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A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

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About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

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Two degrees can do all that?

Uploaded: Jul 21, 2019
It’s hard to believe that if the temperature goes up by only two degrees, our world will change so much. When I walk outside, I can barely tell the temperature within five degrees. So how can it possibly be that, as scientists assure us, if the global temperature goes up just two degrees over pre-industrial levels (and we are already almost one degree over), then these things are likely to happen (1):
- Seas will rise by almost two feet by 2100
- Almost 200 million people will be exposed to severe drought, and 200 million more to water scarcity
- More than 15% of plants, insects, and invertebrates will lose over half their climatic range
- Arctic summers will be ice-free 16% of the time
- Rainfall extremes will go up 36%
- More than 99% of coral reefs will die
- Global losses from flood damage will reach nearly $12 trillion

The science is credible. In fact, we are already seeing changes in those directions. So how do I reconcile the science with my intuition that the temperature change is a rounding error, too small to matter?

Here are some things that help me to understand the bigger picture.

1. It’s celsius.
Climate work is often done in metric units. The reports typically use Celsius degrees, each of which is 1.8 times a Fahrenheit degree. Those 2 degrees are 3.6 degrees in our system.

2. Warming is not uniform.
The two degree change refers to the average surface temperature across the globe, including the oceans, which warm more slowly. So when we reach a two-degree average, the average warming across drylands will be 3.2-4.0 °C (around 6-7 °F) -- nearly twice as high, and more intuitively noticeable. (1)

In addition, there is considerable variation on the land, which you can see here. Already in 2018, temperatures were four degrees warmer (Fahrenheit) in much of Alaska, northern Canada, Asia, and the Arctic.

2018 temperature differences from 1951-1980, from NASA’s climate site

Know anyone who’s taken a summer vacation to Alaska this year? They probably experienced record warm temperatures there. Melting in the northern regions, especially Greenland and the Arctic, has an outsized impact on our climate. Which brings me to…

3. Small changes can have big impacts.
When certain thresholds are met, small changes can have an outsized impact. For example, as the Arctic ice cap melts, it reduces the planet’s reflectivity, the Earth absorbs more radiation, and we warm faster. Similarly, as permafrost thaws, it releases more greenhouse gases, so we warm faster. (2) And when vast ice sheets melt beyond a certain amount, they can cause a dramatic increase in sea level. So a small temperature difference between freezing and melting, for example, can have big impacts on warming, flooding, and availability of fresh water.

4. The climate is sensitive to temperature.
Think about the most recent ice age (aka the “last glacial maximum”), when much of North America was covered in feet of glaciers and wooly mammoths were roaming the planet. How much colder do you think it was then?

Source: Physical Geology by Steven Earle, BC Open Textbook Project

Permanent ice covered 25% of the Earth’s land mass. Sea levels were 410 feet lower than they are now. And yet -- it was only six degrees (C) cooler! (3)

5. We don’t see most of the heat.
This is an amazing thing. If it weren’t for the ocean, our day-to-day would be much, much hotter already. The ocean has absorbed an astonishing 93% of the excess heat that our planet is trapping. Because the ocean is vast and deep, and because water heats up much more slowly than air, our ocean is capable of absorbing large amounts of heat. This heat will come back to us later -- the ocean is like a battery, storing heat that it will release in the future. But for now it is doing us a tremendous service, though fish populations are beginning to be impacted.

To better help you understand this, check out the graph below. Almost two-thirds of all the excess heat (64%) is mixed into the upper ocean, and 29% goes to the lower ocean. Just 7% goes elsewhere: 3.3% to ice, 2.8% to land, and 0.9% to the atmosphere.

Source: IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report

6. Climate change is more than warming.
There are effects from our emissions that are not related to warming. For example, the ocean has absorbed about one quarter of the carbon dioxide that we have emitted. When the carbon dioxide reacts with sea water, it ends up reducing the amount of carbonate that is available for corals and mollusks to build their shells. It’s like the ocean is acquiring a bad case of osteoporosis. (4)

From the EPA page on ocean acidification

These points help me to better understand why the impacts of a few degrees (Celsius) are much bigger than our intuition leads us to think. Yoichi Shiga, a climate researcher at the Carnegie Institute for Science, suggested another way to think about why a few degrees can have such a big impact. When you think of the human body, the normal temperature is 98.6 °F. But a temperature of 105 °F is very dangerous, yet just a few degrees (3.5 °C) warmer than normal. Our ecosystems, like our bodies, are complex and quite sensitive to temperature. Our greenhouse gas emissions are pushing our planet quickly beyond the temperature norms that have been established for the last million years.

