Paul Handover’s talk to the Grants Pass Humanists and Freethinkers group, Saturday, 17th September, 2022
Martin Lack, a good friend of Paul’s from England, wrote a book called The Denial of Science. The first words in the preface were from Sir Fred Hoyle, Fellow of the Royal Society (1915-2001).
“Once a photograph of the Earth taken from the outside is available, once the sheer isolation of the Earth becomes plain, a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.”
Here, in Paul’s opinion, is that photograph:
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Glasgow, Scotland, UK, from 31st October to 13th November 2021. It was called COP26 because it was the 26th UN Climate Change Conference to be held. It was opened by the Prince of Wales, now King Charles III.
The Prince warned: “Time has quite literally run out.”
It is us!
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) kicked off its 2021 report with the following statement: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”
The article also says: It took a while, but climate modelling is now refined enough to predict how things would go without human influence, within a margin of error. What we are observing today, however, is beyond that margin of error, therefore proving that we have driven the change.
It is getting hot
The last decade was the hottest in 125,000 years.
We live on a water world. The facts are that 71% of the Earth’s surface is water-covered and the oceans hold about 96.5% of all Earth’s water. A 2019 study found that oceans had sucked up 90% of the heat gained by the planet between 1971 and 2010. Another found that it absorbed 20 sextillion joules of heat in 2020 – equivalent to two Hiroshima bombs per second. A (chiefly British) definition of a sextillion: It is the cardinal number equal to 1036. Sextillion is a number equal to a 1 followed by 21 zeros. 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 is an example of a sextillion.
In fact CO2 levels are now the highest that they have been in 2 million years. Today, they stand at close to 420 parts per million (ppm). To put that into context pre-industrial levels, say before 1750, had CO2 levels around 280 parts per million.
We are losing ice big time
Paul can do no better than to quote from Earth.org: “Since the mid-1990s, we’ve lost around 28 trillion tons of ice, with today’s melt rate standing at 1.2 trillion tons a year. To help put that into perspective, the combined weight of all human-made things is 1.1 trillion tons. That’s about the same weight as all living things on earth.”
To repeat that: Every single year we are losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice! (1,200,000,000,000).
We can now attribute natural disasters to human-driven climate change with certainty. We can now say with precision how much likelier we made things like the North American summer 2021 heatwave, which the World Weather Attribution says was “virtually impossible” without climate change. Then there is the Indian heatwave that experts believe was made 30 times more likely because of climate change.
Climate change mitigation
There is a long and comprehensive article on the above subject on WikiPedia. I will quote from the paragraph Needed emissions cuts.
If emissions remain on the current level of 42 GtCO2, the carbon budget for 1.5°C (2.7°F) will be exhausted in 2028. (That’s 42 gigatons, as in 1 gigaton is a unit of explosive force equal to one billion (109) tons of trinitrotoluene (TNT).
In 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Sixth Assessment Report on climate change, warning that greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030, in order to likely limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F).
Secretary-general of the United Nations António Guterres clarified that for this to happen “Main emitters must drastically cut emissions starting this year”.
WikiPedia also reports that: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC, aims to stabilise greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level where ecosystems can adapt naturally to climate change, food production is not threatened, and economic development can proceed in a sustainable fashion. Currently human activities are adding CO2 to the atmosphere faster than natural processes can remove it.
We need to act now, otherwise…
… it will be too late for billions of us.
This may be the most catastrophic of our climate change facts. As of now, only 0.8% of the planet’s land surface has mean annual temperatures above 29°C (84.2°F) mostly in the Sahara desert and Saudi Arabia (solid black in the map).
A study by Xu et al. (2020) called “Future of the Human Niche” found that by 2070, under a high emissions scenario, these unbearable temperatures could expand to affect up to 3 billion people (dark brown areas in the map).
Doing nothing is much worse than doing something
On the current path, climate change could end up costing us 11 to 14% of the global GDP by mid-century. Regression into a high emissions scenario would mean an 18% loss, while staying below 2°C would reduce the damage to only 4%.
It has been proposed that ending climate change would take between $300 billion and $50 trillion over the next two decades. Even if $50 trillion is the price tag, that comes down to $2.5 trillion a year, or just over 3% of the global GDP.
These are the facts. There is no disputing them. Paul and Jean, Paul’s wife, are relatively immune from the effects, because of their ages, but not entirely so. The last few weeks of summer (2022) with the imminent risk of their property being damaged by wildfires is one example. The last three winters being below average rainfall is another (and the prediction that next year will continue with below average rainfall). But it is the youngsters Paul fears most for. On a personal note, his daughter and husband have a son, Morten, and he is presently 12. What sort of world is Morten growing up in?
What about global attitudes to climate change?
Here is another chart setting out those concerns.
Paul is not a political animal. However he recognises that it is our leaders, globally, but especially in the top 10 countries in the world, who have to be leaders!
Here are the top 10 countries with areas of their country in square kilometres:
United States. 9,826,675,
Kazakhstan. 2,724,400, and
But these are the top ten countries based on land size. That is not helpful. We have to examine the top countries in terms of CO2 emissions. Here are the top five countries, as in the top five worst, (readings from 2020):
- USA, 416,738 metric tons,
- China, 235,527 tons,
- Russia, 115,335 tons,
- Germany, 92,636 tons, and,
- UK, 78,161 metric tons.
This puts the USA as the top worst country, some 77% ahead of China.
So focussing on the USA, again in 2020, the split of greenhouse gas emissions, was:
- Transportation, 27%,
- Electric Power, 25%,
- Industry, 24%,
- Commercial and Residential, 13%,
- Agriculture, 11%.
So back again to all five countries we say, please, dear leader, make this the number one priority for your country, and for the world.