Thursday, July 14, 2011

On track for 4ºC

At Copenhagen in 2009 and then once more in Cancún in 2010, the nations of the world agreed on the goal of limiting global warming (the most talked about part of climate change and a rough indication of the overall severity of change) to a rise in average surface temperature of no more than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. We are already almost 0.8ºC up, with something like another 0.5ºC already committed due to the time lag between emissions and their effects. To have a 75% chance of keeping overall warming under 2ºC by 2100 would require us to emit no more than a trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2000 and 2050. How much is a trillion tonnues? Well, simplifying matters somewhat, and given that we've already used a fair chunk of that, the bottom line is that it woud require us to leave more than half of the economically recoverable fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas) in the ground. That is: no more searching for new fields; no further exploitation of the non-conventional sources (shale gas, tar sands, methane hydrates); no inclusion of fields currently too expensive to exploit. And we leave more than half of what is already known and can already be removed profitably in the ground.
Those interested in the fine print of the numbers used in these calculations can consult this quite technical study.

Two degrees would still bring all kinds of very undesirable consequences. It would be likely to mean virtually no summer sea ice in the Arctic, the loss of most coral reefs around the world, potentially dramatic declines in total ocean productivity (at least as far as fish are concerned; jellyfish may do quite well), the eventual extinction of hundreds of thousands or even millions of species, significant suppression of total global crop yields (when total food demands are likely to double by 2050), sea level rises of 50-100 cm by 2100 and of many metres over the coming centuries, changes in precipitation patterns leading to both worse droughts and floods, a more fragile Amazon and already the possibility of passing thresholds that could precipitate sudden and irreversible changes. Two degrees is no walk in the park.

While the world agreed that 2ºC ought to be treated as an upper limit (except low-lying island nations, for whom 2ºC would already likely be a death-sentence), the pledges made as a result of these negotiations put us on track for a world that is more likely to be around 4ºC warmer by 2100, and more than 6ºC warmer during the following century. Note that these pledges are in some cases aspirational and lack any legislative framework to accompany them. In Australia's case, our pledge (lying quite firmly at the less ambitious end of the scale) is dependent upon the implementation and success of the Gillard government's proposed scheme to put a price on carbon. So even were we (and all other nations) to implement successfully our plans, we are still far more likely to be at 4ºC by 2100 than anywhere near 2ºC.

If a 2ºC world sees us suffering from a wide range of very difficult and worsening challenges that will stretch our ability to cope, a 4ºC world would be unrecognisable. A conference this week looking at the likely impacts on Australia of a four degrees rise suggested that Australia, the world's sixth largest food exporter, may no longer be able to feed itself. The difficulty of understanding just how different such a world would be is illustrated by the following quote from Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Chair of the German Scientific Advisory Council, advisor to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). In March 2009, Schellnhuber said that on a four degree world the planet’s “carrying capacity estimates [are] below one billion people.”*

Just let that sink in.

Or find ways to avoid thinking about it.
*Carrying capacity is a complex and contested notion and obviously depends on a range of assumptions about average standard of living. The point is not to suggest that one billion is a fixed limit, but simply to highlight how severely compromised the systems on which we rely for a world of seven billion people may be in a four degrees warmer world.

UPDATE: Kevin Anderson, until recently the director of the U.K.’s leading climate research institution, the Tyndall Energy Program, had this to say about four degrees: “a 4 degrees C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable.”

Incompatible with an organised global community. Parse that how you will, it ain't pretty.

56 comments:

byron smith said...

The Conversation: To feed the world, farming emissions must rise.

This is an important point. Better for the lights to go out than for the food to stop coming.

amirlach said...

"On track for 4C"?

" A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well the picture is the graph that accompanies this column: CO2 continuing its rise while the global temperatures have leveled off, according to what is most certainly not a right-wing think tank, the Hadley Climate Research Unit. It's right there.

The blue line shows the mean temp since 1995; the red line shows the jagged ups and downs, mostly in response to the warm and cold events in the Pacific Ocean (hint hint as to what really controls this); the dotted line is CO2."

http://www.statecollege.com/news/columns/continuing-the-climate-change-debate-and-asking-for-a-chance-to-see-whos-right-804671/

byron smith said...

