Oldspeak:”Levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are exceeding levels recorded in the past millions of years, and thus climate is being forced beyond the range of the recent geological era. Lacking concerted action by the world’s nations, it is clear that the future climate will be warmer, sea levels will rise, global rainfall patterns will change, and ecosystems will be altered….Recent dramatic changes in the extent and thickness of the ice that covers the Arctic sea have been well documented…This rapid reduction in Arctic sea ice already qualifies as an abrupt change with substantial decreases in ice extent occurring within the past several decades. Projections from climate models suggest that ice loss will continue in the future…The impacts of rapid decreases in Arctic sea ice are likely to be considerable. More open water conditions during summer would have potentially large and irreversible effects on various components of the Arctic ecosystem, including disruptions in the marine food web, shifts in the habitats of some marine mammals, and erosion of vulnerable coastlines. Because the Arctic region interacts with the large-scale circulation systems of the ocean and atmosphere, changes in the extent of sea ice could cause shifts in climate and weather around the northern hemisphere…. The rate of climate change now underway is probably as fast as any warming event in the past 65 million years, and it is projected that its pace over the next 30 to 80 years will continue to be faster and more intense. These rapidly changing conditions make survival difficult for many species. Biologically important climatic attributes—such as number of frost-free days, length and timing of growing seasons, and the frequency and intensity of extreme events (such as number of extremely hot days or severe storms)—are changing so rapidly that some species can neither move nor adapt fast enough.. The distinct risks of climate change exacerbate other widely recognized and severe extinction pressures, especially habitat destruction, competition from invasive species, and unsustainable exploitation of species for economic gain, which have already elevated extinction rates to many times above background rates. If unchecked, habitat destruction, fragmentation, and over-exploitation, even without climate change, could result in a mass extinction within the next few centuries equivalent in magnitude to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs… a large part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), representing 3–4 m of potential sea-level rise, is capable of flowing rapidly into deep ocean basins. Because the full suite of physical processes occurring where ice meets ocean is not included in comprehensive ice-sheet models, it remains possible that future rates of sea-level rise from the WAIS are underestimated, perhaps substantially. Improved understanding of key physical processes and inclusion of them in models, together with improved projections of changes in the surrounding ocean, are required to notably reduce uncertainties and to better quantify worst-case scenarios. Because large uncertainties remain, the Committee judges an abrupt change in the WAIS within this century to be plausible, with an unknown although probably low probability….According to current scientific understanding, Arctic carbon stores are poised to play a significant amplifying role in the century-scale buildup of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, but are unlikely to do so abruptly, i.e., on a timescale of one or a few decades. Although comforting, this conclusion is based on immature science and sparse monitoring capabilities. Basic research is required to assess the long-term stability of currently frozen Arctic and sub-Arctic soil stocks, and of the possibility of increasing the release of methane gas bubbles from currently frozen marine and terrestrial sediments, as temperatures rise… However, concerns over the likelihood of other potential abrupt impacts of climate change—such as destabilization of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and rapid increases in already-high rates of species extinctions— have intensified. It is important to note that such abrupt impacts can be suddenly triggered simply by continuing the present climate-change trajectory that humans are driving until “tipping points” are reached, as opposed to an abrupt change in the climate system itself.”
” 1st issue for me is, how in the shit do you anticipate a surprise?!?!?! i mean, if you anticipate it, it’s not a surprise. it’s something you were expecting, the opposite of surprise. The title of this report is Orwellian doublespeak par excellence! Took the liberty of emphasizing the parts of the report i found most interesting. Understand first and foremost the sponsors of this report: the US intelligence community, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the National Academies. Given that, one can understand the soft-shoe absurdity of the findings in the face of obvious truths and present realities. I’ll go through one by one with my analysis.
“Because the Arctic region interacts with the large-scale circulation systems of the ocean and atmosphere, changes in the extent of sea ice could cause shifts in climate and weather around the northern hemisphere….”
We’re seeing this right now and have been for some time now in the Northern Hemisphere. 500 year floods, The strongest storms in recorded history, Prolonged and widespread droughts, you know, end of days type shit.
