Monday, November 12, 2012
Kevin Anderson: What They Won't Tell You About Climate Catastrophe
Scientists and officials are not telling the public the awful truth: we are hurtling toward catastrophic climate change. A review, summary and critique of an earth-breaking speech by Dr. Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre in Britain. Speaking to the Cabot Institute in Bristol November 6th, Anderson told the sold-out crowd our future is not possible. Radio Ecoshock 121114 1 hour.
Professor Kevin Anderson
Are the climate deniers right? Are some scientists colluding with government to hide the truth about climate change? "Yes", according to top British scientist Kevin Anderson - but not the scandal you've heard about. Top scientists and government reports won't tell you we are heading toward catastrophic climate change. Emissions are skidding out of control, leading us to a world six degrees Centigrade hotter on average, much faster than anyone thought possible. Why doesn't the public know?
Why are world conferences still talking about staying below 2 degrees, as though that is possible?
In a devastating speech at Bristol University Tuesday November 6th, 2012, Dr. Kevin Anderson accused too many climate scientists of keeping quiet about the unrealistic assessments put out by governments, and our awful odds of reaching global warming far above the proposed 2 degree safe point.
In fact, says Anderson, we are almost guaranteed to reach 4 degrees of warming, as early as 2050, and may soar far beyond that - beyond the point which agriculture, the ecosystem, and industrial civilization can survive.
All this comes from one of the world's top climate scientists, plugged in to the latest research and numbers. Kevin Anderson is from the UK's premier climate modeling institution, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, and the University of Manchester. He delivered the speech "Real Clothes for the Emperor, Facing the Challenges of Climate Change" at the Cabot Institute of the University of Bristol in Britain.
His estimates are backed up by recent reports from the International Energy Agency, and now the global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. I also quote from Joe Romm's blog at thinkprogress.org, and a comment by Lewis Cleverdon from Wales, in the Transition blog at transitionculture.org.
I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. In this program, I'm going to play selections from Kevin Anderson's latest speech, accompanied by some explanation and references to other sources. Anderson speaks very quickly, assuming a highly informed European audience, and includes some technical data and reports unknown to most of us. So we're going to work through this together.
MUSIC BY SUVARNA
All music on this program is by Suvarna, with her co-conspirator Ravi, and guest Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy. The album is "Energia" on Etherean Records. Suvarna, a world music maker, has another couple of albums with White Swan Records. We end this Radio Ecoshock show with a special single she sent to Radio Ecoshock. It's dead on. The song is "Atmosphere's Lament".
Suvarna's home page.
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A READY-TO-BROADCAST VERSION OF ANDERSON'S WHOLE SPEECH
Here is a 58 minute radio edit of Anderson's speech for those wanting to rebroadcast. It could be even shorter if you cut the intro and provide your own.
A transcript of the Kevin Anderson speech is available from this page. This version is also great for busy people downloading the speech for their IPOD, mp3 player, phone or whatever. To save space you can use the "Lo-Fi" version, which is less than 14 megabytes.
Find the complete and full original speech, just over an hour long, as recorded by Alex Smith here. My thanks to Chris at Sheffield IndyMedia for telling me about this important lecture in advance.
Find the helpful slides (including the graphs) for this Kevin Anderson speech here.
You may also want to check out Kevin Anderson's first chapter of a recently published book, “Climate, Development and Equity”.
That's available online here: Kevin Anderson: “Climate Change going beyond dangerous: brutal numbers and tenuous hope”
THE IEA: WE ARE ACCELERATING TOWARD A DEAD WORLD...
Anderson begins his talk with a source that is hardly known as green or radical. Fatih Birol, Chief Economist and Director of the International Energy Agency has warned on our current energy pathway the global mean temperature will rise by 3.5 degrees C - over 7 degrees F - over pre-industrial levels by 2040. For those counting, that's just 28 years from now. The IEA predicts 4 degrees rise by 2050, and 6 degrees by 2100.
In his book, "Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet", and the National Geographic series based on the book, Mark Lynas says at +4 degrees C "Southern Europe will become unlivable due to extreme heat. The West Antarctic ice sheet will melt away and add another 5 meters to global sea level." At +6 degrees C, the Amazon forest long ago burned in a giant fireball, and all the polar ice melted, Lynas simply says "we will all be dead." The short You tube version is here.
Fatih Birol of the IEA says we have only five years to change our energy system - or have it changed for us. We'll talk more about that short time frame later.