Notes and References

1. Carbon Brief has a nice summary of changes at 1.5 C and 2.0 C. The World Resources Institute has one that is more graphical but less complete, and has more emphasis on the difference between the two.

2. Yale Communications has made a short video about the impacts of permafrost thawing.

3. Wikipedia has a good amount of information about the last glacial maximum.

4. The NRDC has a good overview of ocean acidification, including the osteoporosis analogy. The EPA has some good information as well, with nice illustrations.

Current Climate Data (June 2019)

Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

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Posted by deny climate facts and history, a resident of The Greenhouse,
on Jul 21, 2019 at 7:25 am

Thank you, Sherry. Timely, as we just had the warmest June in recorded history.

Sea level rise, as well as agricultural shifts locally and worldwide are part of the reasons this will be a global crisis, leading to historic refugee crisis and wars.

Before the deniers can spout their silly, fact free rebuttals (always ask them for a link to the peer reviewed data they claim) let's remind them of who calls deniers out for their lies: the authors of the 4th national climate assessment:

Department of the Interior

Department of Energy

U.S. Global Change Research Program

Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Agency for International Development

Smithsonian Institution

Department of Commerce

Department of Defense

Department of Agriculture

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Department of Energy

Department of Transportation

Environmental Protection Agency

Department of the Interior

Department of State

National Science Foundation

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

U.S. Geological Survey

Add in:

Texas Tech University
University of Washington
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
University of Illinois
Rutgers University
North Carolina State University
Texas A&M University
Columbia University
University of California, Irvine
University of Massachusetts
California Department of Water Resources
... and many, many more.

Google: "FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT" for links and much, much, more.

Posted by Ima Walker , a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Jul 21, 2019 at 7:53 pm

The hell about to unleash with a 2 degree rise will change the world. May the Lord protect our kids and grandkids from the terror.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on Jul 22, 2019 at 9:38 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@deny -- I believe you have written this comment a few times on different posts, but I haven’t seen that many deniers. I have, however, heard a lot of very reasonable people ask this question about how two degrees can possibly matter so much. I think it’s a great question to ask, and wish more people would ask similar questions. Science is especially difficult when it doesn't match our intuition.

@ima -- I would say that we humans have it well within our modest capabilities to avoid two degrees; this does not need higher intervention. We just need to decide that is what we want to do and act on it, both individually and collectively.

Posted by TorreyaMan, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 10:47 am

TorreyaMan is a registered user.

Very informative, thank you.

Posted by deny climate facts and history, a resident of The Greenhouse,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 11:13 am

Sherry: thanks

- I've noticed that since some posters start posting that list I copied, early in a thread, it reduces the number of deniers (especially those that border on troll status) from psoting unsubstantiated noise. Perhaps it's because they realize their falsehoods are directly contradicted by the EPA, DOD, State, NSF, Interior, etc.. and a gazillion universities?

If any deniers have legit contributions, it shouldn't dissuade them at all. It sets a bar. If that conflicts with your preference as moderator and you want more posts with unsubstantiated claims, just delete the list.

- two degrees, Science is especially difficult when it doesn't match our intuition.

Respectfully disagree. Yes, it used to be pretty confusing, but so much is out there now, for example, the 4th assessment, in readable form.

Or even just a newspaper - yesterday's news: "Last month was the hottest June ever recorded in Earth's history"
Web Link

I mean, c'mon!


re: ima and 2 degrees: "humans have it well within our modest capabilities to avoid two degrees"

As you state: "we just need to act"... yeah, and we both know that the big actions (not your and my modest contributions) will take political will, which has not been shown. Withdrawing from the Paris Accords? We have to stop moving backwards before we can go forward. I appreciate your optimism, but.... sigh.

