This is serious!
First we were told that rising temperatures would make it difficult to grow tea in
Uganda and in Kenya, then it was going to become too hot for chocolate. Now Starbucks is warning that climate change will threaten the world supply of coffee.
Gore may be right too in linking the bad weather around the world to climate change.
Joe Romm at Climate Progress has a post on Thailand with some great photos, links to other posts about bad weather and once again quotes Trenberth on the relationship of climate change to unusual weather. And, yes, Thailand is the world’s top rice producer, so our food supply is affected.
Al Gore also links what’s happening to the Great Lakes to climate change.
Socolow adds some wedges
What to do?
Al Gore said:
“The key to the solution for the Great Lakes and for human civilization on Earth is to think clearly about what our choices are and to think boldly and make a moral decision that we’re going to do the right thing.” (Emphasis added)
Yes Al, but what should we do? In the last thread Jess drew our attention to Rob Socolow’s update of the famous wedges he devised with Steve Pacala.
Roger Jones reminded us that the wedges don’t work as policy. In the real world we muddle through. Make do with what is available to you, keep an eye on ultimate objectives, review, adjust and extend along the way.
But, Roger, in Socolow’s language muddling through has morphed into iterative risk management. I think the value in the wedges is to lay out the range of actions possible and to show that we have the means available to cope. But we do need to consider whether we are playing to come second in a two horse race, or indeed which game we are playing. Here Climate Progress points out:
So Socolow and Pacala were shooting [in 2004] at 500 ± 50 ppm CO2 with his 7 wedges. Now he would be over-delighted with 9 wedges and staying below 550 ppm.
That is to avoid catastrophic warming. The Hansen paper we looked at recently concludes we need to reduce CO2 concentrations to 350ppm. That would be for a safe climate.
The future of food
A practical approach to countering changing weather and disappearing coffee is concrete planning to mitigate risk in agriculture.
The article reports that 40 of the least developed countries have submitted urgent priority activities to the UNFCCC under the National Adaptation Programmes of Action program. It also outlines initiatives taken by private companies and other bodies.
In the cited HSBC report they analyse climate change as a risk multiplier of stresses already in the system. They focus particularly on food prices and falling yields, on energy and water. In one chapter they analyse the G20 countries:
The five most vulnerable countries are India, Indonesia, China, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. The least vulnerable are Canada, the USA, Japan, the UK and South Korea.
They suggest that planning should incorporate the risk of 2C warming by the 2030s and 4C warming by the 2060s. Their science update includes this astonishing graph:
Doesn’t seem right. Nor does the notion that if we plan we can in any real sense ‘cope’ with 4C.
Will accelerating climate change turn the population boom into a bust?
Some analysts, ranging from scientists David Pimentel of Cornell University to financial advisor and philanthropist Jeremy Grantham, dare to underline the possibility of a darker alternative future. Defying the optimistic majority, they suggest that humanity long ago overshot a truly sustainable world population, implying that apocalyptic horsemen old and new could cause widespread death as the environment unravels. (Emphasis added)
Trouble may not be far away:
In a mere 14 years, based on median population projections, most of North Africa and the Middle East, plus Pakistan, South Africa and large parts of China and India, will be driven by water scarcity to increasing dependence on food imports “even at high levels of irrigation efficiency,” according to the International Water Management Institute.
Yes, we can, but can we even count
A bunch of scientists say, yes we can feed the masses, at least if we do all that they recommend. It’s behind the paywall, so I wonder what their assumptions were about climate change. Anyone?
But this post, which linked to the above study, raises the question as to whether we can even count the current world population, let alone predict future numbers. It seems the 7 billionth person is sure to be born sometime between next week and 2019!
The ethical dimension of tackling climate change
Stephen Gardiner, Professor of Philosophy and Ben Rabinowitz Professor of the Human Dimensions of the Environment at the University of Washington, says ethics is at the heart of the matter. Perhaps channelling K Rudd, he says that climate change “may turn out to be the defining issue of our generation.”
Climate change provides three major mutually reinforcing challenges to ethical action:
It is genuinely global, profoundly intergenerational, and occurs in a setting where we lack robust theory and institutions to guide us.
He’s only analysing the problem, not solving it. I like his identification of “shadow solutions” so that we can carry on regardless:
processes, proposals, and agreements that pay lip service to wider ideals but ultimately deliver very little in the way of substance.
These are some areas where our theories are currently inadequate:
intergenerational ethics, global justice, scientific uncertainty, and humanity’s relationship to nature.
Work to do there. I wonder what Gardiner makes of the #Occupy movement.
Pricing the future
A fundamental intergenerational issue according to Stephen Gardiner is the questionable notion that future generations will be able to cope with climate change because they will be richer.
Theory on ‘discount rates’ is under being challenged according to the New Scientist as far as I can make out because some economists are now conceding that people are not entirely rational. That’s probably a cheap shot, but it does seem economists are rethinking and using declining discount rates at least in certain circumstances. Apparently they were already used in the Stern Review in 2006, to much controversy.
Gardiner questions whether we will be financially better off at all if we carry on regardless. We’ve been warned. Back in 2008 Dr Vicky Pope, head of the Hadley Centre told us that under BAU we could be heading for 5-7C.
That’s unthinkable, and that might be a large part of the problem.
50th edition of Climate clippings
Sorry I got carried away with a jumbo edition. I started with coffee and couldn’t stop. Way back in the 20s in this series there are two editions with the same number. Too much work to correct them all. This one has the requisite gloom to qualify as a special edition, so I’ve skipped 49 and numbered this the 50th.