Words can lie. So can pictures. The blue line on that graph is not a trend line. When a statistician puts a trend line on the data, you'll notice that it is goes up. Also, that picture has picked quite a short period, and has cherry picked an unusually hot year (1998) for the start of the graph. Also cherry picked is the data set (HadCRUT), which doesn't cover the part of the global that is warming the fastest and so makes 1998 appear warmer than 2005 and 2010. The attribution of the graph is also very misleading, since I'd like to see the NOAA publication that includes that doctored image.

I assume you're aware that there are more forcings than simply CO2, so a noisy line is hardly surprising. In order to compensate for this, we need to look at the overall trend over a multi-decadal timescale. When we do, this is the picture we get.

Remember that there is a 30-odd year lag due to more than 90% of the extra energy going into the oceans, so we're only seeing the warming from the levels of CO2 present in the 1980s (roughly speaking).

We can also look at the other 41 indicators tracked by climate scientists that indicate changing climate patterns (you can check out graphs for about ten of them here).

byron smith said...

And here are the change in radiative forcing between the start of the industrial era and 2005. You'll see that very prominently suppressing warming are anthropogenic aerosols. While they help us out in the short term by slowing warming, they also cause significant health problems and acid rain, and so developed nations enacted clean air standards in the second half of the century to clean up these issues, reducing aerosols and leading to the shift from a slight cooling mid-century back into warming. (This is slightly simplified, but not too inaccurate, I believe). However, the rapid industrialisation of China, India and elsewhere in the developing world over the last decade has increased aerosols once more, partially suppressing the warming effect of increasing CO2. Yet as China and India, et. al. also clean up their act and install scrubbers to remove sulphur dioxide and other nasties (to reduce acid rain and respiratory problems they cause), this will unmask the CO2 warming, which is currently somewhat suppressed.

Hope this helps to give a broader picture and to illustrate why a single picture might tell a thousand words, but climate change is more complex than a thousand words.

byron smith said...

Second figure is from IPCC AR4 WG1 chapter 2.

Mark said...

Won't "climate change" be the least of mankind's worries when the Lord carries out his judgement on men who have rejected him and cursed him? If the Lord or humans damage creation - God by judgement or humans by CO2 will he not redeem and restore creation as you have written elsewhere? Revelation 21 - a new heaven/ redeemed earth?

The Lord himself will trash the earth as he judges men. The majority of "scientists" do not believe these prophetic words: Rev. 8

The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.
Second Trumpet: The Seas Struck

8 Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. 9 And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
Third Trumpet: The Waters Struck

10 Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.
Fourth Trumpet: The Heavens Struck

12 Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.
13 And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”

Kairos Uniting Church said...

Thanks for the stimulation and information. I have used some of your relection to help open my sermon on hope. http://kairosuc.blogspot.com/2011/07/living-with-hope.html
Regards
Peter

byron smith said...

Mark - Being a morbidly obese chain smoker who never exercises will also be the least of our worries on the great and glorious day when Jesus Christ is revealed, the dead are raised and face judgement and all things are renewed. But that doesn't mean it is irrelevant now. Indeed, the fact that God will raise our bodies shows that how we treat them now is not irrelevant - not because we can achieve a resurrection body through good diet and regular exercise, but because if God honours human physicality through pronouncing creation "very good", through becoming one of us in Christ, and through the promise of resurrection, then how we treat our body matters. In the same way, if God has honoured the rest of his creation through blessing it, nurturing it (Psalm 104), receiving its praise (Psalm 147), quickening it with his Spirit, entering into it in Christ, and promising that it will be liberated from its bondage to decay, then how we treat it matters. Not because we can create the new heavens and new earth through our conservation programs or carbon pricing, but because we show honour to what God has pronounced "very good".

We can talk further about the future of the earth if you like. You can find a summary of my take on the scriptural witness to the Christian hope here (and perhaps that would be a better place to have that part of this conversation).

byron smith said...

The Conversation: Carbon tax plan is politically astute but profoundly inadequate.

"Amid the hullabaloo about the carbon tax and Clean Energy Future plan, few seem to spot its critical discrepancy. It recognises that maintaining a safe climate requires stabilising carbon pollution in the atmosphere well below the levels around which the plan is built." [...]

"The paradox is that in Australia there is bipartisan support for protecting the Great Barrier Reef at the same time as there is bipartisan support for allowing carbon pollution to exceed levels that will destroy the Great Barrier Reef."

John said...

Byron how much stock do you place in the forecasts of things such as what the carrying capacity of the planet will be in 2100?