Maybe you, I and others can help plant a few trees (move from 3 trillion to 4 trillion globally) while we wait for an Inslee type president to declare an Apollo style effort to combat warming. That, with 60 senators and 218 reps.

Posted by caseyc, a resident of another community,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 11:30 am

caseyc is a registered user.

Sherry, thank you for this most excellent explainer! I've forwarded it to my friends...

Posted by deny climate facts and history, a resident of The Greenhouse,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 11:40 am

also: thanks for the picture of Carl Sagan! For those of us at a certain age, and even a passing interest in science and learning, he's guaranteed to bring a smile to our face.

Similar to what seeing an image of Mr. Rogers does. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they were both still around and sharing with the world?

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 11:49 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@torreya, @casey -- Glad it was helpful!

@deny -- You are so right, Carl Sagan does just make you smile :) Re communication, I think you would enjoy (or at least relate to) this article in the NY Times yesterday. The context is health and not climate, but the difficulties are similar.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 1:09 pm

Carl Sagan was more worried about global cooling.

Posted by deny climate facts and history, a resident of The Greenhouse,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 1:13 pm

"Those with the least understanding of science oppose it the most and also think they know the most, a study showed."

awwww, geez, now I'm depressed. Quick - hit me with another Sagan shot!!


and.... I'll not post the 'list' on your next post. Let's see if it really discouraged posters.

Posted by deny climate facts and history, a resident of The Greenhouse,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 1:14 pm

> Carl Sagan was more worried about global cooling.

Mostly due to nuclear winter scenarios and the '91 oil fires though.

One seriously doubts he would look at the mountain of evidence today and be worried about cooling. Do you?

Posted by If we each do our part..., a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 1:58 pm

Sherry, your blog is a regular reminder to me to stay disciplined about minimizing my environmental footprint. Thank you for getting us all better informed...and motivated to make important changes!

I walk, ride my bike or take transit instead of driving as often as I can. When I have to drive, I try to share the ride. I'm feeding my family less meat. We are being much more careful about reducing, reusing and recycling our consumption of water, food, energy and manufactured STUFF. It continually amazes me how easy it is to do with less.

These small lifestyle changes not only combat climate change, they have also improved my health and fitness and general happiness. It feels good to know that I am contributing to a solution to this imminent threat. Let's work together to same our planet. It's the only one that we have.

As I read in the news last week about the anniversary of the moon landing, I was struck by the great difficulties astronauts experienced adapting to life in space--even for limited time. Earth is the planet and ecosystem that humans are perfectly evolved to thrive in. Let's not squander this unique and precious gift. Help care for our planet!

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 2:08 pm

> "Last month was the hottest June ever recorded in Earth's history"

Last month was the highest global population ever recorded in Earth's history.

Posted by deny climate facts and history, a resident of The Greenhouse,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 2:32 pm

Musical: How long before we get to sea level drops in Sitka and perceived sea level rise in NOLA? Do you still feel it's too early to make decisions on actions, that we need more data? Or are you on the 'reduce population' bandwagon?

I'll take it that we're okay on Sagan's cooling being a different subject, as was asked?

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,

>> Carl Sagan was more worried about global cooling.

You can read what he wrote right here. You might be surprised:

Web Link

But, it is an old essay anyway, written at a time (1980) when the world's fastest supercomputers were slower than the average smartphone today, and, climate science was limited to historical measurements, and, qualitative arguments based on differential equations. Today, those same equations are the basis for very sophisticated simulations done on computers a billion times faster than than those available in Carl Sagan's day. The science is settled. If you want your grandchildren to have grandchildren, we need to act -now-. That is the problem-- if we wait until the real crisis hits, there will be no stopping it.

Posted by Bull, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 7:00 pm

We used to think segregation was the right thing to do. We had all kinds of proof, even the Bible was twisted into backing our plan. This is the same thing.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on Jul 23, 2019 at 7:36 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Whoa! @musical, that is amazing, I didn’t know that. I did some reading, and yes, apparently in the mid-70’s, there was a whole lot of worrying about cooling, and uncertainty about whether the cooling effect of pollution in the air (emissions from fires and other combustion) would outweigh the warming effect of carbon dioxide. So (thank goodness) the scientists requested funds to better quantify the effects. We know now what the answer is. In retrospect, it seems to me a great thing that cooling was a worry, because it allowed us to start cleaning up our air pollution without worrying too much about how much the cleanup would warm the planet (which it did and is doing).

