There has always been an odd tenor to discussions among climate scientists, policy wonks, and politicians, a passive-aggressive quality, and can be traced to the fact that everyone involved has to dance around the obvious truth, at risk of losing their status and influence.
This trepidation, incipient two decades ago, has become rank and file of the climate change denialists, even in the face of escalating climate chaos and in the 21st century, replete with advanced scientific discoveries and technologies. The problem is, the denialists are our policy makers who live lives of cognitive dissonance, picking and choosing which science data fits the narrative that will garner them campaign dollars.
The obvious truth about global warming is this: barring miracles, humanity is in for some awful shit.
The image below are a number of climate models, developed by climate scientists. The black line is carbon emissions to date. The red line is the status quo — a projection of where emissions will go if no new substantial policy is passed to restrain greenhouse gas emissions.
We recently passed 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere; the status quo will take us up to 1,000 ppm, raising global average temperature (from a pre-industrial baseline) between 3.2 and 5.4 degrees Celsius. That will mean, according to a 2012 World Bank report, "extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise," the effects of which will be "tilted against many of the world's poorest regions," stalling or reversing decades of development work. "A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided," said the World Bank president.
But that's where we're headed. It will take enormous effort just to avoid that fate. Holding temperature down under 2°C — the widely agreed upon target — would require an utterly unprecedented level of global mobilization and coordination, sustained over decades. There's no sign of that happening, or reason to think it's plausible anytime soon. And so, awful shit it is.
Nobody wants to say that. Why not? It might seem obvious — no one wants to hear it! They want to hear that it is still possible to limit temperature to 2°C. Even more, they want to hear that they can do so while avoiding aggressive emission cuts in the near-term — say, until they're out of office.
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