It seems to me that whilst the amount that the temperature will rise might be able to be predicted the amount of unknowns that goes into predicting the carrying capacity of the earth and food production is very difficult. Who knows what food production technology will be like in 2100? Who can even begin to imagine?

Mark said...

Byron, I have read your post "Why I'm not going to heaven" and agree with the gist of what you say. I also agree that "how we treat our bodies matters to God" and also agree that humans were given "stewardship of creation".

I guess the difference between us is you are a "climate change believer" and I am a "climate change denier". I take the view that politicians that blab "we must act on climate change" are participants in a fear based promotion/ deception being used by many vested interests for purposes other than "saving the environment" or "fixing" the bad weather in God's world.

Mark said...

Also, Byron made the following statement above:

"The paradox is that in Australia there is bipartisan support for protecting the Great Barrier Reef at the same time as there is bipartisan support for allowing carbon pollution to exceed levels that will destroy the Great Barrier Reef."

Byron, surely you must see that the nature of the “CO2 pollution problem” is that it creates a fearful and emotive “reaction” from people while the “solution” can only be achieved through “international oneness”.

Australia emits just 1.32% of global CO2 so if “CO2 pollution” is “killing the Barrier Reef” then even 100% cut in Australia’s emissions will neither "change the weather" or "save the reef".

Surely you would agree? If carbon dioxide levels are too high and its killing the reef then the entire world must "act on climate change"

Unless there are massive CO2 cuts from the US and China (42% of global CO2 combined) then this Australian tax and target of 5% reduction (on our 1.32% of global CO2) will cost OZ many billions and do nothing for the Austrlian reef...

The UN will get 10% though...

Mark said...

This is untrue:

The world must unite as "One" to change the weather. Creator God is NOT acknowledged and the lie is says "we can save the planet" if only we all "act on this together"

"International Oneness" apart from Christ resulted in the Lord's actions/ words at Babel - possibly to delay the destructiveness of unified human intelligence?(Genesis 11:6

"International Oneness" with Christ resulted in Jesus prayer followed by Pentecost for those that believe. True global "Oneness" is only possible through the Lordship of Christ?) (John 17:20-26)

byron smith said...

CCR: Four degrees in a little more detail. And if we want to split the difference, then here is even more detail on three degrees of warming.

byron smith said...

Professor Kevin Anderson, one of the UK's most senior climate researchers said this back in 2009:

"For humanity it's a matter of life or death. We will not make all human beings extinct as a few people with the right sort of resources may put themselves in the right parts of the world and survive. But I think it's extremely unlikely that we wouldn't have mass death at 4C. If you have got a population of nine billion by 2050 and you hit 4C, 5C or 6C, you might have half a billion people surviving."

It is worth repeating at every step that such estimates can only be vague ball-park figures, since the actual geopolitical consequences of a world in which millions start to die are very difficult to predict. The climate feedbacks have a longer timeframe than the geopolitical feedbacks.

byron smith said...

CCR: Carbon budgets considered and graphed. Australia is going to use up its entire carbon budget allocation between now and 2050 in under five years.

byron smith said...

John: As I mentioned in the footnote to the comment, I don't but a great deal of emphasis on such things. I included the comment as a way of saying that we are on track to very serious problems (or rather, to seeing our very serious problems become catastrophic). Yes, it is never possible to see what is around the bend (as I've discussed a few times before, such as here), yet unless we have our eyes open to the trajectories we are on, then we will never consider steering (or braking) to avoid major obstacles.

We don't need to get to 2100 with a carrying capacity of one billion (or half a billion, according to Professor Kevin Anderson) before we run into very serious problems. Simply having enough food for people in 2050 is major, major challenge, and that will be prior to us feeling the effects of most of the warming that is likely to happen in the 21stC (assuming the continuation of BAU or some slightly modified version of it).

And if even 2050 is too far away, then consider the Oxfam report suggesting that food prices are likely to double by 2030, or even closer to home, the serious concern about the ongoing present food price spike.

This is in fact one of the very tricky things about climate change: the temporal scale. We are very poor as a society at responding to cumulative problems whose worst effects are still decades away (while climate change is already a present problem, the current pain is a tiny fraction of what is likely on our current path). If we are not thinking about the effects of our current actions on people later this century, then we are willfully blind. Yes, they might work out how to access dilithium crystals and have more food than they can poke a fork at, but if you look at the predictions associated with a four degree rise, you've got to believe in some pretty strong science fiction to assume that food production won't be an issue sometime in the coming decades.

byron smith said...