Check out the flattening between 1940 and 1980 or so. That is when we were emitting more and more pollution, essentially cancelling out the global warming. As we cleaned it up, temps started to increase again. I heard a climate scientist in a class worry about the impact of shutting down all the coal plants, because the sulfates they emit will no longer provide a cooling effect. It’s still a net good, but it was interesting.

It’s fun to read the old stuff. Here is an article from a 1975 NY Times, for example.

Also, yes, @musical, emissions is correlated with population. It doesn’t help that our population keeps going up! A good question is, if our population didn’t grow any more, how would that impact the IPCC’s projections. From what I understand, population is generally growing in low-emission countries, so our ever-increasing emissions are less a result of population and more a result of increasing emissions within existing populations. But I don’t have stats off-hand.

With regard to Sagan specifically, there is a thoughtful writeup about him and his thoughts on climate here, with a note that some scientists were annoyed by his “tendency to speculate”. But I don’t know more than that…

Thanks again for the great comments everyone!

Posted by Reality, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Jul 25, 2019 at 8:48 pm

Excellent article, HOWEVER most people won't read more than the first paragraph. You need to get to the point and answer the core question, and convince them to read a bit more, of you've lost them way before you get to the heard of the matter.

I wish it wasn't true, but we all know it is.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 26, 2019 at 12:38 am

thanks once again sherry!

if you could write a little more about the difference between emissions that lead to warming, and pollution that leads to cooling, i'd appreciate the clarity. i believe it has to do with the size of the aerosol - the smaller size atmospheric particle lets sunlight through [which warms planet surface], and the bigger ones block sunlight at a certain altitude [so that sunlight "bounces" back into space before heating surface].

it's unclear to me what may be "good" or "ok" to burn...dead wood, live trees, biofuels, diesel?? or none of these?

i know de-forestation is not good, but certain trees absorb more co2 than others; and some trees produce methane and/or co2. which tree species are which?

thanks once more!

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on Jul 26, 2019 at 11:40 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Reality: Thanks for the editing advice :) I agree that the list of what happens in a two degree scenario at the beginning is kind of long. I would have put the “intuition can be misleading” meme higher up, but desktop rendering doesn’t let me because of the ad. I do try, with pictures and in this case a bolded list, to make the blog somewhat comprehensible for people that want to skim. But I am always working to improve… I appreciate the feedback.

@neighbor: Great questions! I’ll take a stab, but please keep in mind I’m not an expert in any of these areas, let alone all of them. I welcome any/all corrections or additions from the peanut gallery...

Atmospheric warming vs cooling: One thing to keep in mind is that the cooling effect generally happens when particles in our atmosphere interact with (scatter) incoming visible light, while the warming (greenhouse) effect happens when they interact with (absorb and radiate) outgoing infrared light. So the radiation involved differs, as does the mechanism.

The warming side of things is at least partially covered in this blog post.

On the cooling side of things: Light is best reflected, or scattered, by objects that are similar in size to the wavelength of the incoming radiation. When the sky is clear, all you have are air molecules, which are tiny. A nitrogen molecule, for example, is about 0.3 nanometers, while visible light is 400-700 nanometers. In this case, where the light wavelength is much, much bigger than the objects, the light generally passes right through. You don't get much reflection in this case. The interaction between the light and the objects is called “Rayleigh scattering”, with shorter wavelengths much more likely to be scattered. That is why the sky looks blue (the wavelength of blue light is shortest, and so more likely to be scattered and then reflected back to us). This is also why the sun looks yellow (blue has been scattered) and sunsets are orange and red (even more blue has been scattered because the light is traveling farther). Incidentally, on Mars, the sky is red and the sunsets are blue. That’s because the atmosphere is different -- mostly dust, few air molecules.

