Monday, December 31, 2012

the accelerating melt II

(Continued from November post.)

Greenland photograph J E Waider via Colossal


Getting to this predictive clarity did not happen overnight.  The stages of knowledge are visible in the step-by-step understanding of the Arctic melt.  Go back forty years: when reviewing the technical literature from 1965 to 1979, T. C. Peterson (2008) counted seven predictions of global cooling and forty-two papers that predicted global warming, with a majority expecting higher temperatures through rising CO2 concentrations.  A majority vote is not a consensus, and so the 1975 National Research Council Report played it safe: 
We do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine ... it does not seem possible to predict climate. 
In the 1970s, the anthropogenic fate of the planet was still in doubt.  Too little was known about the future of the Arctic to make any clear forecasts.  This changed with the FAR or First Assessment Report, titled Climate Change: the IPCC Scientific Assessment, eds. J. T. Houghton et al.  During the 1980s, the 1970s majority had hardened into a consensus.  The FAR, published in 1990 by Cambridge, begins as follows (p. xi):
We are certain of the following: there is a natural greenhouse effect which already keeps the Earth warmer than it would otherwise be.  Emissions resulting from human activities ... will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in additional warming of the Earth's surface.
Experts understood the etiology but knew the consequences only in outline.  On the Arctic there was nothing concrete except the prediction that (p. xxiii),
Surface air will warm faster over land than over oceans, and a minimum of warming will occur around Antarctica and in the northern North Atlantic region.
This turned out to be two thirds right: yes, there has been more warming over land than over water, and yes again, there hasn't been much warming in Antarctica, relatively speaking; but no, the northern North Atlantic region--the Arctic--has warmed up way faster than any other place on the planet.  There had not been a "minimum of warming" up north.  Rather, what happened since then, compared to other regions, has been a maximum of warming.  Five years later, at any rate, the predictions sharpened again a notch.  The authors of the SAR or Climate Change 1995: IPCC Second Assessment Report state on p. 5-6 (section 2.10), 
All model simulations ... show ... a maximum surface warming in high northern latitudes in winter, little surface warming over the Arctic in summer; an enhanced global mean hydrological cycle, and increased precipitation and soil moisture in high latitudes in winter.
So the difference between winter and summer warming in the Arctic came into view then, but not yet the fact that even the Arctic summer temperatures would see surreal heat spikes.  On p. 30 (section 'cryosphere'), the SAR authors write,  "Models project that between one-third and one-half of existing mountain glacier mass could disappear over the next 100 years" and "Reduced sea-ice extent and thickness ... may increase navigability in the Arctic Ocean."  Knowledge had evolved to the forecast that it will get warmer in the Arctic, sea ice will thin, and glaciers will shrink.  Precisely when this would play out was still unclear. 