Mark - Thank you for laying out your position a little more. Forgive me if I am wrong, but it sounds to me as though you have looked at the currently proposed responses to the threat of anthropogenic climate change and have decided that since you don't like them, then there must not be a problem. You seem to have accepted some conspiracy theory thinking in finding behind ACC an nefarious plot to introduce world government. I assume you're aware that ACC is based on science more than a hundred years old, and that concern about rising CO2 levels is more than fifty years old. I also assume you know that no major scientific body of national or international standing disputes the mainstream scientific understanding of ACC (and a huge number explicitly endorse it, risking their most precious commodity: their reputation). In short, you seem to be implying a global conspiracy involving (at least) tens of thousands of people, basically all the world's governments (courageously resisted by Saudi Arabia), pretty much all the major scientific bodies, which has been going on for decades and which aims at a goal unnecessary for addressing ACC.

Byron, surely you must see that the nature of the “CO2 pollution problem” is that it creates a fearful and emotive “reaction” from people while the “solution” can only be achieved through “international oneness”.
Are you aware that my PhD is on the use and abuse of ecological fears in Christian ethics?

Australia emits just 1.32% of global CO2
I plan to address this in an upcoming post. I think it is misguided thinking for a range of reasons, not least the fact that Christians don't wait for others to act before we are willing to deny ourselves for the sake of Christ and our neighbour.

The UN will get 10% though
Source? This seems like conspiracy theory.

byron smith said...

In short, while addressing climate change responsibly will require international cooperation, I see no problem with international cooperation. All kinds of good things require international cooperation: the possibility of international trade, responding to international piracy on the high seas, the protection of Antarctica, prevention of trade in endangered species, the pursuit of justice against international criminals, the slowing and reversal of ozone depletion, the avoidance of war between hostile neighbours, and on and on. To address climate change, no global government has been suggested or is required. Cooperation does not mean, The world must unite as "One" to change the weather. I don't downplay the difficulties of achieving such cooperation, nor the fact that different nations have differentiated responsibilities, but I think you have your eye on the wrong threat.

The church, as the current manifestation of God's desire and promise to bring all things together under Christ, does not model a unity that involves a univocal authority outside of Christ (RC claims concerning the bishop of Rome notwithstanding), but a unity of purpose expressed in love for God and neighbour. If we want to express true unity, then we will join with our brothers and sisters from all nations in seeking to proclaim the good news of Christ, which includes liberation from slavery to the love of money and conspicuous consumption, liberation from the fears that paralyse action on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable, liberation from the need to accept only those truths that fit into our present understanding of the world. May we all joyfully unite in this freedom.

byron smith said...

SkSci: A useful and readable post on emissions budgeting.

byron smith said...

NYT: Troubles that Money Can't Dispel. News America has spent US$655 million on hush money over the last few years, compared to the couple of million spent by News International in the UK (which is coming back to bite it now).

Mark said...

Byron posted,
"Professor Kevin Anderson, one of the UK's most senior climate researchers said this back in 2009..."

About 2000 years ago someone who did not have a science degree - but who was guided by the Holy Spirit - wrote this prophetic word,

By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. Rev. 9:18

The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter. Rev. 8:11

The Lord is still sovereign. He is still ultimately "in control" don't you think? Unbelieving man is attempting to unite against the weather while also trying to explain/ prevent what is happening/ will happen.

Mark said...

Byron said,
Are you aware that my PhD is on the use and abuse of ecological fears in Christian ethics?

No, I didn't - sounds interesting though.

And even though I have posted "doom and gloom" scriptures I would rather focus on the "good news" of redemption, hope, grace and faith in Jesus.

The greatest of all is LOVE and "Perfect love casts out fear".

If we had perfect faith (trusted God perfectly with our collective future) it would be theoretically possible to accept what the biblical prophets said about the future and yet live without fear...

But that's only theory...

Mark said...

Byron said,

"The UN will get 10% though
Source? This seems like conspiracy theory".

Here is the source I read and excerpt below,

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/latest/8916664/carbon-tax-billions-to-help-poor-nations/

From the UN report,

"The Advisory Group emphasised the importance of a carbon price in the range of $US20-$US25 per ton of CO{-2} equivalent in 2020 as a key element of reaching the US$100 billion per year," the report said.

"Based on (that) carbon price, auctions of emission allowances and domestic carbon taxes in developed countries with up to 10 per cent of total revenues allocated for international climate action could potentially mobilise around $US30 billion annually," the report said.