“These rapidly changing conditions make survival difficult for many species. Biologically important climatic attributes—such as number of frost-free days, length and timing of growing seasons, and the frequency and intensity of extreme events (such as number of extremely hot days or severe storms)—are changing so rapidly that some species can neither move nor adapt fast enough…”
“We’re currently experiencing the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day…” –Center for Biological Diversity. Earth’s 6 extinction event is happening faster than most species, including humans, are able to adapt. We’re rebuilding on the coasts after super-storms, peddling propaganda boasting “We’re Stronger Than Sandy” for fucks sake! Our pathological anthropocentricity, outsized arrogance and illusory civilization has overridden our survival instincts. That’s not good for anything that lives here.
Because the full suite of physical processes occurring where ice meets ocean is not included in comprehensive ice-sheet models, it remains possible that future rates of sea-level rise from the WAIS are underestimated, perhaps substantially. Improved understanding of key physical processes and inclusion of them in models, together with improved projections of changes in the surrounding ocean, are required to notably reduce uncertainties and to better quantify worst-case scenarios. Because large uncertainties remain, the Committee judges an abrupt change inthe WAIS within this century to be plausible, with an unknown although probably low
Basically what these esteemed scientists are trying to say in the most polite and least alarming way is ” Ummm we don’t know all the possible variables affecting the rapidly melting and fucking GiNORMOUS West Antarctic ice Sheet, so we can’t plug them into our “comprehensive” but really incomplete ice sheet models. As a result, future rates of sea-level rise have been SUBSTANTiALLY UNDERESTiMATED…. So basically, WE DON’T KNOW THE WORST CASE SCENARiO, though we do know the WAiS could collapse this century, but we’re guessin it’s probably not gonna happen.” My answer is WHAT THE FUCK!? I’d appreciate it if you just said “we’re fucked” and be done with it.
“According to current scientific understanding, Arctic carbon stores are poised to play a significant amplifying role in the century-scale buildup of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, but are unlikely to do so abruptly, i.e., on a timescale of one or a few decades. Although comforting, this conclusion is based on immature science and sparse monitoring capabilities. Basic research is required to assess the long-term stability of currently frozen Arctic and sub-Arctic soil stocks, and of the possibility of increasing the release of methane gas bubbles from currently frozen marine and terrestrial sediments, as temperatures rise…”
Translation: “Arctic Methane and CO2 deposits are going to make climate change and global warming significantly WORSE. We don’t think it’ll be really bad anytime soon, but we’re basing that pulled out our ass conclusion on unreliable science and not alot of field data. We need to do basic research to start to really figure out what the fuck is going on. We don’t really know right now, sorry.”
It is important to note that such abrupt impacts can be suddenly triggered simply by continuing the present climate-change trajectory that humans are driving until “tipping points” are reached, as opposed to an abrupt change in the climate system itself.
Translation: “At the present unaltered, expanding and accelerating human caused carbon emission rates, these abrupt impacts could be triggered at any time. But when we irreversible tipping points are reached, we and most life on earth is fucked.” -OSJ
By Matt Owens @ Speaking Truth To Power:
Less terrifying, more horrifying. That, more or less, was the between-the-lines takeaway from Friday’s National Research Council (NRC) briefing on abrupt climate change.
The event was part of an announcement of the NRC’s newly released and finalized report, “Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises.”
Several of the scientists involved in the report were present, including James White from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Anthony Barnosky from the University of California at Berkeley, and Richard Alley from Penn State University.
In one of the most shocking statements, Barnosky said the world’s oceans are now undergoing a change in pH and temperature that is so rapid and severe, that if we stay on our business-as-usual emissions pathway, then we will see the most significant degradation in the world’s oceans since 250 million years ago when there was the “end-Permian extinction event.” That was possibly the most extreme extinction event in Earth’s entire history. Over 90% of marine species in the fossil record went extinct.
“Just in the next five or six decades we will see some very major problems,” Barnosky said.
Today, the change in temperature of the ocean is primarily being caused by the growing global energy imbalance resulting from the thickening blanket of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide.
The change in pH of the ocean is primarily being caused by the growing global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, which becomes an acid, carbonic acid, when it dissolves in water. As the methane clathrates increasingly thaw, they will also acidify the water.
On extinction more broadly, Barnosky said that tropical coral reefs and land species in the tropics are first in line for extinction. And coral reefs will disappear in decades on our current emissions path as well. “These are not small effects and again – we’re already starting to see them happen.”
All participants, even Barnosky himself, seemed to be stunned by the details and implications being presented.