In the TAR, the Climate Change 2001: IPCC Third Assessment Report, more details emerged. In  the "Technical Summary of the Working Group I report" in Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis, J. T. Houghton, Y. Ding et al, eds. (Cambridge 2001), we find the following statement (p. 73-74, section F.8):
Glaciers and ice caps will continue their widespread retreat during the 21st century and Northern Hemisphere snow cover and sea ice are projected to decrease further ... The Antarctic ice sheet is likely to gain mass because of greater precipitation, while the Greenland ice sheet is likely to lose mass because the increase in runoff will exceed the precipitation increase.
This is almost the same as in the SAR, but with two differences: spatially, experts could now differentiate among sections within the polar regions (Greenland in the Arctic; on p. 74 follows a discussion on the future of the West Antarctic ice sheet in Antarctica), and temporally, the changes were now predicted to unfold in the next hundred years.  Half a decade later, in the AR4, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007, the fate of the Arctic sea ice at last came into view.  The Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, R. K. Pachauri and A. Reisinger, eds., includes the following statement (p. 46, section 3.2.2.):
The "latter part" of this century would be sometime between 2050 and 2100; by 2007, the specter of a complete polar summer melt well inside this century began to loom.  Again fast forward six years, and compare this to the leaked draft of AR5, the "Technical Summary" (99 pp.) of the IPCC WGI [Working Group 1] Fifth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2013 The Physical Science Basis, to be published September 2013.  On p. 42 (section, the accelerating melt is in plain view:
Unless the IPCC folks revise the draft again (which is unlikely given the record melts in the past few years), the prediction draws the specter of an ice-free Arctic from the later half into the earlier half of this century.  In sum, then, as troubling as these successive scenarios evidently are, they represent a stunning advance in knowledge.  Humankind has become capable of predicting the planetary future, and as the step-by-step progression of predictions since the 1970s illustrates, the future is coming into view in ever sharper outline.  Two considerations, in conclusion, should be kept in mind.  The one is that that the IPCC assessment methodology favors conservative projections (cf. Scherer at Climate Central Dec 2012, and Brysse/Oreskes in Glob Envir Change Nov 2012).  And the other, finally, is that some researchers expect an ice-free Arctic even earlier, not as a 'distinct possibility' but as the most probable outcomes, before 2050 (Stroeve, Geoph Res Let May 2007), before 2040 (Allison, Univ NSW CCRC 2009), or before 2020 (e.g. Wadhams, POPG Cambridge 2012).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

the accelerating melt I

Adam Gibbs photograph via Colossal Nov 2012

The collision with biospherical limits points to the inspiring paradox of the climate crisis: it forces us to grow up.  As the Earth's limits are pushing civilization to a new adaptation, whose social core will be sustainability and degrowth, the crisis turns into an evolutionary opportunity.  Just think: unless we go bust, which I don't believe, the greenest nations will soon harbor the most successful societies.

Before the crisis, science concerned itself with the past and the present.  The future was accessible only in narrow and context-invariant senses, as in the decay of radioactive elements or the movements of planets on their orbital paths.  Through the crisis, the future in all of its contextual complexity, the future of life, for generations to come, has become an object of rigorous study.  The outcome of the crisis is that we can predict things now.  Climate change lets humanity look deep into tomorrow's probability-cone and see the fateful forks looming within.

It is natural to ward these prospects off, to feel overwhelmed by the flood of facts as "too much information".  But the irony of denial is that it invites a Darwin Award.  If civilization followed a regressive Republican path, the track of denial, the global temperature rise would reduce carrying capacity to the point of dieback.  G. P. Peters et al. note in Nature Climate Change that,
observed emission trends are in line with ... the highest temperature projections in the scenarios, with a mean temperature increase of 4.2-5 C in 2100. 
Peters adds that the Representative Concentration Pathways used in the upcoming IPCC Fifth Assessment Report are even more compelling than the old emission scenarios of the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES, 2000), because now "mitigation efforts consistent with long-term policy objectives are included among the pathways."

What choosing the regressive path means is detailed by H. J. Schnellnhuber and his colleagues at PIK in the recent World Bank report Turn down the Heat.  One detail (p. 61) shall suffice: for U.S. corn, soy, and cotton production, 
yields are projected to decrease by 63 to 82 percent.
But there's an alternative: if civilization chose a progressive path, we would be able to stay within the +2 C boundary and our children would be fine. This path is progressive in the classical sense, as a path along Kantian, Marxist, and Deep Ecological coordinates; it seems it would have to be so, because it is unclear how one will manage to keep within the safe boundary any differently.  The best-case scenario of the IPCC, the SRES B1 storyline in the Fourth Assessment Report, describes the way stations along the progressive path: 
A convergent world ... with rapid change ... toward a service and information economy, with reductions in material intensity ... the introduction of clean and resource-efficient technologies [and an] emphasis ... on global solutions. 
The choice is each society's own to make.  This choice between progress and regress used to be a matter of social justice, a decision between protecting the vulnerable and favoring the privileged.  But accelerating climate change makes this a choice between civil evolution and winning a Darwin Award.

