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Posted by: atowhee | April 28, 2019

WE ARE PLAYING A DANGEROUS GAME

Here is email from a long-time friend.  He spent his life researching our atmosphere. Hed was among the group of scientist who explained the ozone hole growth and helped get the international agreements to thwart that threat.  He has just retired from full-time teaching of university classes on climate change and atmospheric science.  He explains coping with the climate change challenge:
So today I hosted about 6 kids from the Equity Stem program at DU for a workshop on climate.  It was built around climate physics.  I created experiments to illustrate some key ideas concerning warming:  energy balance and imbalance, infrared radiation, thermal radiation, cloud formation.  We got some of it done, but they wanted to discuss the politics and policy.  One wanted to know if we had crossed  points of no return.  5 minority kids one white kid. I do not think I ever tied the physics into the neat little package that I wanted to deliver to them.
They took me down seriously interesting roads with their questions.  I answered with my usual graphs…  When you look at the IPCC graphs concerning the 1.5 C and 2 C targets, the urgency is inescapable.  The fact is that we do not know the exact shape of the trajectory – any specific catastrophe that we predict can fail to come to pass (Erlichs) [Population Bomb].  But they won’t all fail to come to pass. The overall direction seems clear.   Agriculture will probably be re-invented by the middle of the century.  I do not know that but based on past performance, I would guess that humans will  pull this off.  Devastation of unmanaged ecosystems will certainly be broad.  But it is not possible to know what critical ecosystem services will be lost.
The  greatest part of the risk comes from human population and human stupidity. These trends are  aggravated by climate change rather than being caused by climate change.  The stuff that comes purely from climate change (melting ice, melting permafrost, increased rain and increased drought, strengthened cyclones, greater fire risk, spreading disease vectors etc etc ) either has an unknown or somewhat distant time- to- crash or occurs in a sufficiently dispersed fashion that it does not risk to bring down the whole economy and society.  Yes, California is burning but not all of it is burning and land prices are not headed into the tank in a way sufficient to get Wells Fargo’s attention.  You can still buy beachfront in Florida and houses in Colorado forests – with a mortgage – insured – except in extreme cases.   Its overfishing plus climate change – not climate change alone.  Yes, the increased heat reduces the flow in the Colorado and threatens Az, SO Cal, etc.  But increased precip in the Rockies has not been ruled out.  Storms are impressive.  Will they reach Super Dust Bowl pervasiveness so as to threaten the entire economy?  Nordhaus^ is attentive but is willing to countenance 4 C warming as his ‘best’ economic solution.T
The poor will be screwed. And  40% of the world has never heard of climate change.  The one catch to the traditional script is that India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons which FedEx will cheerfully (if unknowingly) deliver.  So when we screw up the monsoon with so-called geoengineering schemes, there may be hell to pay.   My personal fears center on human bad choices in response to climate pressure rather than being pushed off the cliff by angry nature.  Humans adapt and do live in all ecosystems on the planet save Antarctica.  But 10 Billion humans? Seems  Unlikely.  Technically possible say the academics.  Humanly possible?  The Trumpocalypse argues that it is not likely.  Dan Murphy* says that if we have to wait for the Cat 6 Hurricane to wake up, we are screwed.

It is a mess to carry this into the class room.”

^William Nordhaus, Yale professor.  https://voxeu.org/article/william-nordhaus-and-costs-climate-change

*https://www.researchgate.net/scientific-contributions/59374500_Daniel_M_Murphy

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