Defending Soft Denial While The Arctic Ice Melts Away

There have been countless aggrieved comments from across the world about Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Treaty. There has also been much academic angst about Trump’s use of an MIT study that showed that the Paris emission reduction commitments will have reduced surface air temperatures in 2050 “by about 0.120C under all three scenarios”[1]. Instead of attacking the climate negotiations as being absurdly pathetic, the academics referred to it as being a useful step. This is what we have come to; facilitating soft denial in the face of impending disaster. On a monthly basis, global average temperatures in 2016 exceeded the 1.50C limit[2] that was so trumpeted as a new commitment at Paris, and on an annual basis temperatures were 1.10C above preindustrial times[3]. At least Trump and his acolytes are truthful about their denial, unlike the Canadian Prime Minister who says all the right words and then authorizes new pipelines and does not have the policies in place to back even his minimal emission reduction commitments[4].

At the same time that the world’s leaders attack Trump for pulling out of their absurdly pathetic agreement, the Earth continues on its warming ways. It doesn’t give a damn about what is “politically doable” it only cares about the laws of physics. No amount of hypocritical political hot air will slow the warming, only real actions will. Those real actions would include commitments to at least 5% annualized reductions in emissions in the rich countries and international economic sanctions on any country not complying.

Another month goes by and the volume of Arctic sea ice continues to hit new record lows, threatening an ice-free Arctic many decades ahead of the date assumed by the Paris agreement. The dark open waters will suck in the Sun’s energy, increasing the speed of climate change. At the same time, the accelerating reduction in the temperature differential between the Arctic and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere will drive a chaotic movement to a new climatic state. A recent study also raises the possibility that the increased differential in the warming between the northern and southern hemispheres will move rain belts northwards, as has happened before:

“Those same lakes, along with other evidence from around the world, also points to the shifting of rain belts after a rapid loss of Arctic sea ice about 14,600 years ago that saw the Northern Hemisphere heat up faster than the Southern.”[5]

Trump is a sideshow, what is happening in the real world is the main event. That is what the politicians should be urgently discussing.

Monthly Average Sea Ice Volume

PIOMAS Monthly Average Arctic Ice Volume, Wipneus, https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/piomas/grf/piomas-trnd2.png

References

[1] Andrei Sokolov et. al. (2016), Climate Impacts of the Paris Agreement, Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 18. Accessible at http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2016/EGU2016-8016.pdf

[2] Climate Central (2016), Earth Flirts with a 1.5-Degree Celsius Global Warming Threshold, Scientific American. Accessible at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-flirts-with-a-1-5-degree-celsius-global-warming-threshold1/

[3] World Meteorological Organizations (2017), WMO confirms 2016 as hottest year on record, about 1.1°C above pre-industrial era, WMO. Accessible at https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/wmo-confirms-2016-hottest-year-record-about-11%C2%B0c-above-pre-industrial-era

[4] Climate Action Tracker (2016), Canada, Climate Action Tracker. Accessible at http://climateactiontracker.org/countries/canada.html

[5] Climate Central (2017), Global Warming Could Push Earth’s Rains Northward, Scientific American. Accessible at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/global-warming-could-push-earths-rains-northward/

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