"Without underestimating the difficulties to be resolved, particularly in terms of national sovereignty and incidence on developing countries, approximately $US10 billion annually could be raised from carbon pricing international transportation, assuming no net incidence on developing countries and earmarking between 25 and 50 per cent of total revenues."

byron smith said...

Paul Gilding: Is the Carbon Shock Imminent?.

byron smith said...

Mark - "The UN will get 10% though
Source? This seems like conspiracy theory".

Your source does not say that the UN will get 10%, but that developing nations will get 10%. I suggest that they ought to get significantly more than that on the basis of justice, but that is a discussion for another day. The point is that this does not represent world government, but a form of international aid, or even the repayment of a moral debt. I am happy to discuss this further, but it is worth repeating that I think you are worried about the wrong thing. Indeed, a number of commentators point out that inaction on climate is probably the quickest path to big government (see for instance here and here).

The Lord is still sovereign. He is still ultimately "in control" don't you think?
The Lord Jesus Christ has indeed received all authority in heaven and on earth. But does that mean that we can't damage ourselves grievously?

Unbelieving man is attempting to unite against the weather while also trying to explain/ prevent what is happening/ will happen.
You are aware that there is a difference between weather and climate?

Trying to predict what is likely to happen if we continue on a particular course is not a sign of unbelief, but is basic prudence.

And even though I have posted "doom and gloom" scriptures I would rather focus on the "good news" of redemption, hope, grace and faith in Jesus.
So would I, which is why I've written many pieces like this series on the good news of Jesus in the face of climate change (the links to the rest of the series are at the bottom of each post).

The greatest of all is LOVE and "Perfect love casts out fear". If we had perfect faith (trusted God perfectly with our collective future) it would be theoretically possible to accept what the biblical prophets said about the future and yet live without fear...
I've written quite a bit about fear, for instance here or this journal article or all my posts tagged fear. In short, I think we ought to be both fearless and far, far more concerned for our neighbour and the threats we face together than we currently are. Certain kinds of fear can paralyse by leading us to feel helpless and self-focussed. But I think there is a kind of deep concern that is focussed on the other out of love and so pays close attention to the threats they face. This is why we proclaim the good news of a crucified and risen Lord, and this is why our love for neighbour includes deep concern about climate change.

byron smith said...

Climate Action Centre: Four degrees hotter.

John said...

Byron those dilithium crystals sound really handy.

Mark said...

Byron said,
“You are aware that there is a difference between weather and climate? Trying to predict what is likely to happen if we continue on a particular course is not a sign of unbelief, but is basic prudence”.
Byron, I am not an expert but I guess international “climate change” influences/ causes localized “weather change”??

Also, I think we are witnessing collective “unbelief”. The science community and humanity - as represented by world leaders – IS in unbelief. Why was Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom “the head of gold” in Daniel 2:26-49? He was king of the world and yet he acknowledged God as ruler and creator – that’s gold! He was the greatest king but we may be the generation that sees the rise of the final world power - a “10 toes” (or “10 king”) alliance represented by the statues “feet of iron and clay”. This last great world power does not acknowledge creator God and Jesus crushes the entire statue - representing “political world power” - as the " rock not cut out with human hands"

Below are a few of the prophetic scriptures that give me a context for “being worried about the wrong thing” as you so elegantly describe my comments regarding “international oneness” above:

Compare Nebuchadnezzar’s “10 toed” statue in Daniel 2:26-49 with the “4th beast that has 10 horns that “crushes everything and is different” from the three preceding it” (Daniel 7: 15-28). Also compare with the “10 horned and 7 headed beast” in Rev. 13 and Rev 17. Apparently the “10 toes” and the “10 kings” will “give their power and authority” to one man. This man gains political power from the 10 kings via “massive delusion and deception” (see 2 Thess. 2: 1-12). He is described in Daniel 11:28-39 and Rev. 13:1-9. The Jews will accept his leadership too? (John 5:43, Zechariah 11:15-17 – Foolish shepherd vs. Good shepherd)

As for prudence. The Lord says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Cor. 1-18-20, 1 Cor. 3: 18-23)

Mark said...

In Job 41-42 the Lord responded to Job’s question of “why did this happen to me”? The Lord’s "non answer" was “Job, there are many things you don’t understand". He then describes in great detail two large and frightening creatures. The Lord doesn’t answer Job’s question except to say, “I am creator God and you are not...”

