It's Not the Weather - it's Climate Disruption

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 (Listed under Environment)

Climate scientists are beginning to point to the extreme weather events of the last few years to illustrate the impacts of man-made climate change. John Holdren, the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, made the suggestion while speaking, last December, at The Grantham Institute for Climate Change at London's Imperial College. This remarkably thorough and precise one-hour presentation is a fact-filled, rapid fire short-course on global climate disruption and I recommend it.

What's important to bear in mind as we read and learn more about extreme weather is that climate deniers are already diverting the discussion away from the facts. Whereas scientists are emphasizing the linear trajectory between traditional energy consumption and the escalation of global temperatures and the wildly fierce droughts, floods, fires, and hurricanes that have become a regular feature of our global landscape, many anti-science, anti-gravity, flat-world obstructionists would have us believe that these events are caused simply by varying weather patterns, trends, and anomalies.

In this article for The Daily Climate, I explain that the global climate disruption now in play is caused by fossil fuel combustion--pure and simple.

Holdren, who received degrees in plasma physics and fluid dynamics from MIT, and later taught at Stanford and Harvard before leading the Woods Hole Institute in 1985, uses photographs liberally in this climate talk to accentuate the consequences of climate disruption. The images are breathtakingly stark. From glacial retreat, shrinking sea ice, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification to the loss of snow cover, declining crop yields, and the "hammering away at the largest reservoirs of biodiversity on the planet," Holdren's expertise becomes an epic around-the-world tour of the toll that resource exploitation, regulatory failure, and international inaction have taken on our planet. 

It's time to put a price on carbon.

By paying $100 per ton of carbon to avoid one half of the world's current greenhouse gas emissions, it would cost roughly $500 billion, which, as Holdren said, "is under one percent of the gross world product." He added that the world is already spending five percent on defense and two percent on environmental protection, so it's hard to argue--given the planet's accelerated decline--that one percent more is too much to spend.

"If the world economy grows even two percent per year, people would have to wait until 2032 to get as rich as they would have been in 2030,"  but Holdren's math was deployed only to underscore the following key points of his presentation:

  • without energy, there is no economy
  • without climate, there is no environment
  • without an economy and environment, there is no material well-being, no civil society, no personal security or national security

"The problem is that the world is getting most of the energy its economies need in a way that is imperiling the climate that its environment needs," Holdren concluded. 





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