Richard Alley made an effort to shore up morale by pointing to some of the massive and abrupt catastrophes we can essentially rule out now. “North Atlantic [ocean circulation] probably will not change abruptly,” he said, and there is “fairly high” confidence in that outlook. However, he added, circulation will change, and probably already is changing – but it just won’t “shut down” like some had worried. At least not this century.
On the topic of amplifying feedbacks, Alley said that “if we warm the world, nature will amplify what we do.” And he added that “often long-term feedbacks are ignored – and so you get optimistic projections of how much carbon we can emit.”
Asked about the feasibility of “going back” after crossing tipping points, Alley said that it depends on the tipping point. In the case of the Arctic sea ice, if we cool the planet back down to temperatures a little below today’s, then we can probably regrow the sea ice he said, adding that on the other hand, if West Antarctica collapses, then the temperature would have to drop much further to start the ice sheet growing again. As for Greenland, the ability “to return” depends on how long the climate remains in a warm state. The longer it’s warm, the harder it will be to “return” he said.
Alley didn’t get into how we might cool the planet back down, although in previous public statements, he has referred to carbon dioxide as being something like a global temperature dial. Also in reference to “returning,” he mentioned hysteresis loops, a trait of some complex systems where returning to the previous state requires following a different path back. Sometimes the return path can be more difficult too.
In other less-terrifying but still-horrifying news, Alley described how – as best he can tell – there do seem to be enough “safety valves” on sea floor methane clathrate deposits to limit its release – but it will still be a chronic problem – rather than the massive “clathrate gun” possibility (where the methane erupts from the oceans so fast that global temperatures spike and essentially a massive ecological upheaval ensues with wildfires, famines, and so on).
Unfortunately, both the clathrates and thawing Arctic permafrost will become significant sources of ongoing greenhouse gases, at least if we stay on our current emissions path. That means to stabilize climate in the future, we’ll need to do more than just stop burning fossil fuels. We’ll also need to mop up the permafrost and clathrate emissions. And, with elevated chronic bubbling of methane from the sea floor, it will also acidify the ocean from the bottom up.
Regarding a possible collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, Alley said he’s inclined to say it’s not terribly likely this century. And, if it does happen, he’s leaning towards it being a somewhat slow process. But there are still processes involved where there just isn’t enough information yet – and so he won’t fully rule out something more rapid.
Jim White highlighted that a previous NRC report (2004) on abrupt climate change was the first time anyone had even looked at the issue in a systematic way. And he added that “calls to action” from that 2004 report have largely gone unheeded thus far.
Early in his presentation, White alluded to food storage as one possible safeguard against increasingly hostile weather and crop shortfalls, but he didn’t go into much detail. The global food system is quite remarkable in how little reserve is stored at any given time. Even without climate change, it seems like a significant crop shortage could put many countries, even developed ones, into a world of hurt.
In response to a question on tipping points in our built systems, White answered that there has been no comprehensive assessment to see how our infrastructure will hold up to climate change. The first step he said, is to identify “what you have at risk,” but that has generally not been done. For example, he cited how it took Hurricane Sandy hitting New York and New Jersey before there was a serious evaluation of what could be done to safeguard against such an event.
He also cited Florida, which hasn’t had a major storm surge disaster yet – that is, one where the elevated (and rising) sea level makes the surge potentially worse than ever before.
And White also pointed out that low topographical relief makes it easy for storm surge to push far inland along much of the US Southeast coast.
Fundamentally, the feeling from the conference was that some very decent and hardworking people have identified a very bad set of circumstances headed towards mankind, and the general reaction has been a human one: shoot the messenger and/or ignore the problem and hope it goes away.
In the context of this report, that strategy of denial and rejection has sort of worked so far (by a certain logic anyway). After all, a lot of sudden apocalyptic climate change events have been ruled very unlikely with high confidence, at least for another 100 years or so. But the horror of the situation is that very real chronic problems are growing worse. The odds of those chronic problems going away, unfortunately, is about as close to zero as you can get.
The basic truth between the lines of this press event was that we are facing a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to humankind.
We are literally making the planet into a wasteland like this is some post-apocalyptic science fiction story. It is just shocking. And the most horrifying aspect of it all is that we’ve waited to reduce emissions so long that we’re exiting the win-win field of possible climate responses. We’re now headed into a world of lose-lose. That’s the news nobody wants to convey – or hear. But there it is.