not yet quantities, Climate change, Ocean acidification, Stratospheric ozone depletion, Nitrogen cycle (biogeochemical flow boundary), Phosphorous cycle (biogeochemical flow boundary), Global freshwater use, Change in land use. The inner green shading represents the proposed safe operating space for nine planetary systems. The red wedges represent an estimate of the current position for each variable. The boundaries in three systems (rate of biodiversity loss, climate change and human interference with the nitrogen cycle), have already been exceeded [red zones in all other systems except for atmospheric aerosol loading (not yet quantities) and chemical pollution (not yet quantities)].”
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2006 (founded in 1848, AAAS serves some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals; the AAAS journal Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million): “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society. Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilization of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more. The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now.”
Professor Kevin Anderson and Dr Alice Bows (UK climate scientists, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester, UK): “According to the analysis conducted in this paper, stabilizing at 450 ppmv [carbon dioxide equivalent = CO2-e, atmospheric concentration measured in parts per million by volume] requires, at least, global energy related emissions to peak by 2015, rapidly decline at 6-8% per year between 2020 and 2040, and for full decarburization sometime soon after 2050 …Unless economic growth can be reconciled with unprecedented rates of decarburization (in excess of 6% per year), it is difficult to envisage anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with stabilization at or below 650 ppmv CO2-e ...
Ultimately, the latest scientific understanding of climate change allied with current emissions trends and a commitment to “limiting average global temperature increases to below 4oC above pre-industrial levels”, demands a radical reframing of both the climate change agenda, and the economic characterization of contemporary society”.
Action is needed now – 300 ppm CO2 target but currently 392 ppm and increasing.
Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research., Germany (2008): “It is a compromise between ambition and feasibility. A rise of 2oC could avoid some of the big environmental disasters, but it is still only a compromise…It is a very sweeping argument, but nobody can say for sure that 330ppm is safe. Perhaps it will not matter whether we have 270ppm or 320ppm, but operating well outside the [historic] realm of carbon dioxide concentrations is risky as long as we have not fully understood the relevant feedback mechanisms” [280 ppm is the pre-industrial atmospheric CO2 concentration].”
Dr James Hansen et al. (2008): “Stabilization of Arctic sea ice cover requires, to first approximation, restoration of planetary energy balance. Climate models driven by known forcing yield a present planetary energy imbalance of +0.5-1 W/m2. Observed heat increase in the upper 700 m of the ocean confirms the planetary energy imbalance, but observations of the entire ocean are needed for quantification. CO2 amount must be reduced to 325-355 ppm to increase outgoing flux 0.5-1 W/m2, if other forcing is unchanged. A further imbalance reduction, and thus CO2 ~300-325 ppm, may be needed to restore sea ice to its area of 25 years ago.”
Statement by the technical working group on coral, The Royal Society on 6th July 2009: "The Earth’s atmospheric CO2 level must be returned to less than 350ppm to reverse this escalating ecological crisis and to 320ppm to ensure permanent planetary health. Actions to achieve this must be taken urgently. The commonly mooted best case target of 450ppm and a time frame reaching to 2050 will plunge the Earth into an environmental state that has not occurred in millions of years and from which there will be no recovery for coral reefs and for many other natural systems on which humanity depends. Working group signatories Professor John Veron (Coral Reef Research), Dr Mary Stafford-Smith (Coral Reef Research), Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (University of Queensland) [and 20 other eminent scientists]".
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO; Australia's premier research organization) (2008): “Since the Industrial Revolution, the CO2 concentrations have risen 37%, methane 150% and nitrous oxide 18%. The global increases in CO2 concentration are due primarily to fossil fuel use and land-use change, while the increases in methane and nitrous oxide are primarily due to agriculture. The CO2 concentration in 2008 of 383 parts per million (ppm) is much higher than the natural range of 172 to 300 ppm that existed over the last 800,000 years.”
