The Long Emergency is unfolding.
Bushism has turned the US from a viable, productive society into a nonviable consumer culture. It almost seems as if the main products of the eight-year American Disenlightenment have been corpses for the Mideast and carbon emissions for the planet. The whole setup here is now an anthropological extreme. Is there another region in the developed world that is that unsustainable? Is there no will for a future? Florida schools will close—completely—for two weeks. The University of South Florida is shut down. Last week, when bicycling from campus at night, I noticed the first homeless camp at 56th Street. A fire was lit in a bucket. Silent people were sitting around the light on camping chairs. Cars and SUVs were parked all around.
It is unsettling to see this, and it is important to spread the wealth—haves must give to have-nots. And yet, and with full respect to workers victimized now, there is a strange rational comfort in the unfolding failure. For eight years, Bushists tormented the world with policies that were criminal and stupid. The collapsing American paradigm has been a particularly heartless form of Postmodernity—masquerading as sophistication, it is a simplistic disdain for secular absolutes such as natural patterns and human universals. But if a culture is so proud that it takes exception from environments, then environments will pull it in. And if an intelligentsia believes that no truth prevails, that no rules apply, and that history is messy, then truth will hurt, rules will strike, and history will bite and draw blood. Such paradigmatic collapse reassures one about the meaning of life.
Last month climate events were trapped in eddies of information—some things pointed one way, other things pointed another. Now data swirls have straightened out once more into a linear flow. Climate change is worsening faster than expected. The first commercial vessel has made it through the Northwest Passage. The crew of a German icebreaker circumnavigating the North Pole has seen tons of snow. It used to be too cold (too dry!) to snow a lot. Snow insulates--fluffy flakes blanketing young sea ice stop it from thickening. Reason through the seasons and figure out the rest: wimpy ice forming undersnow melts sooner when the sun returns, creating more open waters, causing more evaporation, yielding more snow, thinning more ice, and kicking in a runaway process.
Climate also changes now in South Polar regions. Two months ago it appeared Antarctica was still exempt from warming. Last month it appeared that warming had begun. This month it came out that warming has been ongoing for a while.
Overall, climate change has sharpened in 2008. An informal summary at AP (12.15.) is plain enough: “Since Clinton's inauguration, summer Arctic sea ice has lost the equivalent of Alaska, California and Texas. The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since Clinton's second inauguration. Global warming is accelerating ... Scientists are increasingly anxious, talking more often and more urgently about exceeding ‘tipping points’ … U.S. emissions have increased by 20 percent since 1992. China has more than doubled its carbon dioxide pollution in that time. World carbon dioxide emissions have grown faster than scientists' worst-case scenarios. Methane, the next most potent greenhouse gas, suddenly is on the rise again and scientists fear that vast amounts of the trapped gas will escape from thawing Arctic permafrost. The amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere has already pushed past what some scientists say is the safe level ... some scientists, but not all, say the safe carbon dioxide level for Earth is about 10 percent below what it is now ... Scientists fear that what's happening with Arctic ice melt will be amplified so that ominous sea level rise will occur sooner than they expected. They predict Arctic waters could be ice-free in summers, perhaps by 2013, decades earlier than they thought only a few years ago ... Ironically, 2008 is on pace to be a slightly cooler year in a steadily rising temperature trend line. Experts say it's thanks to a La Nina weather variation. While skeptics are already using it as evidence of some kind of cooling trend, it actually illustrates how fast the world is warming. The average global temperature in 2008 is likely to wind up slightly under 57.9 degrees Fahrenheit, about a tenth of a degree cooler than last year. When Clinton was inaugurated, 57.9 easily would have been the warmest year on record. Now, that temperature would qualify as the ninth warmest year.” On a more formal level, papers at AGU 2008 underline this; for specifics see “climatology” below.
Worsening consequences are in step with intensification of damage done. Culture and nature are locked in a brutal dance. The causal interplay beats out with cruel simplicity. K Anderson (U Manchester) states (12.9.), “carbon emissions since 2000 have risen much faster than anyone thought possible, driven mainly by the coal-fuelled economic boom in the developing world. So much extra pollution is being pumped out … that most of the climate targets debated … are fanciful at best, and ‘dangerously misguided’ at worst … it is improbable levels could now be restricted to 650 ppm.”
While things are linear in climate events, they swirl again in policy. The gathering at Poznan was the most harmonious climate policy meeting ever; activists and politicians had no quarrel. It was weird really, like a bong party with everyone chilling in sync. And while everyone agreed, nothing really happened. Exhausted dudes chilling. Europeans emerge as global leaders. But then again, all they do is stay on a ridiculously unrealistic target. The New World is swirly too. Americans gear up for change. But the old regime holds on to power. Obama assembles a cool climate team. Bush issues one Anti-Future Rule after another. The last item spins the swirl. For while Poznan left not much of a trace, Bushist deregulations will. We have come to expect great Evil from Bushism, but these final acts are a surprise: criminally corrupt, satanically destructive, brilliantly designed, and legally solid. T. Dickinson explains in Rolling Stone (12.25.) how hard it will be to reverse them. They’ll hamstring US policies for a long time to come. Passing the torch, indeed.
"Americans flunked Global Warming 101."
David Craig (thanks Professor John Anton!)
BEST CULTURAL ESSAY
David J Craig, "The Deep Sleep--are Americans waking up to global warming?" Columbia Magazine fall 2008, pp. 14-21
The climate philosophy newsletter is being put together now.
… China: extreme cold 12.22.
… US: extreme cold 12.22.
… Canada: extreme cold 12.21.