A Martian sunset

But some stuff in our atmosphere is bigger than air molecules. Cloud droplets, for example, are around 10,000 nanometers in size. Such objects can reflect all visible wavelengths very well, which is why clouds look white. This is called Mie scattering. I do not know the mechanism behind it, unfortunately, but I'm guessing it is different from the "absorb and then radiate" mechanism behind the heat trapping greenhouse gases.

Raindrops are even bigger, more like 1mm (1 million nanometers), so light enters and refracts, which is why we see rainbows... (Incidentally, I learned a bunch of this stuff from this lecture, part of a really good open course on climate.)

Polluting particles are going to reflect (scatter) light and provide a cooling effect if (a) they are big enough but not too big; (b) they are light in color; and (c) they stay in the atmosphere for a while. Black carbon (aka soot) is an example of a pollutant that doesn’t cool much because it is dark. Sulfates, on the other hand, are very bright. Here is a good writeup on the cooling effect of pollutants. The effect is uncomfortably large.

What is okay to burn? Hmm. AFAIK, none of those is okay to burn, at least emissions-wise. But if you think about it from a budget point of view, some things are better than others. As an example, suppose you’ve got an Arctic lake (or a big pond of cow poo) that is emitting lots of methane. If you collect and burn that methane, you are putting a bunch of carbon dioxide into the air. That is bad. But it’s better than putting the methane in the air, at least in the short term. So naturally-emitted methane is arguably *good* to burn, at least until we learn how to do something better. If you compare burning wood and burning fossil fuels, the CO2 from the wood would eventually recycle back into the atmosphere over a sufficiently long time, while the fossil fuel could have just stayed buried in the ground. So it’s arguably better to burn wood than fossil fuel, since you are “just” accelerating a natural process. I don’t think that holds much water, though. Finally, some combustion generates pollutants other than greenhouse gases. That is why some people claim that natural gas is a “clean” fuel, because it doesn’t release those pollutants. And if you buy that, I have a nice low-lying tropical island to sell you...

Burning your french-fry oil, or growing rapeseed to generate biofuel -- These don’t strike me as big wins because of the resources needed to produce them and the emissions that result. But I should look into it more. I think if people really want to burn something, and I’m sure we do, it’s best to figure out hydrogen, which emits only water when burned.

Which are the best trees to plant? People are thinking a lot about this right now. My main response to this is whatever grows and lasts a long time. That by itself is hard to figure out in this changing climate. Dave Muffly, a well-known local arborist, has written a long blog (and I do mean long, but there are lots of pictures) on his thoughts on trees for this area.

It can make sense to find trees that grow quickly, and/or that grow big. I also read recently that a forest with a diversity of trees may capture carbon better than just a single species.

The methane release from trees seems to be related less to the type of tree than to where it grows (e.g., wet/marshy areas). That is, some people think that the trees serve mainly as a conduit for methane in the soil. But there is some methane from trees in drier areas. The overall effect is much less than the carbon sequestration, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it, though scientists are studying it to try to improve our emissions budgeting. There is a really good article here.

Hope this helps. Probably too long for a comment. Maybe I’ll do a “Reader’s Question” post next time...

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on Jul 26, 2019 at 2:41 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@neighbor: To answer your question more succinctly about which particles warm vs cool our atmosphere, it is not generally the case that big particles cool and small particles warm, though it's not a bad guess. Cooling particles, in particular, should be around the size of the incoming visible light (1000 nanometers) to reflect it most effectively. But on the warming side, a particle traps heat not because of its size but because of its properties, namely its ability to absorb infrared radiation.

At least, that is my understanding. I might be wrong...

A cloud droplet is an example of something that can both reflect incoming visible light (it is the right size and reflectivity) and trap outgoing heat (the water molecules in it absorb infrared radiation).

Posted by Faith In Providence, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jul 28, 2019 at 1:13 pm

Devout faith in prayer & the Almighty will eventually overcome this troublesome 2 degree issue.

Advances in science & technology created this mess & now we must turn to a higher authority to resolve these oversights & blunders created by mankind.

Since the earth is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old, we have an opportunity to turn things around & again strive towards the Eden that was promised to us in the Bible.