(Part II to be posted Dec 31)

Monday, October 15, 2012

the american climate silence

superstorm Sandy NASA pic via Colossal

Want to know more? Check it out at

Studying the cultural dimension of climate change puts you in a strange spot.  On the one hand, one studies something that's bad.  The root-cause of climate change is a disconnect from reality.  Anthropogenic climate change has thus a cultural dimension, and it consists in a willful collective maladaptation to biospherical structures.  This maladaptation is noticeable in nearly all cultures on the planet at present, but it is worst in the United States--the greatest national per capita GHG emitter with the least climate policy on the planet. This turns us into the greatest jerks in the history of civilization, into thieves stealing the future from the world's children.  And that's bad.

On the other hand, when studying this cultural dimension, I try to connect the dots into status reports of the present with their historical roots and their prospective branches.  Which means I make up stuff--and claim this making-up-of-stuff as a rational and methodological right in Philosophy, for Philosophy is not and never should be reducible to Science.  The risk, though, one runs with such imaginative dot-connecting is that one's sketches are not only sketchy (which is perfectly good, and which is what they're actually supposed to be), but also flat-out wrong (not so good).  In light of the climate crisis, I maintain that one can, No, one should speak of an American Disenlightenment, and that it deserves to be studied just as we study the European Enlightenment of the 18th century.  But since the 21st century is ongoing, its events are fluid; things may happen that might just turn US climate denial into a fleeting aberration.  That would be good from the perspective of world civilization and Mother Nature, but, frankly, it would be bad for me.  Because I study it.

My "Amerigenic Climate Change--an Indictment of Normalcy" is in a 2012 textbook, B Williston's Environmental Ethics for Canadians, published by Oxford in Toronto, and there I stick my neck out by claiming American mainstream culture is different from the rest of the world on four counts: first, it's really religious, in an evangelist worship of the baby Jesus way; second, it's really capitalist, in a  corporations-are-people-too worship of the Adam Smith way; third, it's really individualist, in a liberty-and-independence-and-screw-you-too worship of the Ayn Rand way; and fourth, it's also really skepticist, in an if-it-doesn't-stare-me-in-the-face-it-must-be-false worship of the David Hume way.  Years ago I came up with this idea, the American square of flawed cognition, and I've kept working with it.

So imagine my relief at seeing the Romney-Ryan ticket.  This is the perfect embodiment of the Disenlightenment: the one a former sidewalk-evangelist, who as a kid accosted people in France telling them to lay off coffee and wine for the sake of Jesus, and who was raised with a silver spoon in his mouth and moved up in the Adam Smith world with the skills of Gordon Gecko in Wallstreet and the rage of Richard Gere in Pretty Woman--and the other a hard-rocking, iron-pumping fan of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.  And both of them dismiss climate change like David Hume once dismissed causal powers.

It gets better.  The other camp in the 2012 US presidential race, the Obama-Biden ticket, and the only one that is not in climate denial and that represents at least the faintest of hopes that the US will eventually catch up with other developed nations on the planet and implement a climate policy, has also been silent about climate change throughout the election.  This is so amazing that words almost fail me.  Yes, of course it's bad, but at the same time, it is a boost to "Indictment of Normalcy". Whew.

All the chapters, including the notes on contributors and the introduction, for Global Ethics and Climate Change, are now at Continuum/Taylor & Francis.  Rewriting an essay this month on Anton Amo, the Black Wolffian in the German Enlightenment, for the Wiredu-volume made me think more about the heuristic potential of African Sagacity for this century's Civil Evolution.  Amo's ontological concept of the interactive and energetic fleshfield (honam in Akan) is the key.  Amo rocks.  Work on The Philosophy of Climate proceeds apace.  The next post should be about the Climate Acceleration.  Until then.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

welcome to the tipping point

9 Sep 2012 IARC-JAXA graph screenshot

And welcome back. Fall term has started, after a summer that was personally one of the happiest in my life, but that signifies to all of us an extremely troubling phase transition.  Old records are toppling left and right.  Everything is now happening much faster than expected.