I put the weather/ climate debate in the same “big picture” context as Job’s questioning of God. Human beings do not really understand climate or the weather (yet). I do not think “the science is settled” despite the politician’s claims of “scientific consensus”. The opinion of the majority is often proven wrong in hindsight and my view is that the Lord will make scientists and world leaders look very foolish in the years ahead. He will humble proud humans who do not acknowledge Him as creator.

The book of Revelation is a book of prophesy and is reliable in foretelling the future. In Revelation 16, humans curse God for His judgements on them many of which involve negative climate effects - the ocean, the sun, hail, rivers, and water. Many of these judgments match neatly the predictions of environmentalists and doomsday “climate change” experts such as the one you quoted above.
If scientists are in unbelief about the truth of God’s Word then they need some other “more scientific” explanation for what is happening or will happen if/when global warming hits 4% etc. For example, Rev. 16:3, Rev. 16: 4, Rev. 16:8, Rev. 16:21.

Most climate scientists think the Bible is a work of fiction. “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Cor. 1-18-20, 1 Cor. 3: 18-23)

byron smith said...

Weather vs climate. It is the difference between trying to predict what number will be rolled next on a pair of dice, and being able to predict the likely distribution of the next 1,000 rolls. The latter is actually much easier than the former. And what we are doing is like adding a extra dot to all the faces of one die. We'll still roll 4s and 5s, though fewer of them. The average will be 8 rather than 7. We'll have more 11s and 12s. And now we can even roll 13s.

Your reading of the apocalyptic passages in Daniel and Revelation differs considerably from mine. At some stage in the future I plan on filling this out in more detail (when I get up to that part of my thesis, probably), but in short, I don't think we are to scan the pages of Revelation looking to identify elements of today's world in a straightforward equation. We can discuss this further, but I think the primary referent of the passages you quoted (in both Daniel and Revelation) were to historical figures proximate to the authors of those texts. We can learn from them today, but not by finding coded references to contemporary nations or figures.

Human beings do not really understand climate or the weather (yet).
I assume you would grant that we know a fair bit more about them than Job did. Climate science does not claim that we know everything there is to know, nor is anyone saying that we will "control" the weather. Go back to the dice analogy. We are not ensuring that we will always roll 8s, we are changing the conditions under which the outcome is determined, making 8s more likely than they previously were.

I do not think “the science is settled” despite the politician’s claims of “scientific consensus”.
Ignore the politicians. Read the science itself. Or note that most major scientific institutions of national or international standing explicitly affirm the basic understanding that leads us to think climate change is a genuine threat, and none deny it. This doesn't mean it is 100% guaranteed, but if you had nineteen doctors tell you that you had a dangerous cancer requiring urgent treatment giving you advice in line with every major medical body in the world, and one doctor telling you it was all in your head, would you go with the one?

The opinion of the majority is often proven wrong in hindsight and my view is that the Lord will make scientists and world leaders look very foolish in the years ahead. He will humble proud humans who do not acknowledge Him as creator.
I am sure the Lord has many surprising things in store for us. But using the same logic as you have expressed here, are you saying that you would not go under an unbelieving surgeon's knife for life-saving surgery because God may make him look foolish?

Most climate scientists think the Bible is a work of fiction.
But there are still quite a few who do not. Did you know that the former head of the IPCC and one of the most respected climate scientists Sir John Houghton is an evangelical Christian? Did you know that Bill McKibben, the head of the largest climate activist movement in the world (350.org), is a Methodist who teaches Sunday school each week? I personally know of many, many committed Christians who take these matters very seriously out of love for neighbour and in order to honour God.

byron smith said...

We can both quote verses on prudence (Titus 1.8, 2.2; Luke 12.42) and hundreds of verses on wisdom. A fully-orbed scriptural account will do justice to the warning in 1 Corinthians, and to the many exhortations to godly wisdom in Old and New testaments. So while worldly wisdom may often be lacking, this doesn't rule out the quest for an appropriately creaturely wisdom, a prudence informed by the priorities of the gospel, a careful thoughtfulness about how to love neighbour and serve God. That is what I am attempting. I am not endorsing godless attempts at self-preservation, but inviting Christians to wake up to our current situation and consider earnestly what following Christ means in a world heading towards four degrees.

byron smith said...

The Conversation: Are you ready for a four degree world?

A decent summary, though doesn't cover all topics and only offers very brief brushstrokes. The most striking quote is again from Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber: “What is the difference between two degrees (of temperature increase) and four degrees? The difference, is human civilisation”.