… Europe: extreme cold 12.19.
... UN Ban: "2009 will be year of climate change" 12.19.
... Swiss glaciers "in full retreat" 12.19.
... Arctique: moins de glace, plus de chaleur 12.18.
... Greenland: melt seems to pick up speed 12.17.
... Arctic: melt passed the point of no return? 12.17.
... Arctic: over 2 trillion tons of ice melted since 2003 12.17.
... Arctic: "things happen much faster" 12.13.
... England flash floods 12.13.
... North America: uneven climate change unfolding 12.12.
... World beaches: jellyfish invasions ruin tourist spots 12.12.
... Texas: snow record in Houston 12.10.
... Siberia: methane release now even during frost 12.5.
... Planet: 2008 coolest year of the decade 12.5.
... Arctic: rasante Erwaermung -- unwiderruflich gekippt? 12.4.
... Ocean acidification increasingly harms whales 12.4.
... Arctic: new data--ice thickness "plummeted last winter" 12.2.
... Venice record flood 12.2.
... Antarctica: new rift in Wilkins Ice Shelf 11.29.
... Northwest passage: first commercial ship travels 11.28.
… US: summary of Bushist last-minute deregulations 12.25.
… US: more methane please—deregulating factory farms 12.20.
… US: new science team 12.20.
... US: more carbon please—vetoing greenhouse regulations 12.19.
… US: Holden, a better science advisor 12.18.
... EU approves climate change package 12.18.
… US: more oil drilling please—Utah wilderness for sale 12.17.
... US: catalogue of anti-future deregulation 12.14.
... Australia plans to cut emissions only 5-15 pct 12.15.
... US Obama left with little time to curb global warming 12.15.
... Poznan: "looking to leadership from Europe" 12.13.
... EU Council reaffirms climate targets 12.13.
... Poznan: slow progress while threats mount 12.13.
... Poznan: "Green New Deal" 12.12.
... Poznan: 19 pct of world coral reefs are now lost 12.11.
... Mexico leads the way with 50 pct emissions pledge 12.11.
... Poznan: climate conference hampered by US change 12.10.
... Poznan: don't leave climate policy to World Bank 12.10.
... Poznan: how construction companies can trim emissions 12.8.
... US: the Big Three lobbied $ 50 m against climate policies 12.4.
... US: more carbon please—deregulating mountain top mining 12.3.
... Poznan: world youth embarrassed by US delegation 12.2.
... Poznan: small farmers key to climate mitigation 12.2.
... UK: the first call for an international climate court 12.1.
... Poznan: economy offers excuse to avoid climate fight 11.30.
... Poznan: indigenous people demand climate voice 11.28.
… Bush’s philosophy stoked consumerist bonfire 12.21.
... Oil at $ 36 12.18.
... B McGraw: when the cars co away 12.13.
... US: more roadkills please—deregulating wildlife protection 12.12.
... US children in McMansions go without food 12.12.
... NYT editors: how bad will energy crisis be 2025? 12.11.
... UK: "green Banksy" cuts UK carbon output by 2 pct 12.11.
... World Oil consumption drops for the first time in 25 yrs 12.11.
... M Savinar: where are things going? 12.10.
... floating offshore windpower 12.9.
... EU carbon trading brings windfalls for some 12.9.
... US: Detroit SUV church service 12.9.
... UK environment secretary: climate people power 12.8.
... US: Obama pledges vast public works 12.6.
... US: CNN gets rid of science unit 12.5.
... UK urged to speed up climate action 12.2.
... US: dozens of new anti-environmental rules 12.2.
... Sun: new 11 year cycle spells trouble 12.1.
... Canada: Toronto bans sale of bottled water 12.11.
... B McKibben: the most important number on Earth 12.17.
… K Strickler: 80 pct greenhouse reduction needed 12.16.
... B Obama: "We're on an unsustainable course and it has to change" 12.11.
... G Monbiot: cyberspace climate gibberish 12.9.
... how software doomed the markets 11.30.
... L Segura: benefits of prosecuting Bush 11.28.
... R Cohen: a command of the law 11.27.
... Meister Eckhart Haus: Zitate
O Heffernan AGU 08 overshooting 2 C likely climate feedback 12.18.
Tamino 2008 temperature summaries and spin Open Mind 12.17.
G Schmidt 2008 temperature summaries and spin Real Climate 12.16.
K Anderson expect the worst Tyndall Centre, U Manchester 12.9.
C Colose an update to Kiehl and Trenberth 1997 wordpress 12.10.
Q Schiermeier N Atlantic cold water sink returns to life Nature 10.1038/news.2008.1262
K Vage surprising return of deep convection to N Atlantic Nature Geo 10.1038/ngeo382
J Hrynyshyne post on Vage island doubt 12.2.
M Jacobson review of solutions EES 10.1039/b809990c
J Tollefson AGU 08 and the winner is wind climate feedback 12.19.
J Hrynshyn another vote for 350 ppm island doubt 12.12.
J Luoma capturing the ocean’s energy E 360 Yale 12.4.
North Pole (repost)
X Zhang rapid changes in Arctic climate AGU 10.1029/2008GL035607
O Heffernan AGU 08 significant Antarctica warming climate feedback 12.19.
N Kehrwald mass loss on Himalayan glacier GRL 10.1029/2008GL035556
On Skeptical Swirls
T Tamino heavy snow job wordpress 12.20.
C Colose Easterbrook and ‘global cooling’ wordpress 11.11.
P Plait greenhouse hot air discover 11.6.
D Easterbrook evidence for global cooling (sic!) 11.2.
And thus we slide into the new calendar year ...