On August 28, George Monbiot summed up this summer's events:
What we are seeing, here and now, is the transformation of the atmospheric physics of this planet.  Three weeks before the likely minimum, the melting of Arctic sea ice has already broken the record set in 2007.  The daily rate of loss is now 50% higher than it was that year. ... In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that 'in some projections, Arctic late-summer sea ice disappears almost entirely by the latter part of the 21st century.'  These were the most extreme forecasts in the panel's range.  Some scientists now forecast that the disappearance of Arctic sea-ice in late summer could occur in this decade or the next.
On August 31, John Atcheson counted the weather records:
Arctic sea ice hits lowest extent ever measured (and it's still melting) ... Hottest winter, spring, summer, year, decade ever measured ... Most extensive drought in fifty years, and getting worse ... Worst floods in recorded history ... Hottest seas in eons ... Most acidic oceans ever measured ... Most greenhouse gases released in a single year ... Highest sea levels since the Pleistocene ... Most permafrost melted (with record releases of methane) ever measured ... Massive crop failures and record high food prices ... Most severe weather events ever recorded.
But climate change coincides with the American Disenlightenment:
Meanwhile, in Tampa, the fossil fuel funded Republican Party is doubling down on climate denial, pushing greater use of oil, coal and gas, and trying to gut programs designed to save energy and use more renewables.  In short, they're working diligently to hasten our demise.
So what is the outlook?
Imagine a world where vast regions of an acidic ocean are dominated by jellyfish.  A world where tuna, salmon, halibut, swordfish, crabs, shellfish, shrimp and the rest of the seafood we take for granted--the primary source of protein for more than a billion people--is virtually gone.  ... The land?  An unending series of drought, flood, fire and famine.  Throw in some disease, a little social chaos--with as many as a billion climate change refuges desperately swarming the planet by 2050. ... Ports will have to be abandoned.  The richer countries might get away with extraordinarily expensive dikes, levies, and pumps for a while, but eventually even they'll have to be abandoned. ... International trade will become difficult and unreliable. 
Bill McKibben wrote several updates this summer as well.  Widely read, deservedly so, has been his Rolling Stone essay Global Warming's Terrifying New Math in July.  His August RS essay The Arctic Ice Crisis zeros in on the tipping point in Greenland:
Fresh snow bounces back 84 percent of the light that hits it; warm, rounded crystals can reflect as little as 70 percent.  Slushy snow saturated by water--which gives it a gray cast, or even a bluish tint--reflects as little as 60 percent.  Add dust or soot, and the albedo drops below 40 percent. ... Satellite data has shown a steady darkening of Greenland's albedo, from a July average of 74 percent when the century began to about 68 percent last year.  And then came this summer: Without warning, the line on the albedo chart dropped deep into uncharted territory.  At certain altitudes, the ice sheet in Greenland was suddenly four percent less reflective--in a single season ... The heat accumulating in the ice sheet year after warm, sunny year was suddenly making it far easier to melt the surface.  What's more, in a vicious feedback loop, soot from the wildfires raging in Colorado and Siberia--themselves spurred by climate change--may be helping to darken the surface of the ice.  [Byrd Polar Research Center scientist Jason Box] had conservatively predicted that it might take up to a decade before the surface of Greenland's ice sheet melted all at once.  That it actually happened in just a few weeks only underscores how consistently cautious ice scientists have been in forecasting the threat posed by global warming.  Now, however, that caution is being replaced by well-founded alarm.
McKibben's A Summer of Extremes Signifies the New Normal, at Environment 360, points to James Hansen's new findings (in PNAS):
There's always been extreme heat, [Hansen] showed--but the one-degree increase in global temperature we've seen so far has been enough to shift the bell curve sharply to the left.  In the old summer, the one most of us grew up in, 0.1 to 0.2 percent of the surface area of the planet was dealing with 'extreme heat anomalies' at any given moment.  Now it was approaching 10 percent.
I used to sign off posts with a link to One Hundred Months.  After publication of the AR-4 (2007), a consensus emerged that action within a decade is vital, because there is a good chance that unmitigated climate change would be irreversible by 2017 or thereabouts.  The Guardian started running the One Hundred Months blog, and the climate clock was set.  In 100 Months: Technical Note, Victoria Johnson and Andrew Simms write:
We calculate that 100 months from 1 August 2008, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will begin to exceed a point whereby it is no longer likely we will be able to avert potentially irreversible climate change.  'Likely' in this context refers to the definition of risk used by the IPCC to mean that, at that particular level of GHG concentration, there is only a 66-90 per cent change of global average surface temperatures stabilizing at 2 C above pre-industrial levels.  Once this concentration is exceeded, it becomes more and more likely that we will overshoot a 2 C level of warming.  This is the maximum acceptable level of temperature rise agreed by the European Union and others as necessary to retain reasonable confidence of preventing uncontrollable and ultimately catastrophic warming.  We also believe this calculation to be conservative.
Indeed.  For policy action, crossing this threshold means that from then on out climate policies would be reactive only; the window for proactive policy initiatives will have closed then.  It also means that the policy goals will shift from sustainability and mitigation (unattainable beyond the threshold) to adaptation and resilience, which, of course, are polite words for damage control and managed decline.  Now the clock ticks at fifty-one months