One odd paragraph: "Previous rapid temperature fluctuations of 3-5°C, historically, have caused great hardship, suffering, death and social-political disruption around the world." There have been no "historical" fluctuations of that magnitude, only pre-historical ones (e.g. glaciations), during which there were probably tens of thousands of humans, not seven, eight, nine, ten billion.

byron smith said...

CD: Still on track for 3.5ºC. This isn't really news, nor is it different to the claims of 4ºC, since both are estimates with a significant degree of uncertainty.

byron smith said...

Just came across this quote about the 4ºC world that we may see as early as 2060s and which is the middle of the road estimate for 2090s based on our current efforts and promised emissions reductions:

"a 4°C world would be facing enormous adaptation challenges in the agricultural sector, with large areas of cropland becoming unsuitable for cultivation, and declining agricultural yields. This world would also rapidly be losing its ecosystem services, owing to large losses in biodiversity, forests, coastal wetlands, mangroves and saltmarshes, and terrestrial carbon stores, supported by an acidified and potentially dysfunctional marine ecosystem. Drought and desertification would be widespread, with large numbers of people experiencing increased water stress, and others experiencing changes in seasonality of water supply. There would be a need to shift agricultural cropping to new areas, impinging on unmanaged ecosystems and decreasing their resilience; and large-scale adaptation to sea-level rise would be necessary. Human and natural systems would be subject to increasing levels of agricultural pests and diseases, and increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

"In such a 4°C world, the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world. Hence, the ecosystem services upon which human livelihoods depend would not be preserved. Even though some studies have suggested that adaptation in some areas might still be feasible for human systems, such assessments have generally not taken into account lost ecosystem services."

From “The role of interactions in a world implementing adaptation and mitigation solutions to climate change” by Rachel Warren.

byron smith said...

Yahoo: Former UNFCCC chief admits we're not going to stop at 2ºC. This is a big admission from someone with as much credibility as this.

byron smith said...

The Conversation: What will a four degrees climate rise mean for world health?

Good piece joining some more dots by Colin Butler.

byron smith said...

This Royal Society conference examined the question of a four degrees world. The papers don't make for lighthearted entertainment.

byron smith said...

IEA: "the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close".

byron smith said...

CCR: Now it's looking like we're on track for 4.5ºC, and that's including all aspirational targets.

byron smith said...

CP: US abandons 2ºC.

byron smith said...

BBC: 2ºC out the window, according to top UK science advisor.

byron smith said...

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber at the Four Degrees Conference in Melbourne (again in a public address at the same conference).

byron smith said...

The Conversation: World Bank report pointing out the dangers of 4ºC.

A couple of quotes:
“no certainty that adaptation to a 4 degree warmer world is possible” and “communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruption, damage and dislocation”

byron smith said...

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research:

"Thus, given that uncertainty remains about the full nature and scale of impacts, there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4 degrees Celsius world is possible. A 4 degrees Celsius world is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage, and dislocation, with many of these risks spread unequally. It is likely that the poor will suffer most and the global community could become more fractured, and unequal than today. The projected 4 degrees Celsius warming simply must not be allowed to occur -- the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen."

byron smith said...

SMH: Too hot to handle: can we afford a 4 degree rise?

byron smith said...

Reaching +4ºC this century would be This would be a warmer world than anything experienced by humans and a rate of change faster than anything we've seen.

Above four degrees, most models show the Amazon switching largely to savannah, all coral reef ecosystems thoroughly degraded and rapidly dissolving, the major ice sheets all committed to very substantial melt over the coming centuries, resulting in >5m and quite possibly tens of metres SLR, including somewhere between 1-2m this century (displacing hundreds of millions of people and threatening tens of trillions in infrastructure), more than half of global biodiversity committed to extinction, suppression of global crop yields by 40% or more, acidification of the oceans at unprecedented rates, most Arctic permafrost committed to long term thawing (adding a few hundred more ppmv of CO2, along with large amounts of CH4), the possible destabilisation of large methane clathrate deposits pushing CO2 levels even higher, the serious possibility of major (and potentially abrupt) shifts in ocean circulation, mega-droughts occurring regularly in southern Europe, SW US, southern Australia (rainfall in the Murray-Darling basin is likely to decline by ~50%) and in much of South America.