Urgent action is needed on climate change
The Synthesis Report from the 2,500-delegate, March 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (“Climate Change, Global risks, challenges & decisions”, Copenhagen 10-12 March, 2009, University of Copenhagen, Denmark) concluded: “Inaction is inexcusable. Society already has many tools and approaches – economic, technological, behavioral, and managerial – to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. If these tools are not widely and vigorously implemented, adaptation to the unavoidable climate change and the social transformation required to decarbonize economies will not be achieved. A wide range of benefits will flow from a concerted effort to achieve effective and rapid adaptation and mitigation. These include job growth in the sustainable sector; reductions in the health, social economic and environmental costs of climate change; and the repair of ecosystems and revitalization of ecosystem services”.
255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences (including 11 Nobel Laureates) in an Open Letter (2010): “We also call for an end to McCarthy- like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them. Society has two choices: we can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively. The good news is that smart and effective actions are possible. But delay must not be an option.”
Dr James Hansen in response to the question “Is there any real chance of averting the climate crisis?” stated: “Absolutely. It is possible – if we give politicians a cold, hard slap in the face. The fraudulence of the Copenhagen approach – "goals" for emission reductions, "offsets" that render ironclad goals almost meaningless, the ineffectual "cap-and-trade" mechanism – must be exposed. We must rebel against such politics as usual. Science reveals that climate is close to tipping points. It is a dead certainty that continued high emissions will create a chaotic dynamic situation for young people, with deteriorating climate conditions out of their control. Science also reveals what is needed to stabilize atmospheric composition and climate. Geophysical data on the carbon amounts in oil, gas and coal show that the problem is solvable, if we phase out global coal emissions within 20 years and prohibit emissions from unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands and oil shale… Are we going to stand up and give global politicians a hard slap in the face, to make them face the truth? It will take a lot of us – probably in the streets. Or are we going to let them continue to kid themselves and us and cheat our children and grandchildren? Intergenerational inequity is a moral issue. Just as when Abraham Lincoln faced slavery and when Winston Churchill faced Nazism, the time for compromises and half-measures is over. Can we find a leader who understands the core issue and will lead?”
Many other scientists are calling for action. The prestigious UK Royal Society recently concluded in relation to man-made climate change: “There is strong evidence that changes in greenhouse gas concentrations due to human activity are the dominant cause of the global warming that have taken place over the last half century" and in relation to necessary action on man-made climate change: "Like many important decisions, policy choices about climate change have to be made in the absence of perfect knowledge. Even if the remaining uncertainties were substantially resolved, the wide variety of interests, cultures and beliefs in society would make consensus about such choice difficult to achieve. However, the potential impacts of climate change are sufficiently serious that important decisions will need to be made.”
What has to be done to tackle man-made climate change
A succinct summary of what has to be done to tackle man-made climate change is as follows:
1. Change of societal philosophy to one of scientific risk management and biological sustainability with complete cessation of species extinctions and zero tolerance for lying.
2. Urgent reduction of atmospheric CO2 to a safe level of about 300 ppm as recommended by leading climate and biological scientists.
3. Rapid switch to the best non-carbon and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as coal burning-and gas burning-based power and much cheaper when environmental and human impacts are considered) and to energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-forestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, methanogenic livestock production and population growth.
There is no denying that this is a major task. Indeed recent re-assessment by World Bank analysts says that out greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is 50% bigger than hitherto thought and that livestock contributes over 51% of this bigger figure.
Nevertheless the technical solutions exist and all that is missing is political will. Thus the Australian group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) has published an important Zero Carbon Australia by 2020 (ZCA2020) Report that shows how Australia can have100% renewable energy by 2020 for a cost of $370 billion with a mix of existing, commercially-applied systems for wind power and Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST) power with molten salts energy storage for base-load, 24/7 operation.