The problem is that Johnson and Simms coordinate the countdown with the likelihood of averting irreversible change.  But what does "averting irreversible change" mean?  Does it mean we can undo the changes that have already occurred?  Does anyone seriously believe we can still reverse the summer sea ice trend? It seems wildly implausible to assume things can still be turned around.  Does it mean we can prevent more changes from occurring?  But that seems improbable too, since positive feedback loops are already at it: the thaw feeds on itself because of the dropping albedo caused by the thaw; and GHG concentrations soar higher because CH4 outgassing has started on the Arctic landmasses from the warming permafrost.  We are not fifty-one months away from the point of no return.  We have already entered the new climate regime.  We cannot go back to the way things used to be.  And while we can presumably still slow things down, we cannot prevent more changes from occurring either.  Welcome to the tipping point.

Monday, May 07, 2012

climate newsletter up

Edging into "severe," "exceptional" drought

The Climate Philosophy Newsletter 5 (2011/2012) is done.  You can find it at the ISEE website and at the climate phil quick link on the homepage of USF Philosophy.  To say that the past twelve months have seen a tick-up in research is an understatement.  This year's bibliography is three times as long as last year's and boasts creative approaches I had never seen before.  The emerging reality of climate change is affecting ever larger areas in Philosophy, as it well should.  Watching this gives you this odd sense of witnessing a historic intellectual transformation in the making.  On a personal level, keeping track of all this excellent work done by colleagues helps me to clarify the profiles of analytic Climate Ethics, Climate Virtue Ethics, and synthetic Climate Philosophy.  It also helps me with the continued redesign of Ecosophy, as a climate-centric (neither 'anthro' nor 'bio') interrogation of being-in-the-world as an existential and civil evolution along the absolute limit.

Monday, April 16, 2012


In Die Zeit, I came across an article on Germany's shrinking market share in the global photovoltaic boom.  The word above the headline, Energiewende, caught my attention. "Energie" is energy, and "Wende" is 'turn'.  "Energie-Wende" is the switchover to renewables.  Which is happening in Europe and Asia, but not here.  There's a broadening of the energy base in America, but no switch.  The crazy part about this is that there's no English word for it.  At least I couldn't think of any.  Is it me?  Or is it America?  I fear the American Disenlightenment just deepened to a linguistic dimension.  It's scary how the US is falling behind.  Now they're not even keeping up with words anymore.  Well, maybe they'll be turning Energiewende into a loanword.  Like Kindergarten.

Friday, April 13, 2012

things happen

"Things Happen" Video 5 May 2012 Climate Impacts Day

I am groaning under the weight of information received for the Newsletter.  This is really quite amazing.  This year's annual bibliography will be triple the size of that of the last one.  Philosophical research on climate is exploding.  This time around there are also conceptual crossovers, at the philosophy interfaces of theology, sociology, anthropology, critical theory, and science, as well as, of course, world philosophy and civil evolution, the stuff I like to write on.  I hope to be done with the Climate Philosophy Newsletter by next Friday.