I encourage readers to investigate the papers at the 2011 "Four Degrees or More?" conference in Melbourne, or the similar conference ("Four Degrees and beyond") in Oxford in 2009.

byron smith said...

A well respected journalist and editor of a major Australian newspaper said this about +4ºC: "Incidentally, I don't know of anyone seriously forecasting the end of industrial civilisation as a result of temperature increases."

Wrong. Apart from many of the papers in those conferences, try the following experts, all high profile widely respected researchers:

• Professor James Hansen has said that beyond +3C there is
"no return [to current conditions] within the lifetime of any generation that can be imagined, and the trip will exterminate a large fraction of species on the planet".

• Professor Kevin Anderson, until recently the director of the U.K.’s leading climate research institution, the Tyndall Energy Program, had this to say about four degrees: “a 4 degrees C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable.” In 2011, he also had this to say "For humanity it’s a matter of life or death ... we will not make all human beings extinct, as a few people with the right sort of resources may put themselves in the right parts of the world and survive. But I think it’s extremely unlikely that we wouldn’t have mass death at 4 degrees. If you have got a population of 9 billion by 2050 and you hit 4 degrees, 5 degrees or 6 degrees, you might have half a billion people surviving."

• Or consider Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Chair of the German Scientific Advisory Council, advisor to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). In March 2009, Schellnhuber said that on a four degree world the planet’s “carrying capacity estimates [are] below one billion people.” In 2011 at the Melbourne conference mentioned above, Prof Schellnhuber said “What is the difference between two degrees (of temperature increase) and four degrees? The difference, is human civilisation.”

Or the World Bank, in their 2012 report warning of the dangers of a +4ºC world: "The impacts of the extreme heat waves projected for a 4°C world have not been evaluated, but they could be expected to vastly exceed the consequences experienced to date and potentially exceed the adaptive capacities of many societies and natural systems." Summarising a long list of impacts (many not yet fully understood), that report concludes: "Thus, given that uncertainty remains about the full nature and scale of impacts, there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible."

Anonymous said...

nothing to fear.

some followers of Jesus still believe the BIble and that the Lord is still in ultimate control of his creation and planet earth. he made it, he sustains it, he will renew it one day...

or is mankind the ultimate controller and shaper of his and the planets destiny

those are the facts most climate scientists cannot reconcile

byron smith said...

Anonymous - does the Lord's ultimate control mean that I can give my toddler a loaded gun or let her play with poison? Or is she the ultimate controller and shaper of her and our family's destiny?

The point is that within the sovereign providence of God, humanity has been granted power to do great good and great harm to ourselves and those around us. Technology has only increased this capacity.

We have no divine guarantees that we cannot hurt ourselves very badly indeed.

byron smith said...

(PS There are more than a few climate scientists who are also evangelical Christians. Being concerned about what we are doing the planet need not be a failure of trust in God, but can be an expression of our love for neighbour and our desire to honour the Creator by respecting his creation.)

See also this post. It is not arrogant to think we can hurt ourselves. It is arrogant to believe that we have magical protection from all harm or self-harm.

Anonymous said...

The 'sovereignty of man' apart from his/her creator is a concept that sits comfortably with unredeemed men and women. The power to do good or evil apart from Christl....

As you say 'Technology has only increased this capacity'

Here's just one example where technology could be used to 'do good' for yourself but also cause serious harm to your 'neighbors'.

And who knows what the climatic side effects of these 'experiments' are?

http://www.examiner.com/article/haarp-secret-weapon-for-weather-modification-electromagnetic-warfare

You may categorize this as the realm of conspiracy - I don't. Its science too

Extreme weather events used to be called 'acts of god' but can we say this with 100% certainty anymore?

Yes we may be 'children of God' but there are other children playing with loaded guns in the same sandpit as us...

And I'm more than comforted accepting that the Lord knew this would happen in advance

In the higher echelons of global political and/or money power - arrogance is a virtue. The corporate psychopath rises to the top.

The sovereignty of man is not debated

The Bible is considered hopium for clueless, powerless peasants...

Yes, we can hurt ourselves very badly indeed..









byron smith said...

"You may categorize this as the realm of conspiracy"
Bingo.

byron smith said...

Australian Climate Commission: " Burning all fossil fuels reserves would lead to unprecedented changes in climate so severe that they will challenge the existence of our society as we know it today."

byron smith said...

Guardian: Two degrees target inadequate to save coral reefs, biodiversity or food production.

byron smith said...

Vox: Two degrees: how the world failed on climate change.