Unfortunately, many have turned their backs on the words & wisdom of the ages. As a result, the global flock is now dispersed, lacking cohesiveness in purpose & belief.

It is never too late too make amends.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on Jul 28, 2019 at 3:33 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Faith: Thanks for the comment. I agree that it would help for our global community, or even our national community, to be more cohesive when it comes to addressing our climate crisis. I would like to better understand the perspective that you shared. Which faith-based organizations in the area would you suggest I reach out to, that share the same perspective?

Posted by 21st amendment, a resident of another community,
on Jul 28, 2019 at 3:45 pm

"Advances in science & technology created this mess .... Since the earth is only 6,000 years... "

If the "age" is correct, mankind has been burning coal for a majority of earth history (coal was burned as early as 1,000 BC.)

So by your 'math', it's not on science and technology.

"It is never too late too make amends." 100% agree with the thought. It's also never too late to take a science course.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 28, 2019 at 6:08 pm

It is so easy for these discussion to explode in a million different directions
that all affect people differently and provoke even more responses ... like a
nuclear chain reaction.

Suffice it to say that this is not a workable democratic method of government
but we keep banging our heads against the way trying to pretend it is working.

We think there are climate deniers. Where is the evidence of this? It seems
mostly to come from Republican politcal operative who are operating like the
fake-scientists who told us cigarettes were not bad for health - that is they
are motivated by financial interest ... in other words it is corruption.

We seem to behave like corruption is a legitimate source of political input
into our system? Who thinks that?

One thing I think all scientists who look at the data and the analsysis have
to believe is that global warming whatever the variables correlates with man's
burning of carbon fuels. Robert Mueller's meta-analysis proved that.

So, what good does it do in todays economic driven world to have technology
that will reduce carbon emissions? The US and Europe and the developed world
are going pretty well and taking things seriously, but that does not seem to be
the case for Asia.

Is the real major problem bickering about putting solar panels on America's
roofs with if Asia continues to pollute with CO2 the whole world still burns?
I don't think so.

This is a global issue - so why are people so snooty and conceited about
riding their bikes and buying Priuses in Palo Alto? It's stupid.

The question is how to we get China and India to behave? Not how do we
sell more Priuses or eat less meat. Everyone has to shoot off some off the
wall angle on this according their social media identity and the image they
want to project.

Of the hundred or so times a day I might hear some reference to global
warming - NONE OF THEM are relevant to laying out and solving the problem,
and why would they be. It's a total waste of time to talk about it, and it makes
people made because it never leads anywhere but to try to sell some new
product or put some fast talking in office. In market driven America nothing
really matters but what profit can be made from, and how to disempower
others so they are less of a threat.

Bottom line is our way of thinking and behaving with each is other might
as well be considered the root of this problem. Everything market driven
always created profits by creating shortages, and the shortages are overcome
by criminality. We say the system works but that is like saying air-conditioning
works because it is cool in this very small space while it keeps dumping external
pollution onto everyone not in that space.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on Jul 29, 2019 at 6:59 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Crescent: I hear your frustration that there is no single bullet to fix this. I wish it were simpler. But even then, we would all have to chip in. Here are some stats that may be helpful.

For perspective on China and India, while you are right that their emissions have been going up, their per capita emissions continue to be well below ours. (Source: World Resource Institute 2018):

In addition, we are by far the country most responsible for the emissions that are in the atmosphere right now. If you had to point to a single country to blame for the rising seas, melting arctic, increasing heat waves, etc? That would be us. (Source: Carbon Brief)

And even with our relatively small population, we continue to be the #2 emitter in the world. (Source: Global Carbon Project 2019)

We are not making particularly good strides. Any progress we have made has largely stopped the past few years (you can see this curve flattening). (Source: EPA 2018)

And while other countries have pushed their emissions below 1990 levels, we are not there yet. (Source: Nature Climate Change 2019)

So I don’t think we can say “It's not us, you guys need to get your act in order.” It is us. Furthermore, even if that’s what we wanted to say, it would still behoove us to lead by example. By pulling out of the already-too-weak Paris Agreement, we abdicated any climate leadership claim we might want to make.

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