Bill McKibben's produced a great new video, which exemplifies the conceptual challenge of moving beyond purely analytic and postmodern approaches, both of which emphasize dissecting and deconstructing information at the expense of rationally making sense of it.  Moving beyond these approaches is to head towards a new paradigm of thinking: synthetic philosophy, as in "synthesis," Greek for "connecting the dots."

Below is the transcript from McKibben's "Things Happen" clip.

"Things happen. 

"They always have. A storm. A heatwave. A downpour.

"But now they happen differently. 

"More frequent, and more intense.

"We're changing the Planet's climate, and all across the world people are paying the price.  But because it's a big world, we don't make the connections we should.

"When Thailand has the worst flooding in its history, only a month after Central America has the worst flooding in its history, a month after Vermont has the worst flooding in its history, in the same year the Mississippi river has the worst flooding in its history, and Queensland in Australia, a few months after Pakistan floods so badly that twenty million people are forced from their homes, it's connected.

"Connected to the fact that warm air holds more water vapor than cold air, loading the dice for deluge, and loading the dice for drought, too, since more water evaporates into the atmosphere.

"So it's really no surprise that we've seen the worst drought in the American Southwest, and the hottest fires in Australia, and the crop-withering heat in Russia, and the staggeringly dry famine across the Horn of Africa.

"We're going to connect the dots on climate change and extreme weather literally.  On May 5th, we will rally at hundreds of sites around the Planet afflicted by climate change.  We'll show the world how the pieces of this puzzle fit together.

"You'll forgive us if we're just the littlest bit angry.

"It's not fair what's happening.

"The fossil fuel industry, in pursuit of ever more profit, is making life impossible for many of us.  We should be mad.  We're hopeful, too, though.  Hopeful that if people begin to make the connections, they'll draw the obvious conclusion.  The time has come to move away from coal, gas, and oil. And we'll only do that if we start to connect the dots."

"Join us on May 5th."

Fifty-six months left.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

climate newsletter call

It's time for another Climate Philosophy Newsletter!

I welcome updates, contributions, and news about your current research in Philosophy on climate and its aspects.  Ethics is vital, but I am also very interested in non-normative research, e.g. in epistemology, philosophy of science, cultural studies, phenomenology, and Marxism.  Some, but by no means all, research keywords or topics of interest would be the ontology of climate, climate change, climate science methodology, climate denial, cognitive dissonance, disenlightenment (US), limits of growth, civil evolution, philosophical alternatives, sustainability, and synthetic philosophy.

Kindly send newsletter items to mschonfe @  I would like to complete the bibliography and the other sections in the next few weeks and post Climate Philosophy Newsletter 5 (2012) by mid-April. Back issues are at the "Climate Philosophy" link of the USF Philosophy Department, and in the "Ideas" section of the International Society for Environmental Ethics (ISEE).

Thank you for your support!

Yours truly, the Mad Hun in South Florida

Sunday, February 05, 2012

arctic melt and winter chill

Cold records are breaking in Europe.  Rome is blanketed in snow.  How a hotter planet can have frigid winters is an old riddle (1, 2, and 3). The journal Tellus has just published the discovery of how global warming causes very cold winters.  The article is here; explanations at blisterdata.  Now we know.  Take that, moron skeptics!  And bring a snow shovel! 

Fifty-eight months left.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

preview of coming attractions

Welcome back, guten Rutsch, & xin nian kuai le!

Trendlines seem stable now.  CO2 output is steadily rising.  The arctic melt is spiraling towards permanent summer thaw.  Freak weather is not yet usual but also not unusual anymore either; whether in Jena or Tampa, temps are swinging more freely.  Munich Re pegs 2011 as the costliest year in recent history due to natural disasters.  Bad news keep coming in.  Last one I've heard is that CO2-enriched water may collapse fish stocks even before acidification will dissolve sea shells.

