UN issues more warnings on climate change…will the US listen?

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a new report concluding that climate change is already having a big impact on agriculture, human health, and water supplies, and are warning that these effects will get more severe over time.  The IPCC warns that governments and businesses need to take action immediately against these growing risks, though I fear that even the business-friendly GOP will be more focused on short term profits and gains than long term sustainability.

This is a follow-up to a report last year saying humans are to blame for global warming.  You can read more at the New York Times.

The cost of climate change

People are so incredibly focused on what fighting climate change would cost then, now, that they tend to overlook the cost of inaction.  Sure, most of this cost will be borne by future generations, but what gives us the right to burden them with this?  They deserve the same, or better, quality of life as us.  So, what is the cost of climate impacts due to human-caused CO2 pollution?  A recent study (link) finds the worst case cost, which is based on our current course of action, at about $1240 trillion, a number so large that I have a hard time comprehending it (the timeframe of this is a bit unclear, but they do say the annual impact is about $1.5 trillion so this cost looks like a long-term one, not to downplay its significance any!).  What’s more important is that they also estimate that, if we can stabilize CO2 levels at 450ppm, the impact is only about $110 trillion, a substantial savings.  Given the obvious cost savings here, and our current inaction, I fear our generation will do nothing more than teach future generations to not be so greedy.  Which is not all bad, assuming future generations can manage to still have a cohesive, productive society in the changing ecosystem we’re creating for them.  Read more here.

Jumping now to this infographic, obtained from grist.  It lays out the expected impact of climate change, taking into account different CO2 emission scenarios (we’re on track for the worst case scenario as laid out here…scary).  Click the thumbnail below for the full image.

IiB CO2 graphic v3

Where is Peak Oil?

The idea of Peak Oil, where demand exceeds supply, threatened us for a long time yet continual advances in oil extraction techniques keeps pushing that date farther and farther out, as explained in a recent article over at FastCompany (worth reading if you’re into this stuff!).  Instead, we’re facing a new dilemma…we’ve gotten so good at extracting fossil fuels from the ground, that we now face the grim reality of the environmental impact of consuming the known and accessible fossil fuel reserves.  If we want to stay below the internationally-agreed upon 2°C of global warming, we can dump about 565 gigatons more CO2 into the atmosphere.  The problem is that current fossil fuel reserves, ignoring any future discoveries, contain about 2,795 gigatons of CO2 (source).  Yeah.  Not good.  Either fossil fuels need to get so expensive that people stop using them, or we’re going to really mess up this planet.

Can the Internet of Things help reduce global warming?

The Internet of Things is best thought of as abundant networked, communicating smart devices all around you.  Sensors, mostly, that are all communicating and making available unprecedented amounts of information about objects and the environment.  Houses that know what rooms people are in, what rooms they are likely to be in next, and adjust HVAC systems accordingly to reduce energy consumption, for example.  I’ve loved the idea of this from a technology geek perspective, but I hadn’t considered the environmental aspect until coming across this article talking about how it could offset billions of tons of CO2 through increased efficiency.  Interesting idea…and it makes a lot of sense.  We’d have to also consider the CO2 impact of actually producing so many sensors and networked objects, though.

Big increases in global CO2 in 2012

2012 saw large increases in the amount of atmospheric CO2, with a jump of 2.67ppm (parts per million).  As a comparison, between 2000 and 2010, the annual rate of increase was just under 2ppm; in the 1960s it was less than 1ppm.  In spite of this data and political paralysis on the issue, scientists still talk as if we have some hope of averting catastrophic climate change on this planet.  Let’s face it, the only way that will happen is if/when renewable energy becomes so much cheaper and more accessible to the average consumer that they’ll rush to embrace that.  Until then, our greed and short-sightedness will keep us on this path.  By the time the effects are so overwhelming that even the GOP has to pull their heads out of the sand and admit the problem, it’ll be too late to fix it.

Sorry, kids.  Yes, we know exactly what our current course of action is doing to the environment you will rely upon when you’re our age.  Or at least, we have a really, really good idea of what will happen, just some disagreement about the exact timing of things.  Don’t let future history suggest otherwise.  The people of this era are choosing this path for our own short term gain.  I’m doing what I can to help influence others via this blog and my own actions, but it’s a really tough battle.

(via NBC news)

A physical mechanism linking extreme weather with climate change

Scientists have identified exactly how it is that climate change may increase the likelihood of extreme weather events around the globe.  You can read the full details here, but the gist of it is that there are normally what is, in essence, atmospheric ‘waves’ oscillating between the artic and tropic regions, which help mix things up.  During recent extreme weather events, those waves were more or less frozen in place, something which climate change may make more likely as the planet is not heating uniformly (the poles heat more than the tropical areas, hence there’s less temperature different between them to drive the oscillations).