In his book “Australian Sustainable Energy – by the numbers” by Professor Peter Seligman (University of Melbourne, Melbourne Energy Institute, 2010) sets out how Australia can rapidly install 100% renewable and geothermal electrical power for circa $250 billion over 20 years (his energy “mix” largely involving wind, concentrated solar thermal and hydrological energy storage for 24/7 operations through pumping of sea water to storage dams. Professor Mark Jacobson of Stanford University has set out a global plan for a sustainable future, how to get all energy from wind, water and solar power by 2030.
While uranium-based nuclear power is contraindicated as a solution for reasons of expense, time frame, nuclear waste, security, nuclear cycle GHG pollution and non-renewability, thorium-based nuclear power using (admittedly non-renewable) thorium resources and efficient, low waste liquid fluoride thorium reactors is an attractive short-term stop gap option.
Achieving 100% renewable energy is just part of solving the GHG pollution the problem. Vegetarianism, plant-based meat and milk substitutes and non-methanogenic livestock are partial solutions to the methanogenic livestock problem. Even if zero emissions are achieved we then have the problem of reducing atmospheric Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration from the current 392 parts per million (ppm) back to the pre-industrial level of circa 300 ppm. A major part of the solution will be Biochar (charcoal). Thus forest biomass-derived Biochar can profitably reduce global warming and bushfire risk and it is realistically possible to fix 9.5 billion tones of carbon per year as Biochar from agricultural and forestry waste (e.g. via renewable energy-powered microwave furnaces for anaerobic pyrolysis of cellulosic waste), noting that global annual production of carbon from fossil fuels is currently about 8.5 billion tones.
We can and must return the atmospheric Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration from the current 392 parts per million (ppm) back to the pre-industrial level of circa 300 ppm. The consequences of not properly addressing man-made climate change are horrific. Thus both Dr James Lovelock FRS (Gaia hypothesis) and Professor Kevin Anderson ( Director, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester, UK) have recently estimated that fewer than 1 billion people will survive this century due to unaddressed, man-made global warming – noting that the world population is expected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050, these estimates translate to a climate genocide involving deaths of 10 billion people this century, this including 6 billion under-5 year old infants, 3 billion Muslims in a terminal Muslim Holocaust, 2 billion Indians, 1.3 billion non-Arab Africans, 0.5 billion Bengalis, 0.3 billion Pakistanis and 0.3 billion Bangladeshis.
Denial of the World War 2 Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million killed, 1 in 6 dying from imposed deprivation) is a criminal offence in various Western European countries. Similarly, denial of the looming Climate Holocaust and Climate Genocide (potentially 10 billion avoidable deaths this century due to unaddressed man-made climate change) must attract social disapprobation. Free speech and scholarly research considerations would contraindicate custodial punishment of climate change denialism and its inherent climate holocaust denial – and indeed other holocaust denial and genocide denial. However a fitting punishment of any holocaust deniers would be the ignominy of exposure by authoritative, transparent, expert and public judicial process. However where such denial is not through ignorance and stupidity but knowing, corporate deception for illegitimate profit then stronger action is required. Dr James Hansen (NASA) has suggested criminal prosecution of CEOs who knowingly lie about the potential damage by man-made climate change should be subject to criminal prosecution in relation to such harm: “In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature." I agree.
The World is now facing the prospect of a US Congress dominated by climate change deniers and climate action delayers. Even if Obama wins a second term, the US, a major gross and per capita GHG polluter, is evidently set on a path of inaction. Yet top climate scientists say that high annual per capita GHG pollution countries such as the US and US lackeys Australia and Canada must reduce their CO2 emissions to zero (0) by 2020 – an outcome that now appears impossible in the light of the Republican victories in the mid-term Congressional elections.
What can decent humanity do to save itself? All that decent people can do is to (a) inform everyone they can about the Climate Emergency and terracidal US and US Alliance climate policies and (b) and urge Sanctions, Boycotts, Green Tariffs, International Prosecutions and other like measures against all high per capita pollution countries (notably the US, Australia and Canada) who put national greed before the survival of much of Humanity and the Biosphere.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|