REAL EMISSIONS NOW
Returning to Kevin Anderson, he points out our infrastructure commits us to emissions for decades. Every new airplane sold, and every ship is expected to last at least 30 years, burning whatever they burn. Buildings, inefficient as they are, may last centuries. Each new power plant opened is likely to keep on burning for at least 50 years, often longer than that.
We have already built more carbon capacity than the atmosphere can ever hold, with a climate suited for human survival. This leads me to conclude not another single fossil fuel based power plant should be opened anywhere in the world. Of course that's not fair to developing peoples, so we need a plan to shut down coal and oil-powered plants in North America and Europe to make room for electricity in China, India, Africa, and so on.
It is this commitment from long-lasting infrastructure, coupled with the already overloaded atmosphere, that dictates we only have about five years at best to change directions, or suffer a climate catastrophe beyond our current comprehension. Only a giant power-down by wealthy consumers (that's most of us) could possibly save us. That would include stopping recreational shopping for consumer goods that carry so much embedded energy use. And really, Anderson says, our best and possibly only hope for survival is an economic crash, or at least a planned "recession".
Remember Professor Tim Garrett from the University of Utah, following an interview on Radio Ecoshock, published a peer-reviewed paper saying exactly the same thing: the dynamics of energy in this civilization, poised against limitations in our atmosphere, show that only a deep and prolonger economic crash could really guarantee a safe climate.
At any rate, the good news, such as it is, is this: you and I have the ability to change our deadly course. We can cut our energy and consumption drastically. That's the front-line strategy that Kevin Anderson advocates. He tried to live it. Anderson does NOT fly around to climate conferences. He conserves energy personally, despite the disbelief of relatives and friends.
A GLOBAL ACCOUNTING COMPANY WARNS CORPORATIONS AND GOVERNMENTS ABOUT THE DISASTEROUS COST OF RISING TEMPERATURES
Kevin Anderson has brought up the new study from a most unexpected source. The report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the generally conservative giant accounting company, is titled" "Too Late For Two Degrees?" Joe Romm at thinkprogress.org has an excellent summary posted November 6th, titled " Study: We're Headed to 11 degrees F Warming and Even 7 Degrees F Requires 'Nearly Quadrupling The Current Rate of Decarbonization".
The main conclusion in the PricewaterhouseCoopers study reads:
"Our Low Carbon Economy Index evaluates the rate of decarbonisation of the global economy that is needed to limit warming to 2oC. This report shows that global carbon intensity decreased between 2000 and 2011 by around 0.8% a year. In 2011, carbon intensity decreased by 0.7%. The global economy now needs to cut carbon intensity by 5.1% every year from now to 2050. Keeping to the 2oC carbon budget will require sustained and unprecedented reductions over four decades.
Governments’ ambitions to limit warming to 2oC appear highly unrealistic."
"We have passed a critical threshold – not once since 1950 has the world achieved that rate of decarbonisation in a single year, but the task now confronting us is to achieve it for 39 consecutive years….
Even to have a reasonable prospect of getting to a 4°C scenario would imply nearly quadrupling the current rate of decarbonisation."
Joe Romm reminds us, our speaker Kevin Anderson has already written about the 7 degree Fahrenheit increase in global mean temperature:
“incompatible with organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4°C [7°F] would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level”
I'd like to just keep reading out Joe Romm's excellent if horrifying article, but I'll leave that up to you, except for this from Joe:
"Such a world would likely mean:
* Permanent Dust Bowl conditions over the U.S. Southwest, parts of the Great Plains and many other regions around the globe that are heavily populated and/or heavily farmed.
* Sea level rise of some 1 foot by 2050, then 4 to 6 feet (or more) by 2100, rising some 6 to 12 inches (or more) each decade thereafter
* Massive species loss on land and sea — perhaps 50% or more of all biodiversity.
* Much more extreme weather
These will all be happening simultaneously and getting worse decade after decade. A 2009 NOAA-led study found the worst impacts would be 'largely irreversible for 1000 years.'
In such a world there would be little prospect for feeding 9 billion people post-2050 given current dietary, economic, and agricultural practices. The word “adaptation” simply doesn’t apply in any meaningful sense."
Other evidence is pouring in from all quarters that we are headed to the high side of climate predictions. Consider this release November 8th from the U.S. Snow and Ice Date Center.
"Future Warming Likely to Be On High Side of Climate Projections, Analysis Finds" November 08, 2012
Thank you for taking the time, and having the courage, to listen.
I'm Alex Smith, for Radio Ecoshock.