Culturally the trends toward chokepoint and crisis continue as before.  Climate change is an emerging reality the likes of which civilization have not yet seen, hence year after year policy responses remain inadequate.  U.S. politicians keep acting irresponsibly, and the more conservative they are, the more foolishly they behave.  U.S. media give steadily less coverage to climate news.  The culture is now so disconnected from biospherical reality that the U.S. president can make remarks and give a speech after the destruction of Joplin, Mo., without once mentioning the word 'climate'.  And get away with it.  Come to think of it, had Obama linked the multiple-vortex EF5 tornado to climate change, it might have led to a public outcry.  In the U.S., thou shalt not connect the dots!

Internationally, COP-15 in Durban was a tiny step in the right direction but failed to make a difference.  Copenhagen and Cancun had been failures due to intransigence; everything got stuck.  Problem, from Copenhagen to Durban, has been that Kyoto is increasingly obsolete.  The protocol was a good idea at the time, but its design does not match current realities, and so the whole effort at a follow-up protocol needs to be rethought.  Kyoto's emission caps had been insufficient from the start and look simply ludicrous now.  Plus, the caps had obligated only the rich nations while letting developing countries off the hook.  This doesn't work anymore because China has developed to the world's largest GHG emitter.  At COP-13 and -14, China's refusal was backed up by other poor countries; consensus was that it would be unfair for the new kid on the carbon block to take one for the team.  Since GHG emissions matter in cumulative terms, it's the older rich nations that had messed up.  So they must foot the bill.  At COP-15, this move didn't cut any ice with the Alliance of Small Island States, since they'll go under regardless whether sea level rise is America's or China's doing.  So in Durban China took some heat from its own former allies.

A more pragmatic consensus, it seems, will eventually happen: everybody's got to help, regardless of who's done the most harm in the past.  But until this consensus becomes political reality, chances are that the problems will worsen, for the speed difference between nature and culture is glaring: Gaia is moving ever faster, and politicians are moving ever slower.

So the trends in the Earth System and in humankind continue as before, and the new realities are solidifying.  Climate Action Tracker tells us that even if all current climate treaties are scrupulously followed, the world 'continues to be on a pathway of over 3 C warming with likely extremely severe impacts".

So ... THIS IS KIND OF BORING, and we can leave it at that.  For the blog, this means a tweak.  From now on, I'd like to ignore the daily social grind (unless something awesome happens, of course), and instead focus more on civil evolution and the conceptual level of climate change.

One thing on the to-do-list this semester is to post the new Climate Philosophy Newsletter, meanwhile the fifth of its kind.  Vol 5, a retrospective of 2011, may be even larger than the outsize 2010 volume.  The big news in 2010 was the arrival of Climate Ethics as a new branch on the Tree of Philosophy.  The big complaint in my 2011 Environmental Ethics Seminar was that Climate Ethics is narrow-minded--it's a scholastic exercise in utilitarian applications for legal-minded analytics.  If this is philosophy's ultimate response to climate change, then I'm gonna cry.  There's no vision.  Thinking remains trapped in a conventional box, and a really tiny one at that.  Vision and outside-the-box thinking would be what Climate Philosophy is for.  But where is Climate Philosophy?  So far it's the same as Climate Ethics, which sucks.

Well then: do we already have a new creative philosophy, or does it remain just a newsletter title and promissory note?

Another thing to do, which I'd like to pursue in future posts here, is to discuss the problem of Climate Reductionism.  The history of science research annual Osiris published in 2011 an issue on klima, with a stellar introduction by J R Fleming and V Jankovic, but with a somewhat annoying final essay by M Hulme (East Anglia), titled "Reducing the future to climate: a story of climate determinism and reductionism" (pp. 245-266).  It's well-written, well-researched, well-considered, very professorial, very scholarly, very English ... and set my B.S. detector ringing.  Loudly.  More about it next time.

Fifty-nine months left.