“Add 4 degrees & You’re Dead. More or less.”

“Add 4 degrees & You’re Dead. More or less.”

Speaking on the ABC in Australia, Professor
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chief climate science advisor of the German
Government, made a point even the least-informed should be able to understand: “Our
body temperature is about 37 degrees. If you increase it by two degrees, 39, you
have fever. If you add four degrees, it is 41 – you are dead, more or
less.” More from Earth and paleo-climate scientist Andrew Glikson.

 

By Andrew Glikson in The Conversation (27
July 2011):

The Faustian bargain – while we debate the
numbers, the planet suffers

Earth and paleo-climate scientist at
Australian National University

Our weather systems are changing as the world
warms.

Speaking on the ABC, Professor Hans Joachim
Schellnhuber, chief climate science advisor of the German Government, made a
point even the least-informed should be able to understand.

“Our body temperature is about 37 degrees. If
you increase it by two degrees, 39, you have fever. If you add four degrees, it
is 41 – you are dead, more or less.”

When in the early 80s “economic rationalism”
assumed an overarching value in western societies, a rhetoric question arose:
what is the price of the Earth?

The question is no longer rhetoric. The
spectacle of people haggling over dollars vis-à-vis the future of the Earth’s
atmosphere-ocean system is a Faustian bargain not dreamt by science fiction
writers. It hardly conceals the increasing extraction of every available carbon
source from the ground, including coal, oil, oil shale, tar sand, gas and coal
seam gas.

Global emission reduction targets, ranging
from 40% relative to 1990 by Germany, to 5% relative to 2000 in Australia,
would still allow mean global temperatures to rise by three or four degrees
Celsius later in the century.

This will drive a major shift in climate
zones, disrupt river flow, raise sea levels on the scale of meters and lead to
heat waves, fires and storms.

Climate science focuses on the non-linear
nature of climate change where, once critical temperature thresholds are crossed,
warming is amplified by feedbacks from melting ice, opening water surfaces,
release of methane from permafrost and from polar sediments, leading to tipping
points.

According to NASA’s projections, “Goals to
limit human-made warming to two degrees Celsius and CO₂
to 450 parts per million are not sufficient – they are prescriptions for
disaster”

“Rapid reduction of fossil fuel emissions is
required for humanity to succeed in preserving a planet resembling the one on
which civilization developed.”

The disruption of the carbon and oxygen
cycles, which act as the “lungs of the biosphere” is raising CO₂
and other greenhouse gases to levels close to that of 16 million years ago and
is increasing at a rate unprecedented in geological history (with the exception
of global volcanic and asteroid impact events which led to mass extinction of
species).

This extreme rate retards the ability of
species to adapt to fast changing environments, threatening a mass extinction
of species, not least in the oceans.

A fundamental change in the global climate
regime ensues in a permanent state of El-Niño, such as existed before three
million years ago. At that stage the decline of polar-sourced cold currents
resulted in a stable equatorial warm pool and the demise of the La-Niña phase.
An intensification of the hydrological cycle leads to extreme weather events,
increasing around the world.

An acceleration in the rate of sea level rise
is projected by an increase in the melt rate of Greenland and Antarctic ice
sheets.

According to lead IPCC authors, the “climate
change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is
largely irreversible for 1000 years after emissions stop.”

A dumbing down of the political and media
discussion to the dollar price of carbon reflects years of cover-up on the
scientific measurements and direct observations of climate change around the
world.

An irrelevant discourse ensues between those
willing to undertake symbolic action and those who deny the science altogether.

Had the science been afforded a correct
publicity in the Australian media, the current political and economic fury
would be seen in their true perspective and the real meaning of a world three
to four degrees warmer would be understood.

According to Schellnhuber, “We are simply
talking about the very life support system of this planet.”

What is required is what has never been done
before in human history – a plan for the future.

The window of opportunity to turn the climate
trend around will close unless a coordinated global effort is made to reduce
emissions and a technological breakthrough is made to draw down atmospheric CO₂.

Dr
Andrew Glikson, a Earth and paleoclimate scientist, is a Visiting Fellow at the
School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University, where
he is reviewing the effects of climate on prehistoric human evolution. He is
also an Honorary Professor at the Center for Excellence in Geothermal Research,
The University of Queensland, and is affiliated with the Climate Change
Institute and the Planetary Science Institute, Australian National University.
He graduated at the University of Western Australia in 1968, conducted
geological surveys in central and western Australia and became a Principal
Research Scientist with the Australian Geological Survey Organization (now
Geoscience Australia).

Source: www.theconversation.edu.au

One Response to ““Add 4 degrees & You’re Dead. More or less.””

  1. Finally! Someone unafraid to cut to the chase and lay it on the line in its ugly (true) form! If only humans were listening…

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